Perfect Easy Homemade Bread

I’ve been trying my hand at homemade bread (without the use of a bread maker) for quite a few years. Something always went wrong. It was too dense, it just didn’t cook right, all kinds of issues. And it was frustrating!  For hundreds, no thousands, of years people had been baking all kinds of delicious bread-why couldn’t I get it right?!

Until I found this recipe.  It’s an easy no-knead herb-topped cibatta-like yeast bread that comes together easily and bakes to a golden-brown deliciousness that will make your house smell amazing.

The minute this bread came out of the oven my homemade bread woes were over. It’s perfect. It’s sumptuous. It’s light, it’s crispy, it’s tasty.  You can dip it in oil with spices. You can make a panino. You can make a regular sandwich. You can dip it into soups or clean the plate of sauce. You can make croutons. You can just pull pieces off and eat them like I did.

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Perfect Easy Homemade Bread

Ingredients

  • 2& 1/2 tsp dry yeast (I used King Arthur Flower’s saf-instant yeast)
  • 2 cups 110F degree water ( I used an instant read meat thermometer to be sure it’s correct)
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar 2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups AP flour
  • Melted butter
  • dried herb blend for topping
  • sea salt for topping

Instructions

  1. Mix yeast and warm water in a glass bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. After the 10 minutes pour the yeast and water mixture into a large stainless steel mixing bowl . Add the sugar salt and flour. Stir until just combined. Do not over-mix or your bread will not be good.
  3. Cover it with a tea towel, put it in a warm place without drafts and let it double in size–about an hour to 90 minutes.  Just keep an eye on it.
  4. After rising, split it into 2 equal rounds and place each on a rimmed baking sheet drizzled with a bit of olive oil.  Let rise until doubled again.
  5. Preheat oven to 425F.
  6. Brush the top of each with the butter and sprinkle with herb blend and sea salt. I used King Arthur Flour’s Parmesan Garlic Bread Dipping Blend.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes then (leaving the bread in the oven) reduce heat to 375F and bake another 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Place on racks to cool.
I couldn't wait for it to cool!! YUM!

I couldn’t wait for it to cool!! YUM!

Uncooked dough ready for butter and herbs.

Uncooked dough ready for butter and herbs.

 

Uncooked dough with butter and herbs ready for baking.

Uncooked dough with butter and herbs ready for baking.

 

Bread right out of the oven.

Bread right out of the oven.

 

Adapted from www.yummyhealthyeasy.com to whom I will be forever grateful for this wonderful recipe.

Lone Star Chicken Spaghetti

Maybe I live in the wrong part of the country or don’t pay attention to enough of what goes on in Texas but I’d never heard of ‘chicken spaghetti’ before I saw this recipe on Maeghan‘s blog.  Which is ironic because she had never heard of it either until she came across it in a cookbook, The Homesick Texan’s Family Table. Well she made it and was nice enough to post the recipe. I’m glad she shared it because it’s DELICIOUS!!!  A sort of spaghetti and cheese with some Tex-Mex flavors and chicken.  Um, yes please.

Perhaps you’ve never heard of it either.  Well-today’s your lucky day because this is one super-tasty, easy to make, cheesy dish. It has a hint of heat-just right for the dish if you ask me and I like spicy, but with the chicken and cheese I didn’t want overpowering hotness.

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Lone Star Chicken Spaghetti

Ingredients:

  • 8 ozs spaghetti
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise, stemmed and seeded
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1&1/2 tbsp light butter (for panko #3 below)
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 2 tbsp light unsalted butter (for cheese sauce #5 below)
  • 2 tbsp AP flour
  • 2 cups 2% milk, plus more if needed
  • 2 cups freshly grated light sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups freshly grated light monterey jack cheese
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, and a bit more for garnish
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 4 cups cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small bite-sized pieces.

