More 2 for 1 Pizza Madness

2or1pizzabanner
I think I have mentioned it before but I am in love, simply in love with pizza. From the time I first tasted pizza as a tiny child it has been one of my all time favorite foods. I have eaten all sorts of pizza and this week I thought I would do my take on two gourmet restaurant favorites. Barbeque chicken pizza and a ham and fig pizza.

Before we get started, I just want to give a word of encouragement for anyone who has come to today’s post interested in pizza but intimidated by making a sourdough pizza crust. Although I think this is hands down the best pizza crust, you don’t have to go there if you don’t want to. If you bake bread and have a good recipe for a white or whole grain loaf, you can flatten that into pizza crust. Before I dabbled in sourdough, I used to make a whole grain dough in my bread machine and use it for pizza. Very simple! You don’t bake bread? If you have a Trader Joes, they sell a fabulous fresh pizza dough for pennies. Most well stocked groceries have frozen pizza dough. Better yet, there are precooked crusts such as Boboli. Pita breads, lavash breads, naan or even flour tortillas (just be frugal on toppings) can all be toasted lightly and then baked as pizza crust. But if you are with me on making the best crust, read on…

After looking back at my previous blog posts (Chicken Basil Sausage Pizza and the last 2 for 1 post about Salmon and Beet Greens Pizza and Canadian Bacon and Pineapple Pizza), I realized that my crust has slightly changed. Here is the current instructions for the crust which I am now rolling on the edges. A slight roll gives the crust a bready edge. If you just roll the crust flat, it will be more cracker-like which is also quite tasty.

Multi grain pizza crust for two pizzas:

1 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)

3/4 cup sourdough starter

1/4 cup buttermilk

2 cups unbleached white flour

1 cup stone ground whole wheat flour

1/3 cup rye flour

2 teaspoons salt

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Cornmeal for dusting peel

Mix first 3 crust ingredients in bowl of heavy-duty mixer. Add 2 cups unbleached white flour; stir to blend. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel. Let the sponge ferment in a warm draft-free area for about 1 1/2 hours.

Using a dough hook, mix in the stone ground whole-wheat flour, rye flour and salt at lowest setting. Increase speed slightly; knead dough 5 minutes, adding more whole wheat flour by the tablespoonfuls if the dough sticks to sides of bowl. Let dough rest 15 minutes. Knead on low 5 minutes. Scrape dough from the hook into the bowl. Remove bowl from stand. Coat a rubber spatula with nonstick spray. Slide spatula under and around dough, coating dough lightly. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise until doubled in volume, about 1-2 hours.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Flatten the dough into a rectangle and then fold it like you are folding a letter (be careful not to press too hard and deflate the dough). Divide in half. Roll each half of the dough into a ¼” thick round and transfer each round to a pizza peel or baking sheet coated in cornmeal. Roll the edges over once to create a crust. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise for at least a half hour.

An hour before making pizza, place a baking stone in your oven and preheat to 450°F.

Top the crusts with the toppings of your choice.

Bake pizza one at a time for 13 minutes each. Cool for a couple of minutes before cutting into slices.

And now for the ingredients we used this week. The lists below are in order of how they should be added to the pies:

Barbeque chicken pizza

BBQChickenPizza

This pizza is the best use for the small amount of leftovers from a homemade roasted chicken or a store bought rotisserie chicken. I removed the meat from a leftover leg and the carcass of our leftover chicken. I got around a cup or slightly more of meat which I chopped and then marinated in barbeque sauce. Both pizzas were delicious but we loved this one the best with it’s south of the border flavors. Top the pizza in this order:

Muir Glen cabernet marinara or your favorite pasta sauce (approx. 4 tbsp or more)

Chopped cilantro

4 oz mozzarella

2 oz Quattro Fromaggio four cheese blend (Italian 4 shredded cheese blend)

2 oz grated sharp white cheddar

Chopped fresh garlic (about a tablespoon)

