Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A French Treat For The Daring Bakers

Little effort went into making these macarons. The cookies were simple...egg whites, ground almonds, confectioners and granulated sugars and flavorings. Oven time had taken most of the time needed, although piping the batter required patience.

The fillings had taken more effort, but were still easy. The results were classic...crisp thin shells on the outside hid moist, chewy insides and the flavors of the fillings tied it all together...the macarons even had the requisite "feet".

Filling included chocolate ganache for the vanilla macarons and cream cheese maple and apple filling for the cinnamon macarons.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

(Elle's Note:I followed the recipe, but divided the batter in half. Half received vanilla extract. The other half received 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon. I tried to pipe regular amounts of the batter, but some were a little smaller or larger than others, so I matched similar sizes once the cookies had cooled and lined them up that way before filling so that I could put the top cookie on as soon as I piped the filling on the bottom cookies.)

The vanilla and chocolate combination was classic and delicious, but both Sweetie and I enjoyed the cinnamon -maple-apple-spice ones even more. They were so good that I'm going to make more just so I can try different flavors. Thank you Ami for choosing such a great challenge recipe!
As usual, there are many, many dozens of Daring Bakers around the globe who have created stunning macarons for you to view. The blogroll can be accessed through this link.


Preparation time: Not taking into account the amount of time it takes for you to bring your egg whites to room temperature, the whole baking process, including making the batter, piping and baking will probably take you about an hour to an hour and a half. How long it takes to make your filling is dependent on what you choose to make.

Actual baking time: 12 minutes total, plus a few minutes to get your oven from 200°F to 375°F.
(Elle's Note - I baked one sheet at a time, so the baking time was extended to allow for the oven to heat up and cool off for each sheet.)
Equipment required:
• Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment
• Rubber spatula
• Baking sheets
• Parchment paper or nonstick liners
• Pastry bag (can be disposable)
• Plain half-inch pastry bag tip
• Sifter or sieve
• If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off
• Oven
• Cooling rack
• Thin-bladed spatula for removing the macaroons from the baking sheets
• Food processor or nut grinder, if grinding your own nuts (ouch!)

Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.

2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.

4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.

(As you can see, I sprinkled a little cinnamon over the piped cinnamon batter rounds.)
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).

6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.

7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.

Semisweet Chocolate Ganache Filling
Heat ¼ cup heavy cream in the microwave 1 minute on high power. Remove bowl from microwave and add 2 oz. of semisweet excellent quality chocolate that has been chopped finely. Stir with a small spatula, very gently, until chocolate melts and thoroughly combined. Avoid adding extra air.

Let cool 2-3 minutes, then put into a pastry bag and pipe about ½ tablespoon on half of the macarons on the flat side. Top with the other half of the macarons, rounded side up. Let the ganache firm up before serving.

Makes enough to fill half of the batch of macarons in the Daring Baker’s recipe.

Cream Cheese Maple Apple Filling
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon sour cream or plain yogurt
1-2 teaspoon(s) juices from Maple Apples (below)
OR 2 teaspoons maple syrup and a dash of cinnamon
½ cup confectioner’s sugar

Cream the butter, cream cheese, and sour cream until fluffy (I used a whisk attachment and my stand mixer). Add the maple apple juices or the maple syrup and cinnamon, Beat until well combined.

Beat in the confectioner’s sugar until completely combined.

Place the filling in a pastry bag and pipe about ½ tablespoon on half of the macarons on the flat side. Top with the other half of the macarons, rounded side up. This filling won’t harden, so serve it as soon as you wish.

Makes enough to fill half of the batch of macarons in the Daring Baker’s recipe plus about a cup left over for another use.

Maple Apples3 medium apples, cores and stems removed, chopped
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
dash allspice
dash nutmeg
dash cloves
1 tablespoon water

Place all the ingredients in a saucepan. Stir to combine well. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Let cool. Use the juices to flavor the filling and use the fruit as a fruit compote with ice cream or over cooked cereal, pancakes, or waffles.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sweets for the Sweet - French Yogurt Cake with Lemon

If I lived in Paris I would undoubtedly purchase my fine sweets and pastries at a patisserie, but I would apparently feel that it is OK to bake a simple yogurt cake for my family...like this one, a variation of the French Yogurt Cake in Dorie Greenspan's Baking, from my home to yours cookbook.

