Tag Archives: Recipe

Adventures in Breadbaking

Standard
Adventures in Breadbaking

img_6625

For the holidays, I have been given the best gift ever, and have a full week off from work. That’s right.  Monday to Sunday.  After years of going and going in this industry, a little time to rest is an amazing thing. Since I get bored easily, though, I decided to cook up a storm, try harder home cooking methods, and finally try tackling a project that has intimidated me as a cook: home sourdough bread baking. Using natural yeasts, of course.  I gave it my best efforts this week, and here are some things I learned:

For even more bread baking,  here is a great article from Bon Appetit on the subject.

img_6593

Tools of the trade

A good starter takes time and good ingredients:

One of my closest friends is a baker, so I am already at a huge advantage here.  Her pastries are divine, especially for someone that was trained classically savory (we studied together at culinary school).

“Always start your sour the night before, Lana, ” she pretty much yelled at me on Monday. “Don’t worry, we’ll make it together.”

Starters, or pre-ferments, are essential here.  A mix of flour and water that pulls yeast from the air, that lets the bread rise when baking.  A starter can be kept and maintained for years, as long as it is fed consistently.

She gave me the formula that I would be using this week for my starter:

12 oz water (by weight)

6 oz rye flour (organic)

6 oz bread flour

Apparently rye flour is very good at pulling yeast microbes from the air, even better than bread flour.  My friend found this information out by staging with one of the best bakers I know personally, so I think that’s an incredibly useful factoid.

She mixed it together and told me to add 6 oz each water and bread flour every 12 hours.  Further investigation on my part made me want to make this a full sour starter, so I adapted the recipe.

12 hours after the initial starter, I added 6 oz each of water and bread flour, then let the starter sit in a warm spot with a paper towel between the container and lid, for about 18 hours.

img_6595

Little bubbles of activity in the initial sour

On Day 3, I experimented using some of the sour (more on that later) for making bread. I took 8 oz each of the initial sour, bread flour, and water by weight, and mixed it together.  I tossed the rest.  At this point, it should smell like alcohol and fermentation; this is a good sign that the right bacteria has begun to eat the natural sugars in the flour.

On Day 4, feed your starter 8 oz each of water and flour, and let sit.

Day 5: your sour should be fully developed and fermenty and lovely.  Mix 8 oz of sour (discard the rest) with 16 oz of water and 24 oz of flour (rye or bread). Let sit one more day at room temperature, then you can add to the fridge; slow down process and feed 8 and 8 oz flour and water every three weeks to maintain.  You can use part of the starter at any point to make more sourdough at this point.

At this point I am still in the baby stages of my own starter, so I can only guess if I can maintain mine for some time.  Only time will tell. My friend warned me, “It’s like having a child!” and I’m inclined to take her seriously.

Now on to the main event: The Breadbaking process 

I woke up relatively early to a starter that had doubled in size, smelled like ferment and alcohol, and was bubbling happily.  So I was excited to try using it in making delicious, homemade bread.  Here’s how my day went:

I scaled down my recipe a bit, since I was only tying to make one boule (round loaf).

I added about 2 lb of bread flour to 1/2 lb of the pre-ferment, and about 1 lb 9 oz water. Mix with a stand mixer with the dough attachment for about 3 minutes on medium speed, then rest. Add salt and a tablespoon of water and mix until dough is smooth, about 2 minutes.  Then let rest at room temperature for about an hour.

After this point, it all gets very formulaic.  You want to slap your dough, and fold it in on itself so the gluten develops properly, and then let it rest for about an hour, and then do it again, but only letting the dough rest for 20 minutes the second time.

Basically, you cannot stress out the dough.  That’s the important thing here.

img_6597

I really hope he’s not panicking

Once the dough has rested for the second time, you want to pre shape and proof.  To make it easier on myself, I decided to do a boule shape; it’s large, round,  doesn’t require as much shaping practice as a skilled baker, and fits in a dutch oven beautifully.  Amazing.

