My son helped me bake bread loaves and my daughter made the main course, pasta e fagioli; both turned out FABULOUS. I did add some notes/tweaks to the recipes, and wrote out the recipes like I talked to my kids, so some of it might make you seasoned cooks antsy, as you already know how to do things. :)
The bread we made was "candle bread" [la ciriola] and I think the # of loaves the recipe indicates to form was way off. I think it needs to be 16 mini loaves, not 12 medium loaves. That's a lot of food to consume.) Also note that the recipe is in kilograms, and we in the states use cups/ounces. Fortunately I have a food scale, because the conversion to US measurements yielded things like 2.375 C of water, etc. I recommend a food scale, in other words. You can get one for four bucks at Ikea, which is what I have. It's cheap, probably not the most accurate thing, but hey - these turned out great.
Candle Bread Prep time: 20 -30 minutes to mix and knead, 2 hours for first rise, 10 minutes to shape, 30 minutes for second rise, 20 minutes to bake. (about 3.5 hours) Make just after school for dinner time.
1 kg strong white flour (I took that to mean bread flour, which was what I happened to have.) about 4.35 C
550 g warm water, divided use (2.392 C - see why food scales rock? Just be sure to zero out your scale with your measuring cup on it before filling)
45 G extra virgin olive oil (3.161 TBSP)
25 G fresh yeast (1.756 TBSP)
20 G salt (1.405 TBSP)
1 tsp. sugar (oh, this they have in teaspoons but nothing else? Figures. Ha.)
Dissolve the sugar in 150 G of the warm water (about 2/3 C.) Add the yeast and whisk to mix. Pour this into your mixer (or bowl that you'll be mixing with.)
Note: Because I wasn't using fresh yeast, but active yeast, I just added everything in the bowl - active yeast doesn't need to "proof."
Add the olive oil and flour, turn the mixer to "stir" (or you know, start to stir) and slowly add the remainder of the water. Sprinkle the salt in last (this is because salt kills the yeast. Again, I'm using active yeast, so that's not such a big deal. Also note: fresh yeast is the cake stuff that has to be in the fridge and is really expensive.)
Mix this for about 20 minutes, or turn out and knead for 20 - 30 minutes.
[Note: AHAHAHA. Yeah, right. Sorry, the mixer a) wouldn't handle this heavy dough for more than about 5 minutes before sounding like it was going to die on me, and b) my son gave up on kneading after 1 minute saying "I can just buy bread, Mom." I kneaded it on the counter for a good 10 minutes more, but it started tearing, so I stopped. I didn't want the glutens jacked up.
Place in an oiled bowl, flipping it over so it's all coated. Set covered with a towel in a WARM spot for about 2 hours to double in size. (I use my laundry room and run the dryer in the winter time. I've also been known to turn the oven on to 100, let it run for a few minutes, turn it off, and stick the bowl in there. My kitchen is drafty.)
Turn the dough out and cut into 12 pieces, weighing roughly 150 G each.
[Note: I rolled the dough into a log, cut it in half, cut those in half, and those in half, yielding 8 loaves. I really should have cut those into halves as well, because they turned out to be huge. I can't imagine the 12 loaves being much better. I think a finished mini loaf the size of your hand is just right, personally.)
On a well-floured surface (I didn't add much flour, the oil kept everything nicely workable) roll each piece into an flat ellipse - like an egg on its side: wider in the middle and thinner at the ends. <--------> this way. Then starting at the base closest to you, roll them up like cigars. (This is why I think smaller pieces are better - they're way too long, otherwise.) Place each rolled up loaf onto a piece of parchment paper on a big sheet seam side down, leaving space for them to rise and not touch. When they're all done (I used two sheets), cover with a towel and let rise for another 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 220C (428F, but I stuck with 425F) and make an elongated slash down the length of the bread roll. Pop into the oven (can use an egg wash, I didn't) and bake off for about 20 minutes. They need to be browned and crisp. Use a tong and pick up one roll and make sure the bottom has some color, too. Pull out, let cool slightly, then go crazy nuts with the butter and garlic and om nomming.
This sounds detailed, but I know some of y'all aren't regular bread bakers, so I wanted to include as much info as possible. Side note, entrenous88 asked me earlier what was the first thing I remember baking, and I realized it was a loaf of bread. My aunt taught me how to make bread years ago when I was a pre-teen. It's a great skill to have, and even if you buy top-notch flour (I'm very partial to King Arthur flour and will use nothing but) it's still cheaper than buying bread in the store. Plus: who doesn't love homemade bread?! Kneading bread dough is very therapeutic, too. (And there's a system to it, if anyone needs to know how to do it, I'd be happy to explain.)
