Homemade Holiday Marshmallows! 

Try this homemade marshmallow recipe as a base formula. You can make  additions of essential oils or flavored extracts along with organic food colors to create a variety of fun flavors.

So easy, you won’t believe it. You will never want eat a store bought marshmallow again! 

You’ll Need:

3 packages unflavored gelatin

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Here’s How:

Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to dissolve while you make the syrup.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. 

Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240’F degrees on a candy thermometer. 

With the mixer on low speed, very slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin running a small stream while increasing the speed of the mixer onto high. Whip until the mixture is very thick and cooling, about 15 minutes. Once the volume has increased by 1/2, add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.

With a sieve, generously dust an 8 by 12-inch glass baking dish with confectioners’ sugar. Or spray generously with cooking spray. ( Avoid using any metal pans for this recipe) 

Quickly pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, smooth the top with wet, clean hands. ( move fast because it sets quickly) Dust more confectioners’ sugar on top. Allow to sit uncovered overnight or until set ( a few hours) if you can’t stand the suspense. The longer it sits the more successful your final cuts will be. 

Turn the marshmallows onto a powered sugar dusted board and cut them in large squares. ( Use my cut technique with non-flavored dental floss ) 

Toss to dust all sides with more confectioners’ sugar. Enjoy!

Variations : Add 1 teaspoon of your favorite essential oils or extracts for flavors and 8-10 drops of organic food coloring for nice swirls or complete a solid pastel color.

Traditional Herb Crusted Prime Rib with Red Wine Reduction!

A true prime rib that is labeled USDA Certified Prime, is heavily marbled with a generous amount of fat. These cuts are usually reserved for top restaurants and are hard to come by. It may be better to seek out a fine aged prime rib. Aged beef is similarly hard to find in the supermarket, but you’ll find aged prime rib and other cuts for sale online that come right to your door. But ask your butcher first!

The typical prime rib serving size is around 10 ounces per person; a roast weighing 7-7½ pounds should serve 11 or 12 people.

You’ll Need:

8 ribs – prime rib of beef. Center cut, chine bone removed. (make sure to give your butcher a friendly reminder to remove the chine bone)
1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves plus 1 large bunch
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves
1/8 cup fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup fresh marjoram leaves
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and root removed
3 whole heads garlic, 1/4 cut off the top exposing cloves, skin and root left intact.
3 large shallots, cleaned roots removed
1 large onion, cleaned, cut into quarters
1 carrot, cleaned and sliced lengthwise
2 ribs of celery, cleaned cut in half
1/2 pound of unsalted butter, cut into pieces and kept cold
2 cups good quality Pinot Noir wine
Preferably Maldon salt or large flat crystal salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Here’s How:

Preheat oven to 475’F degrees. Clean and pick the leaves of the fresh herbs, reserving the stems. Except the extra bundle of parsley.

Prepare a large roasting pan with organic non-stick cooking spray. Check to make sure the roast will fit. Spray a cookie cooling rack with non-stick cooking spray, and lower into the roasting pan. Build a bed for the roast to lay on with the bundle of parsley, and all the stems left over from the herbs on top of the cookie rack. Add the carrot, onions quarters, the 3 whole heads of garlic on the side, and the celery ribs. Spritz everything with a good drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Pat the roast dry with paper towel. Season the roast generously with salt and fresh ground pepper by hand massaging it in ; on all sides. Set aside. In the bowl of your food processor, add 4 cloves of garlic, all the fresh herbs except the extra bundle of parsley, add 2 shallots and pulse to small mince.

Add salt and pepper and cold butter, pulse to combine well- make a paste.

Place roast, horizontally with the fat side up, in the roasting pan. Smother the roast with the butter mixture paying extra attention to the sides of the roast. Add 1 cup of beef stock to the bottom of the roasting and roast for 1 1/2-2 hours (20 minutes per pound), for rare –or until internal temperature reaches your desired temp ranges. ( see roasting notes below ) Bathing with juices from the bottom of the roasting pan every twenty minutes, without fail!

Start with high heat oven of 425’F Degrees and reduce temperature to 325’F Degrees after about 15 minutes of oven time.

