Breakfast Stack-Up: poached eggs, avocado slices, wheat toast & bacon

Barry stacked up a tasty breakfast this morning, and the avocado slices were a yummy and healthy addition. I added hot sauce to mine but he prefers his without!


Breakfast Stack-Up
Wheat toast, cut in half to form a triangle & toasted
2 poached eggs
Half an avocado, sliced
2 slices of crisp cooked bacon

Stack up the prepared ingredients in the order listed above.

Herbed Focaccia from refrigerated pizza dough

We often keep a bag of pizza dough in the refrigerator as it's handy have on hand when we want pizza or flatbread, but it also can be used to make breadsticks or focaccia. There was about a fourth batch of dough left so I made herbed focaccia to go with spaghetti with meat sauce. 

Herbed Focaccia
Cornmeal
Refrigerated pizza dough
Italian seasoning
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
Fresh thyme leaves
  1. Remove pizza dough from refrigerator and let set until it comes to room temperature.
  2. Spray a pan (size depends on amount of dough you are using) with pan release.
  3. Sprinkle pan with a light layer of cornmeal.
  4. Pat dough into pan, stretching slightly if needed.
  5. Use your fingertips and press all over surface of dough creating dimples
  6. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.
  7. Drizzle with olive oil.
  8. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  9. Add fresh thyme leaves.
  10. Bake in a 375° oven for about 15 to 20 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven and place focaccia on cooling rack.
  12. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Walnut-Cinnamon Stuffed Challah Bread

Oh my gosh! This bread smelled so good coming out of the oven that I began tearing off piece and sampling. By the time the 15 minute cooling period was up about a fourth to a third of the bread was gone! Barry's reaction when he tried a piece —"YUM!"
I must admit that my final product was not picture perfect. In hindsight, I'm sure that I stretched the dough as I was braiding . . . but Barry thought it looked fine with a little walnut leakage.
Recently I interviewed Sharon Entz, owner and operator of Crust & Crumb Co. artisan bakery in Newton, for a story that will eventually appear in Kansas! magazine. She told me that it in order to made a perfect loaf, you have to practice thousands of times. Well, I guess I better get busy! Wonder if we'll get tired of challah every day for the next few thousand days?

Challah is a loaf of white leavened bread, typically braided; it is traditionally baked to celebrate the Jewish Sabbath. When a rich mixture of cinnamon and walnuts is added to this enriched* loaf, the result is the ultimate sweet bread, one that is hard to resist!
*Enriched breads typically have a higher fat content than other dues, due to addition of eggs, butter, and/or milk . Because of their higher fat content the dough is very soft and delicate, and often molded and baked in pans. However, in the case of challah, braiding helps the enriched dough hold its shape during baking.

Walnut-Cinnamon Stuffed Challah  Makes 1  loaf
For the dough:
½ cup whole milk
¼ cup honey
½ cup (1 stick) butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 envelope (2¼ teaspoons) active-dry yeast
2 large eggs
For the filling & assembly of loaf:
½ cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
¾ cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
2 cups finely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For egg wash: 1 egg + 1 teaspoon water

To prepare the dough:
  1. Combine the milk, honey and butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Warm just until butter is melted. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes, or until it is between 120-130°.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 2 cups of the flour, the salt, cinnamon and yeast.
  3. Add the milk mixture and mix until smooth.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each.
  5. Add the remaining flour a few tablespoons at a time, letting it incorporate into the dough before adding more. When all the flour has been added, the dough should be very soft, but should have pulled away for the sides of the bowl and formed a cohesive mass. Note: it may not take all of the flour, or it may take a few additional tablespoons.
  6. Continue to knead the dough for about 5 more minutes until it's smooth and elastic; form into a ball shape.
  7. Carefully place the dough in a greased bowl, then turn so the greased side is up;  cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  8. Gently punch down the dough to release gases and knead a few more times by hand.

