Sunday, November 27, 2011

I have always loved bananas. They are so good for you and they taste delicious. I especially love fried bananas with a fried egg, or banana bread on a cold snowy day with hot chocolate.  Alas, I can no longer enjoy a banana.  Several years ago, I noticed an itchy sensation in my throat when I ate bananas.  My tongue felt thick and tingled, an overall unpleasant experience.  I brought it up to my doctor who informed me it was a food allergy.  I had, to date, never had any kind of allergy to food.  How could this be?  He advised me that some people acquire food allergies as they get older.  He was right, that was the start of several food allergies.  Hopefully, I have stopped developing food allergies, it really is difficult to deal with at times.  When we go to restaurants I have to go down the list of food I am allergic to.  If we are in a seafood restaurant, I have to specify that they cook my food on a clean grill, or in a clean skillet and it can't be touched by anything that has touched seafood, shellfish, spinach, etc.  I was recently in a seafood restaurant and they advised me that they only had a small grill and could not guarantee that anything they grill for me would not be contaminated by an allergen.  My husband really wanted to eat there, so I ordered something that was "safe", how badly could nachos get messed up?  Extremely badly as it turns out.  I took one bite and tasted shrimp.  Shrimp is one of my more severe allergies.  I asked the waiter to come over to tell him that the chips tasted of shrimp.  His answer not only shocked me, but caused great concern at the ignorance of a person who serves food to patrons who may have food allergies.  He nodded his head as I told him my discovery and advised me that they, do, fry the chips in the shrimp oil.  He also helpfully added, that the heat of the oil kills all the allergens in the shrimp and renders the food completely safe for those of us who are allergic.  Wow.  Sadly, this is the attitude of many wait staff.  They are not educated, the cooks are not educated, and food allergies are not taken seriously.  People die every day from anaphylactic shock brought on by food allergies.  Restaurants really need to take those extra steps to insure the safety of their food served to the public. Some people have such severe allergies that even the smell of a food they are allergic to can send them into a severe health emergency.  Thankfully, none of my allergies are so extreme.
My husband and son love bananas, we have them in the house but I don't cook with them as the steam from the cooking bananas can cause a mild irritation to my throat.  We also don't eat several other things because I can not cook them, due to my allergies.  My mother-in-law came for a visit and she made some banana nut muffins.  We had several left over bananas that I did not want to waste, after she left.  I decided to bake some Banana Bread.  My Dad sent over the recipe they use and I tried my very first Banana Bread.  It smelled really good, and yes, it did  cause me a little discomfort, I just took an antihistamine which seemed to ease the symptoms some.
Sometimes having food allergies makes me sad.  My Mom and I have taken several cruises and most of the time the food on the menu has some sort of allergen.  The wait staff are very good about making sure the food is safe.  It's important to tell them prior to your sail date of allergies and then to discuss with both the Maitre dee and your waiter, your allergies.  They are, however, unable to change the menu.  After several nights of eating a small variety of things, I was so upset to discover that there was nothing on the third nights menu that I could eat.  I broke down in tears and left the dining room.  The waiter followed me out to the elevator to ask what was wrong.  I told him that there was nothing on the menu I could eat.  He was so nice, he offered to get me a hot dog from the Lido deck.  I laughed and motioned to the evening gown I had on and said no thank you.  He coaxed me back to the table and made it his mission to bring me a grilled chicken breast with other things I could eat.  Of course, his kindness and concern again had me in tears, but that is what should happen.  None of us asked to have food allergies, it's annoying to the people who go out with us, it's annoying to the waiters and chefs/cooks, it's annoying to us.  The fact is, people have food allergies.  They are dangerous, and they can kill.
That said, please try this wonderful recipe, unless you are allergic of course .  The Banana Bread came out of the oven and between my son and husband was devoured shortly thereafter.  This recipe is for muffins, however the bread recipe is at the bottom.  I don't like nuts in my food, as a general rule.  So I left the pecans out.  

