Happy Hour: Blue Cheese Bacon Bread

Ah my darlings, Friday is nearly complete. The work week is done and soon the feet will be clad in fuzzy socks and propped up on the footstool. My baby and I will finally have the chance to sit down together and unwind.

Getting back to work after the holidays was especially hard this year as the bad weather hit just as we were starting to get back to the normal daily grind. Even though it was January, we were previously having 70 degree days so ice storms and snow fall took everyone by surprise. It also delayed projects, rescheduled appointments and a host of other things. For both of us this week was all about catching up and getting things back on track. We both had a lot of late nights this week.

Which makes the Friday wind down extra special. Tonight’s treat is Blue Cheese Bacon Bread. Each week I make a loaf of regular bread to be used for sandwiches throughout the week. This week I doubled the recipe used one half to make the regular loaf and the other to make the blue cheese bacon one. The recipe list is the single one with the ingredients for one loaf. This bread does freeze really well though. Just let it cool completely, wrap it in plastic wrap and then add a layer of tin foil and it will keep well in the freezer. when you want to use it take it out and let it thaw completely before using. We tend to take the loaves out in the morning before work and then they are ready by dinnertime.

What I like about the recipe is that it is easy to do when working from home. There is about ten minutes of activity, then a forty five minute waiting period. Then another five minutes of activity, with another forty five minute rest followed by a forty five minute bake. I like to use it to focus on activities. For example i had a couple of tasks I was putting off so I took one forty five minute wait and one task and tried to finish it before I had to go back to the kitchen. Then when I returned I took down another task I’d been putting off. It is kind of a nice way to clear off things i’d been putting off doing. Plus I get a delicious treat at the end of it.

pulling away from the sides in the mixer

Ingredients

3 cups AP flour + pinch

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1 Tablespoon yeast

3/4 cup warm water

1/2 cup milk, room temp (I like to put it in the microwave for 15 seconds to take the fridge chill off rather than leaving it out)

1/2 tsp sugar + pinch

1 Tablespoon Honey

1 Table spoon salt

half a cup of cooked bacon crumbled (you can use store bought bacon bits if you don’ want to cook bacon, just get the ones that look like real pieces of bacon (mostly for texture)

half a cup of blue cheese crumbles

Steps:

piled in the center before folding in.
  • stir the yeast together with the 3/4 cup of water and add the pinch of sugar and pinch of salt to the mix (to feed the yeast) Set it in a warm place until it is foamy (10-15 min)
  • If using a stand mixer, using the dough hook: Add the flour, salt and sugar to the bowl of the mixer. When the yeast is foamy add the entire bowl of yeast mix to the flour, then add the milk, melted butter and honey. Turn the mixer on the lowest speed for 3 minutes while the dry and wet ingredients come together. When it no longer looks like flour will fly everywhere, increase the speed just a little bit (for mind it is no higher than three lines and well below medium speed. You are bringing your dough together not beating it into submission). When it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides, turn the mixer off.
  • If mixing by hand, once your yeast is foamy combine everything except the blue cheese and the bacon into a bowl and bring it together to form a ball.
  • If your dough ball is sticky, regardless of mixer or no mixer mixing, dust it with a little bit of flour and knead it just until it comes together to form a smooth ball.
  • Lightly grease a bowl (I tend to just use a spray bottle of oil on the bowl from my stand mixer) and put the dough in the bowl. Cover and let sit for 45 minutes.
  • After 45 min, come back, take your ball of dough out of the mixer (If making regular bread with no flavorings (i.e. bacon and blue cheese) then just put the dough into a well greased bread pan, cover and let sit for 45 min.) For the blue cheese and bacon bread. put the risen dough on a floured work surface and stretch it out as though you were making a pizza (don’t throw it in the air, just stretch on the table and try not to press too much air out. put the blue cheese and bacon crumbles in the center. fold the sides over the fillings, covering them completely. Knead the dough a few times to work the blue cheese and bacon into the dough. Then you can either put it in a loaf pan or make a free formed size on a greased sheet pan. Cover and let sit for 45 min.
  • Just before the 45 min rest is over, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven.
  • When the 45 minute rest is done, put the loaf in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. When it sounds hollow as out tap it with a knife, it is ready to be removed.
all rolled up, slashes in the top so it looks nice when it comes out

Without fillings, this makes a really good white sandwich bread. The fillings are of course your own choice. Try to go for fillings that don’t have a lot of moisture in them and you can’t go wrong. we often turn this loaf into cheddar and jalapeno bread or walnut and fig. It also makes great cinnamon and raisin bread. If you are going to start adding wet ingredients, reduce the amount of water you use with the yeast to keep it from getting soggy or cook out some of the moisturize from the ingredients. When I use this bread recipe for a mushroom, sage and onion bread, I cook both the mushrooms and onions ahead of time to reduce the moisture so that i can leave the recipe as it is.

the final loaf

Tonight I used blue cheese and bacon and I will pair it with a nice crisp hard apple cider. I find it pairs well with the blue cheese and cuts through the fattiness of the bacon. Sometimes I will even serve this bread with crisp slices on granny smith apple on top. It makes a great snack as well as a happy hour treat. Whatever you do tonight, I hope you take some time to rest and regroup and just allow yourself the space to breath. Have a great weekend.

Creatives to Promote Hint Still

Happy Hour – January 8th, 2021: The Martini and Mini Cheddar and Chive Popovers

Welcome to the first (of what I hope will be many) Happy Hour Posts. While each week my baby doll and I try to eat healthy and I at least am trying to lose weight, Friday night we tend to indulge just a little. I know many of you dieters out there are surprised by the indulgence and maybe even repelled by it.  But let me take a moment to explain.

My dieting is not about cutting out vast swaths of the world of food. I have no demon categories.  Mostly because if I knew I had to give up one category it would end up creating a craving.  Well before my dieting began, my babydoll and I would only go out to eat about once a month and the rest of the time, I cooked.

When he developed high blood pressure and his doctor told him to cut out as much sodium as possible, most of the prepackaged foods we kept in our home went out the door. And I made baking a loaf of sandwich bread a Saturday morning routine. I was personally shocked by how much sodium was actually in store bought bread.

But I digress.

My dieting was always about portion control and exercise. It wasn’t about cutting out all of the things I love.  Once of the things I love is the Friday night happy hour.  This is the Friday night ritual in our house.  Sometimes we would go out with friends, but mostly it was just me and my baby unwinding after the week with a drink and something nice to nibble.  Sometimes the drink is a glass of wine and the nibble is a good cheese or even charcuterie. Sometimes I will see a hors d’oeuvre recipe I have to try and we will scour the cocktail manuals to find something to accompany it. Other times I will pick up one of the small bottles of liquor in the store just because it looks interesting and we figure something out from there.

I get drawn in by liquor bottles just as much as perfume bottles. Although sometimes the alcohol is just a left over.  I picked up a small bottle of Chambord because a desert recipe required a few tablespoons to macerate some berries and now we will find a cocktail to help use up the left overs.

Our basic bar tools, A shaker a jigger with two sizes for easy measuring and a long bar spoon to stir right down to the bottom of the shaker when we don’t want to shake

When going out became a masking event, my baby and I delved deeper into our collection of cocktail books.  We have a collection that ranges far and wide. And of course there is the internet as well. Our weekly Happy Hour became more of a mental relief than usual.

However wide we range, I decided to start off this series of posts with my standard favorite, The Martini.  Not only is it my go to drink and the standard by which I judge bars and bartenders, but it is a good example of restrained indulgence.

And as silly as it sounds, just holding the glass makes me feel civilized.

The Martini was born in the United States. Some claim California and some claim New York.  I will not argue for either and just thank them both.  It is at first a relatively simple cocktail, but nearly everyone has a different way of preparing it.  In fact there is an old joke about a man being thrown out of a bar for ordering ‘just a regular martini’ instead of putting his own spin on it.

While I don’t think that is grounds for ejection from an establishment today, there are still many different camps.  There are two quite famous ones, one fictional and one real.  James Bond liked his shaken and not stirred and Winston Churchill suggested just bringing out an unopened bottle of vermouth and waving it at the gin.

With all due respect, I disagree heartily with both.

Shaking gin ‘bruises’ it, to use my grandfather’s phasing.  It tends to make it cloudy and while that isn’t a big issue, it does actually change the taste a bit. With so few ingredients, the taste of each matters. You may not mind the change in taste or you may not notice a change in taste.

I notice and I don’t care for it, so I don’t shake my martinis.

You may feel free to shake yours, I won’t report you for abuse.

As for Mr. Churchill, a martini with the vermouth waved at it is a glass of gin with a garnish.  There is nothing wrong with it there have been many a summer evening where I forgot to pick up tonic water and just had a glass with gin over ice and a twist of lemon.  It is a lovely way to sit on the back porch and watch the summer sun go down (just make sure to light the citronella candles or you risk becoming the happy hour bar for the local mosquito population). It is however a glass of gin and not a martini.

Again you can feel free to disagree.

my 3 oz martini glass

I know there are all sorts of martini recipes out there so I will just quickly give you mine:

One part Vermouth

Two Parts gin

A splash of olive juice

Add all to a shaker, stir with a bar spoon add as large an ice cube as possible atrain into a martini glass and add an olive.

Sounds simple really, doesn’t it?

For those of you wondering why I put one part and two parts instead of actual measurements, that is because glass sizes vary greatly, especially in the world of martini glasses.  I have seen delicate ones and ones that look like they could actually hold a liter of liquid in their confines.  I always find drinking out of any glass with a rim bigger than my face a bit daunting.

a jigger to make measuring a snap

My set of martini glasses is in keeping with my theme of restraint, although I picked them up in a thrift store mostly because I liked the look of them.  The martini glasses I use are from a set from the 1950s.  They have the traditional stem with a triangular shape and some rather sweet little etchings on the side. They can also hold (at a maximum) three ounces of liquid.

the unstuffed olive. I picked up the reusable skewers at a Home Goods Store a while back

By contrast my martini shaker is enormous, I know.  I keep meaning to pick up a smaller shaker mostly because the amount of liquid that goes into the shaker for my week’s end martini looks rather sad in the large one. The reusable cocktail stick was one of a set I picked up quite a few years ago. They are really nice not only for drinks but for small appetizers as well. they have seen a lot of use since purchasing. However with a lot of use and several moves this is the last of the set remaining in my drawer so when i seek out a smaller shaker I will look for a replacement for them as well. Thus far I haven’t found a set that I like.

On Friday, I will have one, or if it has been a long week whose passing needs celebrating, two. Which given the size of the glass, is still a relatively small amount and an acceptable indulgence for the calorie conscious.

I personally like my martinis dry and dirty.  The dirty refers to the splash of olive juice. With olives, I recommend getting ones that are not stuffed with anything so that the stuffing won’t affect the flavor. For the dry, I go with dry vermouth instead of sweet. Mostly because I like the taste.  My vermouth choice is Noilly Pratt. I have occasionally tried other vermouths, but thus far none of them have been able to replace the slim green bottle. It is my tried and true.

With gin, my favorite is Plymouth (just be aware there is Plymouth gin and Navy Strength Plymouth gin when you go shopping. The Navy is significantly stronger and can easily get you into trouble if you aren’t careful). I do change out gins periodically.  I have in fact tried quite a few that I enjoy. Each has its own botanical arrangement and most of them go well with my favored vermouth. I love tasting the variety of herbals that go into gin. I do get in the habit of stocking Plymouth, but I am trying to remember to branch out and sample other gins.

But what is happy hour without something to nibble (besides the olive of course)?

My choice this week was mini cheddar and chive popovers.

Popovers are composed of a thin batter that you bake in muffin tins.  They pop up and are a hollow shell that is crunchy and delicious. I use a mini muffin tin to keep them small. The batter is quite simple.

½ cup AP flour

Pinch of salt

¾ cup milk (room temp)

1 egg (room temp)

1/2 tablespoon melted butter

The rest is flavoring.  For my flavoring this week I went with cheddar and chives, but I often make them with blue cheese crumbles.  I just really liked the sharpness of the cheddar and the herbal bite of the chives with the gin. plus I am overwintering a pot of chives in my sunroom and need to snip them periodically to keep them healthy throughout the winter.

To make the batter you mix all of the (non-flavoring) ingredients together, whisking to make sure there are no flour lumps.  Then you heavily grease the muffin tin (whether mini or regular sized).  I use a spray oil for this as you need to get every nook and cranny of the tin. Put the batter into the greased tin, filling each cup only half way up. 

I took the picture before I sprinkled the chives

Then take your flavorings and drop them in the center.  For this I used less than one ounce of really sharp cheddar cut into really small squares and placed them in the center of the batter then sprinkled with chives. You really don’t need much.  In the over the cheese melts and coats the inside of the popover so you get the flavor in every bite. The trick to these is in the baking.

Start off with a 450 degree F oven (220 C) place the pan on the center rack and bake for ten minutes.  DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR.  After ten minutes drop the temperature of the oven to 350 F (180C) and bake for another ten minutes or until browned on the edges.  You can either eat them hot right away or pop them out and set them on a napkin to cool and then eat later. (the napkin absorbs the grease.  It isn’t a problem with blue cheese but it is with cheddar.  Also the chives help cut some of the fat of the cheese.

I personally like them hot.

popover

I know some of you are tempted to open the oven door mid bake.  Try to resist.  My baby doll is one of those people who has to open the oven door to peer in to see how things are going. If you do this the popovers will not pop.  They will fall flat and while still delicious, they will be more muffin like.

So this is the Happy Hour my baby doll and I will be enjoying this week.  Given the state of the news, I expect this will be a two martini week.

As we don’t have any planned cocktail for next week (and are going grocery shopping tomorrow) while we sip martinis we will get out one of the cocktail books and flip the pages to find next week’s indulgence and figure out what snack to have with it. I can’t wait to see what we come up with.

Whether indulging in your own happy hour or just unwinding from the week, I hope you have a fabulous Friday night and an excellent weekend.