Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Meyer Lemon Spiked Salmon Spread and Giveaway Results

It's still Meyer lemon time around here.

Today I decided to use up some leftover cooked salmon and the juice and zest of a Meyer lemon to make a spread for bread or crackers or cucumber slices...I guess you could put it on top of baked potatoes, too, or use it as a filling for baked hand pies...lots of ways to use this one...or just eat it with a spoon! Just remember to be kind to your heart and go easy on the quantity eaten. The goodness of the fish oil can only offset the badness of the cream cheese just so much.

While I'm posting about the spread I'm happy to report that the three copies of Bless Your Heart, the great cookbook with a Southern sensibility, go to....tada...Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups the first commenter, Ammy Belle of The Crooked Bookshelf the fourth commenter, and Claire of Cooking is Medicine the fifth commenter. The were chosen in a random drawing and need to get me their e-mail addresses, if I don't already have them (Ammy Belle was smart and included hers with the comment) so that I can get their mailing address for the kind folks at Thomas Nelson Publishers so that they can mail out the books. My e-mail to use is elle(dot)lachman(at)gmail(dot)com.

Again, a huge thank you to Thomas Nelson Publishers for making these free copies available with no strings attached.

Meyer Lemon Spiked Salmon Spread
an original Elle recipe

one 8 oz. block cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup plain yogurt
Juice and zest of 1/2 Meyer (or other type) lemon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground
1 cup cooked salmon, flaked
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
salt to taste if needed

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or in a food processor bowl, place the cream cheese, yogurt , lemon juice and zest, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Beat to blend and to soften the mixture. Fold in the salmon flakes and parsley with a spatula and taste for seasoning. I like my spread to be pretty loose and creamy.

If you like a thick spread, try using half the yogurt and add additional a little at a time until it is the consistency you like before folding in the salmon and parsley.

Let the spread sit in the 'fridge for at least 1/2 hour to allow the flavors to blend. Taste again for seasoning. You may want to add more lemon juice or more cayenne pepper or even more parsley. Serve with thin slices of baguette or cucumber or with crackers or breadsticks.

Refrigerate, covered, if there are any leftovers.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Heartwarming Sweets and a Giveaway

One of the benefits of writing a food blog is that occasionally you are offered the opportunity to review cookbooks or try out new products and give your opinion. I don't accept every offer I receive but now and then I find one to be a good fit. I imagine they do the same thing before offering...take a look at the blog and see if they go well together.

Recently I received an e-mail from a publicist at Thomas Nelson, long time publisher of a variety of books. After checking out a few of the titles online I became enthused about trying out some recipes in their books.

The first book I've tried is Bless Your Heart, Saving the World Once Covered Dish at a Time with Recipes by Patsy Caldwell and Stories by Amy Lyles Wilson. It organizes recipes around gatherings like church suppers, tail gate parties, and bookclubs.

There is a pure Southern sensibility, particularly in the stories at the beginning of each chapter. These recipes are often created to be given as gifts of the heart so, although there are some recipes that are super healthy, many are comfort foods where no one is counting calories.

I belong to a women's scholarship group and we have luncheons twice a month. Many of the casseroles like Scalloped Potatoes with Country Ham and salads like Norma's Pretzel Salad with strawberry gelatin look very familiar even though we are far from the South. Quite a few recipes in Bless Your Heart are American classics like deviled eggs and peanut butter cookies and others are classics with a twist. There are lots of great photos of the recipe results, too (although all these photos are mine).

The first one I tried is a tea or quick bread familiar in that it is leavened with baking powder and baking soda and perked up with spices and nuts. The twist is that you grate pears to add to the batter and they add flavor, moisture and a subtle perfume. I used two firm but ripe red pears and followed the recipe with only two changes: I used half granulated sugar and half brown sugar instead of all white sugar and I used 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup water instead of 3/4 cup oil. I'm a fan of brown sugar and have found in the past that I prefer a bread with less oil, particularly if there is fruit in it to keep it moist.

This sweet bread was really lovely. I like the moist but firm crumb, the understated spiciness and that it isn't too sweet. Sweetie isn't a big fan of pears but he really liked this bread. Some tea breads need embellishments like a glaze or powdered sugar but this one is perfect as is.

I made it on Tuesday and it was still delicious today at tea time so it seems like a good keeper, too. It's nice because it gets stirred up with a spoon in one bowl so the cleanup is quick, too. The next time I make it I'm going to double the recipe so that I can bake three large loaves because I bet it will freeze well, too. It's always nice to have something like Bebe's Pear Bread in the oven to serve to unexpected guest.

