Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Daring Bakers December 2011- Sourdough Bread

 Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by AndrewWhitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

This month's challenge is subtitled: Letting Nature Do the Work- or, Only One of Us Has a Future That Doesn't Include Getting Cozy in a 400 Degree Oven, Sourdough, So Go Ahead, Make My Day. 

It pains me to admit this, my fellow bakers, but I am a 27 year old woman who throws tantrums when things don't go right in my kitchen. My first loaf of sourdough was almost chucked across the room in all it's flat, overly dense, hockey puck glory, sure to tear a hole all the way through the house had it not been for my husband talking me down. I realize that this is neither a rational reaction nor helpful to reaching my goal of becoming a better baker, but there it is. 

The Hockey Puck

As a teacher, I try to help my students overcome the obstacles that they meet in their playing, whether it is an easy fix or something that will take a while to change. As a baker, I sometimes don't allow myself the same room for growth. Like a 5th grader learning a new instrument, at times I expect to just be able to do it right the first time. It doesn't help that most of the time this is true for me in music as well as in the kitchen, so when I do come up against a true challenge and I'm made to feel a little uncomfortable, well I don't like it very much. Until it works. Then I'm really happy. 

As I said, the first try at this month's challenge was a disaster. A big, heavy, brick of a loaf disaster. I texted my dear friend over at The Gingered Whisk basically saying that I failed at this challenge- I wasn't going to have time to try it again, and quite frankly I didn't even want to give it another go. She has known me forever, and reassured me that even she doesn't always have perfect breads. She talked me into trying it again. I'm glad I did, even though it was kind of a race to the finish for me.

In between the first and second tries, I was out of town for three days attending The Midwest Clinic in Chicago. I went to three days of concerts, clinics, and rehearsal labs learning techniques to bring back to work with my students. I came home Saturday totally exhausted, but totally reaffirmed that teaching is what makes my heart glad. Oh yeah, and I was in Chicago, land of Deep Dish Pizza. I ate so well while I was gone! Then it was back to meet the sourdough bread again. 

Deep Dish Pizza from Giordano's on Jackson in Chicago. Delicious!
This second time, I put the starter right in front of the warmest heat vent in the house, put the dough in the oven with the light on to rise, and just hoped that it would turn out better this time. I have to admit that I didn't take many pictures of the process because I wasn't entirely certain that it would work out, and also when your hands are covered in dough it is hard to take a photo. 
The second loaf- most of the rising spread horizontal rather than vertically when I moved it.

I just put together an easy beef stew to eat with the bread. I ladled the stew over a couple slices, which soaked up the broth and made a really nice hearty dish for dinner. I also thought that the Italian Beef Stew recipe I posted earlier would be a good match for this bread, as well as my favorite breakfast "SOS", or Dried Beef, as my prim and proper grandmother called it.

Music for this month isn't a playlist I came up with, but a link to a full album that is lovely for the winter time, not just the holiday. My mom gifted this to me on iTunes last winter, and I think it fits really well with a warm, crusty bread, a homemade soup, fire in the fireplace and snow gently falling down. Sting's "If On A Winter's Night"

French Country Bread
Servings: 1 large loaf plus extra wheat starter for further baking
Wheat Starter - Day 1:
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
Total scant ½ cup (115 ml) (3 oz/85 gm)
1. In a Tupperware or plastic container, mix the flour and water into a paste.
2. Set the lid on top gently, cover with a plastic bag, to prevent messes in case it grows more than expected!
3. Set somewhere warm (around 86 F if possible). I sometimes put mine on a windowsill near a radiator, but even if it’s not that warm, you’ll still get a starter going – it might just take longer.

Wheat Starter - Day 2:

