Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Late Taste of Terroir - Gingerbread & Lemon Sauce

Couldn’t let January end without one more recipe.

I baked this to take to a friend recovering from surgery. Served with the Lemon Sauce recipe from my Mom, it is pure comfort food.

The problem was that it smelled so good that Sweetie and I had to have a piece. That was so successful that we shared one more piece. It’s a wonder that any of the gingerbread made it to my friend’s house. I used 2% milk that I soured with some apple cider vinegar for that batch, but then decided to make another batch for the weekend using buttermilk as in the original recipe. Both work just fine. I also added some minced candied ginger for little zaps of pure ginger flavor here and there and took out the vanilla extract. With all of these heavy duty spices, the poor vanilla just gets lost.

Try this warm with warm lemon sauce. You can also make it as orange or vanilla sauce, but I think lemon is the perfect match for the gingerbread.

It is a couple of days late for the event, but the lemon sauce qualifies this post for A Taste of Terroir 2009 event that Anna of Anna’s Cool Finds is doing to highlight local and regional flavors. So sorry I’m too late, Anna.

I made my sauce with the lovely Meyer lemon from a friend’s tree in Healdsburg on the Russian River. It has a milder flavor than Eureka lemons (the ones you usually find in the grocery store) and is slightly less acidic, too. It makes a truly awesome Lemon Sauce.

Doesn't this look yummy?

Spicy Gingerbread
Based on a recipe from Williams-Sonoma Muffins

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (7 ½ oz/235 g)
½ teaspoon bakind soda (bicarbonate of soda)
¼ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons ground ginger (freshly ground is recommended)
1 ¼ teaspoons grounds cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon candied ginger, finely minced
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (4 oz/125 g)
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar, light or dark (3 ½ oz/105 g)
2 large eggs
2/3 cup molasses, light or dark (4 oz/125 g)
2/3 cup buttermilk (5 fl oz/160 ml)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (180 degrees C.) Grease and flour an 8 or 9 inch (20 or 23 cm) square baking pan or dish. If using a glass baking dish, use 325 degrees F (165 C) for oven temperature.

On a sheet of waxed paper, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and cloves.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Beat in the molasses. Add the dry ingredients in 2 increments, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. Beat well until fluffy and smooth yet thick.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake until the top is dry to the touch and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan, 35-40 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes.

Serve the gingerbread warm or at room temperature, cut into squares. Can be garnished with whipped cream or lemon sauce or lemon curd.

To make as small cakes, spoon the batter into the cups (or used greased muffin tins) to 2/3 full. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until the toothpick test (above) works. Let cool briefly, then turn out onto a rack to cool. (I flipped mine on a plate so that the top was up.) Once cool, cut into squares.

For a treat, serve with Lemon Sauce.
Nancy’s Lemon Sauce

½ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice (I used Meyer, but any lemon juice and zest is fine.
Zest from 1 lemon

In a saucepan, mix the sugar and cornstarch thoroughly. Gradually add the boiling water, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and boil at full boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Add butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and stir until well blended.

Variations: Vanilla Sauce – use 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in place of lemon juice and zest.
Orange Sauce – Use 1 cup orange juice in place of the water. Add zest of 1 orange in place of lemon zest. Omit lemon juice.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tea with the New Neighbors in the Land of St. Honore'

It was a bright, sunny and cold winter day in the Land of St. Honore’ when the invitation arrived on my doorstep. Strange that it wasn’t in the mailbox, but a tea party’s a tea party, right?

At the appointed time I arrived at the grove, dressed in my best, and walked up the incline and through the round door. The invitation had indicated that my hostesses were new to the neighborhood and wanted to meet those who lived nearby.

Liv and Sal were very welcoming. They drew me in with an array of pale yellow pudding, gathered on a red tray.

The place looked a bit odd…all smooth curves, but smelled wonderful, too; butter and almonds and sugar smells. Liv’s ears were a bit pointy and Sal’s eyes bulged. Their white hair looked a bit like feathers, but maybe those were hats. We sat in a round little room and talked about the neighborhood. I didn’t see a tea pot, but maybe calling it a ‘tea party’ was just to make it sound festive.

We started with a lovely, light lemon buttermilk pudding made by one of the guests and a fellow baker, Hil.
She promised to give me the recipe, but I’m still waiting. It’s made with Meyer lemon juice and zest and has milk, eggs and buttermilk. It was delicious!

Then Hil and I tried the cookies served by our hostesses. As guests you try to behave as if you are enjoying the food, even when you’re not, but I’m afraid that I made a face.
These tuiles were alien. Rubbery, greasy and pale except for around the edges. The flavor was good if you could get past the texture.

After trying their baking, I’m sorta glad there was no tea!