I chose this sweet to send as a surprise to Natasha and her heart's love, both fans of a slice of something sweet with their afternoon coffee. I made it in a mini loaf pan (see Peabody, I'm a convert...yay mini pans!) and knew that it was firm and moist enough to withstand a few days journey via snail mail to Natasha. She and her hubby are both sweet people, so this was a true sweet for the sweet.

I also made some fairy cakes using a Nordic ware tart pan and they sure looked cute once they were baked. I had a fairy cake with my Earl Gray tea and it was wonderful!

This cake goes together quickly if you have yogurt, a lemon and some almonds and the usual baker's supplies of flour and sugar. I had almond meal on hand but you can make your own with blanched almonds, ground in the food processor. Use a tablespoon of the sugar from the recipe and add it as you grind the nuts to keep them from becoming a paste.

These cakes are mildly sweet, fragrant with lemon, slightly chewy from the almonds, and perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. You can take the juice from the lemon and mix it with confectioners sugar to make a glaze for the top of the cake if you like, but I liked it like this:

French Yogurt Cake with Lemon
from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: from my home to yours

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup ground almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
½ cup plain yogurt
3 large eggs
¼ cup pure vanilla extract
½ cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and put the oven rack in the center of the oven.

Butter 4 mini loaf pans and place on a baking sheet. (I used a tart pan and 1 mini loaf pan.)
Whisk together the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt.

Put the sugar and zest in a medium bowl. With your fingertips rub the zest into the sugar until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Add the yogurt, eggs and vanilla and whisk vigorously until the mixture is very well blended. Still whisking, add the dry ingredients, then switch to a large rubber spatula and fold in the oil. You’ll have a thick, smooth batter with a slight sheen. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the top of loaf pans. The mini tart pans will self-level.

Bake the tart pans for about 20 minutes and the mini loaf pans for 30-40 minutes, or until the cake begins to come away from the sides of the pans. The cakes should be golden brown and a thin knife, inserted into the center of the mini loaf will come out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes, then run a blunt knife between the cakes and the sides of the pans.

Unmold all cakes, cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.

You can also bake one 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan cake.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Three Years...Still Blogging

Hard to believe...three years since I posted my first post on this blog. A fun run, and it all started in the fall.

I love the fall! Good things in my life have often started in the fall. I was always one of the kids who was thrilled to be back to school. My first marriage, problematic in itself but which led to the birth of my dynamic and delightful daughter,

began in the fall.

On my first job after college I started wearing my hair long in the fall. This was good because I had worn a wig to the job interview (I had been told they were looking for someone older and I looked marginally older in a wig, but thought that it made all the difference...ah youth!). My own hair was waist length and heavy. Putting all that hair under the wig every day for work wasn't much fun. By the fall I knew that they valued me for my work, so I literally let my hair down. My boss's expression the first time he saw the full mane was priceless...confused, amazed, then (I think) appreciative.

One of the best things lately to start in the fall is this blog. Three years ago I barely knew what a blog was and there were far fewer food blogs.

I checked back to the brave folks who were the first few to comment here. The first four or five no longer are blogging. I guess it didn't match their needs in the same way that it matched mine:

I love the fact that I have 'met' people from all over the world through blogging...and that we are mostly the same...food obsessed :)

I love that blogging brings out my creative side. I get to play with food. I borrow lots and lots of cookbooks from the library and sometimes even bring the librarians samples of things I've baked to enjoy, especially of the sweets. I love that my photography has improved. I love that I have come under the sway of the magic of bread baking, seduced by all things baking, inspired by combinations of flour and butter and sugar and seeds and grains. Most of all I have been amazed that I can sit down at the computer, find words to fill the Blogger template time after time, and create something that other people actually read and look at and are occasionally inspired by.
As Sweetie would say (in jest), "Not bad...for a girl." He is actually my biggest fan and promoter, telling perfect strangers that they have to go visit my blog. Sometimes they even accept the URL from him.

I love hitting the Publish Post button and I especially enjoy the comments...and wish that there were more. You CAN comment anonymously as Natasha did recently. If you give me hints and I already know you I can even figure out who you are...a sort of puzzle. However, even if you never comment, I do hope you will continue to visit now and then. The place to click on to comment is usually at the bottom of the post. Try it...you might enjoy it.

Believe it or not, I don't have a clue how many people actually visit this blog. I could find out easily, but I guess I'm not really interested. Recently one of my sisters assured me that many family members stop by and read to see what I am up to. I suspect that there are a few folks beyond immediate family...and I welcome you all!