Banana-Nut Muffins:
author: unknown

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup mashed ripe banana
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped pecans

  • Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl' make a well in center of mixture.  Combine egg, mashed banana, milk and oil; add mixture to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened.  Stir in pecans.
  • Spoon batter into greased muffin pans, filling three-fourths full.  Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until golden.  Remove from pans immediately.  Yield: 1 dozen
  • Per muffin: Calories 217 Fat 10.6g Cholesterol 20 mg Sodium 184 mg
Banana-Nut Bread:
Spoon batter into a greased 81/2 X 41/2 inch loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan 10 minutes.  Yield: 1 loaf.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Caprese Bread or Tomato Basil Bread

Thanksgiving is around the corner and I want to make something different this year.  I made pies for Thanksgiving up until a year or so ago; we nicknamed them "drop pies", because I managed to drop everyone of them before I got them into my Dad's house.  I'm very glad that I always had a lid on the pies, which is what saved them from being total disasters.  Of course they looked terrible, but they still tasted good.  I'm over the whole pie making thing.  What's new and different?  I am on a quest to find something that will knock my family’s socks off.  

During October I purchased a magazine called, "Taste of Home", I found so many neat and delicious recipes.  I really enjoyed the Halloween Edition.  I decided I would purchase one of the Christmas Editions.  I purchased the Edition titled, “Best Holiday Recipes 2011".  It is chalk full of delicious recipes, I am going to try several of them. 
 I found one recipe in particular that I could not wait to try.  As I posted in my last blog, I am enjoying learning to bake bread, so naturally it is a bread recipe.  The recipe I found looks beautiful and sound divine, except for one thing.  I'm allergic to one of the ingredients.  If I made this recipe I would have to modify it and how would I do so since I'm new to the whole bread making world.  I understand the yeast is tricky, there can't be too much flour or too little flour, the ingredients have to be exact and room temperature or the yeast won't rise, careful not to over-mix. What was I going to do? One word, try.  So I did try, and I'm glad that I did.  The bread is so good, the recipe made two large loaves, allowing me to share with my family, friends and the Chef at our favorite restaurant.  I had to leave Chef Ricks with one of the waitresses, who complimented me on the beauty and festive look of the bread.  A deft poke with her finger and she exclaimed how soft the bread is too, and smelled wonderfully. I hoped the bread made it to Chef Rick's office, intact.  So far, everyone has raved about the bread. So what is this fabulous recipe?  Drum roll please.....

"Tomato Spinach Bread" by Avanell Hewitt 
Featured on page 71 of the "Taste of Home Best Holiday Recipes 2011"

Instead of using Spinach, which I am allergic to, I substituted Basil so the bread I made is Tomato Basil Bread, or Caprese Bread.  One of my most favorite salads in the world is the Caprese Salad.  Its taste cannot be beaten.  It is also so simple and easy to make, the flavors just go together.  Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella sprinkled with Olive oil.  Fantastic.  I was hoping this bread would be a wonderful compliment to the salad, it did not disappoint. 

This is the modified recipe:

Tomato Basil Bread or Caprese Bread

Yield: 2 loaves (10 slices each)

Bread (plain) Dough:

1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 - 115 degrees)
4 teaspoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 to 3 cups bread flour

Basil Dough:

1/4 cup cold water
6 ounces of Basil paste (found in cold veggie section)
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
4 teaspoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups bread flour

Tomato Dough:

1/4 cup cold water
6 ounces of tomato paste
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
4 teaspoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups bread flour

1 egg white
1 teaspoon cold water
Parchment paper

For plain dough, in a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.
Add butter, salt and 2 cups flour; beat until smooth.  Add enough remaining flour to form a firm dough.

Turn on to a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.  Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top.  Cover with a wet towel.  Allow to rise 2 hours.

For basil dough, in a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.
Add butter, salt and 2 cups flour, and basil paste; beat until smooth.  Add enough remaining flour to form firm dough.

Turn on to a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.  Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top.  Cover with a wet towel.  Allow to rise 2 hours.

