Homemade Foccacia

May 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

This is a bread recipe that you don’t need to knead, is quick to prepare, and doesn’t need a fancy pan. Also, you get to cover your hands with olive oil and stick them in squishy bread dough, which is reason enough to make it!

It’s my go-to recipe if I’m having people over for appetizers.

Smaller crumb on this batch from a shorter second rise

Smaller crumb on this batch from a shorter second rise

Ingredients

2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon quick-rise yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons truffle oil (or olive oil, if you don’t have it)
1 tbsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp salt
4 3/4 bread flour

Topping

1 tbsp fresh thyme
2 tsp fresh rosemary
2 tsp course sea salt (Maldon is a good option)
If you have don’t have fresh herbs, or resent paying £2 for them at the store (must get herb garden!), use a smaller quantity of dried herbs.

How to make Foccacia

Stir 2 cups warm water and yeast in large bowl, and mix in 3 tablespoons olive oil, truffle oil (or just olive oil to sub), freshly ground pepper, and 2 teaspoons salt. Add 1 cup flour. Stir until mixed in. Add enough of remaining 3 3/4 cups flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, to form dough that is soft, sticky and not completely smooth, stirring until well incorporated.

Oil a separate large bowl, scrape dough in, and cover in plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in warm draft-free area until it’s grown to double in volume, about 45 minutes.

Put a bit of oil on a baking sheet. Slide out the dough onto your sheet and gently pull and stretch dough so that dough almost covers baking sheet. Press fingertips all over top of dough to form indentations. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with thyme, rosemary and coarse salt. Loosely with plastic wrap.

Let rise again in a warm draft-free area until puffed, about 15 minutes. If you’re in a hurry, you can bake it right away, but it won’t have as nice of a rise.

Preheat to 450°F or 230°C. Bake focaccia until deep golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool. If you’re not sure it’s done, lift up the bread using a spatula and check the bottom. It should be cooked and a bit hollow to the touch.

Serve beside a shallow dish of olive oil and vinegar, olive oil and good quality sea salt (my favorite), or make it more meal-like with some charcuterie meats, olives, and hummus.

Foccacia with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Foccacia with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

About yeast

You’ll typically see two different types of yeast called for in a recipe. Traditional yeast (or Active Dry yeast) is what I grew up using- you need to ‘activate’ or proof the yeast before using it in a recipe by letting it sit for about 10 minutes in warm water and a bit of ‘food’ for the yeast, sugar or honey.  Instant yeast can be mixed directly into the dry ingredients (flour) without activating/proofing it. Both work perfectly – I’d suggest sticking to the Instant as it’s easier and lets things rise faster. (It’s also called rapid rise, or quick rise, just to keep you on your toes). Keep jars of yeast in the fridge once you’ve opened it- it’ll last about 3 months. Or, buy the individually sealed packs.

Cider Glazed Lamb Chops

February 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

These lamb chops are quick and to prepare, absolutely delicious, and don’t require too many ingredients.

I made this for my wonderful friend Heather for Valentine’s Day- she’s a fabulous cook but mentioned she had never cooked lamb! It’s just like steak. But much easier. Honestly. Try it! Right now! OK, you’re at work right now, but for dinner? I PROMISE you won’t regret it.

What you’ll need

1 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced ginger*
3 tablespoons soya sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar (I didn’t have any this time around – I used red wine vinegar, still delish)
1 rack of lamb chops (about 3 pieces per person)
1 green onion

I like the garlic and ginger better when it's roughly chopped

Put the cider, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, and honey in a pot and lightly boil until reduced to about 1/4 cup, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove about 2 tablespoons for glazing. While it’s cooling, prep the lamb.

Preheat the broiler, setting up a rack so the pan will sit about 3-4 inches from the heat. Take your rack of lamb chops, and slice them til they are 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch (just between each bone). Pat them dry, sprinkle with a bit of salt, and arrange them on a broiler rack. brush one side with the glaze. Broil for 3 minutes, take out, turn, brush the other side, and broil for another 3-4 minutes. Voila.

Transfer to a plate, cover with remaining glaze, and keep tented under foil until everything’s ready to be served. Serve with chopped green onion on top.

Eat, enjoy, and wish you made more (I know I did).

peeling ginger with a teaspoon!

*did you know ginger is easiest (for me, at least) to peel with a teaspoon?

London and No-Knead Bread

February 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

After a three month sabbatical off work (well, really, off life!), I’m back. Blogging that is, but not back in Vancouver.

Claudia’s Kitchen is now in London!

I’ll start updating my culinary adventures again, along with observations from a Canadian in London.

For example, did you know the orange light on stop lights is used both to stop and go here? I know. Blows your mind, right?

(You probably also knew the traffic runs the opposite way. I’m still struggling with that one).

ANYWAY. Magic bread.

When there’s a lot of uncertainty in my life, I like to bake. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment and (usually) turns out the way I plan (life isn’t that easy). I’m looking for a job now in London, which inevitably gives me moments where I feel inadequate or I think to myself, “oh, &^#$, what am I doing here?!”

