To spice things up a bit, I’m stepping into my savory baking shoes this morning. I have a considerable amount of baking experience, but very little of that experience consists of baking outside the sugar box (I just got a little overwhelmed by the thought of a “sugar box”, where all your wildest sugar fantasies are kept, neat and compartmentalized, until ready to be unleashed upon the world. I’m not sure whether it’s a beautiful, happy thing or a terrifying one). A lot of it has to do with what I like to eat and what I like to share, sweet goods as opposed to savory, but a little part of me shies away from savory baking because it’s unknown territory. Sure, I’ve baked a few loaves of bread and kneaded some pizza dough in my day, but never have I made soft pretzels, or bagels, or any number of delicious non-sugar inundated food items. Seems downright silly to allow my lack of experience to take control over what I decide to bake in any given week.

I’m going to start small, literally, with a cheddar cheese mini loaf. And this isn’t just any mini loaf, everyone, this is a mini loaf from America’s Test Kitchen. You’re already well aware of my love for them, their kitchen, their recipes, their people, and their books/magazines, but I’ll say again how much I love the accessibility and ease of their recipes. For someone who was more than a little afraid to tackle a very little loaf, it was comforting to know that it would be very difficult for me to not end up with something that would be tasty and satisfying.

According to my calculations, I could create a mini loaf storage container out of this copy of War and Peace. Convenient AND classy!

This mini loaf did the trick for breakfast, but will also have a spot at the dinner table this evening. Another thing I’m coming to love about savory baked goods is that they can be served at any meal – breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizer, snack- without the guilt pangs that inevitably come from substituting a bowl of ice cream for dinner, or countless mini chocolate bars for snack.

Hopefully this means I’ll be branching out a little more in the coming months, but for the time being, enjoy some cheddar cheese mini loaf and happy Tuesday!

Cheddar Cheese Mini Loaf

(Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2011)

Yields one 5 ½ by 3 inch loaf

Notes: For the grated cheese you could either use a variety of cheese combinations (I used some sort of Mexican-themed grated cheese mix from a bag) or freshly grated Parmesan. The original recipe suggests the latter but other cheese will do in a pinch. The recipe also suggests that, after greasing the pan, you sprinkle grated Parmesan over bottom of pan. I omitted this step just because I didn’t have any Parmesan on hand and wasn’t sure whether or not other would burn.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons grated cheese

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

Pinch of both cayenne and black pepper

2 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into ¼ inch cubes and totaling about ½ cup

¼ cup milk

3 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for greasing pan

1 large egg

 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 5 ½ by 3-inch loaf pan.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and peppers together until ingredients are evenly dispersed throughout mixture. Add cheddar cheese cubes and stir, breaking up clumps, until cubes are coated in flour mixture.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk milk, sour cream, butter, and egg together until smooth.

4. Add wet ingredients to dry, and gently fold with a rubber spatula until just combined. Take care not to overmix batter!

5. Scrape batter evenly into prepared pan and smooth top. Sprinkle grated cheese over top of loaf. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until loaf is puffed and golden brown. A tester inserted into middle of loaf should come out with just a few crumbs attached.

6. Let bread cool in pan for five minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack and cool for at least an hour before serving.

Store bread wrapped in plastic at room temperature up to three days, or refrigerated up to a week. This bread toasts beautifully in the oven or toaster oven, and I’m kind of excited to try to make mini grilled cheese sandwiches!

Breakfast Tuesday comes but once a week and I’ll admit that some of those weeks I’m fairly lackadaisical. There’s just no fuel to the creative energy fire. Thankfully there are an infinite number of already tested, amazing recipes available through books and the google machine so I’m not left solely to my creative devices in the kitchen, but, also thankfully, some days I feel like attempting to make something new and different, at least to me. Today, for one thing, I didn’t feel like the overly sweet dessert breakfast characteristic of my normal Tuesday morning fare. It’s embarrassing, but not surprising, that most of my recipe research and bookmarks highlight sweets and dessert-like meals/snacks, so my not feeling like something sweet leaves me in a lurch from the start. Then I look at my pantry/fridge and notice the absolute dearth of anything interesting, or even anything that rings some sort of hidden recipe bell in my head. Hm. This may be a problem… or not!

Time to play my favorite game! The game that all home cooks and bakers play at one point or another, the game of “what do I have in my house versus what I want to make: can I make it happen?!”. If you haven’t played it, psh, you might be missing out. I decided that I wanted some sort of egg dish, baked in order to kind of-sort of fit the theme of my blog, and I wanted it to be easy to prepare for one. I gathered my ingredients and set to work, vaguely remembering a few different recipes I’ve seen and a few different recipes I’ve tried – recipes for poached eggs, for huevos rancheros, for reduced tomato sauce, and the list continues.