4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
scant 1/2 cup (115 ml) (3 oz/85 gm) starter from Day 1
Total scant cup (230 ml) (6 oz/170 gm)
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 1, cover, and return to its warm place.
Wheat Starter - Day 3:
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
4 teaspoons (20 ml) water
scant 1 cup (230 ml) (6 oz/170 gm) starter from Day 2
Total 1⅓ cup (320 ml) (230 gm/8-1/10 oz)
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 2, cover, and return to its warm place.
Wheat Starter - Day 4:
3/4 cup plus 1½ tablespoons (205 ml) (120 gm/4 ¼ oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup less 4 teaspoons (100 ml) water
1⅓ cup (320 ml) (230 gm/8 oz) starter from Day 3
Total scant 2⅔ cup (625 ml) (440 gm/15½ oz)
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 3, cover, and return to its warm place. At this point it should be bubbling and smell yeasty. If not, repeat this process for a further day or so until it is!
French Country Bread
Stage 1: Refreshing the leaven
1 cup less 1 tablespoon (225 ml) (160 gm/5 ⅔ oz) wheat Leaven Starter
6 tablespoons less 1 teaspoon (85 ml) (50 gm/1¾ oz) stoneground bread making whole-wheat or graham flour
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons (250 ml) (150 gm/5 ⅓ oz) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
Production Leaven Total 2¾ cups plus 4 teaspoons (680 ml) (480 gm /1 lb 1 oz)
1. Mix everything into a sloppy dough. It may be fairly stiff at this stage. Cover and set aside for 4 hours, until bubbling and expanded slightly.
French Country Bread
Stage 2: Making the final dough
3/4 cup less 1 teaspoon (175 ml) (100 gm/3 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour, plus more for dusting
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (510 ml) (300gm/10 ½ oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons (7½ ml) (7 gm/¼ oz) sea salt or ⅔ teaspoon (3⅓ ml) (3 gm/⅛ oz) table salt
1 ¼ cups (300 ml) water
1 ¾ cups (425 ml) (300 gm/10 ½ oz) production leaven – this should leave some (1 cup) for your next loaf.
Total 6 cups less 2 tablespoons 1415 ml (1007 gm/35 ½ oz/2 lb 3½ oz)
1. Mix the dough with all the ingredients except the production leaven. It will be a soft dough.
2. Knead on an UNFLOURED surface for about 8-10 minutes, getting the tips of your fingers wet if you need to. You can use dough scrapers to stretch and fold the dough at this stage, or air knead if you prefer. Basically, you want to stretch the dough and fold it over itself repeatedly until you have a smoother, more elastic dough.
3. Smooth your dough into a circle, then scoop your production leaven into the centre. You want to fold the edges of the dough up to incorporate the leaven, but this might be a messy process. Knead for a couple minutes until the leaven is fully incorporated in the dough.
4. Spread some water on a clean bit of your work surface and lay the dough on top. Cover with an upturned bowl, lining the rim of the bowl with a bit of water. Leave for an hour, so that the gluten can develop and the yeasts can begin to aerate the dough.
5. Once your dough has rested, you can begin to stretch and fold it. Using wet hands and a dough scraper, stretch the dough away from you as far as you can without breaking it and fold it back in on itself. Repeat this in each direction, to the right, towards you, and to the left. This will help create a more ‘vertical’ dough, ready for proofing. 
 6. Heavily flour a banneton/proofing basket with whole wheat flour and rest your dough, seam side up, in the basket. Put the basket in a large plastic bag, inflate it, and seal it. Set aside somewhere warm for 3-5 hours, or until it has expanded a fair bit. It is ready to bake when the dough responds to a gently poke by slowly pressing back to shape.

7. Preheat the oven to hot 425°F/220°C/gas mark 7. Line a baking sheet with parchment, then carefully invert the dough onto the sheet. I like to put the baking sheet on top of the basket, then gently flip it over so as to disturb the dough as little as possible. Make 2-3 cuts on top of the loaf and bake for 40-50 minutes, reducing the temperature to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 after 10 minutes.

8. Cool on a cooling rack.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Herbed Parmesan Knots

Happy Holidays, dear friends! I hope your day is full of love and family. It is a wonderful time of year to truly appreciate and be aware of how blessed we all are, even if it doesn't seem like it every day. I know that I have so much to be appreciative of this season, having gained a wonderful husband, job and a very kind and generous set of "in laws". 

Looking for a quick, easy appetizer recipe for a holiday (or any other sort of) party? I've got the solution right here! A quick half hour and you have a nice looking, delicious appetizer to serve your hungry guests. We're heading to a family Christmas party later today with these in tow. 

Herbed Parmesan Knots (variation on a recipe from Taste of Home)

  • 2 tubes (7.5 oz) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil

Cut each biscuit into thirds. Roll each piece into a 3-in. rope and tie into a knot; tuck ends under. Place 2 in. apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

Combine all other ingredients in a gallon plastic zip-top bag. Add the warm knots and seal bag. Toss to coat. 

These can be made ahead of time and reheated when ready to serve.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Daring Cooks, December 2011- Cha Sui & Cha Sui Bao

Our Daring Cooks' December 2011 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles! Sara chose awesome Char Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Char Sui, and filling from scratch- delicious!

My first Daring Cooks challenge! When I joined The Daring Kitchen I figured at some point I would end up participating in both the Daring Cooks and Daring Bakers challenges, but I also figured I should start small and make sure I could handle doing challenges. So of course, I decided to join the Daring Cooks at a fairly stress-free part of the year.... oh. Wait.

