Pita Pizzas {Healthy Lunch}

I’m not sure if I mentioned it, but last week was our Spring Break.

Which means we were less busy, yet somehow busier than ever.  (If you understand that phrase, you might be a parent.)

One of the ways I tried to keep the boys out of trouble is to draft them into making their own lunches – but the five-year old only wants to do this when the meal is ‘fun.’  So a couple of weeks ago, I saw a super simple ‘fun’ recipe for pizzas from Lisa at Smart Food and Fit – that had the added bonus of actually being good for them!

We heading to Trader Joe’s and the boys picked out the smaller pitas – but hey, they were excited about the meal, which made me happy, too.

Once home, the two-year old protested and went to play with his stacking boxes, but the five-year old was raring to go.

The Recipe:

Pita Pizzas, adapted from Smart Food and Fit

Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Mini Pita Pockets

Homemade Marina Sauce

cheese of your choice (the boys wanted medium cheddar)

Either top or fill pita with 1-2 T of marinara sauce.  Sprinkle cheese.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 7 – 10 minutes.

(Okay, I’m not doing a printable recipe because, as you can see, this is SO complicated. 😉 )

The Results:

Like I mentioned above, my oldest was all about helping out with this one.  He insisted on filling one of his pizzas instead of topping it, and I thought, why not?

The boys really liked these pizzas, as demonstrated by actually eating them (for some reason they go on hunger strikes every now and then) and asking for more.  I liked that the pockets have quite a bit of protein in them and kept them full until dinner.

Served with a banana and a glass of milk, a healthy meal was had by all.

