I swear buttermilk is magic. I’ve dwelled on this before. Buttermilk seems to turn everything to gold. Super-moist, super-delicious gold.
Anyway, I needed a simple, summery, breakfasty, cake-like-but-not-dessert-like recipe to make this morning. One of Ben’s friends had crashed here last night, and I thought it only appropriate to treat him to a proper breakfast. In other words, I was craving sugar and carbs. The truth is I’ve been craving sugar and carbs and a cake like this for months. But seriously, who doesn’t crave having a good, seasonal, berry cake recipe in their morning-treat repertoire?
Nobody. And I think I’ve found the recipe that fits the bill. On an old photocopied sheet of paper in my mother’s hand writing, I spotted a note: “Baby Boy’s Favorite.” Oh Baby Boy. Baby Boy is my younger brother, my parents’ favorite child, and one of the most satisfying people to cook for. If it was Baby Boy’s favorite cake, it would soon be mine, too. This cake is delectable! I think you’ll like it, too.
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp. lemon zest or more — zest from 1 large lemon
7/8 cup* + 1 tablespoon sugar**
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour (set aside 1/4 cup of this to toss with the blueberries)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups fresh blueberries
½ cup buttermilk***
* 7/8 cup = 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons
** This 1 tablespoon is for sprinkling on top
*** To make homemade buttermilk, place 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup. Fill cup with milk until it reaches the 1-cup line. Let stand for five minutes. Use only 1/2 cup of the prepared mixture for the recipe.
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cream butter with lemon zest and 7/8 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Meanwhile, toss the blueberries with ¼ cup of flour, then whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt.
3. Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the blueberries.
4. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (or something similar) with butter or coat with non-stick spray. Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness. If necessary, return pan to oven for a couple of more minutes. (Note: Baking for as long as 10 minutes more might be necessary.) Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.
I love a good scone. More than a muffin these days. Even a really good muffin, like this one, which I made last weekend. Such a good recipe. If you haven’t tried that one yet, add it to your to-make list.
Back to the scones. You might recall my obsession with Tartine? Its quiche, bread pudding and croque monsieur in particular. Oh its croque monsieur! Why is there no recipe for it in either of my Tartine cookbooks? Hmm, perhaps it’s best that I don’t know how to make that one anyway.
OK really, back to the scones. Buttery. Flaky. Crispy on top. Not too sweet. Lemony. Blueberry-y. Delicious. When you live hundreds of miles from Tartine, this recipe’s a good one to know.
And if you like this recipe, you’ll likely like this one and this one, too. I heart Tartine. So very much.
Blueberry Buttermilk Scones Adapted from Tartine
Tartine’s recipe calls for Zante currants, which should be plumped in warm water for 10 minutes, then drained.
I usually make a half recipe — 12 scones is a lot, and the dough gets unwieldy. If you can handle it, however, by all means go for it. I have frozen the raw scone dough, too, and baked the scones after thawing the dough overnight in the fridge. Worked beautifully.
4 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp. lemon zest, grated
1 cup + 1 T. unsalted butter, very cold
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 cups blueberries
3 T. butter
sugar for sprinkling such as demerara or turbinado (regular granulated is fine, too)
1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add sugar, salt and lemon zest and stir to combine. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and scatter the cubes over the dry ingredients. Use a pastry blender or the back of a fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. When you are finished, the butter should be dispersed throughout the flour in pea-sized lumps (or bigger… mine always are).
3. Add the buttermilk all at once along with the blueberries and mix gently with a wooden spoon until the dough holds together. If the mixture seems dry, add a little bit more buttermilk.
4. Dust your work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. If you’ve made the whole recipe, divide the dough into two even portions. Using your hands, pat each portion into a circular disk about 1 1/2 inches thick. (Or, if you’ve made the whole recipe and want to follow Tartine’s instructions, pat the dough into a rectangle about 18 inches long, 5 inches wide, and 1 1/2 inches thick). Brush the top with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar. Cut each disk into 6 wedges (or 12 if you’ve made the rectangle).
5. Transfer the triangles to baking sheet. Bake until the tops of the scones are lightly browned, about 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
My baby bro is really funny. Last month when he came to visit, I fixed him some breakfast, a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon and sliced banana, my favorite way to start the morning. I took a risk making him oatmeal — I knew that. I mean, it’s hard to compete with my mother who whips up plates of fried egg sandwiches on toasted homemade bread, slides them under her favorite child’s nose just minutes after he lounges into the kitchen mid-morning, not uttering a word but like some sort of magical magnet drawing cups of freshly brewed coffee and hot breakfast his way.