When roast reaches your desired internal temperature, remove from the oven and allow to rest a minimum 10-20 minutes.

Keep in mind the internal portion of the roast will continue to cook, make sure to remove it from the oven ten minutes prior to your desired internal temperature. See below for important roasting notes.

Variation: To serve roast without bone, use a sharp knife and cut between the bone and the flesh. With your slightly angled knife, saw towards the bone, carving slowly–keep following the bone to the bottom where it can be completely removed.

Chef Notes: 

Use your meat thermometer about a half hour before the expected end of the roasting time. Make sure to insert it in the thickest part of the meat, not touching the fat or the bone.


When the internal temperature reaches 120° F
Degrees pull it out of the oven, and cover with foil.

Allow the roast sit for twenty minutes.

While resting the roast will continue to cook, reaching a temperature of about 125° F Degrees to 130° F Degrees. This is called the endo-thermic reaction. Cooking from the inside out.

A nice resting period allows the juices and flavors to permeate back into the roast instead of all over the cutting board!

Rare measures in at 120° to 125° with a bright red center that grows slightly pinkish towards the exterior.

Medium rare measures between 130° F Degrees to 135° F Degrees and are characterized by the extremely pink center portion that grows brown towards the exterior.

Medium meats have a light pink center, brown outer portions and readings of about 140°F Degrees to 145°F Degrees.

Medium well is not pink at all, and is achieved at 150° F Degrees to 155° F Degrees.

Well done is at 160° F Degrees and above and is characterized by a uniform brown color. 

Cover any exposed bones with a little oil and foil.

Red Wine Reduction

While roast is resting, strain drippings from the pan. Defat and add the remaining juices into a medium saucepan with wine, remaining garlic cloves, remaining chopped shallot.

Bring to a boil, and cook stirring occasionally until the liquid is reduced to 2/3’s of a cup, about 10 -15 minutes. Adjust heat as necessary to avoid boiling over or burning.

When liquid is reduced, remove from heat and whisk in remaining cold butter, 2 or 3 pieces at a time, waiting until pieces are melted before adding more. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover to keep warm and set aside. To serve beef cut between rib bones and serve bone in.

Serve sauce at the table on the side.

Stuffed Mushrooms with Italian Sausage, Sherry and Parmesan Cheese

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First, a little “Housekeeping” regarding mushrooms:

How to purchase a brown ( Cremini ) or white ( Button) shaped mushroom.
If you know me, you know I love to forge in the wild for mushrooms. Shopping for mushrooms in a large chain grocery store can be like hunting. By the time a mushroom is picked, boxed transported and stored on display– they are not so fresh. If you don’t have the luxury to know a mushroom vendor; here are a few hints on how to ensure you are choosing the freshest mushroom from your local grocery store chain.

When hunting for your fungi in the grocery store – never purchase a package. Find the loose box and for this recipe – consistently choose two-inch sized mushroom caps. While they look bigger than bite size, mushrooms are full of liquid and they dramatically evaporate when baked, resulting in a decrease in size.

Choose mushrooms that have closed gills. Look in the area where the stem and the cap- meet. Turn the mushroom over and look under the cap. If the gills are exposed, it’s a sign the mushroom is not fresh.

Choose mushrooms without brown spots, or dents and ones that are firm–not shriveled or wrinkled. Avoid any mushrooms coated with a notable slime feel.

I like to choose the one with the least amount of soil.Mushrooms are very porous. Chefs usually don’t wash them in liquid. Brushing mushrooms is the best method. Less soil means less work!

How to Clean a Mushroom 
To clean mushrooms, wipe them gently with a damp paper towel. I reserve a very soft-bristled babies hair brush; just for this application. If they are really dirty give them a very quick rinse and a fast dry. We want the mushrooms flesh to be filled with flavor, not water.

The Recipe:

Ingredients: 
24- 2 inch cremini, or white button mushrooms, cleaned thoroughly.
3 cloves of fresh garlic, cleaned
1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
2 shallots, cleaned
1/2 cup walnuts ( optional )
3 Tablespoons good quality olive oil
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons good quality sherry ( optional )
3/4 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage, or–removed from the casings
1 red bell pepper cut into small confetti ( cut thin matchsticks, then into very small dice pieces- chefs call this cut: “Brunoise” bro͞onˈwäz – typically 1/8 x 1/8 inch )
2/3 cup panko crumbs
5 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 375’F Degrees. Remove the stems from the caps and place the stems inside the bowl of your food processor. Add garlic, parsley, shallots, walnuts and a pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Pulse process until everything is the size just under a small pea shape. Set aside.