Pasta E Fagioli Makes 6 generous main course servings.
1 C dried cannelloni beans (or1 15 ounce can of them, which I had to resort to. Note: navy beans are NOT cannelloni beans. They are white kidney beans.)
1 LB ground sausage, turkey or pork (I had wild pork on hand, om nom)
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 medium carrot, diced (pfft, we used a whole carrot. Who wants half a carrot??)
3 TBSP olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced (we used 3 because yum, garlic!)
1 15 ounce can of tomatoes, diced and drained
6 - 8 C chicken broth (we used 6 because that's what my pan holds - turned out great)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
1 C ditalini pasta (or other small pasta - could use macaroni if that's all you have)
grated Parmesan cheese, or Romano would be nice
3 big leaves of Swiss Chard, cut in a chiffonade (lay the leaves on each other, roll up in a cigar, cut thin slices on a diagonal)
So I picked this recipe because it has a lot of basic knife skills plus layering of flavor techniques that help you cook lots of things. I cut first to show her how to do it, then let her do the rest. Note: I added a stalk of celery, fuh digestion. I get so gaaaaaaassy. Lol. Actually, I am so used to the Holy Trinity, that I didn't realize until my daughter pointed out that celery wasn't called for that... celery wasn't called for. Eh, more veggies = healthy, imo.
How to dice a carrot: peel, then slice lengthwise down the middle. Lay each half on the flat side, cut that down the middle. Line up your four halves, and cut into 1/4" pieces.
How to dice an onion: (Now with a link that has pictures!) cut the onion in half from root to tip, peel off the paper. Cut the tip off, but leave the roots, that holds it together. With the onion lying root away from you, fresh cut tip towards you, make slices on the longitude of 1/2" in size, not going all the way to the root. Rotate the onion so the root is to the left (or right if you're a south paw) And make slices 1/4" apart. Discard the root. Now you have a lovely dice! (You can also cut halfway up the cutting board towards the root to make sure you don't have wonky long pieces, but she was scared to cut like that. )
How to mince garlic: pop your palm on the clove to loosen the paper off the clove. Smash the clove with the flat of your knife, rotate the clove so the root is to the left, and make small slices down the length. If you smashed it hard enough, it should already be in a mince, if not, rotate the slices and cut down their length. Voonderbah.
If you're using dried beans, soak them in the morning with enough water to cover by several inches. Before cooking, drain, rinse, and set aside. If using canned beans, drain, rinse them (your sodium levels will be through the roof, otherwise) and set aside.
In a large pot or dutch oven, brown the sausage. (Continually stir and break up the lumps with the back of your spoon. When you see no more pink, it's done.) Scoop out with slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towels. If you have a lot of fat in there (about 1tsp is fine to leave) wipe it out with a paper towel, but don't rinse it out. Add the onion and carrot (and celery if using) and let it start to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir pretty regularly. Add the garlic and stir/sautee for another minute.
Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, thyme, bay leaf, some salt and pepper (a pinch of salt, few cranks of the mill,) drained beans and sausage and cover the pot. Let this simmer gently for one hour.
Check the beans (if used dry) and make sure they're soft. Let them go longer if not, checking every ten minutes. At this point, add your dry pasta, give a gentle stir, and leave uncovered for 8 minutes while those cook. If it's too thick, you can add more stock/broth. Check to see if it needs any more salt and pepper.
Note: I keep my Parmesan rinds. I cut off a chunk the size of my thumb and stuck it in with the pasta. It adds some wonderful flavor and also thickens the broth a bit. YUM.
Add the Swiss chard leaves, stir in, turn off the heat, and let sit for 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls and top with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan. Delicious!
This whole dinner worked out great because they weren't in the kitchen at the same time, as well. YAY FOOD.
In completely unrelated to food discussion, this AMAZING shed/outdoor workspace is just totally cool. I love when people show step by step processes. This is a totally do-able thing, too, as long as you have $3000 to build a shed in your yard, that is. :)
Currently I'm trying to design on paper a planter to be hung indoors that a) won't leak b) doesn't cost several hundred dollars and c) can slowly water itself. I love how vertical plantings look and would LOVE for that to be the "artwork" on my dining room walls.
For those of you that have been discussing Big Love with me, justhuman has an AMAZING theory about the whole Adele/Nikki situation that I think is SPOT ON.
And with no spoilers here: I am loving LOST. Loving it.