Sliced zucchini

Red onions, sliced

Thinly sliced heirloom or beefsteak tomato

1-2 fresh jalapenos, dry roasted in a cast iron pan, peeled and diced

Sliced black olives

1 cup or more diced cooked chicken marinated in a couple of tablespoons of barbeque sauce (I used Annie’s smoky maple barbeque sauce)

Black Forest Ham and Fig Pizza

HamFigPizza

 Sautéed greens, earthy mushrooms, black forest ham and figs. It’s like a grown up version of Canadian bacon and pineapple but oh so very much more subtle and delicious!  Top the pizza in this order:

Muir Glen cabernet marinara or your favorite pasta sauce (approx. 4 tbsp or more)

Half a bunch of chard, triple washed, chopped and sautéed with garlic and olive oil

4 oz mozzarella

2 oz Quattro Fromaggio four cheese blend (Italian 4 shredded cheese blend)

Chopped fresh garlic (about a tablespoon)

Sliced red onion

½ cup sliced cremini mushrooms

½ red pepper, diced

Sliced black olives

8-10 fresh mission figs, sliced in half

9-10 deli slices of black forest ham cut in thirds

There you have it. Sophisticated pizzas that are so much better than takeout and cost so much less than takeout pizza. This makes two large pizzas so that you can eat to your heart’s content the night you make them when they are fresh and delicious and you’ll still have leftovers for breakfast (I know I’m not the only one guilty of pizza for breakfast!)

I found my sourdough mojo

chiliCheeseSourdough1

Lack of confidence. Lack of confidence is the state I have been in when it comes to my bread baking. Since I often want to bake things that call for commercial yeast but I refuse to do it without using my liquid sourdough starter instead, I feel wary about my decisions since so often things get crazy in the kitchen as I try to use a liquid starter in place of dry yeast.

Today something felt so right. I decided to bake a recipe from Sunset magazine that I have been wanting to try for years. Years ago I would have accepted the recipe for what it was. A sourdough bread with a distinctly south of the border spice but the strange decision to use a very Italian cheese for flavor.

As I looked the recipe over for the first time in years, my brain started to make the cooking decisions I so often shy away from in bread baking. I recently saw an article that defined the different kinds of yeast. The article defined starter and said that two cups of starter has the same leavening power as a packet of active dry yeast. I knew right away that the cup of starter called for in the recipe would not leaven my bread quickly. I decided to up the starter to a cup and a half. But… that would throw off the ratio of flour to liquid. I decided a quarter cup of cornmeal would soak up the extra liquid and give the bread a little more bite and flavor. The cheese just seemed wrong to me. Jalapenos just scream out for cheddar or jack. I decided to increase the cheese to a half a cup and use a sharp white cheddar instead. Something still seemed missing….what to do, what to do?? I remembered how much I loved the caraway seeds in the sour corn rye I made a few weeks ago. Is there something similar I could use that would give this bread the same texture and punch that the caraway seeds did in my rye bread? Oh… yes… I had whole cumin seeds in my pantry. I took a taste of one and it was so good!

The dough came together as if the recipe was prewritten with my changes. It seemed so perfect. I baked the bread which smelled so delicious. I pulled it out of the oven and it looked amazing. After it cooled, I sliced it and tasted it. The bread was not spicy in a hot way but had a pleasing complex flavor the way that good Indian food does. As I sampled the bread, my mind went wild imagining all of the food this bread could accompany, the interesting sandwiches it could make and the kick ass croutons that would be so delicious on soups and salads. I think I have my baking confidence now.

I am submitting this lovely bread to YeastSpotting on Wild Yeast.  Click here to see all of the other wonderful yeasty baked goods that other people have made this week.