Oatmeal was a risk for sure. Even so, I expected a bit of a better reception. He took two bites, dipped his spoon in for a third, pushed it around a little bit, then scrunched up his face while nudging the bowl my direction and asked, “Will you eat it for me?” My baby bro is 25. I love him so much.
Well, like my mother, I feel this need to feed people — to make them happy with food — and when things don’t work out as planned, I feel disappointed. I felt a little depressed about the oatmeal. Next time he comes, I’m going to make him these muffins, my latest fix. I discovered this recipe in the November Bon Appetit’s RSVP section. They are delicious. After I made a batch of the batter, I baked off one a day in a paper-lined ramekin for about a week straight. What a treat!
I also made a teensy discovery. I didn’t have enough rolled oats for the recipe, so I substituted in steel cut oats for about half of the total. To my surprise, the steel cut oats added a nice crunch and reminded me of a favorite muffin I hadn’t thought about in years. Metropolitan Bakery in Philadelphia makes the most incredible millet muffins, and when I lived there, it was hard to pass by its doors without stopping in for one. I think I know which cookbook I need to add to my wishlist. A millet muffin sounds so good right now. Santa, I hope you’re reading.
Nonstick vegetable oil spray (or paper muffin liners, I like these)
2 1/3 cups oats (I used half steel cut oats and half rolled oats)
1 cup whole wheat or white flour
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons natural oat bran
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup boiling water
Note: I made a batch of the muffin batter and baked off a muffin a day in a paper-lined ramekin. The batter tasted as good on day 8 as it did on day 1. It’s nice to know you can do this with muffin batter.
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 8 large muffin cups (1-cup capacity) or 18 standard muffin cups (1/3-cup capacity) with nonstick spray, or line them with paper muffin liners. (Note: I baked off these muffins in paper-lined ramekins. It worked beautifully.) Whisk oats and next 9 ingredients in large bowl. Add buttermilk, oil, egg, and vanilla; whisk to blend. Stir in 1/3 cup boiling water and let stand 5 minutes. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups.
2. Bake muffins until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 28 minutes for large muffins and 20 minutes for standard muffins. Cool 10 minutes. Turn muffins out onto rack; cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Baby bro with baby doll. She adores her uncle. It’s so cute.
Careful. These are addictive. They’ve got that sweet-salty dynamic, but also a hint of rosemary, a savory touch that might lead you to eat ten of them, as you would a cracker. Try not to do that.
Man these are so good. I’m never crazy about breaking out the food processor — so many parts to clean and all — but this machine makes this recipe effortless. It literally takes five minutes to prepare.
If you’re like me, you won’t want to share these with anyone, but they would make a wonderful gift. According to Melissa Clark’s NY Times article in December 2005, these shortbread cookies are her all-occasion go-to gift:
“A friend’s birthday? A box of shortbread cookies wrapped in colored tissue. A colleague’s dinner party? A hostess gift of a vintage tin filled with shortbreads. The holidays? Many, many bright-hued bags filled with shortbread and tied with ribbons.”
Yesterday, feeling inspired, I fashioned a little package out of parchment paper and cooking twine. Then I tucked two squares inside, made a cute little tag, and wrapped it all up. Later that day, I opened the package and ate the treats. As I said, I didn’t want to share these with anyone.
Mmmmm … shortbread. These treats would be perfect with a cup of tea in the afternoon, but are delightful any time of the day really. What’s more, they stay fresh for days though they’ll likely be gone before showing any signs of age. Holiday season is rapidly approaching — practice making these pouches now, and you’ll be golden come December.
I love parchment paper. Have you ever tried to tape it, however? Nothing sticks to it. To make this package, I improvised with a hole punch and some cooking twine. Just fold up a piece of parchment paper to the size of your liking, punch holes in the sides, thread any sort of ribbon or string through the holes and make knots on one side. Ta-da! With some cute ribbon, these packages could be really darling.
With this recipe, you just have to be careful not to over pulse the dough. This is about what it should look like:
The dough is still very crumbly when you pat it into the pan.
Yield: One 8- or 9-inch shortbread, about 16 pieces
Source: Melissa Clark of the NY Times
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 scant tablespoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary (see photo above)
1 teaspoon plus 1 pinch kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted cold butter, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 1/2 tsp. honey
1. Heat oven to 325ºF. In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, rosemary and salt. Add butter and honey, and pulse to fine crumbs. Pulse a few more times until some crumbs start to come together, but don’t overprocess. Dough should not be smooth.