One last thing I learned: Don’t have the tools? Get creative.

Who has a proofer in home nowadays (or ever)? Hardly any young cook, especially those that I know.  But the want to learn is out there, believe me.  So the only thing we can do is get creative.  Proofing bread is essential to the process; a humid environment is key to this.  So I like to shower with my food.  That’s right.  I set the bowl in the bathroom while showering; the steam released by my shower proofs the bread and helps it expand and become light and airy.

img_6596

Proofing near the shower–notice the toothpaste in the background

In that same vein, I don’t have a steamer in my traditional oven. But steaming bread is also essential to creating that light, airy texture. There are two ways to beat this: Use a stone, either fireplace or pizza, in a preheated oven.  When you add the bread, throw ice on the stone to release steam for the baking process. Open oven in last 15 minutes to create golden crust.

Also don’t forget to score your bread–helps release any pent-up steam.  I clearly need to practice my designs. Less is more.

img_6599

“artistic” slashes

Or you can use a dutch oven, covered, in the oven, to bake bread.  Uncover bread for last 15 minutes to create golden crust.

img_6605

Yay.

Final Results 

In the end, I had a pretty flat loaf.  I think I tripped up a bit with adding salt too early, and proofing a bit too soon as well.  It still tasted good, and my family was impressed with my efforts. I was too.  I t was a full day event, including resting times, proofing times, and my time spent studying up on the subject. So much was learned, most so that bread baking can elude even the best of us, so I shouldn’t feel bad that I at least produced something I can be proud of.

img_6622

…Maybe too proud of.

I also saved some starter, so ill be trying to make another loaf probably in the next couple of days, especially since I still have some time off and now I’m kinda (dough) hooked (sorry for the dad jokes, I can’t help myself sometimes). I’m definitely inspired to continue exploring this incredibly interesting niche in the cooking world.

img_6627

-L

 

 

Recipe: Basil Salt

Standard

basilsalt

Last week, my garden was overrun with basil.  I didn’t know what to do, as the space was competing with tomatoes, and the tomatoes were quickly winning.  It’s a massacre out there for all the other veggies.

my garden

I can hardly tell what is what over there.

I have been doing everything I can to preserve the beautiful basil my garden produced, and this recipe is no different.  Easy and super fast, you can add this salt from everything to tomato and corn salad or cheeses, to pasta dishes and desserts. Basil salt is awesome! It adds just that beautiful freshness to anything it touches, and is beautiful and bright green like the herb that produced it.

It lasts for six months too, so there is plenty of time to taste summer long into winter.

Ingredients

1/2 C tightly packed basil leaves

1/2 C kosher salt

Method

Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.  Pulse basil and salt in blender until incorporated.  Mixture will be clumpy.  Spread onto baking sheet lined with parchment or tin foil and bake until dried, about 30 minutes.

basilsalt2

basil salt after drying but before blending for a second time

Take dried salt and pulse again in blender until powder.  Store in airtight container for six months or more.

tomatoesandbasil

Used the salt to top this dish of tomatoes and ricotta cheese. Perfect basil flavor and nice hit of salt

 

-L

 

Recipe:Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Standard

blossom3

This summer, I finally decided to tackle something that I have been either too busy, or too afraid to tackle: My very own garden.  I know it sounds silly, but I have dreamed of growing my own food for some time now.  I have to say, it has certainly been a learning experience.  What to grow, and how to grow it, and how to protect it from the environment around it is still something I am learning, and probably will be for seasons to come.

One thing my garden has been very bountiful in giving me is squash blossoms.  While my plants are hit or miss, and have produced some delicious summer squash varieties, I think my favorite thing to collect are the beautiful, golden–yellow flowers that are delicious and earthy in every way.

blossom1

This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the blossoms: stuffed with fresh cheese and deep–fried, lightly salted, and eaten with sparkling wine.

