July 29, 2011

cinnamon swirl bread - a cross atlantic love

Before I left for the states on Wednesday afternoon I bought Zach a little 'talley's-going-away' present, a box of cinnamon toast crunch. To Zach and his family it is more well known as cinn-to-crun. Similar in name to their other favorite cereal, app-cinn-cheer, and to their favorite juice, or-straw-ban. It certainly makes for an animated morning around the breakfast table, where simple Chex face tough competition just based on name alone - too boring to bother with.

The cereal selection in Zürich is not nearly as extensive as it is in the states. But that's okay, we've been adjusting to 'haus' life by eating a lot of muesli and yogurt in the mornings. We are both totally on board with the Swiss morning routine, however, a sweet sugary cereal, the kind that turns your milk into something reminiscent of melted ice cream, is always a welcome treat, especially when faced with two weeks away from your wife.

I just talked to Zach on g-video and he was eating cinn-to-crun for dinner, which is a bit sad but only appropriate, because here on the other side of the Atlantic I am eating a slice of the cinnamon-sugar swirl bread that I just made. It just seemed fitting. If we have to juggle this time apart, we might as well indulge in some cinnamon and sugar. It's like people (actors in Hollywood more likely) who look longingly at the moon and think of the person they love looking up at it too, well cinnamon-sugar goodness is our moon. Mmm cinnamon toast...
I'm definitely in a homemade bread state of mind these days. The parmesan pull apart rolls that I made earlier this week were so easy and delicious that I wanted to put my new bread skills towards something a little larger, a little more loaf-like. Once again the process was fairly simple and the result was delicious. I've come to realize that I like the pace of making bread, I use the time when the bread is rising to organize my day. You are active for so little of the process that it's nice to feel productive in-between bread tasks.

Recipe for Cinnamon Swirl bread from alexandracooks.com
ingredients - yields 2 loaves
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 6 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1/3 cup sugar
- egg wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon water)
- butter for greasing pan

In a large 5qt bowl mix the water, buttermilk, yeast, sugar and salt and let sit until bubbles and foam have formed on top, 3-5 minutes.

Mix in the flour using a standing mixer fixed with the dough attachment, or with a wooden spoon. If you are using a spoon you will likely have to use your hands to mix in the last bit of the flour. (I used a mixer with a paddle attachment and had to incorporate the last of the flour with my hands, wet hands help.) Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rest for about 2 hours, until it rises and collapses on top.

After the first rise you can use the dough immediately or refrigerate it in a non-air tight container for up to 7 days.

When you are ready to make the bread, either immediately after first rise or after taking it out of fridge, grease a 9 x 4 x 3 loaf pan. Divide the dough in two, and shape the half you are using to a ball by pulling dough from the underside up on top, spinning the dough to replicate process on all sides. Lightly dust your work surface with flour and begin to roll our your dough. It might be easiest to use your hands to stretch the dough before using the rolling pin. Roll out to roughly 11"x18".

Once rectangular lightly brush the entire surface with egg wash. Sprinkle half of the sugar/cinnamon mixture onto the dough (remember other half is for other loaf - but if you want more feel free to add more). Roll the dough, beginning with the short side of the rectangle, into what will resemble a jelly roll. Once you have rolled the rectangle, pinch the ends down, lightly fold them under, and place the dough seam side down in the greased pan. Cover with a towel and let sit for 40 minutes (1 hour and 40 if using refrigerated dough).

Preheat the oven to 375F and bake for roughly 40 minutes, or until top is golden brown and bread appears done. Eat right away or make amazing french toast the following morning!...I ate it right away....

*cooks note - yikes! i forgot to list the buttermilk in the yeast starter. I just tried to make this bread (9/23/11) and it wasn't coming together and now I know why - shooot! must proofread the recipes better
I'm already looking forward to French toast tomorrow morning. There is something about homemade bread, where it is delicious right out of the oven, but then slowly looses it's luster as the hours go by. By tomorrow morning I'll either have to toast it and slather it in butter, or dip it in a bath of eggs, milk and cinnamon and put it into the skillet. Either way it will be delicious, just as good as the cinn-to-crun that Zach will be eating for breakfast. Hopefully he'll get a little more innovative for dinner and whip something up on our new grill! It arrived just before I left for the airport on Wednesday. We are so excited to start grilling steaks and burgers on our terrace!