I don't know what I was thinking with the timing of starting this, but I am really glad I did. When I saw that the challenge was for Cantonese BBQ pork I didn't really know what to expect, sure I was willing to give it a try, but I wasn't crazy excited like I was for the chocolates in my first Daring Bakers challenge. The second I tried a bit of the cha sui and subsequently the cha sui bao, I knew it was totally worth every minute marinating and baking. The dough for the cha sui bao was surprisingly light and really delicious. The pork was full of flavor and nice and moist. All in all a successful first challenge and a recipe that will be filed away as a "do this again" when we are looking for something a little different from our usual menus.

I didn't really want to try to track down the maltose called for in the recipe, so I was glad to see that honey could be substituted for that. I also have to put in a word here for my amazing husband who is always willing to run down the street to the store when I have an "oh crap, we're out of eggs" moment. I should really plan better, but it is certainly nice to know that in the time it takes me to have a mini-breakdown over not having enough eggs, flour or whatever other staple ingredient, he always has his shoes and coat on and car keys in hand ready to pick up whatever I didn't plan for.

Char Sui (Cantonese BBQ Pork)

1 pork fillet/ tenderloin, about 1- 1.5 pounds
4 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 1/2 tablespoons maltose (I substituted honey here)
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon shaoxing cooking wine
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring

1. Trim the pork loin to remove fat and tendon and slice lengthways so you have two long pieces, then cut in half. By cutting the pork into smaller pieces to marinate you will end up with more flavorsome char sui. Place in a dish (I used a rectangular baking dish) for marinating.
2. Combine all the other ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine.
3. Cover pork well with 2/3 of the marinade mixture. Marinate for a minimum of 4 hours, best if left overnight. Place the reserved portion of the marinade covered int the fridge. This will be used to baste the pork later.

To Cook:
1. pre-heat oven to 350.
2. Cover a baking tray with foil or parchment paper. Place on top of this a roasting rack.
3. Place pork in a hot frying pan or wok, sear it quickly so it is well browned.
4. Remove from pan and place pork on the rack and place into oven.
5. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, basting and turning until cooked through. (For whatever reason the baking time ended up being about twice as long when I did this. Don't know why, but it did!)

Baked Char Sui Bao (Cantonese BBQ Pork Bun)
Filling Ingredients
12 oz char sui (finely diced)
2 green onions (finely sliced)
1 tablespoon hoisin
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil

Dough Ingredients
2 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups plain flour
1 egg, slightly beaten
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with a dash of water

Filling Directions
1. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or pan
2. Add diced char sui to the wok and stir. Then add green onions, cook for 1 minute.
3. Add hoisin, dark soy sauce and sesame oil to the pork mixture, stir fry for 1 minute.
4. Mix cornstarch and stock together and then add to the pork mixture.
5. Stir well and keep cooking until the mixture thickens, 1-2 minutes.
6. Remove mixture from wok and place in a bowl to cool. Set aside until ready to use.

Bun Directions
1. Place the sugar and warm water in a bowl, mix until the sugar has dissolved. Add yeast and leave it for 10-15 minutes until it become all frothy.
2. Sift flour in a large bowl
3. Add yeast mixture, egg, oil salt and stir. Bring the flour mixture together with your hands.
4. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and slightly elastic.
5. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rise until it is double in size. This will take from 1-2 hours depending on weather conditions.
6. Once dough has doubled in size knock back and divide into 12 portions and shape into round balls.
7. Use a rolling pin to roll out approximately 2 inches in diameter. Then pick the piece of dough up and gently pull the edges to enlarge it to about 3 inches in diameter.
8. Place a good sized tablespoon of filling on the dough circle. Then gather the edges and seal your bun.
9. Place the bun seal side down on your baking tray. Continue with the rest of the dough.
10. Once all the buns are complete brush surface with egg wash.

11. Place in a preheated oven of about 390 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Daring Bakers November 2011, Filipino Desserts

Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert – the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.

November is a crazy month. I decided to get this challenge done early and just do one of the two recipes offered because I was so worried about everything that has been on my plate lately.  I had my first concert with the 6th grade band at my "new" job, parent-teacher conferences, a trip to the Music Teacher's Convention, uncounted meetings and of course the holiday at the end of the month. I was really worried that if I didn't get this challenge done right away it wasn't going to happen. I didn't want to tempt fate, so I decided to make the recipe exactly as it was given, no changes to the flavors or anything.  Also, I was a little worried about the dacquoise. I've never made dacquoise before, and in fact, my history with egg whites is a little shady. I always want to stop whipping them a little too early. 