As the afternoon started to grow dark, we made hasty good byes and headed down the ramp. A few minutes later as we walked down the road toward home, we heard a huge roar behind us…and turned to see the ramp slide toward the closed door and then the “house” rose up from the grove and we saw that it was a donut shaped ship. As it rose overhead, Sal and Liv looked down from the clear middle and waved and waved until it was out of sight. I guess those were alien cookies after all.

The above story is pure fiction, except for the part about the cookies being rubbery and oily. Not sure what I did wrong, but the batter never came together. When I spread the batter on the Silpat mat, using a tart tin for a template, you could still see pieces of butter suspended in the batter.

Unfortunately I ran out of time this month to try it again. I’m sure that the fault was mine and not the recipe because I’ve seen dozens of beautiful tuiles made by many, many Daring Bakers. To see them yourself, go to the blogroll on the right side of my blog, You’ll be glad you did.

Our hostess…the REAL ones…this month are Karen and Zorra…and even though I didn’t meet the challenge, these were great recipes.

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

The Tuiles recipe I used is one from the challenge:

Following is a recipe taken from a book called “The Chocolate Book”, written by female Dutch Master chef Angélique Schmeinck.

Yields: 20 small butterflies/6 large (butterflies are just an example)
Preparation time batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes, baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.1/4 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the bakingsheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations on the wings and body of the butterfly.

Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that). Or: place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, cones….

Note: The lemon buttermilk pudding recipe will be posted as soon as I get a copy.

Happy end of January!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Months End

It's the tail end of January. It's cold enough to frost the fallen leaves. A lot has happened this month. I even did the Daring Baker challenge early, but am not quite ready to tell you my story.

All around the blogsphere Daring Bakers are posting this month's challenge. Check it out! The blogroll is to the right of my blog.

My post for the January challenge will be delayed a bit. I'm blaming it on the aliens. Hope to tell you all about it tomorrow as we return to the Land of St. Honore'


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Everything Thats the Kitchen Sink

When you've lived in the same house for going on 25 years, things get old. Sometimes that's nice. Watching the oak tree get taller and taller, seeing the rose bushes go from tiny to magnificent, even seeing the nicks in the wood trim by the fireplace that signifies many warming fires and the kindling that went into them...these are all great reminders of a life built in this old house.

Other things are not so nice. The finish on the stairs in the sun space has grown flaky from constant exposure to the southern light. The carpet in the upstairs part of the sun space has grown very faded. The sink and faucet (well, actually this is faucet number two or three) in the kitchen have grown worn and are showing their age.

The whole kitchen could stand a renovation, but this is not the time for that. The sink, however, has been replaced with a beautiful, simple, white Koehler cast iron one and the faucet set is new, too, with a lovely goose neck curve that makes filling tall pots easy. It even has a spray attachment...something I've wanted for years. The old sink didn't have enough holes for one, but this sink had four holes so I'm a happy camper. The old sink also had a curved piece cut out of the main sink so that a garbage disposal could be installed. The new one is a full rectangle and that makes washing big half-sheet baking pans a breeze. Much of this renovation is a Christmas gift from my Mom....THANKS MOTHER! We pitched in some more for the sprayer and for new shut off valves below the sink. The old ones were truly past their expire date.

If you have been looking at the Daring Baker posts and all of that bread making I've been doing the past few months, you might have imagined the huge numbers of bowls, whisks, pots and pans that needed washing up to work the baking magic. Now I have a sink that will make that so much easier. I might have to bake bread every day!

Speaking of bread, I baked a loaf on Sunday that took all day...ALLLL rise. I finally took it out of the oven about 9 pm. That was the day the sink was being installed. I took the starter out of the fridge first thing in the morning and made the bread about 10 am, then set it to rise in the sun space. At the time it was sunny and warming up a bit. Unfortunately the weather changes, it got colder and I was busy helping, so didn't notice. I tried a barely warm oven and that helped, but not much. I tried the stove top with a cloth over the bowl of dough. Again, it helped, but not much. Since the sink installation was still going on, the poor dough was ignored. Right before dinner it had risen enough to form into loaves. After dinner we turned on a heater, pointed it to the doors of the closed pantry and set the bread pans with the formed loaves on top of the microwave near by. About an hour and a half later they went into a preheated oven and baked for a long time...about an hour I think. It was worth the wait!

This was my first try at making Anadama bread. Maybe it always takes that long for Anadama bread to rise. Sweetie's sister from SF had been visiting earlier in the week and I asked her what bread she had liked to make when she baked bread a while ago. She said, "Anadama Bread", so I had to try making some. It is a New England bread, made with corn meal and molasses.

