Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day

As we honor all of our military heros, both living and dead, from Colonial patriots to the brave men and women serving our country in far flung places around the world, we pray for peace in the world and for our warriors still fighting for our freedoms to return safely to their family and friends. That is the true reason for Memorial Day.

The popular reason is to have a cookout. In case you have not yet figured out your menu, or just want something tasty to grill another day, here is a light and flavorful marinade which is perfect for chicken, although it might work well with pork and maybe shrimp.

Lemonade Marinated Grilled Chicken
½ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons mustard
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup lemonade
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
¼ teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
black pepper to taste

Whisk ingredients together until blended. Add chicken thighs and/or chicken breasts and marinate in the fridge for 1 hour, turn pieces and marinate at least another hour.
Remove from marinate and discard marinade. Grill chicken over medium-high heat, turning at least once, until juices run clear when pierced with a sharp knife point.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Even Better Sourdough Waffles and a Busy Week

Strawberry season is finally here! This year May has been the wettest and coldest on record, so the strawberries are later than usual, but the locally grown ones are sweet, juicy and oh so delicious. This week I paired them with freshly made, crisp and fragrant sourdough waffles for a breakfast to die for. Can you see how crisp these were?

I love waffles! Almost always if given a choice between pancakes and waffles, I'll choose waffles. I love that they have a crispy, crunchy exterior and soft interior when properly cooked. I love the golden color and their yeasty fragrance when you make them with sourdough starter or commercial yeast. I love the way the indents in the crust hold butter and/or syrup. Fortunately, Sweetie loves waffles, too.

One day this week I fed my starter and decided that I would also feed the "toss off" and make some waffles. The cup of discarded starter was mixed together with a soup make of 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and a little over 1/2 cup water, and 1 tablespoon sugar which had all been whisked until smooth. The new flour mixture provided new food for the little sourdough yeasties to eat and get happy.
About 4 hours later I added an additional 2 cups of flour (1 cup was whole wheat flour), 1/8 teaspoon instant dry yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Then I whisked in 2 cups of milk and covered the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit out overnight to become an even better batter.

In the morning butter was melted and cooled, an egg was whisked and they were both added to the batter. To this point the process is very much like what I posted almost a year ago here. I guess there is something about the arrival of strawberry season that puts me into a waffle kind of mood!

The difference this time was that I had a leftover egg white to add. It warmed up while the melted butter was cooling, then I whisked the egg white in a clean bowl until it held a soft peak. The beaten egg white was then folded into the batter using a flexible spatula. Now the batter was ready to bake in the preheated waffle iron. The first one was a little short on the batter, but Sweetie enjoyed it anyway.

Not sure if the egg whites are responsible or not, but these were the crispiest waffles ever! They were addictive and we ate them with sliced fresh strawberries and a splash of maple butter necessary with these beauties!

The busy week part began with the delightful visit from Flying Fingers and her hubby, was followed by a day where we set up a new storage structure and unloaded lumber and wainscot ting. Sweetie played tennis on Friday, but we also took down towel racks and shelving so that we can paint the bathroom.

We decided that the carpet in the vanity area of the bath is shot, so yesterday we removed the carpeting and installed new thresholds where carpeting is staying in the bedroom and hall. Let me tell you, removing the carpet tack strips was the hardest part for me. I'm a little sore today for all of that crowbar work.

Sweetie showed me how to prepare the threshold metal strip which keeps the remaining carpet edges in place. First you measure the door opening, then cut it to size with a hacksaw. Once cut you smooth the edges with a rasp and find the center point with a punch. Not shown is the hole he drilled with the drill press so that there was a screw hole near the end that had been cut. Once the threshold piece was screwed into place with two screws, he could cut the carpet with a utility knife. He then took out the screws and moved the metal threshold forward to cover the carpet edges, then screwed it down all across the threshold. This was repeated for the other doorway. All in a days work in getting ready to install new flooring in the bathroom.

I also spent some time in Home Depot looking at paint swatches since the walls will be getting a new coat of paint, and so will the trim. I've already decided to paint the trim a glossy bright white, which is what I'm doing throughout the house. I enjoy color so finding the perfect shade or shades of wall color is fun for me. Some possibles include a soft sage green, a pale greyed turquoise and a deep brassy green. I'm also looking at a soft sesame color similar to the hallway walls.

