Friday, November 30, 2012

Apple and Honey Sourdough Bread for BBD #54

I was in the mood to try a new sourdough bread this week.  Something fun, something fresh, something delicious.

After considering all of my options (including, but not limited to, all fruits and vegetables currently in the house, not to mention the idea for a chocolate sourdough bread that just won't leave my mind...), I decided to go with a classic Fall flavor - apples and honey.  And to liven it up a bit, I decided to infuse the bread with one extra flavor:


Green tea. Just to see what would happen.

I have made a couple of different sourdough loaves, using a couple different formulas/recipes. I referred back to my previous attempts and adapted them for this loaf.

I started by making the levain - using my 100% hydration liquid starter to create a firm starter, just by changing the usual ratio of flour and water used to feed the sourdough.  And after an overnight rest, it was time to make the bread.

The next morning, I combined the stiff starter with additional flour, applesauce and green tea, to infuse a bit of extra freshness to the flavor of the loaf.  Once the dough was all incorporated, it was time to add the flavor - a diced apple and a generous swirl of honey.


But after the first hour's rest, I saw that something wasn't quite right...


Umm.... it seemed to be leaking. Weird.

And that's when I realized what I'd done. I'd confused the two recipes that I'd been referring to. I used the firm starter measurements from one recipe and the loaf measurements from another, which may have something to do with the extra moisture that resulted here. Or it might have had something to do with the apples... I'm not sure.

Either way, when it came time for the next set of stretching and folding, I had to use some extra flour and a clean bowl, but it still came together pretty well.


And after its final, longest rest, it was ready for the oven.

Now, I know I always talk about how good things smell as they bake, but it really is true. Aside from the delicious bread scent, the apples added another delicious layer to the aroma. Seriously good.

And then came the hardest part of the process. The waiting.

But the reward of cutting into this bread is definitely worth the patience.


A nice, thick crumb, but a pretty open yet moist crumb - this bread is delicious, with the heartiness of the apple chunks, and the interplay of the tanginess of the sourdough with the subtle sweetness of the honey - a truly delicious combination.

So good that someone couldn't wait to get his piece...


Before I had the chance to write this up, I happened upon the announcement for this month's Bread Baking Day theme - overnight breads!  While the announcement indicates that most overnight breads are rested overnight at the end, at the proofing stage, I thought that this one, with its overnight fermentation of the firm starter, fit the bill, so I am sharing this bread with this month's host over at Hefe und mehr.

Apple and Honey Sourdough Bread
(my own creation, based on previous attempts)

For the firm starter:
2/3 cup sourdough starter (100% hydration)
4.5 oz. bread flour
1/4 cup water

Mix these together and let ferment at room temperature for 4 hrs. Refrigerate overnight (or even up to a few days).

For the bread:
all of the levain
9.25 ounces flour
0.125 ounces salt
3.25 ounces brewed green tea (brewed strong)
4.75 ounces apple sauce
1/4 cup honey
1 apple, diced

Combine the levain, flour, tea, salt and applesauce, and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
On a lightly floured counter, stretch out the dough into a long rectangular shape.
Drizzle the honey and sprinkle the diced apple pieces as evenly as possible across the dough, theb fold/roll the dough over top (which ever method you want to do this is fine, you just need to get it in there).
Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rest for 1 hour.
Stretch and fold the dough, place back in the bowl and allow to rest for 1 hour.
Make another stretch and fold, place back in the bowl, cover, and let sit for at least four hours.
(If you would like, you can place the dough in the refrigerator at this point to rest overnight)
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 500 degrees and cover a baking sheet with parchment. Flour the parchment and turn the dough out onto it. Score the top of the loaf.
Place the bread in the oven and turn the oven down to 450.
Bake the loaf for 25-35 minutes, until nicely golden brown.
Cool for at least 1-2 hour before slicing.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November Daring Bakers' Challenge - Cookies!

Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us.

Oh my goodness. When I read this challenge, I was so impressed with Peta. She found, tested and presented to us a well thought out challenge containing twelve mouth-watering varieties of cookies. I wanted to try all twelve. Seriously. And, over time, I still hope to.

But given how much other baking we do on a regular basis, I thought that might be overkill.