Deep Fried Squash Blossoms

6-12 squash blossoms

2 C vegetable or other neutral, high heat oil

For the filling:

1 C ricotta (I used goat’s milk, but cow’s milk is also perfect)

2 Tbsp heavy cream

1 tbsp chopped chives

zest of 1 lemon

lemon juice, salt, pepper to taste

 

For the batter:

6 oz AP flour

3 tbsp cornstarch

1 tbsp salt

200 ml seltzer water

Method:

Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, until bubbling, around 350 degrees F.

Whisk ingredients for batter together and set aside

mix filling ingredients, mixing together until a smooth paste forms.  fill into a pastry bag, or a ziplock bag.  Cut the tip off the pastry bag or a corner off the ziplock bag, so you are able to pipe the filling into the blossom. Try not to overfill, and close each petal around the filling so it forms a nice little pocket.

blossom2

Drop each blossom into the batter and directly into the hot oil, frying only a few at a time, about 3 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and enjoy!

blossom4

This is an amazing summer treat!

-L

 

Riesling Poached Pears

Standard

Now, I’m no baker, but I love dessert. It seems like a meal isn’t complete without a little something sweet at the end. Eventually I want to learn how to make a chocolate tart, soufflé, or something else that’s sweet and fancy, but that’s a question for my friends in the baking program at school.
In the meantime, this is a great dessert for those who want something quick, tasty, and maybe even a little boozy? Booze is a natural pairing with dessert (or any course), and these pears, poached lightly in Riesling, are an utterly scrumptious way to end a meal. I made these for my mother’s birthday, and she loved them, and we decided to save the leftover poaching liquid to use this spring experimenting with cocktails. See, everybody wins.

IMG_1429

Ingredients
1 bottle sweet Riesling [i used some wine I got for $5 at Trader Joe’s]
2 cups sugar [$2]
1 lemon [$1]
5 pears [$5]

Directions
Peel and core the pears using a peeler and melon baller, respectively. Add wine to a pot with lemon peel, the sugar, and enough water to cover the pears. Bring to a simmer and add the pears to the liquid.
The pears should be covered with parchment paper or a lid that will ensure they do not float in the liquid. They must be submerged. I used a lid that was a little smaller than the opening of the pot so it could sit snugly on top of the pears and push them slightly down.
Poach the pears until tender, about 30-40 minutes. Test done ness with a knife inserted into the flesh.
When the pears are tender, let cool slightly in the liquid. Pears can be stored in the poaching liquid until ready to serve, or for up to a few weeks. They only increase in flavor.
When ready to serve, cut pears in half and take a 1/2 cup of the poaching liquid in a saucepan and reduce to a syrup. Top pears with the syrup and whipped cream, if desired.

Enjoy!
-L

Recipe: Plum Coffee Cake

Standard

20140925-154301-56581310.jpg

It’s no secret that I’m not the best at baking, mostly because I shy away from trying it. It intimidates me. When I saw this post from StrawberryPlum, however, I had to try it. I love coffee cake, and, ironically, how well it pairs with tea. Figured I’d give it a go, I mean, it’s always a good thing to try something new.
Ingredients
For the topping:
1/4 cup ap flour [$2 for a bag]
1/4 cup brown sugar [$2 for a bag]
Cinnamon [$3]
About a cup chopped pecans [$4 for a bag]
Half a stick unsalted butter, melted [$2 for a pack]

For the cake:
1 1/2 cup ap flour
1 teaspoon baking powder [$2]
1/2 teaspoon baking soda [$3]
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cinnamon, about a tablespoon
6 tablespoons softened butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs [$1]
1 teaspoon vanilla extract [$3]
1/2 cup sour cream [$1.50 for a small container]
3 or 4 plums, cut into quarters [$3]

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350.
Spray an 8×8 baking pan with Pam or some kind if butter or grease, and set aside.
Make the topping: combine the topping ingredients except the butter in a bowl, then add the butter and mix until combined into crumbs. Set aside.

