Hamburgers & Buns

Hamburgers!  You guys must be thinking that I finally got a grill, right?  After all that time at the apartment coveting our neighbor’s grill, smelling the sweet smoky aromas that wafted up to our second floor windows, but knowing that we were not renewing our lease, so getting one would be a pain.

And now we have a house, so there’s no excuse to not have one, so of course we do have one…it’s just that it’s still in the box.  Yeah, I know, for shame.  Hear me out though, the assembly instructions are as thick as a science textbook, and I might be good at Ikea assembly, but there are no gas lines and fire and heat running through my Ikea furniture.

I’m just afraid to mess it up, and so is Luke, but getting a father person over to our house to help set it up has proven difficult.  So in the box it will stay, probably until after the wedding.

I cooked these burgers in a pan on the stovetop, setting off the smoke detector no less than twice, even though the hood fan was on.  Of course I made my own buns (they were huge, I had no idea they’d rise so much…and many large “bun” jokes ensued).

I doctored mine up with some sautéed mushroom, cheddar cheese, and a caramelized pineapple ring, in addition to some parsley for greenery because for some reason I had forgotten to buy lettuce.

Please disregard my veiny hand

Neither of the boys (Diego and Luke) complained since I’m pretty sure they are both allergic to all green, leafy foods.  I also made some oven fries to accompany our burgers.  Definitely a good meal for our first entertaining stint in the new house.

Homemade Hamburger Buns

Adapted from Foodie Bride

Makes 8-12 buns

1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast

1 cup lukewarm water

2 Tbsp oil (vegetable, canola, or olive) plus more for greasing the rising bowl

2 large eggs

3 Tbsp sugar

3 ¼ cups flour

1 tsp salt

In a large bowl, add warm water and sprinkle the yeast over top. Let sit 10 minutes, until frothy.  Add the, oil, 1 egg, and sugar to the bowl.  Add the flour and salt and mix until the dough holds together, about 2 minutes. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl. If not, add additional flour by the Tbsp.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for 5 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a large bowl that has been lightly greased with oil.

Cover it with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1-1 ½  hours.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.  Turn out the dough back out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough in half and each half into 4-6 pieces (make them smaller than you might think for a bun, they will rise).  Roll into rounds and flatten with the palm of your hand onto the baking sheet; placing buns about ½ -1 inch apart.  Cover with a damp towel and let them rise for 20 minutes + oven preheating time.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk the remaining egg with 1 Tbsp water.  Brush the buns with the egg wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Classic Hamburgers

 A Bashful Bao Original

Makes 4 patties

1 ½ lb 80/20 ground beef*

salt and pepper


8 oz button mushrooms

1 Tbsp olive oil

4 pineapple rings

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1 Tbsp butter

slices of cheddar cheese

condiments of your choosing

Season the ground beef with salt and pepper and form it lightly into 4 patties.  Be careful not to handle the beef too much, the more you handle it, the tougher your burgers will be.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Once the skillet is hot, place the patties in the skillet.  Cook until the meat is fully cooked on the underside, about 3-5 minutes, then flip them over and continue cooking to your desired level of doneness.  Remove from skillet, place on sesame buns and top with your favorite accoutrements.

For these burgers, I sautéed the mushrooms until soft in olive oil with a sprinkling of salt, pepper and smoked paprika.  I also sautéed the pineapple rings in butter and brown sugar until brown on both sides.  And of course, a nice slice of sharp cheddar.

*For hamburgers, you really want to use an 80/20 mix of ground beef.  You need that fat to ensure that it retains moisture.  Anything leaner and you will have a very dry hamburger.


Thyme Honey Flatbreads

With an intense line-up of summer produce baked goods on the way, I thought I’d keep things fresh by mixing it up as we go along.  You can only look at so many berry recipes before they become less and less attractive, the novelty of summer’s bounty slowly fading, giving way to ambivalence .