Happy Friday everyone! only a few more hours until happy hour time. I'm off to the city for some guacamole and margaritas - getting my fill while I'm in the states.

July 26, 2011

zermatt day 2 - parmesan pull apart rolls

We hadn't planned on a trip to the moon, but one gondola ride led to another and the next thing we knew we were walking on a lunar landscape. Or at least the closest we'd ever been to a luna-scape. Sure there was still gravity and oxygen (although I could have used some more...huff huff), but the vast expanse of rocks, pond like craters, and hills led us to believe that these seas of slate continued forever, around to the other side of the globe and that perhaps if we walked long enough and far enough we would wind up on the Eastern edge of Asia and be able to stare blissfully into the vast expanse of the Pacific. Alas, it was really just the rocky landscape at the foot of the Matterhorn, but look how little Zach looks in the picture above, like a little moon man about to leap into the air, bounding across the valley to the next peak....and into outer space.

Rising out of the slate sea is the Matterhorn, a mountain peak that defines majestic. Since we hadn't been able to see it at all on Saturday, we decided to go for a hike on Sunday that would get us up close and personal with the peak. We took the gondola to Schwarzsee and then onto Trockener Steg, where we began the glacier walk around the base of the Matterhorn. We weren't prepared for the rugged landscape. Saturday's hike had been through the green hills, on easy to follow foot paths, but the trail around the base of the Matterhorn was much more rugged and rocky and a bit tricky in tennis sneakers. It might just be time for us to join the party and get some hiking poles, or at least some better hiking shoes.

All the pictures of the jagged peaks needed a little softening up so I made some parmesan pull apart rolls to accompany them. I hesitated making anything at all, thinking I better leave the pictures to themselves, but boy am I glad I made these rolls. They have been sitting on my 'to-make' list for a while and I knew that they would be delicious, but I never imagined they would be so good. They are a bit two faced. On one side they are airy and flakey and then on the other they are cheesy, rich and flavorful. I made them today simply with the intention of eating them plain, but they would be a great party guest along side a roast chicken.
It was cold and windy at the base of the Matterhorn, thank goodness I had packed a scarf! That scarf is also hiding my ruldolph-the-red-nose-reindeer nose, which is currently peeling even though I've put a whole tub of moisturizer on it. It's a bit like nose dandruff really, which is perhaps only slightly better than a runny nose.
If you look at the bottom of this picture you can see people walking along the trail. They are tiny and you probably think they are just rocks or specks of dust, but they are people, and they but put the scene into perspective. It was grand, and overwhelming, and incredibly beautiful. Zach and I both really want to go back during ski season to see the Matterhorn rising from a sea of snow. I imagine it would seem much different, perhaps not as grand, or maybe even grander. Hard to tell.

What I can tell you is that these cheesy pull apart rolls are delicious and that won't be sorry if you make them, and neither will the people you serve them too. They seem perfect for a twilight picnic at the park.
The recipe is from Gourmet magazine. Their rolls look more roll-like than mine, but I can assure you that mine still taste amazing and I think a little character adds some charm. Don't you?

total time 4.5 hrs (includes rising). makes 12 rolls
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2/3 cup warm milk(100-115F); divided
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling
- 1 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated with a rasp
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 5 tablespoons butter, cut into smaller pieces, softened
- 1 tablespoon water

Stir together the yeast, honey and 1/3 cup of warm milk in the bowl of a standing mixer. Let it sit until it is foamy (if it doesn't foam start again with new yeast). In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and cheese. Mix the flour mixture and remaining warm milk into the yeast mixture on low speed. Increase the speed to medium and beat in 2 eggs, 1 at a time, making sure to beat well after each addition. Beat for roughly 3 minutes, scraping down the side of the bowl occasionally. Proceed with the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until the dough is elastic, about 2 minutes. The dough should be very sticky.

Pull the dough together in a ball at the bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle with the 2 tbsp of flour, cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let it sit for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

After the first rise take the dough out of the bowl and punch it down on a lightly floured surface (do not kneed). Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll those pieces into balls by griping with your hand and rolling between our palm and the work surface. Place the dough balls in a greased 9" x 2" cake pan, leaving as much space between the balls as you can. Cover the pan with a kitchen towel and let it sit for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the dough doubles in size and fills the pan.

