Peanut Butter Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

Another weekend, another peanut butter and chocolate craving. This time, I’m going to try thumbprint cookies.

Now, the nice lady from whom I got the recipe made these teeny, tiny divots and used only the barest amount of filling per cookie. Not me. The first thing I did when making them was double the filling recipe. Even though my cookies crack a little more from the deeper indention, it is worth it to have the extra filling.

I’m out of corn syrup so I did a one for one substitution with cane syrup. Had I wanted a slightly more neutral flavor, I could have used agave nectar instead.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies:
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup crunchy peanut butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon praline pecan liquor (or vanilla)

Chocolate Filling:
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate baking bars
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ teaspoons cane syrup (or corn syrup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. Add in the peanut butter, egg and liquor (or vanilla), mixing well after each addition. Gradually add in the flour mixture and mix until combined.

Pinch off pieces of dough and roll into 1 inch balls. Place at least 1 inch apart on two ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes. Use a pestle or the back of a spoon to make indentions in each of the cookies. Switch and rotate pans when returning to the oven. Bake for 6 minutes more. When you remove from the oven, you may need to remake the indentions. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Melt together over a water bath the chocolate, butter, and syrup. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Use a spoon to fill each indention with the chocolate. Let the chocolate filling cool and harden completely – you can put the cookies in the fridge to speed that process up.

Store in an airtight container.

 

Basic Overnight Sponge Started Bread

I enjoyed the flavors of the the ciabatta bread so much, I’ve decided that it is time to make more use of starters (called sponge or biga). I got burned out on keeping and maintaining my sourdough starter last winter (although I enjoyed eating my creations), so now I’m just taking the basic overnight starter from James Beard’s Beard on Bread.

You’ll be rewarded for your patience with great flavored bread.

Basic Sponge Started Bread

Starter Sponge
¼ cup lukewarm water
2 ¼  teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup bread flour
3/4 cup water

Dough
¼ cup lukewarm water
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons salt

Proof the yeast in the lukewarm water for about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and the rest of the water to make a fairly loose dough. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on the counter for 4 hours, then put in the refrigerator overnight.

Pull the starter sponge out of the fridge and let rest on the counter for a couple hours. Put in the bread machine with the remaining water and flour, oil and salt. Select dough or manual cycle. Leave the top of the machine up, and watch as the dough forms. Add more flour or more water a tablespoon at a time, if needed for the dough to come together. Put the top down and let the machine continue to mix, knead and complete one rise.

Punch the dough down and shape into a rectangle. Roll from the long side and pinch the seam together with your fingers. Leave the loaf on the work surface and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees with a baking stone on the lower rack. Stretch the loaf gently and place it on a peel or baking sheet for transferring into the oven Sprinkle the loaf lightly with flour. Cover again and let rise 30 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut three diagonal slashes about 3/4-inch deep across the top of the loaf.

Spritz water into the oven with a mister, and place the bread in the oven. Reduce the heat to 425°F and bake about 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool 15 minutes before cutting.

Store bread, loosely wrapped in paper, for a couple of days at room temperature; wrap it in plastic and freeze for longer storage.

White Bean Soup

Last time my parents had a spiral sliced ham, I took the bone and tossed it in the freezer. I pulled it out a couple days ago and put it in a pot with 12 cups of water and a quartered onion, a couple of carrots and stalks of celery. After two hours of simmering, I had enough hambone stock for making soup.

Dry beans last a good long while but the older they are, the longer it takes for them to soften. I knew the package I had was old (which is why I soaked them for a day and a half before starting) but didn’t know just how old mine were until I had simmered them for over five hours before they finally softened. I ended up using 8 cups of stock. With fresher beans, you might need less stock.

By pureeing the veggies and adding them toward the end, their flavor stays bright and they will also thicken the soup broth. If you want an even thicker broth, add a tablespoon of flour to the skillet when sautéing the veggies and cook for 5 minutes to take away the raw flavor, stirring regularly. Splash in a little water or extra stock in to deglaze the pan and then puree the veggies. When added to the soup, it will only take about 10 minutes of simmering to make the flavorful broth, thick and smooth.

