Saturday, November 1, 2008

Almost Fat Free Cornbread: What To Do With More Leftover Pumpkin Puree

This is my favorite cornbread recipe. I have been making this one for well over a year, from one of my favorite cookbooks Moosewood Restaurant Low-fat Favorites. It is particularly good for this time of year when there is pumpkin in abundance. While it may not be a problem for most people, I find that I make recipes which don't use a whole can of pumpkin puree, so what to do with the leftovers? This cornbread is the answer. When I make this at other times of the year, I use a 4 or 4.5 oz. jar of baby food, usually sweet potato or squash. You don't even need to measure, just dump in the whole thing, and don't worry about leftovers.

2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 egg whites
3/4 cup nonfat yogurt or buttermilk
1/2 cup pureed cooked pumpkin, sweet potato, or winter squash
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking pan with cooking spray or a light coating of oil or butter.
  • In a large bowl, beat the brown sugar, egg whites, yogurt or buttermilk, and pumpkin (or sweet potato or squash) until frothy. Sift cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder into the mixing bowl. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just mixed.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. I find it takes a couple minutes longer than the maximum time in my oven. The batter will be very thick and you will have to spread it in the pan with a spoon or spatula.
  • Serve hot or at room temperature.

This makes a delicious, moist cornbread with very little fat. The way I make it, it is 140 calories per piece (cut into 8 pieces). For a low-fat cornbread with a lighter texture, add 1/4 cup of canola oil (or oil of your choice) and 1 egg yolk to the wet ingredients and continue with recipe as listed above. This cornbread is good served with soups, stews, and bean dishes. I also like it for breakfast with honey and a little butter.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Pizza, Part 2 and Other Stuff

You may recall, I recently made pizza for the first time using a recipe by Peter Reinhart. I just joined The Daring Bakers and so I won't complete my first challenge until November. I was thrilled when I saw all the posts popping up about this months challenge! I used essentially the same recipe, although mine looks a little different because I halved it and used a little less oil than originally called for. The scaled down version of this recipe made enough dough for 2 10-inch thin crusts. I made the first one last Thursday, and last night I made the second one, as you see here. It is definitely better after the dough has been allowed to ferment overnight. I froze the second half of the dough, and transferred it to the refrigerator the night before I wanted to bake it. I then took it out of the fridge about 2 hours before I wanted to bake it. I made a few changes from the first time - I baked it at 500 degrees for about 8-10 minutes. I also used less sauce - the first one was a little too saucy! I got the desired results, my crust was crispier and the whole thing was just better overall. I topped this one with some green olives and freshly minced garlic. I really enjoyed seeing all the various toppings the Daring Bakers used on their pizzas, especially the dessert ones. I can't wait to play around with this more!

On a different note, I went to the library yesterday looking for some new cookbook inspiration. It seems I have been living under a rock because I have just discovered Dorie Greenspan and her book Baking: From My Home To Yours. I have been reading all the Tuesdays with Dorie posts and drooling over the delicious goods. So I decided to see if my local library had the book and check it out. Sure enough, they did, and I have to say I can see now what all the fuss is about. Everything in the book looks wonderful! I think I will be making some of those Chocolate Chunkers pretty soon....

I love books, and more recently cookbooks in particular. My bookshelves are full and overflowing. Because of that, and because we are trying to stick to a budget, I have stopped buying many books. When I do buy them, I try to be very selective and buy only what I really, really like. You'd be surprised how many things you may read once, or make one or two recipes out of, and then never use/pick up again. I rarely buy books just to read anymore, instead I check them out of the library. When it comes to cookbooks, I check those out of the library too. If I find myself checking out the same cookbook repeatedly, and making a variety of recipes from it, then I will buy it. First I look for it at a local used book store (an excellent way to save money on books, and trade in/sell those you already have and are not using) and then I check amazon for a cheaper new or used copy in good condition. This is a great way to get new books that look like new without paying the full price. Occasionally, I still find a book that just looks so good I know I want it on the spot, so I get it. One such book is Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. I can't wait to try these tasty recipes! I'll let you know how they turn out...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Almond Butterscotch Blondies

This my own variation of a recipe from my Betty Crocker's Cookbook (Bridal Edition). One day I was making these and I realized I was out of vanilla. So I used 1/2 teaspoon of pure almond extract, and then sprinkled chopped almonds on top of the batter. They were delicious! Now I make them that way all the time. Here is my version of the recipe.

