salsa = summer

My mother-in-law has brought this for us a few times, and I’m a little more in love with it every time I eat it.

Watermelon Salsa

  • 4 cups chopped watermelon
  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallion
  • 1/2 large bell pepper (yellow or orange makes the best presentation), chopped fine
  • 1 large jalapeno, seeded and finely minced
  • 2-3 Tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

 

Mix the whole works together; chill  and serve. Serve with chips, or on top of a light meat like fish, chicken, or pork. Honestly,  I just eat this stuff by the spoonful.

“This is a caramel roll.”

(I have to learn to grab the camera during the process...)

sticky, gooey goodness.

Yesterday, Alice sat down at Penzey‘s where I was picking up some spices to color. When I was done checking out and walked over to inspect my artwork, she said, “This is a caramel roll.”

Well, Alice, I can take a hint. So last night, I mixed up the tried-and-true sweet batter for cinnamon and sticky buns from my favorite bread cookbook (The Bread Baker’s Apprentice). This time, I skipped nuts and fruit and modified the caramel recipe, and took what was a super-solid recipe into mind-blowing sweet roll goodness.

Without further ado:

Sarah’s Sticky Rolls

(adapted ever-so-slightly from Bread Baker’s Apprentice)

  • 6.5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5.5 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • 3.5 to 4 cups flour
  • 2.25 teaspoons instant yeast (the instant yeast is important. Forget active dry yeast if you want to bake bread; find a place you can trust that sells SAF instant yeast, an airtight container to store it in the fridge. For the investment, you’ll have far less frustration with bread.)
  • 1.25 cups buttermilk
  • .5 cup cinnamon sugar (6 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons cinnammon)

Caramel:

  • .5 cup granulated sugar
  • .5 cup brown sugar
  • .5 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • .5 cup agave syrup

For dough:

cream the sugar, salt, and butter together in a stand mixer using the paddle. Get it good and fluffy. Then whip in egg and zest until smooth and fluffy again. Then add the flour (start with 3.5 cups and reserve the last half cup to get your consistency right), yeast (this is why it is critical to have instant yeast… you can add it right in with the flour and don’t have to dissolve it in anything), and buttermilk. Mix with the paddle on low speed until the dough forms a ball; then, switch to the dough hook and knead (on 2 if you are using a KitchenAid mixer) for at least 10 minutes. I always spend about 5 minutes finishing the knead by hand, mostly because it is fun to have the girls help with this final part. Add your extra flour if you need it here; it’s more of an art than a science, but the dough should be silky, elastic, and should pass the windowpane test.

Put that bad boy in a big ceramic bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and put it somewhere warm to rise until double (I turn the oven on to 150 while I’m mixing, then turn it off once I start kneading. The lightbulb and pilot light, combined with the little bit of heat, make an excellent proofing box).

Mix up the cinnamon sugar sometime while you are waiting (it’ll be 2-4 hours, so plan accordingly).

Also while waiting, mix up the caramel. Melt the butter, sugars, and salt in a saucepan over as low of heat as you can tolerate. Once melted, but not at all browned, pour in the vanilla extract while whisking, then the agave syrup (still whisking). Remove from heat and pour into the bottom of the pan you’ll bake your rolls in (I like an old-fashioned 9×13 metal cake pan for this job).

To shape the rolls, turn out the doubled dough to an oiled surface (Pam on the countertop at this house). Use a rolling pin to make a 10×14 or so rectangle of dough. The most important thing here is to make it at least 2/3 inch thick; I like about 3/4 inch thick, personally… but I like fluffy, pillowy sticky buns. Once you have your rectangle, sprinkle it with the cinnamon sugar and then roll it up the long way, like a giant sweet dough cigar, making a cinnamon sugar spiral. Cut the dough cigar into 12 equal pieces, and put them on top of the caramel in the pan, giving them as much room as you can to expand. Put a lid on that badboy and toss it in the fridge overnight.

Grab the rolls out of the fridge 3 or so hours before you want to bake them so they can proof (yes, this may mean getting up at 5am, digging them out of the fridge, then crawling back into bed, if you are serving them at 9am).

Once proofed, crank up the oven to 350. Once fully heated, bake for 30-40 minutes on the bottommost shelf of the oven until golden brown and caramelicious. (Hint: I always make too much caramel, so it bubbles out of my pan. I have learned to add a drip pan to the bottom of my oven.)