To assemble the stuffed challah:
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter, brown sugar, walnuts and cinnamon and mix until smooth. Mixture should be crumbly.
  2. Divide the dough into 3 pieces.
  3. Working with each piece individually, place dough on a well-floured surface and roll into an approximate 12x6” rectangle.
  4. Sprinkle ⅓ of the walnut mixture on top of one rectangle and spread over the surface.
  5. Starting at one long end, tightly roll up the dough and carefully transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, seam side-down.

  6. Repeat with remaining 2 pieces of dough.
  7. When you have finished rolling up all 3 pieces of stuffed dough, braid them together on the sheet pan, tucking the ends under.

  8. Cover with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with pan release; let rise in a warm place until doubled again, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°.
  10. Make egg wash by combining egg with a teaspoon of water; brush on the loaf.
  11. Bake until golden, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before transferring from sheet pan.
Recipe without photos . . .
Walnut-Cinnamon Stuffed Challah   Makes 1  loaf 
For the dough: 
½ cup whole milk
¼ cup honey
½ cup (1 stick) butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 envelope (2¼ teaspoons) active-dry yeast
2 large eggs
For the filling & assembly of loaf: 
½ cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
¾ cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
2 cups finely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For egg wash: 1 egg + 1 teaspoon water

To prepare the dough: 
  1. Combine the milk, honey and butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Warm just until butter is melted. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes, or until it is between 120-130°.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 2 cups of the flour, the salt, cinnamon and yeast.
  3. Add the milk mixture and mix until smooth.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each.
  5. Add the remaining flour a few tablespoons at a time, letting it incorporate into the dough before adding more. When all the flour has been added, the dough should be very soft, but should have pulled away for the sides of the bowl and formed a cohesive mass. Note: it may not take all of the flour, or it may take a few additional tablespoons.
  6. Continue to knead the dough for about 5 more minutes until it's smooth and elastic; form into a ball shape.
  7. Carefully place the dough in a greased bowl, then turn so the greased side is up;  cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  8. Gently punch down the dough to release gases and knead a few more times by hand.

To assemble the stuffed challah:
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter, brown sugar, walnuts and cinnamon and mix until smooth. Mixture should be crumbly.
  2. Divide the dough into 3 pieces.
  3. Working with each piece individually, place dough on a well-floured surface and roll into an approximate 12x6” rectangle.
  4. Sprinkle ⅓ of the walnut mixture on top of one rectangle and spread over the surface.
  5. Starting at one long end, tightly roll up the dough and carefully transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, seam side-down.
  6. Repeat with remaining 2 pieces of dough.
  7. When you have finished rolling up all 3 pieces of stuffed dough, braid them together on the sheet pan, tucking the ends under.
  8. Cover with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with pan release; let rise in a warm place until doubled again, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°.
  10. Make egg wash by combining egg with a teaspoon of water; brush on the loaf.
  11. Bake until golden, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before transferring from sheet pan.

Sugar Cookie Sticks dipped in chocolate

An easy springtime idea for sugar cookies . . .

Sugar Cookie Sticks dipped in chocolate
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla 
1 cup dark chocolate chips
Sprinkles
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the flat blade attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In three batches, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter, mixing between each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

    The dough is slightly crumbly after the flour mixture has been added.
  3. Add the milk and vanilla extract, blending until combined and the dough begins to come together in large pieces.
  4. Use your hands to divide the dough in half, pressing it together to compact it into two disks. Wrap the disks securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate them until firm, about 1 hour.

