Monday, March 25, 2013

Mom's Easter Egg Bread

It's been quite a few years since I've thought about this Easter egg bread. My mom used to make it in a wreath shape and it was quite a novelty then. Since I didn't start eating egg yolks until I was well into adulthood, one of my memories of Easter was all the little yolks lined up in the refrigerator egg tray (where I'd put them for my dad after I ate the egg whites). Back then I don't even remember us refrigerating the colored eggs. I'm sure they sat on the kitchen table in a basket until they were all gone (and none of us died from that action). I also know I was much more interested in eating chocolate bunnies and crosses back then. Through the eyes of an adult, it seems just a bit off that we got these ornate chocolate crosses in our Easter baskets and thought nothing of chomping on them. Holidays always make me nostalgic, and with both mom and dad gone such memories are a way of keeping them alive in my heart.

Once I got it into my head to make this bread, I had to search high and low for mom's recipe. I have quite a few binders and folders filled with recipes and finally found the right one. I decided to make the bread into individual loaves since not much bread gets consumed here and this would make it easy to gift a few out (and let the results end up on someone else's hips). Such generosity!

Makes 1 wreath loaf or 6 individual loaves

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups milk, scalded then cooled
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs. sugar
3 1/2 - 4 cups all purpose flour
salt--a pinch or two
6 raw eggs, dyed
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp milk
multi-colored nonpareils*
* (note that my breads have colored sprinkles; I had run out of nonpareils and didn't realize it until too late)

In a stand mixer, add yeast, slightly cooled milk, butter, beaten eggs, sugar, half the flour, and a pinch of salt. With the dough hook attachment, begin mixing, gradually adding as much of the remaining flour as necessary until the dough is no longer sticky. This should take about 5 minutes. After the first 3 1/2 cups of flour, I add it by 1/8 cup until the right consistency is achieved. Remove the dough to a floured surface and knead about 12 times. Place in a greased bowl, cover,  and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 1 - 2 hours. Meanwhile, color the raw eggs, then refrigerate until ready to use.

When the dough has doubled, punch it down then divide into 3 ropes (for a large wreath) or into 12 ropes (to be twisted into 6 small loaves). Roll out each rope to about 12 inches in length; braid two together, making certain to pinch the ends together and place on a baking sheet with Silpat mats (or a greased baking sheet). Cover again and let rise in a warm place until doubled (about another hour).

Gently place a colored egg in the middle of each loaf, pressing down a bit. Brush loaves with egg wash, then add sprinkles.

Bake at 350 degrees until the tops are golden brown (25-30 minutes). Cool on a rack.

Buona Pasqua!
Seeing these come out of the oven was a flashback to my childhood. The bread is just a little bit sweet and tastes good with just a bit of butter or with some butter and preserves. The eggs cook up nicely in the oven and round out breakfast or can be saved and made into egg salad later.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sonya's Chicken and Artichoke Bake

It's a fact of life that if you have more than a five minute conversation with me, at some point the topic of food is going to come up. One of the upsides is that I get inspiration to try new dishes. Sonya, my nail tech, was eating her lunch while I was sitting waiting for my nails to dry and I got to see (and sniff) a dish she'd described to me before, her chicken cutlet and artichoke bake. While it had always sounded like something I would like, getting to smell it sealed the deal. The beauty of this dish is its simplicity. What follows is my rendition:

Serves 2-4
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 egg plus 1 egg white, beaten
panko bread crumbs
vegetable oil

1-2 cans of artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1/2 cup Italian dressing (feel free to use low fat or fat free)

6 oz yolk free egg noodles
1 cup shredded mozzarella (my addition)

Set up a station to dredge the cutlets in flour, dip in egg, then cover in panko bread crumbs. Place uncovered in the refrigerator for at least a half hour. This helps the bread crumbs adhere to the chicken better. Fry in vegetable oil 3-4 minutes on each side or until browned. Drain on paper towels and let cool for 15-20 minutes (to keep the breading from falling off). Cut into bite sized pieces.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

While the chicken cools, prepare the egg noodles according to package instructions. Drain.

