A Decadent Sandwich (and Sourdough Brioche)

A few months ago, my mom shared her new diet theory with me.  It goes like this, if you want to eat something unhealthy, you have to make it yourself.  You want french fries?  Fine, go buy yourself some russet potatoes, cut them up, fry them, season them, and enjoy.  While I’m not sure I’m totally on board with this idea (I could see myself getting into some major trouble, especially during weeks when I’m not too busy with work) I can see the sense of it.  It allows for indulgences, but not for fast or processed food.  It also allows for more quality-control on ingredients.

I decided to put my mom’s theory to the test when I decided to make Saveur’s incredible-looking Ham, Cheese, Egg and Lemon Sandwiches this week.  And, yes, I wanted to use brioche like the recipe called for.  So instead of heading to a local bakery, I headed to the pantry and ended up with one of the most satisfying meals I’ve had in my new home.  Here’s how to do it in yours.

First, make the brioche.  I’ve been playing around with my sourdough starter recently and I decided I’d try using that instead of yeast.  I found this recipe online and it worked like a charm.  I had to start the day before in order to have time to reactivate my starter and for the dough to have a nice, slow rise in the refrigerator.  The next morning, I formed the rolls, let them rise again, and baked them in the afternoon.

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The buns were impossibly soft with a moist, airy crumb.  Yes, there is a lot of butter in there.  But I used pastured butter instead of conventional, which is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, CLA, and Vitamins A and K2 among other things.  I resisted the urge to try and add whole wheat flour to the dough because I didn’t want to risk making them too dense.  I’ve had recent sourdough baking experiments fall flat (pun intended).

Before moving forward with my grand sandwich plans, I had to make a cinnamon roll detour.

IMG_0288You see, I realized that I had enough dough for about a dozen brioche rolls.  Waaay more than I needed (or wanted) to consume.  I repurposed about 2/3 of the dough into cinnamon rolls figuring I would have no trouble getting Jeremy, his friends, or my coworkers to eat them.  Yes, I know it’s evil to foist one’s unwanted sweets on the workplace breakroom, but I haven’t had any complaints so far 🙂

With the bread situation handled, it was time to move on to the lemon curd.  I only made about 1/4 the recipe, a choice I may regret since this stuff is so darn tasty.

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Phew!  Ok, now it’s time for the next step.  For me it was going to the gym.  And when I got home, it was sandwich-time.

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Every bite.  So good.

Our neighbors’ chicken was very intrigued.

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Please share your favorite homemade indulgences!

Last year: Peanut Butter White Bean Blondies

Ham, Cheese, Egg, and Lemon Sandwiches

For each sandwich, you’ll need:
– 1 brioche bun, cut lengthwise
– 1 tsp butter
– 2 tsp lemon curd (see recipe below)
– 1 oz goat cheese
– 1 pastured egg
– 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
– salt and pepper
– 2 slices ham
– small handful salad greens

Melt butter on a skillet over medium heat.  Toast brioche, inner surfaces down until golden and crispy.  Transfer to plate; spread goat cheese on bottom half and lemon curd on top half.

In a bowl, whisk the egg.  Add to heated skillet and cook like an omelette with thyme, salt, and pepper inside.  Fold the omelette into quarters and place on top of goat cheese.

Place ham in skillet and cook just until nice and warm.  Place on top of the egg, followed by salad greens.  Place the second half of brioche bun on top.
Lemon Curd
makes about 1/4 cup

– 1 pastured egg yolk
– 3 Tbs sugar
– 3 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
– zest and juice of 1 small lemon

Whisk all ingredients together in a saucepan until smooth.  Place over medium-low heat and cook, whisking frequently until curd starts to resemble pudding, about 8 minutes.  Transfer to an airtight jar and chill for a couple hours before using.

 

 

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Cherry Tomato Focaccia

Bread-making is something of a tradition in my family.  My grandma, Alice, was famous in her Minnesota town for the making and sharing her perfect loaves of sandwich bread.  We would often spend part of our summer vacations at her lake cabin catching frogs, wakeboarding behind my uncle’s speedboat, and helping Alice make bread.  I still remember how satisfying it was to watch the dough slowly rise and then to punch it back down.  When my grandma passed away, each of the grandchildren were allowed to choose one item from her house (the same one my mom grew up in) to remember her by.  I took the enormous, battered bread pan.