The next recipe I tried was old-fashioned peanut butter cookies. These couldn't be simpler and are always a hit with peanut lovers. The only change I made was to include 1/2 cup chopped peanuts since I like crunchy peanut butter and think that some crunch is great in cookies, too. For about half the batter I also added some dark chocolate chips. Peanut butter and chocolate are also a classic combo, so why not? I'm sure they are delightful without either mix-in, too.

A note on quantities: Since I didn't follow the recipes exactly that probably explains the differences, but I found that the Pear Bread only made one large and one tiny loaves, not two large ones. I also found that the Peanut Butter Cookies made closer to 4 dozen than 2 dozen. Since I was eyeballing the amount of dough instead of using a measure and because I added a full cup of additional mix-ins it's not too surprising...and extra cookies are a good thing, right?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I'm disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16CFR Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Now for the giveaway...Katherine R. at Thomas Nelson Publishers has generously offered to send copies of the book to up to three readers. All you have to do is comment on this post. I'll post the winners on March 29 from comments received up to noon PDST that day, after which time the winner will need to e-mail me their mailing address so that I can pass it on to the publisher. Winners outside of the U.S. can expect delivery to take up to six weeks.

You'll be glad you have this book the next time you need to bring a dish like Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie or Cabbage Slaw with Red and Green Apples to a family reunion or pot luck. You will also find recipes for dishes your family will enjoy for weekday meals and special occasions like Fresh from the Garden Tomato Pie or Beef Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Topping.

You can order a copy for yourself at Amazon HERE or at your local bookstore, too. Here is the information on the book: Bless Your Heart, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nov. 2010, ISBN 978-1-4016-0052-5. (BTW - no kickback from Amazon, either, nor from local bookstores.)

BeBe's Pear Bread
Makes two medium loaves - Perfect for a bake sale or for tea

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar (I used 1 cup each granulated and brown sugar)
1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup canola oil (I used 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup water)
2 cups grated pears (2 large pears)
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans. Set aside. In a large bowl add the flour, sugars, pecans, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Stir to combine. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the oil, water, pears, eggs and vanilla. Stir until just moistened. Pour into the prepared loaf pans. Bake for 50 - 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 2 loaves or 24 servings.

Note: If you are making this recipe for yourself, it is wonderful served with cream cheese.

Peanut butter cookies are a childhood favorite, great in a bagged lunch or for an after school treat. This recipe is just right...tender, buttery, robustly peanutty and perfect with a glass of cold milk.

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies
makes at least 2 dozen medium cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped peanuts (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large cookie sheet and set aside.

In a large bowl cream teh butter, sugar, brown sugar, and peanut butter until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. In a small bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt together and add to the creamed mixture. Add the vanilla and mix well. If you are using chopped peanuts add them and mix well. You can add the chocolate chips instead of or in addition to the peanuts and can add them now or mix in later as I did.

Scoop the cookie dough 1 tablespoon at a time and roll into a ball. Place each cookie on the prepared cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Flatten with a fork or the bottom of a glass. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool.

Now where's that glass of milk?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Brotform Fascination

Yesterday I finally purchased a brotform. I've been wanting one for a while but couldn't justify the expense. So why buy now?

In cleaning out my office I discovered a Sur la Table gift certificate, partly used. I thought that there was only $5 left on it but discovered otherwise. Then on Monday I received a card in the mail from Sur la Table with a $10 off coupon. It looked like I might have enough for the brotform and perhaps a few other things. Once I got to the checkout I found out that I even had enough to purchase a French type rolling pin, another kitchen tool that will come in handy fairly often. I ended up paying less than $1 from my own funds...what a treat! Here's what it looks like:

Naturally now that I own a brotform I had to bake some bread in it today. Such is the fascination of brotform ownership.

It's a fairly simple bread...flours, water, sourdough starter, a little yeast and a little salt. Of course I used some King Arthur Flour Ancient grains flour and some whole wheat flour and both bread and all-purpose unbleached flour so that added a little complexity. Sourdough almost by its nature adds more complexity. For the loaf that didn't rise in the brotform, I also kneaded in sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, and flax seeds right before the shaping and last rise. Baked that up in a loaf pan.

Unfortunately I forgot to slash the brotform loaf with the natural result that one side lifted up due to oven spring. Sort of looks like it's smiling.

Even though I slashed the pan loaf fairly deeply in three places, it, too, blew out on one side.

Next time I'll slash all the way over to the side of the pan!

