Salty Focaccia

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together 1 3/4 cup warm water, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast. Let sit approximately 15 minutes, or until frothy. Attach the dough hook, then mix in 5 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/2 cup olive oil. Knead approximately 5 minutes or until the dough appears smooth.

Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface. Clean out any additional dough from the mixer, then wipe the bowl with olive oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with wrap (I use beeswax cloths) and let sit in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size.

Coat a full size cookie sheet with with 1/4 cup olive oil. Use a cookie sheet with walls. Put the dough ball into the pan and begin pressing to fit the pan. Brush an additional 1/4 cup olive oil over the top. Continue pressing the dough into the pan. Use your fingers to make dimples in the bread- flat focaccia is boring. Press it to the corners a couple more times over 30 minutes to get the dough to remain stretched. In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup room temperature water and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt. This is your brine. Pour brine over the dimpled dough and allow to rise for approximately 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450. While the oven is preheating, place another cookie sheet, upside down, on the rack. This will get nice and hot and work in lieu of a baking stone.

Just before putting the bread in the oven, sprinkle large grain salt over the top lightly.

Bake for 25-30 minutes with your dough-filled cookie sheet atop your inverted sheet. Check the bottom after 25 minutes and see if golden brown.

Remove from oven, brush with olive oil and let sit for about five minutes. The oil should absorb into those dimples.

Remove from pan and transfer to a cooling rack.

Serve warm.

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Pillowy Pretzels and Better than Pub Cheese

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Sometimes you just need a cloud of a pretzel and a gooey cheese in your life. May this fill that need. I recommend starting the pretzels first, prepping the cheese ingredients while the dough proofs, then beginning to heat the cheese ingredients when the pretzels go into the oven. That should get your pretzels and cheese done at just about the same time.

Pretzels:

Combine 1 1/2 cups room temperature water, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast (1 packet) in a large bowl. Let sit 10 minutes to give the yeast a chance to wake up. Add 4 1/2 cups flour, and 4 tablespoons of melted salted butter and mix until thoroughly combined. Remove to a lightly floured surface to knead by hand or by stand mixer, approximately 5 minutes. If the dough is too wet, dust a tablespoon of flour over it and knead in. You want the dough to pull away from the sides of a bowl or from your hands easily.

Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm room or atop a heating pad set to warm for about an hour, or until dough has about doubled in size.

When dough has doubled, divide into about 12 even pieces and roll into a ball. Separately, beat one egg and a tablespoon of water together for an egg wash.

Bring 5 cups of water and 1/3 cup baking soda to a rolling boil in a pot. Boil each dough ball approximately 40 seconds in the mixture, then remove to a parchment or silicone covered sheet pan. Brush dough balls with egg wash. Top with large grain kosher salt or pretzel salt. Bake about 15 minutes at 450 degrees, or until pretzels are dark golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool about five minutes.

Chipotle Cheese Sauce:

Start with a 2-cup bag of shredded cheddar cheese and add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Zip the bag shut and shake to coat the cheese with the cornstarch. Pour this into a non-stick frying pan along with one 12 ounce can of evaporated milk. It’s really important to get evaporated and not condensed milk. Begin to melt together over medium heat. Use a blender to blend three chipotle peppers and two tablespoons of liquid from a can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. Pour this into your cheese and evaporated milk mixture. Add 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. You can also use mild green chiles or diced jalapenos if you’re not a fan of chipotle. Continue mixing together over medium heat until the cheese has melted. Serve hot.

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Gooey Greens and Two Kinds of Cheese

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Very lightly butter or brush olive oil on two slices of sourdough. I used seeded sourdough, but this tastes great on plain sourdough, too. This will be the outside of your sandwich. If you use butter, you should try lightly dusting finely grated parmesan on the butter.

