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Three Ways To Enjoy Bread

20 Aug

I love bread! I don’t discriminate, I love just about every kind of bread. Wheat, Italian, ciabatta, cinnamon raisin, banana, bagels, croissants, sourdough, rye, pumpernickel, rolls, buns, Hawaiian, doughnuts, pizza…pretty much if it has some combination of flour, water, salt, sometimes yeast then I will probably love it. A little over a year ago an awesome friend of ours Alex made us homemade buns and breads while we were at his house. Since I enjoy cooking it was no surprise that Alex’s delicious hamburger buns inspired me to go home and begin making my own breads. Though I am no expert, I am always trying different ways of using bread at home. Everything from basic white loaves to pizza doughs to desserts. This weekend was no exception. Per usual, I was feeling a burning in my culinary bosom. We had a colleague over Friday night and I wanted to do something Italian. Saturday we watched an enticing episode on Food Network called The Best Thing I Ever Made and an episode of Guy’s Big Bites. The weekend resulted in a lot of delicious variations in the wonderful world of bread.

Friday night we decided to make an Italian themed dinner for a colleague of mine and her fiancé. We needed to go get ingredients for my homemade pesto and chicken pasta, bruschetta, garlic bread, and homemade cannolis. We decided this was a perfect opportunity to visit Lenoard Labriola’s Italian market. If you are needing ingredients for an Italian dish, this is the place to go. They have every kind of pasta type you could imagine. I did not make bread for this evening because they have fresh loaves of Italian bread that looked irresistible. Oh and by the way you must get some of their imported Pecorino Romano cheese, it is fabulous. The combination of fresh bread and perfectly aged cheese led to amazing bruschetta, which was made by brushing small slices of the bread with olive oil and lightly toasting them under the broiler. After the toasting I rubbed each piece with a fresh sliced clove of garlic, which add the perfect spice to the bread. Each slice was topped with fresh diced Roma tomatoes and fresh chopped basil. It was finished with a llight dusting of the imported cheese. The four of us ate the entire plate (before dinner).

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Saturday morning we woke up and caught the end of the show The Best Thing I Ever Made (this show is guaranteed to make you hungry) and saw the chefs making from scratch, Dulce de Leche churro tots. These deep fried morsels of goodness are covered in cinnamon/sugar and are served with homemade Dulce de Leche. You need to take the time to try these stat!

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The highlight of this dish is the homemade Dulce de Leche. The downside of this dish is the homemade Dulce de Leche. Homemade Dulce de Leche is super yummy-its buttery, creamy, sugary; however, it requires a lot of elbow grease. To make Dulce de Leche you have to stir sugar, milk, and baking soda, ALOT! It took over an hour for our ingredients to caramelize, Morgan and I did the stirring in shifts. The downside was that our shoulders were sore the next day; the upside is that we burned enough calories for at least one of the many churros we ate (The recipe is loaded with sugar and butter). I recommend saving the stirring for your teenage son or daughter if they have upset you that day-an effective punishment with a delicious outcome. Let me caution you that when the Dulce de Leche is made, you will want to eat it with a spoon-do so in moderation less you want to nap for the rest of the week. I decided to also make a semi-sweet chocolate ganache (made by melting chocolate with cream that is brought to a boil) to go with the dessert. Also, unless you are making these treats for a small army, you may want to cut the recipe in half. We made roughly 3 dozen churros, many of which had to be thrown out. They lose their crispy goodness after a few days, though they do reheat fairly well. We also had plenty of Dulce de Leche leftover so Morgan made chocolate chip caramel cookies tonight.

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Pre-Dulce de Leche

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Post-Dulce de Leche (1 hour 15 minutes later of non-stop stirring)

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Yes that is butter, yes that is almost two sticks, no its not good for you. ( worry about that tomorrow).

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The dough is made by cooking the flour with melted butter and brown sugar. You will want to eat it but just wait it gets better.

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Notice the difficult finger dropping technique (its French).

