Oat Bread with Dried Fruit and Almonds

Baking bread is one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen. I just love the whole process, kneading together a handful of individual ingredients and turning them into this live creature that rises and grows before your eyes. Tame it through shaping into loaves, and then into the oven for its final transformation where it becomes your desired creation. It is one of the most satisfying tasks in the kitchen.  Pulling out those final loaves, and seeing what you've been able to do with a few simple ingredients, some time and heat is simply amazing. 

These loaves are my most recent creation. I found the recipe online and for whatever reason it sounded so perfectly delicious that I had to give it a try. This whole wheat and oat sandwich loaf, slightly sweetened with honey and filled with roasted nuts and dried fruit called my name, I simply had to try it. It turned out a couple very large and beautiful loaves that have been perfect for a variety of sandwiches, a hearty snack and a healthy breakfast. 

One of my favorite quick and easy lunches in the past week has been a gourmet peanut butter sandwich with mashed banana and sliced strawberries. Add a drizzle of honey for a little extra sweetness and lunch is served, simple and delicious. It almost feels like eating dessert for lunch. I've also made a variety of other different sandwiches including an heirloom tomato BLT and a grilled vegetable and hummus sandwich with feta. So whatever type of sandwich is calling your name, this bread will get the job done. 

Oat Bread with Dried Fruit and Almonds

Adapted from 

A Shaggy Dough Story

Ingredients

  • 200g Dried Fruit (I used a mix of prunes and frozen cranberries instead of dried, just because I had them, and it turned out fine)
  • 161g Whole Wheat Flour
  • 130g Rolled Oats
  • 403g Water (I used the reserved water from soaking the fruit and made up the difference with fresh water)
  • 484g Bread Flour
  • 136g Milk
  • 48g Honey
  • 48g Vegetable Oil 
  • 19g Salt
  • 4g Instant Yeast 
  • 130g Toasted Almonds (or whatever you have, walnuts, pecans, etc)
  • Additional Rolled Oats for coating loaves

Directions

Put dried fruit in a heat-proof bowl, add enough boiling water to cover and let sit for about an hour. Drain, reserving water, and let cool.

Put whole wheat flour and rolled oats in the bowl of a mixer, add the reserved soaking liquid (adding fresh water to make up the difference) and stir to combine. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Add bread flour, milk, honey, oil, salt and yeast to the oat mixture. Using the dough hook of your mixer, blend on low speed until combined, then increase the speed to medium for about 7 minutes. Add the soaked, drained fruit and the pecans and mix on low speed until combined (it took a little bit of time to make sure they were fully incorporated).

Place the dough in a large bowl or container with oil that's been lightly coated with oil. Cover and let rest. After one hour, uncover the dough and fold, then cover and let rest for another hour.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two rounds. Cover with plastic and let rest for 15 minutes. Lightly butter or oil two 9-inch loaf pans. Uncover and lightly flour your work surface, if needed. Degas each dough round and shape into a loaf. Place loaves seam side down in the prepared pans. Lightly mist each loaf with water and them cover with oats, if desired. Cover with plastic and proof for about 90 minutes.

Place a steam pan in the bottom of your oven and preheat to 450°. At baking time, uncover the loaf pans, place in the oven and immediately add about 1 cup of ice to the pan to create steam. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 400° and bake for another 30 minutes or until golden brown (cover them with foil if they start browning too soon). Remove from the oven, transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Preserving Summer - Canning Tomatoes

Growing up, there was a day or two every August set aside by my mom for a marathon canning session. She would spend all day in the kitchen canning jar after jar of beautiful Red Haven peaches to have on hand all winter long. It seemed like whatever day she decided to can was the hottest day of the whole summer. There she would be, spending all day in the hot, hot kitchen, stove burners on high, boiling water steaming up the entire room, sticky peach juice everywhere. It was worth all the effort however when, in the middle of the winter, she would head to the basement and come back up with a jar, one of these labors of love, adding peaches to the dinner menu and reminding us of the joys of summer produce. 

Over the last few years I've started to do some canning every summer. I've been trying out different recipes, deciding what I find worth while, and what I don't. While I haven't followed in my mom's footsteps by canning peaches, I have found some of my own favorites. My top food to preserve so far has been tomatoes. Tomatoes are probably my favorite fruit/vegetable (however you want to classify them). They are so utterly versatile and fantastically delicious when perfectly ripe. You can use them in so many different ways and in all kinds of different foods from countries all over the world. I just love them, so preserving them via canning has been a no brainer. 