Instructions:

  1. Turn on broiler and move top oven rack so that it’s about 6 inches from the broiler.  Arrange tomatoes and jalapenos skin side up in one layer on a foil lined baking sheet along with the onions and garlic. Broil for 5-7 minutes until skin blisters. Remove and let cool.  Reduce heat to 350F.
  2. Cook spaghetti until it’s al dente in a pot of lightly salted water. Drain, rinse and set aside.
  3. While the spaghetti is cooking place butter in a small sauce pan and melt. Add the panko and toast until just golden brown. Set aside.
  4. Spray a dutch oven with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  5. Melt the butter in a deep sauce pan over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour until well combined and slightly browned-about 30-45 seconds. Slowly pour in the milk and cook, stirring, until sauce thickens and will coat the back of a spoon, 3-5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in most of the cheese, about 1/4 cup at a time, leaving a small bit of both aside for later.
  6. Put the chicken, spaghetti, roasted vegetables and pepper, herbs and spices and lime juice to the waiting dutch oven and stir to mix evenly. Pour the cheese sauce over and stir to evenly combine. Sprinkle the reserved grated cheese and panko over the top.
  7. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until brown and bubbling.
  8. Sprinkle with reserved cilantro and serve.

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Yummy bubbling cheese!!

Adapted from The Way to His Heart.

Baked Chicken with Herb & Parmesan Panko

I’ve made this chicken a few times since I found the recipe I’ve liked it so much. Each time it’s been fast and easy to put together and comes out perfectly done.  You probably already have all of the ingredients on hand.

What a great healthy weeknight dish! Enjoy!!

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Baked Chicken with Herb & Parmesan Panko

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp light butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1&1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup finely freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped small
  • 1/2 tbsp rosemary, chopped small
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped small
  • 2 lbs (4 half pound pieces) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper for seasoning
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Line a small rimmed baking sheet just large enough to hold the 4 pieces of chicken with parchment paper.  Set it aside.
  3. Spread breadcrumbs out into a wide bowl or dish.  Use a bowl large enough to stir the breadcrumbs around in.
  4. In a small skillet melt the butter, then add the garlic and stir gently for 2 minutes.  Set it aside for a few minutes to cool then pour it over the breadcrumbs in the dish and stir to evenly coat them then stir in the cheese and herbs, stirring again to mix evenly. 
  5. Set the 4 chicken pieces next to each other.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides.  Using 1/4th of the dijon for each breast, spread the mustard evenly on the top side of the chicken then press the mustard side into the breadcrumbs. Set the chicken, breadcrumb side up, on the prepared baking sheet.
  6. Bake 18-20 minutes until breadcrumbs are golden and juices run clear or a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken reads 165.

Adapted from Rachaelrayshow.com’s recipe.

What’s Baking July/August Round-up!

I was excited to be the host of this edition of What’s Baking? for July/August. I enjoy this great group of ladies and always look forward to see the amazing dishes that they bake. This time was no exception!

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I chose the theme “Bake your Heritage”.  The idea was to bake someting-sweet or savory-which is common to the/or a country in your heritage. The dishes did not disappoint!!

Joanna from Kosher Kitchen made some incredible looking Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bagels!

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Eva from Eva Bakes made Taiwanese Pineapple Tarts which sounds like a beautifully unique fruity pastry.

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Liz from Books-n-cooks contributed an amazing looking Chocolate-Flecked Babka.

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Ashley from Cheese Curd in Paradise baked a Dutch Apple Pie using her Great Grandmother’s recipe! Just in time for apple season!

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Nichole from Cookaholic Wife created a delectable Irish Trifle which has quite a background story-you have to read the post.

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Nicole from Cookies on Friday also submitted an English recipe as a nod to her husband’s nationality. Banbury Cakes-YUM!! her source was BBC Good Food Magazine which I love.

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Jenni from Dough See Dough put together some amazing Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Buns) .  I have had these at a small diner at Elizabeth and Bayard Streets in Chinatown years ago and was SO excited to see a version that I can make at home.

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Stephanie from Brownies and Blondies baked some Cassatedde to represent her Italian heritage-and her pastries look just like something you’d find in a bakery in Rome maybe, and enjoy with an espresso.

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Jaida from Sweet Beginnings looked to the Irish part of her heritage and submitted Beef and Guinness Pie which I’ve already noted to make in the fall.  Husband thanks you, Jaida!!

