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When the garden gives your zucchini, make Chocolate Zucchini Bread!

12 Aug

 

 

One of the joys of having a vegetable garden is that you know exactly what went on in the growing of those veggies. The other joy is getting virtually free food, right from your own back (or side) yard, from space that would otherwise be grass or weeds. This year, I planted about 10 total squash plants.  A mix of crookneck, zucchini, and what I THOUGHT were yellow squash but turned out to be mislabeled croocknecks. Production was going pretty good once the bees started pollinating the flowers, but the plants are all now starting to die and will need ripped out and replaced with a second crop of squash – the butternut variety! But for right now, I still have a bin full of the zucchini and crooknecks, so I decided to whip up another batch of Chocolate Zucchini Bread. The first batch was delicious, and since it was such a hit, I decided to make another batch. Hopefully this round lasts a little longer.

This bread is moist and has a nice crumb without being soggy like some zucchini breads. The chocolate flavor from the cocoa powder is rich and deep without being overpowering. All in all, I’d say this bread is a winner in my book and will probably be made just one more time before I run out of zucchini.  The picture doesn’t do it justice. Seriously. You should make it just so you can see the loveliness that is this bread with your own eyes.

Enjoy!

chocolate zucchini bread

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

makes 2 loaves

adapted from Simply Recipes

  • 4 cups shredded zucchini
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour – I use King Arthur brand
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups Zulka Morena Pure Cane Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup butter, melted

Place your shredded zucchini in a colander or sieve placed over a bowl and let drain for 30 minutes.

While your zucchini is draining, preheat your over to 350 degrees. Grease 2 loaf pans with butter and a little flour to prevent sticking

In a small bowl, add your flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and kosher salt. Whisk together until well blended, with no lumps.
In a large bowl, add your eggs and sugar, whisking until smooth. Add your vanilla extract, whisking until incorporated. Last, add your butter, and whisk until smooth.

Add your shredded and drained zucchini to your wet mixture, stirring to combine. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, stirring to combine completely after each addition.

Spoon the mixture into your 2 loaf pans, evenly divided between the two. Smooth out the tops with the back of your spoon so it’s level.

Place pans in oven for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely before slicing. Try not to devour it.

I don’t know how long this bread will last, other than a week since that is all the longer it took for the hubs to devour both loaves. Since it makes 2, you can store one in the freezer for later consumption. Just wrap in a double layer of plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn and store. To thaw, remove from freezer and place in fridge overnight.

Breakfast Deliciousness – Strawberry French Toast Bake

8 Apr

Breakfast is that one meal you should really eat each day. My mornings are usually a rush to get  myself showered and presentable, get the dog fed and outside for potty time, and make sure the chickens have food and water. I could rush less if I got up a little earlier, but I’d rather sleep in a little longer. Those precious extra minutes help to make me a pleasant human. Otherwise…you don’t wanna know. That being said, breakfasts on a weekday consist of cereal, a couple of eggs and an english muffin and coffee, or recently, a smoothie.

Saturday and Sunday I usually put in extra effort for breakfast. Percolated coffee. Bacon or sausage. Fresh made pancakes or Belgian waffles. Biscuits and gravy. Quiche. Not all of those items at once, but a mixture of them, making breakfast more of an event rather than just food for nourishment. Enter in the invention of my Strawberry French Toast Bake. I like to keep a couple of baguette cut into sandwich sized chunks in the freezer. They freeze nice, thaw quickly, and are great for impromptu guests or invites to a party where I will take an appetizer. And, they make for amazing french toast. I had a whole one, unfrozen just hanging around and was in the mood for french toast. But I wasn’t in the mood to soak those little rounds and make a bunch of 3 bite french toasts. I wanted something quick, simple, and hearty. I also wanted something with berries. Whenever strawberries go on sale, I buy a bunch and then cut some up into cubes, freezing them for later uses. The berries took it to another level. Served with some bacon it was a very filling breakfast. This recipe will easily serve a family of 6. Hubs and I had it for breakfast on a Sunday, and then throughout the week. It’s fantastic. A must make.

strawberry french toast closeup

Strawberry French Toast Bake

2 cups frozen chopped strawberries, thawed and excess liquid drained

12 eggs

1 1/2 loaves baguette bread, cut into slices and torn in half

1/2 cup milk

sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg & ginger

1 teaspoon vanilla

Grease a baking dish (I used a heart shape that was roughly 9×9).

