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~Pillowy-Soft Buttery-Rich Buttermilk Crescent Rolls~

IMG_2208I made dinner rolls today because I had buttermilk leftover in my refrigerator.  I wish they'd sell buttermilk like cream, in one and two cup cartons -- a full quart is usually about twice as much as I need.  For example:  On Friday of last week, I used one cup to make my ~ Buttermilk, Blue Cheese 'n Chive Salad Dressing ~, to use as a dip for my ~ Seriously E-Z & Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken Wings ~.  One week later, I still had three cups of buttermilk lollygagging around in my refrigerator.  Happy ending:  These dinner rolls will make everyone happy!

IMG_2196Every serious home cook needs one go-to dinner roll recipe.  It doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to be really good.  Everyone loves a freshly-baked, warm dinner roll, and, there are, in fact, occasions when nothing store-bought will do.  This is a treasured recipe of mine, but it didn't start out as mine.  You can find it, in its original form, on page 72 of any 1972 edition of Betty Crocker's Cookbook, and, it is responsible for my first attempt at baking dinner rolls from scratch being a successful one.  Over the years, I've used it as a template to experiment with a few variations, including this one, which for the most part, simply substitutes buttermilk for regular whole milk.  I'm rolling them into crescents today, but, it makes nice cloverleaf, pull-apart and parker house rolls too (as per Betty Crocker's helpful and instructional illustrations):

IMG_2072Their original recipe, taste and texturally, worked just fine.  That said, when I decided to use tangy buttermilk in place of whole milk, after the first go-round, I felt that it could benefit from a bit more salt, sugar and shortening.  I didn't go overboard and that little bit went a very a long way, because I couldn't have been happier with the slightly saltier, sweeter, buttery-rich end result! 

IMG_20794 1/2-5  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  envelopes Fleishmann's yeast, not rapid-rise yeast

6  tablespoons sugar

1 1/2  teaspoons salt

1 1/2  cups buttermilk

2  large eggs

6  tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature, very soft

6  more tablespoons salted butter, melted, for brushing over rolled dough & the finished, baked rolls

1/2  cup bench flour, for rolling 

IMG_4561 IMG_4557                                          ~ Step 1.  In a large bowl, stir together 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the yeast, the sugar and the salt.

~ Step 2.  In a small saucepan, heat the buttermilk and butter over medium heat.  Stir until the butter is melted and mixture has reached a temperature between 120-130 degrees.  The best way to insure the proper temperature is to monitor the mixture as it heats using an instant-read thermometer.

IMG_4567 IMG_4576 IMG_4581 IMG_4583~Step 3.  Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture.  Using a hand-held electric mixer on medium-speed, beat until mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula frequently, about 30 seconds.  Beat in the eggs.  Increase mixer speed to high and beat in another 1 cup of flour.  Beat until thoroughly incorporated.  Remove the mixer and begin stirring in the the flour, in 1/2 half cup amounts, until a soft, manageable dough forms.

IMG_4595 IMG_4602~ Step 4. Using the heal of your hand, begin kneading the dough, turning the bowl a quarter turn with each push down, until a smooth ball forms, continuing to sprinkle in additional flour to keep it from sticking to sides of bowl.  Kneading takes 4-5 minutes and I always need to use the full 5 cups of flour.

IMG_2088 IMG_4603                                        ~ Step 5. Cover the dough in the bowl with a clean towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  

Note:  This rest will allow the gluten in the flour to develop which will make the dough easier to roll.

Uncover the dough.  If you have a kitchen scale, use it.  You will have 2 pounds, 10-12 ounces of dough.

IMG_2106 IMG_2093                                           ~ Step 6. Divide the dough into two equal parts.  

IMG_2104Lightly-flour the work surface and roll first ball into a 14" circle.  Brush the top surface with a light coating of butter.  

IMG_2129 IMG_2120~ Step 7. Cut the circle into 4 quarters, then cut each quarter into 3 wedges.  Beginning on the wide outside end, roll each wedge up.  

IMG_2135As you work, place the rolls, slightly- IMG_2144apart, on a 17 1/2" x 15" baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.  Repeat this process with the second half of the dough.  When finished, you will have 3 rows of 8 rolls on the baking pan.

