I’m not a fan of raw tomatoes, but if I were, this would definitely be one of the things I’d be munching on all day. Bruschetta is an Italian appetizer or “antipasto” as it called in Italian. It’s incredibly easy to make and requires very few ingredients. Typically it consists of bread, tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper. It’s also topped with cheese sometimes and traditionally topped with balsamic vinegar. I believe the bread and tomatoes are supposed to be a vehicle for the balsamic. As much as I’ve tried to like it, I absolutely detest balsamic vinegar. It’s just too strong for my palate. If you enjoy it, feel free to replace the vinegar I have in the recipe or you can even use both as an option. I personally use red wine vinegar because I don’t find it as harsh as balsamic. It provides great flavor but doesn’t take away from the stars which are the bread, tomatoes, and basil.
If you know me, you know biscuits have always been my kryptonite. I shared a recipe for two-ingredient biscuits many months ago. It’s a wonderful recipe, but it’s made with sour cream only. There is no shortening or butter in them. There is no buttermilk in them. So, as wonderful as it is, it’s certainly not traditional. I’m going to be sharing a real traditional southern recipe within the next few months, but this is also a great recipe to have in your repertoire. Not exactly what you’re southern grandmother would make, but still delicious nonetheless. I love these biscuits. They’ve become my go-to, because it takes the stress out of biscuit making. It produces light, tall, fluffy biscuits that would make your grandma proud.
There a few golden rules to remember when making biscuits:
Okay, so the first key with biscuits is to begin with cold tools and ingredients and to keep them cool throughout the process.
The second key is when you cut the biscuit out, you should NOT twist. Just go straight down and up.
The third key is that a fluffy biscuit is produced with a cake pan that allows you to put the biscuits close together. If you want a crispier exterior, use a bigger pan or a baking sheet. That way the air can circulate around the biscuits, which will give them the crispier exterior.
Don’t overwork the dough. That means don’t over-mix or overwork the dough.
Now that we have those out of the way, let’s get started:
First, you want to cut the shortening and butter into 1/2″ and 1/4″ pieces. Wrap them well and freeze them for about an hour.
Sift together the dry ingredients and place them in a wide, but shallow bowl. Place that bowl in the fridge for about an hour.
Butter your 8″ cake pan really well. I’m using an 8″ cake pan because it will yield soft and fluffy biscuits. If you want crispier biscuits, use a baking sheet or a 9 or 10″ cake pan. This will allow the air to circulate so that the exterior will be crispy.
After the tools and ingredients have been in the fridge and freezer for about an hour, take the dry ingredients and fats out of the fridge. Begin by tossing the butter pads in the flour until well coated. Smash each piece between your thumb and index finger until each piece is done. Repeat this process with the shortening. The ending mixture should look like well crumbled feta. Place this mixture in the fridge for about five minutes.
After five minutes, remove the bowl from the fridge. Use a rubber spatula to form a well in the middle of the mixture. Add cold buttermilk into the well. It will overflow. That’s okay. Mix until just moistened. Don’t over-mix!
Use a rubber spatula, that should have been in the fridge for a while, to pour this mixture onto a lightly floured surface. I use a silicone mat, but you can use a marble slab or a wooden cutting board. I don’t recommend plastic. It will stick way too much at that point. Lightly flour the top. Using well-floured hands, pat out into a round. Use a well-floured dough cutter to fold the dough in thirds. Pat into a round and fold into thirds again from the other side. Pat into a round and do this step one more time. Pat into a round.
Use a well-floured 2 1/2″ round cutter to cut the biscuits out. Cut as close as possible starting at the edge. Do an down and up motion to cut out the biscuits. Do Not TWIST! This will prevent the biscuits from rising, so make sure to avoid twisting.
Use a mini spatula to move the biscuits to your prepared pan. Place in the fridge for five minutes.
Take out of the fridge and dab the tops with melted butter.
Bake at 425°F for 10-14 minutes until golden brown. Out of the oven dab the tops with melted butter.
After dabbing the tops with butter, remove the biscuits from the pan by turning the pan over onto a plate or surface. Serve warm!
See how I do it:
- 2 cups White Lily flour + more for flouring surface and dough
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup chilled butter, cut into 1/4" pieces
- 1/4 cup chilled shortening, cut into 1/2" pieces
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Softened or melted unsalted butter for brushing.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Prepare your cake pan, pizza pan or ovenproof skillet. Butter the pan liberally.
Sift together the salt, baking powder and two cups of flour in a bowl. The bowl should be wide and not too deep.
