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.