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Nicole from Seven Ate Nine went another direction and used the Midwest and the Southeast as her heritage and made a picnic and potluck pleasing Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

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Catherine from Pursuing Domestic Goddess-ness submitted her spin on her Aunt’s banana bread recipeBanana Walnut Ginger Muffins which look really delicious.
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And last, but not least, I made this delicious Caramel Croissant Pudding for the English part of my heriatge.

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Thanks everyone for sharing amazing recipes with interesting backgrounds!!

Caramel Croissant Pudding

I was the host of  July/August’s What’s Baking group and I chose the theme of “Heritage Dish”–make a dish common from a/one country of your heritage.

Since I am part English I wanted to make a Pudding. I scoured cookbooks and the internet for the one. Then, on nigella.com, I found it. Caramel and Croissant Pudding?! REALLY? mmmmmm. It came out just as delicious as it sounded. It also took all of 10 minutes to put together to boot. 

What a genius way to use up day old or stale croissants-they go so fast. The super-buttery bread paired with a simple caramel with a hint of rum makes an amazing combination of flavors.  The texture is nice too as some of the croissants stick up and get a little crusty while it bakes. This recipe is genius.

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Caramel Croissant Pudding

Ingredients

  • 2 day old croissants-mine were the standard large bakery size, ripped into inch-sized pieces
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond and coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp rum
  • 2 large eggs beaten

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Place the croissant pieces into a baking dish large enough to hold all of them tightly packed into an almost even layer.
  3. Put the sugar into a deep sauce pan, add the water and swirl to dissolve the sugar.
  4. Place the sauce pan over medium/high heat and let it bubble on, no stirring, until it’s a deep amber color-3ish to 5ish minutes.
  5. Turn the heat to low and add the cream, it will sputter so be careful, but whisk continuously while adding the  milk and rum. Keep stirring and make sure to dissolve any hard bits that form.
  6. Remove from heat, keep whisking, and add the eggs until all mixed and combined.
  7. Pour it over the croissants.
  8. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Good luck not eating it all in one sitting.

It could make 1, 2 or 6 servings depending on how greedy those who are eating it are.

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Adapted from nigella.com

Roasted Garlic & Pecorino Romano Bread

This bread so so so so tasty. The roasted garlic is such a nice mellow flavor. That paired with some freshly grated pecorino and you have a winner!

I served this bread with the bucatini that I made on Sunday night and it was perfect. I was lucky enough to get the last small loaf of italian bread at the store-perfect for 2.

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Roasted Garlic & Pecorino Romano Bread

Ingredients:

Roasted Garlic:

  • 1 head garlic
  • 2-3 tsp olive oil

Bread:

  • Roasted garlic
  • 2-3 tbsp very soft light salted butter
  • 2-3 tbsp freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
  • small loaf fresh italian bread (about 7 slices total)

Instructions:

Roasted Garlic:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Using a sharp paring knife cut the top 1/4 inch off of the head of garlic.
  3. Place it in a small dish, drizzle with the olive oil, cover, and roast for 45-60 minutes or until cloves are very soft. Set aside to cool.
  4. When cool enough to handle squeeze the soft garlic out of the papery wrapper which contains the clove.

Bread:

Keep  oven warm from garlic or preheat to 325f.

  1. Cut 1/2-3/4 inch wide slices in the bread. Don’t cut all the way through, leave the slices attached at the bottom.
  2. Gently separate the end slice from the 2nd slice (leaving them attached) and spread a small amount of the butter on one side. On the side facing the buttered side smear some of the garlic and then sprinkle with some cheese.  Gently press the slices back together again. Repeat with each slice.
  3. When they’re all buttered/garlicked/cheesed wrap the bread in foil and seal it up.
  4. Place it in the oven for about 10 minutes to get everything yummy and warm and melty.

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Note: this makes one small loaf of bread-only about 3 slices per person. If you’re using a regular bakery sized loaf you’ll have to use more of everything.

Bucatini All’Amatriciana

The fist time that I had this delicious pasta was many years ago at my Father’s house.  I immediately loved the flavors of the sauce-the pancetta, the onion, the tomatoes….it just goes together so well.

