Cornmeal Garlic Herb Bread

My mom once gave me some pretty sage advice about cooking:

Practice, study and get comfortable with a recipe, then do whatever you want to it in order to “make it your own”.

They’re words that I now regularly not only cook, but also bake by when I can.

You want to know what the best part of knowing how to bake bread is?

I mean, apart from being able to eat it afterwards. Nothing tops that.

Once you become comfortable with a particular dough recipe, you can do pretty much ANYTHING you want to do with it.

Remember: baking is essentially, a scientific experiment/reaction of ingredients. So long as the key components get included and mixed together in the proper order and technique, there are certain recipes that will allow for variation and addition of a ‘personal flair’.

Bread dough is one of them. So long as your yeast is proofed, all your ingredients are there, your dough is smooth and given enough time to rest, then you can do practically anything you want to it after that first rise.

You can lump it all together into one, throw it in a loaf pan and bake one standard bread loaf. You can shape it into individual dinner rolls or buns. You can fill it with stuff. You can twist, braid, wrap, sculpt–seriously, just about anything you want or could think of.

That’s really kinda what we’re doing here today.

I first used this bread recipe to make standard, simple round cornmeal dinner rolls. Then, when I got more comfortable to it, I umped the ante with the recipe to shape them into pretty flower buns. This third iteration has me shaping it entirely differently, and filling it with a delicious herb butter that I made from scratch.

Don’t be intimidated by the finished product: I promise that it isn’t as nearly complicated to make as it looks. And like the first two versions, it’s really delicious.

Cornmeal Garlic Herb Bread

Recipe Adapted from a Previous Recipe by Jess@Cooking is My Sport

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon, divided
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pkg (1/4 oz) active dry yeast (That’s 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110°-115°)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4-5 cups all-purpose flour

For Herb Butter

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, softened
  • About 1 heaping tablespoon  of your blend of favorite herbs, finely chopped (I used rosemary and thyme, but basil, parsley, or chives are also great options as well)
  • 2-3 finely minced garlic cloves (depends on your taste for garlic)
  • A pinch of both salt and pepper

 

Directions

Combine the milk, cornmeal, butter or margarine, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt in medium saucepan. Warm over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon and allowing to cook until the mixture is slightly thickened. Add 1/2 cup water and mix well. Set aside to cool.

Soften active dry yeast in warm water (110 degrees F). Sprinkle the 1 tbsp of sugar on top and allow to sit for 10 minutes or until yeast is frothy and activated.

Combine cornmeal mixture, yeast, and 2 well-beaten eggs together in the bowl of a standing mixer, using the paddle attachment to combine together.

Then, using the dough hook attachment, add 1 cup of flour, mixing to combine completely. Continue to add the flour in about 1 cup increments, just until the dough begins to come together around the hook. (You may not need to use all the flour, this is dependent upon the time of year and your location).

Once it has, turn off the mixer and scrape the dough out onto a clean work surface that you’ve sprinkled with flour (like a pastry mat or a smooth countertop). Use your hands to firmly knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10-12 minutes. You can use additional flour (about 1/4 cup at a time) if it’s still too sticky; I also prefer to rub my hands with canola, olive or vegetable oil before kneading and that helps a lot without having to add more flour..

Place the dough in another greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel. Place in a warm place for about an hour.

Meanwhile make the Herb Butter: Combine all of the ingredients together and stir briskly with a fork until it is smooth and easy to spread. Set aside until bread has finished rising.

Generously grease a 9 inch square or circle cake pan or general baking pan.

Sprinkle flour on your clean work surface and turn out the dough. Roll out the dough to a rectangle, around roughly 10 inches wide and 12 or more inches long.

Use a spatula to spread the herb butter generously and evenly over the dough, leaving about 1 inch of open space around the edges.

Starting from the shortest end closes to you, carefully roll the dough into a log. If any filling falls out, just tuck it back in. If the dough sticks to the counter, use a bench scraper to gently pry it up. When done rolling, pinch the dough to seal it closed. Dip a very sharp knife in water and gently, but swiftly, slice the log down its entire length, creating two halves with lots of layers (kitchen shears will work for this too.)

Turn the halves so that the layers are facing up. Press the two halves together at the top, then twist the halves around each other, creating a spiral. Press the halves together again at the bottom. Wrap the braid into a round, courounne shaped loaf.

 Carefully lift the loaf into the center of the greased cake pan.

Cover it with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow it to rest until puffy and risen, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spray the top of the loaf with cooking spray. Place it on top of a sheet pan and bake on the middle rack of the oven, about 45-50 minutes, covering with foil if it browns too quickly.

(Bread is done at an inner temp of 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit, and because this loaf has so many layers, I HIGHLY recommend using an instant read thermometer to gauge when it’s done.)

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #282 cohosted this week by Angie and Antonia @ Zoale.com.

Coconut Beef Curry with Garlic Naan

Today’s recipe is about taking a shortcut, but also going the extra mile.

That sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?

It’s also become my cooking lifestyle.

Once you start cooking and baking things from scratch, it can be hard to go back to taking certain shortcuts. When I was a kid, I loved eating canned stews–nowadays if I want stew, then I’m going to just make one myself that will have five times the flavor and ten times less sodium. I literally cannot eat box mix cake anymore. Break and bake cookies are a HARD pass. I admit that the biscuit dough you can buy in a can aren’t awful ….but mine are still better.

On the other hand–sometimes, I’m not above taking a shortcut in the kitchen. For example, (in full disclosure) making rice is a stumbling block of mine. I just cannot get it right. Minute Rice is my remedy for that. Whenever I get a craving for sweet potato waffle fries, do you think I’m above going to the frozen foods section and picking up that bag? Tuh. Sometimes the shortcut is just the way to go.

A traditional curry recipe will likely have up to ten or fifteen different spices in it that are also usually freshly ground. It’s then cooked and stewed for HOURS. I’ve seen some that take all day long. On the day that I made this dish, I didn’t have all day long. I also didn’t have ten to fifteen spices that I ground up from scratch. I took a shortcut.

Instead of 10 to 15 spices, I used jarred, pre-ground curry powder. Quite a lot of it, since we’re trying to make up for the loss of flavor from the fresh spices. Mine also won’t take you all day long to cook–a slow braise in the oven for bout 90 minutes to two hours is all you should need. That’s the shortcut.

Now for the extra mile.

There are a lot of stores and delis that sell pre-made naan bread. I’m not above buying Trader Joe’s brand myself. But the truth is, I’ve never had naan bread that I enjoyed as much as when I made it myself, from scratch. I just haven’t. So far as bread baking goes, the difficulty is on the lower end of the ladder. Because it is so easy, if you have the time and the inclination I STRONGLY recommend you go the extra mile and make these naans. You’ll taste the difference.

I’ve got to say, the shortened cook time and curry powder did nothing to skimp on the flavor or tenderness of the beef. Having the freshly baked, fluffy naan bread to dip into the sauce was the perfect accompaniment. I may or may not have *completely* cleaned the plate.

This meal is worth both the effort and the shortcut–so take both.

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Coconut Beef Curry with Garlic Naan

Recipe Adapted from Epicurious and Cook with Manali

Ingredients

For Beef Curry:

  • 2 lbs beef chuck, chuck roast or tri-tip, cut into large chunks
  • Low sodium soy sauce
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • 1 large yellow sweet onion, thickly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons of finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup curry powder (preferably Indian)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 (13.5 ounce) cans coconut milk
  • 32 oz low sodium chicken broth (like TJ’s)
  • Rice, for serving

For Naan:

  • 450 grams (About 4 cups) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil, plus more if needed for kneading
  • 2 large garlic cloves (grated or extremely finely minced)

For Garlic Butter to Brush Over Naan:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (or ghee)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic

Directions

For Beef Curry:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the beef chunks on a sheet pan. Sprinkle both sides of the beef with a thin coating of soy sauce and use your hands to rub it into the surface. Sprinkle an even coating of pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder on top of the meat on both side.

Melt a few tablespoons of canola oil, or ghee in the bottom of a Dutch oven or other heavy pot over high heat. Sear the beef on both sides until deeply browned all over, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Deglaze the pan with a little bit of the chicken broth if need be, then add the sliced onion. Cook until softened and translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger cook just until fragrant. Add the curry powder and stir it together until it begins to stick to the pot, about 3 minutes.

Add the bay leaves, coconut milk and about 2 1/2 cups of the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.

In a small bowl dissolve about 3 heaping tablespoons of all purpose flour in 1 cup of the chicken broth, stirring with a fork until smooth. Add it to the pot.

Season the sauce with additional pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and curry powder to taste. Allow it to cook for about 5-10 more minutes, until it reaches the consistency you like.

Add the beef back to the pot. Cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil and place in the oven for 1 1/2-2 hours, until the beef is fork tender. Serve curry spooned over white or brown rice.

For Naan:

Place the warm water in the bowl of a standing mixer or another large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water. Sprinkle one tablespoon of the sugar on top of the yeast. Allow it to sit for ten minutes, until proofed and frothy.

Place 3 1/4 cups of the flour in a medium size bowl with the salt and stir together with a fork.

When the yeast is proofed, add the vegetable oil and grated garlic to it and stir together with the dough hook (or a large spoon). Add the flour in about 1 cup increments, just until the dough begins to come together around the hook. (You may not need to use all the flour, this is dependent upon the time of year and your location). Once it has, turn off the mixer and scrape the dough out onto a clean work surface that you’ve sprinkled with flour (like a pastry mat or a smooth countertop). Use your hands to firmly knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10-12 minutes. You can use additional flour (about 1/4 cup at a time) if it’s still too sticky; I also prefer to rub my hands with canola, olive or vegetable oil before kneading and that helps a lot without having to add more flour.