For tomato dough, in a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.
Add butter, salt and 2 cups flour, and tomato paste; beat until smooth.  Add enough remaining flour to form firm dough.

Turn on to a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.  Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top.  Cover with a wet towel.  Allow to rise 2 hours.

Punch down each dough and divide in half; cover.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out on e portion of each dough into a 10in X 8 in rectangle.  Place a rectangle of basil dough on top of the rectangle for plain dough, and then place the rectangle for tomato dough on top of the basil dough.  You'll have 3 layer dough.  Roll into a 12in X 10in rectangle.  Roll up, jelly roll style, starting with a long side, pinch seams to seal and tuck ends under.  

Place seam side down on baking sheet lined with parchment paper
Repeat with remaining dough.
Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.

With a sharp knife, make three shallow diagonal slashes across the top of each loaf.
Beat egg white and cold water; brush over loaves.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove to wire racks to cool.

The original recipe:
         For the spinach dough:  same as basil dough except substitute basil for 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry.  
        for all of the dough:  Instead of letting it rise for 2 hours on the counter, the original recipe calls for it to be covered and placed in the refrigerator overnight. 

This bread is delicious with spaghetti, toasted with butter and mozzarella melted on top.  There are many ways to enjoy this bread.  Share some of your ideas with me; I'd love to hear them.


Monday, November 7, 2011

German Broetchen or German Hard Rolls

My Mom is German, as I've said before, and she brought a bag of German Hard Rolls home one day when I was little.  She was very happy she found them at our local grocery store.  I remember looking at them, thinking they didn't look that special.  I poked one, sure enough hard as a brick,  I thought Mom was crazy.  Why in the world would anyone want to eat a roll with a crust like that.  Surely it would break your teeth out.  Was I ever wrong.  Crusty on the outside, soft and delicious on the inside.  A true breakfast treat.  I never thought I would bake them myself.  I'm trying to branch out my kitchen skills.  I am finding that I do love to bake bread.  Good for my family, bad for my figure.

 These were so much fun to bake, even more fun to eat. 

 You will need two days to make this recipe so make sure you plan your time accordingly.

This recipe was e-mailed to me, so I do not know to whom credit should be given.  Whomever you are, thank you, simply delicious!


Note: you will need a spray bottle with water for this recipe.  This is what makes the crust crunchy.

Day 1: 
2 cups Bread Flour
1 1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp instant yeast

Day 2: 
5 1/2 cup bread flour
1 1/3 cup water (extra if needed)
1 tsp instant yeast
1 to 1 1/2 tsp salt

 Day 1:
 Mix all the ingredients, for Day 1,  in a bowl until smooth and lump free
Cover loosely with plastic wrap
Leave on counter overnight (this makes the "sponge")

Day 2:
Mix the sponge with 5 cups of flour, water and yeast
Knead for 8 minutes, preferably with a stand mixer
Add up to another half cup of flour until dough barely sticks to the bowl
Sprinkle salt over the dough and mix for 4 minutes
The dough should be smooth but still tacky, adjust with water,  a teaspoon at a time,  or flour, a tablespoon at a time
Form dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl turning once to coat
Place a damp towel or plastic wrap over the top and let the dough rest for 2 hours
Turn dough out on lightly floured work surface and cut into pieces the size of a small orange
Let dough rest for a few minutes then form into small balls or any other shape you like
Coat in flour and place on parchment paper about 2 inches apart
Cover with a damp cloth and let them rise for another hour
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Place an old pan on the bottom rack
Lightly score  rolls with a serrated knife or blade
Place rolls on cookie sheet and place  in the oven on the next shelf above the pan
Pour 1 cup water into the old baking pan and close the door quickly
Spray sides of the oven with water 2 or 3 times in the first 5 minutes of baking
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes
Cool rolls on wire rack so that the bottom will not get soggy

Rolls should be eaten warm and crispy

Place in the fridge then re-crisp in the oven or toaster if you are not eating them the same day

They can even be frozen

I didn't have a spray bottle so I used a basting brush and a cup of water to splash on the sides of the oven, it worked nicely.