Monday, February 18, 2013

Garlic & Herb Cheesy Bread

When my family and I are enjoying a homemade Italian meal, it is almost always requested that I make "the" bread. Unlike the Pioneer Woman, when my family asks for "the" bread it's not just a french bread loaf smeared in butter and broiled, it's my deliciously wonderful Garlic & Herb Cheesy Bread. It's heavenly made from a French bread loaf acquired at your grocery store or local bakery, but if you want to take it over the top, make your own No-Knead French Bread. It's a cinch, and you won't be disappointed.
   Once you have your bread squared away, it's time to adorn it. You'll need 1 stick of salted butter.

Add about 1 Tbsp minced garlic. If you mince your own it would be about 3 cloves.

The flash was on over-drive, so I turned it off. The pics are a little dark now, but I think it's not so blinding. :)

Mix the softened butter (I just nuked mine in the microwave for 20 seconds or so, straight from the fridge.) with the garlic until they are one smooth mixture.

Slice your French bread loaf down the middle, horizontal like. (This is my No-Knead French Bread. Isn't it pretty?)

Smear each half of the loaf (cut side only please) with 1/2 of the butter and garlic mixture.

Next, crush some dried herbs between your hands and sprinkle evenly over each half.

I like to use about 1 Tbsp dry parsley and 2 tsp dry basil total. Put the bread in a preheated 350F oven for 8-10 minutes.

Next comes the cheese. You'll need both Mozzarella and Parmesan (or Romano).

After about 8 minutes (watch it carefully you don't want the edges to get too dark), the garlic butter will have melted and become one with the bread underneath. And the outside of the bread is getting a little crisp.

Sprinkle on 1 cup (per side) of Mozzarella and a little more than 1/4 cup Parmesan (per side). Basically, just cover the bread completely with cheese. Mozzarella first and then Parmesan, because the Parmesan gets more brown when broiled.

Last, but not least, another sprinkling of dry herbs. (About the same as before. 1 Tbsp parsley and 2 tsp of basil. I never measure exactly.) You want to make sure to use dry herbs because the fresh ones will just turn black and not taste good.

When the bread is completely covered in herbs and cheese, turn the broiler on high and put the bread in.

Keep an eye on it! After just a few minutes it will go from the picture above to this:

The bread is warm and crisp around the outside. The cheese is gooey and browned nicely.

You can cut it anyway you'd like, but we like to cut ours on the diagonal. It makes it seem more fancy I think. :)

Nothing left to do but serve it up with dinner. On this particular night we enjoyed it with Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti. A gluten free alternative to the usual favorite. It doesn't have to be an Italian night to have this bread. I'm serving it with Tri-Tip tomorrow night. It's hard to find a meal that it wouldn't marry with beautifully.
I hope you enjoy this bread as much as we do. Who knows? Maybe it will be known as "the" bread in your house soon too. :)

Here's the recipe:

Garlic & Herb Cheesy Bread

1 loaf of French Bread
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1 Tbsp minced garlic (3-4 cloves)
2 Tbsp dry parsley, divided
4 tsp dry basil, divided
2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese  

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the loaf of bread in half horizontally. Place both halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet side by side. Mix the butter and garlic until smooth. Spread 1/2 of the garlic butter on each half of the bread (cut side only). Sprinkle on 1 Tbsp of dry parsley and 2 tsp of dry basil evenly over both halves. Bake the bread for 8-10 minutes. Take the bread out when the butter has soaked into the bread and the edges are starting to get crisp. Cover each half of bread with 1 cup of Mozzarella cheese and then with 1/2 of the Parmesan cheese. Top with another even sprinkle of dry herbs (same amounts as before) and put the bread back into the oven. Broil for 5 minutes, or until the edges are crisp and the cheese is brown. Cut into portions and serve.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

English Toffee

Are you still wondering what to give your Valentine this year? You want something that will "wow" them, but that is also easy and quick on your part (after-all, the big day is tomorrow). Well, look no further. This English Toffee is just the ticket.
   I comes together in a matter of minutes and is only 4 ingredients. It's always a crowd pleaser.
My friend Ramona turned me on to this recipe, (that I have only changed a little) and it has earned a permanent place in my archive of recipes. I've made it 3 or 4 times and I think I've got it down pretty good. Now I'm sharing it with you. I hope you (and your Valentine) love it as much as I do. No special equipment required, and super simple!

