May 30, 2014

Bittersweet Martini

Bittersweet Martini

The basis for this Bittersweet Martini is Aperol, a low alcohol Italian digestif made from bitter oranges, sweet oranges, rhubarb, and other root vegetables. It is somewhat like Campari, but with half the alcohol, and a much milder flavor.

Bittersweet Martini


It is best know as an ingredient in "The Spritz," an Italian cocktail with Aperol or some other bitter liqueur, procecco, and soda on the rocks.

This cocktail is so refreshing, with just enough bitterness to give it an "adult" flavor, but just enough sweetness to make it easy to sip on a warm evening.

Bittersweet Martini

Adapted from A Cocktail Life, makes one cocktail.

Ingredients

2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce Aperol
1/2 ounce tangelo or tangerine juice (you can also use orange juice)
1/2 ounce lime juice (I used Bearss lime juice)
1 1/2 tsp frozen lemonade concentrate
Grapefruit, tangelo, tangerine, or orange twist

Instructions

  1. Fill a shaker with ice and add the gin, Aperol, juices, and lemonade concentrate. 
  2. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 
  3. Twist the zest over the cocktail and drop it into the cocktail.
Enjoy!

May 28, 2014

Cashew Chicken | Wok Wednesday


Authentic cashew chicken is a Cantonese dish flavored with ginger and garlic and a light sauce flavored with soy. It is amazingly easy to make, or..... maybe I've just had a lot more practice at stir-frying and mise en place after several months of participation in Wok Wednesdays.


When I first started this stir-frying adventure, my kitchen typically looked like it was hit by a tornado after I finished preparing the dish. There would be dishes all over the counter and the sink would be piled with more dishes. While the stir-fry would take just a few minutes, clean up was a nightmare.

Here are some helpful hints I've learned:
  1. Read the whole recipe the day before preparing it.
  2. Prep the ingredients ahead of time and wash and put away all of the dishes, utensils, and chopping boards involved in prep ahead of time. 
  3. Combine all of the ingredients that are added at the same time into the same bowl. 
  4. Write out the basic stir-frying instructions in large print and break it down minute-by-minute. I like to write it directly on the pages of the cookbook (sorry, Grace, this is how I show love to my cookbooks). 

In the case of this recipe, the chicken is cut into pieces and marinated in rice wine, garlic, soy, and corn starch. The vegetables are all added at the same time, along with the cashews. The ginger is kept in a separate small bowl as it is added first, and the sauce is added at once. I also have a tablespoon of oil measured and standing by because it's added mid stir-fry. 

My next goal: Figuring out how to make several stir-fries for a fabulous dinner party. 


We loved this stir-fry. It was perfect with rice. I used regular soy sauce for the chicken marinade, and dark soy for the sauce. It was so good!


I am participating in Wok Wednesdays, a group of wok enthusiasts wokking our way through Grace Young's James Beard award winning cookbook, Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge. We also have a Facebook page where Grace Herself is a frequent contributor. It's an amazingly supportive community. 

Participants have agreed to not rewrite the recipes, however, you can find this recipe in Leite's Culinaria as contributed by Grace Young. You can find the recipe >here<.  Give it a try!

May 25, 2014

Crispy Soy Chicken

Crispy Soy Chicken

This Crispy Soy Chicken is first poached in a rice wine, soy sauce, and brown sugar liquid that is flavored with cinnamon, star anise, garlic, ginger and orange peel.

Next, it is roasted in a hot oven to crisp up the skin. The result is a delicious juicy chicken with a beautiful and flavorful skin. It's delicious served with Asian inspired side dishes such as rice and stir-fried vegetables such as this Baby Bok Choy. I think it would be the perfect pairing for this Thai Cabbage Salad.

Crispy Soy Chicken

The key ingredient to achieve this beautiful mahogany color is dark soy sauce. It can be difficult to find unless you have access to Asian markets. My favorite brand is Pearl River Bridge.

The recipe also calls for Shaoxing Rice Wine, but if you can't find it, you can substitute dry sherry.