Preheat the oven to 375. Whisk the remaining egg with the tbsp of water and brush over the dough balls (there will be left over egg). Bake until the rolls are golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the rolls then invert them onto a baking rack, then re-invert them so that they are right side up. I rushed things and pulled them all apart right away, but if you want them to stay warm and moist for your guests wait to pull them apart.
I'll be packing these rolls in little ziploc bags for tomorrows trip back to the states. I can't believe it's already time to go back. I'm pretty sure I just got here. Oh wait...I pretty much did. Maybe I should leave some rolls for Zach so he can vary his pasta-only-diet-when-talley's-away with another variety of bread. Our grill is supposed to arrive tomorrow morning, just before I leave, so hopefully he'll be able to grill burgers on the back terrace while I'm gone. Oooo perhaps mini burgers sandwiched between two halves of parmesan pull apart rolls...ahhhh I don't want to leave, I want to eat a burger hot of the grill.

July 25, 2011

zermatt day 1 - and potato gnocchi

The Saturday we spent in Zermatt will be remembered for two things - the best burger I've ever eaten and one of the worst sunburns I've ever had. With every good comes a little bit of bad. When I develop premature wrinkles (convinced I already have them) I will remember Zermatt and that no-good-very-bad sunburn. Sure the wrinkles can be attributed to youthful days spent by the ocean, but my skin was young and eager to regenerate then. Now it's almost thirty, less eager to regroup and more content to just keep pushing on, letting those wrinkles and sun spots settle in for a nice life-long stay (until I zap them). Usually I can rely on Zach to remind me that you can still get burnt when it's cloudy and cold, but he fell for the change in temperature too. We are both red and toasty. It's ironic really, considering that I spent the last two weekends at the beach and the weekend I spend in the cloudy and cold mountains is the one that I get burnt. Go figure.

On to the burger. There almost aren't words to describe how amazing it was. Zach and I were both speechless, staring at each other with sheer delight and russian dressing dripping down our chins. It was the perfect burger. When we ordered it the waitress informed us that the cows live just down the road and eat grass on the hillside. Those were happy cows, I know because that meat was tender, juicy and just all around delicious and flavorful. The happy-cow-meat was paired with coleslaw, russian dressing, pickles and a perfectly toasted bun. In order to get the deliciousness/perfection across I think I'll call it the God of the In n' Out animal style burger. It had a lot of the same characteristics, but just way better. Perhaps In n' Out should consider raising their cows a pastoral hillside, scattered with wooden huts.

It's virtually impossible to tell, but the picture on the left, next to the burger, is of the Matterhorn. It was enshrouded in clouds all day. Had the clouds rolled away we would have had a perfect view while eating our perfect burger. But like I said before, with some good comes some bad. I'm not sure I would have appreciated the burger as much as I did if the Matterhorn had been sitting in my lap. We imagined it to be there and continued on our merry way eating and drinking, eating and chatting. It should be noted that what also made the burger so good was that we had just completed a three hour hike on the Seeweg (lake walk) trail and lunch at Chez Vrony was a much deserved treat!

The issue of deserved treat is what led me to make potato gnocchi for lunch today. I spent a good portion of Saturday and Sunday's hikes thinking about potato in some form - mostly in the form of rösti (hashbrowns), but there were some delicious gnocchi on the side of my lamb knuckle at Chez Vrony....there just weren't enough of them.
The lakes were really more like ponds, but they were all different colors - from milky turquoise, to green and black.
Although I had serious order envy for Zach's burger, my lamb knuckle proved to be a well-fitten post hike meal. It was rich and savory and full of deep flavors that reminded me of a cabin in the middle of winter. For those of you enduring the oppressive heat on the East Coast perhaps it might help to pump up the AC and make a savory dish...or perhaps not and just stick with the popsicles on the front porch. The jump from 100 degree heat in Connecticut to 50 degree chills in Switzerland was welcomed, but still a bit unsettling. I didn't realize I had moved to a place where a two week summer streak of 50 and rainy was possible. I hope Zürich gets rid of this cold snap before I come back in August (as I write this the sun is coming out - perhaps I'm having ESP with mother nature).

