Sunday, January 27, 2013

White Sandwich Bread

     I've officially explored another area of bread! I've made bread like Honey Challah before, and other "bready" things, but never a loaf  of bread like I'd buy at the grocery store. It's so exciting, and really not all that hard, just time consuming. I think in all this takes about 3 hours from start to finish, but it's well worth it. I found the recipe at The Curvy Carrot (probably while Pinteresting but I don't quite remember) and  from the look of her pictures I knew I had to try it out. I'm so glad I did and you knead to too! Hehe, I'm so funny. But seriously, the bread is soft, great for sandwiches, toasts wonderfully, and is absolutely worth making again and again. The recipe as written provides two large loaves and both are definitely needed--one of mine was gone overnight. My mom had a couple warm pieces, my boyfriend had a 3-inch thick chunk (or more) and my brother made himself a grilled cheese sandwich for supper, something I will be doing soon as well. Even if you don't think you'll go through two loaves that quickly, you should freeze the second one for later! Without a doubt, this is a recipe I'm actually writing down on a recipe card and sticking in my recipe book.

White Sandwich Bread
Recipe from The Curvy Carrot


  • 2 (1/4 ounce) packets active dry yeast 
  • 3/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature  
  • 2 and 2/3 cup additional warm water
  • 9-10 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (for brushing the tops of the loaves)

--In a large bowl (you'll be stirring the dough in it) pour in the 3/4 cup warm water and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let the yeast activate for a while until it gets frothy.

--After about 5 minutes, add the sugar, salt, butter, and the rest of the warm water. Mix until all combined. (The warm water should melt the room-temp butter for the most part. You can help the butter along by smashing it against the side of the bowl with your spoon. It's okay if there's some small chunks still floating around.)

--Gradually stir in the flour. Don't add it in all at once--you may not need it all. I stopped at 8 cups.

--Once you can't stir anymore, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in more flour if your dough is still super sticky--you want it tacky but not sticking to your fingers. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, around 10 minutes.

--Clean the bowl that you used for stirring, then spray it with cooking spray. Plop your kneaded dough in the greased bowl and then flip it over so the (new) top is greased and won't dry out while rising. Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place until doubled, about and hour.

--Punch down the dough and separate it into parts. Take your rolling pin and roll out two rectangles, having the "shorter" side being an inch or two longer than your loaf pan. I used 9" pans.

--Take the "longer" side of each rectangle and roll it up tightly, like you would a sleeping bag. Seal the edges and tuck the ends under so their seams are on the bottom of the roll and so that the roll will fit nicely in your loaf pan.

--Place the dough into greased loaf pans, cover them with a towel, and set them in a warm place to rise for another hour.

--Place your oven racks on the lowest positions and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

--Bake the loaves for 30 minutes, placing a "tent" of tinfoil over each loaf halfway through baking so the tops don't burn.

--After removing the bread from the oven, brush the tops with the melted butter.

--Let cool for a couple minutes before flipping the loaves out of their pans.

--Slice with a sharp knife and enjoy!

Happy Baking!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Game Day Sliders

I don't know about you but I'm a little burned out on football. My husband has lived and breathed it for the past uh, far too many months, but the end is near! Even though I don't particularly like to sit and watch a whole game, I do like to watch the big one-the Super Bowl! And whether it's the big game or just another Sunday match up, neither would be complete without game food. At our house that means chips or nachos, pizza bites, homemade fries, chicken wings, and these sliders. Not all at once, because we're not pigs, but that is the regular rotation. You might be thinking, this isn't really a significant recipe to blog about but let me tell you, all sliders (or game food for that matter) are not equal. The must haves of superior sliders: water buns, 85% lean ground beef, and a cast iron skillet. Oh, and you absolutely must take the burger right from the skillet to the cut buns and let all the moisture (aka grease) seep into the buns. This is nonnegotiable. Yeah it's grease, get over it. One bite of these little devils and you will applaud me for that grease!
Game Day Sliders 

For the burgers:
  • 1 lb 85% lean ground beef
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 cayenne pepper (doesn't make them hot, just great flavor)
  • 1/4 garlic powder (not garlic salt) 
For the sliders:
  • Water buns (found in your local bakery; looks like they spritzed them with water before baking; extremely light and airy)
  • Tomato
  • Avocado
  • Cheese
  • Condiments (ketchup, mustard, miracle whip, hot sauce, bbq sauce, etc.) 
Heat your cast iron skillet over medium heat. Combine all of the spices into the ground beef and mix well with your hands. Hands are always superior to spoons when mixing ground meat. Form into 8 small, thin patties. Drop your patties into the skillet and don't touch them at all for 3 to 4 minutes. Flip them over and again don't touch them for about 3 minutes. This is to give them a nice browning and a ton of flavor.

Do not overcook your sliders! Nobody, not even people who detest bloody meat, like a dried up, hockey puck excuse of a burger.

Put your burgers directly onto your buns and let them rest a few. Then go ahead and top them however you see fit and chow down. Since they're small, feel free to have 2 or 3, there is no judgement among friends. 

