Charcuterie Contest – and Garlic Olive Swirl Bread

 

Here’s the photo I entered in the CuttingBoard.com photo contest.

I have spent the last three days arranging and rearranging a variety of meats, cheeses, and accompaniments on a bamboo cutting board. I stepped out of my happy little baking world to dabble in the art of charcuterie when I was inspired by the Cutting Board and John Boos Photography Contest to try my hand at something other than taking photos of cookies and cakes.

What began as a fun project for a contest may have turned into a new obsession. Trust me, when you look at the cutting boards on Cutting Board’s website you’ll understand my sudden fascination with cold cuts and the many ways of displaying them.

Don’t worry, it’s not all about salami and cheese. I also created a super yummy bread to use in my photo—one that has swirls of garlic, olives, and cheese. The bread dough is made with pumpkin ale, and is chewy on the outside and soft on the inside. Killer!

You’ll find the recipe at the end of this post.

For my first effort, I used a light box and photographed a lovely collection of goodies. It was very attractive and (I think) appealing. But instructions for the contest said that they appreciated “originality and humor”, which my photo didn’t exactly express.

Haha, do you like the way I used camo duct tape to hold up the tablecloth in the background? Claaaaaaassy.

Well, shoot. I’d have to try again.

I pulled out the paper mache bears I made for a fair display this year and put them to work. I’m almost embarrassed to tell you how many photos I had to take to get one I liked. It took me two days and three separate setups and photo sessions. The lighting was off, the light outlet under the window showed, the bear’s ear was wonky, the salami was blurry. I like to use the natural light in my dining room when I can, or my lightbox when I can’t, but these bears had to be looking through the window.

The window with the screen removed, of course. And in case you should try this at home, here’s a tip: if the photographer gets involved with reviewing her photos and forgets to close that window, a whole lot of moths will see it as an invitation to visit. Gah!

This was a real learning experience. I’m used to taking photos of baked goods, and can usually get something I like in one session. But this? Wow. I am going to dig out that Canon Rebel T3 for Dummies book and figure out my camera if it kills me.

Throughout this ordeal, I was sending photos to my daughter, asking her which ones she liked. Begging for suggestions. After hearing me complain about overexposed cheese, blurry salami, and depth issues, she finally asked me if I used my F-stop.

“Um. No?”

It seems there are other options on my little Canon Rebel T3 than Auto Focus. Who knew? Well, actually, I knew. I’d read that Dummies book, and some of it actually made sense at the time, but at my age (don’t ask) retention is sometimes problematic. So I usually use Auto Focus or sometimes play with manual and A-Dep (for when I want everything in focus). This time I played around with the AV option too, to try to get the bear heads a little out of focus so the board of food would stand out.

To be completely honest, I don’t even know which photos were the result of which methods. There were literally hundreds of photos to go through when I was done.

I was through with the second session, thinking I had a couple of good shots when The Man mentioned that I should have put smoked salmon on the board, as a bear attractant. Why didn’t I think of that? We live up in the mountains, and a trip to the store usually just has to wait for my regular weekly jaunt to town, but under the circumstances, I made an exception and raced for smoked salmon and some Prosecco. (I felt that sparkling wine would be a good addition.)

So much for that. I waited until the sun went down so the light coming through the window wasn’t glaring. I set up the lights and camera. Again. Loaded up my cutting board with goodies. Again. Added the salmon and the wine. Took a ton of photos, put away the meat and cheese. Again. And then realized that:

  1. I’d piled too many things on the board. It looked cluttered. Note to self: less is more.
  2. I should have flaked a piece of the fish so it would look like fish. It looked like ham! (Trust me, it cost more than ham!)
  3. By the time I stopped fussing, it was almost dark, which turned everything muddy.

I briefly considered one more try the next morning, but just didn’t have it in me. The photo without the salmon and wine would have to do.

Behind the scenes

We’ll be eating a lot of salami, nibbling on a lot of cheese, and noshing on olives for the next week or so. Or maybe I should open a deli? But it was worth it; I learned a lot, and (with the exception of a few frustrating moments) enjoyed the experience thoroughly.

And hey, in case you were wondering, sparkling wine doesn’t last. Someone had to drink it immediately, right? But I shared it with my friend. 

Here’s that recipe for you. I used pumpkin ale, but any beer will do.

