Friday, October 26, 2012

Oh Delicious Sandwich Bread

It was Saturday, and we were painting the kitchen. Our pint-sized new apartment had chipped and peeling cupboard doors, and so we decided to tackle the problem with a gallon of bright white paint (because that's the only colour the landlord would let us do). 

And then, S decided he was craving sandwiches. 

Not just any sandwiches, but the kind made with delicious, fluffy, fresh warm bread. Is there anything better than hot bread slathered in yummy strawberry jam?

This bread is delicious. A perfectly fine crumb, a soft chewy crust, it slices great and lasts for days. We even made unbelievably delicious sandwiches. 

Want the recipe? I know you do. It's so simple. Painfully simple. Deliciously simple. Six ingredients simple. 

You start with some some yeast. 

Sandwich Bread Recipe

Makes two loaves.

1 Tbsp Yeast
2 Tbsp Sugar
2 Cups Warm Water
3 Tbsp Butter, softened
5 Cups Flour + Extra
1 Tbsp Salt

Notes on this bread: The first time making it, I left out the salt. Bad move! It really needs it to make a more flavourful loaf. 

Proof the yeast. Mix the yeast, sugar, and one cup of warm water in a large mixing bowl. Let sit for about ten minutes until bubbly.

Add butter and some of the flour to the bowl, mix together. Slowly add second cup of water and remainder of flour, stirring well. Add extra flour if necessary to minimize stickiness.

Knead lightly with extra flour. Shape into a cute little ball of perfect dough. Lightly oil the top of the dough ball. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and place in a warm area. 

Let rise for an hour or so, until dough has risen double. 

Punch down the dough. Fold dough over on itself several times.

Cut dough in half, place in loaf pans. Let dough rise for another hour. 

Preheat oven to 350F and bake for about half an hour, or until top of bread is lightly golden.

... and enjoy every delicious bite. 

edit: submitted to Yeastspotting.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sweet Potato Fries - With Oregano!

At the farmer's market the other day, S and I got a boatload of vegetables. A whole bucket of peppers, a gigantic pile of parsnips, baskets of brussel sprouts, snap peas and shitaki mushrooms. Huge paper bags of crimini and portabello mushrooms, several squash (remember my salute to squash?) and multiple containers of strawberries and blackberries. And - as if I could forget - a bushel of sweet potatoes. 

So naturally, we decided to make some delightful, epic, sweet potato fries. I am a huge fan of sweet potato fries. A few years ago, I experimented with different recipes, and a lot of sweet potatoes sacrificed themselves in the pursuit of culinary greatness.

Start with a few sweet potatoes. They're pretty large, so they make a lot of fries, but the fries are really tasty so you might want to make a bunch. In a stroke of remarkable genius (considering what an idiot I am most of the time) I decided to make quite a large batch, and freeze them on cookie sheets so we can have hot and delicious sweet potato fries whenever we like.

Thoroughly scrub the sweet potatoes. We got ours at a local farmer's market, and they still had some really authentic clods of dirt that just screamed "I was recently dug out of the earth by an actual farmer!" It's amazing I got any cooking done at all, what with all the screaming. 


Like I said, you start with a sweet potato. Or two.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries Recipe


1-2 Sweet Potatoes
4-5 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/3 Cup of Cornstarch (flour works well too)
1 Tbsp Black Pepper
3 Tbsp Garlic Powder
2 Tbsp Dried Oregano
2 Tbsp Sea Salt

1. Slice sweet potatoes into wedges that are very even in size - the size isn't very important, but when they are cooking the uneven ones tend to burn. 

2. Toss the sweet potatoes into a bowl, and add olive oil. Stir to coat. Add more olive oil if necessary for all of the wedges to be evenly coated. 

3. Add cornstarch. Flour works just fine too, but cornstarch gives you crispier results. Stir to coat evenly. Add more if necessary. 

4. Add spices, adjust amounts according to personal taste. I love adding some chili powder, or cayenne powder, just to be crazy exciting. 

5. Pre-heat oven to 400F. Lightly grease pan, and spread the sweet potato pieces out in a single layer. Try not to overlap them - they will only get mushy. However, they shrink considerably while cooking, so feel free to cozy them up close to each other. 

6. Bake for about 15 minutes, flip, and continue baking for about 5-10 minutes (or longer, if you have thicker wedges). 

7. Enjoy with some sour cream (I mixed the sour cream with a teaspoon of chili powder, just to be exciting). 

Frankly I'm shocked these lasted long enough for me to take photos. S was glaring at me the entire time. I don't think he appreciated me posing the fries. In fact, he attempted to make fun of me - until I threatened to withhold sweet potato fries. And then he stopped, because then he was gobbling sweet potato fries as I frantically tried to take photos.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Authentic Italian Pizza Crust

Many years ago, I was lucky enough to help my mom work on the family cookbook in time for a family reunion. Most of our relatives, from all over Ontario and Italy, sent us their most treasured family recipes... including my Great Aunt's coveted pizza dough recipe.