 
Slice a very small, and very thin slice of the rounded edge of the mushrooms that wobble and wont stand up straight. Add the pieces to the mixture. You will want assurance they mushroom caps will sit flat and not tip over once it is filled, baking or when you serve them. Place the prepared mushroom caps in a bowl and toss with 3 Tablespoons of the olive oil, and a good dusting with salt and pepper. Remove the mushroom caps from the bowl, and place the rounded side down on a high-sided baking sheet lined with a silicon baking mat, or parchment paper. Set aside. Keep bowl available for future use.

 
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the mushroom and herb mixture from the food processor. Sauté until the mushrooms are soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add the sausage. Stir to crumble and cook stirring to incorporate the mushroom mixture evenly throughout.

 

When sausage is cooked- about 8-10 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sherry. Return to heat and cook an additional 1 minute. Place the cooked sausage mixture into the bowl you tossed the mushrooms in the oil earlier. Set aside to cool.

 

Once the mixture has cooled, add the creamed cheese, parmesan cheese, panko and the red bell pepper confetti. Add about 7-8  twists of fresh ground pepper. Taste. Adjust seasoning with salt if necessary. Mix to throughly to combine. Refrigerate for a minimum 30 minutes covered air tight.

 
Fill each mushroom generously by using a 1/2 ounce portion scoop or a heaping tablespoon. Mound high. Bake for 45- 50 minutes until golden brown. Dust with a sprinkling of grated parmesan the last 2 minutes of baking.

 

Remove and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley before serving.

 
Note: Mushrooms can be stuffed ahead a few hours, covered and refrigerated until guests arrive, then bake and serve.

The Best Thanksgiving Stuffing I’ve Ever Made! 

Grand Mariner Apricot and Sausage Stuffing. 

This recipe is adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook. One of the first cookbooks I ever purchased. Co-Authors, Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso Miller were hot on the gourmet carry-out scene in 1980’s. They really kicked off the “Artisan” food trend!

From that birthed, The Silver Palate Cookbook in 1982. An instant success! This book helped cement America’s interest in quality cooking and helped acquaint cooks with purchasing much-needed  “gourmet” ingredients.

Pioneers, if not legends for their Manhattan, food-to-go and gourmet ingredient boutique ! One of my favs!

You’ll Need:

1 cup diced dried apricots

1 1/2 cups Grand Mariner

1 cup unsalted butter

2 cups coarsely chopped celery

1 large onion, chopped small dice

1 lb bulk pork sausage

1 lb herb stuffing mix

1 cup slivered almonds, toasted

2 cups rich chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dry sage

Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Here’s How:

Place the apricots and 1 cup of the Grand Marnier in a small saucepan. Heat to boiling. Remove from heat and set aside

Melt ½ cup of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and onion and saute for 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

In the same skillet, cook the sausage, crumbling it with a fork, until it’s no longer pink. Remove from heat and add to the celery & onion mixture.

Add the stuffing mix, apricots with the liquid, the almonds. Stir to combine.

Heat the remaining 1/2 cup butter and chicken stock just until the butter melts. Pour over the stuffing mixture and add the remaining 1/2 cup of Grand Marnier. Stir well to moisten the stuffing, adding the thyme, ground sage, salt and pepper to taste.

Bake stuffing in a large buttered casserole at 325’F degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Note: Enough to stuff a 21-24 pound bird with a small extra casserole on the side.

Now, should you stuff the bird is the question!

Happy Holidays

Hassleback Potato Casserole

Acclaimed food science writer, J. Kenji López-Alt has developed this sort of “mash-up ” ( if you will ) of a classic French gratin, and a beautiful Hassleback potato recipe. The idea is to stand the slices of potato vertically, rather than laying them flat. This ensures each serving receives both a creamy potato serving and a crispy edge in each bite.

This is my adaption.