ChiliCheeseSourdough2

Cumin scented chili cheese sourdough

3 cups unbleached white flour

½ cup rye flour

¼ cup cornmeal

1 tsp salt

½ cup sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup water

1 ½ cups active sourdough starter

1 tbsp honey

¼ cup minced jalapeno chilies

1 tbsp whole cumin seeds

In a large bowl, combine, white flour, rye flour, cornmeal, salt and cheese. In another bowl, combine water, starter and honey. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients until a dough forms. Turn the contents of the bowl out onto a wooden board. Mix and knead the dough until it is well combined and pliable. Flatten the dough. Add the minced Jalapeno chilies and the cumin seeds. Wrap the dough around the chilies and seeds and then continue to knead vigorously for 12 – 14 minutes making sure that the chilies and seeds are well distributed throughout the dough. Form the dough into a tight ball and transfer it to an oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and allow the dough to rise until doubled about 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto the wooden board. Flatten it out into a rectangle and then fold it from the short sides inward like you are folding a letter. Flatten it again and fold it again. Form the dough into a tight ball and place it in a floured banneton. Let the dough rise until doubled again up to 3 hours.

Place a pizza stone in your oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Dust a peel with cornmeal and turn the dough out onto the peel. Slash the loaf and then place it in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes until browned and the bread makes a hollow sound when you tap it on the bottom. Place the bread on a cooling rack and cool completely before serving.

Health alert: the dangers of excess sugar

Brown sugar

I’ve wanted to talk about this for some time. Please bear with me as I may seem a little hypocritical when you consider the percentage of recipes on this blog that are sweet. What I want to make you aware of is the fact that excessive amounts of sugar are bad for you. You may already know this. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you don’t really care. Maybe you should care. It is really important for your well being.

Tonight, the American Heart Association came out with a warning that we need to cut the amount of sugar in our diets. They say the average American adult consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day. The average American teenager consumes 34 teaspoons of added sugar a day. When they say “added” they mean on top of the natural sugar we are eating from fruits and other carbohydrates. What does 22 teaspoons of sugar look like? I couldn’t resist finding out. See the picture above. That is an eight inch diameter plate. The pile was about 2 inches high! To put things in perspective, the AHA recommendation is that women should eat no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day and men should eat no more than 9 teaspoons per day.

Where is all of this sugar coming from? It could be coming from soft drinks and sweets but it is likely coming from processed foods. In my opinion, I eat a healthy diet, but there are a few processed foods in my home for convenience. I get these products from health food stores and stores like Trader Joes that don’t use a lot of processed ingredients. Here is what a quick perusal of my pantry turned up:

Trader Joes brand spaghetti sauce: evaporated cane juice.

Pitted kalamata olives packed in extra virgin olive oil imported from Greece: glucose.

S & W organic tomato sauce: organic sugar.

Hain all natural Canola mayonnaise: dehydrated cane juice and honey.

Milton’s multi grain baked snack crackers: sugar and invert cane juice.

Doctor Kracker organic artisan baked spelt crackers: agave syrup, molasses, and barley malt syrup.

Kashi go lean hot cereal: evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup and honey.

The AHA is concerned for us because the extra sugar likely means we are unconsciously consuming extra calories. A lot of us have inactive lifestyles and if we do not get extra exercise to burn off the extra calories, we gain weight and risk heart disease and diabetes. These concerns while valid don’t tell the entire story. Sugar also prematurely ages us. An article in Prevention magazine talks about the damage sugar does to the proteins in our skin. If this is happening to our skin, the biggest organ in our bodies, I wonder what it may be doing to our other organs!

What can we do to protect ourselves? First off, read labels and be aware of what you are buying. Second, cook as much of your own food as you can. It is the only way to really know what is on your plate. As the cook, you can reduce the amount of sugar in your food by adjusting it downward as low as you can tolerate it and as low as a recipe can stand without ruinous results. Know your sugars. While all sugar is bad in excess, some sugar such as honey or molasses have trace nutrients and while they are not exactly health food, you will get a little more added nutrition than if you used processed granulated sugar.