In case you are wondering what a brotform is, it's a reed basket used to form bread dough in its final rise. The reed is a continuous spiral and you apply flour generously to keep the dough from sticking to the form, but the flour also makes a nice pattern on the risen loaf. Now you are going to want one too!

This bread is delicious (well, the seedy one is...haven't tried the brotform one yet) and has a nice, tight crumb. Since I want to use it for sandwiches I added just a bit more flour than I would if I wanted a bread with more holes. It has a nice sourdough tang and crustiness and I'll bet it tastes great toasted.

Sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for the weekly Yeastspotting event. If you've been reading my most recent posts you know that I'm a big fan of Yeastspotting. If you love bread and the fragrance of yeast you will too.

By the way, there is almost a full week to go for becoming a Bread Baking Babe Buddy. Guys can be Buddies, too, if you are a guy reading this. Then you will be in the company of real Babes. Sound like fun? This really was a delightful bread...be a Buddy, OK?

Sourdough with Ancient Grains and Whole Wheat
makes 2 loaves

3 to 3 1/2 cups all purpose or bread flour or a combination
1 1/2 cups ancient grains flour (or use more bread flour)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup sourdough starter (fed with a mixture of 1 cup flour and 1 cup water and let sit on counter 2 hours)
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water

In a large bowl mix together the flours, yeast and salt. Have about 1/2 cup more all-purpose flour handy in case the dough needs a little more.

In the bowl of an electric mixer if using, or in a large bowl, mix together the sourdough starter and water. With the dough hook attached and mixer on low speed , add flour about a cup at a time at first, then about 1/4 cup at a time until the dough comes together, climbs the hook and, eventually, cleans the side of the bowl. At the end you may need to add flour a tablespoon at a time, and may need to use a little of the extra flour.

If you are not using an electric mixer, put all but 1 cup of the flour, yeast, and salt, mixed, in a large bowl or on a work surface, make a well in the center. To the well add the sourdough starter and the water then use your hand or a wooden spoon to work the wet ingredients into the dry until a shaggy dough forms. Start to knead, working in additional flour mixture as needed until dough is satiny, smooth and just tacky.

If using electric mixer and dough hook, knead 8 - 10 minutes until dough is smooth, satiny and just tacky.

Place dough into an oiled rising bowl or container, turning dough to coat all sides with oil. Cover and let rise in a draft free warm place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours. Punch down, turn dough over, cover and let rise again until doubled, about another 2 hours.

Turn dough out on lightly floured work surface. Cut dough in half and return half to the rising container.

Take the half of the dough on the work surface and flatten it to release excess gas. Form into a boule (ball) by pulling the edges under until a nice ball forms. If using a brotform, liberally flour it, then set the ball, smooth side down in the form, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

If not using a form, set on a piece of parchment, cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise until doubled. If you prefer a loaf, once you have flattened the dough (Making sure it is about 2 inches wider than your pan lengthwise), roll dough up jelly-roll fashion along the long part of the rectangle. Tuck the ends under (that's why you made it longer than the pan) and place, seam side down, in an oiled bread pan. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. If you have a bread stone heat it too. When oven is hot and bread has risen, turn bread out of brotform if using, slash bread and put into oven. You can turn the loaf out of the brotform onto parchment paper and slide the parchment paper onto the baking stone if you have one. Otherwise, turn loaf out of brotform onto a parchment lined baking sheet, then put sheet into oven. DON"T bake the loaf in the brotform...it's only for shaping, not baking.

Bake until loaf is browned and sounds hollow when tapped, about 50-55 minutes. Check at about 35-40 minutes and turn loaves if oven has hot spots. This allows you to estimate when the bread is going to be done, too.

Let bread cool almost completely before cutting.

To make Seedy Sourdough Loaf: Follow recipe above until time for final shaping. Flatten a dough half as described above, then sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon flax seeds, 1-2 teaspoons poppy seeds, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds (or whatever seed mixture you like), then roll up like a jelly roll and turn ends up and over seam. Flatten again and sprinkle again with the seeds. Roll up again, fold in ends again, then knead a few turns to make sure seeds are distributed well. Flatten one more time, roll up, turn ends under this time and place in loaf pan as in recipe above. Continue on as recipe is written.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Deep Dark Chocolate

The Cake Slice Bakers chose a really delicious cake this month...chocolate pound cake. Since Sweetie and I were planning on visiting Natasha we offered to bring dessert. Natasha and her Sweetie have a cool gadget that uses some sort of gas pellets to whip cream right in the gadget...you put in heavy cream and out comes whipped cream! My first try led to cream flying everywhere but then I got the hang of it and it really dressed up the cake slices. I also brought some raspberry coulis to drizzle over the cream and cake...it was hard not to have seconds!