  5. Preheat the oven to 350º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat liner.
  6. Once the dough has chilled, roll each disk out onto a lightly floured surface until it is about ¼” thick.
  7. Using a sharp knife or pizza wheel, cut the dough into strips measuring ½ to ¾” wide x 3” long. Place the cookie sticks on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough. (Scraps can be re-rolled, but if they get too soft, re-wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate them until firm.)
    I used a commercial cutter to cut the dough into sticks.
  8. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes or in the freezer for 5 minutes to firm up the cookies.
  9. Remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator/freezer and then bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes , rotating the baking sheet half-way through until the cookies are pale golden brown and set.
    Ready to go into the oven.
  10. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes then transfer them to a wire wrack to cool completely.
  11. Place a sheet of wax paper on the counter or on a baking sheet.
  12. While the cookies cool, melt the chocolate in the microwave or a double boiler, stirring until smooth.
  13. Dip one end of each completely cooled cookies in the chocolate and then place on wax paper.
  14. Sprinkle chocolate section of cookies with the candy sprinkles.
Recipe without photos . . .
Sugar Cookie Sticks dipped in chocolate
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla 
1 cup dark chocolate chips
Sprinkles
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the flat blade attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In three batches, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter, mixing between each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Add the milk and vanilla extract, blending until combined and the dough begins to come together in large pieces.
  4. Use your hands to divide the dough in half, pressing it together to compact it into two disks. Wrap the disks securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate them until firm, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat liner.
  6. Once the dough has chilled, roll each disk out onto a lightly floured surface until it is about ¼” thick.
  7. Using a sharp knife or pizza wheel, cut the dough into strips measuring ½ to ¾” wide x 3” long. Place the cookie sticks on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough. (Scraps can be re-rolled, but if they get too soft, re-wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate them until firm.)
  8. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes or in the freezer for 5 minutes to firm up the cookies.
  9. Remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator/freezer and then bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half-way through until the cookies are pale golden brown and set.
  10. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes then transfer them to a wire wrack to cool completely.
  11. Place a sheet of wax paper on the counter or on a baking sheet.
  12. While the cookies cool, melt the chocolate in the microwave or a double boiler, stirring until smooth.
  13. Dip one end of each completely cooled cookies in the chocolate and then place on wax paper.
  14. Sprinkle chocolate section of cookies with the candy sprinkles.

Smooth & Creamy Hummus -- it's all about technique

I love smooth and creamy hummus – the kind that is sold commercially and in some restaurants. Despite repeated attempts and experiments, mine has not quite met that standard in that it is a bit grainy. However, I’ve recently been reading (Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country), asking questions and experimenting. And, this last batch of hummus was not only flavorful but also had a smooth and creamy, even silky, texture. I believe this texture it is due to these techniques  . . all of which I’ll apply to future recipes + also use when I remake our tasty Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Hummus:
  • Cook the garbanzo beans in their own liquid for 10 minutes to soften the beans and their skins.
  •  Add half the garbanzo beans to the food processor and blend, then add second half and blend. Completing this step before adding the liquids, helps insure that the skins are broken down.
  • Treat the mixture like an emulsion—adding the liquids and oil slowly to the ground beans.
  • Actually adding a little mayonnaise helps finish off the mixture and adds to the overall creaminess.
Smooth & Creamy Hummus
1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh preferred)
6 tablespoons well stirred tahini
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¾ teaspoon salt
3 to 4 large garlic cloves, roasted*
1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin seeds** (or ¾ tsp. ground cumin)
1 pinch cayenne pepper
Garnishes as desired, such as: extra garbanzo beans, olives & olive oil
  1. Add to chickpeas and liquid to a saucepan and heat over medium for 10 minutes. Drain and cool.
  2. Save a few garbanzo beans to use as garnish if desired. Add half of the beans to the work bowl of a food processor and blend, scrape down the sides of processor and grind again; add remaining beans and blend, scrape down the sides of processor and grind again as many times as it takes so that they are chopped.
    After grinding half of the garbanzo beans, I added the rest and continued to blend until the beans were well chopped.
  3. Mix water and lemon juice; add through the feed tube with the processor running for about 1 minute.
  4. Add the tahini and process.
  5. Add the oil, with the processor running, until the hummus is fluffy.
  6. Add the seasonings: salt, roasted garlic, cumin and cayenne.
    Rather than pre-grinding the toasted cumin seeds, I just ground them in the blender. They did not completely turn to powder but were chopped well enough so they did not interfere with the overall texture.
  7. Put the hummus in a bowl, garnish with the whole garbanzo beans and olives; drizzle with some additional olive oil.

*Quick, Toasted Garlic Cloves: Toss four or more cloves with the papery skins still on into a dry pan and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan from time to time, until the skins are charred several places. Let them cool and peel.