This is the 360th post. I think that comes out to an average of something like a post every third day.

When this blog's first birthday rolled around I had posted 144 times, had done memes, challenges, blogging events like this one

and had joined the Daring Bakers in March.

Inspired by bloggers who promised to blog each day during November (many accomplished that awesome challenge!), I blogged each day in February from the first to the 14th...with a Valentine theme and a number theme, too.

Still finding my way, I blogged about a couple of odd cooking gadgets and asked folks to guess what they were, did some birthday recipes for various Daring Bakers (we were a small enough group them to be able to keep track of birthdays), did a few restaurant reviews and met a few bloggers in person.

My posts were of all sorts of food, but heavy on the baking and simple cooking. Local foods like these Gravenstein apples were a big part of my posts right from the start.

The second year was similar and I met more bloggers. The Daring Bakers grew and grew to a huge group, I continued to do blogging events and I was getting better at food photography.

Early in the second year I decided to try something different for the Daring Baker challenges...with so many bloggers posting about the same thing it seemed like a good idea to inject a bit of whimsy and fiction. I created the Land of St. Honore', where baking is a birthright. St. Honore' is the patron saint of bakers. The posts about the denizens of the Land of St. Honore' are fictional, but still speak to the challenges faced while executing each Daring Baker recipe. On occasion I visited the Land for non-DB post, too. I hope to expand my fiction writing in the Land of St. Honore' this year.

As I entered the third year I came under the spell of sourdough starter...wild yeast! Before the year was out I had filled this blog with so many bread baking posts that I decided to devote a new blog, Bread Baker's Dog, to bread baking.

I still post some bread recipes here, but there are lots there, too, and will be more soon since my new sourdough starter is almost ready. A blog that has been a constant source of inspiration for yeasted baking is Susan's Wild Yeast blog and her event, Yeastspotting, one of the few events I participate in of late.

I continue having the pleasure of meeting other bloggers in person and occasionally exchanging cookbooks or food gifts.

One never know what the future holds, but I hope that the next year of this blog will be as much fun as the last three! I hope to meet more bloggers in person. I'll be writing just a bit more biographical posts, perhaps doing a series of posts with recipes from a single cookbook, and maybe even getting back to doing blogging events. I'm also hoping to teach some friends how to enjoy baking with yeast instead of being afraid of it. Who knows, they may become addicted to bread baking, too!

Come by and visit and pull up a chair, comment if you can stand to, enjoy what you find if not.

A special thank you goes to others who try one of the recipes I post and then let me know how you liked it. That is a special treat for me!

To make it easier to find those recipes, there is now an index at the top right. Click on the photo and you'll find a looooooong list of recipe links, arranged by category.

Happy cooking and baking! Happy blogging! Now where is that champagne?

Love, Elle

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Cozy Cat and Harvest Dinner

Our cat Merlin always finds the most comfortable places to be. On cold rainy days he secures the comfy cozy chair right by the fire, or snuggles into the pillow on the computer chair which is protected from drafts on all sides by the l-shaped desk.

When it is sunny but cool he can be found in the sunspace, usually upstairs on a fuzzy comforter, soaking up the sun. If the day is warm he find not only the shady spot but the one with any breeze that can be found. It's tough wearing an elegant gray fur coat when the weather is warm.

On Friday I was folding wash and saw him outside on the back porch in an unusual place. Before the storm earlier in the week I had moved a couple of decorative lanterns from the shelf on the potting bench to the bench top so they wouldn't be toppled by the wind. Now that the shelf was completely empty, Merlin decided that it made the perfect place to nap since it was in the shade and caught the afternoon breeze. I slipped around the side of the house with my camera at the ready, crept up the deck steps and surprised him. He woke up immediately, but I got some cute photos.

While Merlin snoozed, I took advantage of the soaking rain from earlier in the week. It really loosened up the soil and made cleaning up the garden much easier.

Out went the spent zucchini plants, the old, dried up bachelor button plants and daises. I pulled up the plants that had done so surprisingly well in that plastic sack of potting soil and found the gopher run underneath and the place where the gopher had gotten tired of chewing on an old, hard shelled piece of zucchini and left it in the run. The gopher had also chewed a nice sized hole in the bottom of the sack. Thank heavens that I had plenty of plants to go around this year...some for me, some for the gophers.

