Monday, November 24, 2014

Rustic no knead bread

I love the smell of fresh bread baking. I mean, who wouldn't? People who know me know that I love baking. But they probably haven't seen me baking loaves of bread a lot. For some reason, I don't. I guess all that kneading and the process. Even though my beloved stand mixer does everything for me. But there's one kind of bread I bake time to time. And this makes Sunday mornings so pleasant. 

As my tot doesn't care whether it's weekend or not, he would wake up before 7am, I would just go downstairs, prep the oven and the dough I whipped up the day before - literally just simply whipped up. Then back upstairs and have a family cuddle time. Well..I have to go back downstairs to put the dough in the oven but that part is easy as at that point, I would already look forward to getting up to the delicious smell of bread. Such great feeling. Especially when it gets colder, the walk to the oven with fresh smell of bread makes it feel so cozy.

My niece and nephew slept over last weekend. They're like normal kids who are somewhat picky. And they devoured the freshly baked bread. I served it with some homemade cranberry apple jam and apple cinnamon jam along with some savory items. They said uncle Steven's house always has the best breakfast. They're the sweetest. This is so easy to make, don't even need a stand mixer or anything. Ingredients, a large bowl and a wooden spoon would do. Love how it turns out nice every time. - Even with my crazy oven which is acting up just in time for the holiday! Try this foolproof recipe and you will have a successful loaf that is absolutely crusty & delicious.

Rustic no knead bread

Ingredients :

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp active yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water

Directions :

1. Mix flour, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl and add lukewarm water. Stir until completely combined. Dough will look messy.

2. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter and let it rise for 12-18 hours.(I made my dough in the afternoon and baked the next morning - about 16hours rising time)

3. When ready to bake, put the dutch oven in the oven and preheat the oven to 450F. Let the dutch oven sit there for 20-30 minutes to get heated.

4. Meanwhile, put the dough on a heavily floured surface. Shape into a ball and sprinkle some flour on top and cover with plastic wrap, let it rest while dutch oven's heating up. 

5. Place the dough in dutch oven -I don't know if it makes a difference but I cut a few slits with kitchen scissors- and cover the lid. Bake it in the oven for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes. You will see nice golden beauty sitting in your dutch oven.

* My dutch oven has enamel coating and it didn't stick at all but if yours don't, lining the bottom with parchment paper may be a good idea.

*Recipe from Chef in training.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Chewy chocolate chip cookies

Boy oh boy..this week's weather was brutal! I don't like skipping a post but unfortunately, I had to, as my body lost the battle vs. brutally cold weather. I just took a break and still hoping I get better soon. Meanwhile, as I was talking to my friend, she said she wanted to see a good chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe one of these days. As soon as she mentioned chocolate chip cookies, even though she said one of these days, I just had to have it. The next day. If I wasn't sick in bed, I probably would have gotten straight to the kitchen and baked a batch. Not this recipe though. Because this one needs some chill time. 

I have a few chocolate chip cookie recipes I like. Crispy to chewy. Alton Brown's chewy recipe is amazing too. I find that it has a little bit of almost cake like texture. When I feel like that kind of texture, I go for that recipe. Talking about Alton Brown, Steve and I just went to Alton Brown Live last weekend. He is an absolutely talented individual. I've always had respect for his professionalism and knowledge in food but he was so very entertaining and funny live too! I started watching him since high school, which is just about when he started his show Good Eats. I've always been a huge fan and I turned Steve into a fan too. Both of us enjoyed the show so much just as so many others attended the show.  If you're his fan too, you should definitely see his live show. He will be doing another tour next year too.

So back to the cookies, these cookies in the pictures are slightly over baked. Just when the cookies were done, I had the doorbell ringing and couldn't take the cookies out right away. I mean..what was wrong with me? Doorbell comes before cookies? Come on, Christine! Well, one or two minutes can do the damage quickly, so if you want the perfect chewy texture, be sure to be right next to the oven just when they're about done. I mean they were still very good. Nobody seemed to mind. =) Original recipe called for instant pudding mix but I don't like anything like that. Same reason why I am dying to bake a really pretty pink strawberry cake but I can't as most recipes call for red jello or some sort. So I completely omitted that mix and they're very good. 

