Air Fryer Ciabatta Bread Loaves

A few nights ago I found a Youtube video showing me how to make ciabatta bread from scratch that can be baked in an air fryer. So, D-UH, I was into it. Here is my first attempt. This picture shows the bottoms after I finished flipping and baking the loaves. The tops look just as beautiful.

I made the mistake of spraying the loaves instead of brushing them with melted butter. I won’t do that again. I didn’t like the finished tops as much, but I did like them. Another thing this recipe calls for is using a bigger than the basket size of parchment so you can pinch up a segregation wall in the middle so the loaves don’t proof and bake together as one square of bread.

Baked at 400* for 8 mins over parchment paper, and then the parchment came off to finish the flipped over loaves in the bare pan another 6-7 mins. When they came out they felt hard or perhaps a tad overbaked, but after a quick rest on a rack, they soften up nicely. I was pleasantly surprised. 🙂

Air Fryer Mac & Cheese

Made this one last night. It took way too long and too much futzing with it to get the elbow noodles to finally finish cooking before adding the toppings and finishing it. BUT, I have ideas on how to speed it up for the next time.

After 25 mins, the cheese sauce was like molten lava. But that was ok; I felt it would help the toppings bake up faster, and I was right. Look at those bubbles along the rim of the baking dish in the video below. Love that visual.

Air Fryer Mac & Cheese:
1 1/2 C: Elbow Pasta / Water
1 tub Black Diamond White Cheddar Sauce (my new fave product!)
2+ tbsp Dry Mustard
1 tea: Onion Powder / Paprika
S&P

Stir it all up and put the baking dish inside the basket. Cook it at 360* for about 20 mins, stirring often to pull the protein skin down into the sauce every 4-5 mins. Till and turn the noodles up from the bottom so it all gets an even cook overall each time.

When you hit the 20+ mark, taste the noodles to see where their doneness is. If you need more liquid to get them softer, add 1/4 cup of water or heavy cream. Continue cooking it another 5 mins. Before adding the toppings, make sure the pasta is el dente. And then, add:

1+ C Marble Cheddar, grated
1/4 C Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs

Bake the dish with the toppings about 4 more mins. The dish was super hot, so I pulled the drawer out and scooped the mac out with a serving spoon directly. I didn’t even bother trying to get that hot dish out of the basket. It wasn’t necessary to do so.

I will post an update to the time saving changes after I make this again next week.

Cake Mix + Soda = Soda Pop Cakes

I’m not a big fan of basic birthday cake, and by extension, cupcakes. But. I have to believe if you spice up a basic cake batter, I might try a portion should I be offered. I made half a box of yellow cake mix for the husband’s recent birthday, but I forgot all about flavouring it because I wanted to try futzing around with the icing in a can to make a galaxy looking effect for him. It wasn’t special beyond the icing effect which turned out ok. He liked what I was going for.

Anyway, back to the flavour matrix. There is a Youtuber who did a taste test on most of the above and she only deemed a few of them worth the effort. If you care, here is her full video.

DIY Butter Making

I am really into making various dairy products from one carton of dairy. Given the rising prices (two increases this year alone!) of dairy across the board, it made sense to me to start making my own butter, cream cheese, and soft mozza cheese. All of these are staples in our fridge.

First up, buttah! Made in my KitchenAid mixer. Just like the pioneers did. Ahem. 🙂

The process of making butter is simply whisking (or churning) the cream long enough with enough force to separate the cream’s fat solids from the whey liquid.

And before you ask, yes I lightly salted the butter. Tastes so good. Can’t wait it use it. *swoon*

In a nutshell, this is what I did:
1. Ran 1 cup of 35% whipping cream in my mixer machine with the whisk attachment on a very high speed for about 8 mins. I scrapped the bowl down once before finishing up.
2. I dumped the butter mix into a mesh strainer over a bowl. I pushed the butter down into the mesh but quickly realised I should have put a cheese cloth between the butter and the strainer, so I gloved up and started squeezing it in my hands.
3. While still holding the butter lump in my hand, I moved it around in a bowl of cold filtered water to clean out that last of the whey liquids before squeezing it dry again. I had to be gentle because the butter was so soft at this stage. It kept trying to ooze out between my fingers, so I wrapped the lump of gold up in some Bounty. That helped.
4. While holding the butter in my gloved hand, I shook some salt on the blob and on my glove, and then proceeded to massage/knead the two together. I did a quick taste test, and then wrapped it in plastic film.
5. I formed it into a small brick and tucked it in the fridge so it can firm up.