The version I tried is my variation of a recipe from the New York Times newspaper. I divided the cornmeal in half and used polenta for half and regular cornmeal for half. I also used both whole wheat and all-purpose flour. The cup of whole wheat flour was added at the end of the cooking of the cornmeal so that it could hydrate while the mixture cooled to tepid. Next time I may reduce the molasses amount a bit because it overpowers the corn flavor a little. Mostly I really like this bread. It makes wonderful, full flavored toast. The crumb is tight, moist, and there is a little bit of grit texture from the polenta...only a tiny bit, but enough to notice. The crust is just thick enough and it is a good sandwich bread, too, for full flavored sandwich fillings.

In a warm house it might take the total 4 hours time called for in the recipe, but my house was chilly on Sunday and I didn't enhance my starter with extra yeast as I sometimes do. The bread was worth the wait.

Anadama Bread
makes two loaves

1/4 cup polenta style corn meal
1/4 cup regular corn meal
2 cups water, divided
1/2 cup molasses (I would use less...maybe 1/3 cup next time)
6 tablespoons butter, softened,
1 1/4 oz package active dry yeast (or 1 cup sourdough starter...which is what I used)
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 1/2 cups (about) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
oil for greasing

In a bowl, whisk together the polenta and the cornmeal and 1 cup of the cold water. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring another cup of water to a boil. Add cornmeal mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is very thick, about 8 - 10 minutes. Stir in the molasses and the butter.

Add the whole wheat flour and stir until all is combined. Transfer mixture to bowl of an electric stand mixer and cool to tepid. (Or transfer to a mixing bowl large enough to mix the dough by hand and then knead in the rest of the flour.)

In a small bowl, stir together the yeast and 1/2 cup water until yeast has dissolved. (Or add the 1 cup sourdough starter to the mixing bowl with the tepid cornmeal mixture.) Add to cornmeal and mix on low speed with dough-hook attachment for several seconds. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing for several seconds after each addition. Sprinkle in the nutmeg and salt, and continue mixing until dough completely comes away from sides of bowl, about 7 minutes.

Lightly oil a bowl. Form dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Oil a sheet of plastic wrap and loosely cover dough. Allow dough to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

Lightly grease two 9 x 4 inch loaf pans. Press down dough and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Shape each piece loosely into a loaf and place each in a pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until loaves have doubled.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake loaves for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until bread is dark golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

Allow bread to cool in pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire cooling rack. Serve warm if possible.

I'm going to send this one over to Susan of Wild Yeast at Yeastspotting. Go on over and check out the delicious ways that fellow bakers are using yeast.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Good 'Nuf Chicken

The other evening it was chilly and dinner time was coming around too soon it seemed. I needed to make something with the chicken thighs that were in the fridge, but it had to be a quick recipe and I wanted it to be somewhat healthy, too. After all, I'm saving my calories for bread a lot of the time lately. Might as well have an entree that is easy on the heart and waistline, too.

This is the time of year for citrus in our part of the world. It is plentiful, juicy, and the sunny colors really brighten up a gray day.

This chicken dish is a variation of a favorite lemon chicken recipe I've posted in the past. This time I changed it a bit and included some finely minced orange peel, including some of the pith. It carries the citrus flavor even further and the pith adds a touch of bitterness that really complements the mustard and lemon flavors. I slimmed down the recipe by reducing the olive oil a fair amount, too.

The resulting chicken is moist, flavorful, sunny with citrus, sparked with the tang of mustard and mellow garlic and zesty rosemary. It goes well with rice or noodles or just soak up the sauce with some sourdough bread if you have some. Can you tell I'm obsessed with sourdough bread?? Haha!

I'm entering this dish in Ilva of Lucullian Delights's event Heart of the Matter - Slimming, a great event for this time of year!

Sunny Citrus Chicken
Serves about 4-6

10 boneless skinless chicken pieces
1 tablespoons olive oil for coating pans
6-8 cloves fresh garlic
2 lemons
¼ cup Dijon mustard
4 branches fresh rosemary, each about 5 inches long, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh orange peel, some pith (white part just under skin) included.

Arrange the boneless skinless chicken thighs (or substitute some boneless skinless chicken breasts if you wish) in a 11 x 13 baking pans where the bottom of the pan have been lightly oiled with the olive oil, evenly divided. Keep the chicken pieces touching each other. Place whole, unpeeled garlic cloves between some of the pieces, about 6-8.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together Dijon mustard, the juice of 2 lemons, & 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary. Whisk in the olive oil. Pour the mixture over the pan of chicken. Tuck a few sprigs of remaining fresh rosemary between some of the chicken pieces in the pan. Sprinkle the orange peel evenly over the pan of chicken. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill 3-4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Uncover the chicken and place the pan in the oven. Bake for 40 minutes or until the juice runs clear when a piece of chicken is pierced. Be sure to serve the sauce as well as the chicken.

Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, or boiled potatoes, with bread to sop up the sauce. The sauce is mighty good. The chicken is amazing.

:) Leftovers are delicious, too. You can also freeze this, well wrapped, for a month. Thaw in the refrigerator, then bake in a 350 degree oven until heated through, or in the microwave, reheating at no more than 50% power.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Inauguration Day!

Today, no matter where we hail from, no matter our politics, if you are a U.S. citizen, we are all Americans and have cause to welcome a new president. If you aren't a U.S. citizen, I hope that you wish our country and our president well. The world is a smallish place in many ways. Today gives me hope that we can make it a good place to be for as many people as possible.

Last night I made the bagels that were part of the Daring Bakers challenge in June 2007 so many months ago. The sourdough starter was the base and those bagels were shared early this morning (8:30 am our time) at work as we gathered to watch the inauguration ceremonies. There was some good cream cheese, some smoked salmon, some red onions and sliced tomatoes, some butter and some cherry jam (from Traverse City Michigan), some Prosecco and oranges and a wonderful cake by Hil.

The cake was symbolic: pineapple to honor our new President's birthplace in Hawaii, some molasses in the gingerbread to remind us of the rum, sugar, slaves triangle of the colonial days, and it was an upside down cake...with hope that President Obama will turn our country right side up again.

It was a lot warmer in our little office than in Washington, D.C., but the cheers and applause were just as enthusiastic.

Since I used to live in the D.C. area and have been on that mall many times, I was blown away by the sheer numbers of people gathered from all over on this historic day. It also made me proud to see that the turning over of power was not only peaceful, but cordial, with proper respect being paid to Mr. Bush for his service to the U.S., even if many didn't appreciate his notion of what that service should be.

Happy Inauguration Day!
Real Honest Jewish Purist's Bagels
Daring Bakers Challenge #7: June 2007
Hosts: Jenny (All Things Edible) and Freya (Writing at the Kitchen Table)Post Date: Wednesday, June 27th
Allowed Modifications:
Topping of your choice, savory recommended, for the outside of the bagels only. No added ingredients or flavours inside the bagels.
Filling or spread of your choice for the outside of the bagel. (i.e. flavoured cream cheese or peanut butter)
Recipe ingredient exception allowed only if allergy or an ingredient not available or cost prohibitive in your region
Recipe Quantity: Fifteen (15) large, plain, Kosher bagels
6-8 cups bread (high-gluten) flour
4 tablespoons dry baking yeast
6 tablespoons granulated white sugar or light honey (clover honey is good)
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups hot water
a bit of vegetable oil
1 gallon water
3-5 tablespoons malt syrup or sugar
a few handfuls of cornmeal
large mixing bowl
wire whisk
measuring cups and spoons
wooden mixing spoon
butter knife or baker's dough blade
clean, dry surface for kneading
3 clean, dry kitchen towels
warm, but not hot, place to set dough to rise
large stockpot
slotted spoon
2 baking sheets

How You Do It:
Step 1- Proof Yeast: Pour three cups of hot water into the mixing bowl. The water should be hot, but not so hot that you can't bear to put your fingers in it for several seconds at a time. Add the sugar or honey and stir it with your fingers (a good way to make sure the water is not too hot) or with a wire whisk to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water, and stir to dissolve.
Wait about ten minutes for the yeast to begin to revive and grow. Skipping this step could result in your trying to make bagels with dead yeast, which results in bagels so hard and potentially dangerous that they are banned under the terms of the Geneva Convention. You will know that the yeast is okay if it begins to foam and exude a sweetish, slightly beery smell.

Step 2- Make Dough: At this point, add about three cups of flour as well as the 2 tsp of salt to the water and yeast and begin mixing it in. Some people subscribe to the theory that it is easier to tell what's going on with the dough if you use your hands rather than a spoon to mix things into the dough, but others prefer the less physically direct spoon. As an advocate of the bare-knuckles school of baking, I proffer the following advice: clip your fingernails, take off your rings and wristwatch, and wash your hands thoroughly to the elbows, like a surgeon. Then you may dive into the dough with impunity. I generally use my right hand to mix, so that my left is free to add flour and other ingredients and to hold the bowl steady. Left-handed people might find that the reverse works better for them. Having one hand clean and free to perform various tasks works best.
When you have incorporated the first three cups of lour, the dough should begin to become thick-ish. Add more flour, a half-cup or so at a time, and mix each addition thoroughly before adding more flour. As the dough gets thicker, add less and less flour at a time.