You know what helps? Making a delicious loaf of bread. I’ll know I’ll always be able to make bread. And bread this pretty!

Executive summary of how to make this deliciously simple, totally amazing bread:

  1. The day before you want bread, mix flour, water, and a bit of yeast. Stir and cover with plastic.
  2. Three and a half hours (the next day) before you want bread, give it a little mix, cover with flour, leave on counter.
  3. An hour and a half before you want bread, turn on the oven and put a pot with a lid inside.
  4. An hour before you want bread, put dough in pot, lid on pot, and put in oven. Bake with lid on for thirty minutes, and another 15 without the lid on.
  5. Remove from oven when brown, marvel at bread magic.

It’s almost no hands on time- just requires a bit of advanced thinking. Basically, the fermentation time allows the yeast to activate the gluten in the flour over time, so instead of you doing the work, the yeast does. Cooking it in a pot with a lid allows the steam to surround the loaf when it cooks, giving it a perfect crust.

The amounts and all that

3 cups flour (you can use all purpose or bread flour- I did bread and I’ll try it next time with whole wheat and bread)
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 5/8 cups Water

Mix the flour, yeast, and salt together. Add water and stir. Let sit for 12-18 hours.

Flash forward 12-18 hours, your dough surface should be dotted with bubbles. Cover some of your counter with flour, pour the dough out on there, pull it together with your hands once or twice, cover with plastic, and leave it for 15 minutes. (Perfect timing to clean your kitchen!)

Shape the dough into a ball (put flour on your hands if you’re getting sticky). Coat a teatowel with flour, and put the dough seam side down on it. Cover again with a tea towel. Let sit for two hours.

After an hour and a half, turn on your oven and throw a pot in (cast iron, ceramic, enamel… just no plastic, ok?)

Once your two hours is up, carefully take the pot out, plop your dough in, and bake for half an hour with the lid on. Take the lid off and bake until browned, 15 – 30 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Cacio y pepe

September 7, 2011 § 1 Comment

Cacio y pepe

Cacio y pepe is a comfort meal, but also a happy meal, a lazy meal, a girlfriend meal, or a meal for one. It is so simple- success is based on both method and quality of ingredients.

Wendy (who really needs no introduction if you’ve met her once) has a weak spot for anything involving carbs and cheese. I love her for it. She told me about this dish she ate almost every night when she was in Italy and we endeavored to re-create it together.

A few notes- do as I say and not as I do and get everything prepared before you start cooking the pasta. Find the right cheese- try a cheese shop, the deli on Granville Island, Whole Foods, or a decent grocery store. Measure the ingredients the first few times to get a feel for what the ratios should be. And be careful if you’re planning on saving some for leftovers- it’s impossible to resist and really much better fresh.

The original recipe is from the May Bon Appétit magazine. If you enjoy watching good looking men make pasta as much as I do, there’s a great video on bonappetit.com here

Ingredients

Salt

6 ounces pasta (I use spaghetti)

3 tablespoons butter, divided

1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper (good quality pepper actually makes a difference)

3/4 cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan

1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino

Method

Bring water to boil in a large pot. Season it with salt – it should be a bit saltier than the ocean (I’ve always wondered exactly how salty it’s supposed to be). Take out a large mug and place near the pot so you don’t forget to reserve the pasta water.

Grate the Granda Padano and the Pecorino into separate bowls.

Add pasta to the water and cook until two minutes before tender. Reserve about a cup of water, then drain the pasta in a colander.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large heavy pan over medium heat. Add pepper and cook about 1 minute.

Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water to your heavy pan and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Reduce heat to low and add Grana Padano, gently stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Remove the pan from heat and add Pecorino, again stirring and tossing until cheese melts, the sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve.

The Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookie

August 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

  

This is a gooey, sweet, slightly salty, and chewy peanut butter cookie. It is perfection. The beauty of this one is that it stands up to a day or two after baking quite wonderfully- which works well when you need to carry it across the country (I was in Muskoka last week- my girlfriend Alex warned me the cabin did not have a functioning oven! So in my suitcase went two batches of cookies, a loaf of banana bread, and two layers of chocolate cake for her banana-ice cream cake).

Truly though, the best way to eat any cookie is warm out of the oven. When I make cookies, I’ll bake a sheet or two and save a third ‘roll’ of dough in the freezer for perfect cookie opportunities/emergencies*. Is there anything better than warm, gooey cookies, a cold glass of milk, a group of good friends, and a few guitars? I think not.

This recipe is from the Magnolia Bakery in New York, further adapted by Smitten Kitchen. The only modification I make is that if you have a good, not too salty sea salt, add a sprinkle to the top of the cookie. If you’re using a block of chocolate, it’s also nice to add a nice chunked piece somewhere on the top of every cookie before baking- that way, everyone feels like they are getting a special, extra-chocolatey cookie.