I needn't have worried. I did this challenge in a matter of hours one Saturday morning, served it for dessert that Saturday night and I was really happy with the results. In fact, I told my husband that I thought this was the easiest Daring Bakers challenge yet! I did the chocolate version, because really, when given the option to add chocolate, you always add the chocolate. This was a seriously delicious challenge, I'm sure it is one that I will make again. 

This month's playlist is just music I enjoyed listening to while making the Sans Rival. I didn't even know where to start with Filipino music, and while I would enjoy learning more, I wouldn't want to make a playlist of stuff I don't know much about. Lots of awesome, soulful lady singers on this playlist!

Sans Rival:Servings: 12
Photos shown are chocolate version, which is not traditional.
10 large egg whites, room temp
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) cream of tartar
¼ cup (60 ml) (20 gm) (2/3 oz) Dutch processed cocoa (optional and not traditional)
2 cups (480 ml) (240 gm) (8½ oz) chopped, toasted cashews
Note: You will need four layers which will mean that you might have to bake in two batches. Be sure to use fresh parchment paper and cooled pans for each batch.
1. Preheat oven to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3.

2. Line cake pan bottoms with parchment paper and butter and flour the sides really well.

3. In a large clean, dry glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites on medium until foamy (2 mins.). Sprinkle with cream of tartar. Gradually add sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time, continuing to beat now at high speed until stiff shiny peaks form. (about 7-10 mins.)
4. Fold in nuts, reserving enough to use for decoration. 
5. Divide meringue into four equal parts. Spread in pans, evenly to edges. If doing batches, use fresh parchment paper and cooled pans for each batch.

 6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the meringue from the baking pans while still hot; allow to cool slightly. Peel off the parchment paper while it is still warm, it is difficult to remove sometimes when they have completely cooled.

7. When cool, trim edges so that all 4 meringue layers are uniformly shaped. Set aside.
French Buttercream:
5 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) white granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
1¼ cup (300 ml) (2½ sticks) (285 gm) (10 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
Optional Flavorings: 2 oz (55 gm) unsweetened chocolate, melted, or 1½ teaspoon (7 ½ ml) almond extract, or 1½ teaspoon (7 ½ ml) vanilla extract, or any flavor you like
1. Put the egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Beat at high speed until the yolks have doubled in volume and are a lemon yellow.

2. Put the sugar and water in a heavy pan and cook over medium heat, stirring the sides down only until all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup reaches 235°F/112°C (or thread stage).

3. With the mixer on high, very slowly pour the syrup down the sides of the bowl, until all has been added. Be careful as the very hot syrup could burn you if it splashes from the beaters. Continue beating on high until the mixture is ROOM TEMPERATURE (about 15 mins). Still on high, beat in the soft, room temperature butter a tablespoon at a time. Add flavoring after you beat in the butter. Refrigerate the buttercream for at least an hour, and whip it smooth just before you use it.

I tried decorating the top all cool like this, but I ran out of frosting.

Set bottom meringue on cake board with a dab of butter cream to hold it in place. Spread a thin layer of buttercream and then place another meringue on top. Repeat with a thin layer of buttercream, meringue, thin layer of buttercream, meringue, and finally buttercream the top and sides. Decorate with reserved nuts.

Set bottom meringue on cake board with a dab of butter cream to hold it in place. Spread a
thin layer of buttercream and then place another meringue on top. Repeat with a thin layer of
buttercream, meringue, thin layer of buttercream, meringue, and finally buttercream the top and
sides. Decorate with reserved nuts.
Refrigerate until ready to serve. It is easier to cut cold. May freeze.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cute Cut-out Tortilla Chips

Ghosts, pumpkins and bats, oh my!
Although I made these fun semi-homemade tortilla chips for Halloween, you can use any kind of cookie cutter you like and have these for any occasion. I stumbled upon these fun chips while searching for an appetizer to take along to the costume party that our friends throw every year. But this year it couldn't be just ANY appetizer. I had to go all out and make something truly ridiculous. You see, I was Martha Stewart (sans ankle bracelet) for Halloween this year. I wore the homemade apron with classical composer names my mother made me for Christmas last year (because I don't sew... I'm not that crafty) and a fabric flower that looks homemade, but I really bought it. I rounded out the "costume" with these delicious tortilla chips, homemade guacamole and the mango-lime black bean salsa I love to make when there is any kind of excuse.