Garlic Olive Swirl Bread
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This soft bread with a chewy crust and delightful swirl of garlic, olives, and cheese will be the talk of your charcuterie board! Makes two small baguette-type loaves.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 package active-dry yeast
  • 1 bottle (12 oz.) beer. I used Pumpkin Ale
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3½ - 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 cup grated cheese - cheddar is great, or add in some strong cheese too (Asiago, Parmesan, Romano).
  • 1 cup chopped olives (A mixture of green, black, Kalamata)
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine warm water, sugar, and yeast. Allow yeast to soften 5 minutes, or until bubbly.
  2. In a small pan, gently warm beer on low heat just until lukewarm.
  3. In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, beer, and olive oil.
  4. Add 3½ cups bread flour and salt. Mix with dough hook for 3 minutes. If the dough is still very sticky, gradually add additional flour until just slightly tacky to the touch. Continue to knead by machine for another 3 minutes. (If kneading by hand, after stirring in the 3½ cups flour, drop dough onto well-floured surface and knead 8 minutes.)
  5. Place dough in greased bowl, turning to coat the dough. Cover and allow to rise until double, approximately 1 hour.
  6. Punch dough down and roll into a 9x18 rectangle. Brush lightly with melted butter. (You won't use it all. Save some for the top of the baked bread, for a softer crust.)
  7. Sprinkle the cheese, olives, and garlic on the dough and roll up from the long side. Pinch the seam and ends to seal. Cut the roll in the middle, creating two long loaves.
  8. Pinch the cut ends closed, and roll each loaf gently to achieve an even size.
  9. Place both loaves on prepared sheet and let rise for about 90 minutes, or until they feel puffy. (They won't double but should come close.) Slash the tops several times with a very sharp knife or razor blade.
  10. Place pan of water on lower rack of the oven. Heat oven to 450 F.
  11. BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN YOU OPEN THE OVEN. THE STEAM IS HOT!
  12. Bake approximately 25 minutes, or until bread is rich golden brown. Brush with butter for a softer crust. Cool on rack.

Soften yeast in warm water until bubbly

Gently heat the beer until lukewarm

Place dough in greased bowl. Turn to coat and let it rise.

Combine chopped olives, garlic, and cheese.

Dough is ready to go!

Roll dough into a rectangle, add filling, and roll it up

Cut roll in half and pinch the ends shut

Place loaves on baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal

Slash and bake

Yes, I’ll be experimenting with more real food in the future. Possibly more healthy food, though I will never be able to stop baking. Nevah! Maybe I’ll have to change the blog to “The Rowdy Baker Reconsiders”, or maybe “The Reformed Rowdy Baker”. Once the Prosecco wears off I may laugh this idea off. We’ll see.

Lorinda

 

Smoked Almond Crackers

I’ve been on a bit of a binge lately, and have probably eaten my weight in hickory smoked almonds in the last month or two. My obsession shows no sign of stopping. This is actually good news for you, because it inspired me to use part of my stash to create very tasty crackers that pair beautifully with salmon dip. And Chardonnay.

I hate to appear wishy-washy by giving you a lot of options and alternatives, but some people will click out of a recipe if it says something scary like “roll the dough”. I get it – rolling dough can be messy and time consuming. I’m going to give you an alternative to that. Personally, I love rolling out dough. It may be the only exercise I have in a day!

First, the basic method:

To make flat crackers, the dough is rolled out and then cut into any shapes that float your boat. But you can also flip a mini-muffin pan over and drape circles of dough over the . . . bottom of the pan to create crunchy little cups.These are genius, because they hold more dip.

Whether you make flat crackers or cups, you’ll need to get the dough very thin – no more than 1/8-inch thick. Thinner is even better. Don’t worry, it’s easy dough to work with. The simplest way to make the flat crackers is by rolling the dough directly onto a baking sheet. You don’t need to separate the crackers – just cut them with a pastry (or pizza) cutter and bake.Or you can use cookie cutters for cute shapes, cutting them directly on the pan or by rolling your dough on a floured surface (removing the scraps for re-rolling).

From left to right – thick to thin. The thick cups were 1/8-inch, the ones on the right were probably 1/16-inch.

Once the crackers or cups are baked and the oven’s turned off, any crackers that aren’t completely hard (which would be those on the thicker side of the scale) get returned to the warm oven to dry out for 30-40 minutes. This ensures a crispy, crunchy, sturdy cracker that will store well.

For you rollingpinphobes, I had an idea that worked very well. Do you have a tortilla press? Love mine, and it wasn’t very expensive at all. Just plop a ball of dough between pieces of parchment and press down gently. Don’t press all the way or you’ll end up with a VERY thin piece of dough that will tear easily. I can cut three 2 1/2-inch circles  at a time this way, and the thickness is consistent. 