This post is a day late...so sorry...because I was trapped (happily) yesterday in the Photoshop vortex. I had such a good time creating some graphics that I hope to use later that I completely lost track of changing the wet laundry to the dryer, never had lunch, and forgot to post the cake which I had made weeks ago! I truly love Photoshop time...guess it's my version of Sweetie's trainroom sessions.

Do bake this cake! It has a deep chocolate color and flavor and would also go great with some ice cream and salted caramel sauce, or I'll bet you could top that!

Please do visit the other Cake Slice Bakers blogs to see what glorious things they did with this recipe.

March’s Cake: Chocolate Cream Pound Cake
Makes one 9x5 inch loaf cake
(Recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman)

6 tbsp unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup (1stick) unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 325F. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan and dust with flour.

Sift the cocoa powder into a heatproof bowl. Place the cream in a microwavable bowl and heat for 30-60 seconds until just boiling. Pour the hot cream over the cocoa and stir and mash with a spoon to make a thick paste. Set aside to cool.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary. Beat in the cocoa powder paste until smooth.

With the mixer on medium-low speed add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

Turn the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture, ½ cup at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Add the last addition, mix for 30 seconds on medium speed.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake the cake until it is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Invert it onto a wire rack and then turn it right side up on the rack to cool completely. Slice and serve.

Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Just for Sweetie

Sweetie has had a difficult March so far, but is feeling better and looking far better than the ladder which fortunately did all the breaking so Sweetie didn't have to when he fell. The joys of home projects! Since my knee is much better I decided to cheer him up with beef. I'm not sure what it is about beef and guys but some of them just have to have it on a regular basis. Since we're going with meat, we might as well have potatoes, too, so there were mashed potatoes and some peas of green since this was our St. Patrick's Day feast.

The dish is Beef and Guinnesss and Mushroom Pie and it is a winner! It reminded us both of a very similar dish we used to enjoy at an Irish pub which has since closed. There are no potatoes or other vegetables to get in the way of the intense, meaty flavor. The sauce in this dish (which is a pie in a very loose meaning of that word) is especially good.

The original recipe from Gourmet 2004 used tomato paste but I rarely have those little cans in my pantry. Since most recipes call for only a tablespoon or two and the cans have at least 8 tablespoons, they always end up in the back of the fridge growing fuzz since I have trouble just throwing them out once I've used the tablespoon or so, even knowing that I will not end up using the rest. The solution is to use tomato sauce and adjust the water in the recipe to compensate.

What a treat this is if you like beef. Tender cubes of slow cooked beef, a delicious sauce, savory mushrooms (my own addtion because Sweetie really likes mushrooms) and a sprinkle of parsley just because. Topping all that goodness is just enough flaky, buttery golden brown puff pastry. Don't bookmark this for next March 17th...make it soon for someone who loves beef and you will likely make it again and again. They will love you for it.

Beef Guinness and Mushroom Pie
Adapted from a Gourmet 2004 recipe

2 pounds bonless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground (if possible) black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup water
1 small can tomato sauce
1 can beef broth
1 cup Guinness or other Irish stout
1 Tablespoon Worcestershir sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons butter
4 oz. sliced white mushrooms, wiped clean if necessary
4-5 stems Italian parsley

Ready-made, frozen puff pastry dough, thawed (I used the patty shells)
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place race in center or just below center of oven.

Place flour, salt and pepper in a clean paper bag and shake to combine. Pat beef dry and place 3-4 cubes at a time in the bag and shake to coat. Remove from bag, shaking off the excess flour and place on a plae. Heat the oil in a wide 5 -6 quart ovenproof heavy pot over moderate-high heat until oil is very hot. (I used a large soup pot...that way the grease spatter from the browning meat mostly stayed inside the pot. It is ovenproof and has a tight lid, so I baked the dish in it, too, and it worked perfectly.)

Brown the meat in 3-4 batches, turning at least once, about 5 minutes per batch, transferring the browned beef to a bowl as each batch is done.

Once all beef has been removed to the bowl, add the onion, garlic and water to the pot and cook, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of pan and stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, beef broth, stout, Worcestershire sauce and thyme and bring mixture to a simmer. Stir in beef and any juices from the bowl. Simmer one minute. Cover and transfer pot to the oven. Braise until beef is very tender and sauce is thickened, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. If sauce is too thin, thicken with a slurry of 2 tablespoons each flour and water, stirred into the sauce and cooked until sauce thickens.

