Orange Poppy Seed Bread

There are always a few recipes that stay with us as fond memories from our childhood. This recipe is most certainly one I carried with me after I left home. It was a favorite of my mother’s, who would bake it for family gatherings, or simply because one of her children requested it. I loved to cut a slice from the middle, which was richly laden with the orange glaze drizzled atop the loaf. I so enjoyed the tiny bites of poppy seeds, exploding under my teeth while I savored every bite. I am a huge fan of marzipan, and really anything flavored with almond, so perhaps that’s why this bread has appealed so greatly to me throughout my life. You could substitute lemon in place of the orange juice and zest called for in the recipe, if you prefer. This bread is fantastic served at brunch, afternoon coffee, or as a light dessert post dinner. It also makes a lovely gift. Perhaps this recipe will become a favorite of your family, just as it did in mine.

3 eggs, room temperature, slightly beaten
1 1/2 c. oil (canola, safflower, or vegetable, preferably organic)
1 1/2 c. whole milk, room temperature
2 c. sugar
3 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
zest of one orange
3-4 tsp. pure almond extract

For the Glaze:
1 orange, juiced
1/4 c. granulated or powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)

Grease and flour two 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5″ loaf pans. Set aside and preheat the oven to 325°F. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds in a large bowl; whisk to remove any clumps. Combine the eggs, and with the mixer running on medium-low, add the oil, sugar, almond extract, and orange zest in the bowl of a stand mixer. Starting and ending with the dry ingredients, alternate between adding the dry ingredients and milk to the egg mixture. Pour the prepared batter into the loaf pans and bake in the oven on the middle rack of the oven for about 1- 1 1/4 hours, or until a toothpick, inserted into the middle of the loaf removes cleanly.

Allow the loaves to cool for about 10 minutes on a wire cooling rack before attempting to remove them from the pan. If they do not remove easily, run a sharp knife around the edges of the loaves. Meanwhile, prepare the orange glaze in a small butter warming pan. Add all the ingredients and allow the sugar to completely dissolve into the juice. Place the wire cooling rack over a baking tray, and pour the glaze over both loaves. You may want to poke a few holes into the tops of the loaves so more glaze penetrates into the center. Some glaze will accumulate in the baking tray. Simply remove the wire rack and pour the remaining glaze back into the butter warmer and re-pour the contents over both loaves again. Once the loaves have cooled slightly, you can eat a slice (or two!) immediately, or once the loaves are completely cool, you can wrap them in plastic or aluminum foil. This bread freezes nicely, but I have not yet ever had a loaf left over to store in the freezer!

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Don’t throw out the pumpkins…or the seeds!

One of my favorite things about Halloween is seeing all the pumpkins, carved and whole, adorning porches, windows, and doorsteps.  And one of my other favorite things is spending an entire season consuming the delicious foods derived from pumpkins and other squashes — seeds, breads, soups, pies, casseroles, and more.  Despite the fact that a shortage of pumpkins — caused by unusual weather circumstances — has pervaded many communities in the U.S. this year, many shoppers heading out on November 1st will find stores offering great deals on the leftovers of these orange orbs.  Below are a few ideas on how to take advantage of this autumn favorite.

Toasted pumpkin seeds

Pre-heat the oven to 300ºF. Scoop out the seeds from your carved pumpkins or squash into a large bowl. Fill the bowl with water and separate the seeds from the pulp by hand, discarding the stringy orange part. Don’t worry about getting them perfectly clean. Rinse and drain the seeds and shake off any excess water. Place the seeds on a rimmed baking sheet. Season them with your choice of flavoring. My favorite is simply adding a sprinkling of sea salt, but you could add garlic or onion powder, chili powder, cinnamon and sugar, or even a little maple syrup. Let your taste buds guide you! Sprinkle (or drizzle) your flavoring over the wet seeds and toss to evenly coat them. Spread the seeds out on the pan in one even layer and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until they are dry and crisp, but not brown and burnt. Toss the seeds every 10 minutes or so while toasting so that they dry out evenly. The cooled seeds can be kept fresh in an airtight container for several days. Enjoy!