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 tablespoons milk (I used fat free milk, you can use whatever you have)
1 large egg
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of an 8 inch square pan with butter or cooking spray.
  • Melt butter in a 2 quart sauce pan over low heat; remove from heat. Stir in brown sugar, vanilla, almond extract, milk and egg. Stir in remaining ingredients. Spread in pan. Sprinkle chopped almonds on top of batter.
  • Bake about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes in pan on wire rack. Cut into 4 rows by 4 rows for 16 blondies. They are 110 calories each.

These are so quick and easy to make because you mix everything up in the same saucepan you melted the butter in. As you can see from the photo, I didn't sprinkle the chopped almonds on top. I didn't have enough almonds, so I just dropped 16 whole almonds on the batter before putting it in the oven. I think they are definitely better with the 1/2 cup chopped almonds though! The nuts get a little toasted on the cut sides and the flavor is better.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Basic Hearth Bread

A few months ago I decided I wasn't going to buy bread anymore. If I wanted bread, I would have to make it myself. At that point, I had almost no breadmaking experience. I had made 2 or 3 loaves. I had bought Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible a few months before at a local used book store, with this idea in mind. It took a little while for me to summon up the confidence that I could make good bread, but after spending a lot of time just reading this book and other sources, learning about bread making, I decided I could handle it. Homemade bread just tastes better. I grew up eating my grandmother's homemade whole wheat bread almost exclusively. As a young child I spent hours watching her make bread, and sometimes she would give me a few scraps of dough to play with, which I would make into fun twists and shapes, sprinkling them with cinnamon and sugar. I was always so excited to see what they would look like when they came out of the oven. I was also fascinated by my grandmother's industrial sized mixer. I don't know how she got it, but it was fun to watch. I didn't realize until I asked her recently for her bread recipe that she used to make 10 or 12 loaves of bread at a time, enough to distribute to the whole family. When I decided to start making my own bread, this recipe for Basic Hearth Bread from The Bread Bible was the first recipe I tried, and it has become one of my staples. It has a wonderful chewy crumb and a crisp crust. I like to serve it with pasta and salads. It also makes good grilled cheese sandwiches and goes well with soup or any simple meal. I always bake it in a loaf pan instead of free-form, because it is my husband's favorite sandwich bread.

Time Schedule
Dough Starter (Sponge): minimum 1 hour, maximum 24 hours
Minimum Rising Time: about 3 hours
Oven Temperature: 475 degrees for 10 minutes, then 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes more

Dough Starter (Sponge):
bread flour - 1 cup (5.5 oz or 156 grams)
whole wheat flour or kamut flour - 1/4 cup (1.25 oz or 36 grams)
instant yeast - 3/8 teaspoon (1.25 grams)
honey - 1 1/4 teaspoons (9 grams)
water, at room temperature - 1 1/3 liquid cups (11.2 oz, 322 grams)
  • Make the sponge. In a mixer bowl or other large bowl, combine all of the above ingredients and whisk until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Sponge should be the constistency of a thick batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover and set aside.

Flour Mixture
bread flour - 1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (10.3 oz, 292 grams)
instant yeast - 1/2 teaspoon (1.6 grams)
salt - 1 1/2 teaspoons (0.4 oz, 10 grams)