2. Press dough into an ungreased (or parchment paper-lined for easy removal) 8- or 9-inch-square baking pan. Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes for 9-inch pan, 45 to 50 minutes for 8-inch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into squares, bars or wedges while still warm.
I ate this whole pizza tonight. All of it. By myself. Not one slice remains for me for my breakfast tomorrow. I tried to refrain. No dice. So, if you’re still in summer-bathing-suit mode, avert your eyes.
This combination is so good. I believe the original, a pie hailing from Paso Robles where the dear friend who introduced me to this creation had just vacationed, called for peaches, but nectarines are a fine substitute. I’ve used an herbed goat cheese here with some Parmigiano Reggiano but I think some fresh ricotta or buffalo mozzarella or mascarpone or all three would be a nice substitute (or addition?) for the goat cheese. The Parmigiano, I think, is a must.
Fresh basil or some sprigs of arugula sprinkled on the just-baked pizza is key. It needs that hit of freshness as well as that bite from the reduced balsamic. Yum yum yum yum yum. Just don’t burn your balsamic. I did. Twice. Oiy. It’s really annoying. Really try not to do that.
Gosh, I don’t know what else to say. This is delicious and summery and fun, and I think you should make it.
Nectarine Pizza with Fresh Basil and Reduced Balsamic
Each pizza serves 1-2 people
pizza dough (recipe below)
Toppings For 1 pizza:
olive oil for greasing
cheese: fresh ricotta, buffalo mozzarella, goat cheese, mascarpone, whatever you like
1 nectarine, sliced thinly, (not paper thin)
shavings of fresh Parmigianno Reggiano
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1. Place balsamic in a small sauté pan. Turn heat to medium high. Let simmer until reduced and noticeably thick — watch it like a hawk. If it burns, it’s ruined. There’s no salvaging burnt balsamic. Err on the side of under reduced. It reduces more than you expect as it’s cooling. Remove from heat.
Adapted from Todd English’s The Figs Table
Makes four 8- to 10-inch pizzas (Serves 1 to 2 people per pizza, dough freezes beautifully)
¼ cup whole wheat flour
3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 2/3 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons active-dry yeast
2 teaspoons olive oil
1. Place the flours and salt in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. (Or knead by hand. I have not had luck making this in the food processor — the engine starts smoking after about five minutes.) Combine the water, sugar and yeast in a small bowl and let sit for five minutes until the mixture bubbles slightly. Add the olive oil and stir. With the mixer on low, gradually add the oil-water mixture into the bowl. Knead until the dough is firm and smooth, under 10 minutes. The dough will be very wet and sort of difficult to work with. I liberally coat my hands with flour before attempting to remove it.
2. Divide the dough into four balls, about 7½ ounces each. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. (Be sure to oil the parchment paper.) Place two balls on a sheet. Lightly rub the balls with olive oil, then cover loosely with plastic wrap. The dough is very sticky and wet, so, be sure to coat the balls or the plastic with oil. Let the balls rise in a warm spot until they have doubled in bulk, about two hours.
Note: This dough freezes beautifully. After the initial rise, punch down the dough, wrap it in plastic and place in a Ziplock bag. Freeze for several months. When ready to use, let sit at room temperature for about an hour, then proceed with rolling/topping/baking.
3. To roll out the dough: Dab your fingers in flour and then place one ball on a generously floured work surface. Press down in the center with the tips of your fingers, spreading the dough with your hand. When the dough has doubled in width, use a floured rolling pin (or continue using floured hands if you are skilled at making pizzas) and roll out until it is very thin, like flatbread. The outer portion should be a little thicker than the inner portion. Note: If the dough is being very stubborn, let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes. In this time, the gluten will relax, and the dough will be much easier to work with.
1. Preheat the oven to 500ºF. Line a sheetpan with parchment paper or grease lightly with olive oil. Place rolled out dough onto parchment paper or greased pan. Drizzle dough with a little olive oil and with your hand, rub it over the surface to coat evenly.
2. Cover the dough with a layer of cheese — mozzarella, goat cheese, ricotta mascarpone, whatever you wish. Arrange one layer of sliced nectarines or peaches on top of the cheese. Sprinkle the fruit layer with fresh Parmigiano Reggiano. Place pizza in your very hot oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until the crust is slightly brown and the cheese is melting.
3. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh basil or arugula. Drizzle with the reduced balsamic. Slice and serve. Yum.