Use the pumpkin as a baking dish!

A hollowed-out pumpkin makes a wonderful and festive container for baking anything from pasta and bread casseroles to potatoes, soup, and meat dishes. Small pumpkins can be used for individual servings, and large ones can contain a centerpiece dish for your next dinner party. Your imagination is the limit!

Pureed Pumpkin

Sugar pumpkins (or pie pumpkins) can be found at rock-bottom prices, and the puree made from this variety can be used in a ton of recipes. Cooking it is quite simple.

Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds. Place the cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet with about 1/4 inch of water, and bake at 350º for about an hour, until a fork can be inserted easily. Add more water while cooking, if needed. Scoop the meat away from the skin and puree it in a food processor until smooth.

This method can be used for used for other types of squash, such as acorn, butternut, and (my favorite) delicata.  The pumpkin or squash puree can be used right away or frozen.  During the fall, while this produce is abundant, I like to make a lot of it and freeze it in 1-cup portions that can be pulled out at a moment’s notice for a quick soup or casserole dinner.

Pumpkin bread

This is a delicious recipe that came from my sister, and it can be made into loaves, cupcakes, or mini-muffins.  For my last batch, I made all three!  Spread some soft cream cheese or top it with cream cheese frosting to make it extra special.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice (or 1/4 tsp. nutmeg)
  • 2 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups puréed pumpkin (or one 15-oz. can)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 350º. Sift together all the dry ingredients (except the sugar) into a large bowl. Cream together the sugar, eggs, and oil in a separate mixing bowl. Add the puréed pumpkin. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the water to the egg mixture, one-third at a time.  Stir in the nuts.

Bake as follows:

  • Bread: pour batter into 3 greased and floured loaf pans and bake for about one hour, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  If baking with dark pans, reduce the oven temperature to 325º.
  • Cupcake / mini-muffins: makes three dozen standard cupcakes or nine dozen mini-muffins.  Fill cups or liners 3/4 full.  Bake standard size for 20-25 minutes and the mini size for 12-15, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Hint: to satisfy both those who do and don’t like walnuts, instead of mixing the nuts into the batter, sprinkle them along the top before baking so that they can be easily removed later on. Just watch them to be sure that they don’t burn.

Paratha- Indian Flat Bread

Let me start out by saying that I have a great affinity toward any sort of bread that has been kneaded into existence. One of my greatest joys while traveling is to taste the locals’ version of dough.  The breaking of bread is sacred and sustains life. Ok, I’m getting too deep now. Bread is delicious, and I don’t know too many people who don’t enjoy sinking their teeth into a freshly baked loaf. Is it just me, or is the sound of a perfectly baked French baguette something from heaven?

Indian breads have always piqued my interest. I will never forget the time I was served a poori bread larger than my head at an Indian restaurant in New York City. It was fantastic to pull a chunk off the enormous orb, only to witness it slowly deflating. While I marveled at the bread, it just seemed like I would need a commercial deep fryer to pull that off, so attempting to recreate it at home quickly crossed itself out in my mind.

Then I was introduced to another Indian bread: paratha. I loved its flaky, buttery texture. Not until a dear friend of mine demonstrated in my home how to make paratha bread, did I fully understand how its fascinating shape was formed. While this bread is slightly more labor intensive than an average loaf of bread, it does makes up for it by not having to rise and rest for hours and hours.

3 c. unbleached flour (plus more for rolling out the dough)
2 tsp. baking powder
2 heaping tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. tumeric (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 c. water (this is approximate; you only want enough water to make the dough come together, without becoming too sticky)
5-6 Tbl. clarified butter* or organic vegetable shortening

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl with a whisk. Slowly add the water. You may require slightly less or more water than mentioned above. The dough should be slightly more wet than pizza dough. Form the dough into a ball, cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside in a warm place of your kitchen, such as inside a turned-0ff oven or on the stove top of you have gas burners.

