Tuesday, February 24, 2009

All-American White Bread

You don’t hear about Cornell’s Triple Rich Formula much anymore, but it’s still out there. What could it be? It sounds so luxurious and exciting, like fancy shampoo, maybe shaving cream, or a fantastical pyramid scheme.

In reality, it’s all about bread.

The retro-named Triple Rich Formula came out during WWII when limited food supplies made Americans much more concerned with obtaining actual nourishment from their food than they are today. Crazy concept, I know. After recognizing that the over-refined white bread was actually bereft of nutrition, a guy named Cornell did some experiments and found that you could greatly increase the nutritional value of white bread by using the following formula:

When measuring flour, for each cup first add the following to the bottom of the cup:
1 Tablespoon soy flour
1 Tablespoon dry milk powder
1 teaspoon wheat germ
Then fill the rest of the cup with flour as usual. Repeat for each cup of flour.

This formula made fat, healthy rats and that was proof enough for the NY state government to start using Triple Rich bread in schools and other government facilities. However, this No Loaf Left Behind policy faded away, and we went back to Wonder bread as we unfortunately know it today.

I was still fascinated by the idea of it, though, so I rounded up the ingredients and got baking, testing it on my favorite white bread recipe and my unsuspecting taste-tester husband. Will he be able to detect the soy flour? Will he turn his nose up at any hint of wheat germ? Let’s find out!

The loaf right before a dinner of egg strata, oranges, and the Triple Rich bread, fresh from the oven:

The loaf after dinner:

Yes, I think it passed inspection. He literally made the comment, “How is this bread so good?” while cutting off another thick slice. I noticed a slightly heavier texture and denser crumb, but it was still delish.

Here is the recipe for our favorite home-style, soft-crusted, All-American white bread. It’s up to you if you want to make it “Triple Rich” and try out Cornell’s formula. Maybe make a batch of each and see if you notice a difference.

Oh, and I have to add a favorite SNL skit that reminds me of this taste testing. Thankfully, we didn’t have any outbursts like this at the dinner table:

All-American White Bread
Adapted from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensberger

3/4 cup warm water
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1 and 1/2 cups warm milk
3 Tablespoons melted butter
3 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon salt
6 cups all-purpose flour

Pour 1/4 cup of the warm water in a small bowl (not hot water; it will kill the yeast). Sprinkle yeast and sugar on top. Swirl to moisten yeast and let sit for 10 minutes until foamy.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix remaining water, milk, butter, honey, salt, and 1 cup of the flour; beat hard until creamy. Stir in yeast mixture, then continue adding flour 1 cup at a time until dough clears sides of the bowl, with a stiff and sticky texture. Depending on the humidity of your environment, you may use more or less than the 6 cups of flour listed.

Knead dough until smooth and springy, either by hand or in a mixer with a dough hook. Place the dough in a lightly greased container, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in volume, about two hours.

Turn dough out of container and divide in two pieces. Form each into a rectangular loaf shape and place in greased 9 x 5" loaf pans. Let rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Make a shallow slash down the middle of each loaf with a sharp knife and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown. To check for doneness, tap on the bottom of the loaf; it should sound hollow. Cool on wire rack.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Double Ginger Cookies

For those of you keeping score at home, it's T minus six weeks until D-day, meaning due date, of course. I feel so fortunate to have had a healthy pregnancy thus far. In fact, I've actually enjoyed being pregnant. Don't worry, I'm not going to go all Octomom on you and start having litters. It's simply a pleasant surprise that overall, my pregnancy has been a positive experience.

However, I haven't forgotten those few weeks late last summer during my first trimester when I was hit with the oh-so-delicately named "morning sickness," which would be more accurately called "24/7 nausea". I never had to hug the toilet bowl, but my digestive system definitely had better days.

I read somewhere that ginger is a good nausea remedy, so I stocked up on ginger tea, ginger chews, ginger candy...you get the idea. I can't confirm that all that ginger helped my condition, but it certainly didn't hurt it either.

However, munching on straight up crystallized ginger was a bit too harsh for me. So since last summer, I've had a bag of crystallized ginger in the back of my cupboard and today, struck by a ginger cookie craving, I decided to use it.

A few things that helped me narrow down to this recipe:

1. I wanted to use up the rest of my crystallized ginger.
2. I wanted the cookie to be a little spicy.
3. I wanted a thick chewy cookie, not a crispy gingersnap.
4. I was out of butter. I know. No butter. What was I thinking.

So introducing double ginger cookies. If you get really ginger-crazy (or if you happen to be a really nauseous pregnant woman), you could make it a triple by grating in some fresh ginger.