What I’ve learned from my lovely former roommate Janene is that to go from good to exceptional baked goods, the quality of ingredients really matters. When you’re making peanut butter cookies, counter intuitively it’s better to use mostly the Kraft/Skippy variety of peanut butter, as it doesn’t separate and keeps the cookies together better. Sometimes I’ll do a ratio of crunchy all natural with the commercial variety- but I always keep the majority to the Kraft stuff. For chocolate, you’ll pay more, but good quality dark chocolate from the bulk section of Whole Foods is really, terribly delicious.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Adapted from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened (they suggest unsalted butter- but I really don’t notice a difference)
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (use Kraft or Skippy- it won’t separate)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips (or chocolate chunks)

For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter chips and chocolate chips. Roll dough into rounded teaspoonfuls and drop into the remaining sugar, then place on baking sheets (ungreased or with either parchment paper).

Lightly flatten the cookies. You can be traditional and use a fork for a criss-cross pattern, or a small offset spatula to keep it smooth on top, or a cheese grater for a neat almost polka-dot finish. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes- do not overbake! You want them to be a bit soft to the touch still when they are in the oven – they may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then carefully remove to a rack to cool completely. (If you’e using parchment, you can just air-lift the whole batch. Ta-da!)

Keep in an airtight container if you manage not to eat the whole batch. Good luck.

*To keep some cookie dough in the freezer- set out a decent sized piece of saran wrap, and create a ‘log’ of cookie dough similar to what you might see if you buy the Pillsbury cookies from the grocery store. Wrap and freeze- when you’re ready to use, simply cut rounds, place them on parchment on a baking sheet, and cook right away. Warm cookies at your finger tips!

Sausage Carbonara

May 28, 2011 § 3 Comments

Do you ever eat an amazing meal and wonder if it was actually the food? Sometimes it’s the atmosphere, the company, or the wine that can make a meal memorable. I feared that may be the case with this dish – so I made it again. And again.  And it was still exceptional.

This is a foolproof pasta (I made it at 2am once- still worked perfectly) that is a welcome variation on a traditional tomato or alfredo sauce. The ingredients are pretty easy to find and you can get it all together in 30 minutes or less.

I absolutely love Jamie’s Italy- it was a gift from the boss at Christmas this year and I have cooked over 10 recipes in it, all of which I love. You’ll see more from the book later, but for now, here is a phenomenal pasta dish that’s quick, easy and so damn good.

Recipe instructions are from http://www.jamieoliver.com/ with a few notes.

Ingredients

• 4 good-quality organic Italian sausages
• olive oil
• 4 slices of thickly cut pancetta, chopped (it’s cheapest to get this in the deli section instead of buying a whole package)
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 500g dried linguine (I used fresh and I liked it better)
• 4 large free-range or organic egg yolks
• 100ml double cream (aka whipping cream)
• 100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• zest of 1 lemon
• a sprig of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
• extra virgin olive oil

How to make it happen

Slit the sausage skins lengthways and pop the meat out. Using wet hands, roll little balls of sausage meat about the size of large marbles and place them to one side. I like smaller meatballs better.

Heat a large frying pan and add a good splash of olive oil. Gently fry the sausage meatballs until golden brown all over, then add the pancetta and continue cooking for a couple of minutes, until it’s golden. While this is cooking, bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the linguine, and cook according to the instructions.

In a large bowl, whip up the egg yolks, cream, half the Parmesan, the lemon zest and parsley. When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water, and immediately toss it quickly with the egg mixture back in the pasta pan. Add the hot sausage meatballs and toss everything together. The egg will cook delicately from the heat of the linguine, just enough for it to thicken and not scramble.

The sauce should be smooth and silky. If the pasta becomes a little claggy (thick, or if it’s sticking together), add a few spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water to loosen it slightly. Sprinkle over the rest of the Parmesan, season if necessary, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve. Eat immediately!

Wild Salmon with Mango Salsa

May 18, 2011 § 1 Comment

We all need a little ray of sunshine right now. Salmon with mango will do it. The good news? It only takes 20 minutes.

Wild Salmon with Mango Salsa and Brown Rice

This doesn’t even really need a recipe- make it once and you’ll know how you like it. Everything can be made ahead of time, or prepared in under 20 minutes. It’s colourful and healthy and an easy go-to meal.

What you’ll need to do:

Turn on the oven to 350

Mix up a marinade:

Miso paste, one large spoonful
Sesame Oil, a few drops
Soya Sauce, a few drops
Rice wine vinegar, a few drops
Brown sugar, around a tsp

Put the marinade on your salmon fillets- if you have time, bring salmon to room temperature with the marinade for 10 minutes. If not, just put them in the oven. Set a timer to check at 10 minutes.

Put on some brown rice (I use the 10 or 20 minute par-boiled version- the nutritional information is the same and I just don’t have an hour to make rice!)

Mix up some Mango Salsa

1 alafuto mango, dice it up (any mango will do,  but alafutos are so sweet and flavourful)
1 small tomato, diced
1 avocado
1/4 of a red onion, finely diced (optional)
Handful of cilantro, chopped roughly (to taste)
Good sea salt and pepper

Check your salmon.  You want to take it out when it’s not quite opaque- it’ll keep cooking when it’s out of the oven and you want it to be moist!

Put brown rice on plate. Place salmon on rice. Place mango salsa on salmon. Eat and enjoy!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.