Last night, after dithering the day away with a nap and errands, I was feeling particularly domestic and wanted to make a special meal for our "date night." So I made Italian bread and lasagna.
In theory, we would save money by NOT going out to eat and NOT seeing a movie, which would allow us to rationalize a book purchase at Barnes and Noble. Peter wanted to buy a Flash book (computer programming stuff), it was $50 and he could not justify it. I purchased 2 more books by Shannon Hale. The first book in her series is Goose Girl. It is located in Young Adult/Teen fiction. I listened to it over Christmas and enjoyed it. She is an LDS writer. The book is of the fantasy genre. It's a good read. She has 4 books in her Books of Bayern series. Goose Girl, Enna Burning, River Secrets, and Forest Born. Check it out if you are interested.
I have digressed, as usual. Back to the main focus - FOOD!
Here are the recipes- enjoy!
Yield: 2 loaves
3 c. warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 1/2 Tbs. (2 packets) active dry yeast
2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. sugar, divided
1 Tbs. salt
1/4 c. butter, melted
7-9 c. bread flour ( I used 8 cups)
1 egg white
1. In a small bowl, combine the water, yeast, 1 tsp. sugar. Stir just until yeast is dissolved. Cover with a small plate and let stand until the mixture is bubbly or foamy (5-10 minutes).
2. In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, mix the salt, the remaining sugar, butter, the yeast mixture, and 3 1/2 c. of the flour. Start mixing.
*Note- Here is where I diverge from the recipe. I added dough conditioner (3 Tbs.) and Vital Wheat Gluten (3 Tbs.). I subtracted 1/2 c. flour from the recipe for these two additions. These two products are available from Honeyville Grain Co. in 3.5 lb. cans. That's where I purchase them. I love Honeyville! They have a store here in Rancho Cucamonga off Milliken Ave. off of 7th Street. If you live here locally, check them out!
Back to the recipe:
Keep adding flour, 1/2 c. at a time, up to 3 cups for a total of 7 cups. The dough should be firm and completely away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is still sticky, add more flour 1/4 c. at a time, up to the remaining 2 cups. (I used a total of 8 cups).
3. Knead by hand on a lightly floured surface, or with the dough hook on low to medium speed, about 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl and turn it once to coat. Cover with a dish towel and let the dough rise in a warm place away from drafts until doubled in bulk, 20-40 minutes (I averaged 40 minutes in my convection oven set to the bread proofing setting. Check out your owners manual to see if your oven has this setting. I love it. A lot of the newer ovens have this setting. In case your owner's manual doesn't tell you, when you proof the bread at 100 degrees you the bread you want to rise on the middle rack and on the very bottom rack put a quart of BOILING water in a 9x13 pan on the very bottom shelf) Grease a baking sheet or sheet pan and set aside (I used my Pampered Chef stoneware large bar pan).
4. Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, form each half into a thick baguette shape, about 10 inches long. Place the loaves on the prepared pan. With a sharp knife, make three angled 1/2 inch deep slashes on the top of each loaf. Bead the egg white with a whisk and brush it over the loaves. Let the loaves rise uncovered until doubled in bulk 20-40 minutes (40 minutes again in the oven on the bread proofing setting with the water from before).
5. Meanwhile, transfer one loaf onto another greased baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaf for 30 minutes. Leave the water in the oven if you desire, the extra water helps you have moist bread. For a crisper crust, spray water in the oven with a spray bottle just before baking and again a few times during the baking (and remove the pan of water).
6. Turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack. Serve the bread hot if desired or allow to cool. Put olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a shallow dish and dip as an alternative to butter.
Variation: To make rolls, pinch off about 1 1/2 inch balls of dough for each roll and place side by side on a greased sheet pan. Let rise until doubled in bulk, 30-45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees until the rolls are lightly browned, 10-13 minutes.
Recipe adapted from the Food Nanny Rescues Dinner. My friend's older sister wrote this AWESOME book. Every recipe is a keeper! Believe me, I tried to prove her wrong. :)
Aunt Laura's Lasagna
This recipe is from Laura Harmon, my husband's aunt. She is another fantastic cook. I've adapted the recipe a little.
1 lb. of ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced (using my Pampered Chef garlic press, I LOVE this tool!)
1 medium finely diced onion
1 1/2 Tbs. parsley flakes
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 6 oz. cans tomato paste
1- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes1 1/2 Tbs. basil
3 Tbs. sugar
2 c. water
10 oz. lasagna noodles
3 c. cottage cheese
1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbs. parsley flakes
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, grated
Brown the hamburger with the garlic and onions in a skillet, drain the fat. Place hamburger back in the skillet. Add the parsley, salt, tomato paste. crushed tomatoes, basil and sugar and water. Simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes stirring constantly. Meanwhile, add noodles to boiling, salted water. Cook until tender and drain. Combine cottage cheese, with eggs, seasonings and parmesan cheese. Place a little meat sauce in the bottom of a 13x9 pan. Spread to cover the bottom of the pan. Place 1/2 noodles in the pan. Spread 1/2 cottage cheese mixture over the noodles, 1/2 the mozzarella sprinkled over that and then 1/2 the meat sauce. Repeat using the noodles, cottage cheese, a little mozzarella cheese, meat sauce and top with remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Place on a cookie sheet, because this dish gets bubbly and I am lazy and don't want to clean my oven.
Serves 8-10 people, gracefully.