Mushroom and Chicken Pizza

Since then, I have used this recipe to make several hundred pizzas, flatbreads, bread sticks, cinnamon buns, and sticky buns. It's incredibly versatile, it freezes well, it tastes fantastic with almost any ingredients, and it's almost impossible to screw up.

On Saturday, Shane and I made thirteen small pizzas. Why so many? They make fantastic freezer food, and we had a ton of vegetables from our visit to the farmer's market. Instead of baking them straightaway, we covered the pizzas in aluminum foil and stuffed them in the freezer to enjoy at a later date - making them a fabulous, healthy, preservative-free, fast food for when we don't feel like cooking or have no time.

Authentic Italian Pizza Crust
Makes 3 large pizzas, or a dozen small pizzas. 


2 1/4 tsp Traditional Yeast
1 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Cups Hot Water
8 Cups All-Purpose Flour + Extra
Extra Olive Oil

For starters, grab a large mixing bowl and add the yeast, sugar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Slowly pour in 1 cup of hot water (water should be very warm, but not hot enough to scald your fingers - shower temperature) and mix gently. Let this mixture sit for about ten minutes until the yeast is foamy and bubbly.

Add a cup of flour to the frothy yeast mixture, and stir. Alternate between cups of flour and cups of hot water. Mixture should take three cups of water total (including the water for the yeast mixture) and as much flour as required to make a soft round dough. At some point you'll have to dig in with your hands to work in additional flour until the dough is no longer sticky. 

Pat dough into a soft round ball in the center of the bowl. coat sides of bowl with olive oil and then drizzle oil on top of dough. Spread oil into top of dough with your fingers. Cover bowl with a clean, damp towel and leave in a warm corner of the kitchen for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has risen double. 

Punch down dough, and it's ready to work with! At this point, you can either freeze it in sections or make some hot, fresh, delicious pizza. Pinch off a piece of dough and stretch it with your hands, flattening and pulling it into a perfect pizza crust shape (if you feel the need to toss the dough in the air like the stereotypical Italian pizza chef, now is the time).

Preheat oven to 425F, and either lightly grease a pan or pizza stone with some olive oil or spread with cornmeal. Flatten dough onto pan. Spread with pizza sauce and desired toppings.

The entire time between putting the dough on the pan, topping it and putting it in the oven should be at least twenty minutes to allow the dough some time to rise once more, this way it winds up being a crispy light pizza dough.

Bake in a hot oven for 20-30 minutes, or until edges of crust begin to turn golden brown and cheese is bubbly and delicious. Enjoy with a glass of red wine!

Yummy variations: I've added many different things to this crust over the years. Half a cup of grated parmesan cheese and a quarter cup of minced garlic make a delicious savoury crust. Or sautée some spinach, pesto and garlic together to make a fun, green-flecked crust.

Hot, delicious hand made pizza.
edit: submitted to Yeastspotting

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Budget Makeover: Radiant Red Accents

Hello radiant red!

In an effort to add budget-friendly accents to our new apartment, I have been experimenting with colour. More specifically, I have been experimenting with spray paint. 

I love, love spray paint. It's such an easy, economical way to transform boring or outdated fixtures! For the budget-minded student, or for S and I who are being budget-minded because I'm a student and we're trying to save for a wedding, spray paint is making it really easy to add cute accents to our new apartment. 

For this transformation, I assembled a collection of old and outdated picture frames. I also found a fabulous black and white poster in a pile of items to be recycled at home - score! Whoever bought it - it's mine now! 

Easy Frame Collage


Can of Spray Paint
Assorted Picture Frames
Poster or Large Photo
Art Knife
Steel Ruler
Cutting Mat

I found picture frames at yard sales, thrift stores, and in the pile of things my parents were going to throw out after doing some de-cluttering. Remove the glass and backing to the frame before beginning. 

I purchased this fabulous bright red at a local arts & crafts store. I recommend Krylon Indoor/Outdoor MultiPurpose Paint. It is recommended for use on most surfaces. Always use spray paint outside or in a really well ventilated area. I can't stress this enough. You have no idea how irate my housemates have gotten in the past when their breakfast tastes like paint because I spent the night spray painting in the basement. 

Do your spray painting outside!
I found one coat of paint was more than enough. Applying only one coat allowed some of the original colour of the frame to show through, which made for great variations in colour! Once the paint has dried, spend some time arranging your frames in a way that makes you happy. If you are dissecting a poster rather than using a collection of photos, check out the size and shape and arrange your frames to suit the poster.

