Monday, August 3, 2009

is this thing on?

annnnnd we're back. summer semester is over, with all of its acceleration, and now i'm cooking again. what better way to kick things off than with a pie?

i had some leftover apples and strawberries from separate projects, and decided to combine them into a strawberry apple pie. i had some trouble tracking down a recipe i was interested in, so i combined them.

and then promptly found some recipes i thought were worth trying. so here's to saving you the trouble of searching.

Catherine's Strawberry Apple Pie

dough for a double crust pie (i used this one)

4C peeled, cored and chopped apples
1 1/4C hulled and quartered strawberries
3/4C sugar
3T cornstarch
pinch of cinnamon (i love it, and it had to go in)

preheat oven to 425° (my oven is evil, so it's anywhere between 400° and 450°)
roll out 1/2 of dough and fit into pie plate. reserve other half in fridge.
mix filling ingredients, tossing until well mixed. pour into pie crust.
take remaining half of dough, roll out into strips, and form lattice top.
sprinkle with 1T sugar, place in preheated oven.
bake for 60 minutes, or until filling is bubbly and the crust is a lovely golden.
add foil to the edges in the last 20 minutes if it browns too quickly.
remove from oven, let cool to room temp.
slice, and try not to eat it all yourself.

Monday, May 25, 2009

it's bagel week here at OPK!

so, we're on week 3 of the challenge. and because the bread is disappearing so fast, i'm forced to start on sunday, and slave into the wee hours of the night. or not. mostly, i just really really wanted bagels this morning for breakfast.

and let me tell you, these were worth every minute of lost sleep.

peter reinhart created a really lovely recipe, the bagels are glorious. soft, chewy, a crisp crust (although not as crisp as some may like, mine have a thin, crispy crust) and that fantastic flavor that only high gluten flour and malt syrup can give. they smelled like pretzels while i was boiling them. i've had a bagel disaster before, using the artisan bread in 5 minutes a day method. but i'm chalking that up to a: high altitude issues, and 2: my inexperience with bagel dough.

i was initially concerned, since the bagels floated in the first water test without sinking. like, in 1 second, they were floating. i was concerned that it meant they would be gooey, falling apart when i boiled them for real. but, a night in fridge to retard, and these bagels were ready for anything.

i know i'm gushing, but i am a bagel fanatic. i spent a month in nyc some years ago, and one of the things i loved dearly was the morning bagel runs. i never thought i would get something quite as good as a fresh bagel. but i'm a convert. and i will most definitely be making these again.

i didn't want to order high gluten flour, so i just bought some vital wheat gluten, mixed 1 tsp for every 1C of bread flour, and called it done. and i think it worked pretty well. kneading the dough was a serious workout, since i wanted to do it by hand. even though the KA is perfectly capable of kneading the dough just fine, i'm finding that it's easier for me to get a feel for the dough, and what it needs if i knead by hand. malt syrup was sourced at the local earth fare, and i heard you could get it cheaper via a brew your own beer place. too bad i forgot about that fact while i was shopping.

so, one of these days, i'll get back to photographing our meals... until then, enjoy drooling at the pics of my awesome bagels. and since it made 13, and i don't think i can eat all of them myself, amanda, michelle, and lori, i have some for you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

week 2 challenge - christopsomos bread

week 2 began on sunday, and i was anxious to get the new loaf made. i've been lucky enough to locate the recipes online, so as of right now, i still don't own the book. very soon though. gotta pay the rent first!

the bread was a quick throw together, since i already had a starter bubbling away in the fridge. it fit the criteria, and i used it, and if it wasn't supposed to work, i don't think it would have. the bread made the house smell so good while baking, and the taste? fantastic. i sliced off a piece (or three) before it was cooled off, and shared with our toddler. who kept asking for more bread.

the bread in a nutshell? soft, moist inside, crispy crust (the bread was done about 10 minutes before the recipe's stated time, and i didn't get it out quite in time),spicy and studded with golden raisins, and craisins. sweet and tart, and now i'm regretting making it into 2 loaves and giving one to the neighbors. oh well! i can always make it again, and i probably will.

when i rolled it into the loaf shape, the rolled dough was a little long for the loaf pan... once i folded the ends under, and let it rise again, it became somewhat misshapen. but it was so good, who cares.

more info on the challenge can be found at while the google group is closed, you can still join in, via facebook and twitter. look up bba challenge, or #bba to find us.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

anadama bread and other things

well, i've jumped on a proverbial bandwagon. i joined a challenge online. and not just any challenge, but baking through the bread bakers apprentice by peter reinhart. every week, we're going to be doing a new recipe, and we're baking through the book in order. interestingly, i still need to get my hands on a copy of this book, but soon enough. soon enough.

so, the bread. i wasn't prepared for the crunch of it. it's slightly sweeter than i expected, but not quite a dessert bread. i used a jar of sorghum syrup i got up in the mountains last time i was in the hills, and it ended up being quite good. zoë and i have both enjoyed our slices of it, mine with nutella, her's with butter. once you get beyond the fact that it seems like you're eating a bowl of uncooked grits (which is an exaggeration) it's great bread. certainly not something i would have made otherwise, but something i'm enjoying.

i noticed it didn't rise quite as much as i had wanted. next time, i'm not going to assume it will rise during baking. one loaf ended up being a bit shorter and squattier than the other. what i really need to do is get my other loaf pans out, as these aren't really working so well for me.

i don't know about re-posting the recipe, but i will link to another blog who has. because i'm a scaredy cat like that. :)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

pan seared tilapia over vegetable ragout

well, it's fish week here at casa de opk. tilapia is on sale at kroger 2.99 a pound, i got a bunch of mushrooms on a "buy these quick before they rot" sale, and i was feeling adventurous. so, out of a cooking light recipe came my variation on a theme.

and boy, this was fantastic. i used tilapia instead of cod, since they're both firm white fishes. or is it fish? i can't remember the plural of fish. oh well. and since i got creminis cheap, i used those instead of shitake. because while we espouse fine cooking, we also espouse being able to afford rent. i'm just saying.

serves 4 - 1 filet, and 1C ragout.

