Saturday, June 25, 2011

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

Bread is one of those things that people love or stay away from. Personally, I can't imagine life without bread, can you? It's soft, fluffy, filled with air pockets and sometimes has a fantastic crust. There's nothing like the sound of bread when your slicing through it. That "crackling" sound gets me all the time. Then, to toast it and rub some fresh garlic on it and slap on some butter, woah mama is that heaven. To the people that stay away from bread, I thank you. It just means more bread for the rest of us. ha.

Foccacia is what I like to think of as a cross roads of breads. It's soft like white bread yet has a crisp crust to give it body. It almost reminds me of the pizza crust of Pizza Hut, well, this Foccacia does anyway. I made a plain jane Foccacia once before and although it was quite delicious, it was just that, plain jane. It didn't have a real depth of flavor to tickle your taste buds. So, to "Kick It Up a Notch" according to Emeril, or "Jazz It Up" according to Rachael Ray or even put this Focaccia through a "REMIX!" according to the Neelys, I decided to make it into a Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia.

- I made this bread by hand so it took me a good 30 minutes of mixing the dough without a stand mixer.
-Instead of cooking it in a sheet pan, I decided to use a 9 inch cake pan (I used half the recipe so if you're making the the whole recipe, use two 9 inch cake pans)

Taste: The flavor of the olive oil really comes through in this bread. Along with the rosemary and roasted garlic on top, it added an extra punch of flavor! I recommend using those toppings!

Texture: Moist, soft, light and fluffy with crisp edges!

Basic Focaccia
Recipe by Anne Burrell (adapted by me)

1 3/4 cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 heads of roasted garlic

Combine the warm water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Put the bowl in a warm, not hot or cool, place until the yeast is bubbling and aromatic, at least 15 minutes.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 1/2 cup olive oil and the yeast mixture on low speed. Once the dough has come together, continue to knead for 5 to 6 minutes on a medium speed until it becomes smooth and soft. Give it a sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky.

Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured surface, then knead it by hand 1 or 2 times. Again, give it another sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky.

Coat the inside of the mixer bowl lightly with olive oil and return the dough to the bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, at least 1 hour.

Coat a jelly roll pan with the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil (Or, use two 10 in cake pans). (Chef's Note: This may seem excessive, but focaccia is an oily crusted bread. This is why it is soooooooooo delicious!).

Put the dough onto the jelly roll pan and begin pressing it out to fit the size of the pan. Turn the dough over to coat the other side with the olive oil. Continue to stretch the dough to fit the pan. As you are doing so, spread your fingers out and make finger holes all the way through the dough. (Chef's Note: Yes, this is strange. But when the dough rises again it will create the characteristic craggy looking focaccia. If you do not make the actual holes in the dough, the finished product will be very smooth.)

Put the dough in the warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. While the dough is rising a second time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Liberally sprinkle the top of the focaccia with some coarse sea salt, rosemary and diced roasted garlic and lightly drizzle a little oil on top. Bake the dough until the top of the loaf is golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the focaccia from the oven and let it cool before cutting and serving.

-Aaron John

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Peach Cobbler

When I think of Peach Cobbler, I think of the South. When I think of the South, I think of Southern Food. When I think of Southern food, I think of Paula Deen, the queen of Southern Cuisine. This lady really loves her butter. She may even deep fry butter and eat the whole thing. But hey, who hasn't thought of doing that themselves? ha. So, who better to get a Peach Cobbler recipe from than the good ol' Paula Deen.

I've been wanting to make a Peach Cobbler for a long time. However, I couldn't find any fresh peaches! I thought Summer was here already? Well, I went to the second best thing, frozen peaches. Supposedly, frozen fruit and vegetables are "picked at the peak of freshness" and I would have to agree. Sweet yet tangy, tender yet had a bite. It's all you want in fruit without all the work of peeling and chopping. Thus, when life gives you peaches, make a Peach Cobbler.

