Simple Vanilla Bean Bread Pudding

Ingredients
4 cups milk (I used 1%)
4 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus a little for greasing the pan
1 vanilla bean split lengthwise
½ cup dark brown sugar
pinch of sea salt
1 baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes (any bread is fine)
4 eggs, beaten

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter the bottom and edges of an 8×8 baking dish thoroughly.

In a small saucepan over a low heat, warm the milk, butter, vanilla bean, brown sugar and salt. Continue cooking until the butter just melts, then cool the mixture a bit.

While the mixture cools, fill your baking dish with the cubed bread.

Remove the vanilla bean and add the eggs to cooled milk mixture and whisk, then pour the mixture over the bread cubes.  Be sure to push down any floating cubes so that all of the bread is dampened with custard.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until the custard is set and the tips of the bread have browned. Serve warm or at room temperature, perhaps dolloped with rhubarb curd.

Bread pudding fresh out of the oven

Cooled then sliced bread pudding

Socca

While flipping through my most recent edition of National Geographic Traveler I came across this 1-page article on Socca (chickpea flour crepes).  Seeing as the picture indicated that this Socca (which I had never heard of before) was a food, I decided to read on.  The ingredient list was simple: chickpea flour, water, olive oil, salt.  The intent seemed ideal: to be in rough shards, eaten with your fingers.  How could I go wrong?  So I tried it.

The batter is fairly thin- much like crepe.

Socca batter

Socca batter

There are several options for cooking these- under a broiler (in a fry pan), on a very hot baking stone, stove top.  I opted to make my first three on a baking stone, preheated in a 500 degree oven, and the last in a cast iron pan so that I could see the difference.

Broiled socca: crispy edges and nicely cooked center

Broiled socca: crispy edges and nicely cooked center

I served these as a gluten-free flatbread type of side to lemon-pepper chicken and green salads topped with crispy-fried mushrooms, roasted red peppers and cheddar cheese.

Socca makes a great app or accompaniment

Socca makes a great app or accompaniment

Ingredients:

2 cups chickpea flour
2 cups water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt (or more if you really want to taste it)

Directions:

  • Whisk together the chickpea flour, water, olive oil, garlic, thyme, and salt. Let stand for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours
  • Preheat your oven to 500 degrees with a baking stone in it
  • Give the batter a quick whisk and ladle a quarter of it into the skillet
  • Switch the oven to Broil and let it go for 5-10 minutes, until the top is browned and the socca is cooked in the middle (yet still tender) and crispy around the edges. Use a spatula to remove it from the stone
  • Repeat to make the additional flatbreads
Socca- ready for cutting

Socca- ready for cutting

Coconut rolls

When it comes to rolls, this Honduran staple is a winner.  I initially served these rolls with a dinner of beef tenderloin and roasted garlic mashed potatoes with steamed green beans, and didn’t realize the injustice that I was causing- not allowing my family to really taste the bread which is rich and so very wonderful.  I had this epiphany the next morning when breakfast foods were scarce, there was one roll left over, and I had a steaming cup of coffee looking for an accompaniment.  I’m very honestly considering running out to pick up more coconut milk so that I can make another batch of these tonight to have on Christmas morning.

The original recipe called for a yield of 8 rolls.  I found that this made for far too large a roll and so my version makes 12 smaller ones.

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsweetened, finely grated coconut

2 tablespoons sugar

1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons if you buy the big jar) active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

3 1/2 cups flour, plus more for kneading

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup coconut milk

3 tablespoons butter, melted

 Directions

  •  Put the coconut, sugar, yeast and water into a small glass bowl and stir together, then set aside for about 15 minutes (so that the yeast can feast)
  • Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture, coconut milk and butter and, using your hands or a wooden spoon, stir until well combined
  • Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead,  until soft and elastic, for 5 to 6 minutes
  • Prep a clean, dry bowl by lightly spraying it with olive oil or butter
  • Form the dough into a ball, dust generously all over with flour and transfer to the prepared bowl. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and set aside in a warm spot to let rise until it’s doubled in size (takes about an hour and a half)
  • Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll each into a ball. Arrange the balls of dough on a large greased baking sheet or an ungreased baking stone, spacing them 3 to 4 inches apart (these suckers swell as they bake)
  • Set these aside in a warm spot, uncovered, to let rise until doubled in size again (about 45 minutes)
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F
  • Bake the rolls until they are a deep golden brown and cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes

 

 

Flax Focaccia

Last year I went on a bus trip with my Gram to Tanglewood to see a show and a bagged lunch was part of the package provided by the Senior Center.  I can honestly say that I ate my bagged lunch and disliked it greatly.  I informed my Gram then and there that if she ever invited me to go on this annual trip with her again that we would not be eating the bagged lunch.  So when this year’s trip was booked, she invited me to accompany her, and I accepted, with one stipulation- I get to pack the picnic.  She accepted and the planning began.