Saturday evening we were off to Healdsburg for a barbecue. I made dessert...with more strawberries. Will post about that soon.

XO Elle

NOTE: For those of you who can’t imagine having a single purpose item like a waffle iron, perhaps it helps that mine was from a garage sale and is eons old. It’s smallish and round and fits inside of a stew pot so it doesn't take up extra room in the cupboard. If it is still working when I die, my survivors will probably discard it, but for now it does the trick and produces nice circles of yummy, crispy waffles.

Amazing Overnight Waffles
adapted for sourdough starter and egg whites
from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe' Cookbook

1 cup sourdough starter
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup water
Whisk together and let sit, uncovered, at room temperature for 2 hours

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
all of the sponge
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 egg white
Nonstick spray
Butter for the waffle iron
Sliced strawberry
Pure maple syrup – hard to resist on waffles
Songe: Whisk together all of the sponge ingredients and let sit, uncovered, at room temperature for 2 hours.

Combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl Add the sponge and whisk to combine. Add the milk and whisk until blended. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature (or put in the fridge if room temp. is over 70 degrees F.)

The next morning, preheat the waffle iron. Melt the 6 tablespoons butter and let cool a bit. Beat the egg is a small bowl (unnecessary if using egg substitute) then beat it into the batter along with the melted butter. Whisk the egg white until it forms soft peaks. Fold into the batter with a spatula.

Lightly spray the hot waffle iron with non stick spray, top and bottom plates, and then butter a piece of bread and use that to rub some butter on top and bottom plates.

Add just enough batter to cover the cooking surface…this varies by waffle iron…about 2/3 cup. Lower the top and cook until golden brown…it’s OK to check now and then. It takes about 2-3 minutes. You want it golden brown, but not dark brown.

Serve hot, right away, with strawberries, maple syrup, or toppings of your choice.

Note; If you have too many waffles for the number of people you are feeding, bake the leftover batter a little less than the ones you are eating, let cool on a baking rack, then freeze and store in the freezer tightly wrapped. Re-heat in the toaster.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cream Puff Dreams in the Land of St. Honore'

Return with me now to the land of St. Honore’ where a graduation party for a princess is taking place at the palace. Princess Rosebud’s fairy godmothers are here, contentious as usual.

“Arabelle, you know that giving her a trip to the Enchanted Forest is so passe’”, said Eleanora.

“Well, at least I was invited to be here…unlike you”, protested Arabella.

Caramona observed,”Who would invite someone who always brings bad spells along and never fails to insult everyone at a party?”

Eleanora was incensed and decided that a bad spell was just what the party needed. With a wicked smile she said, “I haven’t given dear Rosebud my gift yet, so my gift is a spell…she will fall asleep and everything she dreams of will come true, just for tonight.”

Princess Rosebud thought that was a nifty gift, even though she promptly fell asleep and missed the rest of the party.

“Couldn’t you at least have given her a spell that ended with being kissed and woken by a handsome Prince?” asked Caramona?

“Maybe if I’d been invited I would have, but now I’m off to a party where I was invited”, sniffed Eleanora, and she left with a swirl of her cape, in a puff of smoke.

Nothing interesting happened at first (other than the fact that the princess was smiling a lot) but after about 40 minutes someone noticed that the dessert table suddenly held a beautiful new dessert.

Small cream puffs had been dipped in caramel and stacked up on a pretty plate. The guest broke off pieces and popped them in their mouths. Delicious!

When Princess Rosebud woke at midnight Caramona and Arabella asked her what she had dreamed. She was very excited.

“I’m never allowed in the palace kitchens, but in my dream I was a pastry chef and I created the most wonderful dessert! It’s called a piece montee’ and is a ‘mounted piece’ so I made a pyramid of pastry cream filled cream puffs, hooked together with caramelized sugar and decorated with spun sugar. I had so much fun making it!

The cream puffs were made with a cooked paste that was piped on baking sheets and baked…that’s when they puffed up.

The pastry cream was thickened with eggs and took a long time to cook over low heat.

Making the caramelized sugar was a little scary because it got so hot and you had to work quickly once it was set in the pan of cold water to stop the cooking process. It looked so pretty once it was all put together. I wonder what happened to it?”

Her fairy godmothers had the good grace to look abashed as they admitted that the guests had finished off every last cream puff. The princess wasn’t upset, however, because in her dream the one that appeared in real life was her practice version and not nearly as nice as the one she made next. Once she finished making the second one she had eaten her fill, wearing a white chef’s coat and a big smile. Sometimes dreams are better than reality.

