An American Skillet’s Recipe: Bread Pudding with Asparagus and Fontina Cheese

We fell in love with the cast iron state shaped skillets as soon as we saw them for the first time. The American Skillet Co., located in Madison, WI, specializes in the making of cast iron skillets, and we are proud to sell them at our store. Their USA made (and WI made) skillets are the perfect pan, so versatile, and so fun to use.

Here is a recipe the guys at The American Skillet Co. posted on their website, and we think this is going to be DELICIOUS. Send us a photo if you try it! Yummy!

Bread Pudding with Asparagus & Fontina Cheese

What you’ll need:

6-10 thick slices stale French bread, each slice cut in half

1- 1 1/2 cup whole milk

3 large eggs

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1/3- 1/2 lb. asparagus, cut into 1inch pieces

1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs such as chives, flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, thyme, and marjoram

3 tbsp. grated Romano, Parmesan, or any hard Italian cheese

1/4lb. Fontina cheese, slivered

1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Put it all together:

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees.

In a bowl, beat together the eggs, salt, pepper and reserved milk until well blended. Arrange the bread in the skillet. Set some asparagus tips aside and then top the bread with the remaining asparagus and the mixed herbs.

Sprinkle the cheeses over the asparagus. Pour the milk-egg mixture over the top, and dot with the butter. Bake until the top is crusty brown and a knife inserted into the middle of the pudding comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes. Check on it. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, top with the reserved asparagus tips. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

Last week we featured a Mac & Cheese Recipe by The American Skillet Co. on our FACEBOOK  page. It got lots of attention, you should check it out! And when you are there, take the time to like our page, we are always posting about amazing kitchen gadgets, recipes and much more. Oh, and if you do cook any of the recipes we post, please post a photo of them on our Facebook page, we would love that.

Happy cooking, everyone!

Homemade Bread: it just can’t get any better than that!

There just is nothing quite as homey and comforting as the smell of bread baking.  It’s even been recommended to bake some bread before you show your house if you’re trying to sell it, but why wait for THAT excuse to bake bread? You can do it with sure success with a few essentials – some you may already have in your kitchen, and one or two that might just bump you up to expert bread baker.

Cook’s Illustrated / America’s Test Kitchen has re-issued their fabulously simple No-Knead Bread recipe in a recent special issue on bread, and you really should try it if you love crusty, artisan-style bread, with its open-crumb texture. It’s so simple, and SO successful. It makes a steam oven out of a cast iron French (or Dutch) oven, such as the Le Creuset ovens we have carried for years.

The idea is that the preheated pot, with the lid on, can keep the temperature around the dough much higher;  the higher temp’ makes the dough form larger bubbles inside; the steam created inside the pot condenses on the surface of the dough, making the crust crispy when the lid comes off for the final baking. The folks at ATK are right on!

I love this technique:

  • Mix your wet and dry ingredients, and let them rest and rise for 8-18 hours (your convenience).
  • Knead the dough 10 -15 times and shape into a ball.
  • Let the dough rise on a piece of parchment paper, covered with plastic wrap, for 2 hours.
  • While the dough is rising, preheat your oven, with the cast iron pot in it, to 450 degrees.
  • Place the ball of dough into the preheated pot, using the parchment to lift it carefully. Put the top on, put it in the oven, turn the heat down slightly to 425, and bake for 30 minutes.

Take the top off and continue to cook until brown and crusty – or until 210 degrees inside the bread.

Things you might need:

  • 6-8qt heavy pot with tight-fitting lid.  We, of course, love the LeCreuset round ovens…. Only Le Creuset’s  signature phenolic knobs and stainless steel knobs are oven-safe at high temperatures. Classic phenolic knobs are oven-safe to 375 F. If using a Classic oven, remove the knob when baking at temperatures higher than 375 F.
  • Parchment paper…….unbleached, please!
  • A thermometer…….optional but handy. Once again, the internal temperature of the loaf is what really determines if it’s ready to come out of the oven.  A fast-reading instant read thermometer is invaluable for bread baking. The best of the best is of course the Thermapen from Thermoworks.  But we have many others – digital and dial.
  • A Brotform, or banneton…….If you are not familiar with these, read on.