Crispy Soy Chicken

It's Secret Recipe Club reveal day! Each month we are assigned a member's blog from which to make a recipe. This month I was assigned Couscous & Consciousness, beautifully written and photographed by Nelson. She lives in New Zealand where she teaches yoga and tries as much as possible to eat locally grown, organic, and seasonal foods.

Other recipes that I intend to try include this amazing looking Gnocchi with Chorizo, Gorgonzola & Spinach, and these Vietnamese inspired Summer Rolls, a perfect vehicle for using up any leftover soy chicken. Check out her blog for gorgeous healthy food.

Crispy Soy Chicken

Slightly adapted from Couscous & Consciousness, slightly adapted from Seasons, by Donna Hay.

Ingredients


3 C Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
8 C water
3/4 C dark soy sauce
1 C brown sugar
1 stick cinnamon
4 star anise
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced 
4 strips of orange, tangerine, or grapefruit peel
3 1/2 pound whole roasting chicken

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a large pot, add the wine, water, soy sauce, and sugar and heat until the sugar melts.
  3. Add the cinnamon, star anise, garlic, ginger, peel, and chicken.
  4. Bring to a boil and then lower to simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
  5. Move the chicken to a rack in a roasting pan and roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the skin is crispy.
  6. Remove from the oven and tent the chicken with foil for about 20 minutes.
  7. Cut into pieces and serve. 

May 23, 2014

Slow Cooker Beef and Potato Stew

Slow Cooker Beef and Potato Stew

This Slow Cooker Beef and Potato Stew is about as easy as it gets.

One of my favorite slow cooker cookbooks is Slow Cooker Revolution from America's Test Kitchen. What I like about it is that the recipes include extra steps to make sure that the final dish lacks the typical bland look and flavor of most slow cooker recipes. I've made these slow cooker baby back ribs, this slow cooker pulled pork, as well as some wonderful shredded beef and green chili chicken from the book, and can swear by the reliability and deliciousness of the recipes.

The only criticism of the book that I saw on the reviews was that the recipes required too many initial steps. For me, that wasn't a big deal because I truly enjoy the process.

Guess what? They published Slow Cooker Revolution Volume 2: The Easy Prep Edition.

Easy prep edition!

Slow Cooker Beef and Potato Stew

You don't have to brown the meat. You don't have to chop the potatoes, and you don't have to chop any onions. The secret ingredient is condensed French onion soup. The hardest part is making it look pretty in photographs.

I fixed this for my son and grandsons, along with this ciabatta bread. Everyone loved it. Yay!

Slow Cooker Beef and Potato Stew

Ingredients

2 cans of condensed French onion soup
1 C water
1/4 C tomato paste
2 1/2 T instant tapioca
1 tsp dried thyme, or 1 T fresh thyme
2 pounds of mini Yukon Gold potatoes (they should be no larger than 2 inches in diameter)
4 pounds of sirloin steak tips, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
Salt and pepper
2 C frozen peas

Instructions

  1. Mix the soup, water, tomato paste, tapioca, and thyme together in a 5 1/2 to 7 quart slow cooker. 
  2. Add the potatoes.
  3. Salt and pepper the beef and add it to the mixture. 
  4. Cover and cook on low for 9 to 10 hours, or on high for 6 to 7 hours, until beef is tender. 
  5. Skim any fat from the gravy and add the peas. Cover and let sit for about 5 minutes to heat the peas. 
  6. Season with pepper to taste and serve. 

May 20, 2014

Wild Rice and Onion Bread

Wild Rice and Onion Bread Karen's Kitchen Stories

I've wanted to make this Wild Rice and Onion Bread for a long time. I love the look of the wild rice throughout the bread, and I am crazy about onions in just about anything savory.

Wild Rice and Onion Bread Karen's Kitchen Stories

I've never made wild rice before (it's much easier than I had thought). I found a small package that makes 2 cups of cooked wild rice in 60 minutes, and it turned out perfectly. I used one cup for these loaves, and froze the other cup to use to make this bread in the future.

Wild Rice and Onion Bread Karen's Kitchen Stories

The onions in this bread are actually dried onion flakes, which I typically use for bagel toppings or this parmesan pull apart bread. Because the onions are incorporated into the dough, they rehydrate and actually make your (or at least my) eyes water while the dough is mixing! While the bread is baking, the onions smell pretty amazing.