As I went through cleaning up and weeding, I harvested some of the late season veggies. There were tomatoes, tiny zucchini - both yellow and green - and a decent sized light green one. There were pale purple eggplant shaped like eggs and dark purple skinned ones, like dark teardrops, plus one white one that was sort of round and squat.

Later in the afternoon I decided to make a harvest dinner using those smaller veggies, plus a squash that I had purchased at the local farm stand. I thawed some boneless, skinless chicken thighs out and found a container of small onions, already peeled and ready to cook with.

The first veggies to go under the knife were the eggplant varieties. The dark ones were peeled and the rest lost the top and stem and then were sliced and cut in half. Since they were all pretty small that was all that was needed. I roasted them with garlic, fresh oregano, dried rosemary and fresh basil and Sweetie took a taste and said that they were good. Since I'm not fond of eggplant I took his word for it.
Next I peeled the hard squash and removed the seeds and membranes from each half.

The slices looked like half moons and when cooked they were velvety in texture and quite delicious. The zucchini were treated differently depending on size. The light green on was cut into chunks, the medium yellow one was cut into rounds and the two tiny ones were just cut in half lengthwise.

These were roasted after being flavored with thyme, pepper and fresh marjoram.

The chicken pieces were browned in vegetable oil, then I added four cloves of minced garlic and cooked that gently for a few minutes until very lightly browned. Chicken stock, thyme, the baby onions, cardamom and chopped apricots, plus salt and pepper made for a savory sauce and succulent chicken.

The last part of the dinner was steamed rice which captured the pan sauce and helped tie the various flavors together. On the plate the mellow green and golden colors reminded me of the grape vines we had seen in the morning after walking the dog. Fall is here and the harvest is winding down.
I feel fortunate to have had so many wonderful garden veggies this spring and summer and I'll surely miss them as we head into winter, but it was good to tidy up the garden a bit, too. There are still plenty of green tomatoes and a couple of zucchini plants still producing squash. The Swiss chard are colorful and happy with the cooler weather and now I can appreciate the shapes and colors of the planting more with fewer plants taking up space. Time to start planning what seeds I want for next year.

Harvest Dinner

Amounts are approximate because the veggies went straight from the garden to the railing to the kitchen and never were weighed.

About a pound of eggplants
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1-2 teaspoon(s) fresh oregano or marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
salt to taste
about 2 tablespoons olive oil

Wash the eggplant and peel any dark skinned ones. Remove the stem end and any soft spots. Cut in half and slice in 1/2 inch thick slices. Place eggplant slices, garlic slices, basil, oregano, rosemary, pepper and salt and olive oil in a large plastic bag. Close bag and shake to combine all the ingredients.
Line a baking pan (I used an 8-inch square baking pan like you use for brownies) with heavy foil and place the eggplant mixture in it. Roast in a preheated 425 degree F oven for 20 -25 minutes or until browned on the edges, but not burnt. Keep warm or reheat right before serving.

About 3/4 pound mixed squash. I used a squash that had green and gold stripes and it was similar to a pumpkin. You could use acorn, hubbard, butternut or similar hard shelled squash for about half the squash and zucchini, pattypan, or similar summer squash for the rest.
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fresh marjoram
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper or to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil

Peel the hard shelled squash, remove all seeds and membranes, then cut in thin slices or chunks
Remove the ends of the summer squash and slice or cut in chunks.

Place the squash pieces, thyme, marjoram, pepper and the olive oil in a large plastic bag. Close the bag and shake to completely combine the ingredients (you can re-use the bag you used for the eggplant if you like).

Line a baking pan with heavy duty foil, place the squash mixture in it and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until the hard shelled squash is tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Keep warm or reheat at serving time.

Chicken with Onions, Garlic and Apricots

5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
1 cup small onions, peeled and par-boiled if fresh (I used thawed frozen ones which are ready to use)
1/4 cup dried apricots, cut in small dice
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry with towel. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed skillet. Brown the chicken on all sides, then remove and keep warm. Add the garlic and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until very lightly browned. Do not burn or cook to dark brown. If necessary, you can add a little more oil for cooking the garlic.

Add the chicken broth and use a non-stick or wooden spoon to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, add the onions and apricots and stir to combine the mixture. Sprinkle the thyme and cardamom over the chicken pieces. Add salt and pepper to taste. Check the stock. It should come about half way up the chicken pieces. If it is lower add some water or more stock. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes, until chicken is very tender.