So speaking of that cabin in the middle of winter, take a look at these pictures that I snapped of the inside of Chez Vrony. The low ceilings and plaid pillows would be incredibly inviting after a morning on the slopes in February. Should I make a reservation now? Had I known how cute the inside was I would have suggested we eat there and avoid any more time in the sun.
You can just glimpse the base of the Matterhorn on the left. Consider this post a teaser for tomorrows post, where there will be Matterhorn-a-plenty. Perhaps even too much.

I've tried potato gnocchi once before, a long time ago, and I remember it being a failure. I'll call today's attempt a partial failure. The gnocchi were pillowy and light and delicious, but I just couldn't put my finger on what to pair them with and ended up totally screwing things up. Initially I thought about the classic butter and sage, but then I thought a vegetable ragu sounded good, which it still does, but I just didn't get it right. So for today, just the potato gnocchi recipe.
I don't have a potato ricer, so pushing the potatoes through the strainer was the most time consuming part of this recipe, aside from waiting for the potatoes to bake.

ingredients adapted from Bon Appetit February 2010 www.epicurious.com
they say this serves 6-8, but consider I ate 1/4 of the recipe for lunch, I highly doubt that. Double the recipe if you want to serve 6-8.
- 1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes
- 3/4 cup flour (recipe calls for 1 cup but I found I didn't need that much - adjust as needed)
- 1 large egg yolk, beaten
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt

Preheat the oven to 400F. Pierce the potatoes with a fork in several places before putting them on the baking sheet. Bake for about 1 hour or until they are soft. Soak them in an ice bath to cool them down and make them easier to work with. Cut them in half and scoop out the flesh into a ricer or strainer. Push the flesh through the strainer and on to a rimmed baking sheet. Allow the mash to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl mix the potato and flour with a fork. Once combined make a well in the mixture and pour in the egg and salt. Mix with a fork until egg is evenly distributed. On a lightly floured work surface kneed the dough a couple times, just until it comes together. Form into a disc and cut into four even pieces. Roll each piece into a 3/4 rope and slice the rope into 3/4 pieces. Place the pieces on a parchment lined baking sheet until ready to cook.

Cook the gnocchi in a large pot of salted boiling water. Work in batches so that the gnocchi don't stick to each other. Cook them for just 2-3 minutes. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place back on the parchment paper.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. Place the gnocchis in the pan and lightly brown them on each side.

For a simple sauce, toss with parmesan cheese, a bit of olive oil and some red pepper flakes.
I ate all the gnocchi off of this plate and left all of the vegetables. Perhaps I should have gone with the simple butter and cheese sauce. I had the best intentions for the roasted veggies, but they just didn't seem to come together as I imagined it all, late last night, in my bathrobe eating scrambled eggs and toast after midnight (still not over jet-lag).

It appears the sun has come out and that it is out to stay. The crisp fall breeze is still around, but I think I'll head out for a quick walk before dinner. Off to put on lots of sun screen, like an entire tube.

July 20, 2011

airplane food

I whipped up this biscuits yesterday morning as a little treat for Amanda, who so nicely came to the house to help me pick out photos for our wedding albums. There are so many amazing photos it was pretty much impossible to narrow them down to one album, evidenced by the fact that we are going to go with two albums. In truth it's really three albums, one for the rehearsal and two for the wedding. Okay, anyway, back to the biscuits. They were soft and flakey and perfect for a morning browsing photos. I found the recipe in Super Natural Everyday and thought they sounded light and summery, especially since I had a bowl of South Carolina peaches waiting to be cut up and thrown in the batter. When I ate the first one I was smiling so much from the photos that the biscuits basically fell out of my mouth. I ate another one on the terrace outside as a little afternoon treat. And I'm getting ready to pack up #4, 5 & 6 for a cross Atlantic journey. They will be eaten somewhere over the Nova Scotia or Iceland. I'll try not to elbow the people next to me as I dig them out of my bag and shove them into my mouth.

Recipe for yogurt - peach biscuits. Adapted from Super Natural Everyday.
- 1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt
- 1 tablespoon aluminum free baking powder
- 1/3 cup blond cane sugar
- 1/2 cup/ 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 1/3 cup Greek style yogurt (i used 1/2 whole and 1/2 2%)
- 2 peaches, skin removed and sliced

Preheat the oven to 450F (230C) and place a rack in the middle. Preheat the baking sheet as well by placing it in the oven while it is preheating

Mix the flours, salt, baking soda and sugar in a bowl. With your fingers mix in the butter until there are no pieces larger than the size of a pea (you can also do this in the food processor.)