So I thought I'd try two this month. The first variety I selected was the recipe that Peta provided for brown butter shortbread.  I mean, shortbread is delicious in and of itself, as a delicious, simple cookie. Add to that the nuttiness of brown butter and the richness of brown sugar - how could I not try it??

I started by browning my butter. Last time I made brown butter I left it on a few seconds too long, so I was a bit trigger shy this time, which resulted in lightly browned butter...


But the smell was so nutty and delicious, I knew it would be delicious.

The browned butter was then whipped together with brown sugar, vanilla, flour and a touch of salt.


This dough was so light and airy, I was amazed. I'd intended to shape the cookies using my cookie press, but the dough kept oozing through the discs... so then I thought I'd pipe the dough into wreath-inspired rounds, but the only tip I have was way too narrow and wouldn't work well. For my third attempt, I started scooping the dough onto my cookie sheet, chocolate chip cookie style, but I wasn't happy with that either. So I went with plan "d" - a classic single, round of shortbread. I press the dough into a round cake pan, scoring the top for easier portioning once baked, and popped the whole thing in the oven.


The result was well worth the effort, frustrating and dishes. It smelled outstanding and tasted even better. The crisp, flakiness of the surface and the delicious flavor of the brown butter, daddy called this addictive and I tend to agree with him.


When I told little miss that we were going to be making lots of cookies this month, she chose a variety that was not included in the challenge, but I couldn't say no. She chose an activity type of cookie that was mentioned in a book she has. She wanted to make funny face cookies. The cookies themselves are simply a variety of oatmeal cookies, shaped into large rounds. The fun part is the decorating.


Awesome use for extra Halloween candy, I might add.

Using frosting and peanut butter as "glue" (and sunbutter for an allergy friendly one for her brother), little miss created some fun, silly and friendly cookies that were as fun to make as they were tasty to eat.


Daddy and I each had a turn decorating, too. Can you guess who made each one?


So while I didn't make twelve different varieties of cookies, we did have a lot of cookie-baking fun thanks to this challenge.

Peta, thank you so much for all of your hard work. I can't wait to try the other tasty recipes that you shared with us!

You should absolutely check out the recipes that we had to choose from this month as presented in the challenge.  And to see the other delicious cookies baked up in the kitchen this month, check them out here.

So tell me - which cookies would you have chosen??

Brown Butter Shortbread
(from November Daring Bakers' Challenge)

1 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (I used 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons table salt

To brown the butter:
Cut the butter into smallish pieces and place in a saucepan over a low heat. Melt the butter and cook until it starts to brown and gives off a warm, nutty aroma. Stir from time to time to make sure the butter browns evenly. As it gets close to being browned enough it will foam up and you will see little brown bits in the foam. Remove from the heat and pour into a heatproof jug or bowl. Set aside to cool slightly and then refrigerate until it starts to set again but is not too firm. It should be the consistency of softened butter. Don’t strain out the little brown bits they taste great.

For the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Add the sugar and vanilla to the browned butter and beat until very light and fluffy and the sugar is dissolved.
Finally, add the flour and salt and mix for at least 2 – 4 minutes to form a soft dough.
Press the dough into a round cake pan (8" or 9") and flatten the surface. You can score the top if you would like. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before baking. Bake the large shortbread round in a preheated moderate oven for about 20 – 30 minutes.
Let the cookie cool completely in the pan and remove when cooled. Store in an airtight container.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Egg Free, Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie

Ah, Thanksgiving. The wonderful time of year where we appreciate our good fortune by overeating and watching football.

We are fortunate that we live close enough to most of our family that we see each other pretty often. But that doesn't mean that we scrimp on the holidays. Oh, no. We still do it all - turkey, stuffing, potatoes, candied yams... you name it, I bet it was on the table.  My job is usually the baking - dessert and dinner rolls.

The only problem with the most traditional Thanksgiving desserts is that we now have food allergies to contend with. Pecan pie? There's no way that little man will be able to have that. But pumpkin pie? I knew there had to be a way.

A quick google search led me to several different options. But I wasn't looking for a no-bake custard, and there's no way I would get daddy to eat it if I used tofu... and then I found this recipe, and I knew I had a winner.

For the crust, I used my easy pie crust recipe, since it doesn't involve butter. I simply substituted coconut milk for the milk called for in the recipe. Easy enough.  And little man helped me press the dough into the pie pan.


