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Winter Beer Bread

Winter can be a time for cocooning and hearth-huddling, at least for me. I think it’s the combination of frigid temperatures outside combined with the dawn of a new year. It is a season ripe for introspection and solo activities, preferably someplace warm. Which is why it’s the perfect time of year for baking.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to try out and shoot a beer bread recipe for Edible Nashville. I have loads of experience with quick breads, but my loaf bread skills are still a bit underdeveloped. Undaunted, I told myself a new year is for trying new things, so I forged ahead.

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This beer bread recipe comes from Tennessee Brew Works, and is a lot simpler than you might think. The most difficult part is allowing yourself time to wait at the different dough-proofing stages. But hey, while you wait, you can pour yourself a glass of Southern Wit – the star ingredient for the bread. Southern Wit is a refreshing Belgium White Ale with pear and honey notes. Yum.

But even if this had been a difficult recipe, I would still be extolling its virtues here because – ohhhh my – it is some of the most delicious bready goodness I’ve ever had! And don’t get me started on its aromatic properties (your house will smell like a gourmet bakery). But that taste – I tell you it somehow tastes better when you make it yourself.

It’s a new year. Go for it! Here’s the original recipe over at Edible Nashville.

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Southern Wit Beer Bread

Ingredients (makes 1 large loaf or 2 mini loaves)

Starter

  • 1 c. Southern Wit (warm), or other Belgium beer
  • 1 c. bread flour
  • 1½ t. active dry yeast
Dough
  • 1¼ c. warm Southern Wit (warm), or other Belgium beer
  • 4 c. bread flour
  • 1 T. yeast
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 2 T. butter (melted)
  • 1 T. salt

Directions

  1. Make starter by combining beer. flour and yeast in a large bowl. Let stand in a warm place (above the oven is usually a good choice) until mixture is foamy and doubled (about 20 minutes).
  2. Add remaining ingredients and mix in a stand mixer until combined. Using dough hook, beat until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Pour a little oil over the dough and place in the warm area to proof until doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes. Then, punch dough down and knead about 5 minutes.
  3. Shape the dough into a narrow baguette shape and place on a baking sheet (or place in a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan). Brush with a little melted butter and let rise in a warm area for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake about 40 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow to the touch. Place on a cooling rack and let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing.

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Your dough should look a little something like this ^ for your first kneading. If it’s too wet, add in a little more flour.

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In the last step before baking, hand roll your dough into a baguette shape like I did, or you can place the dough into a loaf pan.

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Did I mention it smells fantastic?

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Your final loaf pairs well with Gouda, pecans, pears and of course, beer. It’s great for mid-winter entertaining. But just as great as a simple, warm snack for cocooning on your own.

Jen

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Baked Eggs with Sweet Potatoes and Harissa

Winter will always be baking season to me. It’s the season to warm yourself around the heat of an oven, whether you’re making cookies, pies or a simple dinner. The latter is what I was after – I wanted to branch out to find a new  recipe for a family meal time that was hearty, healthy and maybe a bit more exotic than a typical casserole. Eggs are a standard crowd-pleaser in my house, so I started with them as the first ingredient.

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In researching recipes, I came across one that had just the right blend of healthy and exotic – Tunisian Shakshuka. This baked egg dish has many variations, but the basics are the same – eggs, onions, other vegetables, Italian parsley and harissa paste. I decided to make mine with green beans and sweet potatoes.

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I found that it wasn’t too difficult to pull together, especially if you prep and cut your veggies beforehand. And I was entranced by the rich, earthy aroma that filled my home while it was baking. Best of all, my family loved it! The warm, gooey-ness of the eggs mixed with goat cheese and the veggies was irresistible. One modification there, I held the harissa for the portion that went to my little lady. So keep that in mind if you don’t like that kind of warmth!

Baked Eggs with Sweet Potatoes and Harissa

Ingredients (makes 6-8)

  • 8 eggs
  • 2–3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ pound green beans, ends trimmed and snapped in half
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • ⅓ c. heavy cream
  • 1 c. harissa sauce
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • Handful of spinach
  • Fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

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Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Rinse and chop all vegetables.
  • In a large cast iron skillet, mix sweet potatoes, onion, bell pepper and string beans with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You may also mix them in a large bowl and then portion out into 6 single-serving skillets.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until potatoes are just tender. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  • Pour the cream evenly over the vegetables, then spoon in the harissa and goat cheese. Sprinkle torn pieces of spinach on top.
  • Then, gently crack the eggs into the skillet (or skillets) and season again with salt and pepper. Return to the oven and bake another 8–10 minutes or until eggs are cooked to your liking.
  • Remove from oven, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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I definitely recommend trying this if you’re looking for a new dish to spice up your baking routine. Although I served it for dinner, it could also be the star of a holiday brunch with friends. After all, this is the time of year to share the warmth. Enjoy!

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Summer Peaches: Two Ways

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It’s Labor Day weekend and I can’t think of a better way to honor it than a salute to one of the sweetest, most Summery fruits: the peach.

Peaches have a way of going from your mouth straight to your heart. Their warm, bright taste just seems to emit love. In fact, Renaissance artists used the peach symbolically to represent the heart. So today I share not one, but two recipes from my heart to yours – Gluten-free peach-banana muffins and Peach-mint smoothie-sicles.

1. Gluten-free peach-banana muffins

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Ingredients (makes 12; adapted from Carrots ‘N’ Cake)

  • 1 1/2 c. almond meal
  • 2 T unsweetened coconut, plus 1 T more to sprinkle
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 ripe peach, large, diced
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 T. chia seeds

Directions

  • Mix dry ingredients in large bowl.
  • Mix wet ingredients in medium bowl.
  • Add wet mixture to dry.

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  • Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners. Scoop spoonfuls of batter into prepared cups.
  • Sprinkle with additional coconut and a dash of cinnamon.
  • Bake at 350F for 15-18 minutes.
  • Enjoy!

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2. Peach-mint smoothie-sicles

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Ingredients (makes ~6 molded popsicles)

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 ripe peach, large, diced
  • 1/2 c. plain, nonfat yogurt
  • 1/4 c. almond or coconut milk
  • 2 T honey
  • 1/4 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t. cinnamon
  • 5 mint leaves, finely chopped

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Directions

  • Add bananas, peaches and yogurt to a blender. Blend for 1-2 minutes (it will still be lumpy).
  • Add all remaining ingredients except mint. Blend until smooth.
  • Stir in mint.
  • Pour into popsicle molds and freeze overnight (at least 5 hours).
  • Serve with blackberries and fresh peach slices.

Peach popsicles

Hope these peachy recipes find a way into your heart – just as they did mine. Happy Labor Day!