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

If you want to practice your pastry chef skills and make this decadent dessert, you can find the recipe at Cat’s blog Little Miss Cupcake and probably at many Daring Baker sites across the blogosphere.

I had a good time making this, almost as good time as Princess Rosebud. I had never made the caramelized sugar with lemon juice but it worked well. I ended up with a nice dark amber color.

The cream puffs were similar to those I made for the Gateau St. Honore’ for the first Daring Baker's May challenge, but I made these very small.

I think I should have made them a bit bigger so they would hold more of the luscious pastry cream. I flavored the cream with vanilla and rum. Although the sweetness level was higher than I like, Sweetie and I managed to polish off this piece montee with great enjoyment. No need to dream when you have the real thing.

Thank you Cat for selecting such an inspiring challenge for this month!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dumpy Blondes

When I was younger I took it for granted that visitors would always enjoy something sweet for dessert or as an afternoon (or midnight) snack. Now I assume that guests won't want such things around because it seems that many people are watching what they eat, even when on vacation. That's sad. Vacations seem to me to be a time to ignore our every day assumptions and let loose a bit.

Fortunately I found by observation that our current guests share my opinion, so this afternoon I mixed up a batch of bar cookies to enjoy in the evening. These are on the sweet side, but they have a salty element, too. Since they are inspired by various cookie recipes I've seen that use cereal, pretzels, and potato chips in addition to traditional cookie additions, I'm calling them Dumpy Blondes.

The 'blondes' part is because while they are bar cookies, like brownies, they have a brown sugar and butter background instead of chocolate, making them blondies. I suspect that there may be a recipe just like this somewhere in the blogosphere, but maybe not. At any rate, I started with the Big Blondes variation that I posted here and added salty nuts and salty potato chips instead of toffee bits. They are big in flavor, big in quantity, but dumpy due to the dump of ingredients that make them interesting. Try some!

Dumpy Blondes
A variation of a recipe by Jill O’Connor in Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey, Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
3 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
3 cups mixed nuts – I used one cup of pecans plus two cups of a mixture that included salted peanuts, whole almonds and walnut pieces
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup crushed salted potato chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Use cooking spray to lightly coat a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Melt the butter and brown sugar together in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the butter and sugar are blended and completely melted and starting to bubble gently. Remove the pan from heat and let the mixture cool slightly.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and salt. Slowly whisk the cooled butter and sugar mixture into the eggs just until combined. Whisk in the flour and baking powder to form a loose batter. (Make sure the batter is cool before stirring in the remaining ingredients, otherwise the chocolate will start to melt before the bars are baked.)

Stir the nuts, coconut, potato chips, and white and dark chocolate chips into the cooled batter. (I mixed all of the dump ingredients together in a very large measuring cup before adding to the batter. That way I knew that there wouldn’t be a clump of potato chips here and a clump of white chocolate there, but rather a nice mix of all the goodies.)

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake until the tip is shiny and slightly crackled and feels firm to the touch, 30 – 35 minutes. A wooden skewer inserting into the batter should come out with moist crumbs clinging to it. Let cool on a wire rack to room temperature, then cut into bars and serve.

Makes 15 large or 30 small bars.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

By the Bay and Pork Sweetie's Way

Most people have some special local places that they turn to when visitors arrive. When I was growing up near Washington DC, it was rare for us to go 'downtown' to the city but we usually did when guest arrived. I loved going to the Smithsonian and the Lincoln Memorial and at the time you would climb up and down the many, many steps to the top when visiting the Washington Monument.

The art museums, like the Corcoran where I took an art class while I was in high school, were less frequent destinations. In Arlington, across the river, we would go to the Iwa Jima memorial with the soldiers keeping the flag up. After President Kennedy died we sometimes went to his grave site and saw the eternal flame. When I was older I could take the bus and go shopping or visit the museums on my own. In college I was privileged to be able to do my research at the Library of Congress in the gorgeous reading room. Since we had a large family we didn't do too much visiting as a family but I fondly remember and know I enjoyed when others came to visit us.

It is still a treat to have guests. This month we have been very blessed with beloved family members coming to town. Since we live in Wine Country there has been a picnic at a winery, and sightseeing in Healdsburg, a favorite tourist destination.