So, in order to make sure we all stay really excited about berries, cherries, and stone fruit, I’m gonna throw in an occasional monkey wrench.  Something simple, nothing too fancy; recipes that might come in handy if you’re planning on having one more party before the kiddies go back to school and summer turns into glorious fall.

Oh man.  I cannot wait until fall.  But let’s shove those feelings aside and try to enjoy the present.  However muggy and oppressive that present might be.

Flatbreads.  I love flatbreads.  I like tearing them apart and smearing them through a big bowl of hummus, or making them into little pizzas.  Or just noshing on them late at night because they’re so darn tasty on their own.

This particular version features thyme, which I grow in a tiny pot on my porch.  If you are without access to fresh thyme, you can easily sub in dried, or feel free to use different fresh herbs; may I suggest rosemary, dill, basil or oregano?  Fabulous.  You could even top them with some of this salsa.

Thyme Honey Flatbreads

Adapted from The Baker Chick

Makes 3 large flatbreads

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp thyme leaves, removed from stem, divided use
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
½ cup water

2 Tbsp honey
1/3 cup olive oil plus more for brushing
sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 450°F and put a heavy baking sheet or pizza stone on rack in the middle.

Stir together flour, 2 Tbsp thyme leaves, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in center, then add water, oil and honey, and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Knead dough gently on a work surface 4 or 5 times.

Divide dough into 3 pieces and roll out 1 piece (while keeping remaining pieces covered with a kitchen towel so they don’t dry out) on a sheet of parchment paper into a 10-inch round.  Don’t worry about making a perfect circle, just make sure the dough is thin.
Lightly brush top with additional oil and scatter small clusters of remaining thyme on top, pressing in slightly. Sprinkle with sea salt. Slide round (still on parchment) onto preheated baking sheet or pizza stone and bake until pale golden and browned in spots, 8-10 minutes. Transfer flatbread to a rack to cool and discard the parchment paper, then repeat the process with each of the remaining dough balls.

Store the flatbread in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.


Maple Blueberry Granola Swirl Bread

This wonderful loaf of bread keeps in line with yesterday’s theme of combining two different kinds of baked good together.  Today, instead of cupcake on cookie action, we’ve got granola swirled and baked inside a loaf of bread.

I first attempted this loaf while still in college.  Back then, my knowledge of yeast wasn’t as large as it is now, and I used rapid rise instead of active dry.  This resulted in a dense dough that was extremely difficult to knead and didn’t cook through in the middle.  The bread turned out rather hard to cut, and eating it was great exercise for my jaw.

Next time I’m making two smaller loaves.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed every slice of it.  You can imagine my joy at making it this time with the correct type of yeast.  The dough was soft and malleable, and the resulting bread was fluffy and delicious.

But let’s not forget about that granola swirl.  I can’t seem to get enough of carbs.  Using maple syrup, brown sugar and dried blueberries as sweeteners, the granola is amazingly tasty in its own right, and I wish I had made a double batch to keep some around for snacking.

Maybe I’ll go do that now.  Whether you make extra granola or not, this loaf of bread is sure to please.  The added sweetness from the granola makes this a great snacking bread, as well as a good candidate for bread pudding or french toast.

I just want to dive right in…hmm maybe I’ve been watching the Olympics too much…

Maple Blueberry Granola Swirl Bread

Adapted from Sugar Plum

Makes one very large 9×5” loaf*

For the bread:

1 cup warm milk, divided (100°-110°F)
1 tsp+ ½ cup sugar
2 ¼ tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
4 Tbsp melted unsalted butter, divided use
3 large eggs, at room temperature, divided use
4 Tbsp pure maple syrup, divided use
1 ¼ tsp salt, divided use
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups bread flour
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (or you can use all all-purpose)

For the granola:
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup finely chopped pecans
2/3 cup old fashioned oats
1/3 cup sweetened dried blueberries