My mom started her own tradition of making bread as a way to remember grandma Alice and she has become quite accomplished at it.  I gave it a few tries in my first post-college kitchens without much success.  I would have trouble getting the dough to rise, it would come out too dry, or after a day of work and care I would burn it.  I decided that perhaps I just wasn’t a baker and gave up for a while.  And then I made this focaccia.

Ok, so I burned it just a little but otherwise it was amazing.  I couldn’t believe that bread with such flavor and such a dense, springy crumb had come out of my kitchen.  On top of that, it was easy!  You make it over two days, which helped me sidestep the problem of bread-making becoming an all day project.  You just put the dough together, set it in the fridge, and forget about it until you have time to bake it the next day.

Who knows, maybe I’ll be tackling (and mastering) grandma Alice’s bread recipe next!

Cherry Tomato Focaccia
makes 1 large loaf
recipe adapted from the August issue of Vegetarian Times

Bread:
– 3 1/2 cups high-gluten bread flour, plus more for kneading
– 1 tsp instant yeast (you will need water and sugar to activate it)
– 2 tsp salt
– 1 Tbsp sugar
– 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for the bowl and the pan

Topping:
– 2 Tbsp olive oil
– 1 tsp thyme, chopped
– 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
– 1/2 tsp coarse salt

On the first day, activate yeast according to package directions.  Place flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and mix.  Add activated yeast, olive oil and 1 cup of water.  Use your hands to mix together until a soft, shaggy dough forms.  It should be quite soft and sticky, but still knead-able.  Add a little more flour if it seems too sticky.  Knead gently for a couple of minutes and then pour some olive oil over the dough so that it does not stick to the bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap or a cloth and set in the refrigerator to rise overnight.

The next day, take the dough out a few hours before you plan to bake it so it can reach room temperature.  Preheat the oven to 450 F.  Prepare a large baking sheet with parchment paper and gently stretch the dough into a large rectangle.  Let it rest for about 10 minutes and stretch a little bit more, dimple-ing the top with your fingers.  Drizzle 2 Tbsp olive oil over the top, sprinkle with salt, and press cherry tomatoes, sliced side up, into the dough.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

* I shared this post with this week’s Foodie FridayMelt In Your Mouth Monday, Mix it Up Monday, and My Meatless Monday.

Spelt Banana Bread (No added sugar or oil)

My long and leisurely spring break is coming to a close and it would be a tragedy if I didn’t get some baking in before classes begin again.  This wholesome banana bread is sure to keep me happy during my long day in the classroom tomorrow.

Especially if it's slathered in coconut butter.

My spring break was decidedly laid-back.  No beach vacations for this girl.  I stayed in Portland for some quality reading and kitchen time.  Other highlights include: my sister coming to visit (all the way from Ft. Worth, TX), a day of walking around in the sun and shopping with some girlfriends, game night, and seeing an AMAZING show with the bands Onuinu and Yacht.  (My boyfriend produced and mixed Onuinu’s record and plays drums in the live show…so of course I like them.  As for Yacht, I have never seen a show like theirs.  They are from outer space.  In a good way.)

But back to the banana bread.  I like this recipe because all of its sweetness comes from the bananas.  It’s got no added sugar, no oil, and it’s whole grain.  And it’s vegan, if that matters to you.  I hope you enjoy!

Spelt Banana Bread
makes 1 loaf
adapted from GB&J

Ingredients:
– 1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour
– 1/2 cup almond flour
– 1/3 cup rolled oats
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1/4 cup coconut milk (or other type of your choice)
– 5 ripe bananas (the riper they are, the sweeter the bread will be)
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/2 tsp almond extract
– 1/4 cup almond butter
– 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
– 1/2 cup walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, mix together flours, oats cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, mash the bananas well and mix in the vanilla and almond extracts, and the almond butter.  Alternatively, you can give all those ingredients a whirl in the food processor or blender.  I used my Vitamix, which was incredibly easy.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry just until combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Pour batter into a loaf pan and bake for 35-40 minutes.

* I added this post to this week’s Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Monday Mania, Real Food 101, and Make Your Own Monday.