~ Step 8.  Cover the pan with the clean towel and allow the rolls to rise until doubled in size, about 45-60 minutes.  Mine rose in a quick 40-45 minutes today.

IMG_2170~ Step 9.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven until golden brown, about 18-20 minutes.  Mine baked for 18 minutes today.  Remove from oven and brush the tops with the remaining melted butter.  You will probably have some butter leftover.

IMG_2188~ Step 10.  Using your fingertips, gently pull rolls apart and transfer them to a cooling rack to cool to slightly-warm or room temperature. Note:  By the time you brush the tops with butter, they will be cool enough to handle.

Paint with butter as soon as they emerge from the oven:

IMG_2157Give the melted butter about a minute to soak in:

IMG_2166Gently pull rolls apart & place on a rack to cool!

IMG_2184TGIF:   Slightly larger than slider-sized subs in Happy Valley!

IMG_2225Pillowy-Soft Buttery-Rich Buttermilk Crescent Rolls:  Recipe yields 2 dozen.

Special Equipment List:  large bowl, preferably oversized; 2-quart saucepan; instant-read thermometer; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; clean cotton kitchen towel; kitchen scale (optional); rolling pin; pastry brush; chef's knife; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; cooling rack; small metal spatula

IMG_4684Cook's Note:  In the event you are new to dinner-roll baking and you'd like to try your hand at a simpler recipe, my recipe for ~ Want buttery, 'pull-apart' rolls with dinner tonight? ~ can be found in Categories 5, 9, 11, 18, 19 or 20.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015) 


~ My Traditional Gazpacho: Fresh from Our Garden ~

IMG_2017"I could have had a V-8."  If you've ever leisurely sipped on a chilled glass of traditional gazpacho you wouldn't say that, even in jest.  It is the ultimate vegetable smoothie.  Here in my Happy Valley kitchen, me making gazpacho is a sure sign that Fall is around the corner.  Our vegetable garden is producing almost more stuff than I can use efficiently. Gazpacho is a bright, refreshing, cool way for me to put a bounty of produce to a delicious use.  Gazpacho is quite easy to make, but if you're under the impression it's as simple as throwing some veggies and seasonings in a blender, you'd be wrong.  A really well-balanced appropriately-seasoned gazpacho recipe, with no single ingredient taking center stage, is:  a work of slurpable art.

Gazpacho has been a staple in the Spanish kitchen for centuries and originated in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia shortly after the tomato was introduced to the Iberian Peninsula.  It was, however, made using a combination of ancient Spanish, Portuguese, Roman, Moorish and Arabic techniques.  While it is eaten all year long, it's particularly enjoyed when the temperatures soar in the Summer.  It is traditionally served in a small glass or an earthenware cup as a refreshing but filling savory beverage, or, ladled into a bowl and garnished with an array of diced vegetables and served as a light meal or a light ending to a large meal.  

IMG_2032Understanding Gazpacho's past is key to preparing a proper gazpacho.

IMG_2058Traditional old-world gazpacho is a cold, raw soup prepared by pounding vegetables in a mortar with a pestle.  Nowadays, it's mostly prepared in a blender or a food processor, which gives it its smooth, airy consistency.  It all starts with a paste made from firm-textured bread that has been soaked in water, pulverized garlic, sea salt and fruity olive oil -- the paste is the thickener for the soup.  In it's most basic form, tomatoes and an acid are the base to which other vegetables, herbs, spices and EVOO get added.  Once pulverized and sieved to reveal a smooth vegetable concoction, the garlic-y bread paste gets stirred in. How thick or thin the gazpacho becomes is sometimes controlled by adding chilled water.  Its thickness varies regionally and from cook to cook, depending upon how it is being served. Anything from drinkable to dip-able is accepted and allowed.

Vegetables + Garlic + Salt + Acid + Olive Oil + Bread = Basic Gazpacho

IMG_2070Gazpacho has come a long way baby.  It's popular in homes and restaurants all over the world, and, as long as it's made with fresh, local ingredients, it's ok to add almost anything to it (in terms of vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices), as long as they play well together -- it's not pot luck. While the ripe red tomato-vegetable-based gazpacho is by far the most well-known and popular, there are also white and green versions (which contain creative mixtures of other fruits and vegetables) and versions that are garnished with cured and shredded artisanal ham.