I then crimped the edges as best I could...


Little man wasn't done helping me, though. Once the crust was set aside (no pre-baking for this recipe), it was time to put the filling together. And it is super duper easy. Simply combine all of the ingredients...


...then blend!


I only have a mini-blender, so I used my immersion blender. Again - easy enough!

All that was left to do was pour the filling into the waiting crust...


...and bake!


Well, the color looked decent, and it smelled good - I was hoping that it would pass the taste test with the family at the big dinner.

And the results?


Awesome! Little man ate it up and so did the rest of us. The flavor was delicious, the texture was just right - no one missed the eggs or sweetened condensed milk at all, and we agreed that we now have a new go-to pumpkin pie recipe!

Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie
(from GoDairyFree)

2 cups canned pumpkin, solid-pack (you could use fresh pumkin puree, just make sure you drain it really well)
1 cup full fat soymilk (I used canned coconut milk)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon molasses or blackstrap molasses
1 teaspoon cinnamon, grounded
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ginger, ground
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice or cloves, grounded
9″ unbaked pastry crust  (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and blend well using an imersion blender (or combine in a blender, if you have one large enough).  Pour the filling into the unbaked crust and bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes, covering the edges with foil if they begin to brown too quickly.
Cool on a rack, cover, and refrigerate overnight before serving (It is even better after setting overnight).

Easy Pie Crust, Dairy Free Version
(only slightly adapted from allrecipes)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons coconut milk (or other dairy milk substitute)

Place all ingredients into a 9 inch pie plate. Using a fork, stir everything together. Pat the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate. Using the same fork, poke holes in the bottom and sides of the crust.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sourdough Surprises #8 - Scones

After last month's sourdough-starter-scare, I've been nervous about using my starter. I've been watching it and feeding it, trying to make sure it stays nice and healthy... but I've still been a little worried.

But then the latest Sourdough Surprises challenge was announced, and it was scones. Umm... yum! Fear be gone, let's get to sourdough-ing!

I started by making one of the two recipes that was linked on the challenge announcement (this one, from Sourdough Diva).

This is a really good basic scone recipe, but it's just that. Basic. It was tasty with jam. Or with butter. Or with honey. Successful recipe, but best as a base for something.

Which left me wanting to try again... to find a sourdough scone that could stand alone.  And I absolutely found it in this delicious looking recipe for vanilla almond scones.  Except since little man is allergic to nuts, I substituted dried cranberries for the nuts.

The dough comes together super easily - combine the dry ingredients, cut in the butter, then use the sourdough starter as the liquid to bring the dough together. I needed a few tablespoons of (coconut) milk to help me out, since the dough was pretty dry. But as soon as it came together, I stopped kneading (don't want to over-mix!), pressed out my dough and cut it into shape.

These baked up really well. And with the vanilla in the dough, as well as the milk/vanilla mixture brushed on top, the scent of vanilla was really mouth-watering!

And the best part was the taste. Everyone loved these - little man gobbled his up, little miss asked for seconds, and daddy and I agreed that these are a definite make-again!

So what kind of scones did you make? Link up your post and show us the deliciousness!

Cranberry Vanilla Sourdough Scones
(only slightly adapted from four dog fig farm)

1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cold butter cut into small cubes
1/2 cup sourdough starter
1 tablespoon vanilla + 1 teaspoon for topping
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 - 2 tablespoon of milk or egg for tops
coarse sugar for tops

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Whisk together all of the dry ingredients.  Add in the cubes of butter and cut in with a pastry blender or a knife (or your fingertips) until the mixture starts to hold together when pressed.
Add 1 tablespoon vanilla to the sourdough starter, then add the starter to the dry ingredients and mix lightly so that it forms a soft dough. Gently fold in the dried cranberries.  The key to scones is not to mix too much.  The ingredients should remain as separate as possible while still holding together.  If the mixture seems too dry, add a teaspoon of milk or water.  Repeat as necessary.  (I needed about three teaspoons of milk to make my batter come together well.)
On a lightly floured board, pat dough into a rectangle about a half-inch thick.  Cut into eight squares and place on a parchment paper covered baking sheet.  Brush on milk or egg (mixed with the remaining tsp of vanilla) and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the tops turn golden.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Banana Oat Bread (another SRC bonus!)

