Parsley, sage, rosemary, and time

Yesterday I had a whole day at home by myself while Bryan was in Reading, trying to get his car inspected (inspection computer was broken) and helping his brother de-spam his Dell. Although I had a hard time getting started with my day, I eventually ended up planning the week's meals, grocery shopping, scrubbing the refrigerator shelves, cleaning out the utensil drawer, making a batch of meatless meatballs, and baking a tray of granola. Whew! So by then it was 3:00, and I still couple springs of deteriorating rosemary to use up, plus some time to kill until the husband returned. (Get the title now? Get it?)

Anyone who knows me knows that I love bread. Anyone who knows me also knows that when it comes to culinary adventures, I'm not the most patient or precise person. I've always had a heartfelt kitchen goal of baking my own bread, but terms like "knead" and "oiled bowl" have always made me wary. But in thumbing through my hippy-dippy seasonal cooking stand-by, Cooking by the Seasons, I stumbled on a recipe for Rosemary Focaccia that involved a bread machine and no kneading by hand.

Considering this was my foray into bread making, I'm pretty happy with the results. There are things I'd do differently next time, sure, but it didn't turn into the burnt, crumbly disaster I'd feared, so I give myself points for that. This was also my first time using my bread machine, so I have some things to iron out there too. I did lose a good 20% of the dough, I'd say, between the cutting board, the plastic wrap, and my hands. The dough was super sticky, and I don't know enough about bread to know how to get around that. Also, if I make this again, I'd use flakier salt, as my sea salt was a bit reminiscent of sidewalks in the middle of winter. I'd also use a finer cornmeal, but coarse was all I had on hand!

The following is Allrich's original recipe, as I don't feel confident enough in my adaptations to pass them onto my readers yet!

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 Tbsp cornmeal
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp dried or fresh minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp dried onion flakes
  • 2 Tbsp dried Italian herbs
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary [I snipped the leaves into tiny pieces]
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Later, you'll need:

  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary [again, leaves minced]
  • More cornmeal
  • Coarse salt

Steps:

  1. Add the first set of ingredients into your bread machine according to your manufacturer's directions. Choose the "dough" setting.
  2. When the dough cycle is complete, turn the dough out onto a board dusted with cornmeal, cover [With what? I used plastic wrap.], and let rest 10 minutes. Sprinkle the dough with cornmeal, flatten and roll it out with a rolling pin, or your hands, to a 12 to 14-inch oval or circle.
  3. Sprinkle cornmeal on a baking sheet and place the focaccia dough on the pan. [I don't know how you could possibly do this without leaving a lot of dough behind, as I did!] Brush the surface with 1 Tbsp evoo and cover with a clean towel, letting it rise for 20 minutes, or until doubled in height. [It didn't rise much for me.]
  4. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. When the dough has risen, use your fingers to dimple the focaccia surface all over. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of rosemary. Drizzle remaining evoo and sprinkle with coarse salt. Place the focaccia in the upper half of your oven.
  5. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes; then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and continue baking for 12-15 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

When I first took it out of the oven, I thought, "Oh no! It didn't rise at all!" While it was cooling, I ran upstairs to Google "focaccia" and discovered I had mentally mixed up focaccia with ciabatta. I was expecting something more airy and puffy, but focaccia is supposed to be flatter and denser. When I discovered that, my goodness, I was like a proud mother. A proud mother with a slightly ugly baby, that is. I wanted to cart that bread out into the street and walk around with it, accidentally meeting up with people on purpose and starting a conversation with, "Oh, how are you? I baked this."

Even though the cornmeal/salt topping was too granular, the bread itself is delicious. The herbs are perfect, and I love how the rosemary stands out from the others. There's just enough punch from the garlic and red pepper, too.

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Stuffed strawberries

This recipe for stuffed strawberries comes from Southern Living by way of Recipezaar. I was looking for something fresh and simple to make for a picnic this weekend, and this recipe seemed perfect. I ended up changing some of the ingredients to suit my tastes and what I had in the kitchen. Unfortunately, it was a lot more preparation and primping than I was expecting. I didn't even take a photo because the last thing these simpering Southern belles needed was more attention.

You will need:

  • 18-20 medium strawberries
  • 3 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp julienned mint leaves

Steps:

  1. Cut the stem end of each strawberry crosswise, giving each berry a flat base to stand on. Cut each strawberry into four wedges, starting at the top end and cutting towards but not through the stem end. Each strawberry should end up looking like a blossom.
  2. Curse as the knife inevitably slips through the stem end anyway. Curse more when you find that the strawberries close back up on themselves and look nothing like a damn blossom.
  3. Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Stir in sugar and mint leaves. Transfer the mix to a plastic bag and snip one end to use it like a pastry bag.
  4. Realize that there's no possible way to get it all into the bag without a) plopping some of it on the counter and b) getting some of it stuck in the grooves of the zipper bag.
  5. Pipe about 1 teaspoon of the mixture into the middle of each strawberry.
  6. Yeah, good luck with that one. I do realize that using an actual pastry bag would probably yield better results, but hey, I don't have one. Anyway, prepare for the cream cheese mixture to run down the sides of the berries and flop over the top but not stay in the middle. And good luck in getting the berries to keep their little blossoming mouths open while you try to fill them. Stupid rebellious attention-whores.

*Ahem* Perhaps this post is a good reflection of my mood this week. All I can say is that these had better be a hit tomorrow, because I'm never making these again. They're delicious, but man, are they time-consuming. Making this recipe reminded me why I generally loathe baking: I hate precision and I have little patience. It also reminded me of why I never buy Driscoll's strawberries. They're the culinary equivalent of the hot girls on your college campus -- juicy and voluptuous on the outside with bitter, hollow cores.

How's that for food for thought?