In a bowl, combine eggs, milk, spices and vanilla, whipping to combine. Sprinkle some of the strawberries on the bottom of the baking dish. Add in your bread chunks. Scatter the rest of your strawberries all over the top. Pour on the egg mixture, being sure to coat all of the bread.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While your oven is preheating, you’re going to let the bread soak up all that egg mixture.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, until top of the french toast bake is golden brown, and the center is set. Serve immediately with butter and maple syrup.

strawberry french toast

Bagels!

20 Feb

Chewy inside, crispy outside, with a swipe of cream cheese getting all melty from the heat. Oh yes. Bagels. But not just any bagels, HOMEMADE bagels! Homemade bagels that are quick and easy to make. Yes, I had to eat one right out of the oven. I was just making sure they were edible of course.

These also are great from the freezer. I sliced them from side to side, leaving a little bit unsliced in the center of the bagel to keep the two halves together. You’ll want to do this prior to freezing so they can be easily popped into the toaster. If you are anything like me and like bagels as much as I do, make a double batch, and freeze half of them. It’ll be like Christmas morning all over again.

Bagels
yields 8 bagels
2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups warm water
3 1/2 cups bread flour, plus extra for kneading
1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the flour, sugar, yeast and salt.  With mixer on low, slowly add the water.  Continue to mix until the dough comes together, about 4-6 minutes.  Swap the paddle attachment for the dough hook and knead on medium-high until dough is smooth, about 8-10 minutes.   take dough out of the bowl, spray down the bowl with nonstick cooking spray or gently wipe in olive oil and add dough ball back. Cover with a towel and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size in a warm place.
Punch down the dough and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425º F and bring a large pot of water to a boil, reduce it to a simmer.
Divide the dough into 8 pieces.  Roll dough into balls, rolling the balls between your palm and the work surface, until the are smooth.
Poke your finger through the center of the ball creating a ring.  Twirl the ring around the index of one hand and the thumb of the other, stretching the dough and widening the hole to about 1/3 of the bagel’s diameter. Place the bagels on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat and cover with a towel, letting them rest for 10 minutes.
Gently lower the bagels into the water in batches, 4 bagels at a time. Boil uncovered for about 1 minute on each side.  Using a skimmer, remove the bagels from the pot, shaking to drain any excess water – return to the baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container to preserve freshness.

Are you an english muffin addict? Try english muffin BREAD!

14 Feb

Ah, the english muffin. The nooks. The crannies. That chewy soft interior with the crunchy exterior. Now, in walks english muffins, in bread form. There aren’t any nooks. Or crannies in the bread. But it’s totally ok. Trust me. Butter and jelly melt into this bread after you toast it. It’s bliss. It’s great at breakfast. It’s also great to have as a sandwich bread for egg salad or turkey. Or grilled cheese. Ya, it’s that good. Now, this is not full size pieces of bread like a sandwich loaf – it’s more half a piece of bread. So 2 pieces = 1 piece of bread.

It freezes fantastically. I always freeze one loaf after it cools since it takes us a few days to eat the first loaf. Store in a sealed container on the counter for 4 days, or in the fridge for one week. If it lasts that long.

English Muffin Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk ( I used Dean’s Skim Choice)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 5 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • cornmeal for sprinkling bread pans

Directions

  1. Heath the milk and water in a small saucepan until it reaches 125 degrees. Lightly grease two loaf pans. Sprinkle cornmeal over the bottom of the pan, shaking out any excess.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar, salt and soda. Stir the heated milk and water into the flour mixture, stirring until all dry ingredients are incorporated. Stir in the remaining flour, 1 cup at a time (last addition being 1/2 cup), until a batter like dough is formed. Divide dough in half, shaping it into prepared pans. Spray top of bread with cooking spray then loosely place a piece of saran wrap over the pans. Cover with a dish towel and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove from pans and cool.