You can use this dough for rolls, boules, baguettes, or batards. I decided to keep it simple and bake two sandwich loaves.

Wild Rice and Onion Bread Karen's Kitchen Stories

The bread is incredible with butter when it is fresh. I confess, I did cut off a couple of slices while it was still warm, even though you are not supposed to do that. This bread also makes amazing grilled cheese and other sandwiches. croutons, and toast.

You can make the dough in advance, refrigerate it it, and bake the bread over the next four days.

Wild Rice and Onion Bread Karen's Kitchen Stories

How easy is that?

This bread is this month's bake for the Bread Baking Babes, and is hosted by Karen (love the name) of Bake My Day. I am baking along as a Bread Baking Buddy. If you'd like to be a Buddy, check out Karen's post. She's also posted links to the other Babes' adaptations of the recipe.

This recipe has been adapted from Peter Reinhart's amazing book, Artisan Bread Every Day. This book is, in my opinion, one of the most reliable bread books ever.

For another wonderful bread recipe using rice from the book, check out this post about Struan.

Wild Rice and Onion Bread

Ingredients

6 cups (765 grams) unbleached bread flour, plus more if needed
2 1/4 tsp salt
2 T instant yeast
1 cup (170 g) cooked wild rice
1/4 C brown sugar
1 1/2 C warm (95 degrees F) water, plus more if needed
1/2 C warm buttermilk 
1/4 C (29 g) dried onion flakes

Instructions

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with a large spoon or dough whisk. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes.
  2. Mix with the dough hook on medium low for about 4 minutes. Adjust the flour/water to get a soft, slightly sticky dough. 
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for another 2 to 3 minutes. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl or dough rising bucket, cover, and refrigerate immediately.
  4. On baking day, remove the dough from the refrigerator and shape the dough into two loaves and place them into oiled one pound loaf pans. Cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise for 90 to 120 minutes, until the dough has crested above the pans about one inch. 
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  6. Bake the loaves for 45 to 55 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the interior of the loaves reaches 185 degrees F. Cool on a wire rack. 
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Rose-Lemon Meltaways

Rose-Lemon Meltaways Karen's Kitchen Stories

These rose-lemon meltaways combine a very tender cookie with a floral flavor and citrus.

What are meltaways you ask? They are a simple cookie made from powdered sugar, cornstarch, salt, butter, and flour, plus some buttercream or cream cheese frosting. Just add whatever flavoring you like. No eggs, no leavening, no refrigerating overnight. Just preheat your oven and start mixing. Super easy. No stress. You can whip them up without any pre-planning necessary.

Rose-Lemon Meltaways Karen's Kitchen Stories

The cookies are faintly flavored with rose and lemon, and then are frosted with a buttercream that is more strongly scented with rose flavor. If you are serving these to kids, I'd cut the rose water in the frosting in half.

Rose-Lemon Meltaways Karen's Kitchen Stories

To soften the frosting, I added frozen raspberry lemonade concentrate by the teaspoonful until the buttercream was spreadable. I found that it added a wonderful flavor. Water works just as well.

Rose-Lemon Meltaways Karen's Kitchen Stories

Rose-Lemon Meltaways

Makes 24 cookies

Cookie Ingredients

3/4 C powdered sugar
2 T cornstarch
1/2 T finely grated lemon zest
Generous 1/8 tsp salt
1 1/4 C unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 C cold unsalted butter, cut into pats
1/2 T rose flower water
3/8 tsp lemon extract

Frosting Ingredients

1 1/2 C powdered sugar, fairly packed
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
3 T cold unsalted butter, cut into pats
1/4 to 3/4 tsp rose flower water, depending on how strong you want the rose flavor to be
1 drop red food coloring concentrate
3 to 5 teaspoons frozen raspberry lemonade concentrate (or water) 

