Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Spent Grain Bread

Now that Christmas is over and I've eaten more Italian food than I ever thought possible, I have a question for you. And it's an important question. 

Are you a beer brewer? Do you have any friends who brew beer? If not, it is my professional suggestion that you change that. Quickly. Seriously because not only is home-brew really good beer, so is bread made from the grains used to make the beer. Lucky for me I'm married to a home-brewer and I have several friends and family members who brew their own beer.

I made this a few weeks ago with some spent grains I got from one of our beer-brewing friends. He was making a Chocolate Stout, so the bread had a really delicious rich grainy chocolaty flavor. You could use any kind of grains from any kind of beer-making adventure you embark on. It would be really fun too, because the type of beer would dramatically change the flavor and consistency of the bread.

I brought two giant muslin bags full of spent grain home and then had to figure out what to actually do with them. After a little bit of Googling I found a few recipes for Spent Grain Bread. A lot of them seemed to use the grains as an accessory to the typical bread ingredients, except this one which highlighted the grains and used a ton of them (which was great because even after making this is still have ¾ of the grains left in my freezer). I wanted the bread to be really dense and grainy and that's exactly what I got.

Spent Grain Bread
Source: Adapted from Beer At Joe's

The grains can be frozen until you want to make the bread. It might be a good idea to grind them up in the food processor first and then freeze them, but I thawed them in the refrigerator and then put them through the food processor and it worked just fine. The dough can also be frozen in loaves on a cookie sheet and then thawed and baked later. Or you can just freeze the baked bread and thaw and eat later.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
3 cups spent grain
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup melted butter
1 cup milk at room temperature

To prepare the grains, pulse them in the food processor until they are the desired consistency. I left mine a little chunky instead of grinding it into a finer mix (see above picture).

Mix the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer (if you're making it by hand just use a large bowl). Add the yeast and the spent grains and combine. Add the melted butter and mix until combined. With the mixer running add the milk, just until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl (you might not use the whole cup, depending on how wet the grains were). If the dough gets too wet, add more all-purpose flour. If it's too dry, add more milk. If using the electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed for 5 minutes. If not, knead for about 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat. Let rise for about 1 1/2 or 2 hours, until dough has doubled in size.

After the dough has risen, separate into thirds and form each third into balls. Let rise on a cookie sheet for 1 hour, covered with plastic wrap.

Preheat oven to 350. Score the loaves and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 40 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through.

Let the bread cool for about 30 minutes on a wire rack.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Post Christmas Day Food Coma

Oh. My. Gosh. Dinner last night was incredible. Seriously, I don't think I've eaten so many different delicious things in the span of two and a half hours before.

It was amazing. And we all were (mostly) able to keep the gorging to a minimum so that we could actually make it through all seven courses.

Course 1: Chicken Soup

Course 2: Antipasta

Course 3: Lasagna

Course 4: Italian Sausage, Braicole, and Meatballs

Course 5: Roasted Capon and Brussel Sprouts

Course 6: Fruit

Course 7: Cream Puffs

There are so many leftovers. We're all going to be living on this food for weeks.

And of course, it woudn't be a traditional Italian Christmas dinner without several bottles of wine and champagne.

Yum. Seriously seriously good food. And it was an awesome experience. I'm not sure if it will happen again, but I wouldn't be opposed to cooking that much food again just for the experience.

And now, I'm going to eat a giant meatball sandwich now and try to recapture last night. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day Italian Dinner

Merry Christmas!!! 

What are you eating for your Christmas Day feast?

Here's a sneak peak of what I'm eating:

Ohhh yeah.

Today I'm eating my first multi-course traditional Italian dinner. I can't even begin to explain how much food there will be.

John's grandma is a first-generation Italian American and therefore the authority on all Italian food. This year we decided to do the traditional Italian Christmas dinner because it's fun and nostalgic and awesome in every way.

Here's the run-down for dinner:

Course 1: Chicken Soup
Course 2: Anitpasta
Course 3: Lasagna
Course 4: Meatballs, Sausage, Braicole
Course 5: Roasted Capon and Vegetables
Course 6: Fruit
Course 7: Italian Pastry

Only seven courses. Just seven. (Seriously seven courses?!?!?)

I might explode. I can't wait.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Gingerbread Cookies

To me, it's hardly Christmas without Gingerbread cookies. It's another thing my Mom used to make when I was a kid. Between the Zucchini muffins and these I'm getting all nostalgic up in here. I'll try to keep the ramblings about Christmases past to a minimum here.

I made these this year for John's and my family and took them with us on the annual Christmas tour and I'm pretty sure they're almost gone now. I think that means they were a success.

Gingerbread Cookies
Source: Adapted from Simply Recipes 

3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking soda
¾ cup unsalted butter
½ cup dark-brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp finely ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
1 large egg
½ cup molasses

½ cup powdered sugar
2 tsp milk 

In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper and salt. Set aside.  

In an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and combine on low speed. Slowly add the flour mixture, mixing after each addition. You might need to work the dough with your hands after the last addition to make sure the dough is combined. Divide the dough into thirds and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Preheat oven to 350. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface and cut with desired cookie cutters. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes on the pan then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. 

To make the icing, mix the powdered sugar and milk together until the two just come together. You want the icing to be stiff so that when you pipe it onto the cookies it won't puddle out and make the gingerbread men look like they have googly eyes. If your icing is a little too runny, keep adding powdered sugar until the lines from mixing it don't sink into the rest of the icing. Spoon the icing into a piping bag or a Ziploc bag with one corner trimmed off. Pipe onto cooled cookies as desired. 


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Zucchini Muffins

These are my favorite muffins ever! I'm so excited to share them with you!

My Mom used to make these when I was a kid and I was always so exited about them. When I got older and went to college she sent me care packages full of these. As soon as they arrived my roommates and I devoured them. After I hid half of them and stashed them for myself.

Just kidding on that one guys.

Kind of...

Speaking of roommates, this was one of them! She still comes around when she gets word of zucchini muffins.

She brought her adorable little son with her to spread the muffins on to the next generation. I think he liked them.

Zucchini Muffins

3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour
3 cups shredded zucchini

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix together the eggs and sugar in a large bowl. Add the vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and flour. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until combined. Add the zucchini and mix until combined. Pour the batter into greased muffin tins or muffin cups. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins in the middle of the pan comes out clean.