These chips are delicious and the only hard part about making them is getting the cookie cutters to fully cut through the tortillas. Mine are plastic and I had to pound on them with the smooth side of a meat tenderizer to cut through. I imagine that metal cookie-cutters may cut easier. 

cooking spray
24 assorted large tortillas- I picked up sun dried tomato, spinach and herb, jalapeƱo cheddar and plain
coarse salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Using a few Halloween inspired cookie cutters, cut shapes from tortillas. Arrange as many shapes as can fit in a single layer on oiled sheet. Coat tortillas with cooking spray, and season with salt. Bake until slightly darkened and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining tortilla shapes, using a clean, cooled baking sheet.

That's it! They are seriously good and simple. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Daring Bakers October, 2011- Povitica!

Pecan, Pumpkin Spice, Apple Cinnamon and Traditional Walnut Povitica

The Daring Baker's October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

I have the distinct honor to call this month's challenge host my close friend. In fact, she was the matron of honor at my wedding this past summer. Jenni's parents and my parents were friends in college, and we have been best friends probably for as long as I can remember! So you might think I had an inkling of what this challenge was before it officially dropped on the 1st. You'd be wrong. I have no idea how she kept this fabulous challenge a secret, but all I heard from her was "I'm hosting in October, wait until you see what I've got in store for you!" She wasn't kidding. I was super excited for the croissant challenge, and a little nervous about the chocolates challenge, but making Povitica is probably going down on the "I can't believe I made this!" list.

The recipe Jenni gave us produces 4 loaves of this beautiful sweet bread. She asked us to make at least one of the four with the traditional walnut filling, but left the other three fillings up to us. Although the weather decided to take a strange turn back to summer, I refuse to give up on Autumn. I thought perhaps if I make some seriously Autumn inspired fillings, the weather would go ahead and cool back down from the upper 70's (in Wisconsin. In October. What is this madness?!). I looked to some of my favorite Autumn desserts for inspiration: apple pie, pecan pie and pumpkin pie.

I'll put the recipe for the basic dough and assembly first and follow up with my filling recipes. Because I made 4 different fillings, I found it easiest to simply have them all made before making the dough. If the nut fillings become too thick and set before you want to spread them, you can stir in some warm milk until it is at a spreadable consistency. *Note: the pumpkin and apple fillings make much more than necessary for the bread recipe, but then you have some lovely homemade apple and pumpkin butter  to continue ushering in the cooler weather!

This month's playlist is fairly eclectic. I tried to pick some Eastern European inspired artists, but most of the ones I am familiar with aren't actually on Spotify. So, I did some searching and found a fun mix of artists I already knew and some brand new finds. There are also two classical pieces by Borodin and Mussorgsky that just screamed "play me!" while I was planning this recipe. Also, be sure to check out the Serbian group doing a cover of "Living La Vida Loca"!! So to check it out, click here: Povitica Playlist on Spotify Again, let me know what you think, I am having fun finding music to listen to while I go about each challenge! I think having "The Great Gate of Kiev" playing as you take the povitica out of the oven is the perfect fanfare for this amazing bread!
*Warning: "Immigrant Punk" by Gogol Bordello has a few- quickly passing- obscenities. You may not want to listen to that one with impressionable ears around.*

Povitica (makes 4 loaves)

To activate the yeast:
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons dry yeast

2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons table salt
4 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
8 cups all purpose flour, measure first, then sift, divided

Activate Yeast:
1. In a small bowl, stir sugar, flour, warm water and yeast together.
2. Allow to stand for 5 minutes

Make Dough
3. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk to just below boiling (180℉), stirring constantly so that a film does not form on the top of the milk. You want it hot enough to scald you, but not boiling. Allow to cool slightly, until it is about 110℉.
4. In a large bowl, mix the scalded milk, ¾ cup sugar and the salt until combined.
5. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter and 2 cups of flour.
6. Blend thoroughly and slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the dough starts to clean the bowl.
7. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick. (you do not need to use all 8 cups of flour)
8. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (each will weigh about 1.25 pounds).
9. Place dough in 4 lightly oiled bowls, cover loosely with a layer of plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and let rise an hour and a half in a warm place, until doubled in size.

Roll and Assemble the Dough
10. Spread a clean sheet or cloth over your entire table so that it is covered.
11. Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoon to a handful of flour (use sparingly)
12. Place dough on the sheet and toll the dough out with a rolling pin, starting in the middle and working your way out, until it measures roughly 10-12 inches in diameter.
13. Spoon 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of melted butter on top of the dough.
14. Using the tops of your hands, stretch dough out from the center until the dough is thin and uniformly opaque. You can also use your rolling pin if you prefer.
15. As you work, continually pick up the dough from the table, not only to help in stretching it, but also to make sure that it isn't sticking.
16. When you think the dough is thin enough, try to get it a little thinner. It should be so thin that you can see the color and perhaps pattern of the sheet underneath.
17. Spoon filling evenly over dough until covered, leaving a small border of dough.
Pumpkin Butter- yum!!
18. Lift the edge of the cloth and gently roll the dough like a jelly roll.

