Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cheese-Stuffed Crusty Loaves

Oh Lordy. Three months ago, when I first saw this picture, I knew I had to make this delicious, delightful, amazing recipe. I love bread, and I love cheese. This is like my dream bread. I did several foolish things while attempting to make this, but since it's not my first time making bread, I figured I could goof and fudge a little here and there and it'd still turn out alright. I think I made my decisions wisely.

You will need:
Two cups of your favorite cheese, shredded (I used sharp cheddar)

In a small bowl (larger than a cereal bowl, but smaller than a medium mixing bowl), combine one and one-quarter cups of unbleached bread flour (or unbleached all-purpose white), one teaspoon of salt, and half a teaspoon of yeast. (The recipe called for instant, but all I had was active dry, and I didn't think it made any difference at all.) Then add half a cup of water and mix until everything in incorporated and it looks like this:

I actually had to use more than a half-cup of water, so feel free to use as much as you need. The point is that you don't want your dough to end up watery, so err on the side of too dry and add slowly until you get it right. Then cover your bowl and let it sit overnight. In the morning, it'll look something like this:

Dump the starter into a medium or large mixing bowl, and add three cups of flour, a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of yeast, and a cup of water (again, I had to use more water). Mix until incorporated, and then knead the dough by hand or in a mixer until smooth. Like this:

Cover and let rise for two hours. It'll roughly double in size.

Spread it out into a rectangle, roughly 9x13.

Liberally apply your cheese.

Roll up along the long edge, and pinch the seam to seal it (I also pinched my ends to seal them). Cover and let rise for another hour to an hour and a half.

Slice your loaf into four parts and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Also, you should probably spray or flour the parchment. These suckers are sticky.

Arrange your loaves thusly, preheat to 425F, and bake for about twenty minutes.

Then, dig in. It's too good for words.

Now, if you're like me and you scheduled a pedicure in the middle of your rise time, do yourself a favor and do like so: Let your dough rise for an hour, and then stick it in the fridge. When you come back, pull it out, put it in a warm location, and let it rise for another two hours, or until it's doubled from its original size. Then squash it into a rectangle and proceed as normal.

The boring stuff:
Makes four mini loaves.
Difficulty: 2.
Takes about four and a half hours, including prep and bake time.

Postscript: These end up being really too big to eat in a single serving, so next time I make them, I think I'll cut it into eight pieces instead of four. Also, they don't last at all. Mine went moldy in about five days, which is a third as long as my bread lasts. So...make more smaller ones, eat quickly, and freeze the leftovers. But still....SO good.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Marlboro Man's Second Favorite Sandwich

I gotta say, this was a lot more delicious than I expected it to be. Not that I thought it would be not delicious, because it combines three of my favorite foods (chicken, bacon, and cheese), but I was still a little surprised. (Check out the original recipe @ thepioneerwoman.com)

Anyway, you'll need chicken breasts, cheese, peppered bacon, buns, rolls, or bread, and lemon pepper seasoning. If you don't have lemon pepper seasoning, you'll need salt, pepper, and one lemon.

Slice your package of bacon in half. (The bacon holds its shape better and supposedly cooks faster. I think it takes the same amount of time to cook, but I like my bacon extra crispy, not chewy.)

Start cooking your bacon, and as it gets done remove it to paper towels to drain.

Drain the fat from your pan.

Season your chicken. If you're not using the seasoning, coat it with salt and pepper, and then squeeze half a lemon over the top.

Start cooking the chicken in the pan for about four minutes, until the edges of the chicken turn white. Then turn the chicken over and season the other side.

Arrange your bacon over the top of each breast.

And then put your choice of cheese on top. Cover the pan and let it finish cooking.

When it smells amazing and the cheese is totally melted, it's ready.

Remove it to your bun and enjoy. I had mine with a little mayo, Tim took his with mustard. Next time I think I'll have mine on a salad though. It makes for an intense sandwich.

The boring stuff:
Serves as many as you need it to, provided you have enough bacon, chicken, and cheese.
Difficulty: 3.
Takes about forty-five minutes, depending on how quick your bacon cooks.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Grilled Buttermilk Herb Chicken

I know, I know, I'm a week overdue. Plans fall through and grandmothers die, so deal with it. On the upside, I've just inherited a century-old set of silver, which is just about the coolest thing ever. And my dad dropped off my graduation present this weekend--a brand new, shiny, gorgeous Kitchen Aid stand mixer, with the power and space to make six loaves of bread in one go. !!!! I'm in heaven.

And now, to dinner.

Two cups buttermilk
Salt and pepper
Chicken breasts, thawed and halved.

Place your chicken in a large bowl and cover with herbs and seasonings. Pour the buttermilk over the top and let it soak for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to two days covered in the fridge.

Heat your grill to medium. Remove the chicken and shake off excess buttermilk. Grill until cooked through, about eight minutes per side.

I served it with pasta salad (Tim's mom's recipe), fresh fruit, and brownies. Yum!

The boring stuff:
Takes about 20 minutes, plus soaking time.
Difficulty: 2
Feeds as many as you need it to feed.