**Toasted Cumin Seeds: Toss in a skill and toast over medium heat, shaking and stirring the seeds until fragrant. Grind in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.

Recipe without photos . . .
Smooth & Creamy Hummus
1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh preferred)
6 tablespoons well stirred tahini
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¾ teaspoon salt
3 to 4 large garlic cloves, roasted*
teaspoon toasted and ground cumin seeds** (or ¾ tsp. ground cumin)
1 pinch cayenne pepper
Garnishes as desired, such as: extra garbanzo beans, olives & olive oil
  1. Add to chickpeas and liquid to a saucepan and heat over medium for 10 minutes. Drain and cool.
  2. Save a few garbanzo beans to use as garnish if desired. Add half of the beans to the work bowl of a food processor and blend, scrape down the sides of processor and grind again; add remaining beans and blend, scrape down the sides of processor and grind again as many times as it takes so that they are chopped.
  3. Mix water and lemon juice; add through the feed tube with the processor running for about 1 minute.
  4. Add the tahini and process.
  5. Add the oil, with the processor running, until the hummus is fluffy.
  6. Add the seasonings: salt, roasted garlic, cumin and cayenne.
  7. Put the hummus in a bowl, garnish with the whole garbanzo beans and olives; drizzle with some additional olive oil.
*Quick, Toasted Garlic Cloves: Toss four or more cloves with the papery skins still on into a dry pan and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan from time to time, until the skins are charred several places. Let them cool and peel.

**Toasted Cumin Seeds: Toss in a skill and toast over medium heat, shaking and stirring the seeds until fragrant. Grind in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.

Skillet Corn Bread

This is the basic corn bread recipe that Barry makes . . .


Skillet Corn Bread     Full batch serves 8; half batch serves 4
Ingredients             Full batch / Half batch
Butter                    1/3 cup       2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons
Cornmeal              1 1/4 cups   1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons
Flour, all-purpose  3/4 cup       6 tablespoons (or 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons)
Baking powder      1 Tbsp.       1 1/2 teaspoons
Sugar, granulated  1 Tbsp.       1 1/2 teaspoons
Salt                        1/2 tsp.       1/4 tsp,.
Egg                        1 large        1/2 large or 1 small to medium
Milk                       1 cup          1/2 cup

  1. Melt butter in heavy cast iron skillet (10 or 12" for full batch; 7 or 8" for half batch) in oven while preheating to 400°.
  2. In a large mixing bowl mix cornmeal, baking powder, sugar and salt; stir in egg and milk.
  3. Carefully tilt hot skillet to coat sides with butter and then pour the rest into the cornbread mixture; stir to just blend.
  4. Pour mixture into hot skillet and about 20 mixtures for full batch; 15 minutes for half batch, or until golden brown and springy to the touch. 
    Ready to bake. 
    Ready to eat.
Recipe without photos . . .
Skillet Corn Bread     Full batch serves 8; half batch serves 4
Ingredient             Full batch / Half batch
Butter                    1/3 cup       2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons
Cornmeal              1 1/4 cups   1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons
Flour, all-purpose  3/4 cup       6 tablespoons (or 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons)
Baking powder      1 Tbsp.       1 1/2 teaspoons
Sugar, granulated  1 Tbsp.       1 1/2 teaspoons
Salt                        1/2 tsp.       1/4 tsp,.
Egg                        1 large        1/2 large or 1 small to medium
Milk                       1 cup          1/2 cup

  1. Melt butter in heavy cast iron skillet (10 or 12" for full batch; 7 or 8" for half batch) in oven while preheating to 400°.
  2. In a large mixing bowl mix cornmeal, baking powder, sugar and salt; stir in egg and milk.
  3. Carefully tilt hot skillet to coat sides with butter and then pour the rest into the cornbread mixture; stir to just blend.
  4. Pour mixture into hot skillet and about 20 mixtures for full batch; 15 minutes for half batch, or until golden brown and springy to the touch.