While chicken is cooking, steam a cup of raw rice in your favorite manner. I used up the rest of the chicken broth from the can as part of the rice cooking liquid, but the sauce is so flavorful, just water is fine for cooking the rice.

To serve, place some of the rice on the plate. Add one or two pieces of the chicken. Spoon the onions and some sauce over the chicken and the rice. Spoon on generous servings of the eggplant and squash mixtures. Serve while still nice and hot. Serves 3-4.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

World Bread Day 2009 - YES WE BAKE

This year the theme for World Bread Day...TODAY!... is Yes We Bake.

THE ROUNDUP CAN BE FOUND HERE...Lots of great breads from all over the world!

Get past any fear of yeast and of baking...and even of bread...all those carbs...because bread can be a good part of your day and diet.

For a very, very long time most of our ancestors consumed a lot of fruits, berries, veggies, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Meat and fish were enjoyed in quantity when they were available, and in tiny amounts when they were scarce. So we, in general, are kind of hard wired to do well with this kind of diet.

We are in the final weeks of harvest here in Northern California. This past weekend I brought in lots of ripe tomatoes, most of them smaller than the summer tomatoes, but still juicy and delicious. I harvested dark and light purple eggplant, beans, basil, and the last of the beautiful blue bachelor buttons. Even the zucchini is slowing down...but seeing as I've had zucchini since May that is hardly surprising. The chard seems to be putting out new growth a plenty, but chard likes the cooler weather. The walnuts are ready to bring in to be cracked and used in all manner of winter breads and muffins and cookies. My solitary pumpkin is almost ripe, too. It's going to be sad to rip out all of the plants that have given so much food over the past months, but before we know it the rains will be here and new seeds will sprout, including sweet peas. Nature's cycle rolling on.

With the rain beating on the windows and the fire going, I decided to bake something really different for World Bread Day. It even has the antioxidant powers of chocolate!

In preparation for this great annual event, I looked through countless books, magazines, blogs and recipe sites. I wanted to make something that challenged me a bit. While I was looking through a wonderful book, The Italian Baker, by Carol Field, published in 1985, I noticed that she had a recipe for a not-too-sweet Chocolate Bread and for a sweet Milk Bread, followed by a recipe where you hid some of the Milk Bread inside two layers of the Chocolate Bread.

Elsewhere I had read about a snail shaped bread that sounded like fun, so I combined the two ideas for this bread. She had mixed semisweet chocolate chips into her Chocolate Bread, but I decided to layer them in and roll it all up like a jelly roll for a nice swirl inside the snail shape.

Baking it in a springform pan was something I saw in another part of the book where she described it as a mold for pannettone.

Finally, since there was going to be quite a bit of Milk Bread dough left, I decided to use it for something I had seen in another book, The Festive Bread Book, by Kathy Cutler. It describes how to shape a wheat sheaf shaped bread, which is appealing at this time of year. Since the Milk Bread dough is very easy to work with, it seemed like a good way to play with it. It turned out really well. You can read about it and get directions for making your own at The Bread Baker’s Dog blog.

When making the Chocolate Bread and Milk Bread Snail Loaf, you start with the Milk Bread sponge, then make the Chocolate Bread dough while the sponge rises, let the Chocolate Bread dough have it’s first rise while you shape the Milk Dough rectangle, then shape the Chocolate Bread dough rectangles and put it all together and bake it. Although it seems complicated, both doughs are easy to work with.

I have given the Stand Mixer directions for both doughs. If you would like either the By Hand directions or the Food Processor directions (Carol gives all three!), just e-mail me and I’ll send you the method you want to use. Typing all three for the blog was beyond me.

O.K….let’s BAKE!

Pane al Latte e Cioccolata
From The Italian Baker by Carol Field

First make the Milk Bread:

1 ¾ teaspoons dry yeast or 2/3 small cake (12 grams) fresh yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup warm milk
1 cup less 1 tablespoon (130-135 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour

Stir the yeast and sugar into the milk in a large mixing bowl or mixer bowl; let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and whisk vigorously to make a thick batter. Cover and let stand until doubled, less than 1 hour.

1 egg 1 tablespoon rum
1 cup milk, room temperature
½ stick (55 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 ¾ cups (175 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 grams) salt

Add the egg, rum, milk, and butter to the sponge and mix with the paddle for about 1 minute.