Funky painted frames!
Lay your poster out on the cutting mat, and carefully cut blocks of the poster in sizes to suit the picture frames. Measure often.

Before cutting too many blocks of poster, make sure you fit it in the frame to see how it looks with the rest of the frames. How much do you love how the molded frame looks in the candy red colour? And how about that black and white traffic photo? 

I love the molding on the frame!

Almost done!

One more to go!

Are you loving the final product as much as I am? The best part of this transformation is that, if S and I decide this candy-red colour just isn't our thing, it will take a can of paint and about half an hour of my time to change our decor.

Total cost of this makeover? $4.99 + tax - and it left me with half a can of spray paint which I then used to paint other things in the apartment! (S is just so thrilled when I get all artsy on him...)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Butternut Squash Gnocchi Recipe

October is my salute to squash! Salute to seasonal vegetables in general! Possibly November as well, that's how excited I am about this salute!

Oh So Delicious Butternut Squash Gnocchi!

I love everything about Autumn, with frosty nights and nippy mornings and root vegetables all around. I find myself inspired by squash, and parsnips, and sweet potatoes, and possibly even pumpkin (though I haven't given pumpkin much of a chance in the past).

First on the roster: Butternut Squash Gnocchi.

My mother makes the most delicious butternut squash gnocchi, in a brown butter sage sauce, served usually as a primi piatto to a delicious turkey dinner - which means we had to wait all year to have these gnocchi. Not anymore mom! Today I learn to make gnocchi!

One thing that excites me about this gnocchi is that it's a totally vegetarian dish. It could even be vegan too, if you swapped out the butter for some extra virgin olive oil in the last step.

Take one butternut squash.

For starters, find a sexy butternut squash. Perfect specimens should weigh about 2lbs, and be nice and firm. Don't mind the jealous stares of the people at the grocery store - they probably know you are on your way home to create delicious things with that fabulous vegetable.

Butternut Squash Recipe


One Butternut Squash
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for cooking
2 1/2 cups flour, plus lots of extra
Fresh Sage, finely chopped
Garlic Powder
Grated Parmesan (optional)

Take the butternut squash and chop it in half. I wish S was around for this part, because these squash are extremely firm and fairly tough to cut through. Scoop out the seeds and fibers and discard. Coat that gorgeous orange vegetable lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake face down on a baking sheet, in a 375F oven, for one hour. Squash should be knife-tender when you remove it.

Let cool slightly, then scoop out the innards into a bowl, leaving behind the tough outer skin. Mash with a potato masher (or some forks) until no lumps remain. 

Let squash cool for another 20 minutes or so, until room temperature (or nearly). Drizzle 1/4 cup of olive oil into squash, with approximately 1/4 tsp ground pepper, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp sage, 1/2 tsp oregano, and a dash of garlic powder. Adjust spices to suit your particular tastes - I certainly tasted the mixture a few times as I was stirring!

Slowly add flour, mixing constantly until you achieve a soft dough ball. The consistency should be much like Play Dough. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel for at least 45 minutes to let the gluten in the flour become nice and sticky.

When my dough's time was up, I found the mixture had become insanely sticky again. To counter this, I poured a small mountain of flour on the cutting board so I could work it into the dough as needed. Roll small pieces of the dough into skinny sausages, approximately 3/4 inch in diameter. Notice how the beautiful orange colour goes away because of all that flour? Not to worry - it comes back in the cooking process. Chop the gnocchi into small bite-size pieces. For added gorgeousness, roll the tines of a fork over each individual gnocchi. I didn't do that step - I had much better things to do than spend all evening rolling hundreds of gnocchi over a fork just so they are a bit prettier.


I taste tested the first dozen gnocchi I cut to see if the consistency was right. To do this, drop the gnocchi carefully into a pot of boiling water. Stir gently. Cook for several minutes, until they float to the surface. 

To store the gnocchi I wasn't going to eat immediately (anything you aren't going to eat that day) I spaced them evenly on a cookie sheet that was well dusted with flour, and I froze them all. It made servings enough for 8-10 people (depending on their level of hungry).

Cooking the gnocchi right away? Yum, I approve. 

Prepare a pot of lightly salted boiling water. Drop gnocchi individually into pot, stir gently to make sure none are stuck to the bottom. Cook for several minutes or until gnocchi float to the surface. Melt some butter in a pan, add some chopped fresh sage, oregano, pepper and garlic (or any combination that suits you). Remove floating gnocchi from water with a slotted spoon, deposit into pan. Stir to coat with butter. I like to cook them for several minutes in the pan, or until just firm on the outside. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve hot. 

Your lucky guests will beg for this recipe. It is great on it's own, or as a starter to a wonderful meal. Unfortunately it was midnight when I finished, so I didn't really bother making side dishes.


Delicious butternut squash gnocchi.