Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

The origin of every Thankful Thursday post!  The day in the States when family and friends are gathered, masses of food are cooked and enjoyed and arguments and laughter abound.  I would be amiss if I did not post today, and I even have a recipe for you.  Two of them!  The pumpkin bread is very traditional, and adapted from The Streaming Gourmet.  The lime cheesecake bars are adapted from various sources, including Smitten Kitchen and Bakergirl.  Both have gone through various incarnations and adjustments, but these are the ones I am proud to present today.  Thank you to my family, friends, boyfriend and of course, everyone who reads this blog.  Make one of the two, make both, save the recipe for another day.  Just promise me to give thanks.  I hope you all enjoyed the day!

Pumpkin Loaf adapted from The Streaming Gourmet
Makes 1 tall 9"x5" loaf

2 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute up to 1 cup whole wheat flour)
3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (can substitute mostly cinnamon, a little nutmeg)
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1¼ cups sugar
2 eggs
15 oz. (1 can) pure pumpkin (none of this "pie filling" nonsense)

1 large bowl (wet ingredients)
1 medium bowl (dry ingredients)
1 whisk 
1 rubber spatula
Measuring cups and spoons (please see note below)
9"x5" loaf pan 


1. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Using the stick of butter, lightly butter the loaf pan.

2. In the medium bowl, whisk together the flour, pumpkin pie spice (or your choice of spices), salt, baking soda and baking powder.

3. In the large bowl, mostly melt the remainder of the stick of butter (I use the microwave, but you can always melt it in a pot over the stove if you prefer).  Add the sugar and beat until thoroughly combine.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  It will start to look nice and fluffy.  Stir in the pumpkin until it all looks orange.

4. Fold the dry mixture into the wet, stirring gently until there are no lumps or streaks of flour.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake at 350F for 60-75 minutes (mine takes 70).  

5. Allow to cool 5 minutes in the pan before cooling on a wire rack.  Try to wait at least 20 minutes before slicing for the best texture.  The flavor is even better the next day, although the crust will no longer be nice and crispy.  Enjoy!

Note: I have removed the measuring items (spoons, cups, etc.) from the equipment list.  I figure that you're all smart enough to know that if the ingredient list has 1/2 teaspoon of something, you can use 2 1/4 teaspoons or actually pull out your 1/2 teaspoon measure.  In any case, most spoons are gathered with a ring, so you still need to pull out the entire set.  Please let me know if this (or anything else) bothers anyone!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

After the Hurricane...Happy Halloween!

So, Hurricane Sandy blew through our state, and plenty of surrounding others.  Despite some damage around campus:

One of the graduate apartments on campus.

Our apartments survived safe and sound.  Our power went out for a mere half hour (thanks to the small power plant on campus), the hospital's generators are working fine, and I'm incredibly lucky to have stocked up on groceries last Sunday.  About 90% of Long Island is currently without power, the subways are flooded and many schools (including ours) wound up being closed for a week while crews are hard at work clearing roads, patching up power lines and restoring networks.  I wish everyone affected by the storm a speedy and full recovery!

Still, it's Halloween today, so I leave you all with this: Caramel Corn.  Quick, requiring few ingredients and less fuel, it cheered us all up in less time than it took to cool :)

Oddly addictive.  I think this is one of the best party treats ever.  
Now, if I only ever went to parties...

Caramel Corn straight from the flames of It's on Fire!!!
Makes about 2 quarts of popcorn

3 tablespoons unpopped popcorn kernels or 2 quarts of fresh microwave popcorn
2 tablespoons oil or butter
cup granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons salted butter
¾ teaspoon salt

2 medium pots (1 to pop the corn, 1 to make the caramel)
1 light baking sheet or pot cover with steam holes
1 large cookie sheet or 2 medium ones (to hold to popcorn)
Parchment paper to line the cookie sheet
1 rubber spatula
¼ teaspoon measure
1 tablespoon measure 
⅓ cup dry measure


1. Lay a piece of parchment paper on the cookie sheet.  You will put the popcorn here.

2. Pop the popcorn.  If on the stove, heat up the oil in the pot until it bubbles around a single corn kernel.  Add the rest of the corn, cover and shake lightly, until the corn begins to pop.  Leave it on the stove until the popping slows down substantially, then take it off the stove.  By now, the pot will be full or almost full of popped corn!  Pour it out onto the prepared cookie sheet.

2. In the second pot, add the sugar in an even layer.  Turn the fire to medium and cook, stirring as little as possible, until lightly caramelized.  David Lebovitz has a wonderfully helpful tutorial here.

3. Once the sugar has melted and caramelized, take it off the heat and add the butter.  Be very careful, because it will begin to splutter.  Stir it or swirl it gently, until completely melted.  Add the salt and stir until it dissolves.

