Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread — Trial and Error

I really wanted a nice wheat sandwich bread that I can use throughout the week instead of using store bought bread.  Something not too hard to make on a Sunday afternoon that will stay reasonably fresh for a few days.

My first attempt baked up like a brick.  Not even making it into croutons could rescue it.  I attempted too much “tweaking” on the fly.  I don’t recommend that.

For my second attempt, I got some helpful advice from the bakebakebake community on LiveJournal, and this is how it turned out.  The bread is slightly sweet, with a nice nutty wheat flavor and soft texture.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

2 1/2 t    instant dry yeast
1 1/3 c   lowfat (1/2%) milk, warmed to 110F
1/4 c      100% maple syrup
1/4 c       olive oil
1 1/4 t    sea salt
1 c          all purpose flour
2 3/4 c    100% Whole Wheat Flour
2 T          butter, melted

Instructions:

Stir together warm milk, yeast, and maple syrup in bowl of a stand mixer and let sit until foamy (about 5 minutes).    Mix in oil and salt, and attach dough hook.

Slowly add flours with mixer on low speed until incorporated.  Knead in mixer on medium speed for 6-8 minutes or until dough is no longer sticky and is easy to handle.  Transfer dough ball to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 1 hour or until roughly doubled in size.

After one hour rise in the warm oven.  To prepare the oven, I set it to 170F with a small ramekin of water on the bottom rack while I’m prepping the ingredients, then turn the oven off once I start mixing and kneading.  This keeps it around 100 degrees and nice and humid.  Not to mention safely away from my curious cats.

Once the dough has risen, roll out on a floured surface and shape into a log the size of your loaf pan.  Place in greased loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap again.  Allow dough to rise again another 30 minutes:

Bake at 350F for 40 minutes, covering with foil after 20 minutes.  Bake until internal temp is 190F at the center of the loaf.  Remove bread from pan and cool on wire rack.  Brush warm loaf with melted butter.   Store in plastic bag for soft crust.

The finished product:

 

Double Chocolate Marshmallow Pecan Cookies

I make these cookies every year for my mom for Christmas, and each year they end up modified in some way.  This year I traded the chocolate icing for dark chocolate ganache.  I really like how they turned out, although mom still hasn’t had them yet since our “Christmas” is actually next weekend.

I usually double the base cookie dough recipe and use half to play around with on its own, without the marshmallows and pecans (its great with mint or peanut butter chips added in, or frosted/glazed as you wish).

Double Chocolate Marshmallow Pecan Cookies

Makes 36 cookies

1/2 c butter, softened
1 c white sugar
1 egg
1/4 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 c cake flour
1/2 c good quality cocoa powder (not dutch processed)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
18 large marshmallows, cut in half (see note)*
36 pecan halves, toasted

Preheat oven to 350F.  Sift together dry ingredients in Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg, milk, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until well blended.

Scoop out dough on to an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 7-8 minutes.  Place marshmallow halves on top and return cookies to the oven for another 2-3 minutes or until marshmallows are lightly golden and puffy (they will shrink back down as they cool).

Let cookies cool completely before drizzling with ganache:

12 oz good quality dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 c heavy whipping cream
1/2 t vanilla
pinch of sea salt

Heat cream, in a small saucepan just until bubbles begin to form.  Remove from heat and add vanilla and salt.  Pour hot cream mixture over chocolate and stir until combined.  Let cool slightly before drizzling.  Top cookies with one pecan half and enjoy!

* Note on marshmallows:  I used to be a vegetarian and made this one year with marshmallow fluff instead of marshmallows (which has egg whites instead of gelatin).  It’s a bit harder to work with, but makes the cookies even more ooey-gooey to eat.

Butt Kickin’ Chicken Chili

This is my lighter-version “rough draft” for a chili cook off I’m entering in at work.

My beef chili is nothing special, despite several attempts to make it better.  So I decided to try something relatively new to me and make chicken chili instead.  I think it turned out pretty tasty, but you be the judge.

One note on my measurements:  the amount of chopped veggies is somewhat approximate since I was making a pizza at the same time and used some of the onions and peppers for that as well. I personally hate it when recipes call for half of a vegetable, but I may have to do that here.  I apologize to anyone else who has that same pet peeve.

I like my chili spicy, so I went with a blend of fresh, dried, and canned (in the form of prepared salsa) peppers as my heat source.  They all lend a different type of heat, and I think they balanced each other well.  You can adjust the level of heat by seeding the fresh and dried peppers, or by using less as needed.  But only if you’re a wuss.

The finished product looks kind of anemic, but like any chili tastes much better the next day, which is when I took this picture.  The cilantro sour cream is a must!

Butt Kickin’ Chicken Chili

Ingredients:

3-4  boneless, skinless chicken breasts (depending on size)
2 T   olive oil
1      small red onion, halved and sliced thinly
1/2   red pepper, sliced thinly
1/2   yellow or orange pepper, sliced thinly
3       cloves garlic, minced
1       medium poblano pepper, diced with seeds and ribs
2       small red chili peppers, diced with seeds and ribs
1       dried california pepper, diced with seeds and ribs
1/2 c celery, diced
1        12 oz package sliced mushrooms
2        15 oz cans chicken broth
1        16 oz jar salsa verde (2 cups)
1 c      any “red” salsa
Salt, pepper, and cumin to taste

Instructions:

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat.  Add all veggies except mushrooms and heat until translucent and fragrant. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and cumin.  Add mushrooms and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Add chicken broth and salsa and bring mixture to a boil.  Add chicken breasts and simmer for 1 hour or until chicken is tender and can be broken apart.

Serve with cool cheddar cilantro sour cream:

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/3   onion, roughly chopped
2 c  sour cream (one 16 oz package)
~ 1 c  cilantro leaves, loosely packed
2 T  fresh chives
juice of one lime
salt and pepper to taste

Place onion and garlic into blender or food processor with salt and pepper and pulse a few times until the onions begin to let out thier juices.  Add herbs and pulse again until chopped. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until combined.  I also use this mixture as a veggie dip, it tastes kind of like an herb-y, cheese-y ranch dressing.

Modifications:

My plan for the future of this chili is to sub either all or part of the chicken breast meat for chicken thighs to boost the chicken flavor.  I also plan to use a bit of bacon, and to pan fry the chicken in the bacon fat before adding the veggies.