You’ll Need:

4 to 4 ½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick slices with a sharp knife of on a mandoline 

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup chicken stock

3 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, leaves removed for the stem

Kosher salt and black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

2 cups finely grated Gruyère cheese

1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 bunch chives, chopped for garnish

Here’s How:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400’F degrees. Combine cheeses in a large bowl. Transfer 1/3 of cheese mixture to a separate bowl and set aside for garnish.

Add cream, stock, garlic and thyme to the cheese mixture, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, add white pepper, and red chili flakes– stir to combine.

Add potato slices and toss with your hands until every slice is coated with cream mixture, making sure to separate any slices that are sticking together to get the cream mixture in between them.

Prepare a 2-quart casserole dish with butter. Place on a high sided baking sheet.

Pick up a handful of potatoes, organizing them into a neat deck stack, lay them in the casserole dish with their edges aligned vertically. Continue placing potatoes in the dish, working around the perimeter and into the center until all the potatoes have been added. The potatoes should be very tightly packed. If necessary, slice an additional potato, coat with cream mixture, and add to casserole. It is important the potatoes are very tight.

Pour the excess cheese mixture evenly over the top of the potatoes in the casserole dish until the mixture comes halfway up the sides. You may not need all the excess liquid.

Cover dish tightly with foil– sprayed on the inside with non-stick cooking spray. Transfer to the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until the top is golden brown, about 45 minutes longer.

Carefully remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and return to oven. Bake until deep golden brown and crisp on top, about 30 minutes longer. Remove from oven, let rest for a few minutes,  garnish with chopped chives and serve.

Enjoy!

The Brussel Sprout Files!

Below is a formula sure to make your Brussel sprouts are a success no matter what flavor profile you’re after. Sweet, salty, or tangy!

Brussel sprouts are aggressive in flavor. You either love them or hate them. So many ways to cook them too– from baked chips to chopped salads. At my home we love our sprouts pan-fried with crisp pancetta– caramelized with lots of butter and my homemade infused olive oil, & lots of crispy fried garlic cloves.

Brussel sprouts caramelize naturally. On special occasions we make a few variations. Addition of maple syrup, or a sprinkling of brown sugar with a handful of candied walnuts will make your family roar! Sometimes we like to add crispy bacon, a nice citrus finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and lot of lemon zest– then an good dousing of parmesan cheese. I add a fair amount of fresh cracked black peppercorns!

Here’s How : 

To properly sauté brussels sprouts, you’ll need a fair amount of fat in the skillet. While bacon is a classic pairing, use your families favorite flavor. Ground pork sausage,  Italian sausage, apple sausage, duck fat, or –If you’re a vegetarian, good quality olive oil is perfect. As mentioned, I use pancetta. So delicious and I love the little crispy, crunchy salty nuggets. How much to use is up to you- I personally like a lot of Pancetta floating around in my dish- so I use a least a pound or two ( shhhh) per stock/stem of Brussel sprout! about 40- 50 spouts.

If using something like bacon or sausage, start by browning the meat in a very large skillet  – I use two of my largest skillets, and split the recipe between them. (Brussel sprouts contain lots of water– so, if you over-crowd the Brussel spouts in the pan, they will steam not caramelize. Tragic.)  Always halve the sprouts and trim the root-end clean.

Sauté the pancetta or your choice of fat, over medium-high heat. Render the fat. Once the meat is cooked, remove it with a slotted spoon set it aside for later addition. Add the halved brussels sprouts to the fat, shaking the skillet so that as many as possible landing cut side down or use tongs to ensure the sprout is positioned for optimum caramelization. Now, step away from the pan. Resist the urge to move them around. Distribution will prevent them from cooking through and becoming crispy golden brown  and delicious. They need to stay in contact directly with the surface heat. Cook until they have a nice  brown sear on one side, about 8 to 10 minutes. If a knife runs easily through, they are done.

Just before removing from the heat, add in  your favorite seasonings–like chopped garlic, sliced onions, fresh thyme, sprinkling of brown sugar, maple syrup, honey  or lemon juice  with lots of zest. Return the sautéed meat you rendered the fat from and toss to coat nicely. Cook for an additional 1- 2 minutes. If making an addition of candied nuts, now is the time to do so. Toss well and serve. (The candies nuts will remain crunchy if not added to the cooking process.)

