Sunday, February 26, 2012

Brunch JIMMY DEAN'sausage Casserole

 Brunch Casserole ( Jimmy Dean's sausage roll).
JIMMY DEAN, best known today as the creator of the brand Jimmy Dean Sausage, he became a national television personality starting in 1957, rising to fame for his 1961 country crossover hit  "Big Bad John" and his television series,"the Jimmy Dean Show" (Wikipedia)
 This is a very good casserole, for lunch, it is testy, easy to make, and is very appreciated:


1 package  sausage roll /Jimmy Dean/ - crumbled
4 cups cubed day old bread
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
10 eggs -- slightly beaten (10 egg beater, is a very good choice)
4 cups milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
Fresh ground pepper -- to taste
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms -- optional
1/2 cup peeled, chopped tomatoes -- optional

Place bread cubes in well-buttered 13x9-inch baking dish. It is better if you use yesterday bread, not to be too soft.

 Sprinkle with cheese.

 Combine the next 6 ingredients:
10 eggs -- slightly beaten (10 egg beater, is a very good choice)
4 cups milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
Fresh ground pepper -- to taste
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms -- optional
1/2 cup peeled, chopped tomatoes -- optional
  Pour evenly over the bread and cheese.

 Sprinkle sausage and optional ingredients over the top. 

Cover and chill overnight. 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake uncovered for about 1 hour. Tent with foil if it begins to brown too quickly.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012



There are three secrets to great popovers:

-make sure the pan is hot before you pour in the batter,
-fill each section not more than half full and 
-no peeking while they're in the oven!


    1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus softened butter for greasing pans
    1 1/2 cups flour
    3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
    1 1/2 cups milk, at room temperature


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Generously grease aluminum popover pans or "custard cups" with softened butter. 
You'll need enough pans to make 12 popovers. Place the pans in the oven for exactly 2 minutes to preheat. 

Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, salt, eggs, milk, and melted butter until smooth.

 The batter will be thin. Fill the popover pans less than half full.

 Bake for exactly 30 minutes. Do not peek.

 Easy to make, quick, and soft and deliciously!!

I am baking these popovers when is a lunch, brunch visit, or my friends, just come for a short while, coffee, tea and few preserves. The one that is very appreciate is my mother's apricot jam, or sour cherry preserve, that I can find in Greek stores in Boston.

Absolutely deliciously, especially if they are hot, right from the oven.
Bone appetite!

Sunday, February 19, 2012


As a child I remember very well, every Christmas and every Easter the way that Panettone (=cozonac, in Romanian) was made in our kitchen.
My mother and my grandmother was preparing as for a special procedure: the kitchen was closed for one day and a half, they worked and worked for many, many kg of dough: using 10-15kg of flour, 30 eggs, butter and butter…and more butter.
All I remember is the strong smell of Vanilla, orange and lemon peel that was penetrating, under the kitchen door, because we were not allowed to open or enter there. The temperature should remain constant, high, and the oven was prepared special for the procedure.
We use this dough in many, many way: for Christmas, beside the tall panettone, my mother would make frayed donuts, panettone rolls with walnuts, with cocoa; for Easter, beside the loaf panettone, my mother made different “pasca”, a pie shaped panettone dough, filled with chocolate (my absolutely FAVORITE), or with cheese, or with rice pudding (I liked the least of all)….

This is way I have a big respect and a big love for making panettone=cozonac.

I have tried many recipes,over last 2 years, starting with my mother's ( I wanted a recipe to use the stand up mixer) and following the “Bread Baking Challenge” as Peter Reinhart teaching us the bread baking technique…. Neither one recipe was so good, as perfect as I remember as a child: a very fluffy desert, very light and not very sweet.

 This recipe is the one that gave the best result: 3 small, fluffy light panettone in brown bags ( a good gift, for anybody!). This recipe I have seen first time in Martha's show Martha Stewart Living, December/January 1993/1994 and I realized is going to be a good recipe.

My own notes:

*You will found a day (full day) to make this panettone when you have nothing else planned, just having love, patience and nursing the dough and the whole process. 

