We baked up our share of popular dinner and sandwich rolls at my parents’ bakery but one menu item in particular had a small, cult-like following: golden brown loaves of Jalapeno Cheddar Bread.
It was your classic soft, fluffy white sandwich bread, but loaded with shredded sharp cheddar and fresh jalapenos. And they had to be fresh jalapenos. My dad would have it no other way. (To this day, my dad still eats every single dinner with a small plate of jalapeno slices served along side. He’s my hero.) Between the cheese and egg wash, the loaves would turn a deep golden brown – you’d probably guess that it was brioche or unbraided challah and not a Sunbeam-style white bread.
But a couple slices of that bread transformed an ordinary brisket sandwich into a serious Texas brisket sandwich that sent weekend barbeque guests into a frenzy. And substituting the bread for a hamburger bun can make any “plain” burger taste like a fancy, $12 burger-shack creation.
To recreate dad’s bread at home, I used my favorite go-to recipe for soft, fluffy white bread and then added a mountain of grated sharp cheddar and a pile of fresh jalapenos from our one pepper plant that survived the winter and is already cranking out peppers like crazy.
The cheese disappears into the baked bread, leaving the smell and flavor of cheddar behind. The peppers can make for either a “green” or spicy bite, depending on how hot they were.
We serve these buns on nights when we’re having “ordinary” burgers or doing something with a little Texas flair, like a Frito Pie burger or a Texican burger. As you can imagine, they don’t really pair well with a Greek or Italian-topped burger
Jalapeno Cheddar Burger Buns
Sharp cheddar and fresh jalapenos transform an ordinary burger bun into a Texas specialty.
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
2 Tbsp oil (vegetable, canola, or olive) plus more for greasing bowl
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp sugar
3 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
6 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
3 large jalapenos, seeded and chopped
Add warm water to the bowl of your mixer and sprinkle the yeast over top. Let sit 10 minutes, until frothy.
Add the, oil, 1 egg, and sugar to the bowl.
Add the flour, salt, cheese, and peppers and mix on medium-low speed with the hook until the dough holds together, about 2 minutes. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl. If not, add additional flour by the Tbsp.
Increase speed to medium and knead the dough for 5 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl that has been lightly greased with oil.
Cover it with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1-1 1/2 hours.
Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface.
Divide the dough in half and each half into 4-6 pieces (depending on the size of your burgers, I typically get 8-9 buns per batch).
Roll into rounds and flatten with the palm of your hand onto the baking sheet; placing buns about 1/2-1 inch apart.
Cover with a damp towel and let them rise for 20 minutes + oven preheating time.
Preheat oven to 350.
Whisk the remaining egg with 1 Tbsp water.
Brush the buns with the egg wash and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Store leftovers in a zip-top bag at room temperature. They freeze well, too.
Near the top of my list of reasons why I could never move away from Texas, right under “free grandparent babysitting,” is kolache.
That list also includes other things like the Texans, quick access to beautiful grapefruit from the Rio valley, homemade tortillas from any number of nearby Mexican markets, Hill Country barbecue, a nearly year-long vegetable garden season, real Tex-Mex, and picking strawberries in February.
And not having to constantly answer “Oh, wow! Are you from Dallas?” when I pronounce a word with a long i. Like riiiice. And liiiight.
A Kolache, in its more traditional form, is a soft, sweet Czech breakfast pastry topped with fruit or cream cheese. During the summer, there is almost nothing better than having a tray full of peach kolache taking up the entire top shelf of your fridge!
“Sausage kolache” have become a Texas breakfast staple and were super popular at my parents’ bakery. It’s the same soft, sweet dough wrapped around a link of sausage. Bakeries typically use breakfast link sausages in their “small” kolaches but I prefer to start my day with a “big” kolache – stuffed with a smoked sausage link (the kind you’d normally find on a grill during the summer), fresh jalapeno slices, and cheddar. The sweet dough and the smokey meat make for a delicious breakfast.
And not surprisingly, you don’t find yourself thinking about lunch until it’s almost time for dinner.
This recipe for kolache dough is the closest I’ve ever found to both what my parents used and what the little shops further west sell. Use your favorite sausage – we used a Smoked Jalapeno-Cheddar Venison sausage in our latest batch. We usually freeze half a batch in a large ziptop bag and keep the other half in the fridge. The frozen kolache can thaw overnight on the top shelf of the fridge and be ready to reheated in the microwave the next day.
Texas-style homemade sausage kolache are a savory twist on the classic Czech breakfast pastry.
