Friday, October 8, 2010

Zucchini Extravaganza! (Pizza & Bread)

I love my city Farmer's Market. Every Saturday, the farms surrounding my city haul in loads of beautiful veggie booty for us nature-starved children, just a few blocks from my apartment building. That and the park mean so much to me--I honestly don't know how this tree-hugger could have survived city living all these years if not for those two heaven-sent places on my local map.

Last weekend, I loaded up on some beautiful zucchinis and got down to it. You may have read in previous posts that I am an outspoken foe of most preparations of zucchini, miserable little cucumber-like slices of soggy sadness. No thanks! But bake it, roast it, grill it, shred it up, and I am a forever friend of the jolly green giant (or elf, depending on what was available at the farmer's market that day).

Someday, in a land far, far away from this city (or perhaps in the land of my own imagination), I see myself in a beautiful, thatched-roof cottage, with lots of wild flowers growing 'round, puppies playing in the sunlit yard, pies cooling on the sill, and of course, my very own veggie garden, chock full of pretty bounty... Until then, I'll scout the local farmer's market for the freshest picks of the freshest soil, in the freshest air just a few miles away. And I'll bake...

Which brings me to the recipes...

ZUCCHINI BREAD

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 2 loaves or approximately 24 muffins

3 eggs
1 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (or allspice or cloves)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries, raisins or chocolate chips or a combination thereof (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease and flour two 8×4 inch loaf pans, liberally. (See those pictures of the cakes inside their non-stick pans? Yup, they’re pretty much hanging out in there for the time being.) Alternately, line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in oil and sugar, then zucchini and vanilla.

Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt, as well as nuts, chocolate chips and/or dried fruit, if using.

Stir this into the egg mixture. Divide the batter into prepared pans.

Bake loaves for 60 minutes, plus or minus ten, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Muffins will bake far more quickly, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

Note: These loaves will mellow and actually get better sitting at room temp wrapped in foil on the kitchen counter over the course of the week.


ZUCCHINI-CRUSTED PIZZA
(adapted from Mollie Katzen's recipe)

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups grated zucchini
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 pinch basil or 1 pinch marjoram or 1 pinch rosemary (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil

TOPPING SUGGESTIONS:
Extra olive oil
2-3 cloves sliced garlic
sauteed mushrooms
1 large sliced tomato
extra mozzarella (sliced or grated)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Generously oil a 10 inch pie pan or a foil-lined baking sheet, and coat lightly with flour or cornmeal.
3. Combine zucchini, eggs, flour, mozzarella, parmesan, herbs and 1 T olive oil in a bowl and mix well.
4. Spread into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
5. About halfway through the baking, remove from over and loosen the crust a bit from the pan with spatula so it won't stick later. Then brush with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
6. Remove from oven.
7. When it has cooled for about 10 minutes, use a spatula to loosen the crust from the pan so it won't break later.
8. Top with your favorite pizza items and bake at 400 F until heated through.

Stay tuned for upcoming seasonal recipes.....up next...PUMPKIN!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Challah


For some reason, every cooking show and blog that features Challah involves a super-corny and overused pun. Heard any of these yet?

“Happy Challahdays”

“All Holla for Challah”

“Happy Challahween”

“Chall I love you, let me count the ways...”


...corny stuff like that.

Do you still have an appetite after reading that? If not, then ponder the glistening eggy wonder called challah bread. The slightly sweet, super-chewy egg bread is as tasty as it is pretty. This is the first one I ever attempted to make and, despite the elaborate-looking braided dough and shiny egg wash, it really is not as difficult as one would think. Even a beginner can do it! All it really takes is time. And affection.

I like to think of baking bread akin to housebreaking a puppy. Both are time-consuming labors of love that require patience and affection, resulting in joyful rewards. Kneading dough with force and brute makes for a tough dough. However, handling dough with affection and gentle coaxing makes for a tender, delicate bite, sure to please any crowd. Treat your dough as you would a cute puppy. That's the secret.

I highly recommend Mollie Katzen’s beautifully hand-illustrated cookbook The Enchanted Broccoli Forest for all the recipes, but especially for her informative chapter on bread baking. It comes complete with step-by-step, hand-illustrated pictures, including one of a fist, punching down a dough after the first rise, with a Batman-like caption of “Thwap!” (That's the only non-puppy comparison. No puppy-thwapping allowed, only dough-thwapping.) :)

Challah
(from Mollie Katzen's The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest)
This recipe makes 2 loaves.

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups wrist-temperature water
1 package (scant Tbs.) active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar or honey
4 Tbs. melted butter or canola oil
3 eggs (1 for crust)
1 Tbs. salt
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
8-9 cups unbleached white flour
a little oil for the trays
poppy or sesame seeds (optional)

Directions:

1. Place the water in a large bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast. Beat in the sugar or honey, butter, 2 eggs, and salt with a wire whisk.

2. If using, stir in raisins. Then add flour a cup at a time, whisking after each addition. (Start using a wooden spoon as needed.) Knead the dough until smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky. (The recipe says you can do this in the bowl, but I found it much easier on a lightly floured surface.) Cover dough with a clean cloth and set in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk

3. Punch down the dough (“thwap!”) and turn out onto a floured surface. Divide in half, and knead each half for about 5 minutes, adding flour if it gets a little sticky. Divide each half in thirds, roll into snakes about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Line up 3 snakes, and braid starting from the middle, working out. You will end up with one long braid. For a round loaf, as I did, you can form the braid into one large circle, tucking in the end underneath the loaf.

4. Lightly oil two baking trays and place a finished braid on each. Cover with a towel and let rise another hour, until doubled in bulk. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees.

5. Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl. Brush a generous amount over each braid and sprinkle with seeds, if using. Bake 40 minutes or until the braids give off a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Mine took approx. 30 minutes, so check the loaves early. Cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before eating.

 
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