In the end, this is what I was left with:

It weights 74g, and it measures out to 5″ x 3 1/4″ x 1 1/4″. All from 1 cup of cream and a bit of salt + time. This is good. I will do this more in future.

We don’t normally use a lot of butter day to day, so there is always the worry that our butter would go rancid in the fridge before we get around to using it up since I don’t do a lot of baking anymore. This will be a good money saver (hella expensive even for the low-end store butters) and a very real time saver (I typically wait for butter to go on sale, buy a few bricks, and store it in the freezer. I would then have to wait for it to thaw in the fridge over night, and then again on the counter as it comes up to room temp to use it.)

I can make a small batch in about 10 mins, and have it ready to use in a few more mins should I need it to be soft, or butter in 30 mins should it need to be firm. I hate that I didn’t try this years ago. Grr.

And now I finally have some pretty handmade butter to put in my late MIL’s cute glass butter dish with this cute cow embedded in the design.

DIY Coffee Syrups

I love coffee. I love flavoured coffee. I also love saving loads of money by making these dead easy coffee syrups at home for pennies. I kid you not. Pennies.

Syrup batches I made this week: Caramel, Hazelnut, and Vanilla

Here are but a few of my faves, and a few new-to-me kinds I recommend making at home yourself. And they all have the same two starter ingredients: water + sugar (or sweetener of choice) in a 1:1 ratio to form a simple sugar base. Here we go.

Bar Cart Simple Syrup:
1C Water : 1C Sugar (any)

Bring water and sugar to a boil on med-high heat, stirring constantly until the sugar is fully dissolved. Once at the boiling point, drop heat to a simmer and let it low boil 10 mins. Cool completely off the burner. It will thicken up if you chill it in a storage jar.

Caramel Syrup:
1C Water : 1C White Sugar

Over a less than medium heat, stir the sugar often and alone in a bare pan, until it hits a lumpy liquid stage. Heat up the water in the microwave so it’s hot, but not boiling.

CAREFULLY dribble the hot water into the sugar a bit at a time, whisking when it’s safe to have you hand near the pot. The water + sugar will cause a steam reaction initially that will burn your hand if you pour it all in at once. Resist that urge.

Keep stirring the mixture until all of the sugar is smoothed out (don’t worry if some of it hardens – that will melt eventually as you continue stirring).

If you need more control of the sugar from hardening or burning, you can slip the pot halfway off the burner as you stir, returning the pot fully to the burner when you feel the sugar is melting needs more heat to finish.

Cool completely off the burner. It will thicken up if you chill it in a storage jar.

Hazelnut Syrup:
1C Water : 1C Sugar (not brown sugar; it will overwhelm the final flavour)
1 tea Hazelnut Extract

I went to many stores, but Michael’s was the only one that had this extract product.

Like the above two recipes, dissolve the sugar in the water fully, bring to a gentle boil, drop heat and let it simmer 10 mins before adding the extract off the heat and cooling completely. Store in a jar in the fridge to thicken it, or on the counter to use as is.

Brown Sugar Syrup:
1C Water : 1C Brown Sugar
3-4 drops or 1/4 tea Vanilla Extract

This syrup was the hottest new thing last year at Starfakes, and it looks like they are going to make it a big player in the summer coffee drinks game this year, too. Add this to some whipped cold milk foam, and pair them with some cold coffee, and you will have the summer heat licked before it starts.

Make the same as any of the previous syrups: bring to boil, drop to simmer for 10 mins. Cool completely. Jar and store in fridge for thicker or on the counter.