Instructions

To make the cookies:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F with a rack in the middle, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  2. In a food processor, add the powdered sugar, cornstarch, zest, and salt, and pulse a few times. 
  3. Add 1/2 C of the flour, the butter, rose water, and lemon extract. Pulse until the butter is cut into fine bits. 
  4. Add all but the last 2 T of the flour and pulse until the flour is incorporated. Be careful not to over process. 
  5. On a piece of parchment or wax paper, sprinkle a tablespoon of flour. Add the dough from the food processor, and sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of flour on top. Knead with your hands until you have a smooth dough. If the dough is too dry, add water, one teaspoon at a time. If too wet, add flour, one teaspoon at a time. (My dough needed neither). 
  6. Form the dough into a disk and divide in half. Cut each half into 12 equal pieces and form the pieces into balls. Flatten the balls slightly with your hand and bake, one sheet at a time, for 15 to 18 minutes. You should have two sheets of 12 cookies. Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheets on a rack (don't move the cookies until they have cooled). 
  7. Frost the cookies. You can either spread the frosting with a knife or pipe the frosting on with a piping tip. Store in an airtight container for up to 10 days. 

To make the frosting:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine 1/2 C of the powdered sugar and the lemon zest. Pulse briefly. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and pulse. 
  2. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is incorporated. 
  3. Add the rose water and the drop of food coloring and pulse a few times. Add the lemonade concentrate as necessary until the the frosting reaches piping consistency. 
This recipe has been adapted from Simply Sensational Cookies by Nancy Baggett. The book is simply amazing.



The theme this month is May Flowers! All that snow and rain has to lead to something, right!? If you would like to become a member, just contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.
You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes--be sure to check out our Facebook page, our Pinterest Board, and our monthly posts. You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

May 16, 2014

Ciabatta with Biga

Ciabatta with Biga Karen's Kitchen Stories

This ciabatta formula really pushes the hydration limit. The dough is super wet, resulting in a super airy dough, and because of the biga that ferments for 12 hours, the flavor is pretty amazing.

Ciabatta with Biga Karen's Kitchen Stories

This recipe produces a lot of dough, enough for two 1 1/2 pound ciabattas and eight ciabattini or four stirato (ciabatta baguettes). I'd love to show you photos of the ciabattini, but they were quickly consumed by my cutie pie grandsons before I could take photos. Priorities people. Those boys own my heart.

Ciabatta with Biga Karen's Kitchen Stories

I started this bread without fully reading the recipe (of course) and didn't realize how much dough I would end up with.  Unless you have a large oven, you will have to bake the loaves and rolls in stages. This had me a little worried about over proofing, however, this dough is amazingly resilient.

I had to proof the dough in a linen couche, and had some sticking problems. Even so, the loaves were amazing. You can pretty much manhandle it and still get an incredible loaf. It was like working with a gelatinous blob that had a life of its own.

Stirato are stretched out pieces of ciabatta dough, which are wonderful for sandwiches. Check out this post for how to shape them.

This recipe is adapted from Baking By Hand: Make the Best Artisanal Breads and Pastries Better Without a Mixer. This book is wonderful.

The recipe calls for setting the dough in a "warm place" when resting. I usually heat two coffee cups of water in the microwave, set them in the corners of the microwave, and then place the dough container in the center. Each time I "stretch and fold" the dough, I reheat the water to maintain the warm temperature.

Ciabatta, Ciabattini, and Stirato with Biga

Makes 2 one pound 8 ounce ciabattas plus 8 rolls or four stirato. Or any variation you like. Just chop the dough up and bake!

Ingredients

Biga

9.25 ounces water
440 g bread flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast

Final Dough

765 grams bread flour
60 grams whole wheat flour
All of the biga
25.25 ounces water at 90 degrees F
25 grams salt
1 tsp instant yeast