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By Sunday we had topped bread, fried and dipped bread–so I guess all that was left was to stuff bread. I am big fan of Guy Fieri and he has an excellent Stromboli recipe that I wanted to try. The dough is very basic and easy to make just give yourself enough time to let it rise. I varied the recipe just a bit. I decided to use pepperoni, salami, and deli ham as the meats. For the cheeses I decided on mozzarella and Amish pepper cheese in lieu of pepper jack. The Amish pepper cheese is similar (Though I think its a little hotter). Its made with a white cheddar instead of Monterey jack, which gave the sandwich a really nice creaminess and a bit of spice.
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I also added a tad bit more basil and a bit of sugar to the marinara sauce, which is very easy to make. The marinara is great left over for other dishes like pasta for lunch the next day.

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A word of caution, the pepperoni is an oily meat. When baking the Stromboli the oil has a tendency to leak from the bread and can make the oven smokey. Or in my situation, it can make the smoke alarm go off. Luckily, the taste of the the Stromboli was not effected by this small mishap. I blame myself for overstuffing the Stromboli, but hey who doesn’t love meat and melted cheese? The Stromboli reheats very nicely and is a wonderful dish to add to the rotation.

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Cutest sou chef ever! Everyone gets involved when making delicious food.

I hope you are now very hungry, so go and indulge in the carby goodness that is bread, Atkins is overrated!

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Oakmont Bakery

25 Jul
The Oakmont Bakery
531 Allegheny Avenue
Oakmont, PA 15139
http://www.oakmontbakery.com
 

As some of you know, I am a podcast junkie. I love all kinds of podcasts. I have been known to use some fun fact or interesting bit of information as an illustration in my classes. I could go on and on about all the different podcasts that I love such as This American Life or Stuff You Should Know. The other day I was listening to a very interesting story on Freakonomics about social psychology and the power of social influence. They had a professor from the University of Arizona explaining how individuals are more likely to engage in a particular behavior if they think that others are engaging in that behavior. To me this makes sense. When we don’t know how to do something the first thing we often do is look around to see what others are doing. What is interesting is that we often don’t like to admit that we are influenced by what others are doing. I think some of this has to do with our culture and how we are raised. We get early messages that tell us to stand strong against peer pressure. We have all had our mom use the question, “if all of your friends jump off of a bridge would you jump too?”, as a response for not letting you go out with your friends when you were younger. Now sometimes this is a protective response to prevent you from getting in trouble; however, there are times when doing what everyone else is doing is exactly what you need to be doing–and there are a lot of people frequenting the Oakmont Bakery. For those in Pittsburgh I am very confident that you have heard of this Mecca of treats. If you have not made the trek to The Bakery you should go, seriously stop reading this and go…now!

When you arrive there is high likelihood that you will have trouble finding a place to park, especially if you go on a Saturday morning. There is a reason that everyone is venturing to this northeastern Pittsburgh ‘burb….it’s freakin awesome. The crowds alone attest for this. Don’t let them deter you from waiting. The staff at The Oakmont Bakery are used to its popularity and move through the customers very quickly…just make sure you grab a number.

When you walk in The Oakmont Bakery you will immediately be taken back by its size. It is the largest bakery in which I have ever been. As you approach the glass cases your mouth starts to water as you see every baked treat you could possibly imagine waiting for you to make a decision as to which you will eat at this particular visit. The 2010 Retail Bakery of the Year has an amazing assortments of breads, cakes, cookies, pies, cupcakes, cake rolls, doughnuts, croissants, sandwiches, coffee/espresso, cup cakes, cheesecakes and more. It’s dessert heaven! Let me recommend one of their cupcakes and thumbprint cookie to start you off. I have already been here a few times and I cant get enough. The first time we went I got the red velvet cupcake, a fruit tart, and a chocolate thumbprint cookie. Another time we tried the carrot cake cupcake, I love carrot cake, and the Oakmonter cupcake. The carrot cake was good not too sweet topped with a cream cheese icing. The Oakmonter is a variation of a cupcake that I would recommend on your next visit. Its cheesecake, topped with chocolate ganache, topped with a brownie, topped with chocolate frosting. Super rich but so yummy! Most of their cupcakes have a bit of icing in the middle of the cake for a nice extra sweet surprise. We usually get a cinnamon doughnut hole for Gray each visit for a nice sized, easy to eat treat for him. In our most recent visit we decided to have a go at the sandwiches. I got the chicken sandwich on ciabatta and Morgan got the chicken salad on their croissant. We also got a cup of their wedding soup. Every sandwich comes with chips and your choice of a cookie. I got the iced sugar cookie, it was of course wonderful. The bread on both sandwiches was great. I think we both loved the chicken salad on the croissant the best. The croissant was so light and buttery (sorry we ate it before we could get a picture). The chicken on my sandwich was just ok. The soup was really good and satisfying.

