28 July 2011


What could be better than arriving at work to find a plate of warm tamales on your desk?

25 July 2011

Jalapeño Cheddar Corn Bread

This bread instantly became the new staff favorite.  I combined spicy jalapeño peppers, sharp cheddar cheese and whole grain corn meal to make this lovely loaf.  The inspiration came from a traditional Portugese Broa which is a yeasted corn bread.  I've always enjoyed the levity the yeast brings to the texture of the cornbread.  It also lacks the overt sweetness most northeastern cornbread's bear.

The process begins with a polenta-like mixture of boiling water and corn meal.  This sits overnight so the corn can absorb the water and the mixture can cool to room temperature.  I also made a biga eight hours before mixing the final dough.

I tested a variety of different jalapeños: frozen, small diced, sliced, with seeds, without seeds...  I decided I liked the flavor of the fresh, whole peppers while I required the spicy kick obtained by using the seeds and ribs from the pepper's interior.

I cut the peppers in half lengthwise before slicing them into semi-circles.  When I mixed the dough, I combined the flour, biga, soaked cornmeal and water first.  I delayed the yeast addition by 5 minutes and I added the salt 5 minutes after the yeast.  After the dough reached it's full development, I slowly added the shredded sharp cheddar and the sliced jalapeños until they were evenly distributed through the dough.

I rolled the dough into squares, folded the corners into the center and proofed upside down on a bed of cornmeal.  After a couple hours at room temperature, it was ready to flip over and bake in the deck oven.

The interior is soft and flavorful.  This bread is the perfect compliment to chili but being as though it's 100°F outside and I refuse to make chili...I used it for my pulled pork sandwich and it was great.  It also makes a yummy fried egg sandwich in the morning.  Best of all, each serving contains 8 grams of whole grains because of the whole grain corn meal in the dough.  Good for you and tasty - - sounds like a winner to me!

I am submitting this post to Susan from The Wild Yeast Blog for her weekly YeastSpotting segment.  If you would like to know more about my recipe, please email me.

18 July 2011

Another Great Summer Sandwich

I participate in a lunch club at work.  Every Thursday, a different person prepares lunch for the members of the club.  This was last Thursday's lunch.  Grilled chicken, sauteed spinach and marinated peppers on ciabatta bread.   The ciabatta bread worked great because it soaked up the juices in its deep crevices and its crispy crust didn't get mushy.  I highly recommend trying ciabatta for your next summer sandwich.

14 July 2011

Olive Oil Tasting

Alternative title for this post: Yes, Really, I Get Paid for This!  

A few months ago, an olive oil vendor approached us about potentially switching our olive oil to the brand he was peddling.  We use extra virgin olive oil in several of our doughs including a super yummy Rosemary, Olive Oil & Sea Salt loaf.

 If you've never seen a "tote" of oil before, I don't know if you would believe it.  I could never have imagined a tote until I saw one with my own eyes.  We purchase our olive oil in totes which aren't quite as large as a city block but are 100's of times larger than the largest bottle you can purchase at the grocery store.  Our account could make for a decent payday if this particular vendor could land our business.

The oil samples arrived and my collegue, Michael and I were ordered, yes ordered, by our boss to taste them against our current oil to see if they're worth the effort involved in changing vendors.  There were 6-8 different samples in all.  We decided to pick our favorite of the newbies and then compare it to the reigning champ.  Neither of us are experts or even novices in the field of olive oil tasting.  We lined them up and started dipping baguette chunks into each puddle of oil.  I know if we were really serious about this tasting we would have tasted them straight up but we're not that serious and a baguette was as good a base as any.

Normally, I probably wouldn't notice subtleties in olive oil but when you taste several back to back, their differences or flavor notes are, well, notable.  Our observations included, woodsy, earthy, tangy, bitter and mild.  Our favorite oil had the clear flavor of olives with no subtle hints.  Subtle hints of flavor would not come through after the oil is mixed into the dough and the bread is baked.  We really need a strong olive flavor to burst out of the loaf.  When we tasted our pick against our current supply, we were delightfully surprised to find that ours was much better than any of the new oils being proposed.

For now, we'll stick with our current extra virgin olive oil supplier.  We had a great time learning and tasting all of our options.

11 July 2011

Summer Sandwich

This has to be my all-time, favorite summer sandwich.  I have to admit, when it's 90°F outside, I don't do much cooking.  I do spend a lot of time thinking about what to fix for dinner that requires little to no cooking.  This sandwich is my twist on a BLT.  The tomatoes and bacon are present plus I've added roasted turkey and guacamole.  Lettuce doesn't keep well in my house so unless I know we're going to use the whole head in our meal, it rarely gets thrown in the mix.

I prepare the guacamole using minimal ingredients.  This one has jalapenos, avocados, sea salt and lime juice. I mash them together using a mortar and pestle I purchased from Ikea.  I never use a recipe, I just add everything to taste.  If you like your guac spicy, go heavy on the jalapenos.  I did try to dice the jalapenos pretty fine so I wouldn't bite into a chunk of heat while eating my sandwich.

Next, I spread the guacamole on a whole grain bread.  I made this 9-Grain loaf but you can find similar, yummy specimens at Wegman's (7-Grain Sourdough Loaf) or at Super Target (Archer Farms Artisan Harvest Grain Loaf).

I try to build the sandwich so the tomatoes are in the middle.  Layering the roasted turkey first, helps to create a barrier and prevents the bread from getting soggy.  This turkey was thin sliced from the deli counter at my local grocery store.

Next, I add the tomatoes.  These tomatoes were fresh from my local farmers' market.  The tomatoes really make this a seasonal sandwich.  I'm very picky about my tomatoes.  I will only eat them when they are the reddest ripe at the height of the season.  I sliced these as thin as I could.  All the layers create a tall sandwich and I wanted to make sure it was easy to eat.

Finally, I piled the crispy bacon on top.  This bacon also came from my local farmers' market.  It's a lightly smoked, thicker cut.  I like to bake my bacon on a cookie sheet in the oven.  Frying bacon on the stove top with toddlers underfoot is a little cumbersome and nerve-wrecking.  I lay the slices on the sheet so they are just barely touching, put them in the oven at 375°F, and turn them every 6-8 minutes until they're nice and crisp.  Then I make sure to save all the bacon grease for a later recipe (bacon fat makes everything taste better!).

That's it.  To finish, I put the lid on the sandwich and cut it in half.  This is a highly requested item in my house. My kids tend to steal everyone's bacon before they eat the remainder of their sandwiches but the rest of us enjoy the complexity of textures and flavors created in this easy summer treat.