Make the cake: combine all the dry ingredients except the sugar in a bowl and whisk until combined. In an electric mixer bowl, add the butter and the sugar and beat until whipped and fluffy. Beat the eggs into the mixer, one at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream and best until well mixed.
Add the dry ingredients in the bowl, a little at a time, until incorporated.
I was worried when I read the instructions that I would not know when the batter was ready. Trust me, when you are making the batter, it will be obvious when it has come together.
Scoop the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Add the plums on top in a fun pattern if you choose and then add the topping.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cool for a few minutes while you make some tea, then cut and enjoy!

20140925-160232-57752720.jpg

Super glad I decided to give baking a whirl.

-L

Recipe: Sautéed Veal with Corn and Tomatoes

Standard

20140516-202935.jpg

Summer is slowly but surely coming upon us, and I have discovered a gem. Wegman’s, an upstate New York grocery chain, has opened a location in Chesnut Hill. Oh man, is it worth the drive. The selection and quality of my groceries has skyrocketed, as this store is a monster. Literally huge and filled with everything. The first time The Russian and I entered, we couldn’t believe it.

Coupled with some serious inspiration in the form of cookbooks loaned to me by fellow chefs, I have lots of fun things planned for my kitchen in the coming weeks.

This is a great quick summer recipe with veal, inspired by a recipe I found and tweaked a little from one such book. Veal, if cooked correctly, is incredibly velvety and light, pairing perfectly with the light buttery sauce.

Ingredients
2 or 3 veal cutlets, thinly sliced [$10]
Cherry tomatoes [$2]
Corn (fresh or frozen kernels) [$2]
White wine vinegar [$3]
Chicken broth [$1.50]
1/2 stick butter
Basil [$2]
A little white wine, anything hanging around your fridge is fine

Directions
Heat a little olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Season the cutlets with salt and pepper and lightly dust with a little ap flour. Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes per side and take off the heat and place on a paper towel lined plate.

Add the tomatoes and corn to the pan, and cook for about 3 minutes, or until soft. Add a few tablespoons of the vinegar and 1/3 cup or so of white wine and let reduce (note: this sauce is kinda like a Burre Blanc with yummy veggies).
After 3 minutes or so, take off the heat and add the basil, thinly sliced, and the butter, stirring the pan, until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.

20140516-204049.jpg

Spoon the sauce over the veal and serve with a salad and crusty bread for dipping. So light but so filling, perfect with a glass of wine in the summertime.

20140516-204347.jpg
Enjoy!
-L

Recipe: Pork Schnitzel

Standard

Being a food blogger sometimes has some major perks. Like opening my door to a box full of bags of free Pretzel Crips. Awesome.

20140505-132604.jpg
After mowing my way through a few of the packages, I decided it would be cool to cook with the pretzels in a different way. What’s a better way to use pretzels than to bread some thinly sliced pork cutlets? With a simple arugula salad, this is a quick and easy meal for any night (even cinco de mayo!). Using the mustard flavor compliments the pork and the pretzels are a nice crunch that can be hard to achieve with regular breadcrumbs.

20140505-132915.jpg

Ingredients
1 bag pretzel crips mustard flavor (or any flavor) [$4]
1 package thinly sliced pork cutlets [$3]
1 egg [$1]
Ap flour (in most pantries but runs about $3)
Arugula [$3]
Cherry tomatoes [$2]

Directions

Grind the Pretzel Crips in a food processor until crushed. Heat some oil in a pan over medium heat. Pound cutlets til nice and thin, the dip in the flour, then the egg (beaten), and then the Pretzel Crisps. Place cutlets in the hot oil in the pan and cook for about 3 minutes per side, being careful not to let the pretzels burn.
Meanwhile, take the cherry tomatoes and arugula and dress how you would like (personally, I like olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper).
When the cutlets are done, top with the salad and serve.

Happy cinco de mayo!
-L