Monkeying around with my bread

Ever since I started baking bread, I’ve wanted a monkey bread pan. There was this gorgeous brown ceramic pan at a luxury kitchenware store. It was $24.95. That’s not a lot of money, but I didn’t want it that bad. Why? I had never eaten monkey bread and I wasn’t sure I would like it. I couldn’t see paying a lot of money for a pan that could easily end up taking up space and collecting dust. But every time I saw that pan, I had an irrational lust for it. That lust became especially painful now that I have been pinching my pennies so hard. A couple of weeks ago, I walked into that luxury kitchenware store to kill time. They were having a huge sale and what did I see? Monkey bread pans! The tag said $14.95. Ten bucks off!! How could I resist? I scooped one up with some pretty dish towels, got home and realized that I was actually charged $9.95 instead, woohoo!!

For some time, I’ve been thinking that I wanted to do a savory instead of sweet monkey bread loaf. A local restaurant used to serve up rolls that were drenched in a thick pesto of sorts which was mostly garlic. I loved those rolls so much. Another favorite restaurant tops there black bean stew with an amazing cilantro pesto. What if I made pull apart rolls covered in cilantro pesto. Mmmmmm!! What a great idea.

The ants are winning so I still don’t have sourdough. I did however pick this up:

Who in their right mind buys 2 pounds of yeast?? I hear it freezes well….  😀

The cilantro pesto I whipped together turned out amazingly well. Earthy and spicy, I look forward to figuring out what to do with the leftovers. It also made one mean loaf of monkey bread!!

This fabulous monkey bread is being submitted to YeastSpotting.

Cilantro Pesto

4 large cloves garlic

¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds

2 packed cups cilantro, stems and leaves, chopped

1 packed cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped

½ cup sliced sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained

1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and chopped

¼ tsp salt

¾ cup grated parmesano reggiano

¾ cup olive oil

Fresh ground pepper to taste

Put garlic cloves into the container of either a blender or a food processor. Chop. Add pumpkin seeds and chop some more. Add the rest of the ingredients. Process until the sauce is a smooth paste. A food processor works better for this task. If using a blender, you may have to stop the motor of the blender and mix the ingredients a few times in between blending to get a nice smooth paste.

This pesto recipe makes way more sauce than you will use on the monkey bread. Pour a little olive oil over the surface of the pesto to keep it from browning and then store air tight in the refrigerator until ready to use. This pesto can be used as pasta sauce or as a garnish for meals like black bean stew.

Cilantro Pesto & Cheddar Monkey Bread

1 – 2 tbsp butter, softened (for greasing the pan)

¾ cup buttermilk

½ cup water

4 tbsp evaporated cane juice, divided

2 ½ tsp active yeast

2 tbsp butter, melted

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 cups unbleached white flour (plus more for dusting the kneading board)

1 ¼ cups stone ground whole wheat flour

2 tsp salt

½ – 1 cup cilantro pesto (see recipe above)

1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese

In a small sauce pan, combine water and buttermilk. Warm to between 95 and 110 degrees F. Mix in 2 tbsp evaporated cane juice and the yeast. Let stand ten minutes until the mixture is bubbly.

In a large bowl. Mix together white flour, whole wheat flour and salt. In another large bowl, combine the yeast mixture, butter, and the egg. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until well combined.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured kneading surface. Knead the dough for 5 – 7 minutes adding a little bit more flour if the dough is too tacky. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with a dish towel and let rise for one hour or until doubled.

Turn the dough out onto the floured kneading surface and flatten it out into an 8” square. Cut the square into six even ropes. Cut each rope into eight even pieces. Butter the monkey bread pan generously with the softened butter. This is going to get dirty… be prepared… Take each piece of dough and roll it into a little ball. With a spoon put a little cilantro pesto in the palm of your hand and roll the ball of dough in the pesto. Be generous! Transfer the dough balls as they are sauced to the prepared monkey bread pan. Each time you complete a layer of dough balls, toss a few pinches of cheddar over the dough. Keep layering until the pan is full, ending with a sprinkle of cheese.

Let the bread rise covered for 45 minutes. You want the dough to rise to near the top of the pan, try not to let it rise above the pan. While bread is rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, F. and position the rack in the lower third of the oven. Bake the bread uncovered for 20 minutes. Cover the bread with a sheet of foil and continue baking for 25 to 35 minutes. Check the bread after 25 minutes, if the rolls near the tube spring back when touched, the loaf is ready. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Invert the pan over a plate (careful, it will still be hot) and turn the loaf out onto the plate. Let cool for ten more minutes and then enjoy warm!

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How to season a wok

I’m very good at destroying things. It’s true. I’ve had two woks in the past. I followed the directions that came with these inexpensive carbon steel pans. Both times, no matter how well I cared for them, the seasoning came off and I rusted them most of the way through.

I love a good wok. A wok is so deep that you can pile the veggies into it and then crank up the heat and get a good sear on them. I’ve been wok-less for years and it’s been a major frustration.

A few years back, Gourmet did an article on the classic $15 wok. I saved the issue because the owner of the store that was profiled had instructions on how to season a wok and the instructions made so much more sense than the usual stove top method. I bought a wok and then forgot about it. Until today. Today was the day that a wok came back into my life.

I went hunting around the Gourmet website thinking that the instructions would be there, but of course I couldn’t find them so I’ll let you know what I did:

First, gather up what you will need:

A carbon steel wok

Steel wool

Dish soap

Vegetable oil

Paper towels

An old dish towel or wash cloth that you don’t mind damaging

Aluminum foil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Your wok will have some sort of coating on the inside to keep it from rusting. Using some steel wool and dish soap, scrub the inside of the wok thoroughly to clean off this coating. Dry the wok with a dish cloth.

Now look at your wok. Does it have a wood or plastic handle? Plastic? Sorry, these instructions aren’t for you unless you can remove the handle. If you can remove the handle please do so now. If it is a wooden handle and the handle cannot be removed, wrap the handle in a wet dish cloth and wrap the cloth completely in aluminum foil.

Using a paper towel and some vegetable oil. Wipe oil all over the inside and outside of the wok. (If you like the look of the steel you can leave the outside surface unseasoned but I don’t recommend it, an unseasoned bottom was the source of my rust problems with the other woks). Put the wok in the hot oven and allow it to bake for 20 minutes. Make sure your room is well ventilated and run the range fan. This will cause smoke! After 20 minutes, remove the wok and let it cool for at least five minutes or until cool enough to handle. Using an oven mitt, grab the wok by the handle (the wok will be cool, but the handle will still be warm, be careful!) and take it to the sink. Scrub the inside of the wok with the steel wool, using hot water only, no soap. Don’t scrub enough to remove the layer of seasoning, you just want to scratch the surface up a little.

Repeat the oiling, baking cooling and scrubbing three or four more times until the wok is bronze colored. It’s now fully seasoned.

So what did I make with my newly seasoned wok? Tofu and Broccoli Stir fry from the June issue of Eating Well Magazine. Click here for the recipe, the only thing I changed was to double the garlic (I so love garlic!) and substitute honey for the sugar which I recommend. The honey made the sauce sweet but also so very flavorful. This was a delicious and easy recipe that used a lot of pantry items.

If you don’t already have a carbon steel wok, go out and get one! They are very cheap and a great addition to your kitchen. And…now you know how to properly season it! Oh and by the way… never use soap on your wok. A little kosher salt and a sponge are all you need to clean it up and keep it’s non-stick surface in great shape!