For this weekend's guests we didn't need to go to Armstrong Redwoods, a favorite place to visit with guests, since they had been to Muir Woods in Marin County. Instead today we drove out through Bodega (which still has the school and church seen in Hitchcock's film The Birds) to Bodega Bay, to the beach. It was clear but very windy and cool. A few times during the day we became part of the 'parade' of a group of old car enthusiasts who were touring the area. About 80 percent seemed to be Chevrolets of various vintages. At Bodega Head they were parked and we were able to walk around and admire them and take some photos.

Although this is the time of year when whales are making their way along the coast, we didn't spot any, but the docents from the Marine lab had a whale vertebrae on display.

As we drove back to Hwy 1 from Bodega Head we again became part of the car parade for a short while.
After a brief detour up Jonive to view some redwoods, we headed over toward Guerneville Road and Hwy 116 to Mom's Apple Pie to pick up two small pies to share. The blueberry was good but the raspberry was excellent! They were eaten so quickly that I forgot to take photos. Xam made sure to hang out nearby in case any crusts fell to the deck.

One of our guests, the wonderfully artistic Flying Fingers, showed me how to use liquify in Photoshop so I took a beach scene and turned it into the green background in the above photo. Fun!

Sweetie made his favorite slow cooked pork roast for dinner. He seasons a pork butt roast with garlic salt and freshly cracked pepper and browns it on the hot grill. He removes the roast from the grill and wraps it well in heavy duty foil. The grill gets set to its lowest setting, 325 degrees F. and the wrapped roast goes into the grill for two hours, with the lid down. He turns the roast over after an hour. When it is done, the meat is very moist and tender and very much like pulled pork if your wish to prepare it that way.

He prefers to cut it into chunks or slices. I like to chop it in smaller pieces and serve on a bun with barbecue sauce, but it is delicious straight from the grill, just as it is. Before we had a gas grill he would do much the same thing in a low oven, but somehow cooking it on the grill produces a better end product.
Hope that you are enjoying Spring, too. Do you have favorite places to take visitors?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oatmeal Bread with a Twist

For Bread Baking Day 30 hosted by Natasha at Living in the Kitchen with Puppies, we are asked to bake twisted bread – bread with a twist. Although my favorite puff pastry nibbles probably qualify…you cut the puff paste into strips, coat with seeds or pesto or cheese and then give them a few twists before placing on the baking sheet and baking til crisp and golden…I always think of braids when I put bread and twist together.

To start this bread I mixed some sourdough starter with a flour and water mixture and added some molasses, then let it sit for a few hours to develop the wild yeasts and flavor.

Looks like happy yeast in this 'starter plus flour, water and molasses'.

Cooked and cooled oatmeal…just oats and water…gives additional flavor and body (plus I just love oatmeal). Salt and bread flour are the only other additions, plus rising time for the first rise. (I was interrupted a couple of times while beginning this bread, so I hope I have put down the actual measurments. Please feel free to add additional water or flour if needed to make a supple dough.)

I divided the dough, with one piece being a two pound piece, later shaped for sandwiches in a loaf pan (posted about over at the Bread Bakers Dog here).

Now comes the twist. The second piece was cut into three pieces, each weighing almost the same amount (more fun with my excellent new scale!) and then each piece was individually shaped into a long rectangle, about 10 inches long and two inches wide. Down the middle I ran some Meyer Lemon Marmalade, a Christmas gift whose time has finally come. The long edges were pulled together and sealed with a pinch, to create three marmalade filled ropes. Those ropes were what I braided for the twisted braid.

The rest is the ususal…second rise, egg wash, bake until golden, cool a bit, enjoy.

I could also see this being good with jam instead of the marmalade….or grated dark chocolate…mmm. The jam sort of sunk to the bottom of each rope when baked so the bottom part of the slice had more sweet lemon flavor than the rest, with just a little in the middle of the slice. The sparkle sugar helped carry the sweetness to the top. If you prefer a less sweet experience, skip the sparkle sugar and use a bitter orange marmalade instead of the lemon one.

Oatmeal Sourdough Braid with Lemon Marmalade
1 ½ cups 100% hydration sourdough starter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups water
2 tablespoons molasses
2/3 cup rolled oats
1 1/3 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
3-4 cups bread flour
1 egg beaten slightly with 1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon (about) clear sparkle sugar

Place the sourdough starter in a medium bowl. In another bowl whisk together the flour, water and molasses. Add to the sourdough starter and whisk to combine. Leave on counter, uncovered, 2 or more hours until the yeasts look very active…you will see tiny bubbles rise to the surface.
While the yeast mixture is becoming active, cook the oatmeal in the water and set aside to cool completely.