Scatter the 1/4" size chilled butter over the flour and work in by rubbing fingers with fat and flour, like a snapping motion. Continue doing this until they are medium-sized round pieces, like well-crumbled feta cheese.
Do the same with the 1/2" size shortening pieces.
Shake the bowl occasionally to allow the larger pieces of fat to show themselves, so you can rub them out.
After this, place the bowl in the fridge for about five minutes.
Take the bowl out of the fridge and make a deep well in the center of the flour with the back of your hand. Pour 3/4 cup of buttermilk into the well and reserve 1/4 cup of buttermilk to the side.
Stire with a rubber spatula, using broad circular strokes to quickly pull the flour into the milk.
Mix until JUST combined. The dry ingredients should be moistened and the dough should begin to pull away from sides of the bowl. If there is some flour remaining on the bottom or sides of the bowl, stir in one to four tablespoons of the reserved 1/4 cup buttermilk. Just enough until the dough is shaggy and wettish. If it becomes too wet, add a bit more flour when shaping the dough.
Lightly sprinkle board or other clean surface with the reserved flour. Turn the dough out and sprinkle the top lightly with flour. With floured hands, fold the dough in half and pat dough out into 1/3 to 1/2" thick round, being mindful of the amount of flour your using. Flour, if needed, and fold again in half. If the dough is still clumply, repeat folding procedure.
With well-floured hands, pat dough out into 1/2" thick round for normal biscuit, 3/4" for tall biscuit and 1" for giant biscuits.
Brush off any visible flour from top and sides of biscuit. For each biscuit, dip a 2 1/2" round cutter into reserved flour and cut out the biscuits. MAKE SURE YOU DON"T TWIST THE CUTTER. Go up and down, don't twist. Start cutting out at the outer edge and cut very close together.
Scraps may be combined to make additional biscuits, but they'll be tougher than the first batch.
Use a metal spatula or scrapers to move biscuits to your prepared pan. Bake on the top rack for about 10-14 minutes or until lightly golden brown. After six minutes in oven, rotate pan then continue baking for about four to eight minutes.
When biscuits are finished and right out of the oven, brush the tops with the softened or melted butter.
Turn the biscuits out upside down on a plate and enjoy hot.
Biscuits are best fresh and day of. No exceptions. Sorry. Use unsalted butter. If you only have salted butter, decrease the salt in the recipe to 1/4 teaspoon. Keep everything cold throughout the process.
Last week, I promised you another easy recipe using leftover and/or stale bread. Well, here it is!
Bread pudding is a staple comfort dish. It’s incredibly easy to make. It’s versatile. You can easily transform the basic recipe into chocolate bread puddings or berry bread puddings and much more. They look beautiful and you have so many choices of toppings. If you serve these at your next brunch, your guests will be so impressed. I guarantee it. This is one of my absolute favorite ways to use leftover and stale bread.
For the bread, the key is using stale bread. As long as it’s slightly stale, you’ll be able to use it. If your bread isn’t stale yet, you can freeze it for a few days or bake it at 100°F for a few minutes. Both are great ways to slightly dry out the bread. I love using brioche buns that are typically leftover after using them for burgers. I’d definitely suggest using leftover brioche or croissants. They are great in bread puddings, because they’re already sweet and buttery. However, you can use any type of stale bread. I cut two sets of buns into medium sized cubes and set them in a bowl to the side. It comes out to a bit more than a cup and a half. The more the better. You can always freeze any leftovers for next time.
In a separate bowl, pour in the milk, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and whisk until well combined.
Butter the inside of the ramekins really well. Make sure to get the corners.
Place a large handful of the bread cubes into the ramekin. It should flow over the top of the ramekin. Once you feel satisfied with the amount, you can pour half the custard over the bread. Be careful…it’s a messy job! As you pour, make sure to get all the cubes some moisture. Also, as you pour, the cubes will sink, which will allow you to add the extra cubes on hand. Repeat with the second ramekin.
Place the ramekins on a sheet tray to prevent a mess with possible dripping. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350°F for 35-40 minutes. If you poke the custard with a pairing knife or bamboo skewer and it comes out with only a few moist crumbs, you know the custard is cooked perfectly. Not overcooked and dry, but not undercooked.
Let the bread puddings cool for about ten minutes. Serve warm with the topping of your choice! You can serve with ice cream, whipped cream made with Cream chargers at discount prices, cinnamon, powdered sugar or maple syrup. I do a combination of things, because…why not? In just under an hour, you have a delectable brunch dish that was beyond easy to make. Stale bread never tasted so good. Except when they’re croutons.