Salt and pepper. Serve!

Steaming Method: 

Clean Brussels sprouts and slice in half lengthwise. Fill a large stock pot with about 2 inches of flavored stock and water combination– place a metal steamer basket on top. Bring the water to a simmer, add the brussels sprouts to the basket, season with salt and pepper and cover. Steam until the brussels sprouts are bright green and just cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the lid from pot and let them cool slightly before removing. I like to shock my sprouts in cool ice water so they retain a bright green color. Then right before serving I dunk in hot boiling water or toss quickly in a pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper until warmed trough. About two minutes. See my method here for retaining color and nutrition in steamed veggies.

Baking Method:

Halve brussels sprouts (or quarter them, if they are especially large), making sure to hold on to any leaves that fall away (these get the crispest) and toss with plenty of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and scatter them onto a rimmed baking sheet, making use of every inch. Brussels sprouts contain a good bit of water, and if they’re too crowded on the tray, they’ll steam instead of brown. If you need to use two or three sheet pans, do it.

Roast in a hot pre heated 450’F degrees oven, tossing every 10 minutes or so, until the outer leaves have begun to almost char, and the innermost part of the sprout is just tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Finish growing by making sure the cut side of the sprint is face down on the baking sheets surface so they get nicely caramelized. While they caramelize well on their own, tossing the sprouts with a tablespoon or two of maple syrup, honey or light brown sugar will give them a bit of holiday flavor. Remove from oven– add your favor flavors to finish, like lemon zest and fresh thyme, or fresh rosemary, or pine nuts with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese — toss well and return to the oven for an additional five minutes. Remove, set aside to cool. You can even toss with a bit of reduced balsamic reduction –. Whatever flavors you’ve decided on — enjoy– it’s all you!

I’d love to hear about your favorite way to make Brussel sprouts. Leave me a message and tell me how.

Happy Holiday!

Fresh Summer Cherry Vinaigrette

It’s easy to speed through the Central Valley of California or roll along the farm-bounded country roads less traveled, and find some great fresh fruits, nuts and delicious vegetables, especially during summer.  

If you find yourself in the heart of some of the world’s most productive farmland, grab yourself  some fresh delicious cherries,– season is closing – ( although some might argue- you can find cherries year round here ) Touring California you can see some familiar classics, like garnet-colored, ultra-juicy California Bings & others types less well known, like Coral Champagne cherries, a sweet and firm cherry that ripens a little earlier in the year.

I “can” a bushel of cherries every June. I love to made cherries in brandy for holiday gift giving– and now– I’m focused on making delicious, sweet, yet tart cherry vinaigrette.

So scrumcious on crisp summer salads and spectacular with grilled foods. Enjoy!

You’ll Need

1 cup dark red ripe cherries, pitted and de-stemmed

2 Tablespoons local organic honey

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup good quality aged balsamic vinegar

1 shallot, peeled and rough chopped

1 clove fresh garlic, peeled and root trimmed

1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

Scant cinnamon ( optional )

Kosher salt to taste

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Heres How: 

In a stand blender or the bowl of your food processor— add the cherries, honey, lemon juice, vinegar, shallot and garlic clove. Cover and process until the cherries look like a smooth puree.

With the mixer running, gradually add the oil in a slow steady stream until the combination has become emulsified and creamy.

Season with salt and pepper as needed. Immediately dress a salad, or something fun like smokey grilled pork chops. The dressing thickens over time, so add a touch of warm water to reconstitute. Keep up to a week refrigerated air-tight.

photo credit: chefs resource

Vegan Baked Apple Pastry Roses

I wrote this recipe for my friends over at #30SecondMom. Thought I’d share with you too if you don’t follow me there.

