Happy Valley Chow

gour-mand (noun): one who is excessively fond of eating and drinking

Filtering by Category: "Foodies"

Focaccia Bread

As some of you know, I am a Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Major at Penn State University. One of the classes we have to take is actually running a restaurant/kitchen. It's a really fun class, especially being a foodie like myself, we get to mess around a lot in the kitchen and create a lot of great stuff. Today we made up some sun dried tomato focaccia bread which turned out delicious, so I figured I might as well snap some pics of it and share with you all. The recipe below is just a straight focaccia recipe, but we added in some sun dried tomatoes. You can add in whatever you want (i.e. sun dried tomatoes, olives, pepperoni, etc). Just make you don't add in more than 10% of the weight in flour, in other addition ingredients. So if you are adding in sun dried tomatoes, you should take 10% of the 2.5 lbs (4.0 oz) and only add in around that much sun dried tomatoes. Enjoy!

  • 24 oz. Water
  • 1.0 oz. Yeast 
  • 2.5 lbs. Bread Flour
  • 3.5 tsp Salt
  • 1.25 tsp Sugar
  • 2.0 oz. Olive Oil

Place a cast iron skillet in your oven and Pre-heat to 425 degrees F

Measure out your water, being as precise as possible, and mix in the yeast. In a bowl combine the flour, salt and sugar until incorporated. In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the dough hook attachment fitted, place your flour mixture in and add the water/yeast mixture and olive oil in. Start the mixer on a low speed and mix for 8 minutes. If you are adding in extra stuff, throw that all in the last minute of mixing to incorporate into the dough.

Once your dough has reached a proper consistency transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover with a dish towel and let proof for 1.5 hours in an 80 degree F area (2 hours in 75 degree F). Once proofed transfer to an oiled sheet pan and mold dough to the shape of the sheet pan and let proof for another 30 minutes. Once proofed, take your pointer, middle and ring finger and gently push holes down into the dough the whole way around (this is to have little pockets for the olive oil). Generously drizzle the top of the focaccia dough with olive oil coating the whole thing and then sprinkle with kosher salt (You can also use some chopped fresh herbs on top as well, be creative!)

Place the dough in the oven and throw a few ice cubes into the hot cast iron skillet to create steam. Bake for 10 minutes or until crust is golden brown. 

Why Steam Bread??

Ever wonder how professional bakers get those beautifully domed loaves a bread with glossy brown crusts? The secret - at least one of them - is steam...
In the first few minutes of baking, loaves of bread will rise rapidly as the gases trapped inside expand and the yeast has a final burst of activity (this is called "ovenspring"). Steaming within this time helps keep the crust soft. This allows the bread to continue expanding freely.
The steam that has settled on the surface of the bread also dissolves sugars in the dough. As the bread stops expanding and the steam begins to evaporate, the sugars are left behind to caramelize (yum!) and create a glossy crust.
Steaming is really only useful during the first 5-10 minutes of baking while the yeast is still active and the internal structure hasn't set. After this time, the crust needs its own time to set and dry out.
There are several different methods for getting steam inside your oven and the trick is always doing it without losing too much heat. Personally, I prefer to set a cast iron pan on the oven floor and let it preheat along with the oven. When the time comes, I slide the loaves in and then I either quickly pour a cup of very hot tap water into the pan or toss in a handful of ice cubes.
Some bakers advocate using a spritzer bottle to spray a mist of water into the oven, but I feel that this lets out too much heat and doesn't really generate the same amount of steam as using a pan with water or ice cubes.
Also, you can add steam when baking any bread, whether it's a simple white sandwich bread or a hearty country round loaf. You learn something new everyday!

Taco Smash Burger

When making taco's last week, I thought "you know what?? I want to make a taco burger." So this, inevitably, is what I came up with. All the great taco flavors in a bun! Since I don't have a grill at my place, I decided to do these burger smash style. Where you basically make a big meatball instead of a patty, put it on a hot griddle and then literally smash it down. You can of course cook the burgers any way you would like. Enjoy!

  • 1 lbs. ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 3 Hamburger buns
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
  • 6 slices Colby-jack cheese
  • Happy Valley Salsa, or your favorite brand
  • Frito's
  • Shredded Lettuce
  • Guacamole 
  • Taco sauce

Mix the ground beef with 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning, trying not to over work the beef. Separate into even, 1/3 lbs, meatballs and refrigerate until ready to cook. If you are going to grill your burgers, form them into patties and skip the smash steps of this recipe. 

Heat a griddle over medium high heat. Lightly butter each side of the hamburger buns and grill, face down, until golden brown. Put the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil on the griddle and coat evenly. Place the meatballs onto the hot griddle and sear for about 1 minute. Flip the balls over and smash down with a metal spatula until it's flat. You can also use a cast iron pan and work in batches. When the burger is almost done, place two slices of cheese on top of each burger, cover and melt the cheese. 

For assembly, spoon a little taco sauce  on the bottom bun (I used Taco Bell fire sauce, I always ask for extra packets). Then on the top bun, spread some guacamole and sprinkle shredded lettuce on top. Place the burger on the bun, top with a spoon full of Happy Valley Salsa and some Frito's. 

**Note: Only smash burgers when cooking this way. Do not, smash, press or over turn your burgers when grilling. I know it's tempting to keep flipping them and make big flames shoot out of your grill. But, you will be losing all those great juices in the meat if you do. You should only have to flip your burgers once!!**

Song of the Recipe

Such a fun group and definitely on the list of bands I want to see live. Just another group that makes me want to buy and rock out on an accordion! 

Orange Chicken Stir Fry

Some people may find this disturbing...but I haven't tried Panda Express' Orange Chicken until this past year. Honestly, I've never been a huge fan of Chinese food until recently. Growing up I really despised white rice and I guess I just associated Chinese food with that and kind of stereo typically slashed out the entire Chinese cuisine. But, I finally took the plunge and started trying it more and really do love it now...especially Orange Chicken. Most of the time orange chicken is deep fried, but I wasn't in the mood for the mess of frying and decided to just do a quick stir fry with this ridiculous good orange sauce. 

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 1/12 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 teaspoons corn starch
  • 2  tablespoons water 
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • Vegetables of choice, for stir fry 

Pour 1 1/2 cups water, orange juice, lemon juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, chopped green onion, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and cool for 15 minutes. 

Place the chicken pieces in a large zip lock bag. When orange sauce has cooled. Pour 1 cup of sauce into bag, reserve remaining sauce. Seal the bag and refrigerate at least 1 hour. 

In a wok or dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the marinated chicken pieces and sautee  until almost cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. Then add in your vegetables (in my case I just did broccoli) and sautee for another 3-5 minutes. Add the reserved orange sauce to the chicken and vegetables and bring to a boil. Mix the 4 teaspoons of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water in a bowl and mix into the orange sauce (This acts as a thickening agent). Stir until the sauce has thickened. Serve with Lee's Egg Rolls and garnish with more chopped onion. 

Song of the Recipe

One of my favorite bands, if you ever get a chance to see them live, do it they are amazing! Lee and I saw them in Chicago last year and we were those people smashed up on the front row. We couldn't hear afterwards and I almost got kicked in the face several times...But, we had a blast!

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