In a 9 X 13 baking dish toss the noodles, chicken, artichokes, and salad dressing. Top with the cheese. Bake 15 minutes or until heated through.
This was a very simple dish to prepare. I prefer thighs to breasts, but you could certainly use conventional chicken cutlets. I love all the ingredients and so I enjoyed the dish a lot. I will share that I am not a "sauce" person, so you might want to increase the amount of salad dressing if you find the bake dry. Thanks, Sonya, for a new easy weeknight meal.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Saying you're not going to begin a new project until you've completed your UFO's is wonderful in theory, but most quilters I know (myself included) find it almost impossible to do. This is my latest cakewalk, an 18" X 18" wall hanging using a technique developed by Terry Kramzar. It isn't actually quilt-as-you-go, though you do quilt each block individually. Terry presented at our guild last year, and while I didn't take her workshop, I admired the blocks as background and went ahead and experimented with how I thought it was done. I learned my mistakes on the fly and will attempt it again as I think it makes a nice background for beading.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Glazed Vegetables

For some reason, I've only ever glazed carrots. I can't imagine why it never occurred to me to use the same preparation for other vegetables. That changed when this month's Fine Cooking magazine arrived. Food writer Michael Ruhlman waxes poetic about super chef Thomas Keller's "eye opening" lesson on how to glaze vegetables, a preparation often used at Keller's French Laundry.

I typically use chicken or vegetable broth along with a bit of sugar and butter to glaze my carrots. I decided for the purposes of food research to use Keller's version on some cut up butternut squash. The major difference is that Keller uses water, not broth. While there were no hard and fast measurements for the sugar and butter, there were some useful tips about how to ensure the vegetables don't overcook before the liquid, sugar, and butter mixture glazes them. Here's what I did:

3/4 - 1 lb butternut squash, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbs sugar
chopped tarragon

Use a large pot that will hold all the vegetables in one or more snug layers. It's important not to spread them out in a huge pot. Add just enough water to cover the vegetables and add the sugar and butter.Bring to a boil over high heat. Check the vegetables after they've been boiling for 10 minutes. If they're cooked through but there's still a lot of liquid in the pot, remove the vegetables and let the liquid continue to cook until it's syrupy, then add the vegetables back in. If the glaze forms before the vegetables are cooked, just add a bit more water and let them cook longer. Mine were done perfectly after 12 minutes of rapid boiling.

The most useful hint was to listen for a "sharp, frenetic bubbling sound, almost a crackle." Ruhlman was right about this. When you hear this sound, lower the heat because the glaze is just about done. Sprinkle with chopped tarragon and serve.
I was afraid that substituting water for the chicken broth would produce a less flavorful dish, but that was not the case. The suggestions regarding the timing of cooking and the sound to listen for to catch the glaze at precisely the right moment were spot on. That said, while the glazed butternut squash was delicious, I prefer to roast this winter vegetable with some olive oil. That produces a lovely carmelization that just tastes better to me. I will, however, use Keller's method on my usual carrots and on the next bunch of broccoli I buy.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Snickerdoodle Scones

A few months ago I made snickerdoodle bread and while eating it was certainly the best part of the experience, the wonderful smell permeated the house for hours. Since I don't like keeping sweets around the house, but enjoy indulging every now and again, I decided to make something that was already portioned: snickerdoodle scones. I figured I'd use a basic scone recipe and add the spices and some of those wonderful cinnamon chips that I discovered in the chocolate chip aisle.

For the Scones:
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup unsalted butter
For the Cinnamon/Sugar Topping:
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream and egg; refrigerate until needed.
In a separate small bowl, make the cinnamon/sugar topping be stirring together the sugar and cinnamon; set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cream of tartar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg until combined about five 1-second pulses. Add butter and toss with a fork to cover in flour mixture. Pulse until mixture looks like coarse cornmeal flecked with pea-sized bits of butter, about 10 to 12 pulses. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl.
Add sour cream mixture to flour mixture; fold with spatula until just combined. With rubber spatula, transfer dough to lightly floured work surface. Knead dough 6 to 8 times, until it just holds together. Shape into an 8-inch circle. Sprinkle with cinnamon topping. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into 8 wedges. (I have a scone pan, so I used that.)
Place wedges on prepared baking sheet and bake 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Because I wanted to squeeze in my morning walk (yes, there was an element of guilt there), I prepared the scones the night before and placed the pan in the refrigerator. I took them out of the refrigerator and left them on the counter for about 30 minutes before placing them in the oven. The smell drifted downstairs to where I was on the treadmill trying to burn some calories in anticipation of this Sunday morning treat. The scones had a wonderful crumb, were as delicious as they were fragrant, and leftovers have been wrapped in freezer bags to be enjoyed on a future Sunday morning.