And if you're still keeping score at home, yes, I managed to mention nausea, toilet hugging, and Octomom all in a posting about cookies. Now excuse me while I kick back and brush this dirt off my shoulder.

Double Ginger Cookies
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg
3/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

In a large bowl, mix flours, baking soda, spices, and salt. In a separate large bowl, mix sugar, oil, and molasses until thoroughly combined; add egg and mix. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet mixture, mixing well. Add chopped ginger and mix until combined.

With your hands, roll dough into balls, set on baking sheet, then lightly flatten with the bottom of a sugar-dipped glass. Bake 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool slightly on baking sheet, then cool completely on wire rack.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Michael Pollan on NPR

Along with Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan is a man after my foodie heart. I know it's Friday, and your brain is fried after a long week of staring at a computer screen, but if you're up for some "food for thought" (ba-dum-dum), check out his NPR interview. Good stuff.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monster Cookies

A few things to ponder:

1. Today is February 16th and already the only M&M option is Easter colors? No clearance Valentine's M&Ms, not even some breathing space with regular M&Ms, it's straight from red and pink to pastels.

2. Does anyone know a single person who has become ill from eating the raw eggs in cookie dough? I've been eating cookie dough for 27 years, and knock on wood, no problems yet, except maybe an extra inch on my thighs, but who's looking?

3. Why don't you see monster cookies in cookbooks very often? And how have I not posted our monster cookie recipe yet? Note to self: organize blog recipes. Monster cookies are tied with the soft chocolate chip in our house as hubby's favorite cookie, yet somehow this has slipped by the blog posts.

That is, until today.

Although I need no additional reasons to eat monster cookies, these are actually kinda healthy...or at least they are a lot better than most. There is no flour, lots of oats and peanut butter, and just enough butter and sugar to make it all stick together. And chocolate. Because we can.

Monster Cookies
2 eggs
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
3 cups rolled oats (aka old-fashioned oatmeal)
2/3 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup M&Ms

In a large bowl, beat eggs. Add remaining ingredients in order, mixing well. Use an ice cream scoop to put dough on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Right off the bat, let me say that I'm more of a simple breakfast kind of gal. Most days I'll happily trade a platter of eggs and bacon for a bowl of oatmeal. But there is something about weekends that gets me hankerin' for something more...

Introducing banana chocolate chip pancakes. This basic pancake batter recipe comes from my mom via a family friend in Watford City, land of cattle ranches and oil rigs. I'll bet my mother has made the basic batter hundreds of times over the years, using the same worn Tupperware bowl.

I've tried out other pancake recipes with buttermilk, buckwheat, and who knows what else, but I always return to this one, calling Mom yet again to scribble the measurements down on a scrap of paper. The banana slices and chocolate chips are a recent addition, but a very good one if I do say so myself.

This will make enough pancakes for two big eaters; double the recipe if you have kids or company. Feel free to use fresh or frozen blueberries instead of bananas and chocolate chips - or just go plain Jane.

Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ripe banana, thinly sliced
Chocolate chips, as many as you like

Beat together oil and egg. Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT banana and chips; stir just until mixed. Pour batter onto hot griddle, immediately topping each with banana slices and chocolate chips, slightly pressing bananas into the batter with spatula if needed. Once you see bubbles popping on the surface, flip and cook a couple more minutes on the other side.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Nichole's Fine Pastry - Chocolate Truffles

Here's the progression of events since I arrived home from work this afternoon:

1. Pet the dogs
2. Tear off my work clothes and put on sweats (hey, at seven months pregnant, this baby needs to breathe)
3. Check the mail
4. Discover a box of chocolate truffles from Nichole's Fine Pastry in my mailbox.
5. Do a happy dance.
6. Taste-test by inhaling two truffles. (They passed inspection.)

NPR has a lovely February fundraiser where you donate to your local station, and they send you truffles. Whoever thought of this fundraiser is my kind of woman! Since my membership was due anyway, I figured it's a win/win/win. Happy V-day...to me!

If you haven't been there yet, please stop in Nichole's Fine Pastry in downtown Fargo. Bring a friend, preferably one that has the positive qualities of a) providing good conversation and b) not counting calories - they usually go hand-in-hand. After admiring the gorgeous display case, order two coffees and a sweet nibble, sit down, and enjoy the moment.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday Morning Cinnamon Rolls

The aroma of cinnamon rolls baking on a Sunday morning makes me nostalgic for my younger days. Growing up, we always had cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Sunday. I could paint a pretty happy-family picture for you here, but to be honest, they were cinnamon rolls out of a tube, my brothers always fought over the crustless middle one, and there was general groan at the table from us kids when Mom mentioned going to church afterwards. However, the nostalgia remains.