You’ll need:

  • 6 red apples, cored, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1/2 cup melted vegan butter or regular butter
  • 1 package phyllo dough
  • nonstick spray
  • water or nut milk, to seal
  • equal parts cinnamon and sugar
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • powdered sugar

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Saute the apples in the vegan butter until soft.
  3. Lay 4 phyllo sheets flat and spread butter in between each sheet.
  4. Cut four 3-inch by 6-inch strips.
  5. Sprinkle the strips with cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  6. Place apple slices overlapping along the long side of the dough. Use about half an apple per strip. Top with the almonds.
  7. Fold the bottom half of the dough up to meet the other side of the dough, enclosing about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the apple slices to form one long ruler-like pocket. Now roll from the right to the left to form the rose. Use water or nut milk to seal the edges.
  8. Bake in the muffin tins for about 10-12 minutes, or until brown.
  9. Cool and top with powdered sugar before serving.

Pita Bread Made Three ways- Grilled, Baked or on the Stove Top.

I love making Pita Bread fresh. I can’t decide if I like it better made in my cast iron pan on the stove top, or my pizza stone baked in the oven, or… my outdoor grill; which gives significant additional flavor. You decide. Regardless how you make it — the key to making really good pita is keeping the dough wet, soft and spongy throughout the whole mixing and kneading process. Unlike making any other bread type products– if you begin with wet and sticky sponge and progress slowly adding flour, you will have billowy pitas. Is that a word? “Billowy” ?

Pitas

 

Ingredients: 

1 (.25 ounce) package rapid acting dry yeast

1 cup warm water 90 to 100’F

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons good quality olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

1 additional teaspoon olive oil, divided or good quality cooking oil spray

 

 

Method:

Place the yeast into the work bowl of  your stand mixer and add 1 cup warm water. Make a slurry. Add 1 cup of the flour. Whisk together with a hand whisk and let stand 15 to 20 minutes. Wait for the mixture to create air bubbles and form a loose looking foamy starter sponge. The mixture will look wet like a slurry and nothing like you would expect to begin a bread dough with. You baking instincts will tell you to add additional flour- but resist the urge.

Once the dough is spongey and full of foam and bubbles, add 2 Tablespoons olive oil, and the salt. Stir, and second addition of flour in small increments string in between each addition. The dough should continue to look spongy and sticky. With the kneading attachment, now combine together at low speed until ingredients are mixed through really well, but remember to keep the starter dough slightly sticky.

If dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl and not mix into a ball, add a little additional flour–a little at a time, not to exceed an additional 1/4 cup. Once dough is kneading without sticking to the bowl but still somewhat gooey. Begin to time your kneading  about to 5-6 minutes on very low speed– until the dough springs back to the touch, and is   very soft.

Remove the dough to a work surface and form into a large ball.

Wipe inside of the bowl with 1/4 teaspoon of the additional olive oil, or a quick spray. Place dough ball back into the mixing bowl and turn upside down to insure the dough is completely covered in a light coating of the olive oil. This will prevent air from hardening with dough during the resting time.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rest until it has doubled in volume. Approximately 2 hours.

After dough has doubled in size, remove it from the bowl and place onto a floured work surface. Gently shape about 1 inch thick log. Use kitchen scissors or a knife- cut dough into 8 pieces.

Form each piece into a smaller round ball carefully pulling dough from the top center of each piece, pulling down and tucking under to form a ball. Do not work the dough any more than necessary. Place each ball on a gently on a silicon mat or parchment or plastic lined baking sheet and allow to rest covered for an additional 30 minutes until they have doubled in size.

Once the dough has completed its second rising- dust a clean work surface with a small amount of flour and top of the balls and your hands with a little flour. Gently pat dough ball flat with your fingers, forming a flat, round  disc 1/4 inch thick and using a rolling pin form a 6 inch pita. Continue until all the balls have been flattened into discs.

Rest an additional  5- 8 minutes. The continue to your preferred method of baking.

 

On the Stove:

Lightly coat a large cast-iron skillet with remaining olive oil or spray and place over medium-high heat. Make sure the pan is to temperature before adding the dough disc.

Lay flattened discs into hot skillet and cook until bread begins to puff up and bottom is browning well, about 3-4 minutes. Some might not puff, don’t worry they will still be wide enough to cut open for filling. Turn the pita over and cook 2 an additional 2-3 minutes until browned and puffy. They will naturally deflate causing the center to be hallow enough to fill.

Stack pitas on a wire rack to cool. Enjoy Pitas as is, or stuff with your favorite fillings. I love the pan method because my pitas get a nice crispy coating on the outside while the inside remains soft and chewy.

