Friday, October 9, 2009

Fall Foods

I have to apologize for my lack of posts in the last couple weeks. We finally moved out of our 404 sq foot studio apartment into a place with doors and a real bedroom and everything! It is just about the most amazing thing ever. And, our kitchen is incredible - granite counter tops and a gas stove! But back to what I was saying, to make up for my lack of recent posts, I'll try to post quite a bit over the next few weeks. Thankfully, it's getting cool outside and it's time to start making my absolute favorite fall foods, and even better, doing fall kinds of activities! Today we picked out and carved a pumpkin. Elvis (our dog) tried to help with the carving and found out that he doesn't really like eating chunks of pumpkin.

We loved that our pumpkin has warts!

I've got two recipes here for you, both from SmittenKitchen. Firstly, you should know that pumpkin flavored baked goods are pretty much my favorite things ever... expect a lot of pumpkin-related posts in the coming months. And the second thing you should know about me is that i LOVE baking bread. I'm not an expert at it, by any means, but it is just so good when it turns out right. So, here's what I got:

Pumpkin Muffins:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15 ounce can)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice*
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

*I didn't have pumpkin pie spice so i just put in a little bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves.

Preheat the oven to 350 and line muffin cups.

Whisk together the flour and baking powder. In a second larger bowl stir together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined.

Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.

Divide batter among muffin cups, then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown and a wooden pick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool in pan on a rack five minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature. Or, you could do what Justin and I did which is to eat them immediately and burn your mouth pretty badly (it was so worth it).

I also told you I love homemade bread. It make the whole house smell good, tastes a million times better than store-bought bread, and it has to be healthier without all those preservatives. I don't often have time to make it, but every time i do get the chance I end up vowing to myself that I will find time every weekend. Unlikely. But really, it's easy, you just have to be able to spend the day at home since it takes so long.

Light What Bread (makes one two-pound loaf)

2 1/2 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar or honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons powdered milk*
1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons shortening or unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature

1. Start by mixing together the bread flour, whole wheat flour, sugar (if using), salt, powdered milk, and yeast. Add the shortening, honey (if using), and water. Stir (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients form a ball. My ingredients never exactly form a ball, but they do come together quite nicely. If there is leftover flour in the bowl drizzle more water in slowly (i usually have to add about 1/16th to 1/8th of a cup - really not much). The dough should feel soft and supple but not too sticky. However, it is better for the dough to be too soft than too tough. Last time my dough was too tough it never rose and I had to throw the whole thing out.

2. Sprinkle high-gluten or whole-wheat flour on the counter, and transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook). Add more flour if needed to make a firm, supple dough that is slightly tacky but not sticky. Kneading should take about 10 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The dough should register at 77 to 81 degrees F. I found it helpful to kneed by hand for about one minute to form the dough into a ball, then use my bread hook for another 5 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a slightly warm area.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

4. Remove the dough from the bowl and press it by hand into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick, 6 inches wide, and 8 to 10 inches long. Form it into a loaf by working from the short side of the dough, rolling up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease with each rotation to strengthen the surface tension. It will spread wider as you roll it. Pinch the final seam closed with your thumbs. Place the loaf in a lightly oiled 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch bread pan; the ends of the loaf should touch the ends of the pan to ensure an even rise. Mist the top with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap.

5. Again, set your dough (in the bread pan) in a slightly warm area to rise for approximately 60 to 90 minutes (it generally takes me about 60 minutes), or until the dough crests above the lip of the pan.

6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

7. Place the bread pan on a sheet pan and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven. The finished loaf should register 190 degrees F in the center, be golden brown on the top and the sides, and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

8. When the bread is finished baking, remove it immediately from the loaf pan and cool it on a rack for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours, before slicing or serving. My bread obviously never makes it to two hours of cooling, we're lucky to let it sit even one hour.

You can (if you don't eat it all in one sitting) pre-slice your loaf then freeze it to preserve freshness. Then, just take out slices and toast them up when you want to eat them throughout the week.

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