Several months ago a dear friend casually mentioned in an email her disappointment with a batch of chocolate biscotti she had just baked. I have been obsessed with finding a good chocolate biscotti recipe ever since, testing recipes, fiddling with proportions, and generally just eating and eating and eating some more. I think I have started each morning for the past two months with a chocolate biscotti. None, however, was particularly satisfying until I discovered David Lebovitz’ recipe.
I held out on making this recipe for so long because I didn’t think a biscotti recipe without butter would be good. Boy was I wrong. These are divine. Perfectly sweet. Not too hard. Crumbly. Soft. Not too soft. Loaded with chocolate and studded with almonds. A perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee. I am convinced there is no better way to start the morning (and mid-morning and afternoon and early evening, etc.).
For those biscotti-making novices out there, there is nothing tricky about baking cookies twice.I basically followed Lebovitz’ instructions to a tee: baked the logs first for 25 minutes at 350ºF; let them rest for 15 minutes; sliced them up and baked them for 15 minutes more, which was a little bit less than recommended but a perfect length to achieve the texure I like. Yum yum yum.
I also can’t emphasize enough how easy baking becomes when you introduce a digital scale to your arsenal of kitchen tools. I tend to measure in ounces but Lebovitz’ recipe was in grams, which seem to be more precise. This recipe is a winner. Make these biscotti. They’re a real treat.
And if you’re not so much a chocolate fan, try these almond biscotti — it’s another great recipe.
Source: Adapted from David Lebovitz
For notes regarding cocoa and other matters, check out his post. I do think using good cocoa makes a difference. I had good results with Ghirardelli.
2 cups (280g) flour
3/4 cups (75g) top-quality cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3 large eggs*
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 cup (125g) almonds, toasted and very coarsely-chopped
3/4 cups (120g) chocolate chips
*Twice now I’ve had to whisk up another egg and add it to the batter at the end to help the batter bind together. So, if your batter doesn’t seem to be forming a mass, beat up an extra egg and mix it in. That should help. Next time I think I’ll just add 4 eggs.
** I chose not to glaze/eggwash my biscotti. I feel a glaze in unnecessary with chocolate biscotti. If you wish to glaze, however, refer to David Lebovitz’ post.
1. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a large bowl, beat together the 3 eggs, sugar, and vanilla & almond extracts. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, then mix in the nuts and the chocolate chips until the dough holds together.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Divide the dough in half. Form each half into a log. Transfer the logs onto the baking sheet, evenly spaced apart.
5. Bake for 25 minutes, until the dough feels firm to the touch.
6. Remove pan from the oven and cool 15 minutes. On a cutting board, use a serrated (or not … I’ve used both types) knife to diagonally cut the cookies into 1/2-inches slices. Lay the cookies cut side down on baking sheets and return to the oven for 15 minutes*, turning the baking sheet midway during baking, until the cookies feel mostly firm.
* Lebovitz bakes his for 20 to 30 minutes during the second baking. I like my biscotti not too crisp and have found good results with just 15 minutes of baking second time around. Also, really make sure your oven is at 350º or less — the chocolate will burn if your oven is hotter.
**Once baked, cool the cookies completely then store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. If you wish, the cookies can be half-dipped in melted chocolate, then cooled until the chocolate hardens.
I had signed up to make a “super summery dessert” for a Fourth of July party. I contemplated trifle, pie and tres leches cake. And then I thought, “What could be more summery than a pan of bubbling peaches and blueberries stewing below a floating layer of golden-brown sugar-crusted buttermilk biscuits? ”
Peach-blueberry cobbler it would be.
And it was. With vanilla ice cream melting through each bite, smiles abounded.
Have you found yourself in the same boat yet this summer? Needing to make a dessert for a crowd? Look no further. This is it. Yum yum yum yum yum.
PS: If you can find rhubarb in your parts, try this recipe.
2 lbs. peaches, yellow or white (nectarines would be great as well)
3 cups blueberries, washed and stemmed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar*
zest of one lime
pinch of kosher salt
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter, cold
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons demera sugar
vanilla ice cream for serving
*I used 1/3 cup sugar and my peaches were on the very under-ripe side. So, depending on the sweetness of your fruit, adjust the amount of sugar accordingly. As an example, when I make this recipe using strawberries and rhubarb, I use 3/4 cup sugar because rhubarb is so tart.
1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Slice up your peaches — I got about 6 to 8 thick slices per peach. Place peaches in a bowl with blueberries, cornstarch, sugar, lime zest and salt, and toss to combine. Set aside.