The first question you ask yourself is, "Do I want nuts?" If the answer is yes, then you'll need to break out some almonds. I have since preferred to leave my almonds whole (with just a few chopped ones for decoration on top) but you can do as you wish. You'll need a total of 1 cup of almonds.

This is how fine I chopped them. (I love my mini food processor for jobs like this!)

Now that the nuts are out of the way, lets start on the cooking. 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) of butter go into a medium to large sauce pot. (I like salted butter for this.)

Turn the heat on to medium high and add in some sugar.

While the butter and sugar are becoming friends, lay out most of the nuts onto a cookie sheet. 9x13 size

Also, get your chocolate chips measured and ready. I prefer milk chocolate on top of my toffee, but use what you think your Valentine would like best.

When the butter and sugar have come to a boil, turn the heat to medium and keep and eye on it! You don't want to walk away, or you'll burn your candy.

After a few minutes the mixture will start to brown, like this:

This is when things really get moving. Quickly stir the mixture (without splashing and burning yourself!) until it becomes the color of toffee. -Have something by the stove that is roughly the same color that you want your candy. (I used the picture of the chocolate chip cookie on my chocolate chip bag. Some people use a raw almond, but unless you get one with a golden brown skin then you might let your candy go too far. Trust me, I burned my first batch, and almost burned my second batch. Don't let your candy get too dark!) When you think it's almost there TURN OFF THE HEAT! It will continue to brown and cook even after the heat is off.

Add in some vanilla and pour the candy evenly over the nuts. Spread it out into an even layer. (Sorry I don't have pics of this. I wasn't sure how I could take pictures and not burn myself or the candy.) When the toffee is even, sprinkle on 1 cup of chocolate chips. Let them sit for a few seconds to melt and then spread them around evenly.

While the chocolate is still warm, sprinkle on your chopped nuts for decoration.

Let it cool completely before breaking and devouring (or packaging and giving away).

To break it up, you can lift up and edge and use your hands to break the toffee into small pieces. Or you can use the tip of a knife and press down on the toffee. This will cause long breaks. Just repeat in a new area until you get the pieces the size that you want. I read that if you score the toffee while it's still hot then it will break in exact squares, but it didn't work for me when I tried it.

Either way it's presented, in perfect squares or in jagged chunks, the toffee still looks and tastes amazing!
Now tell me you have something that is easier, tastier and more amazing that this!

Here's the recipe:
adapted from The Coterie Blog

English Toffee

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped almonds (optional - I like to use 3/4 cups whole and 1/4 cup chopped for top)
1 1/2 cups salted butter

2 tsp. vanilla

First, chop nuts (if desired) and spread 3/4 cup on the bottom of the cookie sheet. Have your chocolate chips measured and ready. Stir and cook the butter, sugar and salt in a sauce pan over medium-high heat until the edges just start to brown. Stir fast for the next few minutes, and watch it carefully. When it reaches the right color (a light caramel or toffee color - have a color guide!) remove from heat and add vanilla. The candy will continue to darken as long as it's in the hot pan. Carefully pour the hot candy over the chopped nuts and spread out as best you can with a spatula. Next, sprinkle the chocolate chips on, and let them sit for a few seconds to melt. Spread chocolate in an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining nuts onto melted chocolate. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes. When completely cool, break into desired pieces.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

No-Knead French Bread

Have you ever made a recipe that has changed your life . . . or at least the way you look at food? Well this is one of those recipes for me. A few weeks ago I wanted to serve my Garlic & Herb Cheesy Bread but I didn't want to make the trip into town to buy some French bread. I found this recipe in our church cookbook, but I was skeptical because when I've made homemade French bread before I've been disappointed that it wasn't like what I can buy at the grocery store. My friend Kim is the one that submitted the recipe, so I knew it had to be good. I decided to go ahead and try it and I'm so glad I did! No longer does bread making have to mean hours of kneading and rising. In just about 1 1/2 hours you can have two (or three) loaves of French Bread that's just as good - or even better - than you can buy at the store.
  Of course, I did change a couple things, but nothing too major. It's ridiculously easy. I'll show you how it's done.
First, put 3 cups of bread flour in a large mixing bowl. (The original recipe says just flour - AP flour - but I like the chew you get from using bread flour.)