I am such a softie. If I hear that there's an orphaned blog for a Secret Recipe Club reveal, I just can't let it sit.  And when it was announced that an awesome blogger (no name given at the time - literally posted as "an awesome blogger!") had no post for the day, I just had to volunteer.

And when the host sent me over to Cook with Sara, I quickly knew that it was no exaggeration. Since this was for a fast turnaround, I was looking for a recipe that I could make, well, quickly, but I will definitely be returning to choose more recipes to try when I have more time to plan (and when dinner isn't already in the crock pot for the day!).

I first thought I'd go with her banana bread, since we love banana bread in our house, but then I saw a different variation - Banana Oat Bread. The deliciousness of banana bread with the wholesome goodness of oatmeal baked right in. Score!

As a quick-bread, this came together super easily.

Combine the dry ingredients...

...have any available six year old come and mash some bananas...

...combine the wet ingredients...

...and pour into a loaf pan! In my case, I also chose to sprinkle the top with demerara sugar. Just because.

And then the whole thing bakes, making the house smell delicious.  When it's all golden and tests done, all you have to do is let it cool without sneaking a taste. Or having the kids sneak tastes. That's probably the hardest part...

But it was worth the wait! Delicious, and with a really great texture and heartiness, due to the oatmeal, this was a really yummy version of banana bread.

Oh yes, this will probably be breakfast tomorrow. Did I say probably? Yeah... definitely!

Banana Oat Bread
(from Cook with Sara)

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup buttermilk (I used coconut milk)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla

1 cup mashed banana (2-3 bananas)

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a loaf pan with cooking spray.

Combine all of the dry ingredients (flour through oats) in a large mixing bowl. Combine wet ingredients (milk through eggs) in a measuring cup or bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir gently just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add bananas and stir until just combined.

Spoon batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (A 9" loaf pan will bake faster than a 8" loaf pan.) Cool on a wire rack in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and cool thoroughly.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Apple Buns for #TwelveLoaves

With all of the crazy busy-ness going on last month, I didn't have a chance to participate in the October #TwelveLoaves challenge. Total bummer.  And I knew I couldn't let it happen twice, no matter how crazy November got.

And then the theme for November was announced. Apples or pears.


No way was I going to miss this one.

And I had so many ideas - apple cinnamon buns, apple braids, apple monkey bread, apple quickbreads or muffins, apple coffee cake... the possibilities were deliciously endless. 

And then inspiration hit me. For the longest time, I've wanted to try a dessert version of the pork buns (bao) that I made for last years Daring Cooks' Challenge (that I recreated as cheesesteak buns once, too).

What better time than now??

The dough came together as previously (quickly and easily!), and I made a simple caramelized apple filling.

Some butter and brown sugar is all it takes...

And then, of course, some apples. And I added a sprinkling of cinnamon for good measure, too.

I wanted my buns to be nice and apple-y, but not bursting, so I used a generous tablespoon of filling for each bun.

I still need work on sealing these little beauties, but I soon had a full tray, all ready to go into the oven.

The best part about these is how quickly they cook up. A quick 15 minutes, and you we had golden delicious apple-y goodness.

And, yes, I really do need practice sealing these...

Bursting with flavor, packed with apples, these were absolutely delicious.

I ate three that afternoon. And I just might have let little miss have one for breakfast the next morning... And little man enjoyed them, too.

I can't wait to see what December brings!

Apple Buns

for the dough:
1 cup milk, scalded
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon oil (I used canola, but the recipe didn't specify)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast (I used active dry)
3 cups plain flour (I used all purpose)

Scald the milk, then stir in the sugar, oil and salt. Leave this mixture to cool until it is lukewarm. Once the temperature is right (around 105-110 degrees), add the yeast, then let it sit until the yeast is activated and the mixture becomes frothy, about 10-15 minutes.
Sift the flour into a large bowl.
Add the milk/yeast mixture to the flour. Bring the flour mixture together with your hands, then knead on a lightly floured surface for approximately ten minutes. (I sifted the flour into the bowl of my KitchenAid mixer, then used the dough hook and incorporated the milk/yeast and did the kneading all in the machine, which worked out great.)
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl (I kept it in the KitchenAid's bowl, just gave it a little spray of oil on top) and cover with a damp cloth. Leave it to rise until it doubles in size, 1 - 2 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

for the filling:
2 apples (any variety you'd like), diced pretty fine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
a sprinkle of ground cinnamon (to taste)