* I am using the oven set and off at 100F to be a constant temp for rising the dough.
* Prepare a night before all the ingredients, butter and eggs kept at room temp, peal the orange and lemon, make the rum/cognac soaked raisins, pass and fluffy flour through the sieve.  

    1/3 cup warm water,( 100-110 degrees )
    2 packages active dry yeast
    1/2 cup warm milk
    1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    3cups and 1/2 all purpose flour
    2/3 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon salt
    4 large eggs
    2 large egg yolks
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    12 tablespoons (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
    2 cups mixed dried and candied fruit
    Zest of 1 lemon
    Zest of 1 orange

    Canola oil, for bowl

     1 large egg yolk + 1 tablespoon heavy cream to brush tops os panettone

You will need three  3/8-by-7-inch brown paper bags  +  
+ 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, for paper bags.


 1. To make the sponge, warm a small bowl by rinsing it with hot water.  Pour in 1/3 cup warm water, and sprinkle 1 package yeast on it. Let stand until yeast has dissolved. Stir in 1/2 cup flour, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until doubled, about 30 minutes.
2. Sprinkle remaining package yeast over warm milk. Let stand until dissolved.

3. Beat together sugar, room temp eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla, lemon and orange zest. Mix in yeast-milk mixture. Add sponge, and stir until well incorporated.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine one stick room temp butter and remaining 3 1/2 cups flour until crumbly.
5. Slowly pour in egg mixture, and beat on high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until dough is elastic-looking and long strands form.

 6. Beat in soaked raisins.

7. Turn dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled, 2 to 3 hours.

 8. Fold down tops of bags to form a 3-inch cuff. Brush inside and out with melted butter.

 9. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured board and knead a few times to deflate.
 Divide dough into three pieces. Roll each into a ball, and drop into prepared bags. 

My own notes: I had a lot of trouble with these bags: They are a little higher than a mug and they are very easy to break, once they are oiled with melted butter It is a little better if you oil the bag only inside, not outside, they are more strong; you can't put a round nice dough inside, will break; you could leave the dough to "fell" inside of the bag; it settle nicely.

You can use small metal coffee can, lined with parchment paper with good results.

  10. Place bags on a baking sheet about 4 inches apart, and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place to rise until doubled again, about 2 hours.

    Heat oven to 400F degrees.

11. Carefully cut an X in the top of each loaf with oiled scissors.
 In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and heavy cream to make an egg wash.

Brush top of each loaf with egg wash.

12. Place baking sheet in bottom third of oven, at 400F
After 10 minutes, lower heat to 375F degrees.
Bake for 30 more minutes; if tops get too brown while baking, cover with foil. 

13. Loaves are done when a wooden skewer inserted into centers comes out clean. 

Cool on a wire rack.

 I love panetonne with honey! This is a real treat after such a long day, to love and to nurse this wonderful dessert.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

VALENTINE DAY: In Boston, from Malta, pastizzi

Chocolate and cheese pastizzi (from Malta), placintele ( from Romania) and Champagne for
 Valentine day.

I found  the recipe for these little pastry called pastizzi, in Malta, at one of the food blog, ("Felice in the kitchen"), and reminded me of little placintele we make in Romania.

1 sheet puff pastry;

 For the Filling:
2lbs ricotta/or cream cheese
2 eggs(beaten)
salt and pepper to taste
optional: some chopped parsley
 optional: caraway seeds, 2tablespoons

 I took a puff pastry sheet and cut many round shapes with a floured glass. Coat the margins with egg wash, put a little cheese/or chocolate piece and folded to make a "pastizzi" shape of a diamond.
 You can make a square shape and folded in two, glue by egg wash on the margins.

NOTE: When you fold the pastry make sure you don't press the margin down, only folded on top of each other. This way it will have this diamond shape, very characteristic for pastizzi!


Brush the outside of the pastry with egg wash, to get this nice brown color, when they are baked.
 Put them on a baking sheet ( no need to butter the pan) and bake for 25 minutes at 400F.