Let uncovered pot of cooked beef sit and cool completely, about 30 minutes. If stew is too warm while assembling pies, it will melt the uncooked pastry top.

While stew is cooling, melt butter in skillet and sauté' the mushrooms, letting them brown lightly on each side. While they are browning, chop the parsley in a fine mince.

Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees F. Place baking dish or dishes onto a shallow baking pan. Divide cooled stew among the dishes (or put all in one large shallow baking dish). They won't be completely full. Spoon the cooked mushrooms over the stew, dividing evenly among the dishes. Sprinkle minced parsley over each dish.

Roll out pastry dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin (if using full sheet of puff pastry dough) into a square about 1/8 inch thick. Trim edges and cut dough into quarters. If using patty shells, place one on top of each dish of stew, scored side down. If using pastry squares, place one on top of each dish of stew. Brush tops of either kind of pastry with the milk.

Bake pies in preheated oven until pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees F and bake 5 minutes more to fully cook the dough. Serve right away. Sides that work well include almost anything with potatoes.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On the Far Side of the World

My ancestors lived in Ireland, the misty green land. One of the staples of the diet is the potato and the Irish have ever loved their tatties. On the far side of the world from Ireland is New Zealand. The natives there, the Maori, also enjoy potatoes. The Bread Baking Babes' kitchen of the month is Lien's blog Nottie van Lien and she gave us a wonderful Maori bread recipe that uses a cooked potato and some water as the ingredients for a starter, so this bread has fermented potato as it's sourdough starter. She included a beautiful New Zealand fern stencil, but I wasn't able to use that, so look for it on the other Babes' sites.

The first time I tried to make the starter I somehow introduced something that spoiled the starter. It smelled really bad and had reddish (dark pink actually) splotches through the starter. I actually made the dough with it but that smelled bad, too, and the bad smell overpowered the fresh rosemary fragrance which is hard to do! On the advice of some of my fellow Babes I threw the whole thing out...probably saving myself from unpleasant stomach cramps or worse...and started over again. This is one of the reasons that I treasure being part of such a warm and responsive baking group.

For the next starter I was super careful. I made sure that everything I used was glass, ceramic or stainless steel and I made sure to wash everything in very hot water as I went along. I also put the glass bowl with the starter in it into a soft sided insulated bag...and idea I got while reading some of the Forging Fromage blogs which I linked to through Natashya's blog Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. If it works for fermenting fromage, why not sourdough starter? That kept the temperature even and kept the starter warm enough.

Success! the starter was lovely and the bread made with it is delicious! It has the distinctive flavor that bread with potato in it has and the lovely tenderness of crumb, too.

The fresh rosemary goes wonderfully with the potato flavor. All in all a lovely loaf! I couldn't find my Xacto knife for a stencil, so I used a paring knife and made a fairly crude star stencil, but it does add some pizzazz to the look of the loaf.

Thank you Lien for providing such a great recipe. I hope that lots of my dear readers will consider trying this recipe...and that they have initial success with the starter, too. If it smells really, really sour, like sour milk only more so, don't use it, OK?

To be a buddy all you need to do is find the recipe at Lien's blog...the link is HERE, then bake the bread and send her an e-mail with the link to your post and do it by the 29th of March. Do check out the great breads made this month by the other Bread Baking Babes...the links are in the sidebar at top right.

So what stencil are YOU going to use?
Sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for the weekly Yeastspotting event...a true breadhead's delight...check it out by clicking HERE.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Walnut Date Celebration Bread

Because it is in the Celebration Breads chapter and because I'm celebrating finally, after a month, being able to walk downstairs in the normal way with no pain, I decided to make a Sourdough Mixed Grain version of Panettone con Datteri e Noci inspired by the recipe for Panettone made that way in Carol Field's The Italian Baker.

I decided to skip all that lamination...did plenty of that with the croissants...and just keep the idea of making a date and walnut rich ball with a stack of three dough layers. This version still takes a little more time and care because you are working with large sheets of dough and stacking them after they are 'filled'. If I were to do it again I would flour up my bread paddle and lay the walnut layer on it as soon as it was rolled out but before I had filled it. That way the whole layer would, probably, slide off onto the date layer

fairly easily. As it was I did two layers on one board, moving the date layer to a sheet pan and bringing it back to be covered with the walnut layer when that was ready.

I rolled the plain layer on another work surface, although perhaps a bit too thinly. I didn't have room to roll the dough all out at once, so I cut the dough into three pieces and worked with each in turn.

