Recipe: Holiday Stuffing Bread

‘Tis the season, so I’m sharing a bunch of my family’s favorite holiday recipes with you.  This recipe is my younger son’s favorite addition to our Thanksgiving line-up.  It’s a twist on a traditional Italian bread recipe that I had for my bread machine… I usually make a loaf or two to use in the stuffing I make for inside the bird and then have extra available for sandwiches and snacking.  You know you have a winner when your son asks for this specific recipe, right?

Since you  know that I use The Force when I cook, it shouldn’t come of much a surprise to learn that I also use The Force (cautiously) when I bake.  I understand that baking is a science, so I don’t mess with ingredients too much, but I do like to add seasonings to things whenever possible.  Wine is a fun way to add flavor to your baking, as are things like bouillon packets and random bits of herbs.  The following bread recipe is my “jumping off point” – occasionally, the dough is either a little too moist and I have to add some flour before baking or it’s a little dry and I add a touch of liquid until it all comes together.  I love using my Zojirushi bread machine to make the dough, so my recipe utilizes this helpful appliance.  If you have a bread machine and don’t use it often, you’re missing out on something that really does save time and effort!StuffingBread

Holiday Stuffing Bread:

  •  1 cup water + 1/4 cup white wine (I like James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay, but use what YOU like)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon ground poultry seasonings
  • 1 Tablespoon dried Herbs de Provence (or dried Poultry Seasonings)
  • 1 packet G. Washington Golden Bouillon
  • 1 Tablespoon dry yeast

These ingredients are listed in order of addition in my bread machine.  I use the flour to keep the liquid from starting the yeast too early but I *do* make this on the “dough” setting so I can then remove the loaf and bake it in the oven after letting it rise until doubled.   I try to follow standard cooking directions, when I remember, but there are times when I get distracted and just pop the bread dough into a hot oven to bake… those are the times when I’m left to the “thumping the loaf” method of checking to see if the bread is done.  The wine seems to give the dough a more chewy consistency and all the herbs and seasonings bake everything together into something so delicious.

I realize that it’d be so much simpler to just buy a few loaves of bread for stuffing, but I’m grateful to know that my family appreciates all that goes into making a big holiday meal.  I hope you try this recipe some time… it’s also a great addition to your leftover sandwiches!  Happy Thanksgiving!

How to make a sauce… and a bonus recipe

Have you ever been frustrated when trying to make a sauce (or even a simple gravy) for dinner?  Here’s a basic sauce recipe that you can personalize to fit any meal… and it’s easy!  I’m also including a mash-up of step-by-step photos so you get a feel for how each stage should look… hopefully that will help as you create your own masterpiece.

Start with butter, olive oil, and flour.  I typically will start with a 1:1 ratio of fat to flour, so if I’m using one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of oil, I’ll use 2 tablespoons of flour.  Note:  Much of this is driven by the amount of sauce you want to make, so if you’re hoping for a large amount of sauce for a casserole, feel free to double these amounts.   Saute’ your fat/flour in a pan until it’s bubbling and gets just a slight bit “toasty” looking… you’re making a simple roux to start this sauce.  (This is the first photo I’ve included in the upper left corner.)

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Once you’ve given the flour some time to cook, you’ll begin adding your liquids.  I like start by adding wine first.  I use whichever wine I feel will go nicely with the end product.  I used James River Cellars’ Montpelier (a Cabernet Franc “Blanc”, if you will) and thought it paired well with the cheese I was using.  (The second photo, below the first shot)  Feel free to use red wine if you’re making a sauce for something heartier than chicken or fish.  I always use a whisk and make sure to thoroughly incorporate the liquid into the sauce at each point before moving on to the next.  How much wine you add is entirely up to you.  I like to add about a cup at the beginning (use your morning coffee cup if you’d rather not get another thing dirty).  Whisk the wine into the sauce and as it starts to tighten up, you’ll begin to recognize when to add more liquid.

After adding wine, I like to then add stock to my sauce.  I try to always have some chicken stock (or broth) in the fridge but feel free to use whatever flavor you feel will best fit the rest of the meal.  When taking the photos for this post, I was making a sauce for my Chicken Divan casserole, so I used chicken stock.  If I were making a sauce to top a steak or piece of beef, I would have used beef stock.  Try to always keep your final product in mind while making segments of a meal so that everything coordinates nicely.