See how I do it:
- 1 1/2 cups stale bread, preferably brioche, but any stale bread will do
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- small pinch of salt
- unsalted butter for buttering the ramekins
Dice the bread into medium cubes, set aside in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Whisk until well combined. The custard is now done. Pour this mixture into a measuring cup. Place a handful of bread cubes into a well buttered ramekin. It should come up over the top of the ramekin. Pour half the custard mixture over the bread cubes. You should make sure each cube has a bit of moisture. It will sink slightly and as it does, you can add a few more bread cubes to the top. Pour more custard over those few. Do the same to the second ramekin. Place both ramekins on top of a sheet tray in a preheated 350°F oven, cover with aluminium foil and bake for 35-40 minutes. Another way to test doneness is to poke the custard with a bamboo skewer or pairing knife, if it comes out with a few moist crumbs, it's baked perfectly. Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack. Let them cool for about ten minutes. Serve warm with the topping you'd like. (maple syrup, ice cream, whipped cream, powdered sugar, cinnamon, etc. all good options)
Brioche and croissants are great options for bread pudding, but you can use any type of bread, if it's stale. You can dry out bread in a low heat oven for a few minutes or in a freezer for a couple of days. Serve warm. You can freeze the baked mini bread puddings for about a month, wrapped well. Reheat in the oven.
I’m the type of gal that hates wasting food. There already is a food crisis in many parts of the world and I do what I can to avoid contributing negatively to that already huge issue. I find that bread is one of the most common foods that goes to waste. I totally blame the bread companies. They stuff way too many slices of bread in the packaging. Even for a family of five, it’s too much. There is almost always a few slices that get left over or are on the verge of being no longer edible. Lucky for me, there are many ways to use up leftover bread. I decided I’ll show you two ways this week.
This is my first way. Croutons. I haven’t bought croutons in many, many years now. Why would I? They are extremely easy to make. All you need is some leftover bread and a few more ingredients and you’re well on your way to some delicious, crispy, homemade croutons.
I typically free my leftover bread before I use it. This is strictly because I usually notice the bread out of the blue. I place it in a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer. Freezing the bread gives me some time to figure out what I’m going to do with it. It’s like it pulls a Zack Morris and stops time. It’s really cool and it’s why the freezer is your friend. Typically, if you have a soft piece of bread, freezing it can help in the drying out process. Stale bread is key in the two recipes I’m going to show you, including these croutons. If your bread is still moist after freezing them, then you can always toast it on very low heat in the oven for a few minutes. If your bread is stale to begin with and you want to make these the same day, then no need to freeze! Just get started on ’em from the get-go.
I’m starting with some leftover French bread I had in the freezer. It’s probably two cups or two and a half cups of bread. This isn’t intended to be an exact recipe, although you can use it as so. It’s really a tutorial to show you what you can do with the leftover bread.
I place my bread pieces onto a sheet tray covered with a silicone mat. You can cut the bread into small little squares, but I don’t find it necessary. As long as you can fit the pieces in your mouth, it doesn’t have to be uniform and perfect. These are homemade croutons after all. Try to eliminate as many crumbs as you can, as those are too small and they’ll likely burn.
Drizzle olive oil over the top of the bread pieces. Sprinkle over some Italian seasoning, rubbing through your fingers to release the essential oils. Sprinkle a very small pinch of salt and grate some Parmesan or Pecorino over the top. You can eliminate the salt completely if you add cheese. Toss everything together on the tray. Drizzle a bit more olive oil on top.
Bake at 450°F for about 10 minutes. Check on it at the five minute mark.
Sprinkle some more Parmsean over the top and move to a bowl or storage container. Now you have them ready on hand for whenever you make salads or you can eat them as is for a great snack.
See how I do it:
- 2 1/2 Cups Stale Bread
- 1 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- 3-5 Tablespoons Olive Oil (be slightly liberal with it)
- 1/4-1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan or Pecorino (use half before cooking and half after)
- salt to taste (may not need with cheese added)
Toss everything together on a silcone mat or parchment covered sheet pan and bake at 450°F for about 10 minutes. Check on them at the five minute mark.
Out of the oven, grate more Parmesan or Pecorino on top. Croutons should be golden brown and crispy.
I'd ditch the salt completely if you're adding Parmesan or Pecorino. Recipe is not specific, because you don't have to have exactly 2 cups of bread. Use up whatever you have on hand. The amounts of everything else will obviously change if the quantity of bread changes. The key here is to start with stale bread. Also, don't over do it. It's easy to use too much cheese, oil, salt or seasoning. You can always add more, but you can't take it out. The oil is really used for color and flavor, but also to re-moisturize the stale bread. You be the judge of how much more or little you need.