19. Once the dough is rolled up into a rope, gently lift it up and place it into a greased loaf pan in the shape of a "U", with the ends meeting in the middle. You want to coil the dough around itself, as this will give the dough its characteristic look when sliced.
20. Repeat with the remaining three loaves, coiling each rope of dough in its own loaf pan.

21. Brush the top of each loaf with a mixture of ½ cup of cold, strong coffee and 2 tablespoons of sugar. If you prefer, you can also use egg whites in place of the coffee mixture.
22. Cover pans lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rest for approximately 15 minutes.
23. Preheat oven to 350℉.
24. Remove plastic wrap from dough and place into the preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes.
25. Turn oven temperature to 300℉ and bake an additional 45 minutes, or until done.
26. Remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter.
27. Check the bread every 30 minutes to ensure that the bread is not getting too brown. You may cover the loaves with a sheet of aluminum foil if you need to.
28. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes.
29. Remove from pan, allow to cool fully before cutting. The best way to cut the loaves is by turning the loaf upside down and slice with a serrated knife.

Traditional Walnut Filling (enough for one loaf)
1¾ cups ground English Walnuts
¼ cup Whole Milk
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 egg yolk from a large egg, beaten
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1. In a large bowl, mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa
2. Heat the milk and butter to boiling
3. Pour liquid over the sugar/nut mixture.
4. Add the egg and vanilla and mix throughly
5. Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to be spread on the dough.
6. If the mixture thickens, add a small amount of warm milk.

Pumpkin Spice Filling (makes 3 cups of pumpkin butter)
1 (28 oz) can pumpkin puree- NOT pumpkin pie filling
¾ cup apple juice
2 teaspoons ginger
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon mace
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1½ cups granulated sugar

1. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for 30 minutes, or until mixture thickens.
2. Let cool to room temperature before using.

Cinnamon-Apple Filling (makes 4 cups of apple butter)
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup honey
¼ cup apple cider
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground mace
10 medium apples, peeled cored and cut into large chunks (about 2 ½ pounds)

1. Combine all ingredients in a 5-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours, or until apples are very tender.
2. Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl, spoon a third of the apple mixture into the sieve and push through using the back of the spoon. Repeat until all the apple mixture has been through the sieve.
3. Return the apple mixture to the slow cooker and cook uncovered on high for 1- 1½ hours or until mixture is thick, stirring occasionally.
4. Let cool to room temperature before using.

Pecan Filling
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped toasted pecans
1-2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten.

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minutes.
2. Remove pan from heat, stir in nuts, bourbon, if using, and vanilla. Set the mixture aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
3. Whisk the beaten egg into the filling until smooth.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ciabatta Bread

So it's shadowy- but the bread is yummy!
The stand off is in week two: I am still denying that the weather is too hot for soup, and mother nature continues to go on her merry upper 70's way. I have the feeling I'm going to win. I just have to wait long enough. So I'm sure you've guessed, I made another soup this past weekend. I'm not giving up on my new soup each weekend in October goal.

Along with our soups, I've been making bread each weekend, because really, what goes better with homemade soup than a nice hot out of the oven homemade bread? I've long loved ciabatta bread (read: nearly obsessed with it) but never made it myself. I was glad to find that this is an easy, no knead bread. Delicious, crusty on the outside and nice and springy on the inside. Just the way bread should be! If you choose to make this, plan on it taking 2 days (mostly inactive time) because this requires you to make a sponge a day in advance. I also used our pizza stone to bake these, as the original recipe calls for a baking stone or 4-6 unglazed "quarry" tiles. I bet it would work on just baking sheets if you don't have a baking stone.

Ciabatta Bread (makes two loaves)
adapted from Gourmet

For the sponge:
⅛ teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water (105°- 115℉)
⅓ cup room-temperature water
1 cup bread flour

1. In a small bowl, stir together yeast and warm water. Let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy.
2. In another bowl, stir together yeast mixture, room-temperature water and flour. Stir 4 minutes. The mixture should begin to combine and clean the sides of the bowl.
3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let sponge stand at cool room temperature at least 12 hours and up to 1 day.