Heat a skillet over medium/medium-high heat. Add butter to pan. As it starts to melt, add the brown sugar to the pan and mix gently to combine. The idea is to combine the sugar and butter and melt the whole mixture until it becomes a simple caramel. You don't want to stir too much, but you do want to make sure that the edges (or any part, really!) don't burn. Once the mixture is golden and caramel-y, add the apples and stir to coat them. Sprinkle with cinnamon and continue to cook until the apples have softened and the caramel sauce has thickend a bit.
Remove from heat and cool completely.
The sauce will thicken more as it cools.

to prepare the buns:
Once the dough has doubled in size, gently deflate it and divide it into 16 portions. Roll each portion into a round ball.
Use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a circle approximately two inches in diameter. Using your hands, gently pull the edges out to enlarge the circle to about three inches in diameter (mine were a little bigger) (this makes the edges thinner than the center, keeping the center of the bun stronger for the filling, and keeping it from cracking).
Place a good sized tablespoon of cooled filling into the middle of the circle of dough.
Gather the edges of the dough and seal the bun.
Place the bun on a parchment covered baking sheet, seam side down.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
Brush the top of each bun with egg wash (if desired).
Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool buns on a wire rack.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Pineapple Chicken Stir Fry

Every once in a while, when making our weekly meal plan, daddy will list something that is more of an idea than something that we really know how to make.

That is what happened this week. Yesterday I looked at the meal plan list to see that dinner was slated to be pineapple chicken.

Pineapples were on sale this week, and we love pineapple chicken when we go out for Chinese food. I just don't have a recipe for pineapple chicken. So I wasn't sure where to begin.

Okay, that's not true. I started with google.

And I found a lot of recipes, but none of them spoke to me. Until I saw this video.  It looked and sounded delicious. There was just one catch - it didn't give an actual recipe.  So I made one up.

I started by cutting up some boneless, skinless chicken thighs and seasoning them with some garlic salt and five spice powder. I didn't measure - I just eyeballed.

I then poured in some soy sauce. Again, I didn't measure - I just poured slowly and stirred, stopping when there was just enough to coat all of the chicken pieces without actually drowning them.

The chicken was then covered and set into the refrigerator for the entire afternoon.

When it was time to prepare the stir fry, I just chose a combination of vegetables that sounded colorful and delicious. I went with sweet onion, yellow pepper (red would have been better, color-wise, but the yellow one just spoke to me...) and sugar snap peas. I stir fried them all, adding each in turn, and ended with the pineapple.

Once they were all heated through, the vegetables were set aside, and the chicken was cooked right in the same pan.  Meanwhile, I mixed up a simple sauce of pineapple juice, soy sauce, rice vineager, brown sugar and garlic, with a bit of cornstarch to thicken it and give it some body.

Once the chicken was cooked through, I added the veggies back in, topped it with the sauce, and cooked the whole thing until the sauce was shiny and had thickened just a bit.

And then it was time for dinner!

We served this over rice, but I bet it would be good over different kinds of noodles. And the best part was that everyone loved it. Everyone asked for seconds. Some asked for thirds. Little miss asked me to pack leftovers for her to bring to school for lunch.

So I now have a recipe for pineapple chicken, and I can't wait to make it again!

Pineapple Chicken Stir Fry

to marinate the chicken:
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
garlic salt (to taste)
five-spice powder (to taste)
soy sauce (enough to toss all of the chicken to coat, but not to cover)

Cut the chicken thighs into approximately one-inch pieces and place into a metal or glass bowl. Season lightly with the garlic salt and five spice powder, then add just enough soy sauce to coat the chicken pieces. Toss lightly to ensure that all of the pieces are coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.

for the sauce:
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cloves garlic, minced

whisk together pineapple juice, soy sauce and rice vinegar. Add cornstarch and whisk until completely combined, making sure that there are no clumps. Stir in minced garlic. Set aside.

for the stir fry:
1 sweet onion, roughly chopped
1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped
1 12-ounce bag frozen sugar snap peas (fresh, if you have them!)
1 pineapple, cut into chunks (you could use a can of diced pineapple, using the juice for the sauce above)
the marinated chicken
the prepared sauce