Mel's thoughts on peeling & seeding the tomatoes for Gazpacho.

Many modern-day food-processor versions skip this step -- I've done it myself on occasion and I have no ax to grind with that as the gazpacho still tastes really, really good.  That said, since this post is about making a traditional semblance of gazpacho, I am getting this not-fun task done up front and in less than 5 minutes, via the aid of my favorite, time-saving secret weapon.

IMG_1893Thanks to a "spoofy" little kitchen gadget, the Velox Tomato Press & Strainer, the task of peeling, seeding, crushing and/or sieving any type of tomatoes for any purpose has been eliminated for me.  I bought mine from William-Sonoma before Amazon even existed.  This sturdy, easy-to-clean machine costs around $50.00, and, if you are a tomato-lover, it is worth every cent.  Here's how it works:

There's a suction cup that holds the press firmly to the work surface.  You fill the upper bin with chunked tomatoes and turn the crank, like you would a food mill or food grinder.  Into the square, white plastic tray (which comes with the machine) flows a river of perfectly crushed tomatoes, free of skins and seeds, which exit out the side of machine into any type of container.  Men love this machine.  Joe uses it outside, on a table on our patio, which means I have zero mess!  

IMG_1903 IMG_1897Start with 6 cups of cored and coarsely chopped tomatoes.  I recommend using your favorite "eating tomatoes".  The kind you pick off the vine and slice for a sandwich.  After all, this is a raw (uncooked), rather unembellished "out of the garden" soup.  Everything that goes into it should be perfectly-ripe and at its prime.  I'm using Better Boy tomatoes today.  That said sweet grape tomatoes work great too.

IMG_1914 IMG_1911After running the chopped tomatoes through the press, I've got 4 cups of very-soupy crushed tomatoes, free from skins and seeds.  Note the container of skins and seeds the machine impressively extruded out the side.

Once the tomatoes are prepped, it's time to make gazpacho! 

IMG_1924For the bread paste:

1,  12-ounce French batard or baguette, sliced into 1" slices, crusts removed to reveal 6-ounces of crustless bread slices

1/2 cup water for soaking bread

1  teaspoon sea salt

4-6  large garlic cloves, run through a garlic press

2 tablespoons olive oil

IMG_1932 IMG_1929~ Step 1. Place bread in an 8" x 8" casserole and add the water.  Allow to soak for 1 minute, then flip it over. Let it sit for 1 more minute to allow the water on top to soak back down to the bottom.  Squeeze out the excess moisture and place squished bread in a medium bowl.

IMG_1938 IMG_1942 IMG_1945 IMG_1952~Step 2.  Season the bread with the salt.  Run the garlic cloves through a garlic press, adding them to the bowl as you work.  I added all six cloves today.  Drizzle in the olive oil and use a fork to smash the mixture into a pasty, lumpy sort-of mass.  It's dang tasty though.  Set aside. 

IMG_1956For the gazpacho:

6 cups chopped tomatoes, peeled and run through a tomato press or a food mill to remove skins and seeds, use your favorite "eating tomatoes"

2  cups peeled, seeded and chopped cucumber

1 1/2 cups chopped green and/or red bell pepper, all white ribs and seeds removed

1 cup chopped red onion

1/4  cup chopped chives, fresh parsley or cilantro

all of the bread paste, prepared as directed above

3   tablespoons sherry vinegar

1  tablespoon ground cumin

2  teaspoons sea salt

1  teaspoon sugar

6  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

IMG_1958 IMG_1962 IMG_1966 IMG_1971 IMG_1974~Step 1.  Place  cucumbers, bell peppers, red onion and chives in work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.  Using a series of 25-30 on-off pulses, finely-mince the vegetables together.  Add all of the bread paste.  Turn the motor on and process for about 30 seconds. Using a large rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the work bowl, then add the sherry vinegar, cumin, sea salt and sugar to the processor.  Place the lid on, turn the motor on and process again for another 30 seconds.

IMG_1981 IMG_1976~ Step 2. With motor running, through the feed tube add the tomatoes followed by the EVOO.

IMG_1985~ Step 3. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, several hours or overnight.

IMG_1995Traditionally, when gazpacho is served in a bowl, a few diced add-ins are placed on the table.  They are the same vegetables used to make the gazpacho (tomato, cucumber, bell pepper and onion). That said, knowing I'm getting a full dose of vegetables in my soup, I like to add some croutons for much-needed crunch.  You can find my recipe for ~How to:  Make Croutons (& Toasts) ~ by clicking into Categories 2, 5, 9, 15 or 20!

Please pass Mel's Garlic & Cracked Black Pepper Croutons:

IMG_2014My Traditional Gazpacho:  Fresh from Our Garden:  Recipe yields 9 cups or 6-8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; tomato press; serrated bread knife; 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish; 1-cup measuring container; garlic press; vegetable peeler; large-capacity food processor; large rubber spatula; soup ladle; plastic wrap

IMG_7490Cook's Note:  Gazpacho is my vegetable-smoothie fix.  For a fruit fix, try ~ Making Citrus Smoothies w/Fruit Puree Ice Cubes ~.  My recipe can be found in Categories 6, 9, 10, 11, 16 or 20.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)


~ Plumb Scrumptious: E-Z Plum & Almond Galettes ~

IMG_1860Our purple plum tree is up to its old tricks again -- it's gifting us with these tart, juicy beauties faster than we can eat them hand-to-mouth, right-off-the-tree (which is my favorite way to enjoy them). Plums and peaches are my two favorite stone fruits.  When they begin coming into my kitchen a basket or two at a time, using them to make a few rustic, freeform French galettes is a great way to keep up with them without a lot of effort on my part.  When they pick up the pace and start coming in faster than that, I turn to making plum preserves to preserve my sanity.

IMG_1656Galettes:  Easier than pie, and, in my opinion just as good! 

IMG_1752Easier than pie?  Absolutely.  Better than pie?  That's a toss up.  Hailing from France, a galette is usually a round, flat, free-form, unpretentious, rustic pie- or tart-like dessert made of flaky pastry dough (although in some regions a galette is a flat cake made of yeast dough).  There are probably as many variations as there are regions in France.  Just like pie and quiche, galettes can be sweet or savory and can be filled with almost anything you can think of:  fruit, jam, dried fruit and/or nuts, meat, cheese, vegetables, etc.  

"Flat as a pancake" translated into French:  "plat comme une galette"!

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fd1ccef1970bWe all have our favorite recipe for pate brisee,  and pate sucree (unsweetened and sweetened recipes for quiche, pie and tart pastry). Some folks simply purchase pie pastry and I am neither going to judge nor criticize.  What happens in your kitchen stays in your kitchen.

The phrase "it's as easy as pie" originated a century ago when almost every American homemaker baked pies several times a week.  It was a task so familiar, it was done without any real effort.  When it came to fruit pies, they used the what fruit grew in their climate and adapted the recipes of their family's heritage to suit that fruit.  More often than not, they picked them off a tree in their backyard or bartered for a basket from their neighbor.  They did not have the luxury of walking into a market and choosing from five or six varieties (from the hundreds of varieties mass produced in the world today).  Once the fruit was prepped, a few handfuls of flour were thrown on the table and some shortening was cut in.  The pastry got rolled, plopped into a pie tin and into the oven the filled pie went.  They really did consider pie baking  "as easy as pie!"

There are 14-16 purple plums in 1 pound.  You'll need 4 pounds to make 2 galettes.

IMG_1668Meet my all-purpose "easier than pie" galette recipe:

IMG_16791  15-ounce box Pillsbury Pie Crusts, containing 2, 9" pie crusts, at room temperature (Note:  By all means use homemade pie pastry if you have it or the time to prepare it.  That said, I want to use this super-easy, time-saving substitution as example that good things, occasionally, can and do come out of a box!

6  cups fresh fruit or berries, prepped as follows:

peeled, cored and sliced apples, or:

IMG_1692blueberries, or:

pitted sour cherries, or:

unpeeled, pitted and chopped or sliced peaches or plums

6  tablespoons cornstarch

2  teaspoons quick-cooking tapioca

2  teaspoons Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce and Gravy

2  tablespoons apple, blueberry, cherry, peach or plum sweet brandy or Schnapps

IMG_16811/2  teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice, preferably fresh but bottled concentrate works just fine

1  cup sugar

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon ground cloves

1/2  teaspoon salt

IMG_16848  tablespoons crushed almond biscotti, about 3, 3/4-ounce almond biscotti, for sprinkling on crusts (Note:  Biscotti add flavor & soak up excess juice.  TipProcess several biscotti in a food processor & freeze to have on hand.)

4  tablespoons lightly-toasted sliced almonds, for sprinkling over fruit (Note:  While you might be inclined to experiment with other types of nuts and flavors of biscotti, trust me when I tell you that almond is the perfect complement to any and all fruit galettes.)

1  large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for glazing crusts

a sprinkling of bottled Sugar 'n Cinnamon, for topping crusts

IMG_1711 IMG_1701~ Step 1. Prep the plums, or whatever fruit you have decided to use, as directed and place it in a large mixing bowl as you work.

Measure and add the cornstarch, tapioca, flour, brandy, almond extract, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt.

IMG_1716~ Step 2.  Stir ingredients together and set aside for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until a thick pie filling has formed.  While filling is thickening, cover a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with a layer of aluminum foil, then place a sheet of IMG_1721parchment paper over the top. Place biscotti in a food storage bag. Using a flat-sided meat mallet, pound biscotti to crumbs.

~ Step 3.  Place pie pastries on pan, overlapping them about 1" towards  center of pan, as well as hanging over the left and right sides.

IMG_1726 IMG_1729~ Step 4.  Place 4 tablespoons of biscotti crumbs on the bottom of each crust.  Spread them to within 1" of the border around each.

IMG_1739                        ~ Step 5.  Using  a large slotted spoon, evenly distribute/mound pie filling over crumbs, leaving excess juices in the bowl.  While this seems like a waste of perfectly good juices, because these galettes will bake for only about 30 minutes, there is not time for any excess to thicken, meaning:  they will just ooze out of the galettes onto the pan as they bake.  Sprinkle 2  tablespoons of almonds over the filling on each.

IMG_1742 IMG_1747~ Step 6. Using your fingertips, making your way around each crust, fold the dough, like you would fold fabric, up and 1"-1 1/2" over the fruit filling, pleating the dough to form a protective rim to keep the filling from oozing out.  Galettes are a rustic, freeform dessert.  Do not concern yourself with uniformity.

IMG_1754~ Step 7.  In a small bowl, using a fork, whisk the egg and the water together.  Using a pastry brush, liberally paint the surface of both crusts with the egg wash.  

IMG_1762~ Step 8. Sprinkle the Sugar 'n Cinnamon liberally over all of the surface crust and the exposed filling.  Easy enough so far?

IMG_1766~ Step 9.  Bake on center rack of preheated 450 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 10-15 additional minutes.

IMG_1779The fruit juices will be just bubbly, not boiling, and the pastry will be a lovely golden brown.  Note:  Because galettes will cool on the pan, they will continue to cook, thicken, and set up during the cooling process. 

Remove from oven and allow galettes to cool on pan, about 15-30 minutes prior to transferring to a cooling rack to cool to room temperature, or, to a large round plate to slice and serve warm.

Slice each galette into six wedges:

IMG_1847Serve w/a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

IMG_1874Plumb Scrumptious:  E-Z Plum & Almond Galaettes:  Recipe yields 4-6 servings per galette.  It's really easy to eat two slices of this fruit dessert!

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; aluminum foil; parchment paper; flat-sided meat mallet; large slotted spoon; pastry brush; cooling rack

IMG_1107Cook's Note:  Plums come in many varieties, but, they be used interchangeably.  When my purple plums become overwhelming (in a few short days), I'll be making my recipe for ~ Pucker Up:  Tart and Sweet Shiro Plum Preserves ~. You can find the recipe in Categories 8, 9, 20 or 22!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)