First make the dough.  In a large bowl, mix together ½ cup warm milk, 1 tsp sugar and yeast until combined and let sit for 10 minutes or until it’s all foamy. Add 2 Tbsp melted butter, additional ½ cup milk, ½ cup sugar, 2 eggs, 3 Tbsp maple syrup, 1 tsp salt and vanilla to yeast mixture and mix until well combined. Mix in bread flour and all-purpose flour until combined and the dough comes together.  Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 5 minutes on a lightly floured surface, adding flour as necessary to keep the dough from being too sticky.  Place in a large mixing bowl lightly covered with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm area for 1-2 hours or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a small cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Coat the insides of a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.  *I would advise you to prepare two loaf pans if you can.  My loaf ended up being so large I had to form it into an “s” shape to fit it into the pan (see photo above).  Next time, I’ll make two smaller loaves.

Next make the granola.  In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 Tbsp melted butter, the last 1 Tbsp maple syrup, additional ¼ tsp salt, brown sugar and cinnamon until well combined. Stir in pecans and oats until combined. Evenly spread the mixture onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until granola is fragrant and golden brown. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in blueberries until combined.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into an 11×15 inch rectangle. Brush dough with remaining Tbsp melted butter. Sprinkle granola evenly on top, leaving a 1/2” border. Starting at one end, roll the dough up jelly roll style, pinch and tuck ends under, and place in loaf pan. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Whisk remaining egg together with a Tbsp of water and evenly brush on the surface of dough. Bake for 20 minutes, cover with foil, and bake an additional 35-40 minutes or until internal temperature of bread reaches 180 degrees F and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Cool pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes before removing bread to a wire rack to cool completely.



Ricotta Herb Bread

Happy Birthday America, you get some…bread?  Ok, so maybe I’m not the most patriotic person in the world, but hey, if someone gave me a loaf of bread on my birthday, I’d be absolutely thrilled.

How about a cute bunny photo?  Sorry I can’t post the one of Izzy surfing on my back, my new card reader has yet to arrive.

Back to bread.  I don’t think I’ve met a bread I didn’t like, except for seeded rye.  Caraway seeds are the devil.

I always end up buying a big container of ricotta when it goes on sale, and then it sits in the back of the fridge until I have lined up enough recipes to use it up within two weeks.  I am not the kind of person to eat ricotta straight up with a spoon, or try to convince the soon-to-be hubby that bruschetta is totally a legitimate dinner.

So once that container’s open, it’s up to me to find ways to essentially conceal its inclusion in our food so Luke will still eat it.  I got super lucky with the gnocchi.  He ate it, and actually thought it was decent, despite the fact that it contained sweet potatoes and ricotta.  Score.

Back to bread.  Bread is innocuous.  It’s innocent; I mean who doesn’t like bread?  No one has to know there’s ricotta in it, unless that’s a selling point for you, as it is for me.

The ricotta makes this bread nice and soft, while the fresh herbs scattered throughout the dough add a touch of extra flavor that really goes a long way.  Have a Happy Fourth of July, everyone!  We can’t wait until next year, when we can host a party of our own at our house!!!

Ricotta Herb Bread

Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook

Makes one round loaf

¼ cup milk, heated to about 115 degrees F

1 package active dry yeast

½ Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

1 cup ricotta cheese

2 large eggs, divided use

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp ground pepper

½ cup snipped fresh herbs (I used a mix of thyme, parsley, sage and oregano)

2 to 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

Pour the milk into a large bowl and stir in the yeast and sugar.  Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.  Beat the butter, ricotta, 1 egg and salt into the yeast mixture with a whisk; then whisk in the pepper and herbs.  Stir in enough of the flour, 1 cup at a time, to make a soft dough form.  Knead on a floured surface for 5-10 minutes.  Place the dough in a large greased bowl.  Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Punch the dough down and shape it into a rough circular loaf.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, cover with the towel, and let rise again for about 45 minutes.  Near the end of its rise, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut three long strokes in the dough with a sharp knife.  Whisk the remaining egg with 1 Tbsp water, and use this mixture to brush the loaf all over.  Bake until the loaf is nicely browned, about 45-50 minutes.  I added some grated Parmesan on top at about the 30 minute mark.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack, then slice and serve!