Canning tomatoes is not a difficult task, but it definitely takes some time, and involves quite a few different steps. Just know ahead of time that you'll be spending a few hours in the kitchen, but that's okay because it will all be worth it in the end, on those cold winter days when you can pull out some preserved summer produce and enjoy the product of all your hard work. It brings  a little bit of light to some of those long, cold, dark winter nights. 

Tomatoes Whole, Halved or Quartered - Packed in Juice

From 

Ball

Ingredients

  • 2-­1/2 to 3-­1/2 lb ripe tomatoes (about 8 to 11 medium) per quart 
  • Water
  • Citric Acid or bottled lemon juice
  • Salt, optional 

Directions 

Prepare  boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside. 

Wash  tomatoes. Dip in boiling water 30 to 60 seconds. Immediately dip in cold water. Slip off skins. Trim away any green areas and cut out core. Leave tomatoes whole or cut into halves or quarters. 

Add  1⁄2 teaspoon citric acid or 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice to each hot quart jar, or 1⁄4 teaspoon citric acid or 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each hot pint jar. 

Pack  tomatoes in hot jars until space between tomatoes fills with juice leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart jar, 1/2 teaspoon to each pint jar, if desired. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight. 

Process  filled jars in a boiling water canner 1 hour and 25 minutes for pints and quarts, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

Peach and Blueberry Parfaits

Simple pleasures:

            -Finding a new bakery to love

            -A sandy beach and a good book

            -Warm fires and cool nights

            -Sunsets and ice cream

            -Heirloom tomatoes

            -Peaches and blueberries

            -Homemade yogurt and homemade granola

Yeah, that pretty much sums up my week.

To me, simple is best. Breakfast really can't get any better than this. So fresh, so sweet, so delicious. August is being very good to me this year, I'll be sad when it ends. But until it does, another parfait please!

Parfaits are really so simple to make, and yet look elegant and classy, especially in a fun glass! No recipe required. All you need is some yogurt, granola and fruit, whatever's in season. Start layering; yogurt, fruit, granola, repeat until you reach the top. Nothing else to it!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry season is basically over, this is always a sad realization to me since strawberries are my favorite fruit. I love buying a couple quarts at the farmers market and then stuffing my face full of sweet, juicy berries because we all know that freshly picked strawberries last about a day before they start going bad. To me this means I am required to eat as many as possible because I can't let any of these early summer jewels go to waste. This is a task I attack with pleasure.

This year I definitely did my share helping out the local strawberry farmers. This sometime required me to become creative with the baskets and baskets lining my counter. I had a wonderful time figuring out what to do with all of my strawberries, what a fantastic problem! When my neighbor called and told me she had rhubarb galore and I needed to come take some off of her hands I jumped at the opportunity. I had never made a strawberry rhubarb pie, but that was all about to change. Strawberry and rhubarb are my favorite combination. The juicy sweetness of the strawberries combined with the puckering tartness of the rhubarb is a match made in heaven. I'm already looking forward to next year!

While I've been making more pies and tarts recently, I still would definitely call myself an amateur. I'm getting better, but I still have things I need to work on. Regardless, this pie turned out absolutely delicious, even if it lacks a little in the looks department. I like to think of it as rustic. In the end it really doesn't matter what the pie looks like, the most important thing is what it tastes like, and this one did not disappoint.

Note: This is a rough estimate of my strawberry rhubarb pie recipe. It was delicious, but it could definitely have used more filling, both strawberries and rhubarb. Feel free to play around with the quantities, increasing the filling until you are satisfied with it.

For the topping: this time around I didn't melt the butter, but for future use I probably would. I think you get bigger chunks of streusel then. Also, if you are a big streusel fan (like me) you'll want to increase the amount of streusel. Try doubling it perhaps!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Ingredients

Pie

  • 1/2 recipe Pate Brisee (or your favorite pie dough)
  • 1 3/4 cup chopped rhubarb
  • 4 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons Yukon Jack Liquor (or whatever you happen to have in your cupboard, this was what was in mine!)

Topping

  • 3 tablespoons room temperature butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • pinch salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the filling: Mix together rhubarb, strawberries, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and liquor. Set aside.

Make the crust: Roll out pate brisee to a 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Place in refrigerator or freezer for 15-30 minutes, until well chilled. 

Drain excess juice from the rhubarb/berry mixture. Pour filling into chilled pie crust. Bake pie for 45-55 minutes, until crust is well browned. Remove from oven and cool. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream or lightly whipped cream.