At this point, you’ve got a lovely, smooth gravy.  Add some Worchestershire sauce, liquid smoke, or a dash of Liquid Aminos and you’ll have a great way to bring some pizzazz to your meal.  Since I was making a sauce for a casserole, I needed more “heft” to this sauce and decided to add 4oz of grated cheese.  I used a Monetary Jack cheese to pair with the Montpelier wine I used earlier, but sharp cheddar would pair nicely with a big red wine and a mild colby or creamy goat cheese can accent the crisp taste of a bright Chardonnay or Vidal Blanc.  Choose your favorite and make the sauce your own!

Once the cheese is incorporated, and the sauce is smooth and creamy, add your spices at the last moment.  Again, I was making a Chicken Divan, so I chose to add a palmful of curry powder and some dried parsley.  This is another opportunity to personalize your sauce and make it taste the way *you* want.   Allow the sauce to cook for a moment, whisking as you go, and use it however you like.  In this case, I poured the sauce over a casserole of chicken and broccoli – it was the perfect piece to pull all the flavors together.  YUM!

Now, I *DID* promise you a “bonus recipe”… here it is:  Buttered Bread Crumbs!

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I’ll admit that “Buttered Bread Crumbs” doesn’t sound like much of a bonus, but if you’ve never made this wonderful topping for a casserole, you have no idea what you’re missing.

I reused the pan in which I had just made the curry sauce and warmed some olive oil, butter, garlic, and salt.  I simmered this mixture a bit while I cubed up four potato rolls that I had on hand.  I have made this using chiabatta bread… homemade bread… leftover rolls… I’ve even used a few slices of a simple white bread.  Use what you have on hand… this is a topping and meant to be a way to use leftover loaves of bread.  No matter what you use, it’s a really tasty addition.

Once your butter mixture is warm and your bread is cubed, add the two together and toss them over medium heat until they pick up some crispy edges.  They don’t have to be entirely cooked… they’ll toast up in the oven after you put them on top of the casserole.  NOTE: If you’re making bread crumbs for a salad, you *will* want to toast them long enough to get them crispy on all sides.

Simple, right?  I adore this bread crumb topping… it’s something from my childhood that brings back wonderful memories of comfort foods and family meals.  I hope you enjoy trying this topping for your family casseroles!

Helpful hint:  If you’re reheating a casserole, you can add some fresh buttered bread crumbs to the top and toast it in the oven before serving… no one will guess that you’re serving leftovers!

Enjoy!

Recipe: Meritage Cheddar Bread

I pulled out one of my Bread Machine cookbooks recently and was taken with the idea of creating a wine and cheese bread. I had apparently tried this recipe before, as evidenced by some ancient notes I’d written, but was bound and determined to try it again. Since I had some extra sharp cheddar in the fridge and a small amount of red wine from work, I decided it was worth the time to see how this experiment would come out.

I started with a bottle of Veritas’ Vintner’s Reserve red wine. I had helped work the recent Governor’s Cup Seminar and was given the remains of one of the medal winners. This wine is a meritage-like blend that I really enjoyed, so it was a good wine to use, in my opinion. I wanted to use something similar to the James River Cellars’ Meritage and this wine fit the bill for me. I also had some extra sharp cheddar cheese that was leftover from a recent event at the winery, so I really was killing two birds with one stone, so to speak.

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As you can see by the photos across the top of the collage, I used my bread machine for the dough portion of this recipe. It made my life so much easier. Here are the directions for making this bread, using a machine such as the Zojirushi that I have.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup wine
2/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2T margarine
1/2 t salt
3/4 t sugar
2 1/4 c flour
1 1/2 t yeast

Directions:
I put all the ingredients into the machine and allowed it to do it’s work. Once the dough was ready, I separated it into two sections and rolled each as if for French bread. I placed each length on my baking tray and allowed them to rise for 30-45 minutes. Once they had risen sufficiently, I sprayed them with water and baked them in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or so. I also turned the pan around mid-way through the baking process and sprayed the loaves with water again. As you can see in the photo, the loaves split, so next time I’ll make sure to slice them a few times to allow for steam to vent.

This experiment turned out fairly well, although I might just let the loaves bake in the machine next time to see how they differ. This would be a nice base for a simple garlic toast to accompany a dinner or used as an appetizer under a fresh tomato/basil topping. Try it and see how you’d like to use it… I’d love to hear your feedback!