Instructions

  1. The night before baking, mix the biga ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for about 10 to 12 hours. 
  2. Whisk the flours together and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl or bucket, mix the water and biga, breaking up the biga in the water. 
  4. Add the flours to the water and biga and mix by hand until it comes together, about a minute. Be sure to moisten all of the flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let it stand in a warm place for 30 minutes. 
  5. Sprinkle the yeast and salt over the top of the dough and stretch and fold the dough over itself. Mix by hand by alternatively squeezing the dough with your fingers and folding it over itself for about a minute. Cover with plastic wrap and set the container in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  6. Stretch and fold the dough over itself from all four "sides," shape it into a ball, cover, and return it to the warm spot. Repeat three more times, every 30 minutes. 
  7. After the final stretch and fold, let the dough rise for another hour. The total rising time is about 3 hours. 
  8. Gently turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and cut it into two 1 1/2 pound loaves, about 5 inches by 10 inches. Place a floured plate on your scale and weigh the dough. You can add more dough on top of your loaf. The beauty of this dough is you do not shape it, you simple cut it. 
  9. Cut the leftover dough into rolls or strips. 
  10. Place all of the dough pieces in a well floured couche or linen towel, pulling up the floured fabric between the loaves to separate them (it sort of resembles drapes with loaves nested in the folds), and cover with a floured towel or oiled plastic wrap. 
  11. Place a baking stone and a steam pan in your oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Let the loaves rise for an hour. 
  12. Flip the rolls over onto a parchment lined peel and slide them onto the stone. Add a few ice cubes to the steam pan (which is under your baking stone or on the top rack, your preference). Shut the oven door quickly. After 5 minutes, spray your oven (carefully not to break the light or door) with water and quickly shut the door. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. 
  13. Cool on a rack. Repeat the process with the larger loaves, but bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The internal temperature should be about 200 degrees F. 
  14. Let cool for at least 30 minutes. 
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May 14, 2014

Haricot Vert Salad | French Green Bean Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

Haricot Vert Salad | French Green Bean Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

Haricot vert is simply the French translation for green beans. French string beans are skinnier than regular green beans, and they are so tender. To get them just "tender-crisp," you only need to cook them for just one minute, and then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process.


These beans are tossed with a homemade (once you've tried this dressing, you'll never buy pre-made dressing again) Dijon mustard vinaigrette. Finally, the beans are generously sprinkled with fresh dill.

This salad can be made ahead of time and freshened with a bit more dressing. This salad is so perfect for a hot day, and it takes no time at all to prepare. Elegant, easy, and healthy.

Haricot Vert Salad Recipe

Ingredients

1 T salt
1 pound French string beans, both ends cut off
2 T Dijon mustard
2 T white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
2 T minced fresh dill

Instructions

  1. Prepare a large bowl with ice water and place a colander in the sink. 
  2. Fill a 4 quart sauce pan with water and bring it to a boil. Add the salt and the beans and cook for about one minute, until the beans are "crisp-tender." 
  3. Drain the beans in the colander and then plunge them into the ice water. Leave them there until they are cold. Once they are cold, drain them through the colander and return them to the bowl. 
  4. In the mean time, whisk the mustard, vinegar, pepper, and oil together. 
  5. Toss the beans with just enough of the dressing to coat them. You will have a lot of leftover dressing to happily use later. 
  6. Add the dill, and season with salt and pepper to taste. 
Adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That?: Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips.


May 13, 2014

Stir-Fried Garlic Snow Pea Shoots with Crabmeat | Wok Wednesdays

Stir-Fried Garlic Snow Pea Shoots with Crabmeat | Wok Wednesdays

To celebrate the second anniversary of Wok Wednesdays, our fearless leader, Matthew, chose this rich crab and snow pea shoot stir-fry. As Grace Young, the author of Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge (the book from which we cook) describes it, "This is one of the most decadent of stir-fry dishes, reserved for special occasions."

Snow pea shoots should not be confused with pea sprouts. Thank goodness Grace posted a photo of pea shoots on the Facebook page, or I might have gotten confused. As a public service (I give and I give some more), I show you the difference below ...


The pea sprouts are on the left, and the pea shoots are on the right. I discovered pea sprouts a while back when I needed a substitute for bean sprouts, and love them in salads and sandwiches (as always, be sure to wash any sprouts thoroughly).

Snow pea shoots are best in the spring, while they are still tender. You'll need to cut off any stems that are not tender. To me, the flavor resembled greens, although not as strong.


This dish is very simple to make and does not call for a lot of ingredients. Chicken broth is thickened with cornstarch, an egg white is swirled in, and then you add lump crab meat. Once you've cooked the crab, you stir fry the pea shoots and garlic for about 2 to 3 minutes, move them to your serving dish, and ladle the crabmeat in the center.