When I first tried making these, I assumed that the salt content of the almonds and the cheese would be enough, so I didn’t add any salt. But crackers need to be salty in my opinion, and they just didn’t quite cut it, so I added a small amount of salt to the second batch and found them to be perfect. If you’re a real salt lover, sprinkle a little on the top of the crackers before baking.

No, I don’t get a kickback for this. I just love this stuff and want to share!

I used this Sweet Onion Sugar on one batch because I crave the whole sweet/salty/savory experience, and it was a big hit. My bottle was a gift from a friend, purchased from an amazing store in Montana called The Copper Moose . . . one of those places that could make a foodie run rampant, scooping up things they never even knew existed. Danger, danger, danger.

This recipe will yield approximately 4 dozen dip cups or 2-inch square crackers.

Smoked Almond Crackers
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Makes 48
Ingredients
  • 1 cup hickory smoked almonds
  • 1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ cup oil
  • ⅓ cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 425 F.
  2. For flat crackers you will need a large, flat baking sheet. For cracker cups, you will need a mini-muffin pan. If your muffin pan isn't non-stick, you will also need small paper liners.
  3. Chop the almonds very fine. To save time, you can us a blender or food processor, using short pulses to avoid turning it into paste.
  4. In a large bowl, combine almonds, cheese, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, garlic powder, and brown sugar. Mix well.
  5. Add oil, buttermilk, and Worcestershire sauce. Use a heavy spoon or your hand to thoroughly combine. You should be able to form the mixture into a ball with your hands.
  6. FOR FLAT CRACKERS: Roll directly onto ungreased baking sheet. Lightly flour rolling pin and the top of the dough and roll very thin, no more than ⅛-inch. Use a pastry (or pizza) cutter to cut into squares or diamonds. You don't need to separate them. Alternatively, you can use cookie cutters. Lift the scraps between the shapes and save for re-rolling. Sprinkle with salt if desired and bake 7 minutes, or until crackers are rich golden brown. Remove from oven and place baking sheet on rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough. Once all crackers are baked, check to see if crackers are dry and crunchy. If not, turn oven off and open the door for 30 seconds. Return crackers to warm oven for 30-40 minutes to dry out.
  7. FOR CRACKER CUPS: Turn mini-muffin pan upside down. Lightly grease non-stick pans, or cover each metal cup with a paper liner if your pan isn't non-stick. Roll out dough on floured surface, or press balls of dough between pieces of parchment in a tortilla press. Dough should be no thicker than ⅛-inch. Thinner is better! Cut circles that are 2½ inches and drape the dough circles over each cup, shaping gently. If any holes or tears appear, patch them with a pinch of dough. Bake 7 minutes, or until rich golden brown. Move pan to cooling rack and allow cups to cool for at least 5 minutes before lifting each one carefully from the pan. Remove paper liners if you're using them. Once all the cups are baked check to see if cups are dry and crunchy. If not, turn off oven and open door for 30 seconds. Place cups on a baking sheet and return to warm oven for 30-40 minutes to dry out.

Chop the almonds (no big pieces!) or use a blender or food processor.

For flat crackers, roll the dough right on the baking sheet. Cut with pastry or pizza cutter or cookie cutters.

For dip cups, loosely shape dough on the upside-down mini-muffin pan and bake.

There – I posted something that wasn’t sweet for a change. Now on to Mother’s day creations, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be pulling out all the stops.

Lorinda

 

 

 

Corned Beef Hand Pies

Flaky little pie crusts stuffed with corned beef, cabbage, carrots, and onions will be the hit of your St. Patrick’s Day party. These savory treats are also a great way to use leftover corned beef, and are easy to pack in a lunch.

Did I say leftover corned beef? The only way that ever happens around here is if I cook two roasts! And now that The Man has had a taste of these hand pies, I may have to cook three.

I originally made these with green pie crust. You know . . . going with the whole green theme. I don’t have a problem eating green baked goods; green doughnuts taste just as good as normal doughnuts, right? But to be honest with you, the green crust didn’t photograph very well.

If you want to do it for fun, just add a few drops of green food color to the buttermilk before you add it to the flour. (I may have gone a little overboard with the coloring.) Hand pies with shiny golden brown crusts are lovely, and can be used for any occasion, so I’ll just let you choose.

