Tuesday, September 09, 2008

MacGuyver Monday: Quick Breads

"Wait--it's not Monday," you say.

"Umm, yeah, somewhere in the world it probably is," I reply. "And I don't want to hear any international date line garbage. Just read about my biscuits."

It's the perfect time of year for kitchen sink soup, with cool evenings and garden full of lovely veggies begging to be used up. But man cannot live on soup alone. What can you serve with your MacGuyvered soup when you don't have time to bake? MacGuyvered bread.

The following three recipes are staples in my house. They are easy to make and I almost always have the ingredients for at least one of them.

Basic Biscuits

2 cups sifted flour
2 tsp. baking powder
4 tablespoons butter or oil
1/2 tsp. salt
about 3/4 cup milk

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in butter or oil. Add milk gradually and stir until a dough is formed. Turn out on slightly floured board and lightly "knead" for 30 seconds, enough to shape. Roll about half an inch thick. I cut them into squares instead of circles because it's so much easier, but you can cut them into any shape you want. Then, bake on ungreased sheet in a 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. This makes about a dozen.

I spice mine up with whatever we have in the pantry. Garlic cheddar biscuits are a hit at my house, as are rosemary parmesan. They sound and taste gourmet, but it's just a matter of throwing in a few pinches of extras.

Basic Cornbread

2 cups corn meal
1 cup white flour
4 teaspoons of baking powder
2 teaspoons of salt
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs
1 cup milk
Honey to glaze the top if desired

Mix corn meal, flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add sugar and melted butter.
Beat eggs and add to mixture along with milk.
Mix well by hand.
Pour into a greased 9 X 13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for
20-25 minutes until top of bread is light brown in color.
Spread a thin glaze of honey on the top of the cornbread and
return to oven for about 10 more minutes.
Cool slightly before serving.
This is a family sized recipe that makes a medium pan of cornbread. Again, the magic is in the add-ins. I like cheddar and green chili.

Crisp Flatbread

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour (or 1/4 cup more all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, chopped (optional)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil, for brushing (optional)
More chopped fresh herbs (optional)
More fresh ground salt
Toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Place a heavy baking sheet into the oven. Preheat to 450F.
In a bowl, stir together the flours, baking powder, salt and herbs. Make a well in the center and stir in the oil and water with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Lightly flour a work surface and knead gently four or five times.

Break the dough into three parts, then divide each into four pieces to make twelve. On a sheet of parchment paper the size of the baking sheet, roll the dough as thin as possible, working from the center out to fill the sheet. Brush the top with olive oil, sprinkle with fresh herbs and salt, any other toppings. Slip the parchment onto the hot baking sheet and bake for 8 - 10 minutes until the edges are brown and crispy and the top is golden and browned in places. For the most crispness, err on the side of brownness. Remove the parchment from the oven and let cool. Cover tightly to store. Repeat with remaining pieces.