White Bean Soup

1 lb dried navy or great northern beans
5 to 8 cups chicken or hambone stock
1 large bay leaf
½  teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
½ cup coarsely chopped celery
2 carrots, peeled and diced
salt and pepper to taste

Pick over beans and soak overnight in water.

Drain and put beans, 4 cups stock, bay leaf, and thyme in a large pot. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until beans get tender and fall apart, usually about 1½ to 2 hours. Add another 2-4 cups of stock if the soup has reduced too much by the end of cooking time.

Meanwhile, place olive oil in a large skillet and sauté onion for five minutes. Add in garlic and sauté until flavorful. Add in celery and carrots and continue to cook until they soften. Scrape into a food processor or blender and puree. Add the puree to the beans when you add the additional stock to the softened beans. Bring back to a simmer and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper, if necessary.

Serve immediately with bread for sopping up the juices.

Bread Machine Ciabatta

I’ve been watching past seasons of the Great British Baking Show and was interested in Paul’s Ciabatta challenge. He gloats about how hard it is, so I had to try my hand at it. Afterwards, I was impressed at how delicious the bread was but I’m not sure I have the patience to make it regularly.

When going online to see some other recipes, most everyone used a sponge or biga as a starter. I started around 7:30pm to make the dough and I left it overnight for the yeast to go through a few generations and give lots of flavor to the final loaf. It needs a minimum of 12 hours but no more than 24 on the counter. If you can’t get to it in 24 hours, place it in the fridge for up to 3 days, being sure to bring it back to room temperature before starting the next step.

Shaping it can be messy because the dough is so wet and sticky. The trick is to proof it in something that will give in the shape you basically want the loaves to be. I used a 2 quart plastic container I normally fill with cookies.

For a crunchy crust, you need to spray the loaf with water after you’ve placed it in the oven and then again in the first five minutes.

With this recipe, at the end of about 16 hours, you end up with four sandwich loaves of delicious bread.

Bread Machine Ciabatta

Sponge:
¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup water

Dough:
½ cup water
¼ cup whole milk
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon active dry yeast

flour or cornmeal for dusting

In a stand mixer, add all the ingredients for the sponge. Mix on low for five minutes. Cover and let stand on the counter for 12-24 hours.

After at least 12 hours, scrape the foamy sponge into your bread machine. Add the rest of the ingredients in the order listed. Start the dough cycle. After about 10 minutes, check the dough. If it looks like pancake batter, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until it comes together and looks sticky. If it looks dry and shaggy, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until it looks sticky. Let the machine continue until the kneading cycle stops.

Liberally oil a rectangle plastic container (don’t forget to oil the lid). With your super greasy hands, remove the dough from the bread machine and place it in the container. Turn it so all sides are coated with the oil. Drizzle some oil around the sides of the container so it stays oiled as it rises. Close the lid and proof for at least 2 hours at room temperature or until tripled in size. If you’re using a 2 quart container the risen dough will fill it.

When fully proofed, remove dough by flipping the container upside down onto a very well floured surface. The dough should be in the same general shape of the container it was proofed in. Don’t punch down the dough.

Sprinkle dough with flour and/or corn meal. Cut dough in half down the length with a greased knife and then cut each of those in half. With floured hands, carefully transfer the loaves to a parchment lined baking sheet which has been sprinkled with flour and/or cornmeal. Carefully straighten and clean up the shape with your hands.

Let the loaves rest for 45 minutes. At the end of that time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. If you have a baking stone, place it in the oven while it preheats.

Spray loaves lightly with water before sliding them off the baking sheet by the parchment paper and onto the baking stone. If you don’t have a baking stone, just put the baking sheet  into the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Spray loaves again 5 minutes into the baking time. The loaves are done when they are golden-brown and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Simple Bean, Sausage and Tomato Cassoulet

I needed a quick and filling dinner the other night and went to the pantry for a can of beans and can of tomatoes. I also grabbed the remains of the focaccia I made over the weekend – any rustic loaf will do. From the freezer, I pulled out some German sausage (you can use any link sausage you have around – Italian, Chorizo, etc).