Please let me know your thoughts on this matter. Have you been aware of this issue already? What do you do to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet? Do we as bloggers have a responsibility to show our readers a healthy diet or are we just a tourist stop on the internet foodie trail?

Chili and cornbread are like two peas in pod

Chili

There are some classic meals that become ingrained in your life. Foods that remind you of home. Nourishing. Good.

Years ago I found a recipe. I am pretty sure I got it out of Sunset magazine although I can‘t find it on their website now. No matter. I have made key changes that make it my recipe now. It is a Turkey chili that is made with canned ingredients, comes together in a snap and tastes like it is made from scratch and simmered all day. You can eat it plain out of the pot or garnish it with a choice of many different things. The very best additions enhance the flavors and make them brighter: sharp cheddar, fresh lime juice, cilantro.

The very best thing to round out such a meal in one bowl? Cornbread made with whole grains, not too sweet. Just the clean taste of corn with a hint of honey.

I have made this meal over and over and I never tire of it. I feel good after eating it. It is healthy, low in fat and feels like pure comfort.

ChiliCondiments

Turkey chili

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 fresh jalapeno, diced

1 lb. ground turkey breast

3 tbsp chili powder

8 oz diced green chilies

28 oz can whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes or fire roasted whole tomatoes

Two 15 oz cans of red beans (substitute kidney or pintos is unavailable), with juice

½ cup sliced black olives, drained

1/8 tsp ground cloves

Black pepper, to taste

Garnishes: Shredded sharp cheddar, chopped cilantro, lime wedges

Optional garnish: If not making cornbread, top the chili with corn chips

In a 5 quart saucepan, sauté onions and jalapeno over medium heat in olive oil until just softened. Lower heat to medium. Add Turkey. Brown the turkey until well cooked, about 20 minutes. Stir in chili powder and cook for a minute until fragrant. Add green chilies, tomatoes and their juices, beans and their juices, drained olives and cloves. If using whole tomatoes, break them up with a spoon. Simmer for 15 – 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Serve with garnishes.

Cornbread

Whole grain cornbread

Adapted from Williams Sonoma essentials of baking

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

2 large eggs, beaten

2 – 3 tbsp honey

1 1/3 cups buttermilk

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter for greasing skillet

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine, cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine eggs, honey, buttermilk, and oil. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well combined.

On the stovetop, heat a 10” cast iron skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter in the skillet making sure the sides of the skillet get buttered. As soon as the butter is melted, remove the skillet from the heat. Add the batter to the skillet and put the skillet in the oven. Bake the cornbread until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This is usually about 20 minutes for me if it needs more time, add up to 5 more minutes and test again.

Destructive desire

Chocobun6

I was going to bake bread this week. I even made a point of going to a special store to pay lots of money for a really nice bag of exotic flour. I had the Breads from the La Brea Bakery cookbook out on my counter! I did not. I repeat, did not want to bake something sweet and ruin my diet even further. What the hell happened?!

Someone derailed me. She probably doesn’t even know it was her fault. All she did was innocently mention that she got a recipe off of the Fleischmann’s Bread World Site. I clicked on the sweet treats link, I clicked on the rolls and buns link and that was my undoing. What I saw there that day would have me obsessing over so many sordid opportunities for gluttony.

At least I added fruit and a little whole wheat flour to make myself feel better.

Here is this week’s sourdough porn:

Chocobun1

The fresh fruit has been sprinkled over the filling

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The rolled dough with a little fruit peeking out

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The raw dough was so pretty with the fruit poking out

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The naked baked rolls

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Drizzled in chocolate a la Jackson Pollack

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I should never have taken that bite… all was lost. So delicious!

