Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

I am dedicating this blog post to my special Valentine, The Husband.  Not only does he assist me when needed in the kitchen, such as unwrapping all the Hershey's Kisses, he is my best taste tester and honest critic when it comes to my blog.  As we are just a few days from Valentine's Day and just a month from our 18th wedding anniversary (I can hardly believe it!), I reflect on how much I love him and how happy  I am he is my life partner.  He is going to absolutely hate this public declaration of affection but it's my blog and I can say what I want!!
About these fun cookies.  They are a remake of the third most viewed post I've had since I started this blog.  They are a cookie called Chocolate Blossoms and thanks to Pinterest and other bloggers who link their recipe to my blog, this has been a very popular one.  I originally made them to include in Christmas cookie baskets a few years ago, but today I rolled these little chocolate balls into festive Valentine sprinkles, and voila, a retooled holiday cookie.  You can get the recipe by clicking on the highlighted cookie name above. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

French Baguettes

This weekend I pulled out all the stops and made a major French dinner which includes Coq au Vin (chicken in red wine) and this recipe for French baguettes. 

When we were at my mother's in January for a post-holiday visit she made us the Coq au Vin and is was so marvelous I had to try to make it myself.  It is Julia Child's recipe out of her Mastering The Art of French Cooking classic cookbook.  My mom had given me this cookbook for my birthday last year and I had yet to make anything out of it.  I will try to post the coq au vin another time.  But let's talk about this bread.

This recipe is from Saveur Magazine and it's great.  I had 3 loaves of crispy, golden French bread out of the oven about 3 1/2 hours after I started this morning.  Not bad.  Now mind you, it's not up to Parisian standards, I'm sure, but for a first attempt at baking French bread I must say, not too shabby.  And really, is there anything better than the smell of bread baking?  I think not. 

So tonight The Husband and I will don on our berets, turn on some Edith Piaf music, drink some red wine, and eat our tres Francais dinner.  Well the eating of  the very French dinner will happen, I know that for sure. The rest of it, probably not!

French Baguettes
1 ½ cups (12 oz.) tap water, heated to 115°
1 tsp. (⅛ oz.) active dry yeast
3 ¼ cups (14 ⅔ oz.) all–purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. (⅜ oz.) kosher salt
Canola oil, for greasing bowl
½ cup ice cubes

Whisk together water and yeast in a large bowl; let sit until yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes. Add flour, and stir with a fork until dough forms and all flour is absorbed; let dough sit to allow flour to hydrate, about 20 minutes. Add salt. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Transfer dough ball to a lightly greased bowl; cover bowl with plastic wrap, and place bowl in a cold oven. Let dough rest until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and shape into an 8″ x 6″ rectangle. Fold the 8″ sides toward the middle, then fold the shorter sides toward the center. Return dough, seam side down, to bowl. Cover with plastic again, and return to oven; let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Remove bowl with dough from oven, and place a cast–iron skillet on the bottom rack of oven; position another rack above skillet, and place a baking stone on it.

Heat oven to 475°. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and cut into three equal pieces; shape each piece into a 14″ rope. Flour a sheet of parchment paper on a rimless baking sheet; place ropes, evenly spaced, on paper. Lift paper between ropes to form pleats; place two tightly rolled kitchen towels under long edges of paper, creating supports for the loaves. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let sit until it doubles in size, about 50 minutes.

Uncover; remove towels, and flatten paper to space out loaves. Using a sharp razor or paring knife, slash the top of each baguette at a 30–degree angle in four spots; each slash should be about 4″ long. Using the corner of the parchment paper as a guide, slide the loaves, still on the parchment paper, onto the baking stone. Place ice cubes in skillet (this produces steam that lets the loaves rise fully before a crust forms). Bake the baguettes until darkly browned and crisp, about 30 minutes; cool before serving.