-I halved this recipe and baked it in a 9 in pie pan
-Instead of the fresh peaches, I used one 16 ounce bag of frozen. If making the full recipe, use two 16 ounce bags
-Don't mix the layers or butter, batter and peach. Leave it as is.

Taste: Surprisingly, not overpoweringly sweet. There was a nice balance between the somewhat tart peaches, and the sweetness of it's syrup with the sweetness from the crust and added cinnamon to give some spice. 

Texture: The peaches were tender and not overcooked and the batter that did not brown on the top gave the cobbler a creamy aspect. However, it did have a gummy quality to it. The best part had to be the browned crust. It gave a nice textural difference with it being crunchy. But, I would love to try to make a cobbler using layers of pie crust instead because the gummy quality was not liked by my familia. 

Peach Cobbler
Recipe by Paula Deen

4 cups peeled, sliced peaches
2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup water
8 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/2 cups milk
Ground cinnamon, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the peaches, 1 cup sugar, and water in a saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Put the butter in a 3-quart baking dish and place in oven to melt.

Mix remaining 1 cup sugar, flour, and milk slowly to prevent clumping. Pour mixture over melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon fruit on top, gently pouring in syrup. Sprinkle top with ground cinnamon, if using. Batter will rise to top during baking. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes.

To serve, scoop onto a plate and serve with your choice of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

-Aaron John

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Double Chocolate Muffins

I'm back!! I finally finished my Sophomore year of college at UW!! No words can express the relief I have after that school year. Let's just say I'm glad that it's over. ha. Now I have 2 weeks to bake up a storm before I start Summer classes. So, here goes, Treat Number One: Double Chocolate Muffins.

I'd like to think of muffins as "naked cupcakes". Isn't that what they really are? Same texture of a cupcake but lacks its outfit of a yummy buttercream and accessories like sprinkles. Call them streakers or nudist, muffins are fantastic. ha. Not to mention, they are a good excuse to eat a "cupcake" for breakfast!

One of my favorite muffins of all time is a Double Chocolate Muffin, specifically, Costco's Double Chocolate Muffins. Beyond delish! They are moist, have a great flavor and full of chocolate chunks. A Chocoholic's dream? I think so. I can't imagine anyone who hasn't tried this muffin. If you haven't, well what are you waiting for? Go to your local Costco, buy a dozen muffins and sink your teeth into a bite heaven!

It's been months since I had their muffins that I had to try and make them somehow, someway. Thus, I found this recipe from scratch that had the same look as the ones from Costco. How did they come out? Here it goes!

-I used a scale when measuring out the ingredients and forgot to measure out the ingredients to make the recipe easier for you all. Sorry!!

-I used a regular cupcake pan, filled each cupcake liner with 1/4 cup of the batter and they cooked in about 15 minutes

Taste: Has a slight bitterness chocolate flavor from the cocoa powder with semi-sweet chocolate running through out. Not the same exact taste as the one from Costco.

Texture: Not the same as the Costco muffin yet again. Actually, the muffin itself was pretty tough than what I'm used to. Wasn't light and fluffy at all and was running on the dry side which shocked me because it used oil! Back to square one to perfect a Costco Muffin.

Double Chocolate Muffins (makes 12)
Recipe from A Pot of Tea and a Biscuit

200gr plain flour
100gr caster sugar
50gr cocoa powder
1tsp cinnamon (I omitted)
1tbsp baking powder
125gr dark chocolate, chopped (I used semi-sweet)
2 eggs
100ml vegetable oil
250ml milk

Preheat oven to 200C. (400 degrees F)

In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder and dark chocolate.

 In a separte bowl whisk the eggs. Add the oil and stir well until combined. Add the milk and mix in again. Now pour the wet ingredients into the dry with a fork or wooden spoon until just combined. You don't want to overwork it.

Divide the dough between a 12 hole muffin tray, lined with paper muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes.

-Aaron John


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