Chewy chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients :

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter(1 1/2 stick), softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
2 cups chocolate chips(for better looks, chop up block chocolate)

Directions :

1. In a bowl of a stand mixer add butter, both sugars, vanilla and egg and cream until well blended on medium high.

2. Add flour, baking soda and salt and beat on low until just combined. 

3. Scrape the bowl down and add chocolate chips and beat on low until just combined.

4. Scoop on a lined baking sheet, press the top slightly and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours - up to 5 days. Or freeze. 

5. When ready to bake, bake at 350F for 11 minutes. They might look a little pale and a little underdone but they get firmer as they cool, so do not over bake. 

6. Let them cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes or so before serving. Do not cool on the cooling rack as they might break while cooling.

*Adapted from Avery cooks

Friday, November 14, 2014

Grilled cheese rice patties

It just got so cold over night. Apparently, there was a little bit of snow last night too. I cannot believe winter's almost here already! Last weekend, we just put Halloween decorations away, and I took a quick nap and came down and I see our 12' Christmas tree in the living room. Steve is a planner but this was a little ridiculous. Until we moved here, we always had a small tree that is just a little bigger than the Charlie brown tree. Even though it's so small, watering it, cleaning up the needles on the floor was pain. So we got a gigantic fake tree, now that we have space. Haha. One good thing about having a fake tree, you can put it up whenever you want and clean up is easy. 

And this tree is really making my tot excited. He was so excited, running around the tree, singing and dancing. This Christmas will be so much fun now that he understands what's going on better. We didn't decorate the tree yet as Steve thinks it's too early. Uh...if it's too early, why bother putting up the tree already? Sometimes I don't know what's going on in his head. But it sure is making everyone in this house excited for Christmas already. And what is this tree to do with grilled cheese rice patties? The other day, as my tot was going to school, I asked him what he wanted me to make for lunch. He said he wanted to eat something that looks like a tree I was going to make some quick grilled cheese and use a tree cookie cutter but I didn't want to eat the border of the shape after cutting the tree for Mr. tot. And I had some leftover rice and veggies needed to be used. So when he came home, I said "Look, it's green like a tree!" He bought it. Awesome. =) 


Grilled cheese rice patties

Makes 3-4 rice sandwiches
Ingredients :

Rice patties
1 cup cooked rice
1/2 cup broccoli, finely chopped
2 eggs
2 Tbsp corn starch
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped 
salt & pepper
Oil or butter to grill the patties

3-4 slices ham
3-4 slices cheese of your choice

Directions :

1. In a mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients of rice patty. Heat the griddle and add oil or melt the butter(You don't need a lot of oil). Spoon the rice mixture and spread to the size you like. Cook on medium heat. 3-4 minutes.

2. Flip when bottom looks browned but not overdone. 

3. Add ham and cheese between two patties as you would for grilled cheese and grill until cheese is melted. Serve.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Homemade Mozzarella sticks

When my tot was a little younger, like any babies, cheese sticks were staple in hour house. If I gave him one stick, he would be quiet for a long time. But after some time, he grew out of these cheese sticks. Instead, he started to go for a little more flavorful cheese. If I give him Asiago pieces and string cheese together, he would only pick on Asiago. BUT! He still absolutely loves mozzarella sticks. The other day we baked a few of the last mozzarella sticks for a quick snack and he was not happy that there's no more. I promised him he could have more next time and he moved on. Then I was on it. 

It's so easy to make and everybody loves mozzarella sticks, so it's good to have them in the freezer for last minute guests or a quick but filling snack. I have to admit, anything breaded and baked or fried is generally pretty fantastic. Since I'm making a little mess while breading anyway, I usually make a bigger batch and keep them in the freezer. 

Homemade Mozzarella sticks

* Makes 24 sticks
Ingredients :

12 sticks of string cheese
2 eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs 
2 Tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese

Directions :

1. Cut the string cheese in half and freeze. Mix breadcrumbs with grated Parmesan cheese and set aside.

2. Coat the frozen cheese sticks with flour then egg, then breadcrumbs. You can fry them or bake them at 375F for 7 minutes. When baking, spray oil lightly on the bottom and top.