Mint Syrup:
1/2C Water : 1/2C Sugar (any)
2-3 Drops Mint Extract

This is a great version of the bar cart simple syrup for sweetening your summer drinks. Make the same as any of the previous syrups: bring to boil, drop to simmer for 10 mins. Cool completely. Jar and store in fridge for thicker or on the counter.

Coffee Syrup:
1C Water : 1C Sugar
3 Tbsp Instant Espresso or Instant Coffee Powder

Make the same as any of the previous syrups: bring to boil, drop to simmer for 6 mins. Skim off the foam as it simmers or strain into a cheese cloth when off the heat. Cool completely. Jar and store in fridge for thicker or on the counter.

Baking Hacks – Cookies

I’m a big fan of food hacks. I don’t have a lot of time and mental bandwidth to think of these myself, so when I come across them, I take a screencap for the future when I know I’ll be looking to cut corners. But, a food hack has to be a clever hack. The hack can’t ruin the final product. And it has to make my life easier. Like this one.

DIY Oat Milk

If you ask me, oat milk is the way to go with cold blender drinks. (I’m not a fan of it in hot coffee or hot chocolate – yuck!) I use a little bit in all of my smoothies if I have it on hand.

So, if you want to learn how to make your own, have a spare five minutes, have a high-speed blender, or have some oats about to go off, why not make your own oat milk to save yourself a lot of money?

DIY Oat Milk:
1 C Old Fashion Oats (fully unprocessed or milled oat flakes)
4 C Cold Water
1/8 or less Salt (as a preservative)
Tight Meshed Strainer
Bowl (to strain into)
Container (to chill your milk in)

That’s it, that’s all.

TIP: If you blend longer than 20 seconds, the oats gum up the milk liquid, making it harder to strain it all out.

Blend the three ingredients for 20 seconds (tops!). Time it with your phone app if you need to. Pour into strainer over a bowl. Push the oat mush around to allow the liquid milk to strain into the bowl with a spoon. When the mush has released everything it’s going to release, dump it into your recycle bin. I’m sure someone has a use for that ball of mush so nothing goes to waste, but I don’t. *shrugs*

What’s left in the bowl is your oat milk. At this point, pour it into a lidded container vessel so you can keep it in the fridge up to one week (or a bit more). You will notice when you pull it out for use the water and oat liquid has separated. Don’t worry. Shake it up and use it would as you’d use any other milk.

Enjoy!

Stovetop Eggplant Parm

For the coming months when it’s too hot to turn on even the broiler for five minutes, I bring you Eggplant Parmesan made on the stovetop.

Yes, I know you don’t like eggplant, but perhaps someone else you know does?

The idea is the same as a traditionally made eggplant parm but you forego the lovely browned cheese on each of the crispy breaded eggplant round medallion slices.

It starts out by laying some paper towel on a plate and putting 1/2″ eggplant slices on it. Salt both sides, and prick each medallion. Microwave them for 1 to 1.5 minutes, checking at the 1 minute mark for doneness. Remove any that are foldable; continue microwaving the thicker cuts.

Set up your basic 3 Stage Dredge Station:
1. Flour + S&P in the first bowl
2. Egg whisked up in the second bowl
3. Panko + Italian Seasoning in the third bowl

While your hot pan is heating up some oil, quickly flour, wash, and coat a few slices to drop in the hot pan over the oil. Continue dredging a few more medallions as you check the colour on the first batch. Flip when you hit a nice looking crust. Add a bit more oil around the first few and drop the second batch down to brown.

Remove the done medallions to rest on a wire rack over paper towel until all the slices have been fried. Wipe out the pan’s dirty oil, and add a tomato sauce of your choice. Plunk the eggplant medallions into the hot ragu (being careful not the fully submerge both sides). Cut or grate some mozzarella cheese and place some on each eggplant slice.

Place a lid (or a big sheet pan if you don’t have a matching lid) over top of the pan to let the cheese melt as everything hits the same temperature.

Fish out two slices and place them on lovely fresh bun. Top them with a bit of the ragu, and if you like some lettuce and roasted peppers or pickles (I love the crunch and taste contrast here), and EAT!