Now we just need to work on adding some vegetables…

~~~~

On a completely different note, I had to post that I used John’s (From the Bartolini Kitchen’s) suggestion of taking some slices of Cheese Bread and making them into croutons – and they were simply AMAZING!  So if you’re going to try the Crescia al Formaggio, take a slice or two, cut them up, and either bake them in the oven or do what Hubs did: grill them on the BBQ.  Pure awesomeness, I tell you.

Crescia al Formaggio {Belated Easter Cheese Bread}

Have you ever seen a recipe on a favorite site and knew immediately that you wanted to make it?

And then it promptly left your overfilled brain.

But then another favorite site decided to make it, too… and then it was burned into your memory, taunting you with visuals of crusty, cheese-y goodness?

(Or maybe that’s just me.)

Well, several weeks ago, John from the Bartolini Kitchens made this amazing bread for Easter.  And you all know how I am about bread – so I immediately was pumped to make it.  But life got busy…and I forgot.

But the bread gods must’ve been looking out for me because soon after, Smidge, at Just a Smidgen, made it, too!

So, here I am, take three on this (obviously) wonderful bread.

The Recipe:

Crescia al Formaggio, adapted from King Arthur Flour

2 1/2 c bread flour

1 1/4 t instant yeast

3 large eggs

1 large egg yolk, (white reserved for glaze)

1/4 c warm water

1/4 c (4 T) softened butter

1 t salt

1 t ground pepper (black if you don’t mind the specks, white if you do)

1 1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago cheese, or a combination

Beat on medium speed for 10 minutes, until the dough becomes shiny and satiny.  It’ll be sticky; stop the mixer to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a couple of times during the mixing process if necessary.  Add cheese.  Beat until well combined.

Put the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with a damp cloth, and set it aside to rest/rise for 45 minutes in a warm place; it may not much, so don’t be worried.

Gently deflate the dough, turn it over, return it to the bowl, and allow it to rest/rise for an additional 45 minutes; again, it may not seem to rise much — again, that’s OK.

Divide the dough into three pieces; roll each piece into a 12″ log, and braid the logs.  Nestle the braid into a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.  Cover the loaf lightly, and allow it to rise for 90 minutes (or longer, depending on the warmth of your kitchen); the dough should have become noticeably puffy, though it won’t have doubled in size.

While the loaf is rising, put your oven rack in a lower position, just below the middle, and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Whisk the reserved egg white with 2 teaspoons cold water, and brush the top of the loaf.  Place the bread in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, tent the bread lightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 30 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F.

Remove the bread from the oven, and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the edges, if necessary, and turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool completely before slicing.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

So, I kind of forgot to check the total amount of time needed to make this bread.  I realized, as the bread was doing the first rise, that I would not have enough time to finish it before leaving for an appointment…so I had to change the rise times from the original – I made up for it by making sure the bread rose in a warm place with a slightly damp cloth.  Just these small changes seemed to make the yeast super happy and ready to grow.

My other downfall for this recipe was a problem with separating my eggs.  This, honestly, was the very first (and second!) time I’ve ever not been able to do this.  Normally, I am an egg separating savant.  Seriously.  Hubs always gives me a hard time when I separate eggs, because I do it right over the batter, etc., full of confidence, and have never messed up.  While making this bread, though, I not only broke the yolk, but the second time I tried, the shell collapsed and my yolk fell into the white.  I was not a happy camper let me tell you (though I was glad that Hubs was not home to gloat).

Other than those little snafus, the bread worked like a dream.

And that cheesy bread smell filled the house for hours – bonus!

The bread actually had a really strong cheese flavor, since I mostly used Asiago, and the pepper added fun spice throughout.  The texture was all that you want in a bread: crusty on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside.  All in all, just as good as I expected with the recommendations from the blogs above.

We had it with a salad, but I think it would be just heavenly dipped in a homemade marinara sauce.  Or even toasted with some butter.

Another bread win at our house.  🙂

Happy Wednesday!

Pizza Bread

Oooh, have I got a good recipe for you today…

As you all know, I love to bake – especially breads.  And I’m trying to be better at cooking meals, not just baking.  So I get super excited when these two worlds can collide; like they did the other night.

This is another one of my Pinterest finds, fitted to my family’s tastes.

And, as a bonus, it’s really quite easy to do.

The Recipes:

Pizza Bread, adapted from The Ivory Hut

1 t yeast

1 t sugar

3/4 cup warm water

1 2/3+ bread flour

1 t kosher salt

1/2 c bell pepper, chopped

1/4 c pepperoni, chopped

1/3 c onions, chopped

8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

1 T olive oil