This dish was rich and delicious (it tastes way better than it looks). We had some leftovers, so I made a frittata the next day with them. Pretty amazing!

Happy two year anniversary Grace and Matt! Thanks for all of your wok wisdom!

Because the Wok Wednesdays participants have agreed not to publish the recipes, to get the specifics, you'll need to purchase Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge, or check it out at your library. You won't regret it!

May 11, 2014

English Digestive Biscuits

English Digestive Biscuits - Karen's Kitchen Stories

English Digestive Biscuits were evidently created in the Victorian Era to add whole grains to the English diet. Also, because they originally contained bicarbonate of soda, they were thought to aid in digestion. They are practically health food!

English Digestive Biscuits - Karen's Kitchen Stories

They are similar to a Graham cracker, but a lot more cookie-like .... and a lot more elegant.

This dough is really easy to roll out and work with. No chilling necessary. I combined all of the ingredients in a food processor, but you can also mix them with a pastry blender or your hands.

The only changes I made to the original recipe were to add a half teaspoon of salt, and to substitute 2 ounces of dark brown sugar for 2 ounces of the confectioners' sugar. I also used a square cookie cutter. For a more traditional look, use a round cutter without scalloped edges.

English Digestive Biscuits - Karen's Kitchen Stories

This recipe was originally published in The Baking Sheet Newsletter in December, 1991 by King Arthur Flour, and is the recipe of the month for the the Avid Bakers Challenge. Each month, the bakers in the group make the same recipe, often adapting it to their taste. This year, we are baking recipes from King Arthur Flour. If you'd like to bake along, click >here< for more information.

English Digestive Biscuits - Karen's Kitchen Stories


English Digestive Biscuits

Ingredients

1/2 C (2 ounces) Unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 C (6 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C unsalted butter, cut into about 12 pieces
2 ounces dark brown sugar
1/4 C (1 ounce) confectioners' sugar
1/4 C cold milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  2. Pulse the flours, baking powder, salt, and butter in a food processor (or mix with your fingers).
  3. Add the sugars and milk, and pulse just a few times.
  4. Place the mixture on a piece of wax paper and form it into a disk. 
  5. Place another piece of wax paper on top of the dough and roll it out to a 1/8 inch thickness. 
  6. Remove the top layer of wax paper and cut the dough with a 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter and place the cookies on the baking sheet. Pull the scraps together, re-roll, and continue to cut out more cookies. 
  7. Prick the cookies with a fork, and bake, one sheet at a time, for 15 to 20 minutes. 
  8. Cool on a wire rack. 

May 9, 2014

Rustic White, Rye, and Wheat Sourdough

Rustic White, Rye, and Wheat Sourdough

This Rustic White, Rye, and Wheat Sourdough contains just enough rye flour to give me a lot of consternation.

(Consternation you ask? They are redesigning the SAT and I feel obligated to preserve words that we do not use in our day-to-day discourse. I've also heard that the SAT is going back to a high score of 1600 points. This means we can go back to comparing our scores with our kids'.)

Let's talk about the word "rustic." As my friend Cathy suggests, it means that if your bread or pizza is misshapen, it's "rustic," and you meant it to turn out that way.

Rustic White, Rye, and Wheat Sourdough

Rye. I have a love-hate relationship with it. It does not behave like wheat flour. It gets gummy if it is over worked. While it has gluten, it is difficult to develop surface tension in breads. Surface tension is the holy grail to get your boule to rise up tall and not sideways and flat.

Rustic White, Rye, and Wheat Sourdough
Slashed before baking

When I had to pretty much drop this dough into the bannetons because it stuck to the counter and wouldn't allow me to form a perfectly rounded boule (I'm thinking that I should have used more flour on the counter, and water on my hands), I just crossed my fingers and begged the bread fairies to make this turn out okay.

While the loaves were a little flatter than usual, I was really pleased with the results. There is a distinct sourdough flavor, along with a nutty whole wheat flavor. It is so amazingly good toasted and slathered with butter.

