Archive for the ‘recipes’ Category

Busy Mama’s Crusty Loaf of Bread

January 9, 2009

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Like so many others, I leapt with joy the first time I tried the New York Times recipe for no-knead bread. I was stunned at how easily I created a loaf of artisan bread (Acme bakery, you got nothin’ on this bunny, muahahahahaha!). Many, many loaves of no-knead bread have been devoured here at chez slippers. However, there have probably been just as many loaves that could have been, would have been willingly devoured if mama had only remembered to create her sponge the night before.

While I am pretty darned organized, I am also pretty busy, and I wouldn’t consider the post bedtime hours my peak of productivity, not by a long shot. So yeah, we missed out on a lot of crusty chewy bread goodness because “DANG I forgot to make the dough last night!” I think missing out only fed the bread lust around this joint. I have to admit, I got pretty used to being able to whip up a crusty loaf without shelling out $5 for it either. So one day, when we absolutely COULD NOT go without a loaf of bread at dinner, and when I really, really wanted the crusty, chewy, yummy, artisan approach I decided to improvise. I experimented with the dough recipe with a light, chewy loaf in mind, then applied the flour and covered steaming techniques from the NYT recipe. It took a few tries to create a nice crusty loaf that wasn’t burnt on the bottom or as dense as a day old cake donut. Eventually I was able to create a lovely light, crusty, basic bread. It lacks the air bubbles and chewiness of the no-knead bread. You DO have to knead it. But this is one mean loaf of bread, and sure hits the spot when you forget to make your sponge the night before.

BUSY MAMA’S CRUSTY LOAF of BREAD

4 Cups Flour

1 T Fresh Yeast or 1 Pkg Instant Yeast

1 T Salt

1 ½ T Sugar

1 T Butter

2 T Olive Oil

1-11/2 Cups Warm Water

Combine flour, yeast, salt, sugar, butter and olive oil in the bowl of a standing mixer with a dough hook attachment (Don’t have a dough hook? Use the mixing paddle. Don’t have a standing mixer? Use a big bowl, a wooden spoon and some elbow grease, you can count it as your workout for the day.). Turn on the mixer (or start stirring) and slowly add a cup of warm water to the flour mixture, mix until the water is incorporated, adding up to half a cup more warm water to create a soft, silk dough. Continue mixing for five minutes or turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. Place dough back into the bowl, cover with a warm damp towel and allow it to rise for an hour. Halfway through the rise, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Find a Dutch oven with a lid, a big, oven-proof pot or pan with a lid, or an oven-proof casserole dish with a lid into the oven while it heats (you want the dish and the lid to get HOT!).  When the oven (and the dish) are hot, take the dough and form it into a loose ball (don’t worry about being neat, you want it to have a rustic quality) and sprinkle it with flour. Toss a bit more flour in the bottom of the hot pan, then place the dough into the pan and put the cover on. Immediately lower the temperature to 400 degrees and bake the bread in the covered pan for 15 minutes. Then remove the pan from the oven, gently remove the loaf from the pan and place it directly on the oven rack. Bake for 20-25 minutes more until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap the top of it. Allow the loaf to cool and enjoy!

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Food Friday: New Year’s Eve Fondue

January 2, 2009

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If you only know me through this blog, you may not know what a foodie I am.  There was a time in my life, when money was no object, that I drank expensive wine and cooked lavish meals all the time.  Mr. Slippers and I hosted some serious cook offs, and generally lived it up.  When the bunnies came along and we were working to make it on one income, money was certainly an object.  I drew on my rural upbringing and creativity and found ways to feed us all very well on very little.   Today I operate somewhere in the middle.  I cook almost all of the food my family eats, it’s a challenge but I love it.  Sometimes I triumph and sometimes I fail. I suspect many of you are in the same boat, so I thought it would be fun to welcome you all into my kitchen this year.  We’ll kick off the first Bunnyslippers “Food Friday”  with a recipe for our traditional New Year’s eve dinner, fondue.

On New Year’s eve 2005, my big bunny was 20 months old and  I was pregnant with the little bunny.  We were definitely NOT planning on going out but we wanted to do something special to celebrate (especially since champagne was not on the menu!).  Like so many toddlers, big sister bunny was heavily into the “dipping” phase of food discovery, I’m also guessing  Martha Stewart had a fondue recipe featured on her website that set off some sort of hormonal trigger for me.  I made a traditional swiss cheese and kirsch fondue that we all picked at, and a chocolate fondue that MEZMERIZED the bunny.  While it wasn’t a raging  success, we all had enough fun with it that Mr. Slippers and I felt we should try it again in 2006.   A tradition was born.  I have to say this year we were at our fondue best.  It might have something to do with the fact that the bunnies are both old enough to appreciate the cheese fondue now (that and champagne is back on the menu for us grownups), but it’s probably largely  due to my new recipe.

I’m not going to lie to you, fondue is as fussy as it is fun (that’s really why I only attempt it once a year).  You should have a fondue pot (I use a medium sized Rival one that my sister gave me for Christmas in 2006), or some sort of apparatus to keep the mixture warm, because it will turn into a hard, gloppy mess when it gets cold. Really that’s a great excuse to gobble it all up while it’s warm!  I think this recipe was irresistible for both toddlers and grownups because I used a good amount of medium cheddar.  If you’re still in the gourmet phase of your life, you may want to use all swiss or all handcrafted gruyere, I certainly would have!

Also, very important, around here we dip much more than bread in our fondue.  Above you can see a roasted potato that I dunked late in the evening (just minutes after I got the inspiration for Food Friday… subsequent editions will have better pix!).  A wide variety of meats (if you go there), crackers, olives, pickles, any kind of veggie, and this year’s new discovery, red grapes all go well with this.  And just as flexible are the drink pairings.  The bunnies thought sparkling blueberry juice was the perfect accompaniment, while I would suggest the same wine you use in the fondue.  Champagne or even beer would also work well.

So yeah, I h ope you enjoy this… there’s more in store for next week!

BUNNYSLIPPERS’ CHEDDAR-SWISS FONDUE

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 cup dry white wine

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup medium cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup swiss cheese, shredded

1.5 Tablespoons cornstarch

Cut the clove of garlic in half and rub it all over the inside of your fondue pot (or a medium saucepan if you are not using a fondue pot).  Add wine and lemon juice to the pot and bring to a boil.  Meanwhile combine both cheeses and cornstarch in a large mixting bowl, tossing to coat cheese with cornstarch.  When wine mixture is boiling, slowly stir cheese mixture into the pot.  Continue stirring until cheese is melted.  Reduce heat to low and serve with  your choice of items to dip in the fondue.