For the dough:
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1/4 cup water, warmed to 110-115F
1 cup milk, warmed to 110-115F
4 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled to warm
2 large eggs
5/8 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
4 3/4 - 5 1/2 cups flour
For the filling:
Grated cheddar, optional
Fresh jalapeno slices, optional
Smoked sausage, cut into 3-4 inch pieces and halved lengthwise if very thick
Sprinkle the yeast over warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Let proof for 5 minutes, until foamy/creamy.
Turn the mixer to low and add the milk, melted butter, 2 eggs, sugar, and salt until mixed thoroughly.
Add the flour in two batches (start with the low amount) and mix only until just combined. The dough will be tacky but should be firm enough to crawl up the dough hook. Add additional flour as necessary.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 1-2 hours, until dough has doubled.
Punch down and refrigerate covered overnight or for at least 4 hours.
Divide dough into ~2.5 inch balls (I weighed mine at 2.5 oz each) and set on a lined baking sheet.
Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
Flatten each dough ball and top with a couple slices of jalapeno and pinch of grated cheddar (if using) and place the sausage on top.
Wrap the dough around the fillings, pinching the edges together and placing seam-side down on the baking sheet.
Cover and let rest for 20 minutes, while preheating oven to 375.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until browned.
Let the kolache cool for 20 minutes and serve.
Leftovers will keep tightly wrapped in the fridge for 3-4 days and can also be frozen.
This week, we’re talking pizza. All pizza. All week. Today it’s pizza dough/pizza crust. The rest of the week, it’s pizza toppings!
And I’m going to be honest. This is kinda my version of heaven, minus elaborate ice sculptures made of frozen margaritas.
Over the years, we’ve learned a thing or two about homemade pizza. Our tastes have shifted from loving a soft, thick crust that has edges that are borderline breadstick to wanting a much thinner & crispy-chewy crust.
We’ve gone through several pizza crust recipes, always arriving back at square one, an oldie we discovered in Gourmet a few years ago. It turned out that our old favorite was completely solid and sound. Tried and (tried and tried and) true. A few tweaks to the method and we’re currently turning out the best homemade pizzas we’ve ever made.
And we’re not exercising enough to make up for it. That has to change. Because we’re probably not going to have fewer pizza nights for a while
But homemade pizza involves homemade pizza crust… which typically involves about 2 hours for mixing, kneading, and rising. Problematic if, unlike me, you actually have a real job and stuff. So we’ve come up with a way to start the dough in the morning, let it rise in the fridge all day, and then bake it that evening.
1. Get up 30 minutes early and make the dough yourself. Crust-in-a-can will do in a pinch, but that crispy-chewy bite that comes from flour+water+yeast+your counter/fridge is second to none. Our favorite crust recipe is below, with instructions on how to start your dough in the morning and still get dinner on the table in a reasonable hour that night… and the next night! I’ve started making a double-batch of our favorite crust recipe in the morning, letting it slow-rise all day in the fridge, and then baking it that evening. It makes enough for 2 large pizzas or 6 generous, individual pizzas.
2. Get your oven hot. Like really hot. For years, we baked our favorite pizza crust at 450 degrees. And it was beautiful. See?
But those blistery, golden brown crusts full of air pockets that they turn out at your favorite pizza joint? Those come out of a much, much hotter oven. 100 degrees (450 vs 550) is the difference between the previous picture and the next.
It’s the exact same recipe but one pizza has a soft, fluffy, breadstick-like crust and the other has a crust that’s studded with air pockets, mostly crispy with just a bit of chew on the inside. It takes ~30 minutes for my oven to heat to 550 and then I hold the temperature for 30 minutes to make sure the stone and everything inside is actually 550 degrees. During that time, I pull the dough out of the fridge to come to room temperature (it needs ~1 hour to do so), prep the toppings, and get everything ready to top the crusts. Because once everything is prepped and heated, each pizza is only in the oven for 5-7 minutes.
3. Get a pizza stone. They’re $20 at that big, bed & bath chain. You know the one – they send you a 20%-off coupon every month, which makes it like $16. Skip Starbucks for a week and spring for it. I think the crust cooks so much better and evenly on a preheated 550-degree stone than a regular pan.
4. Get a box of cornmeal and skip the flour… mostly. The hot pizza stone and a dusting of cornmeal (with a pinch of flour) on the bottom of the pizza produces the highly-sought after crunch. It also makes transfer from your pizza peel or prep surface a lot easier. And you never find yourself with a mouth full of pasty dough after over-flouring your work surface.
5. Get creative! You can put just about ANYTHING on pizza crust. Sweet potatoes, leftover pulled pork, or even broccoli. Just remember that some things (like sweet potatoes) might need to be cooked first because the 5-minute trip through the oven on top of pizza isn’t long enough to cook them thoroughly.