 

For more ideas on how to wreck your diet please click on this link to view YeastSpotting which will be hosted on friday by Macheesmo

White Nectarine and Cocoa rolls

Adapted from Cinnamon Cocoa Breakfast Rolls on the Fleischmann’s Bread World site

Dough:

3 cups unbleached white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

½ cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

1 tsp salt

¼ cup water

¼ cup buttermilk

½ cup unsalted butter, melted

½ cup cooked, mashed potato

1 cup sourdough starter

2 eggs, beaten

1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

¼ cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 white nectarines, peeled and diced

Glaze:

1 oz bitter dark chocolate

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 – 2 tsp evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

¼ tsp salt

2 tsp brandy

In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, and salt. In another large bowl, combine water, buttermilk, melted butter and mashed potato. It is ok if the ingredients are still warm from the butter melting and the potatoes cooking. Add 1 ½ cups of the flour mixture and the sourdough starter to the wet ingredients. Using a mixer, beat the ingredients together for 2 minutes. Add the eggs and an additional cup of the flour mixture and beat for 2 more minutes. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix by hand until a soft dough forms. Not all of the flour may get incorporated at this point. Turn the dough and any remaining flour out onto a board. Knead the rest of the flour into the dough until it is fully incorporated into it. Continue to knead the dough for ten minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball, transfer it to a clean bowl and cover it. Let the dough rest for ten to fifteen minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the filling ingredients: combine sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon.

Turn the dough back out onto your board. Roll the dough out into an 18” x 12” rectangle. Spread the dough with the tablespoon of melted butter. Using a spoon, sprinkle the cocoa mixture evenly over the dough. Sprinkle the diced nectarines over the filling. Starting at the long end, roll the dough tightly in a jelly roll. Pinch the seam to seal. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Transfer the pieces to a buttered 9” x 13” pan. Cover the pan with a clean towel and allow the dough rise until doubled. (It was a chilly day here today so mine took around two hours to proof).

Bake in a preheated 375 degree F. oven for 20 – 25 minutes until golden. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool.

Make Glaze: Over low heat, melt butter and dark chocolate with sugar salt and brandy. Stir until well melted and smooth. Using a spoon, drizzle hot chocolate in artful splotches over the top of the chocolate buns.

Choice

Pineapple

On an ugly fire scented day with ash raining from the sky, I went to Trader Joes in search of pizza ingredients. Not wanting to be outside for long while the fifth fire in three years rages north of us in wine country I hurriedly sought out the items on my list. I thought it would be nice to make a Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza as well as the usual veggie pizza we have grown to love.

Trader Joes used to sell canned pineapple. It was really good. Open the can and there were large pristine chunks of pineapple that looked fresh enough to have just been cut from a ripe fruit, floating in natural pineapple juice which was a delight to strain from the fruit and drink on its own as a treat. I went to the canned fruit section to find out it is no longer available. Oh no! Trader Joes is one of those companies that makes deals for the best price and products tend to come and go. My favorite pineapple is a go. It’s happened before and it has come back, but right now, it’s a goner.

I remembered seeing pineapple elsewhere in the store. I went searching and came across three different kinds: A fresh whole pineapple, fresh slices in the cold case and frozen chunks. I have to admit, faced with the lack of what I expected and so many choices I was frozen with indecision. The whole pineapple was from Mexico. Not a long shipping distance. It was the most expensive choice at $3.99 and would likely cause huge amounts of leftovers that I may forget to eat. It would be the most labor intensive choice adding extra work to an already complicated cooking chore. The slices were from the Philippines. They were the next expensive choice at $3.29. Unfortunately, they looked as if they had been delivered on a slow boat from the Philippines. They were browned and soggy looking. The frozen chunks of mystery origin were cheap at $1.59. They looked good and I could use what I need and keep the rest frozen. My main worry was that frozen fruit would weep too much liquid and end up making my pizza soggy. I stood still frozen in indecision. What was wrong with me?

In the book Affluenza, I learned that the typical grocery store now contains over 30,000 items. The book quoted psychologist Barry Schwartz who in his book Paradox of Choice says that having so many choices causes us stress and unhappiness. Having so many choices can leave us feeling that we have made the wrong choice. Was that what was happening to me? Was I being overwhelmed by too many options? Was I worried that having to use a different product than what I expected to use would cause problems?