Add 1 cup of the flour and the salt and mix on low speed. Change to the dough hook and add the rest of the flour and knead until soft, silky and elastic, 3 – 4 minutes once the flour is incorporated. Finish kneading briefly by hand on a lightly flour surface.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, 1 to 2 hours. The dough should be very soft but slightly tacky, and if you pinch the surface, the little peaks of dough should hold their shape.

Cut the dough into three equal pieces. Take one of the pieces and shape on a lightly flour surface into a 6 inch by 12 inch rectangle. Set aside, lightly covered with plastic wrap or a tea towel while you shape the chocolate dough at the end of its first rise.

NOTE: WHILE THE SPONGE IS DOUBLING, MAKE THE Chocolate Bread (Below) and begin its first rise.

The Chocolate Bread part:

1 package (2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast or 1 small cake (18 grams) fresh yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water
4 ½ cups (600 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (125 grams) sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons (10 grams) salt
1 ¼ cups warm water
1 egg yolk (reserve the egg white for glazing the loaf)
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, chopped coarsely in a food processor or by hand

Stir the yeast and ½ teaspoon sugar into 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon barely warm water in a small bowl; let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Mix the flour, ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, the cocoa, and salt in a mixer bowl. Stir 1 ¼ cups water, the egg yolk, and butter into the dissolved yeast. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and mix with the paddle until well blended.

Change to the dough hook and knead 2 minutes at low speed, then 2 minutes at medium speed. The dough should be velvety, moist, and elastic.

Place the finished dough in an oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 2 hours.

Punch the dough down and cut in half on a lightly floured surface. Shape one of the pieces into a 7 inch by 13 inch rectangle. On another floured surface shape the second piece to be the same size.
(You should have already shaped the Milk Dough rectangle)

On one of the chocolate rectangles, sprinkle about 1/3 of the chopped chocolate chips, leaving an inch edge all around with no chips. Place the slightly smaller milk bread dough rectangle over the chocolate rectangle. It should cover the chocolate chips. Push down lightly to seal the chips in.

Sprinkle about 1/3 of the chopped chocolate chips over the milk dough rectangle, leaving about ½ inch edge all around with no chips. Place the second chocolate dough rectangle over the milk dough rectangle. It will be larger. Press it down to the other chocolate dough to enclose the milk dough and chips completely.

Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of the remaining chocolate chips along the long side of the rectangle. Begin to roll at that side and roll up jelly roll fashion, adding another strip of chocolate chips bits as you roll until all chips are used up. Seal the dough once you reach the end.

Butter the inside sides of a 10 inch springform pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment. Set aside.

Take the ‘jelly roll’ of bread dough and squeeze one end a little to thin it and lengthen the rope of dough. Starting at the end, make a snail shape with the dough rope, sealing the end. Place the ‘snail’ into the springform pan and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Bake in a preheated 425 degree F oven, first brushing the loaf with the lightly beaten egg white from the chocolate bread dough. Bake 45 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake another45 – 50 minutes. If needed, cover the top with foil if it gets too dark. Although it tastes fine, you can see that the top of my loaf got pretty dark.

Cool the loaf in the pan. When it is cool, remove the springform pan sides and place the loaf on a cutting board to cut. I cut wedges while it was still slightly warm and the chips were melty….delicious!

I also found that the interior was still a bit unbaked, so I returned the loaf, set on a baking sheet, to the oven at 350 degrees F for about another 20 minutes. Because of the chips it is difficult to tell when the interior is fully baked. Perhaps using an instant read thermometer would work.

While the chocolate snail is baking, you can take the remaining two thirds of the Milk Bread dough and braid it into a loaf, make a sandwich loaf, (or make the harvest sheaf like I did, which is described HERE) and then bake it at 400 degrees F once the chocolate snail bread is done.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Inspired by Julia Child

Ever since seeing the movie Julie/Julia, I've been wanting to make Boeuf Bourguignon, but it is a dish that is most fun shared with friends over glasses of red wine. This past weekend we enjoyed the company of our relations from Sweetie's side of the family, including little C, a lover of model trains just like Sweetie. It gave me the excuse I needed to immerse myself in Julia Child's wonderful recipe. Since I was using California Cabernet Sauvignon instead of a burgundy, I'm calling it Boeuf au Vin Rouge. Most of the recipe is straight out of her book, From Julia Child's Kitchen, although I did the tiny onions my own way and I did include the chopped onions from the simple beef stew recipe.