Everything Drop Biscuits

Ever have a day that makes you want to collapse on your bed/couch/floor the minute you get home?  Yesterday was one of those days for me.  What was the cause of this horrific day, you ask?  Well, even if you weren’t asking, I’m going to tell you anyway.  It all started with an oil change.

A simple oil change, or so I thought.  Sometimes I feel like going to the mechanic is like taking a loved one to the doctor.  After an examination has been completed, the mechanic comes out to tell you what he’s found.  He sits in the chair next you with his clipboard, uses jargon you don’t really understand, delivering his bad news apologetically.

My baby…I mean car, had an oil leak, the exhaust pipe was at the end of its life, and my tires were badly worn, to the point where one had started cracking.  But what can one do in a situation like that?  The repairs must be made.

Four hours later.  I am starving, unable to concentrate on the book I brought because of hunger, so I stare reproachfully at everything and everyone, showing my disdain at how long I have been sitting in an uncomfortable chair.

My car is in much better shape now (it runs so quietly with its new exhaust pipe) so thankfully there was an upside to the day.  I only wish that I had the forethought to grab a biscuit on the way out.  At least I remembered to grab a book.

These biscuits are soft, tender and super yummy.  I especially like how some pieces of cheese don’t melt away into the biscuit dough, and you find these little cheese pockets during your noshing.  It’s wonderful.

Everything Drop Biscuits

Adapted from How Sweet Eats

Makes about 20-24 biscuits (I halved the recipe and got 11)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour (or more all-purpose)

½ tsp sugar

4 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 ¼ cups milk

6 ounces freshly grated mozzarella cheese (or cheddar)

For the everything topping: 2 Tbsp melted butter, ½ Tbsp dried minced onion, ½  Tbsp sesame seeds, ½ Tbsp poppy seeds, 1 tsp dried minced garlic, 1 tsp ground sea salt.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Mix dried onion, garlic, sea salt, poppy seeds and sesame seeds together in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda, and whisk until combined. Using a fork, pastry blender or your hands, add butter pieces to the flour and mix until coarse little crumbles remain. Add in cheese. Pour in milk and stir with a spoon until just combined; do not overmix. Use your hands if needed to bring the dough together, it might be easier.

Use a large spoon to drop batter onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, then use a biscuit cutter to shape the dough into rounds. (I didn’t bother with this step, since I like the shape of drop biscuits.)  Brush with melted butter, then sprinkle each biscuit with the everything topping. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until biscuits are golden brown.  Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pesto Swirl Bread with Queso Fresco

Having guests over for dinner reminds me that I really like having people over for dinner.  We hadn’t entertained in a while, and I had forgotten how much I enjoy it.

Only now that I have this lovely little food blog, taking pictures of my dishes in larger company takes a little explaining.  Like yesterday, when I arranged my plate full of food, tweaked the positioning of some items, then picked up the entire place setting and transported it back into the kitchen for better light.

Thankfully Luke explained why I was leaving the table so abruptly, and I didn’t feel too embarrassed.

On a random side note, there was a point in the dinner, closing in on Izzy’s dinner time, that I peered around the corner of the dining room to spy on her, only to find her sitting at the closest end of the pen glaring at me.  I think she was trying to send me rabbit-hypno vibes.  It was kind of creepy but cute at the same time.  Also, we have a family of rabbits living in a bush near the back of our apartment.  Now I get to watch two sets of rabbits!!

While I make bread of course.  I had some leftover pesto from the chili recipe I posted about earlier this week, and wanted to do something different with it.  Different meaning not smother pasta with it.  So I smothered some dough with it.  Then I topped the pesto smothering with a layer of queso fresco.