(The dough is ready when you can stretch one piece of it out very thin, and it’s translucent enough to see through.)

Grease the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow it to rest in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2 hours.

Turn dough out onto your clean work surface and punch down to deflate air bubbles. Divide it into 8 equal parts. Loosely cover them with plastic wrap and leave on the countertop to rest for about 10-15 minutes.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter and add minced garlic to it. Set aside for brushing on top of the naans later.

Oil your hands and a rolling pin to gently stretch and roll the dough balls out into oval shapes (they don’t have to be completely flat like tortillas, these are meant to be a tad thick).

Heat an iron skillet over medium heat. (Cast iron is best, but not completely necessary) Lightly coat with ghee (or butter).

Cook until lightly blistered, puffed, and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Immediately brush with garlic butter when you remove from the skillet.

Keep naans on a rack in the microwave or the oven to stay warm while you cook the rest.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #281.

Browned Butter Vanilla Biscuits

I think I’m starting to develop a problem. I cannot stop making and finding uses for browned butter. Literally cannot do it. I’m addicted.

The way things are going, I think I’m going to have to add a completely separate category to the Recipe Index JUST for browned butter recipes.

If you’re new here, then there are probably two things that you should know for the purposes of this post: first, browned butter is a sauce. Butter gets melted over low-medium heat until it separates into butterfat and milk solids. The solids sink to the bottom of the pan and toast over the heat until golden brown; that is browned butter. It is one of the greatest culinary inventions, ever.

Second, I have been experimenting with it on and off on this blog for the past two and half years on this blog. Take practically any baking recipe you want that uses butter, and you can substitute the regular stuff for browned butter to kick up the flavor and taste 1000 notches. It works. Believe me, I’m on a personal mission to test and keep retesting the theory in as many different uses as I can and haven’t been disappointed yet.

Butter is truly the essence of a good biscuit. The quality of the butter, but more importantly, how you handle it, can literally be the difference between success or failure. I learned that lesson the hard way. I’ve also been pretty transparent on here about my journey with learning how to bake good biscuits and finally reaching a place where I felt confident in my abilities. I have a tried and true method that I know works. I don’t like messing with it.

But, because I had seen the wonders that browned butter had done for so many other recipes I’m comfortable with–and how it had actually improved them– I decided to make an exception and depart from my normal routine of biscuit making just enough to swap out regular butter for browned.

Spoiler alert, it went marvelously.

So what did I do differently?

Well, obviously there was an added step of browning the butter before doing anything else. If you’ve seen or used any of my previous biscuit recipes, you’ll know that I insist upon freezing butter for biscuits as well. So that kinda created 2 additional steps: making the browned butter, then placing it in the freezer to give it enough time to completely harden to be cold enough to use in the dough.

The second change I made was to use self rising flour rather than all purpose. This was a change that I had actually been meaning to test out for a while. Self rising flour is flour that already has leavening agents (baking powder and salt) sifted into it. I wanted to see if making the swap would result in a higher biscuit rise. After making those adjustments, I pretty much kept things the same.

I’m sitting here trying to adequately describe what that first bite was like. I’m really trying, y’all. But honestly, words just don’t do it justice. The depth of flavor that browning the butter gives to the biscuit is unbelievable. They taste like…warmth. Not the temperature. The flavor. Rich, golden, savory warmth. The texture is flakey and soft.

They make me want to dance. I really can’t be much more clear about it than that.

If you don’t bake with browned butter, please change that. Please.

Browned Butter Spice Cake

Browned Butter Spritz Cookies

Browned Butter Banana Bread

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Browned Butter Vanilla Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Taste of the South

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 3 cups self rising flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark, doesn’t matter)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (plus more if needed)
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

 

Directions

Melt the butter over medium heat in a 2 quart saucepan. Let it cook and watch it closely until 3-5 minutes until the butter begins to foam, forms a golden brown color and browned bits form on the bottom. (It will have a sweet, nutty smell). Immediately remove it from the heat. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then place butter in a small bowl, and freeze until solid, about 2 hours.

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and brown sugar and stir together with a fork.

Tap the small bowl of butter on the counter to shake it out (it should be in one large block) Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk with the vanilla.

Use a large fork and a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or a clean smooth countertop with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Use a bench scraper or a large sharp knife to divide the dough in half. Roughly shape each half into a square. Stack one of the halves on top of the other and use a rolling pin to roll it together into one mass. Repeat this process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle. (This is a process of layering so that the biscuits will bake flaky).

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour and unwrap the biscuit dough out onto it. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a square cookie cutter, or a knife to cut the remaining dough into squares, about 2″ each.

Remove the cut biscuits to the baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper, placing them rather close to each other (it will help them rise higher). Freeze until cold, about 15 minutes.

Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #280, cohosted this week by Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Angie@FiestaFriday.