I also played with the crust and made shamrock shaped pies. The half circles are easier to make – definitely less time consuming, but the shamrocks are pretty cute. They just have those little corners that you have to pay attention to and get sealed properly. If you’re up for a challenge and you have a large shamrock cookie cutter, give them a whirl!

Corned Beef Hand Pies
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Author:
Makes approximately 24 hand pies if using 4-5 inch circles.
Ingredients
  • Filling:
  • 2 cups cooked corned beef, finely chopped
  • 1 cup grated cabbage and carrot mixture, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 2 teaspoons mustard, yellow or Dijon
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 eggs (1 egg is used for egg wash)
  • Pastry:
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup cold butter
  • 1 cup cold shortening
  • ½ cup buttermilk (you may use regular milk)
  • 2 tablespoons vodka (or vinegar, if you prefer)
Instructions
  1. In medium bowl, combine corned beef, cabbage and carrot mixture, and green onions.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, flour, sugar, garlic powder, and 1 egg. Pour into the meat and vegetable mixture and stir well. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add butter and shortening and, using a pastry blender, blend together until small lumps no larger than peas remain.
  4. In a cup or small bowl, combine the buttermilk and vodka (or vinegar). Pour all at once into the dry ingredients and toss with a fork (or your fingers) until combined. Mixture should form a ball when you press it together with your hands. Divide into 3 disks. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 15 minutes.
  5. Heat oven to 375 F.
  6. Whisk together the remaining egg and 1 tablespoon water in a cup to make an egg wash. Set aside.
  7. On a floured surface, or between two pieces of lightly floured parchment, roll once piece of dough out at a time to about ⅛-inch thickness. If using parchment, you may need to lift the paper and sprinkle dough with flour to keep it from sticking and to keep parchment from wrinkling.
  8. Using a 4-inch round cutter or large shamrock cookie cutter, cut as many pieces as possible. Cover scraps and put aside to re-roll all at once at the end. If you have a small roller, the shapes can be rolled gently to make them a little larger and thinner. 5 inches is perfect.
  9. Brush one piece lightly with egg wash. Add approximately 1 heaping tablespoon of filling. For half circles, fold the circle over. For shamrocks, cover with another shamrock shape. Press firmly around the edge of the hand pie, then use a small fork and go around it again to seal.
  10. Poke a few small holes in the top of each pie and brush lightly with egg wash. Place on parchment covered baking sheets.
  11. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the bottoms turn golden brown. Serve warm.

 

Finely chop the cooked corned beef.

Stir all of this goodness together! I hate to say this, but you could roll out biscuits from and can, fill them with this, and they would STILL taste amazing!

Add sauce to meat mixture.

For crust, blend the fats and flour together, then toss with liquids.

Flatten the dough into 3 disks.

Cut out large circles (about 4-5 inches) and brush with egg wash

Add a rounded tablespoon of filling

Press edges firmly.

Seal with a fork and bake!

 So…the obligatory green pastry has been posted. Now I need to play around with something sweet. I’ll be back soon,

Lorinda

Play Review – Winning Super Bowl Dishes!

 

Game Day Collage 2016

I put my four favorite football party recipes together into this quick post with links to all of the recipes. Enjoy!

An easy cheese ball and some delicious, crispy rye crackers are perfect for a crowd. You’ll find the recipe for both here: Football Rye Crackers and Cheese Ball

football rye crackers and cheeseball watermarked

 

Salmon dip in a crusty football-shaped bread bowl is a lot more fun and imaginative than little smokies or chips and salsa! It uses one of my easiest bread recipes, and the salmon dip is a snap to throw together. Find it here: Succulent Salmon Dip (in a crunchy football bowl!)

salmon dip bowl from The Rowdy Baker

 

Little soft pretzels stuffed with ham and cheese will make everyone cheer! Get the recipe here: Ham and Cheese Pretzel Bombs

 

ham and cheese pretzel bombs

And my favorite of all, a football shaped meatloaf made with ground pork and ham, and coated with a tangy glaze…a true “pigskin” for those chest-beating guys. Come and get it: Game Day Glazed Meatloaf

Game Day Glazed Meatloaf from The Rowdy Baker

 

PARTY ON!

Lorinda

Game Day Glazed Meatloaf

Game Day Glazed Meatloaf from The Rowdy BakerThis beautiful glazed football really is a meatloaf; just not the kind you’re used to.

Instead of using beef, I combined ground ham and pork and held it together with ground oatmeal instead of bread crumbs, for a scrumptious, gluten-free entree.