After about  30 minutes to one hour, uncover the dough,  pull off small fist-sized chunks, and shape into a round disk with your hands. The size of the disk depends on the size of the pan you will be using to sauté the bread at the end of the cooking process. I would make each dough disk to weigh about 1/4-1/2 pound if you have a large (12″ or more) sauté pan.

On a floured surface, roll out each dough disk to about a 1/8″ thickness. Once you have rolled out the dough, spread some clarified butter or vegetable shortening onto the surface of the dough.

With a sharp knife, cut 1″ strips, leaving a bit uncut at one side, running the entire width of the rolled-out dough. Roll each strip up like a snail’s shell until the uncut portion. Then roll up the entire piece of dough in the opposite direction, again like a snail’s shell. The dough should look something like the picture below on the right once you have completed this step.

Again, roll out the snail’s shell ball of dough with a rolling pin. You may need to re-flour your working surface again. The dough should have a few bumps in it. You don’t want it to be perfectly flat. Heat a sauté pan on medium heat. When the pan is hot, brush the cooking surface with a little bit of oil (olive, vegetable, etc.) and add the dough to the pan. Allow the dough to begin to bubble slightly before flipping over to the other side. You want the paratha bread to have a nice golden hue, but certainly not browned.

Place the pieces of bread into a large kitchen towel and–this is the fun part!–bring the edges of the towel together with your hands. While maintaing the pieces of bread inside the towel, beat the sides together, as if you were clapping your hands. This will allow the bread to break up into large pieces, which is the desired finished look. Best served warm alongside a few fabulous Indian inpsired dishes, or simply with a bowl of hummus. Enjoy!

*Clarified butter is milk fat rendered from butter to separate the milk solids and water from the butterfat. This is done by heating the butter, at which point the heavier milk solids sink to the bottom, while the water evaporates and the butter fat floats to the surface and is skimmed away. Clarified butter has a much higher smoke point than regular butter, as well as a longer shelf life. You can clarify your own butter at home, but many grocery stores now carry this product.

TDB Homemade: Pizza

Growing up in New York City, which is arguably the best pizza city in the U.S.– sorry if I offended anyone just now–my children have their pick of fabulous pie eateries. My favorite pizza joint, Grimaldi’s, happens to be located in Brooklyn, NY, just across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan. Now, with two kids in tow, you can imagine I don’t make the trek too often. But when an out-of-town guest arrives, I always suggest walking over the bridge and stopping for a slice.

What I love about pizza is its versatility. You can add just about anything to the top. And believe me, I’ve seen just about anything. Like the time I was in Taiwan, and the local Pizza Hut offered shrimp and corn as a topping choice! You may not want to be that adventurous, but whether you’re a legume lover, or a carne connoisseur, there’s a topping right for you.

To make your own pizza crust, it does not require a lot of your time or effort. You do, ideally, need to plan a day ahead, as the pizza dough functions better after it has risen and then allowed to rest overnight in the fridge. However, if you opt out of the refrigeration, it will still “work,” just not as well. If you want to skip the homemade dough part altogether, there are quite a few options out there. Trader Joe’s sells fresh dough in three varieties, and most supermarkets sell frozen dough. I usually pick up a ball of dough and some fresh mozzarella at the beginning of the week, just to have in my fridge, in case I feel like making a quick pizza and salad for dinner one night. You can always keep sausage in the freezer, as well as spinach, for possible toppings, and sweet peppers keep nicely in the fridge for about 5-6 days. Add some sliced garlic and onion and you’ve got a supreme pizza worth raving about. My favorite canned tomatoes are the Muir Glen fire roasted brand. They give the pizza a nice smoky flavor. Feel free to add some crushed fennel seeds or freshly ground pepper on top of your pizza, too.