5. Add as much of the popcorn as will fit in the pan, and gently stir to coat.  Pour out most of the popcorn from the top onto the parchment paper, leaving some of the leftover caramel in the bottom.  Pour in the rest of the popcorn, and stir again to coat, until all the popcorn is coated.  Allow the popcorn to cool until crisp, then enjoy! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thankful Thursday - My Weekly Bread

I'd like to brag a little here.  Now, I realize that having a blog featuring items I make seems a lot like bragging already, but please work with me here.  I figured this out because class that starts at 1:00pm is not as late in the day as it sounds, especially if you've spent the morning chipping away at a difficult problem set, dense article or research paper.  I figured this out because packing your own lunch requires planning, and sometimes, last night's dinner didn't have leftovers.  I figured this out because I ran out of eggs, and made it anyway.  Guess what?

I can make a bread dough in 15 minutes!  Can you?  Want to?  Fully assembled, rising, dishes washed and back to your homework in 15 minutes?  Here's how:

Gather about 3 cups of flour, at least one of which is bread flour.  I like 2 cups whole wheat and 1 cup bread flour.  Dump it into a big bowl and toss in a teaspoon and a half of salt, a teaspoon of active dry yeast and a third cup of olive oil.  Don't fret about the oil amount, something like what would comfortably fit in your cupped hands will do.  Maybe a little bit less, especially if you have large hands.  Yes, that's good.  Add about a cup of water.  For this bread, throw out your notions of baking requiring precise measurements, and toss it in.  You'll adjust it as you go, anyway.  Now grab a wooden spoon and mix it all up.  Add a little water or flour if it seems too dry or wet.  See how it's starting to resist your spoon?  Let it sit and go do the dishes that have piled up in your sink from you and your apartment mates cooking and also being exhausted.  

Looks like a blob, doesn't it?

Stir it some more.  You'll see that it's become a nice, stretchy, smooth ball of dough already, just from your stirring.  Tired?  That was your arm workout for the week.  Cover the bowl and let it sit for 8 hours.  8 hours, you say?  When do I have 8 hours?!  Oh, well, do you sleep?  No?  Go to school or work?  No?  Clean the house, look for a job, etc.?  No?  Oh, boy.  Go play your video games, then.  Come back in 8 hours.

I let it rise too much by accident, which explains the wrinkles on the sides.  I tried to shape it more into
what it should look like if your apartment isn't oddly warm because the school finally turned on the heat...
The dough will have doubled nicely.  Dig out your 9"x5" loaf pan, or something similarly-sized.  Grease it with a little butter, turn the bowl upside down over it, and wrangle the dough into shape in the pan.  Now let it sit for a couple more hours.  

From plop to puffy!

Also, I am constantly experimenting with this bread, although I am satisfied with
the version I offer you today.  In this case, I was trying to get a taller loaf, and tried
adding a half cup of whole wheat flour, adding water to adjust for the extra flour.

When you come back and it's approximately the size of the pan, preheat the oven to 400°F.  Bake the thing for 30 minutes.  Check that out, you made bread!

I repeat this procedure about once a week and basically live off it for quick breakfasts, lunches, snacks, etc.  This loaf has a nice wheat flavor and marvelous texture, with a thin, crisp crust and a slightly chewy, bouncy crumb.  I bet it'd take additions marvelously, like cheese, apples, beer, or all three :)

My Weekly Bread adapted rather heavily from tasteofhome
(You might notice that it no longer resembles the recipe much!)
Makes about 1.5 lb loaf 


2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast (although I probably use instant, and just don't notice) 
cup oil
1 cup water


1 large mixing bowl with a lid or a clean, damp towel
1 wooden spoon
1 cup dry measure
1 teaspoon measure (eyeball the salt, it's only a flavoring here)
2-cup liquid measure (optional; I eyeball the oil and water, too!)
1 rubber spatula (optional)
9"x5" loaf pan (or pan of your choice, but adjust the baking time)
Butter to grease the pan


1. Toss everything in the bowl and knead/stir to make a smooth, stretchy, pliable dough.  If it becomes tough to stir, let it sit for a few minutes and come back.  Cover and leave to rise for 8 hours, or until doubled in size.  If your place is warm, check back in 6.

2. Lightly grease your loaf or other pan.  Form a ball or oval blob of dough and fit it into the pan.  This is when your rubber spatula will come in handy.  Allow to rise another 2 hours, or until it almost fills the pan.

3. Preheat the oven to 400°F and bake at 400
°F for 30 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before slicing, so the texture does not become odd and sticky.  Enjoy! 

Very few things are not improved with the addition of butter.