  • Combine bread flour and yeast, whisking to mix. (Reserve 2 tablespoons of flour if mixing by hand) DO NOT ADD SALT YET! You will add it later :) Gently scoop flour mixture onto sponge to cover it completely. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to ferment for 1 hour at room temperature. Then refrigerate for 8-24 hours to allow for full flavor development (You may also let it ferment for 1-4 hours at room temperature and then proceed without the refrigeration part, but I find this makes for a long day of dabbling with bread, and the flavor won't be as good).
It will look like this - the sponge may bubble up through the flour mixture in some places, this is okay. THE NEXT DAY:
Remove mixture from the refrigerator 1 hour before you want to begin mixing it, if mixing by hand. I mix and knead all my bread by hand, so that is the info I will include here.
  • Add the salt and mix with a wooden spoon until the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together, then scrape it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead for 5 minutes, to develop the gluten structure a little, adding as little of the reserved 2 tablespoons of flour as possible to keep it from sticking. It will be very sticky at this point. Cover it and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. Knead for another 5-10 minutes, until dough is very smooth and elastic. It should be barely tacky to the touch.
  • Place dough in a lightly oiled container, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise until doubled about 1 hour (ideally at 75-80 degrees F).
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, press down into a rectangle and give it one business letter turn, round the edges, and return it to the oiled container. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise until doubled again, 45 minutes to 1 hour. It will fill the container fuller this time.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and press it down to flatten it slightly. Make a freeform round loaf if you desire or shape into a rectangular loaf and place it into a prepared loaf pan (lightly greased with cooking spray). The recipe calls for a 10x5 inch loaf pan, but I originally misread this and have been using a 9x5 inch pan, which seems to work fine for me. Lightly spray top of dough with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until doubled. The center of the loaf should rise 1 inch higher than the sides of the loaf pan. When the dough is pressed gently with a fingertip, the depression should fill in very slowly or not at all - then it is ready to bake!

Preheat oven to 475 degrees 1 hour before baking. Put an oven rack at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it. Place a cast iron skillet or sheet pan on the floor of the oven before preheating. Slash the bread if desired. Mist the dough with water quickly set the pan on the baking sheet or stone. Toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes in the pan on the floor of the oven and immediately shut the oven door. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temp to 425 and continue baking for 20-30 minutes (it only takes 20 in my oven) or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean (an instant read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 200 degrees F). Turn the pan around halfway through for more even baking. Remove the bread from the oven, turn it out of the pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

I have given a condensed version here, but there is much more good information to be found in the book, including directions for using an electric mixer and so much more. The Bread Bible really is an excellent resource, although there are other bread books out there that are just as good I'm sure. I find something new and helpful in each new resource. One that really helped me a lot was The Fresh Loaf. This site has many wonderful posts with tips and recipes (and photos!) for making bread.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Roasted Root Vegetables with Maple Glaze

Whenever I take my weekly grocery shopping trip, I try to pick up at least one vegetable that is not on my usual list of veggies - I guess you could call it the veggie wild card. I choose whatever looks good. A few weeks ago it was asparagus. This time it was turnips. I never know what it will be until I get there, but that's part of the fun. As soon as I saw the turnips, I had an idea of a recipe I could use them in. When I got home I opened my recipe notebooks and found it. From the March 2008 issue of Cooking Light Magazine, I found a recipe for roasted root vegetables with maple syrup. I am posting the recipe here as it was printed, but you could use any combination of root vegetables or even butternut or acorn squash. I used red potatoes instead of the parsnips. This was so good I have actually made it twice in the past week.

1 1/2 cups (1/2 inch) slices carrot
1 1/2 cups (1/2 inch) slices parsnip
1 1/2 cups (1/2 inch) slices cubed peeled turnip
4 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare 13x9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Combine first six ingredients in baking dish, tossing well to coat vegetables with oil. Bake at 450 for ten minutes, stir in maple syrup. Bake an additional 20 minutes or until tender and golden, stirring after 10 minutes.

Makes 4 servings, 150 calories per serving (4.9 g fat, 1.7 g protein, 3.8 g fiber).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Chocolate-Filled Buns

This recipe really captured my interest when I first saw it. I have always enjoyed any kind of pastry with chocolate in it. These are delicious! This recipe comes from the November 2007 issue of Cooking Light Magazine. The recipe calls for the dough to be made and then refrigerated overnight. However, be warned you will have to punch down the dough several times (or use a gigantic bowl!) so I wouldn't recommend making up the dough right before you go to bed. You need to be able to keep and eye on it and punch it down about 3-4 times in a 4-6 hour period before it will get cold enough to slow down the yeast activity.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (about 7 oz.)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 packages quick-rise yeast (about 4 1/2 teaspoons)
3/4 cup fat free milk
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large egg
2 1/4 cups bread flour (about 10.5 oz.)