You won’t be tossing this pigskin around – you’ll be dipping chunks into glaze or slapping a slice of it on a crusty piece of bread and chowing down!Game Day Glazed Football sandwich

The idea for this meatloaf came from an old Taste of Home recipe for Brown Sugar Glazed Ham Balls, which my family loves. I made a lot of changes, so it’s a loose adaption, but credit definitely has to go to them for the idea!Glazed Game Day Meatloaf The Rowdy Baker

My first attempt was prettier. The football was baby-butt smooth and flawless. But after I took photos and we ate half of it, I realized I’d forgotten to add the cheese “laces”. I also decided that I wanted less filler. I am not a fan of frozen meatballs; they always seem spongy to me. My first meatloaf had excellent flavor, but was kind of spongy…reminiscent of (dare I use this word in my blog?) Spam. I wanted meaty!

So I cut the ground oats and egg in half, and we absolutely loved the second recipe. It had a little bit more flavor, and much better texture, though it wasn’t quite as pretty. Don’t get me wrong – the first meatloaf was very, very tasty – but if I have to choose, I’ll go with substance over beauty any day!

Here’s how smooth the first one was – just in case you LIKE a smoother texture, and/or want it to look perfect:pigskin ready to cut

I ground a pork shoulder roast and a nice butt portion ham for my meatloaf. You don’t have to do this (see TIPS, below), but I wanted to play with my new grinder. ham and pork

No grinder? Find ground pork at the grocery store, and grind the ham in a food processor.

No grinder? Find ground pork at the grocery store, and grind the ham in a food processor.

Serve your meatloaf with dark rye bread or crusty French bread for hearty sandwiches, or just dip chunks of the meat in small bowls of the glaze. Delish!Game Day Glazed Meatloaf, dipped in glaze TRB

I’ve been pouting all week because the Seattle Seahawks didn’t make it to the Superbowl, and in a fit of petulance I almost decided to hold out and wait to post this blog until next year – when they will certainly be going all the way. But I love you guys, and respect your right to root for an obviously inferior the team of your choice. I’ll be a good sport and post the recipe now.

TIPS:

  • If you don’t have a meat grinder, you should be able to buy ground pork (NOT sausage!) at the grocery store. You may even be able to coax a butcher into grinding a ham for you, but if you have a food processor, I recommend you do it yourself. A butcher is not going to take the time to cut all the tough skin off the ham, and you really don’t want that in your meat mixture.
  • When the football is cooked and the meat thermometer is removed, let your meatloaf sit for 10 minutes before adding the cheese, because meat juice will probably bubble out of the hole for a few minutes, so the cheese wouldn’t stick.
  • I use an old coffee grinder for grinding my oatmeal. A food processor or blender will work too. Grind it fairly fine, but not into flour!
  • If you plan to provide glaze for dipping or drizzling, you might want to increase the glaze recipe. You’ll have a good cup of glaze left over, but…it’s so good! (I like a little meat with my glaze.)
  • If your glaze gets too thick, reheat it gently on low. It will turn liquid again.
  • Use good brown sugar – pure cane. It can make the difference between smooth glaze and grainy glaze!

 

Game Day Glazed Meatloaf
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Author:
Ingredients
  • MEATLOAF:
  • 1½ pounds ground pork
  • 1½ pounds ground ham (Easy to do in a food processor!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
  • ½ cup grated onion (or you can chop VERY finely)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup finely ground quick oats (Grind in food processor, blender, or coffee/spice grinder.)
  • GLAZE:
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon maple flavoring (like Mapleine) - OPTIONAL
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. Combine all of the meatloaf ingredients together well. (A stand mixer and dough hook is the easiest way to go.)
  3. Press into a ball and place in a medium size casserole dish. With damp hands, mold into a football shape. Take your time and make it as smooth as possible. This meatloaf is very lean and won't shrink much, so what you see is what you will get!
  4. Insert meat thermometer and place in oven. Bake for 40 minutes.
  5. When the 40 minutes are almost up, make your glaze:
  6. Combine all glaze ingredients in a medium saucepan. Stir well.
  7. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Once mixture comes to a boil, reduce to medium and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add maple flavoring if desired.
  8. Remove meat from oven. Brush generously with glaze.
  9. Return to oven for 20 minutes.
  10. Remove and glaze meat again.
  11. Return to oven for 20 minutes, or until meat thermometer says 165.
  12. Remove from oven. Brush lightly with glaze and place on serving platter.
  13. Allow meatloaf to sit for 10 minutes, then place thin strips of mozzarella cheese on top to look like laces.
  14. Serve with sauce for dipping or drizzling.

