Potato, Cheddar Cheese, and Chive Bread

Potato Cheddar Cheese Chive Bread Crumb

If, in a cheese bread recipe, you were told to deeply cut into the proofed dough to allow the cheese to ooze out while baking, wouldn’t you be interested in seeing what happens? The potential for a crusty-smoky mess in the oven is high, but don’t let that keep you from trying this recipe out.

The water used for cooking the potatoes is the hydrating agent of choice, so don’t forget to reserve it afterwards. Potato water does magical things to bread. It noticeably softens the crumb and somehow makes the crust more thin and crackly.

With freshly chopped chives kneaded into the dough, the bread reminds me of a baked potato. It’s just begging to be served with a side of sour cream and bacon (probably not a good idea but worth a try).

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Sautéed Morel Mushrooms and Fava Beans

Sauteed Morel Mushrooms and Fava Beans

Buttery fava beans still in its pale green skin are added to sauteed morel mushrooms in this recipe. Crème fraîche, a cultured cream, gives the dish a rich tang. It’s a simple way of enjoying what is arguably the most coveted of spring produce.

When it comes to fresh ingredients, sometimes the simplest recipes are best. That’s what I want to say, but to be honest, I just didn’t want to screw up the morels. It’s one ingredient that makes me nervous in the kitchen and you can bet I went all eagle-eye on the morels as it cooked.

The fragrance released by the sauteed morels, obviously that of a mushroom but much deeper than any others, is nothing short of addictive. It makes you want to risk facial oil burns as you bend over the hot skillet and catch a whiff.

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Asparagus Soup with Cream

Asparagus Cream Soup Recipe

The asparagus tips are cooked briefly to retain crispness and the stalks pureed to lend the soup a light green hue. You’ll also need a potato to slightly thicken and some parsley for that fresh herby taste.

The original recipe calls for a brief simmer with a tied-up bunch of parsley, presumably for easy extraction before pureeing. It seems to be missing this step so I added it. Blending the soup with the parsley also didn’t seem right because doing so could kill the subtle taste of asparagus.

The soup is finished with heavy cream, but since it’s getting warmer and I need to get sexy soon, I used milk. Either way, the soup will be smooth and creamy.

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Grilled Chicken with Espelette Pepper

Grilled Chicken with Espelette Pepper

You’ll likely spend more effort looking for the key ingredient than preparing this simple grilled chicken (see below for a substitution suggestion). The original recipe mentions Fox & Obel, a Chicago grocer that makes Whole Foods seem like Cheap Eats Galore by comparison, as the only source for Espelette peppers around here ($17.99 for 45 grams).

Fox & Obel is a last resort for me because I can drive myself into serious debt just by getting a few ounces of this and that. Groceries aren’t supposed to be a threat to my measly credit limit, but good judgment flies out the window after a few minutes of walking around that tasty-sexy food haven. I wonder what the employee discount is like.

Espelette peppers are coarsely ground dried chiles with a brick red hue. It has AOC status, so the peppers are exclusively sourced from specific French communes and follow strict production methods. It is an essential ingredient in classic Basque dishes such as Pipérade and Poulet Basquaise.

A suitable substitute is paprika with a pinch of cayenne, as suggested in Anne Willan’s The Country Cooking of France. This approximates the distinctive mix of sweetness and mild heat in Espelette peppers.

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Hot Cross Buns Recipe

Hot Cross Buns Recipe

English hot cross buns are scented with allspice and baked with dried currants and candied citrus peel. The buns are traditionally enjoyed for breakfast on Good Friday, but that doesn’t keep me from baking these all year round. It’s ready in about three hours so it’s quick as far as yeast rolls go.

The dough is also an excellent base recipe for pillowy, moist, and lightly sweetened rolls. Even with the cookie-like cross on top, most of the sweetness comes from the additional dried fruits and candied citrus peel. Variations with spicing, fruits, and even nuts makes this recipe an easy way to use up odds and ends from baking other stuff.

The crossing paste is piped right before baking. The cross ends up crisp, much like lemon vanilla cookies, and goes well with the softness of the buns. Most versions I’ve tried are topped with a thick cross of icing after baking and tend to be way too sweet to my liking.

I should mention that the cross adds an agreeable vanilla-citrus crunch and is definitely not just for decoration. I’m thinking of using different extracts and flavorings for the paste, perhaps as an addition to brioche. It’s kind of fun to doodle on dough and bake.

Happy Easter!

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