Cooking spray
3 1/2 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • Lightly spoon whole wheat flour into dry measuring cups, level with a knife. Combine whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a large bowl, stir well with a whisk.
  • Combine milk, water, butter, and canola oil in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave on high for about 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until mixture is warm (100-110 degrees). Add milk mixture to flour mixture; stir 1 minute. Measure and add bread flour; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 2 minutes.
  • Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat top of dough with cooking spray, cover and refrigerate overnight. Don't forget to check on it and punch it down if needed!

The next day:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Chop chocolate and refrigerate it for a little while to prevent melting when you start forming the buns.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and punch down. Divide into 16 equal pieces, rolling each into a ball (I find a kitchen scale very helpful for this). Working with one ball at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll dough into a 5-inch circle. Place about 1 1/2 teaspoons chocolate in the center of the circle. Roll up dough tightly, jelly-roll style; pinch seams to seal. Place buns, seam side down, on a baking sheet coated lightly with cooking spray (or use parchment paper). Tuck ends under and cover. Repeat until all the buns are prepared this way.
  • Lightly coat formed buns with cooking spray, cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 40 minutes or until doubled in size.
  • Lightly brush tops with egg white. Bake at 375 degrees for 17 minutes or until lightly browned (only took 15 minutes in my oven). Cool on a wire rack.

These buns really turned out nicely. I think they would be perfect for a brunch with fruit salad and some type of egg dish, or just as a snack with coffee or tea. By my calculations, they are 186 calories per bun.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pumpkin Spice Mini Cake

Since I made the Pumpkin Oat Muffins, I've been trying to figure out what I could do with the leftover pumpkin puree. Then I came across a recipe in one of my cookbooks, Small Batch Baking by Debby Maugans Nakos. I really like this book because each recipe only makes enough to serve 2 or 3 people which is perfect for just my husband and I. It has everything from cakes and cookies to all kinds of breads, muffins, and special occasion desserts. The original recipe that inspired me to make this little cake was the one for Spiced Sweet Potato Bundt Cakes. I made the cake recipe exactly as listed in the book, but I substituted the pumpkin instead of the sweet potato.

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree (again, Libby's pure canned pumpkin)
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Yolk of 1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Enough butter and flour to grease and flour two molds in a mini Bundt pan, or whatever pan you use (I used a miniature 3 pan set by Wilton you can get at Michaels or just about anywhere that sells cake decorating supplies).
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pans by greasing with butter and flouring lightly.
  • Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. Add the sugar, oil, egg yolk, and vanilla to the pumpkin puree and whisk until smooth. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  • Spoon batter into pans, dividing it evenly between them. If you are using a mini Bundt pan, fill remaining molds halfway with water to preven scorching. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 15-20 minutes (about 14 minutes for me).
  • Allow cakes to cool in pans for 15 minutes, then carefully remove them and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

I did not make the icing recipe recommended in the book because I didn't have any heavy cream. My icing was a spur of the moment concoction I threw together that probably won't be anything to write home about! So here is the icing recipe in the book.

1/2 cup confectioners sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sift the confectioners sugar into a medium sized bowl. Place brown sugar, cream, and butter in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Let the mixture boil for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  • Remove saucepan from heat and pour the mixture over the confectioner's sugar. Whisk in the vanilla, and continue whisking until the icing is smooth and light in color. Let icing cool, whisking often, until luke warm and thick enough to fall from a spoon in ribbons, about 20 minutes. Spoon icing over cake, allowing to drip down the sides. Let cake rest until icing is firm, about 1 hour.


I think this cake would also be good with a cream cheese frosting, maybe with a little cinnamon in it. It was very delicious and the icing I made actually tasted pretty good (This was after it spent the day in the refrigerator, which helped it set up and the flavors to mix better). It contained fat free sour cream, a couple tablespoons of maple syrup and some sugar. I probably wouldn't make it that way again, but it complemented the cake well.