Step 3- Knead Dough: Soon you will begin to knead it by hand (if you're using your hands to mix the dough in the first place, this segue is hardly noticeable). If you have a big enough and shallow enough bowl, use it as the kneading bowl, otherwise use that clean, dry, flat counter top or tabletop mentioned in the "Equipment" list above. Sprinkle your work surface or bowl with a handful of flour, put your dough on top, and start kneading. Add bits of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking (to your hands, to the bowl or counter top, etc....). Soon you should have a nice stiff dough. It will be quite elastic, but heavy and stiffer than a normal bread dough. Do not make it too dry, however... it should still give easily and stretch easily without tearing.

Step 4- Let Dough Rise: Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with one of your clean kitchen towels, dampened somewhat by getting it wet and then wringing it out thoroughly. If you swish the dough around in the bowl, you can get the whole ball of dough covered with a very thin film of oil, which will keep it from drying out.
Place the bowl with the dough in it in a dry, warm (but not hot) place, free from drafts. Allow it to rise until doubled in volume. Some people try to accelerate rising by putting the dough in the oven, where the pilot lights keep the temperature slightly elevated. If it's cold in your kitchen, you can try this, but remember to leave the oven door open or it may become too hot and begin to kill the yeast and cook the dough. An ambient temperature of about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (25 Centigrades) is ideal for rising dough.

Step 5- Prepare Water for Bagels: While the dough is rising, fill your stockpot with about a gallon of water and set it on the fire to boil. When it reaches a boil, add the malt syrup or sugar and reduce the heat so that the water just barely simmers; the surface of the water should hardly move.

Step 6- Form Bagels: Once the dough has risen, turn it onto your work surface, punch it down, and divide immediately into as many hunks as you want to make bagels. For this recipe, you will probably end up with about 15 bagels, so you will divide the dough into 15 roughly even-sized hunks. Begin forming the bagels. There are two schools of thought on this. One method of bagel formation involves shaping the dough into a rough sphere, then poking a hole through the middle with a finger and then pulling at the dough around the hole to make the bagel. This is the hole-centric method. The dough-centric method involves making a long cylindrical "snake" of dough and wrapping it around your hand into a loop and mashing the ends together. Whatever you like to do is fine. DO NOT, however, give in to the temptation of using a doughnut or cookie cutter to shape your bagels. This will push them out of the realm of Jewish Bagel Authenticity and give them a distinctly Protestant air. The bagels will not be perfectly shaped. They will not be symmetrical. This is normal. This is okay. Enjoy the diversity. Just like snowflakes, no two genuine bagels are exactly alike.

Step 7- Pre-heat Oven: Begin to preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 8- Half Proof and Boil Bagels: Once the bagels are formed, let them sit for about 10 minutes. They will begin to rise slightly. Ideally, they will rise by about one-fourth volume... a technique called "half-proofing" the dough. At the end of the half-proofing, drop the bagels into the simmering water one by one. You don't want to crowd them, and so there should only be two or three bagels simmering at any given time. The bagels should sink first, then gracefully float to the top of the simmering water. If they float, it's not a big deal, but it does mean that you'll have a somewhat more bready (and less bagely) texture. Let the bagel simmer for about three minutes, then turn them over with a skimmer or a slotted spoon. Simmer another three minutes, and then lift the bagels out of the water and set them on a clean kitchen towel that has been spread on the counter top for this purpose. The bagels should be pretty and shiny, thanks to the malt syrup or sugar in the boiling water.

Step 9- Bake Bagels: Once all the bagels have been boiled, prepare your baking sheets by sprinkling them with cornmeal. Then arrange the bagels on the prepared baking sheets and put them in the oven. Let them bake for about 25 minutes, then remove from the oven, turn them over and put them back in the oven to finish baking for about ten minutes more. This will help to prevent flat-bottomed bagels.

Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks, or on a dry clean towels if you have no racks. Do not attempt to cut them until they are cool... hot bagels slice abominably and you'll end up with a wadded mass of bagel pulp. Don't do it.

How To Customize Outside of Bagels: After boiling but before baking, brush the bagels with a wash made of 1 egg white and 3 tablespoons ice water beaten together. Sprinkle with the topping of your choice: poppy, sesame, or caraway seeds, toasted onion or raw garlic bits, salt or whatever you like. Just remember that bagels are essentially a savory baked good, not a sweet one, and so things like fruit and sweet spices are really rather out of place.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

More Persimmons

The persimmons are just about gone on our lone persimmon tree, but I did get enough pulp to make some really nice tea bread with walnuts. The cake I made with persimmons before had a lot of spices, so the persimmon flavor wasa bit hidden. This recipe has very simple flavors, so the persimmon and walnut flavors are the stars of the show.

The cake is made with the muffing method of having a wet mixture and a dry mixture. When you put them together it's important to stir just barely enough to combine the two mixture. Excessive stirring leads to tough tea cakes. I'd also recommend not substituting for the butter unless you are vegan or allergic to dairy. With such a simple set of flavors, the butter has an impact.

