Chicken Noodle Soup

We’ve had quite the cold snap here in Northwestern Wisconsin, the temperature has been hovering in the -10F range for the past four days in a row! Today it’s a little warmer, 11 degrees, but the wind chill is harsh, so I haven’t left the house. Except this morning, we were out of coffee! What have you been doing all these days then, you ask? I’ve been on a baking frenzy! Yesterday I made biscotti, the day before that I made doggie biscuits! Today I am going to make chicken noodle soup. 

Now, there was a day when I couldn’t make chicken noodle soup with out store bought stock. But since I built my brick oven (chicken cooks up fantastic in it!) and with some patience, I think my soup is pretty good. And here is one of the best tips I could give anyone regarding cooking: When you buy chicken, always buy it whole. Consider this, you can buy a couple small chicken breasts at the market for about $7, or you can buy a whole chicken for about $7. I get roughly three meals out of one chicken. Baked chicken for dinner, chicken salad or sandwich for lunch and some sort of chicken soup. You just need to teach yourself how to cut the chicken up, I did, and it’s really easy. All you need is a sharp knife. There are a bunch you-tube videos out there, here is a great example! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zW5BFvCmV7k 

 

Everything but the kitchen sink!

Can’t you just smell it?


Chequamegongirl’s Chicken Soup

2 Chicken carcasses
4 Carrots, peeled
5 Celery stalks
1 Onion (we’re going to use the peel, root and top for the stock)
Egg noodles
2 Bay leaves
1/2 t Turmeric
1/2 t Basil
1/4 t Pepper
Parsley, chopped fresh for garnish

Put the chicken carcasses, the carrot peels and ends, the onion peel, root and top, 1 celery stalk cut in two pieces, bay leaves, turmeric and pepper into a stock pot and cover with water. If I have leftover fresh herbs, they go in the pot. Put the heat on medium-high, and as soon as it starts to boil, turn the heat down so you have a nice simmer, about low. At this point, forget about your soup. That will be hard though, it smells so good! I usually let my soup simmer for 4-5 hours, and I don’t plan on eating the soup for dinner the same night! But it can be done, just start early! Next, chop up the carrots, celery and onion. Put it all together in a bowl, covered and set it in the fridge.

The French call it mirapoix, I call it celery, onion and carrot!

The French call it mirapoix, I call it celery, onion and carrot!


When 4-5 hours has gone by or you like the taste of your stock, strain the broth through a colander into another pot or bowl that it will easily fit into. When that is done, you want to remove the fat. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can set it outside if you live in a cold area like me, or put it in the fridge and let it cool completely. Take your cold stock and with a large spoon, scrape off the solidified fat. I don’t compost fat; we have bears here in the great north woods! I put it in the trash. If you don’t have time to wait, strain it again (when it’s cooled off a bit) through some cheesecloth. Or clean nylons work good, too. Maybe you have one of those funky fat-removing measuring cups, they work great! Pick through the bones when they’ve cooled and remove any meat, add it to the stock. Put the stock back in the pot and reheat, add the vegetables and bring to a simmer. Cook about 30 minutes, then throw in a few handfuls of egg noodles. It should be ready in 15 minutes. Correct the seasonings and add some fresh chopped parsley for garnish, it’s pretty and adds great flavor. Serve your soup with a good old fashioned grilled cheese sandwich or salad. Manga!
Manga!

Manga!

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Pizza!

The house is so quiet, and I am alone during the day again. Why is it so annoying when the kids come home for holidays? Lights left on. Dirty dishes in the sink like it’s my job to clean them. Clothes in the washer and dryer that I have to fold if I want to use it! I would be so happy to have any of those annoying little problems right now. 

Too quiet, so yesterday I made bread (twice a week, usually) and pizza! I love pizza. We usually have pizza on Sunday and watch football, but yesterday (Monday) we had a BIG football game (which we won’t discuss) so I made pizza. And since I have gotten off-topic on the reason for this blog (recipes for my kids), I will start posting more recipes.