These hand woven (following a century-old tradition) bread-dough-rising baskets give your homemade bread a crunchy crust, improved texture, ribbed, floury décor, better rise and a uniform shape. The baskets are used to support the shape of a loaf leavened over a long period of time, as long rises may weaken the gluten structure of the bread, resulting in a flatter loaf.

To use, just dust the basket with flour, put your kneaded dough in, and let it rise. The natural cane coils shape and decorate the loaf the old-fashioned way. When it’s done rising, the loaf is turned out and immediately slid onto a stone (or into a pot) and baked, scored or not. The final result? A country bread with a great texture and crunchy crust.

To remove any remaining flour, simply tap the basket on the counter.  This sturdy basket is even attractive enough to double as a serving piece for outdoor meals and entertaining.

Brotforms / bannetons can be used for years and never cleaned. If they build up too much flour, use a paring knife to scrape out the dried bits in the grooves and start over. It is kind of like seasoning an iron skillet; if you don’t get it wet, and reuse it with the flour in it, your bread will stick less and less each time, until you can simply invert the dough with no coaxing. This allows you to bake using much wetter doughs. You may also hand wash in warm water if you so choose.

Check out the video below for a demo:

And finally, to store your fresh bread we recommend the Bread Armor Artisan Bread Storage Bags. These bags are resealable, reusable and recyclable!

Bread baking at home is definitely worth it. So start experimenting, and if you need any tools to help you in the kitchen, we’ve got you covered. Enjoy your homemade bread, because it just can’t get any better than that!

The Perfect Pumpkin Cookie

 

Happy Halloween

It’s cookie time!

Door County looks incredible this Fall. The colors so vibrant, so beautiful. Many shades of orange, yellows, intense reds. And the leaves keep falling, a sign of the changes we are about to endure. But before the cool season sets in, take the time to slow down a bit, enjoy the scenery, and get ready for Halloween!

Halloween comes as a playful time, full of fun, mystery, joyful moments and our favorite thing of all: the delicious treats…

This year we have decided to focus on the ultimate Fall/Halloween cookie: the Pumpkin Cookie.

Yes, we know, there are a lot of funny, scary, unique cookies out there,  but the Pumpkin IS the symbol (and the charm) of this time of the year.

When we came across this perfect pumpkin cookie, we knew we had to share it with you!

To start, make your cookies!

2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups of soft butter

1 tsp. vanilla, lemon, or almond flavoring

1/2 cup milk

2 tsp. baking soda

5 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

dash nutmeg

Cream sugar, egg, and butter.  Stir in vanilla.  Dissolve soda in milk and add to creamed mixture.  Mix flour, salt, and nutmeg together, stir into creamed mixture.  Cover and chill about 2 hours or overnight.

Roll out dough on a flour surface.  Place cookies about an inch apart.

And then it is time for the cutters…

We LOVE our USA made cookie cutters by Ann Clark Ltd.! Strong and durable, they make the perfect cookie and last for seasons to come.

Next step: decorating the cookie! We are about to make the perfect pumpkin cookie, and we thank the staff at sweetsugarbelle.com for this amazing and simple tutorial.

To make these cookies you will need:

Pumpkin orange piping and flood icing and green piping and icing. If you would like tips on how to make royal icing for piping and flooding cookies, watch this video here.

Begin by outlining the pumpkin segments as shown below.  Divide the pumpkin into three sections, but this can vary.

Next, fill alternating sections with orange icing.  To create dimension, wait a few minutes before moving to the next one.

Segmented-Pumpkin-Cookies2

Use green icing to add a stem.

To finish up, add a couple of vines and leaves.

And voilà!

We want to wish you a wonderful orange season, and no matter what you do, have fun, enjoy your loved ones, and of course, eat lots of treats!

Happy Halloween!