Let rest for 5 minutes, then turn upside down onto a cookie sheet. Grab your coffee, a plate, and a napkin, maybe the NYT crossword, and enjoy.

Eat your heart out, NYC.

My finest parenting moments include the times I realize how broad my children's palates already are.

This morning, we made 14 everything bagels with ramp-chive cream cheese. We made them last year, too… and I have been dreaming of them ever since. So, needless to say, this is going to quickly become an annual tradition.

I use the bagel recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and I won’t republish the recipe here because I don’t mess with it (or any recipe from that book); they are perfect as-is. What I will say is, go buy this book if you want to bake bread. You’ll learn a ton and have every basic recipe you could want to master yeast breads.

14 bagels are too many for the three of us, so we made a random-neighbor-delivery to three friends in the ‘hood. Damn, it feels good to live in Nordeast.

And now, bagel eye-candy:

Crunchy, salty, spicy, savory goodness. That's what I'm talking about.

The waiting is the hardest part.

At last. Eat your heart out, New York.

Weekday Meals: Spring Pizza

A very kind neighbor brought over about a half-pound of morel mushrooms for us this week, which left us both extraordinarily grateful and pondering what the best way to enjoy them might be.

I’m a big fan of the morel in eggs, so I was surprised and intrigued when Dave said he was making pizza.

from L-R: dough, goat cheese, morels, mustard greens, dandelion greens, ramps, and bacon

We used Alton Brown’s pizza crust recipe, pureed the dandilion and mustard greens (a couple of cups worth of greens) with olive oil (a couple of tablespoons), salt and pepper that, and voila – sauce.

Dave sauteed the morels:

oh baby. mushrooms.

crisped up bacon, roasted whole ramps, scattered some thinly sliced ramps and some whole greens, added clumps of goat cheese, then layered it on all on the pizza stone.

Baked for 10  minutes, the result was phenomenal:

Now you understand why I married this man.

We’ll be making this again next ramp season. Five stars.

Minneapolis, Food City.

It’s always busy during May for us. So I’m probably more excited than usual to get to the Mill City Farmer’s Market for the first time this season.

Mill City has been “our market” since we met five years ago. It’s not the biggest, and it’s not the closest to our house, but it’s a fantastic bike ride over the Stone Arch Bridge. The Chef Shack is there. And there’s a ton of really high-quality food to bring home, to boot.

And it offers a list of food that makes my mouth water… case in point, this week’s list of goodies (it’s so helpful that the market is offering a Produce Planner this year!):

  • Asparagus
  • Morels
  • Green garlic
  • Ramps
  • Rhubarb
  • Radishes
  • Arugula
  • Spring salad mix
  • Spinach
  • Nettles
  • Fiddlehead ferns
  • Herbs
  • Salad turnips
  • Dried peppers
  • Baby bok choy

Drool. That is all.

My cheatin’ heart.

For years now, Rustica has been my go-to bakery. It’s also been the gold standard I strive to meet in my own journey toward mastering the art of baking.

Until today.

As we drove to work this morning, Dining with Dara highlighted Sunstreet Breads, on 46th and Nicollet. Now, Dara knows a thing or two about good eats here in the metro, AND 46th and Nic is conveniently a quick stop on my morning commute, so I convinced the carpool to stop in.

I bought three baguettes and a blueberry cream cheese kolache. This cream cheese kolache:

Yes, I got halfway through this pastry before I thought to take a picture of it. It was THAT good.

And while the pillowy donut-meets-sweet roll texture of the kolache is really nothing like the buttery, flaky, crumbly base of most Rustica pastries, I have to say that it perhaps tasted even better with my coffee. Maybe. However, the baguette! Oh, the baguette. Dara, you have never steered me wrong before, and I daresay Sunstreets’s baguette outshines Rustica. Gasp. There, it’s out there and I’m not ashamed. The crumb: amazing. The flavor: clean and elegant, yet complex, with notes of milkiness, a little salt, and the perfect bite. I want to bottle the aroma and sell it as perfume. Lawd.

So now, I have a cheating problem. I’ve been in  a relatively monogamous bakery relationship with Rustica for years… and I’m not ready to leave her. But Sunstreet, you are oh-so good at what you do, too. I’m a two-timing, bakery loving fool, and I just can’t help myself.