*If not using right away, put them in the sheet pan in a single layer and freeze. When frozen, transfer all of them to a ziplock bag.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Almond croissant


I am a big pastry girl. And almond croissant has always been one of my favorites. I was a music student. Everyday after school, I had to go to my music lesson and when I had a little extra time before my lesson, I used to stop at a bakery cafe and had a nice afternoon pick me up. I've never been a big snack person but I could not resist occasional afternoon pick me up. It's funny how something random like pastries somehow brings me back the memories from high school. Steve has always made fun of me for my love for cafes. Especially when we were dating. He'd be like, where should we go this afternoon? My answer was always, how about we decide sitting at a cafe? 


So, we have a beautiful pastry shop/cafe near us. I absolutely love everything from that place. I never buy any baked goods in bulk, knowing I can always stop at this pastry shop and get something fresh. But Costco happened last weekend. Yep, we love that place. Even though it's just Steve, I and the tot. Steve grabbed a package of freshly baked croissant that has 12 of them in it. I was tempted to stop him but I couldn't be bothered. Yeah, whatever, get enough croissant for a family of 6. So we ended up eating croissant turkey sandwish, breakfast sandwish the next morning and egg salad sandwich and so on. Steve really tried to make a point that 12 croissant was not too many for us. Well and the weekend's over. Now I was left with 6 more croissants. I had to do something about it. And the frangipane comes to rescue! 


It's so easy to make these and gives leftover croissant a whole new life. I said a day old croissant in the recipe but I actually used 3 days old croissant.(YIKES!) Yes, it was stale but once it came out of the oven, it's like they're freshly baked. I made these after my tot went to school. I enjoyed my quiet time as I was savoring every bite of this almond croissant, sipping my cup of tea in peace,  planning the holiday menu while listening to Sam Smith and Jack Johnson. A weekday morning can't get any more relaxing than that.

Frangipane is very versatile, a couple more recipes using frangipane on my blog is here. Blueberry frangipane tartFig and frangipane crostata.

Almond croissant

Ingredients :

4-5 a day old croissant
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3-4 Tbsp sliced almond

Frangipane(almond filling)
1/2 cup ground almond meal
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, room temperature
3 Tbsp butter, softened
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
Directions :
1. Make simple syrup - in a saucepan, add water and sugar. Bring it to a boil on a medium heat(while stirring), until sugar's dissolved. Let it cool.
2. Heat the oven to 350F. Add all frangipane ingredients in a food processor and blend until it becomes smooth and pasty.
3. Cut the croissant lengthwise but not all the way, with the very end attached. Brush the syrup on both inside and outside top. 

4. Spread frangipane inside of the croissant(about 2 Tbsp) and close. Spread some on the outside(about 1 Tbsp)and top with sliced almonds. 

5. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. You will see top and middle frangipane part becoming a little crusty. Let it cool for a few minutes.

6. Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve.

*Frangipane recipe from Rebecca Franklin.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Potato leek soup


As it's getting chilly. Naturally, we cook stew and soup more often these days. This potato and leek soup has been my family's favorite for a long time. Especially my mom LOVES it with some broccoli florets on top as it makes her feel like she's eating healthier. Haha Leek gives such nice flavor to the dish, yet it's mild. And I like the texture of sauted leek with the smooth soup, that's why I save some for garnish. 


It makes good 3 portions for adults, so I had a little leftover in the fridge. The next day, I was looking for some snack as I was suddenly starving and little bit of chilled potato leek soup just hit the spot. People serve chilled potato leek soup shooter as appetizer anyway. My tot is a huge fan of variety of soups, I served this creamy soup without heavy cream and chicken wings for lunch and it was a huge hit. I cooked the wings with our newest addition to the kitchen, electric pressure cooker and I am absolutely loving it. Whatever I used to do with slow cooker for 6hours can be done in 30 minutes with the same result! Maybe next time I have a chance to post stew or something, I'll write more about it. By that time, I'll probably experiment more recipes with it. 

Potato leek soup

*Makes about 3 bowls
Ingredients :

2 leeks - white and light green part, chopped
3 medium sized potatoes, sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
3 cups chicken or veggie stock or water
1 cup low fat milk
Shredded cheddar for garnish(optional)

Directions :

1. In a pot, heat up the olive oil and saute chopped leek. When softened a little, set aside 2-3 Tbsp of leek for garnish.

2. Add potato, salt, pepper and stock/water and bring it to boil. Cook on medium heat with the lid open, until potato's fork tender. Using immersion blender(or regular blender) puree until smooth. 

3. Stir in milk and simmer for a few minutes. Scoop in the bowl and garnish with sauted leek and cheese if desired.