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Cinnamon Raisin Bread

November 3, 2009

Cinnamon Raisin bread

My weekend started with a wonderfully fresh slice of cinnamon raisin bread.  I had the butter at the ready, but the bread was so tasty that slathering butter on it would have smothered its wonderful flavor.  Where did this delicious bread come from?

Well, thanks to Peter Reinhart’s brilliant book, The Bread Bakers Apprentice, I was inspired to bake the previous day.  Although this bread could be made without a swirl of cinnamon through the center, I chose to go all the way and add that yummy swirl of cinnamon and sugar.  And then, to top that up, I added a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar to the top crust as well.

As the warm, cinnamon smells wafted out of the oven, I could not wait for the following morning when I would allow myself a taste of this bread.

There is nothing like waking up to fresh cinnamon raisin bread.  Talk about good motivation for getting out of bed!

I am not going to reproduce the recipe here, but if you’re interested in making it, check out Peter Reinhart’s book.  It is truly a magnificent piece of work.  Below are some pictures of the bread in process (aka dough).

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Olives – Curing and Brining

October 19, 2009

Water Cured Olives in Finishing Brine

The olives are well underway.  I decided to water-cure one batch and brine-cure the other.  The water-cure is definitely further along than the brine-cured batch, so I’ll go ahead and focus on those for this post.

I started by sorting the olives and slitting the keepers from end to end before submerging them in cool water.  I then weighted them down with a plate to be sure that they stayed under water.  Soon, the olives began to discolor around the cut marks, and while this wasn’t unexpected, they certainly didn’t look at all appetizing.  I must admit I was rather worried about them.  Nonetheless, I continued to drain the water from them daily, replacing it with a fresh batch of clean, cool water before replacing the plate and sealing them off again.

A week later, and this soaking period was over.  It was time for the finishing brine.  I made the brine out of a combo of water, salt, vinegar and various seasonings for flavor.  I decided to dose them with lemon, thyme and garlic.  I’ll let you know whether that flavor combo worked.  I completely winged this, so my fingers are crossed.  You can see a picture of them in their briny bath.  Now I need to source some jars to put them away in.  I think they should be ready to eat in another 2-4 weeks.  The brine-cured olives are another story… but that’s for another day!

The Beginning of Olives

October 7, 2009

I had a partial post written about this new bell pepper soup that I was planning to attempt to make, but after making it, I discovered that it was a very lackluster recipe.  It used a potato base which basically contributed the blandness that so defined the soup.  The few bell peppers that were added after roasting and peeling contributed color and the tiniest amount of flavor.  In short, it was a time consuming and not very tasty recipe.

Instead, I’m going to start blogging about my latest adventure in the food world: home cured olives!  That’s right, a group friends and I decided to try our hands at curing raw olives.  This experiment will culminate in a grand olive tasting event (which hopefully won’t kill or sicken any of us).

I little bit about olive curing; raw olives are essentially inedible when they are picked off the tree.  They contain a compound called oleuropein that makes them taste very bitter.  The curing process removes this bitterness by leaching out the water-soluble oleuropein.  Different curing processes will generate different textures and flavors.

I’ve been researching the different curing methods, but I haven’t decided on one yet.  These methods range from soaking the olives in water, soaking them in brine, packing them in salt, or soaking them in a lye solution.  Given the scary poisonous aspect of the lye, I think we’ll all be staying away from that method, but as for the others, I hope we’ll have at least of couple of them featured when we get to our tasting party.

Given that our shipment of 20 pounds of raw olives arrived today, I need to get busy with my research and decide on a strategy!

Raw Olives before Curing

Raw Olives Before Curing

A great resource for more information about curing is  publication 8267 from the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Cinnamon Buns!

September 12, 2009

Cinnamon Buns

Here’s a quick peek at what I made my house guests for breakfast this morning.  Sorry no time to post more details with the wedding looming next Saturday! Yikes!

Chicken with Romesco Sauce

September 1, 2009

Bread and Romesco Sauce Marinated Chicken

I came across this recipe on Sunset — a favorite source for recipes. I wasn’t sure how I’d like it given that many things with red bell peppers tend to be too sweet for me. However, this is definitely a keeper despite the somewhat labor intesive process. One of my friends who was over for dinner the night I made it claimed it was the best thing I’d ever made (and she comes down for dinner frequently).

The Romesco Sauce is primarily flavored by the roasted bell peppers that get pureed. But what caught my eye as unusual for a sauce was the crust bread cubes that also got thrown into the food processor with the other ingredients. The last key ingredient was roasted almonds and hazelnuts. Believe it or not, they really do add a noticeable nutty-ness to the sauce. Obviously, there are other things that go into this sauce, but to me these are the three main ingredients.

As for the grilled chicken, it is soaked in a lovely marinade that I’ll provide below and then grilled. The recipe calls for everything to be skewered, but I just cut the chicken into chunks and grilled it on our cast iron grill pan since I’m not allowed to have a barbecue where I’m living right now (sad I know…).

Finally, I finished this meal off with a buttery bowl of cous-cous and sauteed onions.

My writing does not begin to describe how wonderful this tasted when it all came together. Just trust me and give it a go!

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Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce

August 27, 2009

Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce
I figured I’d throw this up here as a fast dinner option. I have loads of fresh, home-grown tomatoes that were crying out to be used. I decided to cook up some tortellini I had laying around and throw together a quick sauce with some of my fresh tomatoes. I started by sauteing some minced garlic in olive oil before throwing in my coarsely chopped tomatoes (about 3 small – medium sized tomatoes). I seasoned this with a bit of salt and pepper and let it simmer while my tortellini finished cooking (about 7 minutes). Right before I took the sauce off, I sprinkled in some fresh basil.

I drained the pasta and put it in a serving bowl. Topped it with my fresh tomato sauce and a sprinkle of parmessan. Wonderful meal that only took about 10-15 minutes to make. Mmmmm!

Bagels!

August 22, 2009

Baked

I’ve always wanted to learn how to make breads (not the easy breads like banana bread and zucchini bread, but the real artisan breads).  Bagels aren’t quite that, but they’re a good entree into bread making.  Plus, I LOVE bagels, so they seemed like a good place to start.  The recipe I used was recommended by friends (K and S) and taken from a the book The Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart which I have on order and am eagerly awaiting!  I used Deb’s reproduction of the recipe along with her helpful hints.  Much to my delight, the bagels are absolutely delicious! Now when we move to England, I’ll still be able to have my bagels!

Click on more to see the photos of the different steps in the process.

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