Mix the sliced peaches into the yogurt and then mix that into the flour mixture, slowly folding in until well combined. Avoid over mixing. Knead the dough into a ball and then place on a floured work surface and kneed five more times. Shape into a 1" rectangle. Here comes the important part - the stacking and flattening, which will make for flakey biscuits. Cut the rectangle in half, stack one half on the other and then flatten into a rectangle again. Repeat two more times, adding flour as needed. Press the dough into a 3/4" rectangle and cut into 12-16 squares.

Transfer the biscuits to the preheated baking sheet and bake for about 15 mintues or until the tops and bottoms are golden and the biscuits are cooked through. Eat with a bit of butter!

* * *

So off I go, back to Zürich for a week. Yes, only a week. I will be back in the 'house' next Wednesday night. It's crazy, and hectic, but it will definitely be worth it. Zach and I are heading to Zermatt this weekend.

July 18, 2011

cherry-pecan-goat cheese cous cous

Sweet cherries are so delicious plain that it's hard to keep them around as an ingredient for another, more elaborate dish. I generally eat them by the handful, which is easiest done outside for freedom of pit spitting, but generally I just stand by the garbage can, lid open, spitting away. I just recently reached the point of cherry exhaustion. I thought it would never come, but then it did and the idea of a plain juicy cherry just wasn't as enticing as it had been two weeks ago. You rarely see recipes for cherries that don't involve the word crumble or pie, but I wasn't in the mood for something sweet and preferred instead to have the cherries as an accent to other ingredients. I thought about what might taste good with cherries - goat cheese, toasted pecans and mint sprung to mind and so I mixed them all together with some pearled cous cous for a yummy summer salad.

Cherries also make me think of Zürich. When I left they were everywhere, all different colors and varieties. Zach and I are heading to Zermatt this weekend and I can assure you there will be a bag of cherries in our backpack along with the usual suspects - a loaf of bread and Boursin cheese. Delish!

This recipe is also being featured on My Girlfriend Guide to Zürich. Angelica and Deja say the cherries are still overflowing out of the markets so I'm hoping the same is still true when I get back on Thursday!

There are only a few ingredients in this recipe and they come together easily and quickly.

- 1 box pearl cous cous, regular cous cous or wild rice (whatever you can find really)
- a few handfuls of sweet cherries, sliced and pitted
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup, brown sugar or regular sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons herbed goat cheese
- 20 mint leaves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350F. Prep the pecans by mixing in a baking dish or sheet with the maple syrup/sugar and salt. Stir to coat. Place in the oven until lightly toasted, about 7-10 minutes.

While the pecans are baking cook the cous cous per the instructions on the box. Once cooked place in a strainer and run water over it to remove excess starch. You want the cous cous to be as loose as possible. When the cous cous is done mix in the pecans (you can chop them a bit,) goat cheese, mint and salt and pepper to taste.

You will want a bit of dressing to keep the cous cous loose so mix the olive oil and red wine vinegar with a bit of salt and pepper until well combined and then slowly mix into the cous cous. You might not want to use it all, so add it to taste. Once the dressing is mixed in taste again and season with salt and pepper if needed.

Once dressed and seasoned top with the sliced cherries and serve! Makes a wonderful side to any summer dish.
My parents kitchen in Connecticut, where I am currently living during my visa-limbo, isn't great for photographs because it's too dark. I have to take everything outside if I want good photos of it, which means I'm having a lot of personal picnics!
I'm looking forward to heading back to Zürich on Wednesday, although I'll only be there for less than a week. I have to come back again in order to save up days for the few weeks in August when Zach's entire family will be in Zürich/Northern Italy.

Of course I can't complain about my time at home - it's been great! Full of trips to NYC and visits with friends. This past weekend on 'the shore' was amazing, packed with delicious meals and american coffee, paddle boarding, and a lot of relaxing beach time. The gluten free banana bread was a huge hit! The two loaves were completely gone by the time we left. I wonder what it feels like to live without pizza...but I hear there are some really good gluten free pizza spots in the city...NYC has everything.