For bread:
½ teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm milk (105°- 115℉)
⅔ cup room-temperature water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups bread flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
Dough hook in action! You know it's ready to begin timing now.
1. In a small bowl, stir together yeast and milk and let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy.
2. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook blend together milk mixture, sponge, water, oil and flour at low speed until flour is just moistened. Continue to mix an additional three minutes. Add salt and beat an additional 4 minutes.
3. Scrape dough into an oiled bowl  and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled, about an hour and a half.
4. Prepare two well floured 12x6 inch pieces of parchment paper.
5. Turn dough out onto a well-floured work surface and cut in half. Transfer each half to a parchment sheet and form into an irregular oval about 9 inches long.
6. Dimple loaves with floured fingers and dust tops of loaves with flour.
7. Cover loaves with a dampened kitchen towel. Let loaves rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, 1-2 hours.
8. About 45 minutes before baking, if using a baking stone, preheat oven to 425℉. Place baking stone on oven rack placed in the lowest position of the oven.
9. Transfer 1 loaf to the baking stone, sliding onto the baking stone. If you can fit the second loaf onto your stone, go ahead and transfer it. If not, you can bake the second when the first is done.
10. Bake loaves for 20 minutes, or until pale golden. When finished, transfer loaves to a rack to cool.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lemon-Chicken Soup with Orzo

This month my goal was to make a different soup every weekend, freeze half of it, and enjoy while the weather got colder. While I was growing up, my mom would make a dozen different kinds of soup as it started to get colder and freeze them. We ate homemade soup all winter and all we had to do was take a container out of the freezer. I thought that since neither my husband nor I are at home as much this winter, we could get our own soup bank started.

We made chili the last weekend of September and it was glorious to sit under a blanket on the couch, cuddle up with the husband, and warm up with some chili. Of course, this past weekend was really too warm to truly enjoy soup, but at least the recipe I picked was a nice light chicken soup.

This soup starts with making your own chicken stock. After making my own, I will never go back to store-bought stock. It is ridiculously easy and ridiculously delicious. Plus, I like to manage the amount of sodium I'm taking in, so making my own stock is the way to go!

Lemon-Chicken Soup with Orzo
adapted from Cooking Light

Stock Ingredients:
1 4lb whole chicken
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
6 cups water

1. Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken. Place chicken in a large Dutch oven. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

2. Remove chicken from pan, place aside to cool for about 15 minutes. Discard the skin. Remove meat from the bones, discarding the bones. Chop (or shred with your fingers) chicken into bite-sized pieces. Place meat into a covered container and refrigerate.

3. Strain broth mixture through a sieve into a large bowl. Discard the solids. Cool broth to room temperature. Cover and chill for 8-24 hours (allowing the fat to rise to the surface and solidify). Skim fat from surface and discard.

Lemon-Chicken Soup Ingredients
1 ⅓ cups chopped carrot
1 ¼ cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 teaspoons salt
8 oz uncooked orzo
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 ½ teaspoons grated lemon rind
¼ cup fresh lemon juice

4. Add water to broth to equal 9 cups, place broth mixture in a large Dutch oven. Add the carrot, onion, celery and salt to pan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add the chicken meat and simmer for about 3 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, cook the orzo according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add the pasta to the pan with the chicken and broth mixture. Stir in parsley, lemon rind and lemon juice.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Daring Bakers September 2011- Croissants!

 The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

Croissants have been on my to-bake list ever since I got the Julia Child cookbook for Christmas. I looked at the recipe and thought to myself "12 hours is much too long for a just-any-day recipe. I'll make them for Christmas next year". Then the September challenge was posted, and I was so excited. And a little nervous. This recipe takes a long time to make (if you're counting all the rising times, which isn't active baking time, so don't count it). It involves making layers of dough and butter and getting it all rolled out and perfect so it will be flakey and delicious. Don't worry so much about that. Make sure your butter is cold and you're good to go. And that you didn't just begin a weights program for your arms the day before rolling all this stuff out.
Cinnamon-Sugar flaky deliciousness!
I made the original Julia recipe and two off-shoots. The first was fairly straightforward: cinnamon and sugar croissants. The second was in homage to my husband, who for whatever reason loves white chocolate: raspberry white chocolate croissants. Because really, I didn't get to work with chocolate enough in the last challenge.  The raspberry white chocolate croissant definitely won the day. Everyone who tried it at our Packer Party loved it and it was by far my favorite of the three. Even with white chocolate. I found it fairly easy to just roll whatever filling into the croissant, so the possibilities are truly endless. Next time I'll try some different variations!
Look at that yummy raspberry oozing out!

