Mum’s Baked Ziti

My mother is very big influence in my cooking and probably always will be. She got me involved in the kitchen at a very young age and taught me a great foundation of culinary tricks that I still use to this day. Since fall is upon us like a vengeance with cool and breezy nights, I’ve been desperate for some of my mother’s classic dishes but she lives 1200 miles away (wahhhaaaa). She use to make this baked ziti (before she was a little more health conscious) that just oozed cheesy goodness that could warm up any chilly fall night. The other day I decided I was going to treat myself with a decadent meal that would make me feel like I was back home and with my mother’s home cooking.

Of course, I had to add my own spin on her classic recipe. She never made her own tomato sauce (always from a jar – don’t judge she was a busy lady) and she was kind of shy with spices. I hope you enjoy this family friendly classic that can satisfy a crowd or provide left overs for a couple for days. 😉

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Adventures in French Bread Making

 It’s SOUP SEASON!!! And what goes better with soup, BREAD! The other day when we were meal planning for the week, I came up with the bright idea of making french bread for the first time. I had recently been thumbing through my copy of Essential Pepin and the recipe for baguette seemed easy enough. It requires a lot of patience since you have to let it rise for like 5 hours in total. 

*This is not a healthy bread or option by any means but I was feeling like a treat!

Jacques Pepin’s Baguette 

  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour, preferably organic, plus 2 1/2 tablespoons for sprinkling
  • 1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups cool water (70 degrees)
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal

Put the 4 1/2 cups flour, the yeast, salt, and water in a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook on low speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until a smooth elastic dough forms. Alternatively, process the ingredients in a large food processor for 45 seconds.

Transfer the dough to a plastic bucket or a large deep ceramic or stainless steel bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (about 70 degrees) for at least 4 1/2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.

Break down the dough by bringing the outer edges into the center of the bowl and pressing down to release the air inside. Form the dough into a ball. Sprinkle the work surface with 2 tablespoons of the remaining flour, place the dough on top, and press down to form it into a rough rectangular shape. Cut the rectangle lengthwise into 4 equal strips. Roll each strip under your palms into an 18-inch length.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat and sprinkle with the cornmeal. Place the baguettes on the baking sheet. Let the baguettes rise, covered with an upside-down roasting pan, in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Sprinkle the tops of the risen loaves with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon flour. Cut 4 diagonal slits in the top surface of each loaf with a serrated knife or razor blade, and place in the oven. Using a spray bottle filled with tap water, mist the inside of the oven to create steam, and immediately close the door. Bake the baguettes for 35 minutes, or until brown and crusty.

Cool the baguettes on a rack for at least 45 minutes before slicing.

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Next time, I would probably let it rise for another 45 minutes longer. 

 

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Look at that steam coming off of that bread! I couldn’t wait the 45 minutes for the bread to cool!

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I’m in my happy place, now. 

 

Copyright © 2011 by Jacques Pépin. All rights reserved.