Meatloaf ingredients

Meatloaf ingredients

I coarse-grated the onion for a smoother texture.

I coarse-grated the onion for a smoother texture. I used the finer side to grate the garlic too.

Adding ground oats.

Adding ground oats.

Smooth meatloaf with dampened hands.

Smooth meatloaf with dampened hands.

This is the second glazing.

This is the second glazing.

Slice and serve!

Slice and serve!

Whether you’ll be screaming your heart out or just watching the commercials, this succulent meatloaf will be the real winner on Game Day!

Lorinda

Savory Bacon Crackers



Savory Bacon Crackers verticalI can’t even begin to tell you how relieved thrilled I am to be posting this recipe for Savory Bacon Crackers. After countless tries, with results ranging from “marginal” to “close…but no cigar”, I finally produced crunchy, flavorful crackers that got gobbled up by the tasting crew.

I tried making them yeast-based (bleh), I layered the dough with butter (like croissant dough), I baked them hot and fast, and low and slow. I tried chilling the dough for days.

Meh.

In the end, it was just a matter of getting the proportions right and finding a way to make sure the crackers were crunchy all the way through. These aren’t flaky (like Ritz), but are delightfully light and crunchy, yet still sturdy enough for dipping. And did I mention they taste great?

Crushed bacon adds flavor and texture. Make sure you cook the bacon until it’s extra-crispy. I pan fry mine, then wrap it in paper towels and microwave for a minute or two and shake the bacon out onto another piece of paper towel to cool. Crush with a rolling pin or use a sharp blade – either a knife or an ulu – to make small crumbs.

Savory Bacon Crackers
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Author:
Makes almost 1 pound of crackers.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ½ cup finely crushed bacon - about 10 strips (reserve the grease)
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • ¼ cup oil (I use peanut oil)
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup water
  • Sea salt
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 425 F.
  2. Grease two baking sheets with bacon grease (or you may use shortening if you prefer)
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, garlic salt, onion powder, pepper, brown sugar, and crushed bacon.
  4. Stir in the liquid smoke, oil, buttermilk, and water. Mix until well combined. This will be a soft dough, but shouldn't be sticky.
  5. Working with half of the dough at a time, either roll between two pieces of parchment (flour dough lightly if necessary) or roll directly onto the baking sheet, dusting the top with flour as needed.. Try to roll the dough out as thinly as possible...less than ⅛-inch. You may cut round shapes out, re-rolling the extra dough, or simply cut into squares or diamonds, using a pizza cutter.
  6. Place pans in preheated oven for 4 minutes. Remove both pans. Brush the tops of the crackers with bacon grease (or butter, if you prefer) and lightly salt. Using a spatula, flip the crackers over.
  7. TURN OFF THE OVEN. Open the door for 20 seconds. Place pans back in the oven, close the door, and leave the crackers to cook slowly for 1 hour, as the oven cools down. Check one to make sure it snaps crisply when broken. If not, leave them in the oven for another 30 minutes.

 

Crush the crisp bacon or finely chop.

Crush the crisp bacon or finely chop.

This is a must! Add Liquid Smoke.

This is a must! Add Liquid Smoke.

Roll them THIN, and cut however you like.

Roll them THIN, and cut however you like.

Brush with bacon grease, sprinkle with salt, flip over, and return to oven.

Brush with bacon grease, sprinkle with salt, flip over, and return to oven.

Do you have any idea how good these would be with my Succulent Salmon Dip? I’d leave the bacon out of the dip (unless you’re a really hardcore bacon fan) and offer a knife to spread the dip on each cracker. Ham spread would be yummy too.

Okay – this was my obligatory savory recipe before I go into full-blown Easter mode. I’ve stocked up on powdered sugar, chocolate, and sprinkles…and will be putting it all to good use soon!
Lorinda

Ham and Cheese Pretzel Bombs



pretzel bombs watermark verticalLast week I told you my next post would be Valentine’s Day related, but that was before the Seattle Seahawks won the game that will send them to the Super Bowl. Again.

Valentine’s Day will just have to wait. I have footballs to make!

Beer is a must for the big game of course, and beer and pretzels just go together. Since filling these little football-shaped pretzels with cheese sounded good, I decided that filling them with ham and cheese sounded even better.The nice thing about this recipe is that it’s so flexible. Add hot sauce or onions, skip the ham, try different types of cheese. Make the filling your own!