Once the yeast mixture is active, place it in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the cold oatmeal and stir to break up the cereal. With the mixer set at lowest speed with the dough hook attached, add bread flour until the dough no longer sticks to the side of the bowl and knead with the mixer until smooth and supple and tacky but not sticky, about 6 -10 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few minutes to completely combine all elements.

Gather dough into a ball and place, rounded side first, into an oiled bowl or container large enough for the first rise. Turn the dough over to entirely coat it lightly with oil. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled in bulk.

Divide dough, shape, let rise again, and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven until golden brown. If you like you can brush on a wash of beaten egg right before baking.

Lemon Twist

Take a pound of the Oatmeal dough and divide into three pieces. Take a piece at a time and flatten the dough into a long thin rectangle, about 10 by 2 inches. Spoon a thin ribbon of lemon marmalade down the middle. Pull the long ends together and pinch to seal, creating marmalade filled rope. Place the rope, seam side down, on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicon mat. Repeat with the other two pieces of dough.

When all three ropes have been filled and placed next to each other, braid them loosely, tucking the ends under. Cover and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, about 2 hours. Brush braid with beaten egg (and sprinkle with crystal sugar if desired) and bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown and loaf sounds hollow when bottom is tapped. Remove from baking pan and let cool on a wire rack.

In case you have an interest in the upcoming bathroom remodel, here is the sink and countertop for the vanity, as seen in the showroom. Ours will take about three weeks to arrive.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Too many Bananas

These started out as Raisin Bran Muffins, but I had no bran, nor old-fashioned oats and I did have ripe bananas and walnuts and coconut…and raisins. Being playful, I changed quite a few things around and made some lovely muffins that have full banana fragrance and flavor and are joined sweetly by playmates walnuts, coconut and raisins.

Since I played around so much with the recipe, it ended up making more than 12 muffins. You could probably get 18 muffins from this recipe, but I chose to put the additional batter in a mini-loaf pan instead.

Playful Banana Muffins
Based loosely on Raisin Bran muffins in The King Arthur Flour Bakers Companion

3 ripe bananas
1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1 stick of butter, melted (1/2 cup) and cooled a bit
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons molasses
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup rolled oats (oats for oatmeal)
¼ cup dried coconut
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup roughly chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare a 12 cup muffin tin and a mini-loaf pan by spraying with baking spray or by greasing and flouring them. Set aside.

Peel and mash the bananas in a bowl. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the buttermilk, butter, eggs, brown sugar and molasses. Add the bananas and mix to combine.

In another bowl mix together the flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda, oats, coconut, raisins and nuts.

Quickly, with as few strokes as possible, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, just until combined.

Fill prepared muffin cups with the mixture, filling each cup almost to the top. Pour the rest of the batter into the prepared mini loaf pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 14 to 18 minutes for the muffins, or until they spring back when pressed lightly in the middle and about 25 minutes for the mini loaf pan banana bread, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Removed when ready from the oven and cool on a wire rack 5 minutes, then turn out of the pans and let cool until ready to serve.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Inspired by Apricot Beer - Soft Cheese Bread

You never know when inspiration will strike. I was avidly reading through Peter Reinhart’s book Artisan Breads Every Day a short while ago and noticed a recipe that called for beer in the bread. The day before Sweetie had me try a new beer he had found that had a strong apricot flavor. It was delicious! As soon as I saw that this bread recipe used both beer and cheese I decided to bake it using the apricot beer, diced dried apricots and brie cheese.

The brie seemed like a good choice because it goes well with fruit like apricots and it would get nice and melty in the bread, too. I always did like the challenge of making changes to a new recipe that I had never tried in its original version.

To make the challenge even greater, I decided to use some of my sourdough starter instead of the instant yeast in the recipe. I left out the diced onion or chives called for, but included the brown sugar and buttermilk. Because it has been over a week since I made the bread and I forgot to write down the proportions, I’m going to give the recipe as written for using instant yeast, but include the apricot beer and apricots and brie. Although the recipe gives amounts in a number of different measurements, I weighed mine…it is so nice having a good scale at last! Thanks go to my generous daughter who gave it to me for Christmas.