When I stopped to think about it, all three choices were just pineapple. The only thing distinguishing them were convenience, freshness and place of origin. It was a choice. A simple choice, right? I bought the whole pineapple. It was beautiful to look at. I know it will be fresh and handled in a clean environment. I will be able to cut the fruit to order for pizza and other uses. In the long run, the fresh fruit gave me more choices, but they are my choices, which makes me happy.

 

 

The sourdough madness continues!

CherryCoffeeCake1

Sometimes I feel like I am on the brink of sourdough madness. I am a bit obsessed. This week, however, I feel a lot better about myself. I stumbled onto a couple of recipes that put things into perspective for me. I can still call myself an avid hobbyist baker. I am not yet mad. I have not yet used sourdough as a batter for frying red meat. I have not yet put strange vegetables in my bread. I’m all right.
 
Things started quite innocently this week with a conversation with my best friend. I had emailed her to say thank you for sending me two gorgeous, scrumptious jars of homemade jam. One peach the other blueberry. She emailed me back and asked me if I saw the plum kuchen in this month’s Gourmet magazine and could it be made with sourdough. Well of course I noticed the plum kutchen in all of it’s beauty and glory. I noticed it again when it appeared with an even prettier photo on Smitten Kitchen. I did of course think I’d like to make it with sourdough.
 
I’ve been baking with my sourdough for a couple of years now but I had yet to try to make a cake. I first noticed sourdough cake when thumbing through the Joy of Cooking and have always had it in the back of my mind to bake a cake someday. Since I have no experience baking any cake with sourdough, I emailed my friend back that one of us would need to try it and report back. (I’m a coward, I know!). It was my first impulse to shy away from converting that recipe to sourdough because I have no understanding of how sourdough works in baked goods other than bread.
 
Today that changed for me. Instead of doing responsible adult things, I started to obsess about that kuchen and wonder what the heck yeast does in cakes. My research did not come up with an easy answer so I started looking at recipes. A particular recipe caught my eye because all of the ingredients or some reasonable substitutions were available here at home. I would just have to bake something and see what I think sourdough does in the recipe.
 
The recipe I chose for cherry sourdough coffee cake looked good but there were a couple of changes I made. Here’s why: the normal thing to do in any cake recipe I’ve baked in the past is to cream the sugar and butter. This results in a nice fluffy cake. The baker who created the recipe has you mix together all the dry ingredients and cut the butter into the mixture like you are making pie. Normally I wouldn’t agree with this but it was too late. I had already mixed the dry ingredients before I realized what I was being instructed to do. Once I mixed the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, I had a dough not a batter. This may be correct but it could be an inconsistency that happened due to our starters? As far as I can tell we both use 100% hydration starters but I panicked and added a quarter cup of milk to thin things out a little. I used sweet cherries not tart cherries so my filling was sweeter than it should have been. I used more cherries because I love them and 1 ½ cups just didn’t seem like enough.
 
I felt a bit of apprehension about this cake as I put it in the oven. I felt like I had uneven cake layers (too much batter on bottom, not enough on top). I tried to spread the top layer of batter over the cherries and the fruit bled into the batter. I was happy to realize that the crumble topping would cover things up well. I still felt odd about the addition of milk to the dough to change it into a thick batter. My apprehension cleared when I got a whiff of an exquisite smell coming from my oven a few minutes later. I went to peek at it and the flat looking bit of batter in the pan had puffed up tall. It was so pretty!

So. I think I will have to try a few more cakes and muffins to really analyze what is going on here, but I think the starter worked as a dough conditioner. I used unbleached white flour for this cake, but it came out silky like I had used cake flour. The rise on this cake was crazy. I think the yeast helped in that regard. As for that malted yeasty flavor, we got a hit of on the first bite but then it went away as we kept eating and tasting. Now that I think about it, that could be why I see so many recipes for chocolate sourdough cake. It could be it works better with stronger flavors. But…don’t let the idea that the cake has a yeasty flavor deter you. This cake was wonderful. Please make it for someone you love today.