Of course, the bombs can be made in nice little round shapes – but for the big game I wanted footballs. In my first batch there were about half that would be easily recognized as footballs, and half that were…well…deflated. (Dare I say that? Sorry, Patriots fans! The deflated ball jokes have been flying all week.) Cheese will ooze, and personally I love the crispy bits of baked cheese that stick to the bottom of the footballs. For the sake of appearance, however, I experimented. A lot.

I thought that maybe a longer boil would toughen the outside, keeping the cheese in as they baked. I seemed to have at least as many blow-outs, so my assumption was flawed. Because there was no “give” as the footballs baked, the cheese simply found a weak spot and broke through.Footballs boiling

I tried a very short boil, with the theory that the footballs would remain more flexible, and give when pressured by the cheese.  The cheese still blew out. Stiffer dough, softer dough, hotter bake temperature, lower bake temperature. Vent holes. I found that mozzarella is a little more explosive than cheddar, and using half of each helped a bit. I think I tried it all – at least everything I could think of.

The bottom line is this: CHEESE OOZE HAPPENS. Embrace it. Leave the crispy bits attached to the bombs…people will still love them.

They ain't purty, but they taste just fine!

They ain’t purty, but they taste just fine!

Beer and brown sugar add a little extra flavor to the pretzel dough, and an egg wash adds a pretty sheen. This recipe makes about 64 small bombs. Remember, that’s going to be about 30 attractive footballs. The rest should be immediately eaten for quality control purposes (wink wink). The bombs can be wrapped in foil and popped in the freezer after they’ve baked and cooled; they reheat beautifully. Or make 32 larger two-bite-size bombs.

It would be ideal if you had a helper, because two people would make this process a lot easier. One can be forming footballs while the other is boiling and baking. I did it by myself, so it’s do-able, but if you can bribe or enlist someone, I recommend it!

The dough is so easy to make. It’s a nice, sturdy dough that can be manhandled without causing any problems. Here’s the recipe:

Football Pretzel Bombs
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Author:
Delicious little pretzel bites filled with ham and cheese. Don't expect them all to be pretty; they will ooze cheese, and some will take on interesting shapes! Embrace the crispy escaped cheese - that's the best part! Makes 60-64.
Ingredients
  • 1 can (12 oz) beer
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 6 ounces grated cheddar cheese (about 1½ cups)
  • 6 ounces grated mozzarella cheese (about 1½ cups)
  • 1 ounce cream cheese, softened
  • 1 5-ounce can cooked ham chunks, drained, OR ½ cup (or more to taste) finely chopped cooked ham
  • ½- 1 teaspoon Sriracha hot chili sauce
  • 8 cups water
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 1 egg whisked together with 1 teaspoon water (egg wash)
Instructions
  1. Pour beer into a small pan and heat until very warm - about 110 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl (a standing mixer with a bread hook is best) combine the warm beer, white sugar, and yeast. Allow the mixture to sit 6-8 minutes, or until bubbly.
  3. Add softened butter, brown sugar, salt, and 3 cups of the bread flour. Mix well.
  4. Slowly add remaining flour, a little at a time, until the dough comes cleanly away from the side of the bowl and is not sticky to the touch. You are looking for a fairly stiff dough, but not dry. Dry dough is very hard to seal when you're making the footballs.
  5. Knead for 6 minutes by machine, or 8 minutes by hand on lightly floured surface.
  6. Shape dough into a ball and place in a large greased bowl, turning several times to coat the dough. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled - about 1 hour. WHILE THE DOUGH IS RISING:
  7. Cover two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
  8. Combine the cheese, ham, and hot sauce. Mix together very well. Go ahead and use your hands to knead it into a solid mass. Since your hands are already messy, save time later by rolling 64 balls of cheese mixture, about 1 teaspoon each. You may have a little left over. Save it for topping a casserole or for a grilled cheese sandwich!
  9. When dough has doubled heat oven to 400 F.
  10. Work with half of the dough at a time, leaving the other half covered. Separate dough into ½ ounce pieces (approximately 1 tablespoon). Roll into balls and flatten into rounds with the bottom of a heavy glass or a rolling pin.
  11. Place one cheese ball in the center of each piece of dough and bring the edges up over the cheese. Pinch the dough firmly. Really....pinch the heck out of it! Roll briskly but gently between your hands. If you see a crack, pinch it and roll again. Roll either side of the ball firmly to create pointed ends if you are making football shapes.
  12. Bring water and baking soda to a boil in a large tall saucepan and then lower the heat a little to get a gentle boil
  13. Drop 8-10 footballs into the boiling water at a time. Allow them to boil for 30-40 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon or spider, and place onto prepared cookie sheets.
  14. Using a razor blade (I used an X-Acto knife) or a very sharp paring knife, cut two short parallel lines in the top of each football, with a line in between. (Imagine a capital letter "I", laying on its side.) This will represent the laces. (If you want to get fancy, you can cut little laces too.) Be careful not to cut all the way through the dough or you are certain to have the cheese blow out the top! Note: If you are making round shapes instead of footballs, Cut a shallow "X" in each ball.
  15. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.
  16. Bake approximately 10-12 minutes, or until a rich brown.
  17. Repeat with the remaining dough.