This is dish that can be done as a dump and go, as my Mom would call it, or you can go all out with a Dutch oven by sautéing onions, adding garlic and even a splash of red wine vinegar before browning the sausage and tossing in the beans and tomatoes and covering the top with the bread and placing it in the oven for 30 minutes. It just depends if you want to be a French peasant or a member of the bourgeoisie.

My way is simple and substantial and that’s what exactly what I needed Monday night.

Simple Bean, Sausage and Tomato Cassoulet

1 – 14.5 ounce can Great Northern or Cannellini beans
1 – 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
½  loaf rustic bread or focaccia
4 – 6 inch links of sausage

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Tear the bread into bite sized pieces and place in a 9X13 pan. Pour in the can of beans and the can of tomatoes (with all their liquid) and mix together with your hands. Remove the meat from the sausage casing and cut into bite sized pieces, tucking the sausage pieces among the bread and beans. Leave some of the sausage peeking out of the cassoulet so it can brown.

Bake for 45 minutes. It will be bubbling and golden when done. Check at 30 minutes and if the bread is toasting too quick, lay aluminum foil over the pan. Don’t put it on tightly, as you are looking for a combination of some toasty, crunchy bites of bread and some soaked with the tomato and meat juices.

 

 

Bread Machine Focaccia

I’m enjoying the bread machine Michelle’s mother gave me and put in the ingredients for focaccia dough before an English Premier League soccer game started so I could start baking once the game was over.

The big thing about using the machine is keeping the yeast away from the liquid and salt (no pre-proofing). I first put in liquids (water, olive oil), then the dry ingredients (salt, flour, herbs) and, finally, the yeast in last. If I was adding chopped olives, I would add them in about 15 minutes into the dough cycle or use the raisin bread cycle.

I don’t use bread machine/rapid rise yeast. Because rapid rise/bread machine yeast rises faster, sometimes there could be a difference in the final product if using active dry yeast, but that can be fixed with giving the dough another rise period. Bread machine yeast only needs one rise before it is good to go. Fresh yeast should just be crumbled on the top and it will also require two rises.

This makes a slightly thicker loaf than my other focaccia recipes and is perfect for sandwiches.

Bread Machine Focaccia

1 cup warm water
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried, ground rosemary
3 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
coarse grey salt

Place water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, garlic, 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon ground, bread flour and yeast in the pan of the bread machine in the order listed. Select Dough cycle; press Start.

Remove dough from bread machine when cycle is complete. Well oil a 9×13 pan and pat dough into pan. Use your fingers to dimple the dough every inch or so. Brush with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with remaining rosemary. Sprinkle coarse salt over the top.

Cover focaccia with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 30 minutes before preheating oven. If using active dry yeast, you may need to let it rise for 1 hour or until almost doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Pancakes with Self Rising Flour

My friends Charlotte and Thomas recently had a trip to Vermont and they brought me back some maple syrup. So, of course, I had to have pancakes for breakfast.

I used a recipe that uses self-rising flour, as I usually have some on hand for biscuit making. But the leaveners don’t last forever, so it does need to be used up and replaced regularly.

This is a recipe that is easy to scale up or down, depending on the numbers of folks expected to be eating. The batter can also be made and refrigerated overnight, so you’re ready to go as soon as you’ve warmed up the griddle.

Yummy!

Pancakes with Self Rising Flour

2 cups self rising flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
2 cups milk
¼ cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
chopped nuts or sliced fruit, optional

Stir together flour and sugar.

Beat eggs lightly then add milk and butter. Stir. Add in vanilla. Add liquid to the flour and beat until smooth.

Use 1/3 cup measuring cup to portion out the batter for the griddle. Pour out on a well oiled, hot griddle, sprinkling on the fruit or nuts while the first side cooks. Bake until edges look dry and bubbles on surface pop. Flip and cook through.

Batter can be refrigerated overnight. Remove from the fridge while griddle warms. Stir vigorously before using.