I am submitting this coffeecake to YeastSpotting on Wild Yeast. Click here to see what other delicious things were baked up this week.

CherryCoffeeCake2

Cherry sourdough coffee cake
Adapted from this recipe by Nancerose on grouprecipes.com
 
Cake:
 
1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
 
 ½ cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

½ cup unsalted butter

½ cup sourdough starter (mine was fed the night before)

1 large egg, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup milk (I used nonfat, any kind should work)

Filling:

2 cups frozen sweet cherries

1 tbsp lime or lemon juice

½ cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

2 tbsp corn starch

Topping:

1/3 cup rolled oats

¼ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup chopped pecans

3 tbsp unbleached white flour

¼ cup unsalted butter

Filling:

In a medium saucepan, pour in the frozen cherries and cook on high heat until they defrost and begin to boil, about 5 -7 minutes. Lower to a simmer. Add lime or lemon juice. Mix together the sugar and cornstarch. Stir the sugar mixture into the cherry mixture and continue to simmer for 2 or 3 minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool completely while you proceed with the recipe.

Cake and topping:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, F.

In a large bowl, Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like coarse crumbs. In another bowl, mix the egg, starter, vanilla and milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

For the topping: in a small bowl, mix together the oats sugar nuts and flour. Using the pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it forms coarse crumbs. Set aside.

Butter an 8” x 8” square pan. Pour half of the cake batter into the pan. Pour the filling over the cake batter and spread it out with a silicone spatula. Drop the remaining batter over the filling in small amounts. Use the spatula to carefully spread the batter over the topping. It can be sloppy but you want to make sure there are no giant holes for the filling to come gushing out of. Sprinkle the topping ingredients evenly over the cake. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes. Check the cake at 35 minutes by using a toothpick to see if it comes clean. If it needs a few more minutes and you think the nuts are browning to quickly, use a sheet of aluminum foil to tent over the cake and keep the topping from burning. Cool the cake on a wire rack before serving.

 

I almost forgot…

 Garlic Spinach 

…to make spinach.

 
I already have a head of chard in the crisper that has seen better days and I almost forgot to cook my spinach too. A few days ago, I made some lovely New York steaks. I was going to have baked potatoes with sour cream with minced green onions and my favorite recipe of garlic spinach. I bought a large head of spinach and somewhere between fighting with the charcoal and baking the potatoes for what felt like hours, I had a sudden case of amnesia which resulted in my grabbing a bag of frozen peas after the steaks were done. Don’t get me wrong. I love frozen green peas, I’ll eat them with anything and my choice of an Asian inspired spinach dish might seem odd with steak and potatoes but oh… the garlic… oh… the residual sake…oh…the rich tamari. It would have been so very right.

I did a save today while scouring the fridge for a potluck lunch. My honey was going to have some leftover soba with slices of the leftover steak. I was going to have some leftover meatloaf. To round out this potluck lunch, I still needed to eat up the focaccia from last week before it goes the way of the melting chard in the crisper. So, yes, it was an even a stranger assortment of food than what I intended but the spinach, as always, (was not enough spinach but it) was the star.

Note: I am going to give the recipe for one head of spinach which will make two small servings of cooked spinach. So just enough for two people to fight over. If you need to feed more people or you think you will go out of control and want more of something so incredible, use two heads of spinach and your largest skillet.

On another side note: There is nothing worse than getting sand in a bite of food. I used a salad spinner with a removable colander as a bowl to wash the spinach. I fill up the bowl with cool water. Swish the spinach around and then remove the colander. At this point, inspect the water left in the bowl. There will be sand. Pour out the water, rinse the bowl and repeat the previous steps. I usually do this process about three times before I am satisfied that the sand is gone. For this recipe, do not spin dry the spinach, you want the spinach to have residual moisture.