They are tall, puffed brown, small little deliciously pastry.

Champagne and chocolate pastry: Happy Valentine day!

 Here is a video how Maltese professionals  make pastizzi:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

PRE- FERMENTERS, used in bread baking.

 How to use  PRE-FERMENTERS and what are they?



There are breads that need a tender loving care to be soft, yet crunch, tasty and memorable!
This is why there is a pre-fermenter, a step before you start kneading, when you give the yeast more time for developing, growing and rising, before you start making the bread.
In general, there are two pre-ferment varieties:  

A. sponges, based on baker's yeast,

 B. and the starters, based on developing wild yeasts that are found on grain’s kernel (necessary for panettone and deserts) and methods to develop  wild yeasts and acidity from lactic-acid bacteria (sourdough breads).

 CIABATA BREAD, flat as a "slipper=ciabata" full of bubble and air.
A. There are 3 major methods for sponges, depend on the country where they were developed:

1. Patee fermentee (=old dough), from FRANCEused for:  french bread; pain de capagne; pane siciliano

2. Poolish a wet sponge from FRANCE used for: ciabata bread

3. Biga, from Italy used for: ciabata bread, Italian bread

All 3 sponges have the same preparing method: mix all the ingredients 2-6h, before you start making bread dough, at room temp, until the surface is bubbling and develop a distinctive smell of yeast.
 At that moment, you refrigerate the sponge until next morning when you mix with the bread dough.

  1. pate fermentee=old dough, because of salt is equal of a regular bread dough and bakers use a piece of dough from yesterday batch  (good 3 days, refrigerated)
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 1/4 cups   bread flour
 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup water, at room temperature
3/4 tsp salt

 2. polish (wet starter)                                                  3. biga (dryer starter)
2 1/2 cups   bread flour                                                                2 1/2 cups   bread flour 
 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast                                                           1/2 teaspoon instant yeast          
1 and 1/2 cups water (at room temperature)                                3/4 cups water (at room temperature)



Mix all the ingredients well.
Leave them in a bowl, light covered, preferable with cheese cloth, at room temp 2-6h, until they start bubbling.
Use a ceramic wrap to cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight (you can keep with good results, for 3 days, refrigerated).
Next day (the day you bake the bread) you can use the quantity you need for your bread.

B. The “starter”

is called  Levain in FRANCE, and 
is called  Barm in ENGLAND were Barm is the  top, foamy,  part in Beer fermentation, and it was used for a  long time for baking bread: the yeast in the “Barm” is developed and ready to work in future bread dough.

The “starter” is a process of following the yeast culture for few days, feeding it:
 every 4h /if it is a wet barm,/
 or every 12 hours /if it is a stiff barm/.

Because you keep yeast culture alive, by feeding them, they are often maintained over long periods of time. The “Boudin Bakery” in San Francisco for example, has used the same starter dough for over 150 years for their sourdough. (Wikipedia)


For 6 cups of BARM you will need to mix well:
               3 and ½ cups bread flour (=high gluten flour)
               2 cups luke water (at room temperature)
               and 1 cup seed culture (recipe follow)
Put the barm in buttered bowl, covered, for about 6 hours, until you see bubbling, at surface.
Refrigerate at this moment, keep cold for the night and use next day /you can use it up to 3
  days, if it is refrigerated/.


Procedure for “seed culture”:

DAY 1:  mix 1 cup rye flour with ½ cup pineapple jus (organic, or freshly squeezed). Keep at room temp,
Day 2:   add ½ cup bread flour (high in gluten) and ¼ cup pineapple juice; keep at room temp, covered
Day 3:  discard half of the above dough and add 1 cup bread flour and ½ cup luke water; keep at room
 temp, covered.

Next day, you can use a cup of it for your BARM. If it is not all bubbling and smelling you can “feed” some more days, REPEATING DAY 3 PROCEDURE.

This mixer become very bubbly and yeasty smelling and you can keep it “indefinitely” (?) as long as
you ”feed it” every day, repeating day 3 procedure.



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