Homemade Pizza Crust
How to get that perfectly crispy-chewy pizza crust, with an all-day slow-rise variation that still lets you get dinner on the table on time. If you love a softer, bread-like crust, bake at 450 until lightly browned and skip the use of the broiler.
2 pkgs (or 4 tsp) dry active yeast
3 1/2 cups (17.5 oz) flour (you can sub up to half whole wheat flour), plus more for dusting
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing crust
Cornmeal, for dusting surface
Place water in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and sprinkle the yeast over top.
Let stand for 10 minutes - if your yeast doesn't swell or get frothy, buy new yeast.
Add the olive oil, salt, and flour.
With the mixer on low, mix until the dough comes together and mostly off the sides of the bowl (it will not come all the way off of the bottom). You can add flour by the tablespoon if necessary.
Let the mixer run for 5 minutes to knead the dough. It should be smooth and slightly sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide in half and shape into a ball (each will weigh ~1 lb). This is enough to make 1 large pizza. We like to make individual pizzas, so I divide each half into 3 pieces and shape into balls.
Lightly dust a plate with flour and place the balls of dough on top, seam-down.
Sprinkle the top with flour, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge.
When you get home, pull the dough out of the fridge and let it sit, covered, on the counter for 60 minutes while your oven is preheating. If the plan is to only make one pizza that day, dust the extra ball of dough with flour, loosely wrap with plastic wrap, place in a gallon zip-top bag and refrigerate to it within 2 days, freeze if you need to store it for longer.
Place your pizza stone in the top 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 550, letting it hold at temperature for 30 minutes.
Prepare your toppings: grate cheese, chop veggies, cook sausage, uncork the wine, etc.
Very lightly flour your pizza peel (or a rimless baking sheet, or turn a rimmed baking sheet upside down and use the bottom) and then add a couple generous pinches of cornmeal.
Gently stretch the dough into a round - I hold one edge of the dough ball a couple of inches above my work surface and let gravity do most of the work, while I move my hands around the edge of the dough (like turning a steering wheel).
Place the dough onto the prepared peel or pan.
Switch your oven from "bake" mode to "broil." (If you get the option, select the "high" broil setting or 550 degrees. If you don't get the option, don't worry about it.).
Brush the outside ~1-inch perimeter with olive oil and then top as desired.
Gently shake the pizza from the peel/pan to the baking stone and broil for 5-7 minutes. (During this time, I'm making the next individual pizza.)
Remove the pizza from the oven, leaving the stone in place. If you're night slicing and serving immediately, transfer it to a rack - the crust can get a little soggy if you put it directly onto a peel/cutting board/plate and just let it sit there.
Slice and serve. And enjoy. Immensely.
Yields: ~2 lbs of dough, enough for 2 large pizzas or 6 individual pizzas
Crust adapted from Gourmet, broiling technique adapted from Bon Appetit
That’s a big name for a muffin. But it’s a muffin loaded with big flavors and little fat. So the name stays.
My very favorite cornbread/corn muffin recipe is absolutely perfect. Perfect, in that’s it’s melt-in-your-mouth tender. “Perfect” because it’s loaded with butter and shockingly scary amounts of heavy cream. “Perfect” in that it make your arteries cry for help.
To make it a little more “perfect,” we replaced all of the heavy cream with fat-free Greek yogurt. And then added a generous dose of goat cheese, green onions, and cracked black pepper. A lighter, yet just as delicious, savory cornbread muffin perfect to serve along side red beans & rice. Or just to grab on your way out the door to pick up your 2-yr old from preschool [looks around and whistles].
I sing the praises of fat-free Greek yogurt (I use Fage 0%) with just about every baked goodie that I post. It keeps the batter thick, the fat content low, adds a little protein, but most importantly – it keeps the final product tender. Kinda like heavy cream. Only without wicked amounts of fat.
White Corn Muffins with Goat Cheese and Green Onions
A lighter cornbread muffin made with Greek yogurt and studded with goat cheese, green onions, and black pepper.
1 cup flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup white or yellow cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese (a little less than a 4 oz container)
2 large green onions, thinly sliced
Generous amount of fresh cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 350.
Spray 8 cups of a muffin tin with non-stick spray.
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and then add the butter, egg, yogurt, goat cheese, green onions, and black pepper.
Whisk/stir until thoroughly mixed.
Scoop the batter into the prepared tin and bake 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick tester comes out clean (if using white cornmeal, you can't rely on browning to indicate doneness).
Cool 10 minutes in the pan and then turn out to cool completely or serve warm.