Whether cinnamon rolls remind you of happy family moments or maybe just bad pre-flight choices at an airport CinnaBon, their aroma is reason enough to make them.

These are from scratch, and I'm not going to lie to you, there are a few steps in the process. However, most of the prep can be done the evening before; just slow the dough rise by placing it in the refrigerator overnight.

Sunday Morning Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger

3/4 cup potato puree (boil 1 peeled russet potato until soft, puree in food processor with 2 tablespoons butter)
1 cup reserved warm potato cooking water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup warm water
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 cups all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 - 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 - 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 - 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Add the 1/4 cup warm water to a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast and pinch of sugar on surface of the water. Swirl to mix and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine pureed potato, warm potato water, yeast mixture, brown sugar, oil, egg, salt, and 2 cups of flour. Beat hard to combine, then add remaining flour until a dough forms that clears the sides of the bowl. Switch to a dough hook and knead dough for a few minutes until smooth and springy (or knead by hand).

Place dough in greased container, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 90 minutes. Gently deflate dough and let rise again until doubled, about 60 minutes.

Gently deflate dough and divide into two equal pieces. On a floured surface, roll each portion into a 10"x14" rectangle. Brush surface with melted butter and sprinkle each rectangle with half the sugar and cinnamon, leaving a 1" border on edges. Starting on long side, roll the dough up and pinch seams closed. With a serrated knife, cut each roll crosswise into 8 or 9 equal portions, about 1" or 1 - 1/2" thick.

Place each portion at least 1" apart on a baking sheet or pan lined with parchment paper. Press each gently to flatten the swirl slightly. Let rise until puffy, about 20 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and firm.

Prepare glaze by combining powdered sugar with milk, using 1 tablespoon of milk at a time until reaching a pourable consistency. Drizzle glaze over warm rolls and serve.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Reflecting on our recent winter getaway to visit the in-laws in Arizona, these snowbird retirees have it made. Living in an "active adult community" is just like summer camp, except everyone gets their own golf cart and you don't have to participate in the activities if you don't want to. You know, just in case you just don't have the energy for that exhausting round of shuffleboard today.

Simply being outside without coat, hat, gloves, and snowboots was the highlight for me, but a close second had to be all the fresh citrus. We enjoyed fresh grapefruit off the tree every morning, with its strong aroma that you never get at the supermarket. I gawked at all the lemon trees, pointing them out every time I spotted one to whoever happened to be near me, just like those national park tourists that stop to take pictures of deer by the side of the road. It's an everyday thing for the locals, but I was enamored.

Our winter siesta ended too quickly. I packed my suitcase with grapefruits, lemons, and my Trader Joe finds before saying "hasta luego" to the sun and warmth and returning to our melting tundra and empty fridge. However, empty fridge + lack of motivation for grocery shopping = creative pantry meals. Today's find: a can of chickpeas. Hummus it is!

Making hummus is ridiculously easy in a food processor. You'll find tahini in the natural foods section of your grocery store; it's expensive and only sold in large jars, but it'll last you awhile. This is a basic recipe, but I definitely encourage you to mix it up by adding extra ingredients. Roasted red pepper is a classic, spicy hummus is a nice change, and my co-worker makes a fantastic peanut hummus. Anything goes.

Adapted from Food Matters by Mark Bittman

1 - 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup tahini
2 cloves peeled garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lemon

Combine chickpeas, tahini, garlic, oil, cumin, salt, pepper, and half the lemon juice in food processor; puree until smooth. Stop and taste; add more tahini, salt, and/or lemon juice as needed. Serve in a bowl drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkle of cumin.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Trader Joe's

Long time, no update. What gives? We were tired of the cold and took a spontaneous trip to visit the snowbird in-laws in AZ - warm, sunny, and relaxing. Frankly, the Allegiant Air flight direct between Bismarck and Mesa is the best thing since peanut butter and banana toast. We NoDak folk are not accustomed to direct flights, to say the least.

Yesterday I got the unique pleasure to browse Trader Joe's, a grocery store filled with only deliciousness. My in-laws shop there for "Two Buck Chuck" wine ($2.99 a bottle), but I was excited to check out the rest of the store. Every product on the shelves practically jumped in my cart, I couldn't stop them. Full fat Greek yogurt! Fair trade cocoa! Raclette cheese! All these wonders that are so hard to find in the middle of a prairie. Alas, my lack of checked luggage prevented me from buying olive oils and wine (*sniff*), but I'll be returning to Bis with as much TJ chocolate, dried fruits, and nuts as my carry-on can hold.

When in NoDak, the closest Trader Joe's is in Minneapolis. Prices are reasonable, quality is top-notch, bring an extra bag to carry everything home with you!