 

Let the beer and yeast get nice and foamy.

Let the beer and yeast get nice and foamy.

Risen and ready to roll!

Risen and ready to roll!

Combining ham, cheeses, hot sauce.

Combining ham, cheeses, hot sauce.

Wrap and pinch! Did you have a sibling? Were you mean? Pinch like that!

Wrap and pinch! Did you have a sibling? Were you mean? Pinch like that!

Lifting them out of their hot tub using a handy "spider".

Lifting them out of their hot tub using a handy “spider”.

If you feel like fussing, cut shallow laces.

If you feel like fussing, cut shallow laces.



pretzel bombs seahawks watermark horiz

Serve them with a honey mustard sauce or just eat them plain. You will be amazed at how fast these puppies disappear! And……GO HAWKS!

Lorinda

Succulent Salmon Dip (in a crunchy football bowl!)

dip groupIf you followed along as a group of us bloggers teamed up to bring you the 12 Cakes of Christmas, you already know that we are a crazy bunch of gals who inspire each other to greatness. Well…we try!

Once the holidays were over we realized that we just didn’t want to leave the party, so we decided to pick a theme every month and create recipes to match the theme. This month is Dippin’ Through January!

Football games just demand dips, and we have you covered.


salmon dip plated vertical2

Today is my day, and since I was born and raised in Seattle, AND since the Seahawks are going to the Superbowl (squeeee) I went all out and made a delicious salmon dip and a big french bread football bowl to serve it in. Fill it up and put the top back on until you’re ready to serve…then tear it up and use the chunks of bread to scoop up the dip. Here’s my easy recipe for a Football Dip Bowl. And, of course, the recipe for salmon dip!

Succulent Salmon Dip
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Author:
This is enough to make at least 8 hungry people very happy.
Ingredients
  • 1½ pounds cooked salmon (canned is fine!)
  • 8 ounces neufchatel or cream cheese
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced very fine
  • 4 slices thick bacon, chopped and cooked
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 6 green onions, sliced thinly
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine salmon, neufchatel cheese, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, and garlic. Mix well using a sturdy wooden spoon or (if you don't mind the mess) your hands. Don't use a food processor - it will ruin the texture and turn the dip into baby food!
  2. Stir in the bacon, lemon juice, green onions, and seasoning. Spoon into dip bowl.
  3. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Also consider trying finely chopped celery, sliced olives, or grated Italian cheese!

So lucky to have friends that fish AND can!

So lucky to have friends that fish AND can!

Smoosh it up! (That's a technical cooking term.)

Smoosh it up! (That’s a technical cooking term.)

Gotta have fresh lemon with salmon.

Gotta have fresh lemon with salmon.

Remove the soft bread.

Remove the soft bread.

Remove the soft bread from the "lid" too.

Remove the soft bread from the “lid” too.

Oh, YUM!

Oh, YUM!

With all due respect to those of you who live in Colorado, may I just say…..GO HAWKS!

Here are links to the other dips that have already been posted.

1/13 Jalapeno Popper Dip from Moore or Less Cooking Blog
1/14 Melting Pot Swiss Cheese Fondue from Tampa Cake Girl
1/15 Rocky Road Brownie Batter Dip from Hun, What’s for Dinner?
1/16 Prosciutto Artichoke Spinach Dip from Crumbs in my Mustachio
1/17 Crab Rangoon Dip with Wonton Chips from Lemony Thyme
1/20 BLT Dip from Cooking from a SAHM
1/21 Apple French Toast Brunch Dip from Baking in a Tornado
1/22 My Succulent Salmon Dip
1/23 Yum Yum Dipping Sauce from Manila Spoon