Sprinkle yeast over mixed warm water and sugar in a bowl.  Let it sit for 5 or so minutes until foamy, then add in flour and salt.  Mix (using a mixer, spoon, or your hands) just until it comes together.  Add pizza toppings and knead for 5-8 minutes.  Dough will be tacky, but feel free to dust with a bit more extra flour if it seems too sticky.  Let rise for about 1 hour, covered in a warm place, then put in the refrigerator for another hour.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and flour a Silpat or waxed paper.  Roll out into a rectangle about 11×17”. Sprinkle cheese over top.  Then, using the Silpat or paper, fold along the long side, like an envelope.  Seal sides so cheese is not exposed.  Let rest while you preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Let oven stay at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.

Bake the bread, either on a pizza stone or baking sheet, for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.  About 3 minutes before taking it out, lightly brush the top with olive oil and let it finish baking.  Let rest on a wire rack to cool slightly before slicing.

Serve warm with homemade Marinara sauce for dipping.

Marinara Sauce

2 T olive oil

5 cloves garlic, minced

1- 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes

1 t sugar

1/4 t red pepper flakes

1 t oregano

1 t basil flakes

1/2 t salt

1/4 t onion powder

Heat oil and garlic in saucepan over medium-low heat for 3 minutes.  Add tomatoes and remaining ingredients.  Raise temperature to medium and let simmer for 20 minutes.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Last year, I admitted my love of boxed pizza rolls and made my own fresh and tasty version.  And they were really, really good.  But…they took forever to make.  Now this recipe gives you the same general concept, but so much easier and quicker.

(I have to admit that I was a little concerned going into this.  It was either going to be amazing or a big giant flop.  So glad it was the former.)

Making the dough was just like making regular dough, with just a couple of extras.  And the best thing – you can substitute and choose whatever filling ingredients you want to use.

When mixing, I highly recommend using some good old-fashioned hand-kneading to get all the fillings incorporated – the KitchenAid didn’t quite do it in that respect.  But once it’s mixed throughout, the rest is super simple.

Hubs commented that it looked like I was making fruit cake.

It was easy enough that I even made my own marinara sauce, from scratch, with no recipe!  (Though I have to shamefully admit that I did burn the garlic at first.  But that’s what happens when the UPS guy shows up, the kids and dog go crazy, and you get distracted by opening pretty packages.  Or is that just me?)

The finished loaf wasn’t the prettiest in the world, but really, you’re slicing it up anyways – so it doesn’t really matter.

Can you just imagine the cheesy bread smells coming from my kitchen?  (Frankly, I had to just imagine, too, since the burned garlic nastily smelled up the whole entire house.)

The flavor of this dish was all that I was hoping for and more.  The peppers, onions, and pepperoni were in every bite – and dipped in the marinara, it was just like a fluffy deep dish pizza.  Everyone loved it (yay!).

My only change for next time would be to roll the dough up in a spiral, so that the cheese could be spread out over more than just one section.  But, as far as changes go, that’s just a small one.

Not only would this be perfect for a meal, it would be a great appetizer to bring to a party.  (And it just looks cool when sliced.)

I can’t wait to try it again with other toppings.

Bon Appetit!

Easy Italian Bread Bowls

As I continue my quest to have homemade breads become a staple in every kitchen, I have another easy recipe for you all: bread bowls.

There’s just something about the way a bread bowl absorbs just the right amount of soup – where you can scrape the inside with your spoon and get the perfect bite of soup and bread together. It’s just heaven.

My love of bread bowls started many, many years ago on a little road trip to San Francisco in college.  My best friend and I ended up enjoying the most amazing sourdough bread bowl meals at Boudin‘s.  I think we may have had three meals there over the course of our four days in San Fran.  It’s been virtually impossible to find its match since.

So, last week, when I was smelling the aroma of my Chicken Corn Chowder, I was taken back to our trip.  And I decided right then and there to attempt to make my own bread bowls for us to enjoy.

Now, I knew that sourdough would not be happening since it takes several days to get it going, so I searched for any easy recipe I could make in an afternoon.

The Recipe:

Italian Bread Bowls, slightly adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

(I halved her recipe since we only needed three bowls.)

3/4 T active dry yeast

1 1/4 c warm water

2 t sugar

1 t salt

1 T vegetable oil

3 – 3 1/2 c bread flour

1/2 T cornmeal

In a large bowl (or bowl of an electric mixer), dissolve yeast in warm water and sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

Add salt, oil and 2 cups flour to the yeast mixture; beat well.  Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well with an electric mixer at medium speed after each addition until a soft but not sticky dough is formed.

When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes (or let knead in an electric mixer).