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup diced prosciutto (about 2 ounces)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups thinly sliced cremini (baby bellas) mushroom caps (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped leek
  • 3 cups diced plum tomato (about 1 pound)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
  • 4 (6-ounce) tilapia filets
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Heat 1/2 teaspoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat. Add the prosciutto; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in garlic; remove from pan. Set aside.

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and leek; sauté 8 minutes. Stir in tomato, salt, and pepper. Gradually add the spinach to pan, and stir until spinach is wilted (about 3 minutes). Stir in the prosciutto mixture and basil. Remove from pan; cover and keep warm.

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in pan over medium-high heat. Dredge filets in flour. Add filets to pan; sauté 3 minutes on each side. Cover and cook 2 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Divide spinach mixture among 4 plates; top with filets.

Friday, April 24, 2009

the best banana bread ever made. no seriously.

okay, so everyone's got their favorite type of banana bread. whether you like yours cakey, or bread like, or dense, or light, or heavy on the banana, or not so much, this recipe will satisfy all of you.

i'm lying.

this bread is dense, with a heavy moist crumb, bordering on a fudge cake, and is full of banana. it's got a crunchy topping of coarse sugar, demerara being one of the best options. demerara is also known as turbinado here in the states, and i think sugar in the raw is an acceptable substitute. you just want to find a very coarse raw sugar to strew overtop. this recipe doubles, triple and quadruples amazingly well, so don't just make a small batch.

and the best part is, this is a family recipe that i've doctored to suit me, making it truly a catherine original. oh yes. i'll be signing copies later.


5Tblspoons butter, softened slightly
1/2C granulated sugar
1/2C brown sugar
1 large egg
2 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2C mashed very ripe bananas *see note
1 3/4C all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2C fat free 1/2 n 1/2
4tsp. raw, demerara or turbinado sugar
1/3C chopped walnuts (optional)

preheat oven to 350º F. grease bottom only of a 9x5x3 loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. add granulated sugar, and brown sugar, and mix well. add egg, egg whites, and vanilla. beat until well blended. add mashed banana and beat on high for 30 seconds.

in a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. add 1/2 flour mixture to butter mix, mixing after each addition. then add 1/2 n 1/2, mix, and add remaining flour mixture. mix until just blended. mix in walnuts if using.

pour batter evenly into prepared loaf pan. sprinkle 4 tsp. of sugar evenly over top. bake until browned, and toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. for me, this runs anywhere from 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. this really depends on what size loaf pan you end up using, as this recipe is pretty flexible.

cool bread in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. turn out onto wire rack, and cool completely. and by "completely" i mean, until it's cool enough to handle, and slice large pieces off of.

this bread is amazing the next day, as it gets denser and moister. my guess is that it would last about 3 days unrefrigerated, but none has ever made it that long.

** bananas are very easily gotten to the mushy stage by freezing overnight in a ziplock baggie, and then thawed all the next day in the fridge. you oughta be ready to make banana bread the next morning. pour the bananas straight out of the bag, liquid and all. this might be one of the secrets to having the best banana bread ever.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

coffee in a cake... or something.

we unpacked more cookbooks today. i feel like i'm finding old friends in a town i've never been to. okay, so that's pretty much our life right now. except i've been here before. but these cookbook discoveries are slowly filling my freezer. and excuse the odd light. i pretty much only bake after 10 pm. c'est la vie.

you need to make this right now, because life is too short to not have coffee in your cake.

adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe.

Cafe Au Lait Bars

3 large eggs
1 1/2C sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tblspoons - oh yeah. lots of buttah.) unsalted butter, melted
2C all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4C instant coffee crystals OR 3 Tblspoons instant espresso powder
1/4 cup heavy cream (next batch, i'm trying fat free half n half. it seems to sub well for me.)

Pre-heat your oven to 325ºF and grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.

In a mixing bowl, beat the three eggs until thick and light. Add the sugar, and beat until stiff and glossy... which for me just looked more thick, lightly colored, and pudding textured. i never did get stiff out of these. add the vanilla and melted butter until the batter is thick. Then add the flour and salt, mixing well. Remove 1 1/2 cups of the batter and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix coffee or espresso powder and cream together and then add to the remaining batter. Mix well, and then pour this batter into the 9 x 13 inch pan, spreading out the batter with a knife, or an offset spatula covering entire bottom of pan. i felt really officially "chef-y" with my spatula.

Then take the batter you set aside and place that on top of the coffee-laced batter. use your spatula again, since this is a bit thicker than the coffee batter.

Use a knife to draw pretty swirls. or not so pretty swirls. whichever.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. i think my oven bakes cool, because this took me 35. you want the edges pulling a fraction of an inch away, and the center to not jiggle.

Remove from oven and allow to cool before cutting. or mostly cool.

Proceed to drink coffee, and eat these bars. and post the recipe at 3 in the morning because you might have eaten too many.