I highly recommend that you make this dish if you enjoy beef. It is perfect for company since it makes a quantity of stew and you can make it ahead (it's actually best that way), plus it is impressive with it's richness and delightful combination of meat, mushrooms, onions and herbs. It looks like a long recipe, but that is because Julia leaves nothing to chance...she wants you to be successful and tells you how to do each step. If you can brown beef and cut onions and mushrooms, you can make this!

Boeuf au Vin Rouge – Beef in Red Wine
Based on Boeuf Bourguignon in From Julia Child’s Kitchen
Serves 6-8

3 – 4 lbs beef stew meat cut into either 2-inch squares or 3- by 1/1/2 inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
3 cups drinkable red wine…I used a nice California Cabernet Sauvignon
2 or more cups good beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
a 2 inch piece of dried orange peel
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 or more cloves garlic
salt and pepper as needed
The onions – 1 10 oz bag frozen small onions (see note below)
The mushrooms – ½ lb or more whole fresh white mushrooms – I used almost a pound, because we like mushrooms
Beurre manie’ for the final sauce: 3 tablespoons flour blended with 2 ½ tablespoons butter

Dry beef with paper towels. Film a large, heavy frying pan with 1/16 inch oil and heat to very hot but not smoking. Add the pieces of beef, as many as will fit in 1 layer without crowding them. Brown nicely on all sides, regulating the heat so fat is always very hot but not smoking. Add more oil as needed. As each piece of meat if browned, transfer it to a heavy to 5 quart casserole with a cover. Continue browning beef and removing browned beef to casserole until all pieces are browned.

Stir the onions into oil left in the pan (add more if needed) and brown briefly, then transfer to the casserole. Discard any browned fat. Pour a cup of wine or stock into the pan, bring to simmer, scraping up coagulated browning juices, and pour this liquid over the beef in the casserole.

Set the casserole over heat; add the wine and enough stock barely to cover the meat. Add the bay, thyme, orange peel, tomato paste and garlic clove which have been cut in half. Bring to a simmer, taste, and salt lightly if necessary. Cover and cook at a slow simmer either on top of the stove or in the oven. (For oven cooking, start at 350 degrees, then lower heat in 20 – 30 minutes to 325 or even 300 degrees.

Simmer approximately 1 ½ - 2 hours unless your meat is shank or heel meat, which will take longer. The beef should be tender enough for a pleasant chew, but not be falling apart.

While the beef is simmering prepare the onions and mushrooms:
I used bagged, frozen small onions which have already been peeled. If you want to go with fresh onions, e-mail me and I’ll give you those directions.

Bring ½ inch of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add one piece of bacon, cut into rectangles and simmer for 1 minute. Add the frozen onions and cover. Simmer for another minute. Turn off the heat and let sit, covered, for 3 minutes. Pour the onions and the cooking liquid into a large bowl.

Trim off dry or sandy stem ends, wash the mushrooms thoroughly but rapidly, and dry in a towel. Leave whole if ¾ inch across or less. If larger quarter them lengthwise. Film the frying pan with 1/16 inch oil and heat to very hot but not smoking. Add enough mushroom to cover the bottom of the pan and shake pan by the handle to toss the mushrooms about for 2 – 3 minutes until mushrooms are lightly browned. Add them to the bowl with the cooked onions, then continue until all the mushrooms are browned.

When the beef is tender, set a large colander over a saucepan and pour contents of casserole into colander. Wash out casserole and return the meat to it. Press juices out of remains in colander, and discard residue. Make sure that you have removed the bay leaf and discarded it.
Skim fat off cooking liquid in saucepan, and taste liquid carefully for strength and seasoning. You should have about 3 cups of delicious meaty rich stock. Boil down rapidly in the saucepan if weak, to concentrate flavor, adding a bit more stock or bouillon or wine, herbs, garlic, or tomato paste if you feel them necessary.
Remove from heat, blend the beurre manie’ into the liquid with a wire whisk. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring, as it thickens into a light sauce. Check for seasonings.

Add the onions and mushroom mixture to the beef in the casserole. Pour the sauce over it all and simmer 5 – 6 minutes, basting meat and vegetables with the sauce to blend flavors.