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil.  Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.  Punch dough down, and divide into 3-4 equal portions.  Shape each portion into a round ball.  Place loaves on lightly greased baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal (or use silpat liners or parchment paper).  If desired, slash the top surface of the bread bowl several times with a sharp knife or razor. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 35 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake in preheated oven for 15-18 minutes until golden brown and baked through.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Now, I know that some of you are intimidated by yeast.  (I promise, they’re not scary…but in case you are worried, Mel has a great tutorial on yeast that might ease some of your fears.)  The one thing I did add to the recipe is a little sugar.  For some reason, my yeast gets a lot happier if I add a touch of sugar to the recipe.  I don’t think it does much to the flavor, but it gets those little yeasties bubbling away.

Anyhow, the rest of the bread mixing/kneading was easy.  Everything was moving along smoothly until it was time to divide the dough evenly.  As I have documented many, many times, I have issues when it comes to math – not numbers math, but shape/size/volume issues.  This was no exception.

Here is my post second-rise picture:

No, the first one isn’t bigger because it’s closer to the camera.  It’s just bigger in size.  And because of the size difference, they rose differently – the two smaller ones rose much higher.  Oh, well.

No worries, though.  As long as they were big enough to hold some chowder, all was good.  And when they came out, the gorgeous color made me happy – as did that warm bread smell.

I scooped out some of the middle, added my chowder, and a tasty meal was had by all.

What I loved about these bread bowls was that the crust was hard enough to hold the thick chowder without getting soggy – while the inside was super soft and soaked the chowder right up.  The flavor was great with the chowder or with butter, as we served the middles with some butter on the side.

Again, this was just the exact-right comforting dinner we needed that day.

A home-run of a meal, as Hubs would say.

Crusty Italian Bread

Okay, I admit it.  I’m a little bread crazy.

(But seriously, it’s so easy!  Please trust me.)

I think I’ve converted a few of you out there to bread makers (Kristy – I am so proud of you!) and that makes me very, very happy.  So I’m just going to keep making bread and hoping more of you will give it a try.

This week’s bread was a simple Italian loaf to go with Sunday dinner.  We were having homemade spaghetti with some friends, so a crusty loaf sounded just about perfect.

The Recipe:

Crusty Italian Bread, adapted from Food.com

1 package active dry yeast

1 ¼ c warm water

2 t sugar

3 c bread flour

1 t salt

cornmeal

1 egg yolk

In a large bowl, add water and sugar.  Dissolve yeast in mixture and let sit until bubbly (about 5-10 minutes).  Mix in flour and salt, and mix in until dough starts to form.  If too sticky, add a bit more flour.

Turn out onto flat surface and knead for 6-8 minutes or until smooth and elastic.  (Or let your dough hook do the work – if you have a KitchenAid.)  Put dough into an oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with a thick towel, and let rise in a warm place, free from draft, until doubled in size, or about 1.5-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Remove dough onto a floured surface.  Punch down and shape into 2 equal round loaves.  )If you own a baking stone or unglazed ceramic tile, dust lightly with cornmeal and put into preheated oven.)  Put loaves on a peel (large wooden spatula, if you have one), also lightly dusted with cornmeal, or on a cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal.  Cover and let rise again for 40 minutes. Loaves will about double again.

In a small dish, add egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of water.  Slit tops of risen bread 3 or 4 times, making slits that are a quarter of an inch deep.  With a brush, paint tops with egg wash.  If on a peel, slide loaves onto stone or tile; otherwise put cookie sheet in oven.

Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F.  Then lower heat to 400F and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes, until golden and baked through. To check if it’s done, thump the bottom of each loaf; if it sounds hollow, it’s done.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Since baking bread has become pretty easy for me, it was fun to try something new using the peel and the pizza stone.  (And we’re just lucky enough that Hubs has both.)  For those of you unsure what a peel is, here’s a pic:

For this recipe, I let the mixer do all the work for me.  So basically, all I had to do was dump in ingredients, keep an eye on it, and form balls.  Easy, peasy.

I don’t have an artistic finished picture, because we had company, and it just seemed weird to make everyone wait while I worked on getting the perfect picture.  So you get a ‘fresh outta the oven’ picture instead.

The bread turned out like I’d hoped: crusty-crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside.  My only issue was that they needed a little more salt, to bring out the great flavor.  We used salted butter and that worked, too.

So, my friends, I’m just going to keep baking easy breads and encouraging you to do the same.

I promise you will never regret it.

Sweet Brown Quick Bread

No return of cooking mojo would be complete (at least for me) without a new fresh loaf of bread.

As you have probably noticed, I like making bread.  A lot.  And I like to try a different kind of bread each time.

For this little foray into the bread world, I thought I’d try a brown bread.

And when I saw this recipe as a quick bread, I knew I wanted to give it a try.

The Recipe:

Sweet Brown Bread, adapted from GroupRecipes.com 