And now for the most important component of making a pizza: the pizza stone. Skipping the pizza stone is the biggest mistake people make when attempting to make a pizza at home. Without it, your pizza crust doesn’t cook quickly enough, and you are left with a burned-on-the-top, soggy-on-the-bottom pizza. Pizza stones are sold at numerous price points, ranging from about $10-$100. To tell you the truth, I have a $15 pizza stone, which has served me faithfully over the last 7 years. It works fabulously, and because you can’t really clean a pizza stone (except with some hot water), and any oil that may drip from the pizza while baking leaves permanent stains, I don’t feel so guilty since I only spent $15, which probably wouldn’t be the case if I had spent $100.

Pizza is like an artist’s blank canvas, so the resulting painting is up to you. Experiment, get your family involved, but most importantly, have fun!

Basic Pizza Dough Recipe:

1 1/2 c. flour (unbleached, all-purpose), plus more for kneading and rolling out
1 packet (1/4 oz.) yeast
3/4 warm water (90-110°F)
1 Tbl. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt

Warm your water, and empty the yeast into a a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. (Be careful not to heat your water above 110°F, as you will end up zapping your yeast to death. A simple baking thermometer–you know, the kind you can stick into a piece of meat in order to see how done it is–will give you a good temperature reading. If the water is too hot, just wait a few minutes for it to cool down.) Add the water with the yeast, give it a good stir, and allow the yeast to begin to work while you mix the rest of the ingredients together in a medium bowl. When the yeast becomes somewhat bubbly, add it to the rest of the ingredients, and begin to mix. Continue kneading the dough with your hands, adding more flour if the dough is too sticky.  After a few minutes, form the dough into a ball, placing it inside a lightly greased large mixing bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave in a fairly warm spot, like on top of your stove range. After an hour, punch down the dough, reform into a ball, cover, and allow to rise another 1-2 hours. Punch down dough and form into another ball. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (This step can be skipped, but the dough will rise better in the oven if allowed to rest for a day.)

Preheat the oven to 475° F. Be sure to place the pizza stone inside the oven and allow it to warm with the oven while you prepare the pizza. (Usually 30 minutes is a good amount of time for it to really get hot.)

On a floured surface, roll out your dough. Transfer to parchment paper, or if you happen to be lucky enough to own a pizza paddle (a.k.a. pizza peel), leave it where it is. (I have great success using parchment paper between the pizza and the pizza stone, greatly facilitating entry into and removal from the oven.) Add a very thin layer of tomatoes. You don’t want to put too much sauce on top, or else your pizza will become soggy. Slice some fresh mozzarella cheese and place it over the surface of the pizza. Now add any toppings you desire, such as mushrooms, spinach, garlic, peppers, pre-cooked sausage, pepperoni, etc. (Be sure to wring out all the extra moisture from the spinach with a cheesecloth, or through a strainer, before adding to the pizza. Otherwise your pizza will be extremely soggy.)

Using a thin cookie-sheet, scoop up your pizza with the parchment paper underneath and slide it onto the pre-heated pizza stone. If using a pizza paddle without the parchment, sprinkle a little corn meal on the paddle underneath the dough before constructing your pizza to facilitate the “sliding” of the pizza dough from paddle to stone. Allow the pizza to cook anywhere from 13-16 minutes. Remove from the oven with either a pizza paddle or cookie sheet. Place onto a cutting board and slice into pieces using a pizza wheel.

We would love to hear some of your pizza stories, so feel free to share them with us, either by posting a comment, or by sending us an email to: twodancingbuckeyes@gmail.com

Happy eating!

Scones

Recently a friend of mine said she had stalled on new ideas to serve for breakfast and lunch. Her son is about my daughter’s age, and despite a toddler’s ability to eat practically the same menu everyday, it’s nice to have a little change here and there, if for nothing more than your own sanity! So with that suggestion, we will attempt to post some of our ideas for breakfast and lunch. Of course, we would love to hear your ideas too, so if you have a great recipe to pass along into cyber world, please do. You can always leave a comment on the blog, and we will reply as soon as we can. Alternatively, you can send us an email at: twodancingbuckeyes@gmail.com