This book has a wonderful, illustrated section at the beginning that gives a nice primer on mixing, kneading, and shaping bread, with lots of explanations. One of the distinctions that Peter makes in this book is between sticky and tacky dough. His description for tacky is that the dough sticks to the surface of a dry finger but then peels off easily, like a Post-it note. That was what I was going for and eventually reached. I also did the stretch and fold that he suggested, giving my bench scraper a workout at first. Once the gluten developed enough I could use my hands. It was fun. The apricot dice was kneaded in at the end, before the first rising. The diced Brie cheese was carefully kneaded in right before I shaped the loaf into a sort of football shape.

During the baking some of the cheese near the surface melted and bubbled up and then cooked to a crispy bubbly blister.

This may not be the most elegant looking bread, but it was delicious.

This bread was very different than the Irish Apricot and Walnut bread, even though they both had apricots. This bread was softer, with a finer crumb, and it had a malty flavor due to the beer.

I really liked it when it was warm and the cheese was soft. It didn’t need any butter…or anything added. Great bread! I'm sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for her Yeastspotting event...the best event ever for those who bake with yeast both wild and not.

Soft Cheese Bread with Apricots and Brie
Makes 2 large loaves

6 ¼ cups (28 oz/794 g) unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons (0.5 oz/14 g) salt, or 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
5 tablespoons (2.25 oz/64 g) brown sugar
1 cup (8 oz/227 g) lukewarm apricot beer (I used Pyramid Breweries Audacious Apricot Ale [an unfiltered wheat ale], but you could use your favorite beer or ale)
1 cup plus tablespoons (9 ox/255 g) lukewarm buttermilk (about 95 degrees F or 35 degrees C)
1 ½ tablespoons (o.5 oz/14 g) instant yeast
¼ cup (2 oz/56.5 g) melted unsalted butter or vegetable oil (I used butter)
1 cup (8 oz) (sorry, no other measurements for this ingredient) finely diced dried apricots
1 ½ cups (12 oz/340 g) diced Brie cheese. I removed some of the Brie rind for a mellower taste.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, slat, and sugar together. Separately, combine the beer and buttermilk, whisk in the yeast until dissolved, then pour the mixture and the melted butter into the dry ingredients. If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 2 minutes. If mixing by hand, use a large spoon and stir for about 2 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed, or continue mixing by hand for 3 minutes, adjusting with flour or water as needed. The dough should be soft, supple and tacky but not sticky. Add the diced apricots and mix on the lowest speed or continue mixing by hand for 1 minute, until the fruit is evenly distributed.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 1 or 2 minutes to make any final adjustments, then form the dough into a ball. (This is where I used the bench scraper and did the stretch and fold. Perhaps I had not added enough flour, but I was going for a hydrated dough and the combination of bench scraper and stretch and fold did the job.)

Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days.

When ready to have a baking day, remove the dough from the fridge about 2 hours before you plan to bake. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Each will weigh about 2 pounds (907 g). Dust each piece with flour, then use a rolling pin (I used my hands to flatten dough) to flatten dough a bit. Put about ¼ of the cheese on each piece of dough, then knead it in. Flatten again and divide remaining cheese between the two pieces of dough. Knead the cheese dice in until evenly distributed. If making a boule, draw the dough toward the back of a ball to create a skin all around the ball. If some cheese pops out, that’s OK. (I shaped mine into a football shape once it was in the boule shape.) Proof the loaves on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Since these are large loaves, you may want to use one pan per loaf. Mist the shaped dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap, then let the dough rise at room temperature for about 90 minutes, until increased to about 1 ½ times its original size.

About 15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F ( 177 C). Because of the cheese, there may be air pockets or tunnels in the risen dough that could cause it to separate. Poke through the top crust in a few spots with a skewer or toothpick. The dough may fall a bit, but will recover in the oven.

Bake loaves for 20 minutes, then rotate the pans. The total baking time is about 50 minutes. The bread is done when it’s a deep golden brown and the internal temperature is above 185 degrees F (85 egrees C) in the center.

Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack for about 45 minutes to an hour before slicing or serving. (Since I’m married to Sweetie who can't seem to wait for the bread to cool, the bread was sliced by him after about 30 minutes…not great for the bread texture, but yum for the melted cheese.)