2. In separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut the butter into the flour mixture in small pieces and stir with a fork to combine. Whisk buttermilk and vanilla together, then pour mixture into dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until mixture comes together — the dough will be very wet and sticky.
3. Transfer fruit to a 12 x 8½-inch (2 quart) baking dish. Break off portions of the dough (about 8-10) and arrange over the fruit. Brush the dough with the milk and sprinkle the sugar over both the fruit and dough portions of the dish.
4. Place in the oven for 50-55 minutes, until topping is golden brown and juices are bubbling. Let cool on rack 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
Next time you are invited to a potluck picnic, volunteer to make sandwiches. And then make these. You will be loved forever. I promise.
Roasted red peppers, arugula and an herbed goat cheese* is a particularly nice combination at the moment but later in the summer, when the tomatoes are peaking, a classic Caprese salad on this homemade focaccia will be a huge hit.
I have been making this focaccia recipe since it was printed in Fine Cooking magazine over six years ago now. It’s credited to Peter Reinhart and, like all of his recipes, is very precise. But unlike many of his recipes, which seem to begin days in advance of baking time, this one is just an overnighter and only takes minutes to prepare. It’s particularly easy if you have a stand mixer but Reinhart provides detailed by-hand mixing instructions as well. Make it. It’s a winner for sure.
I learned something, too, about roasting peppers while preparing for this picnic: Patience pays. I roasted these peppers as I usually do — on a parchment-lined sheetpan under the broiler for about 15 to 20 minutes or until evenly blackened — and steamed them as I usually do — in an aluminum bowl covered with plastic wrap. But instead of rushing the peeling, charring my little fingers in the process, I waited to peel till the following morning. It was a breeze. From here on out, I will roast, steam and peel 24 hrs. in advance … rrrrrigghhht.
* Note: I whipped a log of honey-goat cheese from Trader Joe’s with fresh basil and about 1/4 cup of crème fraîche (for texture), which made a delicious spread. Any herb or combination of herbs would be nice but I definitely recommend whipping the goat cheese with a little bit of milk or yogurt or something of the sort to make spreading easier.
Notes: If you don’t have a mixer, follow the instructions on the Fine Cooking website for mixing by hand.
1 lb. 9 oz. (5-1/2 cups) unbleached bread flour
2-1/2 cups cold water (about 55°F)
2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. granulated sugar (1 oz.)
2 tsp. table salt or 3-1/2 tsp. kosher salt (1/2 oz.)
1 packet (1/4 oz.) instant yeast (also called quick-rise, rapid-rise, or fast-rising yeast)
10 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt or kosher salt for sprinkling
Mix the dough:
Coat a bowl large enough to hold the dough when it doubles in size with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and rotate the dough to coat it with the oil.
Hold the bowl steady with one hand. Wet the other hand in water, grasp the dough and stretch it to nearly twice its size.
Lay the stretched section back over the dough. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn and repeat this stretch-and-fold technique. Do this two more times so that you have rotated the bowl a full 360 degrees and stretched and folded the dough four times. Drizzle 1 Tbs. of the olive oil over the dough and flip it over. Wrap the bowl well with plastic and refrigerate it overnight, or for at least 8 to 10 hours.
Shape the focaccia:
Remove the bowl of dough from the refrigerator and start shaping the focaccia 3 hours before you intend to bake it (2 hours on a warm day). The dough will have nearly doubled in size. Cover a 13×18-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat and coat the surface with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil.
Gently slide a rubber spatula or a dough scraper under the dough and guide it out of the bowl onto the center of the pan. The dough will sink beneath its own weight, expelling some gas but retaining enough to keep an airy gluten network that will grow into nice holes.
Drizzle 2 Tbs. of the olive oil on top of the dough. (Don’t worry if some rolls off onto the pan; it will all be absorbed eventually.)
Dimple the entire dough surface, working from the center to the edges, pressing your fingertips straight down to create hollows in the dough while gently pushing the dough down and out toward the edges of the pan. At first you might only be able to spread the dough to cover about one-half to three-quarters of the pan. Don’t force the dough when it begins to resist you. Set it aside to rest for 20 minutes. The oil will prevent a crust from forming.
After letting the dough rest, drizzle another 2 Tbs. olive oil over the dough’s surface and dimple again. This time, you will be able to push the dough to fill or almost fill the entire pan. It should be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. If it doesn’t stay in the corners, don’t worry; the dough will fill the corners as it rises.
