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.