Yes, I ate a piece at night with some homemade strawberry jam. and butter. it was divine!

Late night jam session....

Pennsylvania Cheddar Bread

7 Nov

I love – I mean LOVE all things carbohydrate. I will tear up some pasta. I will gorge myself on a bread basket with butter, dipping oil, or just bread by itself. If there were meetings for people addicted to carbs, and I was a quitter, I would need the 12 step program to get off the carbs. But i’m not a quitter so even if there was a program for folks like me, I’d not be in line to sign up.

Seeing as how I love bread, it made sense for me to purchase “artisan bread in 5 minutes a day” – the title had me. Bread, in 5 minutes a day? No knead/rest/knead/rest/bake??? No complicated ‘sponge’ to make a nice, bakery shop worthy loaf of bread? Sign me up!

This particular recipe will yield four 1lb loaves of bread. You can either let this dough sit in the fridge in a large container (not airtight) and pull out a chunk when you want to bake it, or do as I did and bake all at once – I’m glad I made all 4 loaves at once since we consumed 1 1/2 loaves ourselves the day I baked them! They do freeze great as well, just double wrap in plastic wrap once they are completely cooled. Use or freeze all of the bread within 7 days. I have no idea why it’s called “Vermont Cheddar Bread” unless they use actual cheese from Vermont, or they are baking it in Vermont. I made mine in Pennsylvania so that’s what it’s called! And if you get a chance, purchase this book. It’s full of great advice and tips, and you will look like a baking pro!

Pennsylvania Cheddar Bread  – Adapted from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.”

3 cups lukewarm (not hot) water 
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
6 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
Cornmeal (for dusting)
Flour (for sprinkling)
1 cup hot water (for the oven)

1. In a large bowl or food container, mix the water, yeast, salt, and sugar together. Stir in the flour and grated cheese until just combined; you may have to use your hands to incorporate the last bit of flour. Alternately, use a food processor with a dough attachment or a standing mixer with a dough hook to combine ingredients. Do not knead the dough. 2. Cover the container loosely with a towel or plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at room temperature (65 to 75 degrees) for 2 hours or until the dough rises and collapses.

3. The dough is now ready for baking, but it’s easier to handle after refrigeration. Refrigerate in a loosely covered container for up to 7 days.

4. When ready to bake, have ready a pizza peel or baking sheet dusted liberally with cornmeal. Sprinkle the dough generously with flour and cut off a 1 pound piece (about the size of a grapefruit) for each loaf. Sprinkle the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom as you rotate the ball in your hands. Place the ball of dough on the pizza peel or baking sheet. Let rise at room temperature for 1 hour (40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).

5. Set the oven at 450 degrees. Place a baking stone or baking sheet on the lowest rack and an empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won’t interfere with the rising bread.

6. Sprinkle the loaf generously with flour. Using a serrated bread knife, quickly slash a cross or tic-tac-toe pattern across the top of the bread.

7. Slide the loaf of bread off the peel or baking sheet onto the hot pizza stone or baking sheet. Pour 1 cup hot water into the hot broiler tray. Quickly close the oven door.

8. Bake the bread for 25 minutes, or until it looks deeply golden and firm. Smaller or larger loaves will require more or less baking time. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

and it continues….pumpkin bread with streusel topping

26 Sep

I warned you. The pumpkin obsession continues with this lovely bread recipe topped with a delicious streusel that is not quite as unhealthy as one would expect! I found this recipe over on  Tasty Kitchen. My recipe is the one listed below, which has been modified slightly to meet my tastes. It’s a great bread. Moist and delish without that wet texture that some puree breads can sometimes get. The streusel topping is a great touch and adds a little unexpected crunch.