I baked my batter up in small loaf pans. The extras make great little gifts for friends. The small size means you can have a couple of slices with your tea (or coffe, milk, cocoa, etc) without it being too much, even if dinner will be on the table pretty soon.

Persimmon Walnut Bread
From Baking in America by Greg Patent

3 fully ripe persimmons (about 1 pound)
1 ½ cups walnut halves or large pieces (about 6 oz)
1 ½ plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
½ cup sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Adjust oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8 ½ by 4 ½ by 2 ¾ inch loaf pan (I used a set of smaller loaf pans); set aside.

2. Pull the stems off the persimmons and cut each fruit lengthwise in half. With a teaspoon or grapefruit spoon, scoop the pulp out into a bowl. Use a pastry blender or potato masher to chop or mash the pulp into small pieced; you should still have some pieces of persimmon mixed with the pureed pulp. Measure 2 cups and set aside. Eat any leftovers or reserve for another use.

3. Toast the walnuts in a shallow baking pan until fragrant, stirring once or twice, 6 – 8 minutes. Let cool completely. (Since my loaf pans were small, I chopped the cooled walnuts coarsely).

4. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together; set aside.

5. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until thoroughly combined and slightly frothy Add both sugars and beat thoroughly with the whisk. Whisk in the butter. Stir in the persimmon pulp and walnuts with a rubber spatula. Add the flour mixture and stir only until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and smooth the top(s). (Note: I made this using a stand mixer and was careful to not overmix…it worked fine.)

6. Bake for about 1 hour and 5 minutes, until the bread is well browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Smaller loaves require a shorter time to bake.) The bread will be quite dark, especially on the edges, but if loaf/loaves start to brown too much before being done, lay a piece of aluminum foil, shiny side up, loosely on top during the last 30 minutes or so of baking.

7. Cool in the pan(s) on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a small sharp knife around the side(s) to release the bread, and carefully unmold. Set right side up on a rack to cool completely. Wrap airtight. The bread can be frozen for up to 2 months.

8. Makes one regular size loaf, but recipe can be easily doubled. The origianl directions in the book were for double the amount shown here.

This recipe is a perfect one for Grow Your Own #24, an event from the lovely Andrea at Andrea's Recipes. The idea is to post about a dish you have made using something you have grown or harvested. Both the persimmons and the walnuts came from my yard. You can also replace the persimmon pulp with matching amount of applesauce and it will still be delicious tea bread.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Daily Bread

I'm beginning to think that it would be satisfying to run a bakery that mostly made bread. Think that a good name for it would be Daily Bread?

If I did, I'd be sure to make the loaf I made on Saturday a regular item. It's called Buttermilk Barley Bread. It is really, really good.

Marion Cunningham is well known in the cookbook world, having taken the old Fannie Farmer Cookbook and updated it (although this was a while ago), and, more recently, she wrote a wonderful book for bakers called The Fannie Farmer Baking Book with 800 great baking recipes and lots of tips, hints, directions on basic techniques, etc.

One of the recipes in the bread section is for a Buttermilk Barley Bread Which she describes as “a mildly sour loaf with the earthy, distinct taste of grain.”

This bread goes together easily, is moist and has an nice, tight crumb.

The flavor is outstanding and I ate my first piece without anything on the bread because it was so delicious as is.
Today I had a turkey sandwich for lunch made with this bread. It's a great sandwich bread.
I gave a loaf to a friend on Saturday. She made toast and tells me it makes great toast, too. See why it needs to be a regular bakery item?
I used Bob’s Red Mill stone ground barley flour, some barley malt syrup, and the only change to the recipe was that I substituted one cup of whole wheat flour for one of the cups of all-purpose flour called for. Well, two changes, actually; the whole wheat flour change and I used a cup of whole wheat sourdough starter instead of the yeast called for. An additional ½ cup of all-purpose flour made up for the extra liquid in the starter. I used scissors to make snips in the top, just for fun and to see what it would look like.

If you want to make it with active dry yeast, just take a package of dry yeast and stir it into 1 1/2 cups warm (but not over 110 degrees F) water, and let it sit for a few minutes to activate. Ignore the starter in the recipe and use a little less flour. Should come out just fine.

The recipe below reflects the changes I made to Marion Cunningham's recipe:

Buttermilk Barley Bread

1 cup sourdough starter at room temperature
1 ½ tablespoons barley malt syrup (you can use 1 tablespoon of sugar if you don’t have barley malt syrup but the flavor won’t be the same)
2 cups barley flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 to 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (unbleached is best)
2 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk

Put the starter in a large mixing bowl. Add the barley malt and sugar and stir to combine. Sift together the barley flour, whole wheat flour 2 cups of the all-purpose flour, the baking soda and the salt. Add the buttermilk to the mixing bowl and stir to combine. If using a dough hook attach it.
Add the flour mixture a little at a time letting the dough hook knead it as you go. Once all of the flour mixture has been incorporated, add additional flour a little at a time until dough is just a little bit sticky. (You can do it without a mixer, too. Just stir about 2 cups of flour mixture into the liquid mixture, turn out onto a floured surface and knead in the rest of the flour, using a bench scraper to keep the surface [mostly] clean.) Knead until dough is smooth and elastic.

Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise until double in bulk.

Punch the dough down and divide in half. Shape into two loaves and place in greased 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch by 2 ½ inch loaf pans. Let rise to the tops of the pans.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove from the pans and cool on racks.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Savory Swirl

When the Bread Baking Babes made Yule Wreath breads, there were both sweet and savory versions on their blogs. The one that really caught my eye was the savory version found at Tanna's blog, My Kitchen In Half Cups. Although many elements in the filling sounds delish, she had me at Spinach. The idea of a bread wreath with a spinach stuffing just had instant appeal. Then you throw in some Italian sausage, some onions (in my version) and herbs in the bread dough, plus a little Parmesan cheese sprinkled on the crust and you are in heaven. Thank you Tanna!

I used the recipe for the Yule Wreath found on her blog, used my plain sourdough starter instead of yeast, and used whole wheat flour plus an additional half cup of all purpose flour.

Since the Yuletide is long past, I decided to skip the wreath and shape the rolled up, stuffed dough into a big letter C. For a pretty simple dough and easy to do filling, this looks really impressive once you cut the slashes with scissors and turn the pieces out to show off the filling.

It is even more amazing when you take it out of the oven, all golden brown and smelling like the best Italian food you can imagine. The best part is eating it! Warm bread, savory sausage, tangy spinach, sweet onions, and just a hint of herbs and Parmesan. It will be gone before you know it!

Yule Wreath
adapted from Betty Crocker's International Cookbook
as seen on My Kitchen In Half Cups by Tanna

variations in italics

1 package active dry yeast
(I used 1 cup sourdough starter instead, plus ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast mixed into the water - below)

1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 deg. F)

3/4 cup lukewarm milk

1/4 cup sugar
(I used 1 tablespoon sugar)

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 egg

1/2 tsp ground cardamom
(I used 2 teaspoons mixed dried herbs instead)

1/2 tsp salt

3-1/4 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
(I used 2-1/2 cups AP flour +
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)

1-Whisk together 2 cups flour, yeast, cardamom, (dried herbs) sugar and salt. Stir in milk, butter, egg, Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.

2-Turn dough onto lightly floured surface: knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover and let rise in warm place until double, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. (Mine took 2 1/2 hours)

3-Prepare Filling

3/4 pound Hot Italian Chicken Sausage
(I used Turkey Italian Sausage)

brown well & add
6 shallots sliced thin
(I used ½ cup finely chopped yellow onion)

for about a minute then top with
4 hands full spinach
stir until wilted
(I used chopped spinach)

allow to cool

4- Punch down the dough. Roll into rectangle, 15 x 9-inches, on a lightly floured surface. Spread with the filling to within 1/4-inch of the edges. Roll up tightly, beginning at the wide side. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal well. Stretch roll to make even. With sealed edge down, shape into ring on lightly greased cookie sheet.
Pinch ends together. (I shaped it into a letter C shape)

5- With scissors or kitchen shears, make cuts 2/3 of the way through the ring at 1-inch intervals. Turn each section on it's side (90 degree turn), to show off the pretty swirled filling. Cover loosely with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray. Let rise until double, about 40 to 50 minutes.

6- Heat oven to 350 deg. F. Right before putting into the oven, brush crust with a little milk and sprinkle on about 1 tablespoon grated Parmesans cheese. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. (If it browns too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil.)

You can find this at Yeastspotting at Susan's blog Wild Yeast...around Dec. '10!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Slow Buns and Fruit Bread with a Twist

The other night Sweetie wanted to make hamburbers. I’m not a huge fan of hamburgers, although I enjoy one now and then, but I was willing. He makes really, really good burgers!

Then he mentions that he didn’t buy any hamburger rolls, *Hint**Hint*, so could I please make some? This was at about 3 in the afternoon. I told him that it would mean eating later in the evening than he had planned. Fine with him.

I needed to feed my sourdough starter, anyway, so I got the starter out of the fridge and let it warm up. Then I mixed up a nice oatmeal bread dough and set the dough to rise. The house was on the cool side…not too surprising since it was overcast and chilly outside and our only source of heat is a woodstove. Sweetie made a fire in the woodstove, which helped. Then the rolls had to be shaped and the rolls had to rise.