As always, life is better homemade!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Peanut Butter Granola

       Almost four and half years ago (what?!) I went to France. I went with a program through my high school after I graduated and considered it a "hooray for me!" sort of trip. It was a blast and I hope one day I can travel to other places and explore the world some more. After I returned, I was asked by my teacher to write a column for our local newspaper. Here is what my eighteen-year-old-self wrote:

When a person goes to another country he never knows what to fully expect. Of course stories are heard like "the people there are hairy" or "the entire place just holds an awful stench to it" but that still doesn't cover everything. Even if it did, that was another person's experience, not your own. You have to make your own decisions and observations. Here are some of the things that I observed:
There are no water fountains anywhere in France. When you find one, drink up and fill your water bottles because you probably won't find one for the rest of the day. If you get thirsty and you're out of water, guess what? You have to pay basically a million dollars (about two Euros) for even a small water bottle. Either that or you mooch off of your friends, but you can't do that all the time. It's not very polite.
Public bathrooms that you don't have to pay for are virtually impossible to find, though they are more common than water fountains. When I was staying with my host family in Grenoble, Laura, the daughter, and I decided to go shopping. A few hours into our little escapade I realized that after drinking a liter of water I needed a bathroom. If Laura hadn't been with me I don't know what I would have done because she led me to the only public bathroom in the shopping district: top floor, far back corner, of the Galeries Lafayette.
Peanut butter doesn't exist in France. OK, so you may find one jar of peanut butter in the foreign section of a supermarket, but that's it. Needless to say, if you can't find peanut butter in a grocery store, you can't find it in their candy bars either. I was quite disappointed.
These are just a few examples of the traits about France that one wouldn't expect, or at least I wouldn't. The small things about a country are what make it unique. If you look at the world from a large scale, everywhere seems the same. Politics, money (or lack there of), the desire for power, etc. ... However, when you look deeper, on a smaller scale, you see the things that make a country special, whether you like those things or not (like the lack of peanut butter and water fountains).
This trip is something I will never forget. The people I traveled with, the teachers who put up with us and made it all happen, and the country itself have left an impact on my life that I wouldn't change for the world.

     Sometimes I think it'd be fun to go back in time and talk to my younger self--not necessarily to lecture or anything but just to simply talk. I think I'd make myself laugh. Anyway, I thought of this article for a very specific reason: my mini peanut butter rant. It is so American, and I love it! Basically, if anybody ever criticizes you (and you're American) for an excessive love of peanut butter, just tell them that you're embracing your patriotism, haha.

Peanut Butter Granola
Recipe from


  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

--Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

--Spray cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray or use a silpat. Set aside.

--Stir together the peanut butter and honey in a tiny sauce pan over low heat until the peanut butter is melted into the honey. (You can use a microwave if you really want to, but it zaps out the great qualities of the honey.)

 --Remove from heat and mix in the cinnamon and vanilla, then add the oats and stir it all together until the oats are completely covered with the peanut butter blend.

--Spread the covered oats onto the prepared cookie sheet and bake for 7-9 minutes until the granola is slightly browned. If you kept your granola in larger chunks you may need to go longer, but watch out for burning.

---Let the granola cool until it's crunchy, just a few minutes is all. It won't be as rock solid as store bought granola, but it'll still have a nice bite to it =)

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Fudgy Ganache Brownies


Ahhhh the New Year is here with new hopes, dreams, and the ever loved/hated resolutions! Do you make resolutions? I don’t. But maybe you are among the 1/3 of Americans who make weight loss related resolutions and you're looking at these brownies wondering why on earth you made a resolution that says you can't have anything of the sort. Well here are my two cents on resolutions; they are doomed to fail from the beginning. You wait all year to finally start a weight loss plan or go back to school or learn to crochet, and then that first day of the New Year arrives and you plunge into your resolution with gusto. You commit with 150% when 100% or even 85% would do. You do too much; you deprive yourself and over extend yourself. Then 42 days later you give up and swear you will do better next year. Why not just commit to start whatever day you have the grand idea of improvement? Why do we think we must wait for a special day to make ourselves better? I say improvement, whether it is health, education, your job, or your home, is a never ending process. I think it comes down to a lifelong commitment and lifestyle change rather than rules and deprivation; especially with food. So that being said, I think that these brownies do have space in your life, just not every day. I think they are a nice treat to celebrate an anniversary, a birthday, earning your degree, or paying off your credit card. And what better way to enjoy a special occasion than with moist, dense, ganache covered brownies? You're right, there isn't one. :)

Fudgy Brownies
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens special Chocolate edition

9 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 c butter
1/3 c water
4 tsp instant espresso crystals (or instant coffee crystals)
1 c granulated sugar
1 c packed brown sugar
5 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c ground almonds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Bittersweet Ganache

1 c whipping cream
12 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 13x9 pan with foil, extending it over the edges, grease the foil and set aside. In a large bowl, combine chocolate, butter, water and espresso crystals. Microwave uncovered for 2-4 minutes or until butter is melted, stirring twice. Remove bowl from microwave and stir until chocolate is melted.

Beat in the granulated sugar and the brown sugar with an electric mixer on low to medium until combined. Then add eggs and vanilla; beat on medium for 2 minutes. Next, beat in flour, almonds, cinnamon, and salt until combined.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes or until top appears set and dry. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Use foil to lift brownies out of pan. (Trust me you will thank me for this step!) You could certainly cut and eat them just like this, but why not slather them with the ganache and really hit that home run?

And just because I know you are concerned and perhaps even worried how much these bad boys are going to set you back in terms of caloric sabotage, I have included the nutritional info. If you cut them into 24 equal squares each brownie is 302 calories, 17 g fat. Now you can make a completely informed and intentional decision when you savor every crumb of these brownies!

To new beginnings, resolutions, and enjoying life homemade!