Totally delicious, though I suppose you can make the queso fresco optional.  Or sub in feta or goat cheese.  Either which way, if you are a pesto lover, you will unequivocally enjoy this bread.

Pesto Swirl Bread with Queso Fresco

Adapted from Mmm is for Mommy

Makes one 9×5” loaf

¼ cup warm water
1 package dry active yeast
¾ cup buttermilk, lukewarm
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1/3 cup pesto

1 cup crumbled queso fresco, feta, or goat cheese

In a large bowl, combine the yeast, warm water and sugar and let sit for 5 minutes or until it starts to foam.  Add in the buttermilk, oil, flour, baking soda and salt.  Mix for about a minute until the dough starts to form.  Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead, adding flour if dough is too wet or water if dough is too dry.  Knead for 3-5 minutes.  Form the dough into a ball, spray a large bowl with non-stick spray or olive oil, put the dough in the bowl, cover it with a towel and let it rise for an hour or until doubled in bulk.

When doubled, remove dough and place on floured board and roll into a rectangle approximately 9 x 13 inches.  Brush with pesto, then sprinkle the cheese over the pesto layer and roll up like a jellyroll, pinching seam and ends firmly to close (roll the shorter side, the roll should be the right size to fit in your loaf pan).   Place into a greased 9 x 5” loaf pan and cover with towel and let rise for another 1 ½ hours.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until done and hollow-sounding when tapped.  Let cool on wire rack completely before slicing.

Tomato Basil Rolls

A model bunny for Hop Day.  To me, this pose says “No, darling I don’t mind if you take my picture, just don’t bother me, I’m trying to work on my tan.”  Maybe I should have photoshoped in some sunglasses.  Either way, Izzy is looking mighty fine in this one.  Just look at those little bunny legs.  Adorable.

I know earlier this week I talked about my disdain for certain vegetables.  First on the list is a red, juicy item that is ubiquitous in many kitchens around the world…except for mine.  Nope, you will never find a tomato in my kitchen, unless it’s been diced, crushed or sauced and then shoved in a can.   Or in the fridge in a clear plastic bottle.

You see, the thing I can’t stand about tomatoes is their texture.  Their skin is firm, but their insides are mushy, and the taste of fresh tomato has just never appealed to me.  I can however, tolerate cooked tomato, as long as there aren’t big chunks of the vegetable floating around.  Yep, I’m that person that picks tomato chunks out of their pasta sauce.

Also, I’ve been known to put ketchup on pretty much any protein source.  I know it doesn’t count since it’s mostly vinegar and high fructose corn syrup, but I’m just trying to prove a point.  As long as they’ve been mashed up and cooked, I’m ok with tomatoes.

Which brings me to these rolls.  They get their tomato flavor (and awesome color) from tomato paste, which is totally fine in my book.  Add in some dried basil, and you’ve got yourself one delicious bread bun.

Eat one with a slice of fresh mozzarella, and you’ve got a Caprese salad!  Well…maybe not.  But they are fabulously tasty with pasta, or as a snack.

Tomato Basil Rolls

Adapted from Thyme

Makes about 12 rolls

2 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 cup hot water
6 oz tomato paste
1 Tbsp dried basil
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
4 ¾ cups bread flour (or all purpose)
A beaten egg and freshly grated parmesan for garnish (optional)

In a large bowl, mix together the yeast, water, tomato paste, basil, oil, and butter. Let sit for 3 minutes, until the yeast is dissolved and frothy. Add the sugar, salt and then the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 3-5 mins until the dough is elastic. Put dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth.  Let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled. Line a baking sheet with parchment or grease it. Form the dough into balls and place on the baking sheet. Cover with a cloth and let rise for 15 minutes more. Brush with egg and sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired. Bake at 425º for about 10 minutes.  Let cool for 10 mins and serve!