I decided to only make four and use the rest of the dough for something different. About a half hour before we were to eat, I preheated the oven. The rolls were still not very puffy. The house was still cool. I had been letting them rise in the kitchen where I had a nice hot pot of soup to throw off some heat. Sweetie stoked up the fire and I let them rise a bit more by the fire as the oven preheated. How on earth did women manage all of this when there was no central heat and homes were even cooler? Guess that was why there was the baker with his big ovens.

Anyhoo, the rolls went into the preheated oven and stayed sort of flat, although they puffed up some. They barely had time to cook by the time the burgers were done…another 10 minutes would have helped, but it was already over an hour past the usual dinner time and Sweetie was hungry for that burger. I must admit, they tasted wonderful. The rolls had a nice crust and great flavor. I sure learned that yeast doesn’t do ‘hurry’ very well.

The bread I made with the remaining dough was absolutely wonderful! I spread it out in a rectangle, sprinkled on some cinnamon, a bit of nutmeg and a dash of allspice. These were kneaded into the dough. Then I spread it out into a rectangle, sprinkled on a mix of finely diced dried fruits that were a gift from the Third Sister Down,

plus some dried cranberries. These were kneaded in. It didn’t look like enough, so I repeated the process, adding more dried fruits. Then I rolled the dough into a log, sliced it in two, and twisted those two strands around each other, tucking the ends under. Since there was no hurry for this bread, I let it rise as long as it needed, until double in bulk. Into a preheated oven it went and it was baked until lightly golden brown. The shape ended up being almost like a baguette. The bread was just a little spicy and the fruits were like jewels.

It tasted a bit like raisin bread, but better. Toasted and spread with butter…sublime!

The oatmeal bread recipe is the same one I used for Oatmeal Bread in a previous posta little over a month ago. For the rolls, I spread a little milk over the tops and sprinkled on some rolled oats, but otherwise only changed the shape.

It’s been a busy week…I know they all are…but fun, too. More bread making and sweets baking is scheduled for this weekend, plus I’m taking a friend to tea in Benicia on Sunday. Just might have some fun things to post soon.

Monday, January 05, 2009

My Grandad lived in New York City, so I didn't get to see him very often. He was a soft spoken man with twinkling light blue eyes, but you could tell that he was not a man to cross. Family lore has it that he was active in the Sein Fein movement to free Ireland, his birthplace, from the British. He loved Ireland and would visit as often as possible. One time when we visited his home after Christmas, there on the mantle was a Christmas card from DeValera, who at the time was the equivalent of President in Ireland.

I suppose that I should be much more knowledgeable about Ireland, but there was a real effort once the children (my Mom and her brother) were born to make sure that they were raised as Americans, so she never learned as much about her Irish heritage as her much younger step-sisters did.

When my Mom would visit Grandad in New York, she would always try to make this cake to take with her because Grandad loved it. Well, not this cake, but the applesauce version. He would ask if she had gotten it downstairs because there was a very good bakery downstairs from their apartment. He apparently would be surprised that she would make him a cake and bring it all that way, but he was always pleased. When he came to visit at our house, she almost always made the applesauce version of this cake because it was his favorite. He wasn't that fond of super sweet cakes or ones with a lot of icing. My Dad was like that, too. He actually preferred fruit pies to cake any day.

When the persimmons ripened this week, I decided to try substituting persimmon pulp for the applesauce in the recipe. The persimmons need a cold snap to really get sweet. The leaves fall off the tree and they hang there, like bright orange Christmas balls, until it gets cold enough for them to ripen. This type of persimmon is inedible until it is soft and almost squishy. This year there were fewer fruits than last year, but most of them were huge, weighing at least a pound each.

It only took two to make two cups of persimmon pulp. To prepare them, you cut off the stem end and then peel them and chop up or mash the pulp.

Since I rarely cook with shortening, I replaced the shortening in the original recipe with butter, decreasing it to 1/2 cup. I also reduced the sugar and mostly used brown sugar. The resulting cake was delicious, with a subtle persimmon flavor and assertive spice flavors. If you can't find persimmons, you can switch back to applesauce and you will still have a cake that Grandad would love...and you will too.

Grandad Would Have Loved This Persimmon Cake
a variation of a recipe from Virginia Cookery

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans (or another nut)
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons sugar
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 ½ cups persimmon pulp

Sift together flour, soda, salt and spices. Set aside.

Cream the butter, add the sugars gradually, creaming until light. Add beaten eggs and beat to blend.

Add the flour mixture alternately with the persimmon pulp, starting and ending with the flour mixture.

Fold in the nuts. Turn into a Bundt pan that has been greased and floured.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for one hour or until done. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool before serving.

Makes on large Bundt cake. Once it has cooled, you can sift a little confectioner’s sugar over for garnish if desired.