Pizza Sauce

1 28 oz can whole, peeled San Marzano Tomatoes

4 cloves minced garlic

1 t salt

1 T oregano, dry

If you can’t find San Marzano tomatoes or don’t want to pay for them, ok. Just use regular whole, peeled roma tomatoes. But the San Marzano’s really are better, plus, the Italian’s have a copyright on their Piazza Napoletana sauce, and they use San Marzano tomatoes. So make it authentic!
Take your tomatoes and put them in a small sauce pan. Bust out your potato masher and mash the tomatoes up. This sauce is more like a jam then a smooth sauce. Add your garlic, oregano and salt and simmer the sauce until the water is gone. You will be left with a lovely tomato jam, this takes about 1.5-2 hours.

San Marzano tomatoes from Italy.

San Marzano tomatoes from Italy.

Pizza Dough

2.5 c flour

1 c warm water

1T honey

1.5 t yeast (or 1 package) 

1 t salt

1 T olive oil

.25 c Starter, if you have. Not necessary if you don’t.

Mix together in a large bowl the water, yeast and honey and let sit until the yeast foams. (That way you know it’s working, no surprises later.) Add the starter if you have some, this will give your dough a little bit of a sour, tangy taste; nummy! Add the salt and olive oil. Add 1 cup of the flour and mix well. If you are using a stand mixer, add flour until the dough stops sticking to the sides of the bowl. You may not need the entire 2.5 cups, I rarely use that much! It just depends on how much starter I use and the day; whether it’s humid or dry outside. If you are mixing by hand, do the same, and add flour until it stops sticking to the bowl. I turn the flour with a big metal spoon, or sometimes I use my hands, mixing it up right in the bowl. When you’re done adding flour, cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 15-30 minutes. It takes less time to knead later if you do this. After it’s little rest, knead the dough for approximately 7 minutes with a mixer or 10-12 minutes by hand, until it’s smooth and springy. Then put the dough in a clean bowl with a lid or cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap.

Delicious dough rising.

Delicious dough rising.


Allow the dough to rise to twice its size, then punch it down, about 45 minutes. Pre-heat your oven to 500 F degrees. If you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven now. When the dough is twice its size again, it is ready. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide into 2 to 4 pieces, depending on the size of your pizza. (If you want to make one large pizza, this recipe is enough dough for a sheet pan, the 1/2 size sheet that people have in their homes.) I shape my dough pieces into round shapes now. Cover the dough with a damp paper towel and let sit for 5-10 minutes. You’re finally ready to make pizza! Trust me, it is worth the work! Press your dough on to a lightly oiled pizza pan or onto a floured surface. If you have a baking stone, put your pressed-out dough on a pizza peel with a little corn meal sprinkled on top so the dough won’t stick. When your pizza is ready, slide it right on to the stone and turn the oven down to 450 F degrees. It takes about 12-15 minutes to cook. My favorite toppings are basil and prosciutto with fresh mozzarella, but you can make yours any way you want! 

Pizza, fresh out of the brick oven!

Pizza, fresh out of the brick oven!

Sourdough

I have been home from Maryland for 12 days now, and it is time to make bread. I don’t think I mentioned that while I was gone our refrigerator died. Thermostat quit working, and everything inside had to be tossed, including my lovely starter. This was very sad because no starter, no bread. A good starter takes at least 10 days to make, 14 is better. I use a 125% hydration starter, which means I measure equal parts water and flour, mix it up in a bowl and let it sit for 24 hours. I call it 125% hydration because water is more dense than flour, so I am actually putting more water into it than flour, even at the same ratios. And this recipe works for me, I’m not going to change it now! After the initial 24 hours, you need to feed your starter every 12 hours, first remove 1/2 cup starter then adding adding 1/4 cup each water and flour. The wild yeast in your kitchen is what grows in this little science project, and continuous feeding for about 14 days gives it that wonderful fermented sour smell. It gets a greasy looking watery skim on top; you know you’re doing it right when this happens! After 14 days, put it in a loose fitting jar and feed it every week or so. If you’re going to bake bread, take some out the night before baking and feed it, it will be ready to go in the morning!

