by Chef Jenn Farmer
After a summer long boycott on turning the oven on, the temperatures have dropped. The ban has been lifted and the baking commenced. This coincidentally coincided with my son having an extra day off school, so I decided to take the opportunity (and like a responsible parent) to teach my son some educational stuff, whilst killing some time. I thought I would remind him what a kitchen is really about, not just the tasty food, but what it takes to get that food, produce it. I made a list of what I was going to attempt to teach him, hygiene, etiquette, mathematics, patience, the role of chemistry in cooking, and intrepid attitude toward trying new food. I know it was an ambitious list, but in my mind’s eye, the longer the list the more opportunities he had to “hit the target” so to speak. This is how I wanted to introduce him to baking. We made monkey bread, or bubble bread, and gorilla bread, which turned out to be a great jumping off point for us to begin in the kitchen together.
My son is only 5, so I had to help him with measurements, but found it to be a lot of fun, and more of a learning experience for both of us. He enjoyed helping, even with the dishes. We made the first batch from a basic sweet dough recipe. If you have never made or eaten “primate” bread, it is very easy, and fun to make. It is dough that is rolled in melted butter then cinnamon and sugar, then each blob is tossed into a oiled and floured Bundt pan, so when it bakes, it has spaces in between each, so it looks rustic, and is served by pulling the bread apart. We decided to do an experiment with the breads by making what is called gorilla bread. It’s the same as monkey, but small bits of cream cheese are wrapped by the dough then rolled in melted butter, but instead of cinnamon sugar, we used cocoa powder and sugar. We baked them up, and enjoyed the fruit of our labor. Both were very good, and we ended up freezing a bunch of the bread.
We started to have ideas for other types of monkey bread, Pizza bread, garlic bread, bacon and cheese, citrus smear, pecan and maple, cheesy bread, barbequed pork filled, or even curried bread were at the top of our experiment list. We entertained the idea of making fruit and brie filled monkey bread too. Even though we made our dough from scratch, many make it using biscuit dough from the freezer or cooler at the grocery, with good results. I really enjoyed the one that smeared a small quantity of pizza dough, and small cube of cheese enveloped in the raw dough, then the outside dipped in pizza sauce again. Then plop them into the Bundt pan.
PIZZA BUBBLE BREAD
- 8 ounces Mozzarella cheese cut into 48 cubes
- 2 pounds pizza dough (I used homemade, but the store bought works)
- one stick butter (one half cup) melted
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasonings
- One quarter cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups warm homemade or store bought marinara
Melt the butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds, or until melted. Add the Italian seasoning, stir in the seasonings, and Parmesan cheese. Lightly spray a Bundt pan or a couple bread pans, and set aside. Divide the dough into to two parts, then again. This will make it easier to cut pieces that are the same size. Cut them into bouncy ball sized pieces (smaller than a golf ball). Flatten the dough pieces, and place a cheese cube into each, sealing the dough around the cheese pieces. If you have one or two helpers, this is a good time to begin an assembly line. Dip each ball of dough in the melted butter, then in the dry Italian flavored spices, coating well. Plop the bread into the pan. Repeat until all the dough is used up Drizzle with butter or extra olive oil. Cover lightly to let rise, while the oven preheats to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until the bread is well browned. Remove from the oven and serve with the marinara sauce for dipping. Serves 8-15
I had a buttercup or kabocha squash, apples, several onions, a knob of ginger, and I decided to toss it all in a bit of oil and throw it in the oven to roast slowly. Most of the ingredients I left whole, except the squash which I cut in half. We didn’t worry about the seeds, we removed them after roasting, but once it was cooled enough to handle safely. My son helped me remove the seeds and scoop the messy squash out of the skin. Then we cut the apples in half, removed the seeds, and then squeezed the apple from their skins. I pureed up the caramelized onions, squash, ginger, and apple together in a blender. When it seemed to be thick, I used a little bit of apple cider from my fridge and processed it until it was a very velvety, delicious soup. It made a lot of soup, and I turned the leftovers into several different meals. I turned some of it into a different soup, by thinning it with chicken stock and adding. Some ground chills, chicken, cheese, hominy, corn, black beans, stale tortilla chips and some chopped cilantro. Very nice combination of flavor, but my favorite was the simplest. I poured the squash puree over some brown rice and ate it with very spicy jerk pork and sauteed spinach (I have begun to crave this again as I am writing this). I even put some of the puree into my pancake batter to make pumpkin waffles. I added vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon spices to the delight of my son, who loves that flavor combination.
After all the rich food, I was craving something crisp and fresh flavored. I found this recipe that I had not made in a while, and tried it out. I will be making it again in the near future, whenever family or friends visit, or for the next potluck I go to.
Thai Shrimp StirFry
- 1 and one half Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- One half tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons peanut or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter
- Black pepper
- 8 ounces cooked lobster meat (shrimp can be substituted)
- one small carrot, shredded
- one quarter cup shredded Napa cabbage
- cilantro sprigs
- half of a cucumber, peeled if the skin is bitter or thick
Whisk together the vinegar, fish sauce, oil, hot sauce, peanut butter, and pepper. Slice the cucumber thinly, and toss together with all the remaining ingredients and lightly toss in the vinaigrette. Eat and enjoy. Serves 8-12