Rustic White, Rye, and Wheat Sourdough
Baked without slashing
This recipe was contributed by my friend David to the Artisan Bread Bakers Facebook group for the April Bread of the Month. He says he usually doesn't slash these loaves, but suggests that you experiment by slashing one loaf, and not slashing the other. See the two loaves above. What do you think?

David also says that he often substitutes spelt or einkorn for the whole wheat, and durum for part of the white flour.

Rustic white, rye, and wheat sourdough

Are you ready to give rye a try? (By the way, this does not taste at all like deli rye.)

Rustic White, Rye, and Wheat Sourdough

Starter (Day 1)

150 g Unbleached all purpose flour
50 g whole wheat flour
50 g dark rye
200 g water, 80 degrees F
50 g of active sourdough starter

Mix the above ingredients in the evening, cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight at room temperature. 

Bread (Day 2)

700 g water at 80 degrees F
All of the starter
700 g unbleached all purpose flour
200 g rye flour
100 g whole wheat flour
20 g salt

  1. In the afternoon, add the starter to the water and stir to mix well. 
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with your hand, until all of the ingredients are incorporated. 
  3. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. 
  4. Stretch and fold four times, every 30 minutes. 
  5. Allow to rise until it has doubled its original size. This could take one to three hours depending on the ambient temperature. 
  6. Generously dust two 9 inch (or so) bannetons or towel lined bowls with a 50/50 mixture of all purpose and rice flour. 
  7. Divide the dough in half and form into boules. If you can, develop a taught skin on the boules. 
  8. Place the dough into the bannetons/bowls. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour. Place in the refrigerator overnight. 

Bread (Day 3)

  1. Place two Dutch ovens in the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees F (alternatively, you can use one Dutch oven and bake the loaves one at a time, reheating the Dutch oven between bakes). 
  2. Remove the pans from the oven and, using a parchment sling, place the dough into the Dutch ovens, slash the loaves (or not), and cover. Place them back into the oven and lower the temperature to 475 degrees F. for 30 minutes. 
  3. After 30 minutes, remove the loaves from the Dutch ovens and place them on a sheet pan and bake for another 10 minutes at 425 degrees F. until the bread reaches an internal temperature of about 205 to 210 degrees. 
  4. Cool on a rack for about an hour. 
For more detailed descriptions of the stretch and fold technique, shaping boules, as well as transferring the dough with the parchment sling, see this post, or this post

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May 6, 2014

Crusty Cheese and Onion Bread

Crusty Cheese and Onion Bread

This Crusty Cheese and Onion Bread is completely addicting and totally flavorful. I took one of the loaves to work, and it disappeared immediately.

Crusty Cheese and Onion Bread

One of my favorite "foods" is burnt cheese. If you are with me on this, you will love this bread. One of my biggest sacrifices when removing this bread from the oven was not picking off the burnt cheesy parts so that I could show you photos of this amazing phenomenon. I give... and I give some more. Here they are:

Crusty Cheese and Onion Bread

Here's more....

Crusty Cheese and Onion Bread


For the cheese, I used a combination of mozzarella, gruyere, and cheddar (mostly gruyere). As long as some of the cheese you use is "melty," any cheese will work.

I also used a sweet onion for the onion component. Feel free to experiment with red onions, scallions, chives, or even caramelized onions.  Mmmmmm.

Crusty Cheese and Onion Bread


Crusty Cheese and Onion Bread


Sourdough Starter

¼ C/ 2oz/ 56.5 grams sourdough starter
1 1/3 C/ 6 oz/ 170 grams unbleached bread flour
½ C water

If you don’t have a sourdough starter, you can make a biga. Here’sa link to a biga recipe. Use 340 grams of the mature biga.