I still plan on going back to continue trying all the deliciousness that is at your disposal inside The Oakmont Bakery. So when your mom asks “if all your friends gained 5 lbs eating at The Oakmont Bakery would you?” Answer with a resounding yes because sometimes it is great to be socially influenced.

Oakmont Bakery on Urbanspoon

Moio’s Italian Pastry Shop

5 Jul
Moio’s Italian Pastry Shop
4209 William Penn Highway
Monroeville, Pennsylvania
http://www.morios.com
 

One of my favorite things to partake in is dessert. I have a sweet-tooth and I love to indulge it! I have driven by Moio’s many times since moving here but have never stopped in. This pastry shop is awkwardly located in a small strip mall next to one of the “Beer-Lottery” stores at a busy intersection near the I-76 entrance ramp in Monroeville. Nothing about its location particularly draws one in other than the fact that you know its a Italian pastry shop that must be full of delicious treats. Two weeks ago I decided to go for a run, I am in the process of training for a half marathon. I did my first half earlier this year and now I want to do another. I hope to do a marathon after this. Interestingly, I used to hate running–I mean I despised it. However, I have learned to love running (mostly after the encouragement of my brother and then later my wife both who have ran marathons) and discovered a few things: 1) I enjoy setting goals for myself and achieving them, 2) It makes me feel healthy, 3) I feel more liberated to freely eat pastries when the mood strikes. I guess I have a mild sweets obsession. There is something about a really good run where I feel like I am owed a treat. I reward myself for a job well done. I had a really good run two weeks ago. I did 3 miles on a course with rolling hills. Now I don’t obsess over a treat after every run I complete, at some point it becomes counterproductive. However, this particular day I was running a new route at a new location. On the way home I drive past the bright red, white, green sign and the mood strikes me to pull in to see what Moio’s is all about. As I walk up I am not sure what to expect. The door boasts a rather large neon “Open” sign and the windows display decorated cake mock ups. Once you walk in you see small tables on the left and a horseshoe of display cases full of the most decadent looking pastries in front of you. Both times I have been to Moio’s, at least 6 other people have been inside preparing to indulge there sweet-tooths as well. Now just because a lot of people enjoy a restaurant doesn’t mean I will. I have never seen the Golden Corral not busy but, come on, you are paying for quantity not quality there. But the location of Moio’s does not lend itself to draw people inside unless the product inside is truly legit. As you look around at the pastries, you quickly see that there is an authentic Italian influence.  One of my favorite desserts in the whole world is an Italian cannoli and Moio’s Italian Pastry Shop makes one of the best cannoli’s I have ever had. They hand fill each cannoli to order with either a creamy ricotta filling or a rich chocolate custard or both. I highly recommend both. The pastry shell is flaky and flavorful. The filling, unlike many cannoli’s I have had, is not too sweet its the perfect balance of creaminess and sweetness in the ricotta. They also boast a delicious pasticciotti  and sfogliatelle. I have not had these yet but I am sure its only a matter of time before I return. After my first experience with the cannoli, I have been craving them ever since. I took my wife and son back to Moio’s earlier this week where we got, of course, another cannoli and some of their Italian cookies. Now if you have not had an Italian cookie you are missing out. Moio’s sells all their cookies by the pound so you can mix and match however you wish. The cookies are extremely light and crumbly, they almost melt in your mouth. So be prepared for a little mess. I recommend the raspberry filled, Morgan loves the jelly filled, and Gray loves everything, he is a bottomless pit (though he did gobble up the butter cherry cookie very quickly). Moio’s also has an assortment of cakes, pies, and other pastries that shouldn’t be missed. If you are on the east side of Pittsburgh and you feel your sweet tooth acting up, make a trip over to Moio’s and try the hand filled cannoli.

Moio's Italian Pastry Shop on Urbanspoon

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