1 ¼ c whole wheat flour

1 t baking powder

½ t baking soda

½ t cinnamon

1/4 t salt

½ c buttermilk

1 egg

3 T molasses

1 T honey

2 T dark brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a loaf pan.

Combine flour, baking powder, lemon zest, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Separately, combine the remaining ingredients.  Add the wet mix to the dry ingredients and blend. Do not over-mix.  Pour into pan and bake 40 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned.

Cool 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack and cooling completely.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

This was definitely not what I was expecting – but not in a bad way.  Just in a different way.

As I was mixing the batter, it seemed overwhelmingly molasses-y, so I added that extra tablespoon of honey – to try to counter it.  The aroma of the kitchen while it was baking reminded me of Christmas for some reason, but I was completely okay with that.

When done, the overall flavor was sweet, yet still very molassess-y.  The crust was almost crunchy, but in a molasses cookie way.  My son actually asked if it was gingerbread bread.  It was very tasty warm with a dollop of butter and could almost stand as a dessert.  We ate it at dinner with Hubs’ chicken and dumplings, and the bread actually complimented it very well.

For turning out completely differently that I thought it would, I was still very, very satisfied.  The whole family liked it, which is quite rare around here.

Now, I just got to get back into making dinner, too.  🙂

Naan

I love it when I think a food item is going to be a pain to make, but then it ends up being super easy.

I was betting myself that naan was going to be one of those complicated, multi-step foods to cook…but I was wrong.  So wrong.

This recipe (not sure how traditional it is) was utterly simple and straight-forward.

And it saved my dinner the other night.

The Recipe:

Naan, adapted from allrecipes.com

1 package active dry yeast

1 c warm water

1/4 c white sugar

3 T milk

1 egg, beaten

2 t salt

4 c bread flour

1/4 c butter, melted

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and sugar.  Let stand about 10 minutes, until bubbly.  Stir in milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough.  Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth.  Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise in warm place.  Let it rise 1 – 1 1/2 hours, until the dough has doubled in volume.

Punch down dough.  Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball.  Roll into balls, and place on a greased tray or cookie sheet.  Cover with a towel, and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Preheat griddle to high heat.  Roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle.  Lightly oil griddle.  Place dough on griddle, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned.  Brush uncooked side with butter, and turn over.  Brush cooked side with butter, and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes.  Remove from griddle, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I’m pretty sure I mixed up my cuisine types with this meal… my curry was a Thai curry, but the naan I made was Indian.  But all’s fair in love and cooking, right?  I’m really, really glad I did, though.

I changed the beginning of the recipe, as it had you just mix the yeast and water – which I originally did – and yielded little to no bubbles.  (And no, I had not killed my yeast again.)  I dumped it out, and did what I normally do when making bread: added the yeast to the sugar-water.  That worked out much better.

The rest of the recipe pretty much went just like any other bread baking.  My other big change was to have the dough rise in a warm place.  The dough just wasn’t growing hardly at all on my counter, but when I placed it on the slightly warmed oven, it got very happy.

When it came to cooking the naan on the griddle, I ended up using a large frying pan –  mostly because our griddle is packed away with our other camping gear.  I also learned that our stove top gets very hot – so the high heat suggested provided this little result:

So, I took the pan off the stove to let it cool, and ended up cooking my naan halfway between medium and medium-high.  (And was impressed I only ruined one!)

The taste of these was what impressed me the most, though.  They had a perfect fluffy, chewy texture – and a slightly sweet flavor.  To be honest, they actually kind of reminded me of crumpets.  The naan certainly helped tame down the spice of my curry, and every single member of my family loved them.  We even pulled out the strawberry freezer jam and had some for dessert!

I had been planning on taking a more artful picture in the morning when I had some natural light, but between dinner, dessert, and breakfast, they were gone.  So here’s my best picture, taken while cooking.

If you’ve ever thought naan might be too tough to make, you need to try this recipe.  It’s so worth the small effort – and I can tell already that it’s going to be a favorite around here.

Cinnamon Roll Sheepherder Bread

Yes, you read that right.

I took my grandma’s absolutely spectacular Sheepherder Bread – and I added a little cinnamon twist.

And I created heaven in a slice of bread.  (I can say it, because it’s true.)

Now, it wasn’t all fun and games to get there, but boy, oh boy, was it worth it.

The Recipe:

Grandma Nola’s World Famous Sheepherder Bread, Cinnamon Roll Style, adapted from my Grandma

(Makes 3 loaves)

3 c very hot water

1/2 c butter

1/2 c sugar

2 1/2 t salt

2 packages active dry yeast (or 4 1/2 t)

approx. 9 1/2 c bread flour, unsifted

salad oil or cooking spray