The dish is now ready to serve, but the flavor improves if you stop at this point and refrigerate it overnight, then re-heat it over gentle heat the next day.

Serve with rice or noodles, perhaps garnished with chopped parsley. Have some good bread on hand to mop up the sauce. You can serve from the casserole, or mound the meat and vegetables and sauce on a platter and surround with the rice or noodles.

I used a large patter with raised sides and served the boeuf with steamed rice. It was delicious and well worth the time. I had some leftovers tonight and it was even better than two nights ago, so you could make this three or four days in advance of serving and know that it will be even more delightful that way.

There is nothing really difficult about this dish, it just takes some time to cut up and brown all that meat, then do the same with some onions and lots of mushrooms. Simmering takes time, but you really can do it in advance. Making the sauce takes about 15 minutes or less. The rich flavors make this a very impressive dish. If you serve it to guests they will think that you slaved over a hot stove for much longer than you did. You can also freeze this, although I would only freeze the meat, chopped onions, and sauce and add the mushrooms and tiny onions the day you plan on serving the dish.

Keep accompaniments simple…a nice green salad, cooked rice or noodles, some steamed peas, some good bread, and more red wine are all you need. “Bon app├ętit!”, as Julia would say.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

This dip, made with canned cannelli beans, makes a quick and delicious appetizer for your self and family or for a gathering.

All of the ingredients except for the salt and pepper get whirled around in the food processor. I did mine a few hours before we ate so that the flavors could meld together. I served it with an assortment of veggies, some from the garden like yellow pear mini tomatoes, green and yellow zucchini, and green beans. I also included red pepper strips, jicama strips, snow peas, and mini carrots. The dip is savory and has the lilt of lemon and the bite of garlic, tempered by the mellowness of beans and olive oil. It is also one of those Mediterranean healthy foods.

White Bean Dip
from Food Network's site and Giada deLaurentiis

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans , drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil, plus 4 tablespoons
1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the beans, garlic, lemon juice, 1/3 cup olive oil, and parsley in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is coarsely chopped. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer the bean puree to a small bowl.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Autumn Harvest Braid

I found this delightful sweet braided bread recipe in a book from the used book store. It features seasonal festive breads. This one has golden raisins and I added dried cranberries, too. The orange zest was doubled once I smelled it as I was grating...cranberries and orange are a great combo, so it just seemed the thing to do.

It tastes great without icing, but I iced half the loaf with an icing that included vanilla and some more orange zest, then sprinkled on some sliced almonds before the icing set. Delicious! The recipe called for candied cherries on top, too. Might do that if I make this bread again for Christmas, but it was fine without.

Autumn Festival Bread
from The Festive Bread Book by Kathy Cutler

“This rich, hearty bread, flecked with cherries and slivered almonds, goes well with thankgiving dinner or as a snack in the evening.”

Makes 1 loaf

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water (105 – 115 degrees F)
2 ¼ - 3 cups unbleached bread flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated orange zest (colored part only)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons golden raisins
¼ cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup warm milk (105 – 115 degrees F)
1 egg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Glaze (below)

Confectioners’ Icing (below)

slivered or sliced almonds

Candied cherries

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Combine 1 ½ cups flour, salt, orange zest, raisins, dried cranberries and sugar in mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly.

Mix together the warm milk and egg. Add the milk mixture, yeast mixture and butter to the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth, about 10 minutes.

Place in greased bowl, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in warm place until double in bulk – about 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Divide the dough into thirds. Make three ropes. Braid on a greased, parchment covered, or silicon mat covered baking sheet.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until double – about 30 -45 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 20 minutes.

Make the glaze. Remove the loaf from the oven and brush with the glaze. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and return the loaf to the oven. Bake an additional 30 – 35 minutes or until done.

Cool on a wire rack.

Make the Confectioners’ Icing, then drizzle it over the cool loaf. Sprinkle with the almonds and candied cherries to decorate. Let the icing dry before serving.

Glaze: Mix 1 egg with 1 tablespoon water. Use a pastry brush to glaze the partially baked bread.

Confectioners Sugar icing: Mix together 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest and 1-2 tablespoons milk.
Sending this to the weekly wonderful event that is Yeastspotting at Susan's Wild Yeast...go there and drool over the bread being baked by the fantastic bakers featured there...you will be glad you did! Here is the URL for Susan's blog :http://www.wildyeastblog.com/