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Posts Tagged ‘cooking with kids’

This is something we all know as the honest-to-god truth:  there’s nothing quite like homemade bread.  It’s just one of those happy scents that when it’s wafting through your house, you know there’s going to be something delicious on the table. 

See, last week I had a hankerin’ for some Middle Eastern food.  You know the drill:  hummous, baba ganoush, tzatziki, falafel, and pita bread.  I thought I’d give doing my own pita a shot again;  I had done it during those long-ago days of school, so I knew it wasn’t hard to do.  And, really, if you’ve ever made a loaf of bread in your life, making your own pita is a snap. 

This recipe makes a good amount of dough–I got a dozen 6″ pita breads, which is plenty for our little family.  The great thing about leftover pita bread:  it makes delicious pita chips.  All you do is cut them into 1/6 wedges, toss them in some olive oil and salt, and toast them in a 400 degree oven until crispy.  You’ll make pita bread just for the purpose of making chips, I tell you. 

Kiddo got into the act with helping roll out the breads. 

A great thing about pita is that it cooks fast–it’s just a few minutes on a pizza stone or sheet pan in a hot oven.  This is definitely worth the effort of making your own.

Pita Bread – Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

  • 2 teaspoons regular dry yeast
  • 2.5 cups lukewarm water
  • 5-6 cups all-purpose flour (I used a 50/50 combination of whole wheat and white flours)
  • 1 tablespoon table salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water, and stir in one cup of flour and let sit for about 15-20 minutes. 
  2. Add salt, olive oil, and flour in 1 cup increments to the sponge (that bubbly flour-yeast mixture–it’s called a sponge, but you knew that, right?), stirring until the dough is too stiff to stir.  Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, or knead in a KitchenAid with a dough hook for about 6 to 8 minutes.
  3. Place dough in a clean and lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 450°.  Heat pizza stone or baking sheet in oven.
  5. Punch dough down, and divide into 10-12 pieces, and roll into balls.  On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/4″ thick.
  6. Place 2 or 3 breads onto heated stone/sheet and bake for 3 to 4 minutes, until bread has fully ballooned.  If your bread doesn’t balloon, it’s okay, it’ll still be very tasty.
  7. Keep baked pita wrapped in a clean kitchen towel to keep warm while the rest of the breads bake. 

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Hey, Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends and good cheer!

After the crazed consumerist orgy of the past 24 hours, I have some time to play with my new gift:  a little tabletop photo studio while Choo has a Three Stooges Marathon and Kiddo builds Xanadu out of Lego.  I can finally catch up here and write about the last of the Christmas baking.  Man, I don’t know about you guys, but I have put out a massive amount of baked goods and candies over the past two weeks and I think I’ve hit my sugar limit.  I know it’s bad when I’m craving a spinach salad and an unsweetened ice tea.  Still, I’ve had fun, stretched my skills a bit, and everyone who has been a lucky recipient has enjoyed their treats (so they say!). 

First up:  Martha Stewart’s Gingerbread Snowflakes

I love gingerbread, and this is a great recipe, full of spice–I’d highly recommend using this if you like to decorate with gingerbread.  I had them sit out overnight after icing them, as royal icing needs a few hours to set, and I awoke to the best-smelling living room, ever.   If you’re using them for decorations, make sure to roll them thin and bake 4-5 minutes longer to dry out the cookie, and if you’re planning on hanging them, use a drinking straw to poke a hole to run a ribbon through. 

Just a note:  yes, this recipe has black pepper in it.  Don’t get all weirded out by it;  black pepper is a component in quatre épices (four spices), a traditional French spice blend used in everything from things such as pain d’epices to savory stews.  Don’t skip it.  You’ll miss the great bite that the pepper gives this cookie. 

Next up:  Frosted Chocolate Cookies

After a long conversation with Kiddo, we decided to make cookies for Santa.  I originally had ideas of sugar cookies and royal icing;  Kiddo said no way–Santa likes chocolate.  Who am I to argue this?  Of course Santa likes chocolate, and remembered an easy chocolate cookie recipe I had made last year that would be perfect. 

These Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies came from the December 2005 issue of Bon Appétit, and they were part of my cookie platter last year.  It’s a very non-fussy recipe and with the exception of resting the dough in the fridge for an hour, it all whips up in a snap.

(These were taken with my new “studio”–this is going to fun to figure out to take even better pictures!  Next year, I’ll have to ask Santa for a new camera.)

I did do a few small tweaks to the recipe–I didn’t make them into sandwiches, since I thought they would be more fun just topped with the filling and then decorated.  Yes, you’re seeing Kiddo’s work here–he thought sprinkles would be cooler than the crushed candy canes, so that’s what we went with.  Easy, fun, and tasty–these are very sweet, so one is pretty much it for me, but they’re fantastic with a cup of coffee.  Santa seemed to like them, too, as a few were missing from the plate we left out for him last night.

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I’ll say this now:  I totally nabbed this idea from Martha Stewart.  Easy, can be done in an afternoon, totally kid-friendly, and HEY, it’s candy!  What’s not to love?

First, there was a double boiler and a pound of white confectionary wafers.

ghosts1

I’ll tell you one thing, I have never actually owned a double boiler in my life.  It’s easily rigged with a large metal mixing bowl that fits atop a small stockpot.   As for the white confectionary wafers, well, you don’t need to get them, you can use a pound of white chocolate, and add a tablespoon of vegetable oil.  The extra fat added to the chocolate helps mimic couverture–chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa butter–which professional candy makers use for those gorgeous shiny chocolate coatings.

So, anyway:  melt your white chocolate.

One more thing, if you’re using a double boiler, be careful about getting water in your chocolate.  That would be bad–crossing the streams bad.  Water causes chocolate to seize, meaning it will get grainy and lumpy and it will not cooperate at all.

ghosts2

I lined sheet pans with parchment (wax paper would also work), and spooned about 1 tablespoon of the melted chocolate onto the paper.  With the spoon, I swirled the chocolate into ghost-like shapes, and went with short, fat ghosts with little stubby arms.   Kiddo helped out by adding the lollipop sticks.  I gave the sticks a little twirl to make sure they were fully covered with the chocolate.  I added about an extra teaspoon of chocolate once the sticks were in place, to make sure that they were fully anchored.

ghosts3

The ghosts went into the fridge for a 10 minute rest to set.  Once ready, I gently peeled off the paper.

ghosts4

About 2 ounces of dark chocolate (I just happened to have some leftover from when I made the Marjolaine 3 weeks ago) were melted and poured into a piping bag.  If you don’t have piping bags (because I’m sure you just keep a drawer full of ‘em, right?) you can use a ziploc bag, and snip off the tip–just be sure to use a freezer bag, as the plastic is heavier and will be easier to handle.

Piping chocolate can be tricky.  It took a few ghosts to get the hang of it again, but once I was comfortable, I was on a roll.

ghosts5

C’mon!  How cute are these?!

And, these were not expensive at all:  The pound of confectionary wafers cost $3.79, the lollypop sticks were 89 cents for 25.  The pound was plenty to make a full 25 ghostie pops.

But, since these are destined to be part of the festivities at Kiddo’s pre-school, they needed to be wrapped.

ghosts6

Yes, I found little ghost treat bags at the candy supply store.   Perhaps it was a bit overboard, but I still can’t get over how cute they turned out.

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