Bubbly wild yeast starter.

Wild yeast starter.


So here is my recipe. I use grams because water is more dense than flour, this way it comes out right.

Chequamegongirl’s Sourdough Bread

440g AP Unbleached Flour
125g Whole Wheat
30g Rye Flour
125g Starter
350g Water
10g Salt

If you have an stand mixer, that works great. If not, you will need to knead by hand.
So, put all ingredients EXCEPT salt into your stand mixer and mix until all is incorporated, 1-2 minutes. If you are doing this by hand, stir it up until you need to use your hands and dive in! Just knead the dough in the bowl. Next, we let it sit for about 30-40 minutes, no need to be exact. This process is called autolyse, and allows the flour to absorb the water so the gluten strands can begin development. You will shorten your kneading time in half if you complete this step. Just cover your bowl with plastic wrap and walk away, do something else for 30 minutes!

Dough after autolyse.

Dough after autolyse.


After your dough has had it’s rest, add salt and knead dough for 5 minutes with the dough hook, or knead by hand. Sourdough bread is much wetter than yeast breads, and it will stick to your fingers and countertop. Try not to let this bother you too much; wash your hands and rinse with cold water. This will help with the stickiness. Use as little flour on your kneading surface as possible. Knead until the dough passes the windowpane test. Go here for an excellent picture of this, we are looking for a medium-developed gluten: http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2007/07/07/gluten/
Dough is kneaded and ready for preferment.

Dough is kneaded and ready for fermentation.


Notice the difference in the dough between autolyse and after kneading. The dough is stronger and more opaque looking. Now put the dough back in a ceramic or glass bowl (just not metal) and cover with a damp towel, a lid or plastic wrap. I use a plastic tupperware-type bowl with a cover. This stage is called fermentation, and unlike making regular bread, the dough doesn’t rise much, it ferments. It builds on that wonderful sourness we love. Set a timer for 50 minutes, the next step is to fold, or stretch the dough. You will stretch your bread two times in 50 minute intervals. Here’s how you do it:
Scoop your dough out of the bowl and hold it on one end, allowing it to hang and gently stretch using gravity, don’t pull. Pick up the bottom end and invert the dough, continuing the stretch. Fold the dough in thirds back into the bowl. Scoop it up again and let the dough gently stretch again in the same manner but in the opposite (shorter) direction. This stretch will be considerably less because the gluten strands are fighting back, and have toughened since that first stretch.
First stretch, after being inverted.

First stretch, after being inverted.


Second stretch, notice length compared to first stretch.

Second stretch, notice length compared to first stretch.


When you have completed you two stretching sessions, put the dough back in the bowl for another 50 minutes. The total fermentation process takes about 2.5 hours. You’re almost done! This is when I go outside to fire up the brick oven. If you don’t have a brick oven, use your kitchen range. A baking stone is preferable, but if you don’t have one, use a dutch oven.
When the 50 minutes is up, take your dough out of the bowl and cut it into two equal portions using a sharp knife or bench knife. Let it sit for 5 minutes, sourdough needs a rest after you do anything with it. Next shape into batards or boules and place seam up in a basket or bowl lined with a cloth napkin, sprinkled with a little flour. Throw a towel over them and let them sit for 1.5 to 2 hours.
Boules for final proofing.

Boules for final proofing.


30 minutes before cooking your bread, set the oven to 500 F degrees and put the dutch oven or baking stone in the oven. When you are ready to bake, lower the oven temperature to 450 F. Quickly put some cornmeal into the dutch oven and add the dough (gently!). Make slash marks with a serrated knife if you like. Add steam to the oven by misting water into the oven or throwing a couple ice cubes onto the oven floor. If you’re using a baking stone, put your bread dough on a peel with some cornmeal so it will easily slip off. Make slash marks with a serrated knife. Slide the batard into the oven from the peel. Mist with water as with the dutch oven method. You can only bake one loaf at a time using this and the dutch oven method. After 15 minutes, check the bread to see if it needs to be turned, and lower the oven temperature to 425F degrees. It should be done in another 10-15 minutes. Here is a picture of the bread baking in the brick oven.
Oops, not enough steam?