Although a traditional Pannettone bread would be lovely and this multi-grain dough worked well, I suspect that you could use any flavorful bread dough for the dough part as long as it went well with dates and walnuts. I did add a 1/2 cup brown sugar with 1/2 teaspoon dried ground orange peel mixed in because I wanted it a bit sweeter than I had made the dough and I love orange flavor with dates and walnuts. You could also sub in orange zest. You could also start with a sweeter dough and skip the brown sugar (which is less messy, too). Doesn't this look mouthwatering with the dates and nuts?

I'm sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for her Yeastspotting weekly event...a wonderland of recipes of things made with yeast...check it out!

Sourdough Mixed Grain Dough with Almond Meal

1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup water

1/2 cup barely warm water
all of the poolish
1 1/4 cup bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup barley flour
1/4 cup soy flour
1/2 cup almond meal (finely ground almonds)
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon super active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sea salt
additional bread flour as needed (1-2 cups at most)

Datteri e Noci
Above Mixed Grain dough
3/4 cup chopped dates
1 1/3 cups chopped toasted walnuts
4 tablespoons soft butter, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon dried ground orange peel

For the Poolish
Whisk together the flour and water and add it to the sourdough starter. Let sit uncovered 2 hours to ferment.

For the Dough
Take the Poolish and put it into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the 1/2 cup water and stir to combine.

In another bowl, whisk together the four flours, almond meal, wheat germ, yeast and sea salt to combine. With the dough hook attached and the speed on low, gradually add the flour mixture to the poolish mixture until a soft dough is formed. Let the mixer do the kneading, adding flour as needed a tablespoon at a time, or turn dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand until dough is satiny and elastic.

Place dough into oiled rising container or bowl, turn to coat with oil, cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

Remove risen dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly to release any extra gas.
Filling and Shaping. Mix the brown sugar with the orange peel and set aside.

Roll the dough out 1/2 inch thick. Cut the dough into 3 equal rectangles. Spread 2 tablespoons of butter one one, leaving about an inch around the edges free of butter, then repeat on a second rectangle, using up the rest of the butter. On one rectangle sprinkle the dates; on the second, the walnuts;

leave the third layer empty. If using, sprinkle the date layer with half the brown sugar mixture.

Place the walnut dough on top of the date dough and sprinkle with the other half of the brown sugar mixture, then cover both of them with the plain dough. Pinch the edges to seal and gently shape into a ball by pulling the dough taut and pinching it together at the bottom. Place in a buttered panettone mold, 2-pound coffee can lined with a round of parchment paper, or 2-quart springform mold with sides built up with aluminum foil. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, 3 - 4 hours.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and bake 40 - 50 minutes. If the top starts to get too brown, cover it with aluminum foil. Cool completely in the mold and then unmold onto a rack.

In the drawing the the book Carol seemed to decorate the top with sliced dates but I sprayed it with a bit of oil and sprinkled with sanding sugar before it went into the oven.

This makes a wonderfully fragrant and impressive loaf similar in shape to a pannettone. I think I rolled the top layer too thin.

You can see in the photos that even before it rose there were little holes and once it was baked you can see all the places the walnuts peek through. Some of the brown sugar came through and was deeply caramelized, too.

I found that most of the bottom of the loaf was just plain bread without the dates and nuts so the next time I would probably roll up the sealed dough layer like a jelly roll and put it in the pan as a wreath just so the fruit and nuts would be distributed throughout. If made with laminated dough this would be far flakier and buttery and a whole 'nuther beast so maybe then the ball with ends pinched under would work great. Might have to try that!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Herbs Join Potatoes and Sourdough

One of the joys of baking bread, once you have gotten used to it, is that you can play around with recipes to make your own custom bread, just the way you like it.

I love sourdough and I also love herbs, Parmesan cheese, and breads with mashed potatoes in them. Since my 'toss off' from feeding my sourdough starter had itself been fed a combination of a cup of flour and a cup of water and had sat out on the counter for a couple of hours letting the yeasties get happy, I decided to put all of these things together into one bread. It helped that I had some cooked, cooled potato chunks and the cooking water. You probably think that I knew all along that I would make potato bread today, but in reality I was making something else with potatoes and had some ends left over, so I cooked them up and they cooled off while I was doing other things.

A quick look at my Index (see the link over at the right with the table set for a meal photo?...if you click on it you'll jump to my Index of recipes. I know the Bread section is long, but you might stumble across a bread (or other recipe) you might like to try...you never know) yielded both an herbed bread recipe I put together one day and a potato bread recipe from the talented Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups. A short time later some elements from each were combined into this great bread recipe. I bet you could look at it and easily figure out ways to make it YOUR custom bread...add some pine nuts or feta, change the herbs, fold in some sun dried tomatoes....you get the idea!

Sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for her weekly Yeastspotting event...a virtual wonderland of bread recipes using yeast...or recipes using bread made with yeast. Check it out! More opportunities to custom make your own bread by starting with one you find through Yeastspotting and making small changes. Just be sure to give credit where credit is due if you post your creation.

Italian Herbed Sourdough Potato Bread
makes two loaves

1 cup sourdough starter at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast (I used RapidRise)
1/4 cup tepid water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup mashed potatoes, cooled (OK to leave skins on or to peel them)
1/2 cup water from cooking the potatoes for mashed potatoes, cooled
1/2 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano, and crumbled dried rosemary
1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley (or any parsley)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
about 5 cups all-purpose flour (I used 2 cups whole wheat flour and about 3 cups all-purpose flour whisked together)

Put the sourdough starter in a large mixing bowl. If using a stand mixer, attach the paddle.

In a small bowl, combine the yeast and the tepid water and sugar. Stir. Let sit for 5 minutes to make sure yeast is active. Active yeast will smell very yeasty and clumps of bubbly yeast will rise to the surface of the water.

After it has proofed, add the yeast mixture to the bowl containing the sourdough starter. Add the mashed potatoes and potato water. Mix in the herbs, olive oil and salt. Add a cup of the flour and mix until combined.

Switch to the dough hook (or continue mixing with a wooden spoon), adding flour a 1/2 cup at a time and mixing until incorporated. If using a stand mixer, keep adding flour until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. Continue to knead using the dough hook another 6 - 8 minutes until dough is satiny. If stirring by hand, stir flour into dough until it is too hard to stir, then turn dough out onto a well-floured board or clean, well-floured counter and knead the rest of the flour into the dough. Amount of flour will vary. Keep kneading until dough is satiny and supple.

Once you have finished kneading dough if using the stand mixer, turn out onto a lightly flour surface, knead a few times to make sure everything is combined.

Using either method of kneading, place kneaded dough into an oiled large bowl or rising container, turn to coat whole of dough with oil, cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 - 1 1/2 hours. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface, divide in half and put one half back into the rising container. For the half of dough on the work surface, press down on it to shape into a rectangle about 8 by 12 inches. (Optional: sprinkle dough with about 3/4 cup of mixed Italian shredded cheeses).

Roll up dough along the long side, fold the ends under, pinch to seal, and put into a greased loaf pan. Shape second half of dough the same way or shape into a braid, as I did, or into rolls.Cover shaped dough with a damp kitchen tea towel(s) and put in a warm place to rise.

When risen to double in bulk, place in preheated 400 degree F oven to bake for about 20 - 25 minutes. Finished loaf is golden and sounds hollow when bottom is tapped. Let cool on rack until barely warm. Slice and serve. Enjoy the aromas of herbs and fresh bread.
This bread has a nice crackly crust from the sourdough starter and a tender crumb from the potatoes. Photo below shows sliced braid.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Apricots and Pork...Who Knew?

Living as I do with a 'meat and potatoes' kinda guy, I have a lot of standard recipes that I know he likes. Most of these have been posted over time on this blog and they can be found in the Index (see the Sidebar).

In general Sweetie is not fond of meat dishes that use sweet ingredients but today he was the one who suggested baking pork chops along with apricot ale. Now apricot ale isn't really sweet, but there are fruity overtones of apricot and it's faintly sweeter than some ale. The one we like is brewed by Pyramid.

Once Sweetie suggested the apricot ale I jumped in with a spur of the moment collection of other ingredients: brown rice, mushrooms, onions, parsley, sage, even nutmeg...and dried apricots of course.

This is a savory dish with little bursts of sweet from the dried apricots. It's very easy to do and made enough for two dinners for two or plenty for four at one meal. I served it with a nice green salad for some crunch since the pork dish is savory but soft. Who knew that pork and apricot together would yield such a nice dinner? Now we have a meal already cooked for Friday.

A little update on health: My knee is doing much better (and THANK YOU to all for the good wishes) but the doc said yesterday to expect another couple of weeks before walking downstairs would be comfortable. I was actually talking to the doc because I had to drive Sweetie in to be checked out for a fall from a wooden ladder. He is fine (although pretty sore) but the ladder isn't. I'd rather have it that way than the other way around. It is sort of comical. He can walk fine but it hurts of do much bending over and I can bend over fine but it hurts to walk much so both together equals about one healthy person. Good thing we have each other!