There is a recipe for, “Chocolate Chip-Orange Scones,” in the Bon Appetite cookbook, which I love to make. I altered the recipe one day because I didn’t have any buttermilk on hand, so instead, I used goat milk.  I must admit that I really liked them in their altered state! Scones are a nice addition to your breakfast menu because they really aren’t hard to make, but they just appear to be, which will greatly impress your family or any other guests who may be coming over for coffee. Additionally, scones are great to experiment with, so whatever fresh or dried fruit you may have could work, as well as different spices and extracts. The possibilities are fairly limitless, so experiment away! If you know you will be short on time in the morning, you can prepare the dough the night before, separate it into whatever shape you want, place it on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator. In the morning, all you have to do is preheat the oven, remove the plastic wrap, and add a couple of minutes to the baking time. Enjoy!

2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 c. sugar (you can even use 1/4 c. if you prefer)

1 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 c. (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced

3 tsp. grated orange peel (1 orange)

1 c. miniature semisweet chocolate chips (or just chop the regular sized chips)

2/3 c. chilled goat milk (or buttermilk)

1 lg. egg yoke

1 tsp. vanilla extract (you could also add a tiny drop of orange extract if you prefer)

1/3 c. dried cranberries (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Butter and flour baking sheet, or line with parchment paper. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in large bowl. Add butter and orange peel; rub in with fingertips until a coarse meal forms. Mix in fruit and chocolate chips. Whisk milk, egg yolk, and vanilla in a small bowl to blend. Add wet ingredients slowly into dry ingredients; stir with fork until dough comes together in moist clumps. But do not mix dough for too long. **It’s ok if some of the butter chunks still are visible. If you over-mix, the scones will not rise as well as they could.** Gather into a ball. You can roll out the dough and cut it into various shapes with cooking forms, however, I simply pull off small chunks of dough and place it directly on the baking sheet. This allows the nice “cracking” or flaking to be noticed once the dough is baked. Space your dough at least 1″ apart on baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes (about 20 minutes if the dough has been chilled overnight). Serve warm with butter, or at room temperature.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Sweet Potato Biscuits

This is one of my favorite fall / winter comfort foods.  It’s super easy and a total crowd-pleaser for kids and adults alike.  The amounts on the ingredients — particularly the cinnamon, sugar, sweet potato, and milk —  are flexible and can be adjusted to suit your tastes.

½ c. cold butter, cut into small chunks

2 c. flour

1 T. baking powder

1 t. salt

1 t. cinnamon

1/4 c. brown sugar *

One large sweet potato, cooked, peeled, and mashed (about 1 c.) **

¼ c. milk

Mixing with a food processor:

Using the pastry blade, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Pulse the butter into the flour until it makes a crumbly mixture.  Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and combine.  Mix in the sweet potato briefly, then drizzle the milk while the blade is running until the dough forms a ball and clears the sides.

Mixing by hand:

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Cut the butter into the flour with a fork, knife, pastry blender, or by rubbing it together with the palms of your hands until it makes a crumbly mixture.  Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and combine.  Mix in the sweet potato briefly with your hands (grease your hands first – it’s messy, but the dough mixes much better with your hands than with a spoon), then add the milk and continue to squeeze the ingredients together until combined.  The dough should be soft and slightly sticky.  You may still see flecks of uncombined butter, which is fine.

Baking:

Divide the dough into 10-12 equal parts and place them on a lined or greased baking sheet.  I usually just grab a small handful of dough and roll it lightly into the shape of a hockey puck before placing on the sheet, or I roll the dough into a log and slice it into 12 thick discs.  Bake the biscuits at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are just starting to brown.  These are best fresh, and they disappear quickly.  Luckily, they’re easy enough to make that you can whip them together with a few spare minutes next time your family asks for them!

* If you prefer, you can use honey instead of brown sugar – just adjust the amount of milk you use to compensate for the extra moisture.

** I often pre-cook and freeze mashed sweet potato in 1-cup portions so that I can pull it out any time I want to make this recipe.