As it turns out he bought the cookbook which contains the recipe while on vacation in Italy.  Ironically, it’s an American book published in CA named Sunset Italian Cook Book. I ordered the book immediately from Amazon. I had to buy a used copy as it’s no longer in print. There are a TON of delicious recipes in it too.  If you ever come across a copy pick it up.  Seems like it was part of a series of cook books that they published in the late 70s, early 80s.

None of that matters though. What matters is the deliciousness and ease of making this dish. It’s one of our favorites. You could sub bacon for the pancetta but please don’t if you can possibly avoid it.  The pancetta gives a completely different flavor.

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Bucatini All’Amatriciana

Ingredients:

  • 1/4lb. sliced pancetta, cut into 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch squares
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried red chili flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 14.5oz can crushed or diced fire roasted tomatoes (I used Muir Glen Organic)
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (I used a vernacchia)
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2/3 lb bucatini

Instructions:

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat cook the pancetta, stirring frequently, until slightly crispy and brown. Remove it with a slotted spoon, allowing as much of the oil to drip back into and remain in the pan as possible.  When all of the pancetta has been removed measure the oil that remains in a measuring cup. You need 1/4 cup. If you have enough great, if not top it off with olive oil.
  2. Pour the oil back into the pan over medium heat and add the onion and chilis.  Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft. Add the garlic, tomatoes (and the juices), wine and parsley. Stir to combine and break up any large chunks of tomatoes.
  3. Adjust heat so that the sauce simmers gently, stirring occasionally, about 10-15 minutes until sauce has thickened a bit.
  4. While the sauce is cooking cook the bucatini in a large pot of gently salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta, saving 1/4 cup of the cooking water, and return it to the pot. Add the cooking water to the pasta and stir.
  5. Add the pancetta to the tomato mixture in the pan, stir to combine, and then add all of the sauce to the pasta.  Stir to distribute.
  6. Serve on a large platter or individually.

Adapted from Sunset Italian Cookbook.

Sunset Italian cook book

Sunset Italian cook book

Buy from Amazon

 

 

 

 

Strawberry & Earl Grey Roulade

I spotted this recipe in the June 2014 issue of Olive and was immediately intrigued. I LOVE earl grey tea so right away I thought it sounded delicious. Earl Grey tea has that calming bergamot flavor that I just adore. The cake is beautifully light and airy. Paired with beautiful sweet strawberries and fresh whipped cream? Winner. Since this month’s “What’sBaking” theme is ‘seasonal fruit’ it fit in perfectly.

This does take some time to prepare as the cake has to cool before it’s rolled, but the actual mixing, baking etc.. is generally pretty simple. Allow enough time to cool, roll then chill.

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Earl Grey with Strawberry Roulade

Cake Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp earl grey tea, loose leaves
  • 4 eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • 75g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 75g AP flour
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tsp orange extract (oil)

Filling ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar (powdered or confectioners sugar)
  • 300 ml heavy whipping cream
  • 15-20 strawberries of similar size

Cake Instructions (use cake ingredients only):

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350. Line a 9×13 baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
  2. Place 1 tbsp of tea into lemon juice and heat slowly until brewing. Do not allow it to boil. Allow a few minutes to brew, stirring occasionally. Strain lemon juice through a sieve pressing the tea leaves to extract all of the moisture. Discard strained tea leaves. Crush the remaining dry loose tea with a mortar and pestle or give it a whiz in a small food processor.
  3. In a large bowl beat the egg yolks with 25g of the sugar until pale and frothy. Then add the flour, oil, dry loose tea, tea infused lemon juice and orange extract.  Mix to evenly combine.
  4. With clean beaters in a large bowl bat the egg whites to soft peaks.  Add the remainder of the sugar and beat until thick and glossy. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture, 1/3 at a time, until any streaks disappear.
  5. Spread into the prepared baking sheet, smooth with a spatula, and bake for 13 minutes until slightly browned.
  6. Lay a large sheet of parchment on the work surface. Flip the cake onto it (I found using a fish spatula to help the cake and parchment separate was helpful in a few spots. Lay another sheet of parchment out, liberally dust it with sugar and flip the cake onto it. Leave it to cool on a baking rack.
  7. When cooled make the filling (using the Filling Ingredients above). Beat the cream, lemon juice and sugar together until very thick. Using a soft spatula spread a thin layer of the whipped cream onto the cake. At one end line up the strawberries curved side down so the cake will roll up around them. Carefully roll the edge of the cake over the strawberries, then continue to roll until all rolled up. Put one sheet of parchment around, make sure it’s rolled tight, and put in the refrigerator for at least an hour to set.
  8. When ready to serve, unroll parchment and gently slice down straight through the cake.
  9. Serve with additional whipped cream, berries etc..