Croissants (basic recipe, ala Julia Child)
One dozen 5½ inch croissants

1¼teaspoon dry-active yeast
3 Tablespoons warm water (not over 100℉)
1 teaspoons sugar

1. Proofing the yeast: mix the yeast in the warm water with the sugar and let liquefy (a foam should form on the top of the mixture, this shows that the yeast is "alive")

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1½ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup milk warmed to tepid in a small sauce pan
2 tablespoons tasteless oil (such as vegetable oil)

1. Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl. Dissolve the sugar into the tepid milk.
2. Combine oil, yeast and milk mixture into the bowl with the flour. Blend with a rubber spatula until completely combined.
3. Turn dough out onto a surface that has been lightly floured. Let rest for 2-3 minutes while you wash and dry the mixing bowl.
4. Start kneading by lifting near the edge, using a scraper or spatula to help, and flipping it over to the other side. Rapidly repeat from one side to the other and end over end 8-10 times until the dough feels smooth.

5. Place dough back into the large bowl, cover with plastic wrap or plastic bag. I then placed the bowl into the oven, slightly ajar, with the oven light on. Allow the dough to rise for about 3 hours, or until tripled.
6. Deflate by loosening dough with a rubber spatula, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Pat and push the dough into a rectangle (8x12 inches) with the palms of your hands. Fold the bottom third up, and the top third down, like a business letter. Return dough to bowl, cover again with plastic and let rise for about 1 ½ hours, or until doubled. (At this point, the second rise may be done overnight in the refrigerator)
7. Loosen dough from edges of the bowl and turn out onto a plate. Cover airtight and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

1- 1¾ sticks chilled unsalted butter

1. Julia advises that if this is your first try at making croissants, use only 1 stick of butter. If you've done this a few times the larger amount may be used.
2. Beat butter with a rolling pin to soften it.
3. Smear the butter out with the heel of your hand or a scraper or spatula until it is an easy spreading consistency but still cold. If it gets too warm (i.e. oily and soft), return it to the refrigerator for a bit.

4. Place the chilled dough onto a lightly floured surface. Push and pat it out into a rectangle 14x8 inches.
5. Spread butter as evenly as possible over the upper two thirds of the dough, leaving a 1/4 inch unbuttered boarder all around.
6. Fold the bottom third of the dough up, and the top third down (again, like a business letter).

7. Turn the dough so the edge of the top flap is to your right, as though it were a book. Roll the dough into a rectangle, about 14x7 inches. Roll rapidly, starting an inch from the near end and going to within an inch of the far end.
8. Fold again in three. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1- 1½ hours.
9. Unwrap dough, deflate by tapping lightly several times with a rolling pin. Cover and let rest 8-10 minutes.
10. Being sure that the top and bottom of dough are lightly floured, roll dough into a rectangle 14x6 inches. If you notice that butter has congealed into hard flakes, beat dough with firm taps for a minute or so to soften.
11. Fold rectangle in three again. Wrap and chill for 2 hours, or leave overnight (put something heavy on top so it doesn't rise too much)

12. Forming croissants: unwrap chilled dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Deflate by tapping several times with rolling pin. Cover with plastic and let rest 10 minutes.
13. Roll dough into a rectangle 20x5 inches, cut in half crosswise, chill one of the halves.
14. Roll the piece of dough into a rectangle 15x5 inches, cut into three equal pieces. Chill two of the pieces.
15. Roll the piece of dough into a 5½ inch square and cut into two triangles. Stretch the triangle to transform from a right triangle to an isosceles triangle.
16. Roll the croissant first by folding the large end forward onto itself. Then, holding the point with the fingers of one hand, roll the larger end up with the other.
17. Bend the two ends down to form a crescent shape and place on a lightly buttered baking sheet, with the point resting into the curve and against the surface of the baking sheet. (Formed croissants may be wrapped airtight and frozen for a week, if the dough was not previously frozen.)
18. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. Cover croissants loosely with a large sheet of plastic wrap. Let rise for 1½ hours.

1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for egg wash

1. Just before baking, paint the croissants with the egg wash.
2. Set in the middle of a preheated 475℉ oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until croissants are nicely puffed and brown. Cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Cinnamon Sugar Croissants: Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on dough just before rolling to form croissant.

Raspberry White Chocolate Croissants: Spread dough with raspberry preserves and roll a piece of white chocolate in the larger end of the croissant.

Edit: I forgot!! I thought that since I'm  a musician by trade it might be fun for me to upload a playlist of music I listened to while making each challenge. This one is decidedly French, full of artists I love to listen to regardless of whether or not I'm knuckle deep in croissant dough and covered in flour. So here is a link to my "croissant" play list on Spotify. Let me know what you think about this idea- I'm still playing around with how to share the playlists, so if you have any tips on that, do share!