To the flour, add 2 Tbs of fast-acting, instant or quick rise yeast. (This yeast is packed with vitamin C that allows it to rise instantly without any blooming.) The brand doesn't really matter, just the type.

3 Tbs of sugar is added.

and some salt. The original recipe says to add 1 Tbsp of salt, but I like to use the salted water from cooking potatoes or pasta to make my bread, so I don't add a full Tbsp of salt.

Then comes the HOT water. Kim says to add hot tap water, but I like to use water with more starch in it (like potato or pasta water) because it gives the bread a nice chewy texture. The water just needs to be over 105F and less than 120F. If the water is too hot it will kill the yeast, and that's not good.

Stir in the water and then add in 1/3 cup of veg. oil.

Mix everything together very well, until smooth.

The last step is to cover the dough with 3 cups more bread flour. DO NOT stir it in. Just put it on top, and leave it alone. (I leave my spoon in too. It makes things less messy later on.)

Cover the bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes.

When 10 minutes is up, it should look something like this.

Gently stir everything together.

When you've stirred it as much as you can, it will look something like this:
Cover it again, and come back in another 10 minutes. (You'll do this for a total of 5 times.)

After 10 minutes, this is your dough.

Stir again. When you've stirred all you can, then cover it and leave for another 10 minutes.

This is it after the 10 minutes.

Stir again. Cover and leave for another 10 minutes.

You're almost done! This is the dough after 40 minutes.

Stir one last time, making sure that all the flour is completely incorporated. Cover and leave for 10 more minutes.

After the last 10 minutes, this is it!

Cover a flat surface with a little flour. (I like to use my dad's old Tupperware mat that's used to roll out pie dough.)

Turn the dough out from the bowl and divide it in two (or three if you want smaller loaves.)

Take each half and press it out into a rectangle shape (about 9x13). You could use a rolling pin for this, but I'm all about saving dishes, so I just flatten it out with my hands.

Roll it up (I roll the long side to get a loaf that's over a foot long.)

When it's rolled it looks something like this:

Cut slits into the top of the loaf (this is just to make it look pretty).

When both loaves are formed and scored, I like to spray them with some non-stick cooking spray. This keeps the loaves moist while they rise for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, they have doubled in size and look like this:

They get baked @ 350F for 30 minutes until they are brown and hollow sounding when tapped.

They are very pretty.

I just had to take a couple of shots. After they cool, they are ready to eat just as they are, our you can turn them into something more. (Like Spinach Artichoke Bread, or Garlic & Herb Cheesy Bread - both recipes coming soon.) Enjoy!
*Update - if you like your loaves more crusty and a little darker, brush the loaves with either butter or an egg wash, and turn up the heat to 375F for the last 10 minutes.

Here's the recipe:

No-Knead French Bread

6 cups bread flour, divided
2 Tbsp quick rise yeast
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt (3/4 Tbsp if ising salted potato or pasta water)
2 1/2 cups HOT water (105-120F)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
non-stick cooking spray

In a large bowl, combine 3 cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Add the water and mix well. Add the oil and stir until smooth. Add the remaining flour on top, but DO NOT stir. Cover and stir every 10 minutes (5 times) for 50 minutes total. After the 5th time, pour out onto a floured surface and divide into two (or three) equal pieces. Roll or press out each piece into a rectangle (about 9x13 size). Roll up on the long sides and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cut slits in the tops of the loaves and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Let rise 30 minutes, until doubled in size. Bake @ 350F for 30 minutes. Loaves should be brown and sound hollow when you tap them.