Cover the dough loosely with oiled plastic wrap, put the pan on a rack to let air circulate around it, and let the dough rise at room temperature until it’s about 1-1/2 times its original size and swells to the rim of the pan. This will take 2 to 3 hours, depending on the temperature of the room. Thirty minutes before baking, heat your oven to 475°F.
Bake the focaccia:
Just before baking, gently remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle a few pinches of sea salt or kosher salt over the dough. Put the pan in the middle of the hot oven and reduce the heat to 450°F. After 15 minutes, rotate the pan to ensure even baking.
Check the dough after another 7 minutes. If it’s done, it will be golden brown on top and, if you lift a corner of the dough, the underside will be golden as well. If not, return the pan to the oven for another 1 to 2 minutes and check again.
Set a cooling rack over a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment (to catch drippings). Use a metal spatula to release the dough from the sides of the pan. Slide the spatula under one end of the focaccia and jiggle it out of the pan onto the rack. If any oil remains in the pan, pour it evenly over the focaccia’s surface. Carefully remove the parchment or silicone liner from beneath the focaccia. Let cool for 20 minutes before cutting and serving.
Roasted Red Peppers
Yield= However many you want
(Estimate about 1 pepper for every 1 to 2 people)
red bell peppers
1. Preheat the broiler. Line a sheetpan with parchment paper for easy cleaning. Alternatively, grease the sheetpan with a little bit of olive oil.
2. Cut peppers in half lengthwise. Remove stem and seeds. Place peppers cut side down on sheet pan. Broil for about 15 to 20 minutes or until evenly charred.
3. Place peppers in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Steam until completely cool — overnight is ideal. Use peppers for salads, sandwiches, pasta salads, etc.
There are many ways to make a yummy herbed goat cheese. This is what I did: I whipped a log of honey-goat cheese (delicious on its own) from Trader Joe’s with fresh basil and about 1/4 cup of crème fraîche (for texture), which made a delectable spread. Any herb or combination of herbs would be nice but I definitely recommend whipping the goat cheese with a little bit of milk or yogurt or something of the sort to make spreading easier.
I’m a real sucker for any sort of breakfast carb, especially when I’m out to eat. Challah French toast. Lemon-ricotta pancakes. Blueberry-cornmeal hotcakes. You name it. If it’s floured, fried and dripping in syrup, it has my name all over it.
Like the mussels, these are dishes I rarely make at home. Laboring over a fickle griddle is one deterrent for me. Timing is another. It’s nearly impossible to get enough pancakes and French toast and waffles out at the same time to serve everyone at once.
And you know what? I’m sort of tired of reading this line in recipes: “Place finished pancakes on a plate in a 200ºF oven to keep warm while you finish cooking.” We all know that after 20 minutes in a 200ºF oven, warm soggy disks are what remain. These foods are best eaten hot off the griddle. It’s a quandary for sure.
The solution? Well, I don’t have one for pancakes. But I do for French toast: Bake it. And start it the night before. This is the easiest French toast you will ever make, and I believe it’s one of the best, too. It’s crisp on the exterior and moist but by no means soggy on the interior. It emerges from the oven piping hot yielding enough, at the very least, for four eaters.
This recipe hails from the November 2000 issue of Gourmet — oh Gourmet how I miss you — and is a nice one to have in your file. Father’s Day is right around the corner … this might be a nice treat for everyone involved.
Just out of the oven, baked French toast:
Overnight Baked French Toast
Serves 4 to 6
1 (13- to 14-inch-long) loaf of soft-crust bakery-style Italian bread*
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cups whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 tablespoons sugar
*Notes: My mom uses “Toasting White” (Pepperidge Farm, I believe). My aunt uses a dense bakery-style loaf of Italian bread, which is what I’ve used here — density is key. I like both breads with this preparation, however.
Accompaniments: maple syrup, berries and powdered sugar if desired
1. Cut about six to eight — enough to fit your pan — one-inch-thick diagonal slices of bread.
2. Generously butter one side of each slice and arrange slices, buttered sides up, in one layer in a buttered 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit if necessary.
3. Whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon salt until combined well, then pour evenly over bread. Chill, covered, until bread has absorbed all of custard, at least one hour and up to one day, depending on bread.
4. Preheat oven to 425°F. Bring mixture to room temperature and sprinkle bread with sugar.
5. Bake, uncovered, in middle of oven until bread is puffed and top is golden, 20 to 25 minutes, or longer — make sure it’s nice and golden on top or it will be soggy in the middle. Serve immediately with fruit and syrup and powdered sugar if desired.
After a night in the fridge, the bread absorbs all of the liquid: