Apr 16, 2015

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken is one of my all time favorite stir fries, and this is the absolute best version I have tried so far. I love the underlying heat and, of course, the peanuts.

This is not take-out Kung Pao Chicken. This is fine dining Kung Pao Chicken. The ingredient list is huge, but the melding of all of the flavors is key to the deliciousness of the dish.

Hint number one for making this: Read the recipe all of the way through before preparing.

Hint number two: Write out each step in large print with the timing next to each step. Trust me. This will save you when you are furiously stir-frying.

Hint number three: Mise en place. The cooking time is only about three or four minutes. Follow the Boy Scout motto. "Be Prepared."

Hint number 4: Clean up everything except your mise en place bowls before beginning to stir fry. You will enjoy your meal so much more.

The specialty ingredients included in this recipe include dark soy sauce and Szechuan peppercorns. I found the dark soy sauce in my local Asian grocery store, but you can find it online as well. The peppercorns are actually berries, not pepper, which add a subtle peppery heat. You can also find these at an Asian market, but if you have a Penzey's Spices nearby, you can find them there too.

For the dried chiles, I used Chiles de Arbol.

We had this with steamed rice, and it was delicious.

If you are nervous about stir-frying, Grace Young, wokker extraordinaire, has a Craftsy Course which includes a demonstration on how to make this dish. All of her ratings for the course are 5 stars!

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken Recipe

Adapted from Grace Young's Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge. There is also a wonder Kung Pao Chicken in her book, The Breath of a Wok


1 pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 T minced ginger
1 T minced garlic
2 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp plus 1 T Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cold water
2 T chicken broth
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 T peanut or vegetable oil
4 to 8 (depending on your heat tolerance) dried red chiles, stems cut off
1/2 tsp roasted and ground Szechuan pepper corns
1 large red bell pepper cut into 1 inch squares
1/4 C dry roasted unsalted peanuts
1/2 C minced scallions


  1. Combine the first five ingredients in a medium bowl, plus the 1 tsp of rice wine/sherry. 
  2. Add 1 tsp of the sugar, 1/2 tsp of the salt, and the water. Stir to completely coat the chicken pieces. 
  3. In a small bowl or cup, combine the broth, vinegar, dark soy sauce, and sesame oil. Add the remaining tablespoon of rice wine/sherry. 
  4. Heat the wok over high heat until a drop of water, when added, vaporizes immediately.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and swirl it around.
  6. Add the chiles and peppercorns and stir for 15 seconds. Push the mixture to the side.
  7. Add the chicken and spread it out into an even layer. let it cook, undisturbed, for 1 minutes. 
  8. Stir fry the chicken and chile mixture for 1 minute. 
  9. Add the remaining liquid mixture. Stir fry for 1 more minute. The chicken should be just cooked at this point. 
  10. Add the peanuts, scallions, the rest of the sugar and salt, and stir fry for about 30 seconds. 
This serves 2 to 4, depending how many courses you are serving.

For even more amazing stir fries, I highly recommend these books linked below.

Disclosure: If you purchase something from Amazon via a link on this site or on my Amazon Store, I may receive a very small commission in Amazon store credit at no extra charge to you. Unless otherwise stated, I personally purchased, own, use, and recommend the items in my Amazon store. 

Apr 14, 2015

Pane di Pasqua - Italian Easter Bread Wreath #BreadBakers

Pane di Pasqua - Italian Easter Bread Wreath

This Pane di Pasqua is a southern Italian traditional bread for Easter, and is typically baked with colored hard boiled eggs nestled into the shaped loaves.

This bread is made from an enriched dough, and is somewhat sweet, with a faint orange vanilla flavor from Fiori di Sicilia, or "flowers of Sicily." The dominant flavors are vanilla and orange, so if you don't have Fiori di Sicilia, you can use a combination of orange oil and vanilla to achieve a similar flavor.

Pane di Pasqua - Italian Easter Bread Wreath

What is enriched bread? It is typically bread made with butter, sugar, and/or eggs added to the dough. There are a lot of versions of enriched breads, such as the butter rich brioches, and the egg rich challahs. This bread is mildly enriched, and reminiscent of cinnamon bread, but without the cinnamon filling. It is brioche-like, but not overly loaded with butter.

This bread, like most enriched breads, is best the day that it is made, although you can make it in advance, freeze it as soon as it has cooled, and glaze it once it has thawed. You can used any leftovers for bread pudding or French toast (sprinkles and all).

I think it would be perfect for Mother's Day brunch. The little sprinkles will make everyone happy too!

After the recipe, check out all of the links for Easter/Passover/Springtime bread recipes from my fellow #BreadBakers.

Pane di Pasqua - Italian Easter Bread Wreath

Adapted from King Arthur Flour



4 1/4 ounces (1 cup) unbleached all purpose flour
4 ounces (1/2 cup) water
1/8 tsp instant yeast


9 1/2 ounces (2 1/4 cups) unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast
2 3/8 ounces (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
2 ounces (4 T) unsalted room temperature butter
2 large eggs plus one large egg yolk
1/4 tsp Fiori di Sicilia, or 2 tsp vanilla and 1/4 tsp orange oil
1/4 tsp anise seed, ground
Zest of one orange


4 ounces (1 cup) of confectioners sugar, sifted
1 ounce (2 to 3 T) orange juice


  1. The night before making the bread, mix the starter ingredients. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 to 15 hours. 
  2. Combine the starter and the rest of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and shiny. 
  3. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 60 to 120 minutes, until very puffy and almost doubled.
  4. Scrape the dough out onto an oiled surface, and divide it into three equal pieces. I recommend using a scale. Shape each piece into an 18 inch rope. I like to lengthen and then flatten the dough pieces, and then roll them into ropes, as you would baguettes. 
  5. Braid the three pieces of dough and then coil them around to form a wreath. 
  6. Place the wreath on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and cover with oiled plastic wrap.
  7. Let rise for one to two hours, until quite puffy. 
  8. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 
  9. Bake the wreath for 15 minutes and then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for another 20 minutes. You may have to tent the loaf with foil for the final 10 minutes to prevent over browning. The final dough temperature should be 190 degrees F.
  10. Cool on a wire rack. 
  11. Make the glaze. It should be pretty thin. Brush the glaze on the wreath and add sprinkles!!

What is Bread Bakers? It’s a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Bread Bakers Pinterest Board. Links are also updated after each event on the Bread Bakers home pageHow is the monthly theme determined? We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. Would you like to join in the fun? If you are a food blogger, send an email with your blog name and url to Stacy at foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

Apr 9, 2015

Senfbrot - German Mustard Bread

Senfbrot - German Mustard Bread

The recipe for this Senfbrot, or German Mustard Bread, was discovered by my friend David of Hearth Baked Tunes on a German bakers association website, in German of course, and proportioned for commercial bakers.

Not quite ready to make 48 loaves in a single day, David enlisted another of my breadhead friends, Karin of Brot and Bread, to translate and scale down the formula for the home baker. Thank you David and Karin! You should also check out my friend Cathy of Bread Experience's take on this bread. She used spelt and an overnight refrigeration for the dough.

Senfbrot - German Mustard Bread

This bread is unusual in that it contains mustard in the dough, and is also coated with mustard before baking. David says to play with the ingredients, so I used a whole seed Dijon mustard in the dough and yellow mustard for the coating. 

Senfbrot - German Mustard Bread

The bread is also filled with cheese chunks. While the original recipe calls for aged Gouda, I used Gruyere, since I love the way that it melts, plus I had some on hand. Cheddar would also be wonderful in this bread. 

This bread is delicious, and smells amazing while it is baking. I slashed my loaves, but in hindsight, that is probably not necessary, considering the wetness of the dough. 

David coated his bread with sunflower seeds, and Karin coated hers with pumpkin seeds. I decided to use a mixture of sunflower, poppy, sesame, anise, and flax seeds. 

You'd never know that this bread includes mustard. You'll just know that this bread is amazingly delicious. 

Senfbrot - German Mustard Bread

This bread makes the best grilled cheese. The best. 

Senfbrot - German Mustard Bread

Makes two loaves



140 g bread flour
85 g water
1 g (1/4 tsp) instant yeast
2 g salt


105 g cracked wheat or coarse wheat flour
70 g rye chops or coarsely ground dark rye flour
135 g water
3 g salt

Final Dough

All of the above
415 g water
550 g bread flour
15 g yeast
16 g salt
66 g mustard of your choice
130 g cheese of your choice in chunks
Mustard for spreading on the loaves
Sunflower, pumpkin, or mixed seeds for sprinkling on the loaves


  1. The night before baking the bread, mix the preferment and the soaker in two separate bowls. Cover each bowl with plastic wrap. Let them sit at room temperature for about 12 hours. 
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the final dough ingredients for about 6 to 8 minutes. 
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it sit for 30 minutes. Do three stretch and folds from all four "sides" of the dough, 30 minutes apart. After the final stretch and fold, let the dough rise for 30 minutes. 
  4. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces, and shape them into two balls. Cover with oiled plastic wrap for 15 minutes. Do a final shaping and place the two loaves into floured brotforms, seam side up. Cover with oiled plastic wrap.
  5. Let the bread rise for about 70 minutes. Preheat the oven to 470 degrees F with a pizza stone.
  6. Turn the loaves out onto a parchment lined peel.
  7. Heavily smear the risen loaves with mustard, and sprinkle with the seeds of your choice. Transfer the loaves onto the pizza stone and spray the oven walls with water. 
  8. Bake for 15 minutes with steam or in a covered Dutch oven, and then reduce the oven temperature to 410 degrees F. Remove the covers from the Dutch ovens if using, and bake for another 25 minutes. The interior temperature of the bread should be around 200 degrees F.
  9. Cool on a wire rack.

Apr 8, 2015

Stir-Fried Cilantro with Bean Sprouts and Shrimp | Wok Wednesdays

Stir-Fried Cilantro with Bean Sprouts and Shrimp | Wok Wednesdays

This week, the Wok Wednesdays group is making this Stir-Fried Cilantro with Bean Sprouts and Shrimp.

This recipe is amazing (okay, how many ways can I say this about recipes from Grace Young?). It is a vegetable dish with about 4 ounces of small shrimp for flavor.

The ingredients include chopped garlic, minced ginger, small shrimp, bean sprouts, carrots, and cilantro, including the stems, plus salt and sugar.

The combination of flavors is fragrant and delicious. I added more shrimp and ate this for dinner!

I also increased the amount of bean sprouts, and reduced the amount of cilantro called for in the recipe a bit, an option suggested in the book, Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge by Grace Young, the book we are all using for Wok Wednesdays.

I love the crunch of the bean sprouts and carrots, and the cilantro is delicious infused with the shrimp, ginger, and garlic flavors.

Stir-Fried Cilantro with Bean Sprouts and Shrimp | Wok Wednesdays

If you'd like to wok along, check out our Facebook page, hosted by Matt and visited often by Grace Young herself! She is so helpful!

The recipe for this dish can be found on Grace Young's website. I strongly encourage you to get the book! It's flawless.

Apr 6, 2015

Cheddar Chive Bread #TwelveLoaves

Cheddar Chive Bread  #TwelveLoaves

This cheddar chive bread is loaded, coated, and oozing with cheese. It's pretty much a pre-made grilled cheese sandwich in a slice of bread.

This recipe makes three 1 1/2 pound loaves of bread, but is easily scalable. If you decide to make all three loaves, just wrap the extra loaves in foil and then plastic wrap, and freeze them for up to 30 days.

This dough also makes amazing dinner rolls.

This bread is leavened with a sourdough starter as well as instant yeast. If you haven't tried making your own sourdough, you definitely need to try it. Don't be intimidated. If I can do it, you can too. If you don't have a starter, you can create a poolish with half flour, half water, and a tiny amount of yeast. Let that sit overnight as you would the starter.

Cheddar Chive Bread

This bread also includes corn flour, which adds a color and crunch, especially when the bread is toasted.

The chives actually came from a neglected pot hanging on our back fence. They seem to be fairly indestructible. I walk out there, cut off a handful, and they regenerate in a few days. Granted, I live in a temperate climate....

And then there's the cheese. There is a ton of cheese in this bread.

Cheddar Chive Bread  #TwelveLoaves

I used a combination of English style sharp white cheddar cheese, and extra sharp cheddar cheese. Just try to get all of this cheese to stay in the dough.

This bread is made completely by hand, no mixer required. It's very tasty.

This month, the #TwelveLoaves bread baking group is making breads with cheese. After the recipe, check out all of the links for my #TwelveLoaves pals' breads made with cheese.

Cheddar Chive Bread Recipe 

Makes three loaves. Recipe is adapted from Baking by Hand, an amazing book that teaches you how to make bread and pastries completely by hand... no mixer or food processor required. 



8 oz (240 ml) 75 degree F water
10 oz (280 g) bread flour
2 oz (40 ml) sourdough starter

Final Dough

2 pounds 1/2 ounce (1 kg) bread flour
4 oz (110 g) corn flour
8 oz (230 g) of the starter (there will be some left over to grow more for later)
21 1/2 oz (610 ml) 90 degree F water
2 oz (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
3 1/4 tsp (25 g) salt
1 1/4 tsp (5 g) instant yeast
10.5 oz (300 g) sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small squares
1 handful of chives, finely sliced


  1. The night before baking the bread, mix the final starter ingredients, cover, and let sit for about 12 hours. 
  2. On baking day, mix the bread and corn flour in a large bowl. 
  3. In another large bowl, mix the starter, water, and olive oil.
  4. Pour the flour mixture over the liquid mixture, and stir and mix with your hands for about a minute, making sure to get all of the flour wet. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot (about 80 degrees F) for 30 minutes. I placed mine in the microwave with to cups of boiled water sitting in the corners to create a warm spot. 
  5. Sprinkle the salt and yeast over the dough and begin mixing with your hands by folding the dough and pinching it with your fingers to incorporate the salt and yeast. As you work with the dough for about a minute, you should feel the dough coming together. 
  6. Add in the cheese and chives by stretching the dough out and folding in over itself, turning the bowl, and repeating several times. Cover with plastic wrap and return it to the warm spot for 30 minutes. 
  7. After 30 minutes, do a "stretch and fold" from all four sides of the bowl. The dough should begin to feel stronger as you do this. Repeat two more times, every 30 minutes. Let the dough rise for 30 minutes more, until puffy. 
  8. Divide your dough into three equal pieces of about 1 pound 10 ounces each. Shape them into loose balls, place them seam side down on the counter, and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 20 minutes. 
  9. Dust three bannetons or towel lined 9 inch bowls with corn flour. 
  10. Gently shape the dough one more time and place them seam side up in the prepared bannetons. 
  11. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot to proof for about an hour.
  12. Preheat the oven (with a baking stone if you have one) to 450 degrees F. Place a pan on the lowest rack. Boil one cup of water. 
  13. Turn the loaves out onto a parchment lined peel or baking sheet. Place them in the oven, add the boiling water to the steam pan on the lowest rack. Cover your oven's window while you do this. Close the door.  Note: if your oven is too small for all three loaves, you can bake the loaves in shifts. 
  14. After 5 minutes, open the oven door and spray the walls of the oven with water. Quickly close the door. 
  15. Bake the loaves for another 25 minutes, until the interior of the bread reaches about 200 degrees F. 
  16. Cool on a wire rack. 
#TwelveLoaves is a monthly bread baking party created by Lora from Cake Duchess and runs smoothly with the help of Heather of girlichef, and the rest of our fabulous bakers. Our host this month is Robin from A Shaggy Dough Story, and our theme is CHEESE. For more bread recipes, visit the #TwelveLoaves Pinterest board, or check out last month's mouthwatering selection of #TwelveLoaves enter last month's Italian Breads!

 If you'd like to bake along with us this month, share your CHEESE bread using hashtag #TwelveLoaves!

Fudgy No-Butter No-Flour Brownies

Fudgy No-Butter No-Flour Brownies

These fudgy no-butter no-flour brownies are actually made with almond flour. They are really easy to make. All you need is one bowl.

I made these for Easter dessert, and knew that I would have to pass them off as regular brownies to my family, especially the kiddos. Thus, the reason for half being decorated with almond slivers, and the other half not.

Fudgy No-Butter No-Flour Brownies

Little did they know that they were eating "nuts" in the brownies as they picked off the almond slivers.

These brownies were definitely fudgy and amazing, considering the fact that they were untraditional. They are loaded with chocolate chips, which adds to their chocolatey-ness.

I used large chocolate chunks in the brownies, along with large chocolate chips. I topped the batter with mini chocolate chips and then sprinkled almond slivers over half of the dough.

Fudgy No-Butter No-Flour Brownies

These brownies are delicious. I served them with vanilla ice cream, which was the perfect contrast to their chocolatey-ness. My oldest grandson loved them mixed into the ice cream, kind of like cookies and cream.

Are these my new "go-to" brownies? No. I still prefer "regular" brownies. However, these are really good for those who want to go gluten free. If you want to go dairy free, check the ingredient list for your chocolate chips. Mine had "milk solids," so I'm assuming they were not dairy free.

This recipe is from Scientifically Sweet, and chosen for this month's Avid Baker's Challenge.

I'm not exactly a gluten free person, as you can see by the number of bread recipes on my blog, so this was definitely an adventure. There's also a lot of controversy about the amount of water that almonds require to be produced, especially in drought prone California. Still, for those who are gluten intolerant, these brownies are perfection.... and, I fooled my grandchildren!!

Fudgy No-Butter Brownies {gluten-free, dairy-free (maybe)}


2 C (300 g) confectioner's sugar
2/3 C (56 g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 C (200 g) ground almonds/almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs and one egg white at room temperature
2 T water
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 C (5 oz) bittersweet chocolate chips, plus more for topping
Slivered almonds for topping, optional


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 inch square cake pan with parchment paper, with the paper hanging over the sides of the pan. 
  2. Run the sugar and cocoa powder through a strainer into a large bowl.
  3. Run the almond meal through the strainer into the flour mixture. 
  4. Add the salt and whisk.
  5. Add the eggs, egg white, water, and vanilla. Stir until smooth and combined. Add the chocolate chips to combine. 
  6. Add the batter to the pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the top with more chocolate chips and the optional almond slivers. 
  7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until shiny. Cool in the pan on a rack. 
  8. The brownies are best sliced when cool, and are more moist on the second day. 

Apr 2, 2015

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip, Caramel, and Sea Salt Cookies

owned Butter Chocolate Chip, Caramel, and Sea Salt Cookies

These browned butter chocolate chip, caramel, and sea salt cookies are not only gooey when they first come out of the oven, they stay gooey even after they have cooled. They're pretty magical.

"Browned butter?" you ask!

Instead of creaming the butter and sugar as you would for most chocolate chip cookie recipes, you actually boil the butter until it is golden brown. You have to watch very carefully when you do this, because the butter can quickly turn black... and you'll have to start over.

owned Butter Chocolate Chip, Caramel, and Sea Salt Cookies

As you brown the butter, the water evaporates, and the wonderful buttery flavor gets even more concentrated.

The cookies are filled with chopped semi-sweet chocolate, chocolate chips, and caramel bits. Finally, they are sprinkled with flaked sea salt.

They are slightly under baked, producing an amazingly gooey center (P.S. for those of you who are squeamish about bite marks on food photos, I promise, this view is not of bite marks! No teeth were used to produce this photo).

owned Butter Chocolate Chip, Caramel, and Sea Salt Cookies

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip, Caramel, and Sea Salt Cookies


14 T (200g) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1/2 C (100g) white sugar
3/4 C (150 g) packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp fine sea salt (table salt will do)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 C (255 g) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 C (135 g) semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 C (135 g) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 C (75 g) caramel bits
Flaked sea salt for sprinkling


  1. Place the butter into light colored frying or saute pan and cook, stirring constantly, over medium high heat. When the butter begins to boil, pay very close attention. When the butter starts to turn golden brown, after about 3 to 5 minutes, immediately remove it from the heat and pour it into a large bowl. 
  2. Add the white sugar, brown sugar, fine sea salt, and vanilla. Whisk until the mixture cools somewhat.
  3. Add the egg and egg yolk, and whisk for about 2 minutes, until the mixture begins to lighten in color. 
  4. Fold in the flour and baking soda until just incorporated. Fold in the chocolate, chips, and caramel pieces. Do not over mix. 
  5. Divide the dough into golf ball sized pieces, about 70 grams each. My dough yielded 14 cookies. Shape the dough pieces into balls, place them on a plate, and sprinkle them with sea salt. 
  6. Cover the dough balls with plastic, and refrigerate over night. 
  7. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F with a rack in the middle of the oven. 
  8. Line two baking sheets with parchment and place the cookie balls about 2 inches apart on each sheet. 
  9. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 8 to 12 minutes (it took 12 minutes in my case). Do not over cook. 
  10. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack. 
This recipe is adapted from the amazing bread book Josey Baker Bread: Get Baking - Make Awesome Bread - Share the Loaves. Yes, a bread book! And a very good one.