Pork and Apricot Bake

4 thick cut pork chops
garlic salt or salt and pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground sage
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground (if possible) nutmeg
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup water
4 cups already cooked brown rice
1 bottle (12 oz) apricot ale
1/2 cup dried apricots (halves or chopped)
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook in an oven safe skillet with a lid or transfer ingredients to a large casserole with a lid when it's time to bake.

Season the pork chops with the salt or garlic salt, pepper, sage and nutmeg. Season both sides if that is important to you. I generally go with seasonings on one side, so you may need to increase the sage and nutmeg amounts if you season both sides.

In large skillet, over high heat, heat the olive oil and brown the seasoned chops. Turn and brown the other side, then remove from the pan and keep warm. Add the chopped onion to the pan and stir continuously for 2 minutes, then add the mushrooms and stir every 10 seconds for 2 minutes.

Turn down the heat to low and add the water. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and stir the mixture. Add the rice and stir to combine completely. If using the same skillet, smooth out the rice mixture. If using a different ovenproof baker, transfer the rice mixture to that baker and smooth it out.

Place the browned pork chops evenly around the baking dish. Scatter the apricots over the rice around the pork chops. Pour on all of the ale. Sprinkle Italian parsley over all. Cover and bake covered for 1 hour. Remove cover and bake another 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Going Slower

Time certainly seems to be flying by at its usual breakneck pace but the healing of the knee injury seems to be going slowly, so I'm going slower and doing less, too. Every now and then Sweetie and I go to our favorite cafe during the week for breakfast. They have a great breakfast special with reduced price and Sweetie really loves their French Toast. With the knee still somewhat painful if I use it much at all, this week we stayed home when we usually would have gone to the cafe. The good news is that I had made that yummy French bread, so we had some nice homemade bread for French Toast.

French toast is pretty easy as long as you adjust the heat under the pan or griddle so that you don't burn the toast before it is warmed all the way through, especially important so that you aren't eating raw eggs. It helps if you like eggs and dairy and cinnamon.

I started out by mixing the toast soaking batter and getting a couple of slices going. Then I made some cooked apples with cinnamon to go with the French Toast, something that the cafe doesn't do, but it really adds deliciousness and extra nutrition and fiber. Apparently we are still not getting enough fiber in our food and apples are a great and really enjoyable way to do that. Looking back I see that I usually make apples to go with the French toast I blog about...hope you don't mind...but at least this time the bread is also French! French toast with whatever bread you like is such an easy-to-make and well-loved dish that it bears repeating.

So even though it was a chilly gray day (by California standards...probably warm by Minnesota standards) when we had our French Toast, we started off with a sunny breakfast.

(If you were wondering about my cooking and baking with an injured knee, I can assure you that my kitchen is so small that I barely take any steps, I'm only on my feet a short time, and the worse problem I have with the knee is with change in elevations, especially going down. The doctor warned me about that and he is so right. That has kept me indoors a lot because there are a few steps down to the front walk and uneven ground is really a bad idea, so no weeding or pruning or even going to check for tulip bud hidden in the leaves, something I usually do every spring.)

I'm sending this recipe over to Yeastspotting, Susan of Wild Yeast's delightful weekly collection of breads, rolls, sweet rolls and other things made with yeast. Do check it out.

French Toast for Sweetie
Serves 2

4-6 slices bread, French bread if possible
2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
1 cup milk - 2% or above is recommended, although non-fat condensed (not sweetened) is fine
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
oil, margarine, or butter if you skillet or griddle isn't non-stick

In a large pie plate or other flat dish scramble together the eggs, milk, and cinnamon. Sprinkle the sugar over the mixture and whisk it in. Elle's note: I use a fork for all of this. Sprinkling the sugar on last helps bring that floating cinnamon down into the mixture.

Heat a large skillet or a griddle over medium-high heat until a drop of water flicked on the surface sizzles. While griddle is heating, soak 2-3 slices of bread in the milk mixture for 1 minute, then turn and let soak another minute.

Place soaked bread slices on the preheated skillet (which you oil while it is preheating if oiling is necessary) and cook until first sides are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook the second sides are dark golden brown and toast is heated through. Elle's note: While the first slices are cooking, soak the rest of the slices, turning them over in the batter when you turn the slices that are cooking.

Repeat cooking the remaining slices as you did the first ones. Serve while hot with sauteed apples, maple or cider syrup or other garnish of your choice. Elle's note: some people like a dusting of confectioners sugar and that's what they do at the cafe.