Heat a large sautee pan over medium high heat. Spray the pan with canola oil spray then add the onion and peppers. Stir fry until they soften, but don't let them burn. Add snap peas to the pan, again stir frying until heated through. Add pineapple. Stir to heat.
Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside.
Spray the pan once more with canola oil spray, then add the chicken (try not to get too much of the marinade in with it - don't want to poach the meat) and stir fry until cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.
Add the cooked vegetables back to the pan with the chicken, toss to combine, then add the sauce. Continue to cook, stirring constantly to make sure that everything is well coated, until the sauce is shiny and has thickened a little bit.

Serve over rice.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November Daring Cooks' Challenge - Brining and Roasting

Audax of Audax Artifax was our November 2012 Daring Cooks’ host. Audax has brought us into the world of brining and roasting, where we brined meat and vegetables and roasted them afterwards for a delicious meal!

When this month's challenge was announced, I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do. I have never brined anything before, but I roast things all the time - meats, vegetables... even fruits. 

Brining, in case you are not familiar, involves submerging meat (usually) in a salt-solution that imparts both flavor and moisture to the food (usually poultry, sometimes red meat or even nuts).

Now, my kitchen is not huge, and my refrigerator is usually pretty full, as you might imagine, so I wasn't sure how I was going to accomplish the brining aspect of this challenge. I knew I couldn't brine a whole chicken, since I don't have a container big enough to completely submerge one, nor do I have the fridge space to rest a container that size (if I were to have one...). So I knew I would be working with chicken pieces. 

The next challenge was that I am not a big fan of salty foods, and brines are generally pretty salt-heavy. But Audax told us that we could play around with our brining solutions, so I searched online until I found a recipe that I knew was the one for me - sweet tea brined chicken.

To make the brine, I started by boiling some water and adding in some tea bags - decaf chai tea, to be exact.

While the tea brined, little man helped me prepare the other ingredients.

Seriously, he was really trying to cut that onion with that plastic toy knife. He's shaping up to be quiet the sous chef!

The onion, along with crushed garlic cloves, a healthy helping of brown sugar, salt (of course) and some herbes de provance, went right into the steeped tea.

Once the sugar and salt were completely dissolved, the brining solution was cooled completely by adding ice cubes, and then it was ready to go.  To brine the chicken pieces (leg quarters were my choice), I placed the pieces in gallon-sized zip-top bags (two leg quarters per bag worked well), then divided the brine between the bags. Then I simply zipped the bags, put them in a 9" x 13" pan to hold them steady, and placed the whole thing in the fridge.

While the chicken brined in the fridge, I decide that I'd go all out with our dinner and roast every component. So while the chicken did its thing, I prepared our vegetable (broccoli, with some coarsely chopped onion for good measure) and starch (sweet potatoes, to pair with the sweet tea brine) for roasting.

And then everything went into the oven. Well, at staggered times - meat first, then potatoes, then broccoli (I've roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli before, so I had an idea of the timing...).

And the results?

Delicious. I was so amazed with the color on the chicken - the tea really helped it, I think. And the meat was so tender and moist - the brining really did make a difference. It didn't add as much flavor as I'd hoped, but I still thought that it was worth the extra planning and time. And the sweet potatoes and broccoli completed the meal deliciously.

Audax, thanks for giving me the opportunity to try a new technique and for presenting such a detailed and well thought out challenge!

To see the other dishes prepared in the Daring Kitchen this month, check them out here.

Sweet Tea Brined Chicken
(slightly adapted from baked bree)

2 family sized tea bags
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves
1 Tablespoon Herbes de Provence
2 cups ice cubes
3-4 pounds chicken pieces (I used leg quarters)

Boil 4 cups of water, add tea bags, and steep for 10 minutes.
Stir in sugar and salt until completely dissolved. Add onion, garlic, and spices. Add ice and cool completely. Put the chicken into plastic bags and let sit in the brine for 24 hours.
Take the chicken out of the brine, and throw the brine away. Dry the chicken off with paper towels.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Roast the chicken at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 and continue roasting for 30-40 minutes more, until the chicken is cooked through and juices run clear.
Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes prior to serving.

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