Oops, not enough steam?


A few remarks: I have read that when the loaf erupts in this manner, it’s because it didn’t proof long enough. I did allow the dough to proof for 2.5 hours, but the temperature in the house today was 69-70 degrees, which may require another hour to proof (it should be 75 degrees). Or maybe I didn’t have enough steam in the oven, and the crust set up before yeast had finished blooming. Then the dough erupts out of the crust. Oh well, still tastes great!
Finished product.

Finished product.


I think it turned out pretty good. Next bread recipe will be one that spends more time in the fridge, fermenting slowly. Happy Eating!

Sunday Funday

I love Sundays. I usually fire up the brick oven and we have pizza for dinner. But tonight I wanted something different, Stromboli. I was thinking about my sister-in-law the other day and how she would make Stromboli on Sunday. I could never master rolling the darn thing up and keeping the goodies inside; mine was always a mess. But that was 25 years ago and I have become a much more accomplished cook! So I decided to give it a whirl. You start with the dough.

Pizza Dough

1 C water (110 degrees, not warmer than 115)

1 1/2 t active dry yeast

1 T honey (or use sugar)

2 1/2 – 3 C flour

1 or 2 T olive oil

1 t salt

Add honey and yeast to water, let sit about 10 minutes until frothy. Add 1 cup flour and mix about one minute on low or beat until all ingredients mixed. Add the salt and olive oil and mix. If using a stand mixer, add the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour and knead on low for 5-7 minutes. Otherwise, add flour until dough no longer sticks to sides of bowl, dust your counter top with flour, and begin to knead in remaining flour. Remember that you may not use all three cups of flour, or you may need more. A lot depends on the humidity.

Put the dough in an lightly oiled glass or plastic container, not metal. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap. I use a rubbermaid bowl with lid. Let rise until double in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down with your fist and let rise again until double in bulk, 35-45 minutes. Turn dough out onto floured surface and let rest for 5 minutes. Using your fingers or a rolling pin, push flour into a rectangle. When you get to the point where the dough isn’t stretching easily, cover it with a damp cloth and let it rest for another 5 minutes. Keep doing this until you have a rectangle (it doesn’t have to be perfect). Add your toppings, I made mine with hot italian sausage, (I cooked it before adding) pepperoni and hard salami. Drizzle a little olive oil on top and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and italian herb mix.

Dough rolled out and topped with italian sausage, pepperoni and genoa.

Next, just add your cheese. I used fresh mozzarella and provolone.

Just add cheese!

Now, this is the part I hate. Try to make sure you leave 1/3 inch or so all around with no food to make a seam. Take an egg and break into a small bowl and mix with a fork. Using some sort of brush, spread the egg wash onto the 1/3 salvage edge, then carefully roll the whole thing up on the long edge. I had to bend mine to get it onto the peel.

The Stromboli all rolled up.

Make sure you pinch the ends shut and make sure the seams are tight! Paint the rest of the egg wash over the top. If you don’t have a brick oven, you may want to have a pizza stone in your oven. If you don’t have either, slap that bad boy onto a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees. If you do have a brick oven, let it cool to about 350-400 degrees. I cooked mine for about 12 minutes, and it burned just a little bit on the bottom. It didn’t taste burned, but I wished I’d have let the oven cool for 5 more minutes. The finished result was delicious!

Let it rest a few minutes, then cut it open!

Delicious!

Here is a list of the remaining ingredients:

1/4 lb pepperoni
1/4 lb genoa
1/4 lb hot italian sausage
1/3 lb provolone slices
Fresh mozzarella, I used the little pearls but you could slice or use shredded.
Salt and pepper
Italian herbs