 

In the Oven: 

Place a large pizza stone on the lower oven rack, preheat the oven and the stone to 500 F.

Place 2 pita discs at a time on the hot pizza stone and bake for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the bread puffs up like a balloon and is pale golden. Watch closely; they will bake quickly.

When browned and puffy, remove the bread from the oven and place on a rack to cool for about 5 minutes; they will naturally deflate, leaving a pocket in the center.

Stack pitas on a wire rack to cool. Enjoy Pitas as is, or stuff with your favorite fillings. I love the oven method because my pitas don’t get too many brown spots and they are soft inside and out.

 

On the Grill: 

When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread coals evenly over the charcoal grate. Clean and oil the cooking grate. Let the charcoal sit until it drops in temperature to medium heat.

Right before placing the dough on the grill, give each disc a few mists of water from a spray bottle on both sides. Place the dough on an oiled grill and cook until it starts to bubble, about 1 minute. Flip the dough and cook until it puffs and is cooked through, but not browned, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the grill and let cool. Reheat quickly on the grill before serving. You can also use a gas grill using indirect heat. Keep pitas warm until service.

I love cooking Pitas on the grill because they inherent a nice smokey flavor. Mmmmm!

Serve with skewered grilled meats, Tahini, my buttered Babaganoush recipe, or fresh Falafel with Tzatziki.

Soft HomeMade Pretzels

 

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Ingredients: 

1 cup warm water (105°F)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
Vegetable oil
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus Maldon or Large grain salt for garnish
8 -10 cups water
1/8 cup baking soda

 

Method: 

With the vegetable oil, lightly grease a large bowl and two baking sheets- set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the warm water and sprinkle in the yeast and add sugar. Mix to combine. Set aside and allow to sit undisturbed for about 5-10 minutes until bubbles and froth begin to form.

Place the flour, and  1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and whisk to break up any lumps.

Once the yeast mixture is bubbly, add the flour mixture, and fit your mixer with a dough hook. Mix on the lowest setting until the dough  comes together, about 1 minute.

Increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough is elastic and smooth, about 8 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, place it in the oiled mixing bowl, and turn to coat in the oil. Cover the bowl with a warm towel allow the dough to rest in a warm place until it doubles in size– about 35-45 minutes.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and knead it until it’s smooth and springs back when poked, about 1 minute.

Turn the dough out onto a clean counter top surface, and cut dough into 12 equal pieces and place onto a lined cookie sheet. Keep covered with a light towel, or plastic wrap.

Working with 1 piece at a time, roll a 12-14 inch-long ropes and set them at your 12 o’clock to rest. Roll them all into ropes then shape.

Fold into an unfinished figure 8 then lifting the open ends twist twice and lay going back to the circle end opening. Shape into a pretzel.

Press the ends down to form a pretzel shape the best you can. Press  center of the twist to adhere to the rest of the pretzel. Gently lift and place on a greased baking sheet. Cover. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces, fitting 6 pretzels per baking sheet.

Allow the shaped pretzels to rise again in a warm place until almost doubled in volume. About 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F degrees.

In a large deep sauce pan, bring the 6-8 cups of water to a boil over high heat.When the pretzels are billowy, remove the plastic wrap.

Reduce to a simmer. Stir the baking soda carefully, not to overspill. The water will foam up with baking soda is added.

Place  a few  uncooked pretzels, bottom side down, in the water. Boil for 1 minute, gently flip using a slotted spoon and continue to boil an additional minute.

Remove with the slotted spoon and place on a cookie cooling rack over paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining uncooked pretzels until they have all been boiled.

Paint the pretzels evenly with my recipe for egg wash, and sprinkle with Maldon or Kosher salt. Bake, rotating halfway through until golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Transfer immediately to a rack to cool. Serve with  your favorite yummy mustard.

 

Variations:

After baking, dip in melted butter sprinkle on salt and serve.

After baking dip in butter butter and sprinkle on a 50/50 mixture of cinnamon and sugar

Before baking glaze with egg wash and salt before baking for a shiny pretzel

 

 Makes 10-12 Medium Sized Soft Pretzels