Spread a thin layer of basil pesto on the inside of each slice of sourdough. If you’ve got a tree nut allergy, blend together two tablespoons of olive oil, a packed handful of fresh basil, 1-2 cloves of garlic and two pinches of salt to use instead. Pile a slice with crumbled goat cheese, spinach, arugula, avocado and sliced swiss cheese. I like to add a secret sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes. Cook both sides over medium heat. I like to use a cast iron pan to get a nice crisp on the bread. You don’t want it too hot or you’ll scorch the bread before the cheeses have an opportunity to melt. Serve hot.

 

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Floats Like a Butterfly, Sweet Like a Bienenstich – Bee Sting Cake

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In small saucepan, combine 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, 3 1/2 Tbs honey, and 1 cup milk. Heat over low until the butter melts and mix is blended. Set aside to cool about 10 minutes. In a medium bowl, stir together 4 cups all purpose flour, 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, and 1 tsp. cinnamon. When milk mixture has cooled, whisk in the zest of 1 lemon, 1 egg, and 1 Tbs. dry active yeast (4 packets). Let sit about 5 minutes until frothy.

Mix milk mixture in with dry ingredients. Stir until combined. Remove to a floured surface and knead until dough is smooth, about 6 minutes by hand or 2 by machine. Place dough into an oiled bowl and cover with saran wrap. Let sit 1 hour in warm area or on top of a heating pad set to warm.

About 50 minutes into your rise, combine 1/4 cup sugar, 6 Tbs. honey, 1/2 cup unsalted butter, 2 cups slivered almonds, and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Heat over high heat and bring to a gentle boil. Allow to boil until it begins to turn lightly golden (7-10 minutes). Remove from heat and add 1 Tbs. vanilla.

In 9″ springform pan, press the dough across the bottom. Do your best to press it along the walls of the pan. Pour the almond syrup over the top and spread so it’s flat.

Cook 25 minutes in an oven at 350. Pro tip: on the rack beneath your cake pan, put a cookie sheet covered in foil. That way if anything leaks out of the pan, you’re not scrubbing your oven forever.

Other recipes will tell you to cut your cake in half horizontally and then fill with a vanilla custard. Save yourself this step by serving atop the vanilla pudding you already know how to make!

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Pão de Queijo

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If you’re looking for a bread that’s lovely and melty and that you don’t have to let rise in a bowl for an hour, this has your name all over it. It comes together in a blender and uses a muffin tin. It also doesn’t require the use of yeast so it feels less intimidating as far as breads go.

In a blender (I use our trusty mini food processor) combine: 1 room temperature egg, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1/3 cup water, 1 1/2 cup tapioca flour (aka tapioca starch, sold at Sprouts from Bob’s Mill), 1/2 cup of grated cheese (I used feta) and 1 teaspoon salt. That’s the basic recipe. I added 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder and a pinch of cayenne for some extra flavor. Change these according to whatever sort of cheese you use. Pulse until everything is combined into a batter.

Spoon into mini muffin tins (I like these from Wilton) greased lightly with olive oil. Fill the muffin tin to the brim. This recipe should make 16 full mini muffins.

Cook at 350 for 35 minutes. Cool briefly but serve warm.

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Garlic and Cheese!

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Roasted Garlic:

Peel off excess skin from two heads of garlic. Slice 1/4″ – 1/2″ off the top of the heads. Drizzle 2 tsp. olive oil over the exposed garlic. Wrap in foil and bake approximately 45 minutes in a 400* oven. Let cool. When cool, remove cloves of garlic from the skin and set aside. A gentle squeeze and they tend to pop right out.

Sourdough Crostini:

Slice sourdough baguette thinly. Lay slices on cookie sheet and brush with olive oil on one side. Bake at 350* for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, flip slices, brush the other side with olive oil. Return to oven for another 10 minutes.

Whipped Chevre

Combine 3 Tbs whipped cream cheese, 11 oz. chevre, 1/2 tsp. sea salt and the roasted garlic in a food processor. Pulse to combine.

To Serve:

Spread on crostini and top with a sprinkle of chili powder.

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