Garlic spinach

  

1 large head of spinach, leaves removed from stems, washed well but not dried

½ cup sake

3-5 cloves garlic

2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce

1 tbsp brown rice vinegar

1 ½ tsp toasted sesame oil

Optional: Tatami Nogarishi or cayenne to taste

Special equipment: garlic press, large skillet or wok

Heat the skillet on medium high. Add spinach and cook until it begins to wilt a little. Press the garlic cloves directly into the spinach. Give it a stir. Add sake. Cook another minute or two, stirring, until spinach starts to shrink and the sake begins to evaporate. Add tamari, brown rice vinegar and sesame oil. If you want a little kick add tatami nogarishi or cayenne to taste. Continue to cook until the spinach is tender and the sauce thickens a little. Be careful not to overcook. The spinach should still look green, overcooked spinach looks brownish. Serve immediately.

Juicy, delicious, mouth-watering steak

http://www.public-domain-image.com (public domain image)
 
You are what you eat eats – Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food.
 
I think I’ve mentioned before that I don’t often luxuriate in a rare, juicy piece of beef. If I am going to eat something that was alive and kicking at one point, my preference usually leans toward something avian or piscine. Occasionally something porcine will grace my plate but that is the extent of the red meaty goodness I’ll usually eat. Why? I was ruined early on when I read Diet for a Small Planet by Francis Moore Lappe’. I was quite the little environmentalist and when I discovered the environmental destruction tied to cattle, I stopped centering my diet around beef. Back in those old days, beef was blamed for many health scares due to the saturated fat content it contains. Many people I know cut down on their consumption of beef and I did too.
 
If you do your homework, you find out that a lot of the bad rap that beef gets is due to how it is raised for market.  Cows evolved a double stomach in order to turn the luscious green grass that we can’t digest into wholesome available nutrients. Cows properly raised on pasture are usually not too destructive to the environment. Meat and dairy from those same cows is loaded with omega three fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids (which are good for preventing cancer). You see, the problem is that conventionally raised cows, stuck in a feedlot, are fed corn and sometimes other things. Since their double stomach is made for processing grass, grains make them ill. We have to load them with medications to make them well. The feedlots also contribute to environmental and health issues as well. The rise in the number of toxic E-coli cases we are experiencing lately are a result of our animal husbandry practices.
 
From a health and an environmental standpoint the meat, eggs and dairy of pastured animals are far better than their conventionally grown counterparts. “But pasture raised animal products are so pricey!” you say. Well, we should all be eating lower on the food chain for our health and our planet, but… that’s another rant for another day.
Steak
 
So… if you are still with me on this, and after looking at my links you still wanna have some beef: you must be thinking, “but Mimi. Grass fed beef has so much less fat, it can’t be tasty at all”. As you have gathered, I am not a steak expert, but I know that I love the intense meaty flavor of grass fed beef. Slate magazine did a taste test and here is how grass fed beef fared. For me, I have always loved how any beef tastes with this wonderful chili rub I discovered over a decade ago in Gourmet magazine. The rub both tenderizes and flavors the meat. Bon Appetit!
 
 Rub1
 
 Garlic and chili rub for barbequed beef

Adapted from Gourmet, August 1995

2 – 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
 
1 tsp kosher salt
 
2 tbsp chili powder
 
1 tsp cumin
 
½ tsp evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar
 
3 ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
 
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Add chopped garlic and salt to a mortar and use a pestle to grind the garlic and salt into a paste. Don’t worry if there are still some garlic chunks but you want it ground enough to make a wet paste. If your mortar is large enough, add chili powder, cumin, sugar and Worcestershire sauce, if not transfer garlic to a bowl and mix in the preceding ingredients.

This recipe makes enough rub for two to three pounds of steak or a roast such as tri tip. Cover the meat in the rub and allow it to marinate for at least 4 hours and up to two days. Cook the meat on a barbeque to the desired doneness.

Rub3