I love mine with some cream cheese or warmed up under the broiler with some real butter. It’s great at breakfast with some scrambled eggs, or for dessert after dinner.

This freezes fantastically as well, if you manage to have any left to freeze. Yield is 2 loaves.

Pumpkin Bread with Streusel Topping

Ingredients

  • ¾ cups Butter, Softened
  • ¾ cups Granulated Sugar
  • ¾ cups Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 4 whole Eggs
  • 2-½ cups Pumpkin Puree
  • 3 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 3 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • ¾ teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon Allspice
  • ½ teaspoon Grated Nutmeg
  • ½ cups Buttermilk

FOR THE STREUSEL TOPPING:

  • ¼ cups Butter, Softened
  • ½ cups Brown Sugar
  • ½ cups Oatmeal
  • ¼ cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons Ground Flax Seed
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 350º F.

Spray two 8″ loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray and lightly flour.

For the topping – mix together all the topping ingredients using a fork or your hands until combined thoroughly.

In the bowl of your mixer, cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add in the vanilla and eggs and mix until just incorporated. Stir in your pumpkin puree.

In a separate bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Whisk the mixture together until it looks even and smooth.

Add half of the flour mix to the pumpkin mixture, blending well. Beat in buttermilk. Add remaining flour mix and beat lightly until smooth.

Pour batter evenly into the two prepared 8″ pans. Cover each with half of the topping mix.

Bake at 350º F for 70 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If additional cooking time is required, do so in 5 minute increments.

Remove from pans and let rest on cooling rack. Slice and serve.

If freezing, let cool completely and then wrap in a double layer of saran. To serve, let thaw in fridge overnight.

Streusel close up

Homemade pizza dough means perfect homemade pizza crust, calzones, or breadsticks.

19 Aug

Pizza. It’s great for any time of year. It can be a quick meal. Great food to feed a crowd. Goes well with an ice-cold beer on your deck in the summer. You can top the dough with whatever your heart desires. But great pizza is only as good as the crust you put your ingredients on. Inferior crust leaves you feeling cheated somehow. Enter in the most perfect pizza dough recipe ever. Thank you Cooks Illustrated.

Basic Pizza Dough

½ cup warm water
1 envelope or 2¼ teaspoons instant yeast
4 cups (22 oz) bread flour, plus more for dusting hands and work surface
1½ tsp. salt
1¼ cup room temperature water
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the bread flour and salt, mixing briefly to blend. With the mixer on low-speed, pour in the yeast/water/oil mixture.  Mix until a cohesive dough is formed.  Switch to the dough hook.  Knead on low-speed until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

***If you are freezing the dough for later use, you would do so at this point. Split the dough into two pieces (or 4 if you want smaller portions for calzones and breadsticks) Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze. Dough will still rise some so be sure to put plastic wrapped dough in a freezer safe baggie***

Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1½-2 hours.

Press down the dough to deflate it and transfer the to a lightly floured work surface.  Divide into two equal pieces.  Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball.

Cover with a damp cloth.  Let the dough relax for 10 minutes.

To bake, preheat the oven and your pizza stone to 500˚ F for 30 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment paper lightly sprinkled with cornmeal.  Shape the dough and brush the outer edge lightly with olive oil.  Top with whatever your heart desires.

Bake until the crust is golden brown, and cheese is bubbling, 8-12 minutes.

For Calzones:

One ball of dough will make 2 calzones. Roll dough out on parchment sprinkled with cornmeal and cut in half. Fill with desired ingredients (I make one with ricotta, artichokes, spinach, shrooms and smoky cheddar. Another with ricotta, mozzarella, pepperoni, hot peppers, shrooms and sauce) leave outer edges clear so that you can fold the topping in.

Fold over edges, pressing to close, and brush entire calzone with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic salt. Score calzone so steam can escape.

Put in 500˚ F oven on preheated pizza stone for 20 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.

Note: to use frozen dough, take out of freezer and thaw the night before in the fridge. Or remove from freezer and thaw on the counter for a couple of hours the same day.