~~~~

4 T butter, softened

2 T sugar

1-2 T cinnamon (to taste)

~~~~

In a large bowl, combine water, butter, sugar, and salt.  Stir until the butter melts and let cool to warm.  Stir in yeast, cover, and set in a warm place until bubbly, about 15 minutes.

Add 5 cups of flour and beat with a heavy-duty mixer or a wooden spoon to make a thick batter.  With a spoon, stir in enough flour, about 3 1/2 cups, to make a thick dough.  Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.  Turn dough over in greased bowl, cover, and let rise until double in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch dough down, divide into thirds, and knead each third on a floured board to form smooth balls.

*For Cinnamon Roll style: Roll out dough into rectangle – you may have to gently pull on the dough to get it to a decent size.  Spread butter on top of dough.  Sprinkle liberally with sugar and cinnamon.  Roll into loaf shape, pinching ends together.*

Place each into a loaf pan and let rise in a warm place for about 1/2 hour.

Cook at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.  Let cool and enjoy slightly warm!

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

So, let’s just say this recipe did not start out so well.  I was skimming again (BAD Courtney!), and I started out by putting the yeast in the bowl, adding the very hot water, butter, sugar and salt.  Now if you look in the directions, you add the yeast last – probably because the butter cools the water down a bit when it melts.  If you do it in the order I did, the very hot water does something very interesting, it kills the yeast.  Completely dead.

(Now, I probably should’ve taken a picture of the mixture with dead yeast to show you what it looks like, but I was too angry at myself and just tossed it down the drain.  But really, if your yeast doesn’t get bubbly at all – just stop what you’re doing and start over.  Otherwise you’re just wasting your other ingredients.)

Thankfully, I recognized that something was not right, and googled to find out my yeast was dead.  So I scrapped it and started on round two.  And this round went much better.

The yeast got frothy right away, and I could tell it worked really well after the first rise…

Yep, I'm thinking it rose.

Shaping/pulling the dough into a rectangle was a little tricky, but I got the job done.  After slathering it with butter and adding the sugar and cinnamon, I rolled it right up into a loaf.

Tell me that doesn't look amazing.

After the second rise and the baking (note – be sure to put a cookie sheet under the loaf, in case it, umm, overflows the pan and drips a bit), it came out looking like this:

My only, only regret, is that I only made one of the three loaves cinnamon bread.  (And it’s almost gone already.)

The sweet cinnamon/sugar complements the yeasty goodness of this light and delicious bread.

Seriously, this is one of the best bread recipes ever – with or without the swirl.  (Notice the bold and italics – that’s how much I mean it.)

I really hope you go out and make a loaf (or three).

Olive Garden Breadsticks {Copycat}

So, if you’ve been watching the news, you might have seen that the Seattle area has had a tad bit of crazy weather lately.

On top of the snow, we’ve had an ice storm, wind storms, and possible flooding on the way.  It’s just so much fun!  (Please note my sarcasm.)  One of the joys of living in the far-out burbs, is that we have lots of trees – and when you have a lovely combination like I’ve mentioned, it can lead to only one thing: a Power Outage.  (Yes, I capitalized it on purpose.)

(The last time we had a serious power outage, I was 9 1/2 months pregnant with my oldest – and the power was out for seven days.  Let’s just say that we bought a generator that year.  Such a good choice – at least for some heat.)

This time, thankfully, our power was out for less than 24 hours (knock on wood – there’s still wind on the way).  But it sure put a cramp in my cooking style and my ability to see what else was going on in the social media world.  (I know, you’re shedding a tear for me right now.)  But that’s okay.  We did family bonding time.  (And we didn’t kill each other.  Yay!)

Anyhow, while the power was flickering off and on the other night, I was able to (barely) pull off these golden warm copycats of one of my favorite bread products.

The Recipe:

Copycat Olive Garden Breadsticks, adapted from full bellies.happy kids

1 1/2 c warm water (between 110 – 120 degrees)

1 package active dry yeast

4 1/4 c bread flour

2 T butter, melted

2 T sugar

1 T salt (or less, if you used salted butter)

~~~~

Butter topping:

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

2 t garlic powder

2 t salt

~~~~

In a large bowl, dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water and allow to sit for 10 minutes, covered.  Mixture should be frothy.

In separate bowl, combine flour and salt.  Add to yeast mixture.  Add melted butter.  Mix with dough hook of stand mixer or wooden spoon until fully combined.  Knead dough for a few minutes just until dough is smooth. Do not over-knead!

Grease a cookie sheet. Pull off pieces of dough and roll out into strips.  Cover the dough and let sit in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Make your butter topping.  Bake breadsticks for 12-15 minutes.  About 6 or 7 minutes in, brush the breadsticks with half the butter mixture. Then continue to bake.

Immediately upon removal from the oven, brush the other half of the butter on the sticks.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

These were certainly an adventure to make.  A little power out here, and a quick flicker there, really added to the ambiance of baking breadsticks.  I was just hoping I could get them finished.

And I did.

Now, if you can ignore my inability to make consistent oblong shapes, you can see that they got to rise about a half hour more than the 45 minutes called for – because we lost power right about when I was going to put them in.

So, I’m not sure if it was the extra rising, or the fact that I placed both cookies sheets of breadsticks in at the same time (or that I kept checking them every three minutes after the original twelve), but I ended up baking them for a full half hour.  And when they came out, wow, did they look good.

The salty garlic butter topping seemed really potent to me, as I mixed it up – and from the small taste of it I got from my fingers after holding the breadsticks for coverage.  I was worried it was going to be too much flavor…but it wasn’t.  Since the breadsticks were both so thick and light, the butter topping was actually quite perfect.

This may not be an exact copy of their breadsticks, but they are pretty darn close, if you ask me.  They were a huge hit with the whole family – but seriously, how can you go wrong with bread, butter, and garlic?

And they sure did the trick as an addition to our last fully cooked meal (before the power went out, that is).

Cross your fingers for me that we’re done with the crazy weather for a while.  Please.

Amish Country Bread

(Insert annoying Infomercial announcer voice.)

“Are you scared of making bread?

Does the idea of living yeast freak you out?

Do you think it takes hours and hours of work to make a loaf of gorgeous bread?

If you have been putting off making bread because it just seems too intimidating, have I got the recipe for YOU!”

Seriously, though, I have found the easiest, non-work-intensive, impressive looking recipe for bread.  If you have a KitchenAid with a dough hook, it’s only about 5 minutes total of actual work.  If you don’t, add about 10 minutes for kneading.

But really, 15 minutes invested for two fresh, golden loaves of homemade, delicious bread is so worth it!

The Recipe:

Amish Country Bread, adapted from One More Moore

4 T sugar

2 T butter, melted

3 t salt

1 1/2 c hot water

2 T yeast

4-5 c of flour (enough to form a dough ball that isn’t too sticky)

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1 egg white

1 T water

Kosher salt

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Put all ingredients but the flour into the mixer (KitchenAid) and let sit for a few minutes, until the mix is bubbly.  Add the flour in small batches & mix with a dough hook for 8-10 minutes.

(If you don’t have a KitchenAid, just mix by hand until a dough ball forms and then knead on a lightly floured surface until dough is smooth and elastic.)

Remove & place in a bowl that has been greased.  Let dough rise until double in size (about 30 minutes, though it could be longer depending on the yeast you used).  Punch down and divide in half into 2 rounds.  Place on a greased cookie sheet.  Cut decorative slits on top – make sure to use a very sharp knife.

Let dough rise again.  Spread an egg white wash (the egg white and water mixed) over the top and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake at 400 degrees for 17-20 minutes, or until it’s golden in color and sounds hollow when you thump the top.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Hopefully I’ve convinced you how easy this recipe is.  (If not, I really need to work on my writing skills!)

I dumped in some ingredients and pretty much let everything else do the work.  The only part I wasn’t sure about, was scoring the dough for the lovely looking top.  Hubs strongly encouraged me to make sure my knife was as sharp as it could be before I cut – so I sharpened it (something I still hate doing).  But the knife worked like a charm, so I guess it was worth it.

And they came out looking like this…

The bread is sweet and flavorful – perfect with a little butter or used for a fresh turkey sandwich (which we did and it was SO good!)

Run, don’t walk, to your cupboards – and make this.

You will impress yourself!