What did I come up with? It’s something pretty good, considering my lack of cooking prowess and experience, with definite room for improvement but nice flavor and easy/cheap to prepare. I’d like to present my version of baked eggs, kind of a poor girl’s cheesy huevo ranchero, if you will. I used a can of diced roasted tomatoes with chiles, but am a hundred percent positive that a can of plain ol’ diced tomatoes would be just as good! My one complaint was that the end product was a little bit watery, so the next time I make it I won’t add extra water to the tomatoes before setting about reducing them, to see if that will help the overall texture.

If you have any suggestions, let me know! I’ll definitely be making this again and trying to improve it!

Poor Kid’s Cheesy Baked Huevos Rancheros

(Recipe adapted from Sea Salt with Food and Smitten Kitchen)

Yields one or two servings, depending on how many eggs you want!

Ingredients:

1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes (with or without chiles)

1 or 2 eggs

1 green onion, sliced fine, white and green parts separated

2-4 tablespoons grated cheese (I used asiago cheddar)

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Pour can of diced tomatoes into a skillet or small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, until liquid is reduced. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Note: I added ¼ cup water to the tomatoes before simmering to reduce and perhaps won’t do this next time.)

3. Line the bottom of an ovenproof dish with the chopped white part of the green onion. I used a 5-inch individual ramekin to bake one egg, but you could use a slightly bigger dish if baking two eggs.

4. Once tomato is reduced, you will have about one cup of tomato goodness. If baking one egg, pour ½ cup reduced tomato into ramekin. If baking two eggs, use all the reduced tomato.

5. Make one (or two) well(s) in tomato and crack egg(s) into well(s). Sprinkle cheese over egg.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 13-15 minutes, until white appears to be set.

7. Let dish set for 5 minutes before eating.

Serve immediately!

Variety Flour Thursday. I had some serious plans for today. There are a few recipes that I have been toying around with in order to showcase the wonderful texture whole wheat flour, like brown sugar bars and blueberry cinnamon cake. I tried to combine the two recipes, and everything seemed to be going swimmingly. The batter came together nicely, and every thing looked beautiful before I put it in the oven.

Disaster strikes! My cinnamon blueberry brown sugar cake bar hybrid WILL NOT set, even after extending the time an extra 20 minutes. The sides didn’t even brown. I worried that the blueberries added too much liquid to the batter, or there was too much butter in the batter. Lots of worrying and wondering. I took the bars out, stared at them for 20 minutes, cried silently to myself, then decided that I’d put them back in the oven and see if they were salvageable. Well, after another 30 minutes in the oven, the bars set and didn’t burn, but the texture was off, too chewy, and the color was… unappetizing at best. Blah. So what does one do when their recipe fails miserably and they need to write about something? They go on with their day and hope to goodness gracious that inspiration hits.

Crappy dark kitchen + Night-time - Photographic motivation = Terrible lighting in photos

I was chastised earlier this week for not including more international recipes, and I’m taking that criticism to heart. A few years back I had the opportunity to study abroad in Ecuador and I could probably talk about it for months. There was this great Colombian restaurant in Cuenca, Ecuador, where I was introduced to the arepa, a corn griddle cake not at all like a pancake and topped with whatever your heart desired. Arepas are all over South and Central America, and made in many different ways. This is the way that I sampled them, and the way I wanted to make them tonight. I love how easy they are to make and how satisfying they are as a meal, and, well, how customizable they are, how yummy they are, and… and… you get the point.

Variety Flour Thursday is saved and I have a delicious meal AND it was almost 60 degrees F today. What more could I ask for, really?

 

Arepas

(Recipe found on back of Goya Masarepa)

Yields 7-8 arepas

Ingredients:

2 cups Masarepa, or pre-cooked yellow cornmeal (P.A.N, besides Goya, is another popular brand), yellow or white

3 cups warm water

1 teaspoon salt

Optional: 1 cup shredded cheese (I used mozzarella and romano cheese, to use up what I had in the fridge, but really any cheese would do)

Butter for greasing skillet

Method:

1. In a large bowl combine all ingredients and stir until completely combined and smooth.

2. Let dough rest for 5 minutes. If using a cast iron skillet, preheat over medium heat.

3. Form dough into patties, 4 to 5 inches across and ½ inch thick. This step is flexible because you could do thicker arepas and the cooking method and time would be similar.

4. Fry arepas in butter over medium heat, browning each side just a little, 3 to 5 minutes on each side.

Serve with extra cheese, meat, beans, hot sauce, whatever toppings call out to you. This, friends, is the beauty of arepas.

Store arepas refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 7 days or freeze them for up to a month. If freezing, lay arepas on a baking sheet and put them in the freezer until frozen, then remove them to a freezer bag or tupperware to keep in freezer.