In an effort to eat more primal foods (fresh, organic, unprocessed- read more here) I recently pulled conventional breads from my diet.  This is not to say that I will never eat bread again, because that would just be silly.  I simply find that it is necessary to shake things up a bit every once in a while, and now is that time for me.  I didn’t just change my eating habits, my exercise routine goes hand-in-hand thus that has changed as well.

So when it was time to plan the picnic menu I wanted to keep things simple.  Whatever we ate, drank, and served with had to be carried into the venue, used, carried around the venue for the entirety of our stay, then carted out with us.  Sandwiches really fit the bill here as they can be hand-held, but since I am currently omitting bread I was stuck.  Then I found a recipe for a lovely foccaccia which uses flax meal rather than flour.  The recipe is rich in protein and omega 3s which both fit well into my diet, and it made for a bread which didn’t look strange enough to make Gram & Neil question why I was feeding it to them 😉

This foccaccia is moist and rich and dense.  You can eat it as-is once it’s baked, or you can make sandwiches out of it, or you could top it with herbs and bake it again to make a crunchier version like this blogger did, or you could slather it in fresh pesto (as I did) and snack on it.  The foccaccia holds well in the refrigerator for several days in an air-tight container, or can be frozen for longer storage.

Ingredients:

2 cups flax meal

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon agave nectar

5 eggs, whisked

½ cup water

⅓ cup olive oil

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°
  • In a medium bowl combine the flax meal, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt
  • In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the agave, eggs, water and olive oil
  • Stir dry ingredients into wet, mixing well, then allow to stand for 2-3 minutes so that batter thickens
  • Give the batter a quick stir and pour into an oiled 9×13 inch baking dish
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until a knife comes out clean
  • Remove from oven and cool.  Once cooled, I would recommend slicing directly in the pan, then removing individual pieces so as not to tear the center out if it’s stuck to the pan at all.

For our Tanglewood sandwiches, I cut 5″x5″ squares of foccaccia and sliced them in half- the skinny way, then slathered on some fresh pesto, added a thin chicken cutlet, fresh tomato slices, and a bit of baby greens.  Very tasty.

J

Barley Banana Bread

There is a new Farmer’s Market that’s started up right in my lovely little city of Holyoke.  It’s on Saturday mornings at Open Square, and it’s already growing.  You see, starting up a new market is no easy task according to farmer Dan from Astarte Farm.  Farmers don’t want to show up and have no patrons, thus make no money, and patrons don’t want to waste their time going to a new market that doesn’t have enough farmers at it to give them a great variety to choose from.  I think that this market has started off well though.  There are soaps, eggs, lots of veggies, grass-fed beef, herbs, bread, cheese and grains.  Plus it’s at Open Square, so you can really make a day of it by having breakfast or lunch at Slice Cafe, get a haircut, mani, pedi, or massage at Serene Salon & Spa, attend a yoga or dance class at Vega Yoga, the options are endless.  Plus the canalwalk is right there, as are the Children’s Museum and the carousel– all within walking/biking distance.

Speaking of the grains, the vendor at the Open Square market who brings grains for sale is Four Star Farms, and they’re pretty smart.  You see, instead of simply packaging their grains and pricing them and calling it a day, they showed up with a) their product, b) samples of baked goods using the product, and c) printed recipes and re-order forms for their grains.    That’s how they got me.  I had never even thought to bake with barley flour before.  I tried a sample of some coffee cake that they had baked with it.  I had no idea what I had been missing!  Barley flour has a moist, sweet, nut-like flavor.  While I haven’t yet tried any of their recipes, I did decide to make my own banana bread recipe with 100% barley flour.  The result was a moist, dense, darkly-colored loaf of yum!

Ingredients:

¼ cup coconut oil

2 eggs

2 cups barley flour

¼ cup raw wheat germ

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup mashed bananas

1/2 cup real maple syrup

1/2 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt

a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg

Directions:

  • Cream the coconut oil, eggs, bananas, syrup, honey, vanilla and yogurt in a large stand mixer
  • Whisk the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just incorporated
  • Pour the batter into a greased Bundt pan, sprinkled with a bit of wheat germ
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350F
  • Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to complete cooling

J