Dough

All of the starter or 340 grams of a biga
1 C/ 8 oz / 227 g lukewarm water
½ C lukewarm milk
2 ¼ tsp/ 7 grams instant yeast
1 ½ T agave or honey
4 ½ C/ 20 oz/ 567 grams unbleached bread flour
2 tsp/ 14 grams salt
1 ¾ C / 7 oz/ 198 grams diced sweet onion
2 ½ C/ 12 oz/ 340 grams grated cheese of your choice

  1. Mix the starter ingredients and let sit, covered, until nearly doubled. Either use immediately or refrigerate up to 4 days.
  2.  To make the dough, break up the starter into pieces and combine with the water, milk, yeast and honey. Stir until fairly mixed. Add the flour and salt except and knead with a dough hook for 5 minutes on low. Let sit for 5 minutes. Knead on medium low for five minutes more, adjusting to achieve a tacky but not sticky dough.
  3. Add the onions and mix for about a minute on low.
  4. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight or up to 4 days. If you plan to make the loaves on different days, divide the dough in half before refrigerating.
  5. On baking day, take the dough out of the refrigerator and let sit for about 2 hours. 
  6. Divide the dough in half on a lightly floured surface, and gently press the dough into two 8 by 12 inch rectangles. Spread the cheese over each half and roll up the dough like cinnamon bread. Seal the seam and shape the dough into a batard or baguette. 
  7. Place the loaves on a parchment lined baking sheet, spray with oil, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for about 90 to 120 minutes. They should be puffy. (If the loaves are too big, you might have to use two pans). 
  8. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F/232 C and prepare the oven with a steam pan on the bottom rack. Remove the loaves with 3 diagonal cuts and place the pan in the oven. Pour a cup of hot water into the steam pan, shut the door, and turn the oven down to 425 degrees F (218 C).  
  9. Bake or 30 to 40 minutes, until they are deep golden brown and the internal temperature is about 195 degrees F (90 degrees C).  If you’ve used two pans, rotate them half way through. 
  10. Cool on a wire rack for about an hour.
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#TwelveLoaves May: Onions

The month of April was filled with gorgeous orange breads! We have chosen onions for our May theme! Choose a recipe including onions (red, white, yellow), scallions (green onions, spring onions); leeks, shallots, garlic, pearl onion, cipollini, chives. Whatever you bake, (yeasted, quick bread, crackers, muffins, braids, flatbreads, etc) have fun and let’s have a delicious month of bread with onions. Let’s get baking!

#TwelveLoaves is a monthly bread baking party created by Lora from Cake Duchess and runs smoothly with the help of our friend Renee from Magnolia Days.

Take a look at what our #TwelveLoaves bakes have created this month:

If you'd like to add your bread to the collection, here's what you need to do!
  1. When you post your Twelves Loaves bread on your blog, make sure that you mention the challenge in your blog post: this helps us to get more members as well as share everyone's posts. Please make sure that your bread is inspired by the theme!
  2. Please link your post to the Linky tool at the bottom of my blog. It must be a bread baked to the Twelve Loaves theme.
  3. Have your Twelve Loaves bread that you baked in May, 2014 posted by May 2014. 

May 5, 2014

Scallop and Pesto Purses

Scallop and Pesto Purses

These scallop and pesto purses are pretty amazing, and amazingly easy. You can assemble them in advance, and then bake them when you need a seriously impressive appetizer. They are just so delicious.

Scallop and Pesto Purses

I've always struggled with phyllo dough, and not a lot has changed on that front. Just figure there will be a lot of waste when phyllo is involved.  Just make sure that that your phyllo is freshly thawed, and the process should go well.

The Tuesdays with Dorie group is making these Scallop and Pesto Purses. Check out the site for other bakers' takes on the recipe.

Scallop and Pesto Purses

Scallop and Pesto Purses

Ingredients


4 sheets of phyllo dough
1/2 C Clarified butter or Ghee
1/3 C freshly grated Parmesan
12 U15 sea scallops, dried on paper towel overnight in the refrigerator
2 scallions, thinly sliced
3 T homemade pesto 

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment. 
  2. Brush one sheet of the phyllo with the butter, sprinkle it with the parmesan. Place another sheet of the phyllo on top and repeat. Cut the sheets into six pieces. 
  3. Place a scallop onto the top of each piece, top with scallions and pesto, rub your hands with butter and twist the phyllo to create a "purse." 
  4. Repeat with the other two pieces of phyllo. 
  5. Place each "purse" onto the baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes. 
  6. Enjoy.