Adapted from Olive Magazine, June 2014

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Spicy Chicken, Crispy Halloumi and Avocado Wrap

While in London last month we had dinner one night at Nando’s which is a chicken restaurant with locations all over the UK (and world?) but there’s only one or 2 in th US. It’s a South African PERi-PERi chicken restaurant and it was delicious. I had a wrap with chicken and ordered a side of avocado and grilled halloumi with it. I love that they had that cheese-you never see it on menus here.

When I returned home I wanted to make a similar sandwich as the sauce was so delicious!  I found that my Fairway Market sold the sauces-yay! Check your market-they may sell it. If not the closest that I would use is Franks Wing Sauce with a touch of sour cream mixed in.  The avocado is so nice and creamy and soothing, offsetting the spice of the sauce, the grilled cheese gives just a touch of crunch and tangy goodness.

This is not a tremendous over-stufffed wrap, it’s very simple with very easy ingredients which compliment each other wonderfully.

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Spicy Chicken, Crispy Halloumi and Avocado Wrap

Ingredients:

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, 6-8 ozs
  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
  • half of an avocado
  • 4 ozs halloumi cheese
  • Nando’s Medium Sauce
  • 2 whole wheat wraps

Instructions:

  1. Slice the chicken breast in half horizontally to make two pieces of similar thickness. season with salt and pepper.
  2. Grill-either outside or with a grill pan, panini press etc.. then chop into small pieces. Drizzle with a little of the Nando’s sauce, stir and set aside, covered, to keep warm.
  3. While the chicken is cooking slice the cheese into 1/4 inch strips and place in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Watch it carefully. It will heat and begin to darken. when it reaches a nice brown, flip it over to cook the other side. Remove and set on a board. Cut into long strips.
  4. Slice the avocado into thin strips.
  5. Warm the wraps in the microwave for 10-15 seconds.
  6. Starting with the cheese spoon half of the cheese down the center of each wrap, followed by half of the chicken, followed by a drizzle (or river-it’s up to you) of the sauce finishing with the avocado.

Makes 2 wraps

If you’ve never had halloumi cheese-it’s a tangy, salty cheese that can be heated but won’t melt-it jut gets a little crispy. I’ve also seen it sold as ‘grilling cheese’.

 

Limoncello Chill

How is it possible that this past weekend was Memorial Day? Already? I remember last year Memorial Day weekend was cold and rainy. It was the opposite this year! Sunny and warm and lovely. And PERFECT for a frozen dessert at the end of the bbq.

This little frozen yummy is not too sweet, not too tart and just right in size. You can’t get easier to assemble either. Hope you add it to one of your menus for these warmer months-it’s delicious!!

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Limoncello Chill

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup lemon curd
  • 4 tbsp limoncello
  • 1 & 1/2 cups frozen vanilla bean greek yogurt* divided
  • 3 lemon candy slices

*I used Healthy Choice brand-they come in 1/2 cup servings.

Instructions:

  1. Mix the limoncello and lemon curd together until fully blended. Set aside.
  2. 15 minuutes before serving remove the frozen yogurt from the freezer and allow it to thaw a bit. Stir to airate and combine.
  3. In each of 3 serving dishes or glasses: put a bit of the limoncello mix at the bottom. Add the frozen yogurt and then top with more lemon mixture.
  4. Top with the lemon candy.

Yield: 3 servings.

Casey loved licking the left overs out of the glass.

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I adjusted Cooking Light’s recipe a lot here. I swapped frozen greek yogurt for ice cream and added more limoncello, omitted the cookies and added the candy. Better for you and more of a kick.

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