Still Got the Sourdough Starter?…Revisited

In the post where I gave you the recipe for the Apple Cinnamon Flatbread I mentioned that this flatbread would also make a great savory dish. Well instead of just saying that I thought I’d try it. I followed the recipe for the bread exactly. But when it got to the part where the toppings go on I used raw chopped onion, cubed pancetta ( you can cut your own or buy it like I did; Volpi makes a great product) and chunks of fresh mozzarella. I just tore off pieces and placed them evenly on top. Then a sprinkle of dry oregano and basil and a light drizzle of olive oil.

Onion, pancetta and mozzarella topping, ready to go into the oven

I baked it at the same temperature (425) and time (25 minutes) and it came out great. I was a little nervous, thinking that a high heat and a long time (a normal pizza is about 15 minutes) the cheese would burn but not so. But depending on your oven, watch it.

Hot, out of the oven.

We served it with a side of marinara sauce for dipping. So yes! This bread is great savory or sweet. Now I want to try mushrooms and olives and red onions and garbonzos and…..

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Still Got the Sourdough Starter?

Well here is another really good recipe using sourdough starter. Which reminds me, I haven’t fed my sourdough in a while, it might be dead. Not good.

This particular recipe is Apple Cinnamon Flatbread but if you are a savory rather than sweet person it could be cheese and sausage bread, or onion and mushroom bread. Just make sure you put your toppings on in chunks rather than slices. You can do a lot with this flatbread because it isn’t sweet. The toppings are what makes this bread versatile. Because you use some yeast along with the sourdough starter this is a one afternoon bread and not an overnight creation.

It is not an original recipe just another from SIFT Magazine, but you can easily make it your own. Also this is the full recipe. I cut it in half and still had a lot of bread.

APPLE CINNAMON FLATBREAD (with all the rising time this will take you about 4 hours, plan accordingly)

Dough:
1 C. sourdough starter (If you don’t have sourdough starter substitute 1/2 C.each lukewarm water and all-purpose flour)
3/4 C. lukewarm water
2 tsp instant yeast
3 C. Unbleached All-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbls nonfat dry milk
3 Tbls Olive oil

Filling:
4 very large firm apples
1/4 C. boiled cider (substitute thawed frozen apple juice concentrate)
1/4 C. maple syrup

Boiled cider

Topping:
1/4 C. cinnamon sugar
1/4 C. syrup, reserved from the cooked apples
2-3 Tbls coarse sparkling sugar (optional)

1. Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead them to make a very soft dough. (by hand or with a mixer)

2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let rise for one hour. Gently deflate it and allow to rise for another hour. It should at least to have doubled in size or come close to it.

3. While dough is rising, prepare topping. Core the unpeeled apples and cut into wedges and then cut the wedges into three pieces. You should have about 7 cups of apple chunks.

4. Put the chunks in a microwave safe bowl, drizzle with boiled cider and maple syrup (or substitute 1/3 C honey). Microwave till soft but still hold their shape, approx. 8 minutes.5. Drain apples. Reserve the juice.

6. Lightly grease an 18″x13″ rimmed baking sheet or 2 / 9″x13″ pans. (For half recipe one 9×13 worked fine). Drizzle the pan with some olive oil, this will give bottom of crust a nice crunch.

7. Deflate the risen dough, then pull and shape it into a rectangle that fits your pan. The dough will shrink back, as soon as it does, cover and leave it for about 10 minutes. Return and pat it toward the edges again. You may have to do this more than once until it covers the bottom.

8. Arrange the apple chunks on top. Mix 1/4 C of the reserved syrup with 1/4 C of the cinnamon sugar and drizzle over the apples.9. Cover the bread and Yes, let it rise again for about an hour, till nice and puffy. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove cover, sprinkle with sugar if desired, and bake 25 – 30 minutes till crust is golden brown around edges but feels set in center.

10. Remove from oven, cool a bit on a rack but serve warm, maybe with a nice piece of aged cheddar. Full recipe, 18 servings.

Just out of the oven.

This would be a fun Superbowl snack if you cared about any of the teams.

 

 

 

Sourdough: No longer a Mystery

I’ve never made bread, and I definitely have never made sourdough starter but that is exactly what I accomplished this past week. My husband is the bread maker in this house and he makes wonderful bread. He has even taught some friends how to make bread. So I really never had an incentive. Why take on such a task when I can just eat his beautiful creations? But then while browsing in a local bookstore I found a gorgeous magazine called Sift. The photographs were beautiful and it promised 65+ Fall Recipes, Prize-winning Breads and Baking with Cider. I was hooked and paid the $12.95 and happily took it home. However once I really started looking through it I found most of the recipes I was interested in called for sourdough starter.  Oh yeah, I should have noticed that other line on the cover, 10 Sourdough Recipes to Try Now. Sourdough starter? Where do I get that? Well the short answer is you can buy it but you still have to feed it and keep it going and you are out $9.00 plus postage so I researched making my own. Basically your biggest investment is time, and a bag of flour, so I thought ,”What can I lose?”  After consulting the internet for some recipes, I settled on the one from King Arthur Flour and dove in. And even though we live in a fairly cool house (one of the many warnings) I had success.

left: Day 1 right: Day 4

After numerous feedings of flour and water it was doing really well by Day 4. And since when you feed it you discard half of the mixture I decide to save a cup and try one of the recipes from the magazine. (A side note, by Day 6 my starter was all it could be and I refrigerated it for later recipes.) The bread I decided to try first was Nutty-Fruity Sourdough because it was a one day bread, that is, no overnight rising.

One cup sourdough starter, a real sticky blob

In a large bowl combine 1 cup sourdough starter, 1 cup lukewarm water, 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (or pumpernickel), 2.5 cups all-purpose flour, 1.5 tsp salt and 1 tsp active dry yeast. Mix until the dough comes together, adding more water or flour depending on if your mixture is too dry or too wet.

Knead by hand for 10 minutes. Halfway through the kneading add in the 1.5 cups of dry mixed fruit and 1 cup chopped nuts. I used currants, cherries, raisins, apricots and walnuts. This was pretty difficult since the dough is really firm. Next time I will mix them in during the first step. As it was I resorted to flattening out the dough, adding some of the fruit mixture and then rolling and kneading it in.

Flatten, add some fruit, knead, repeat.

I did this about 4 times till it was all incorporated. Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise about 1.5 hours. It gets puffy but doesn’t double in size.Once the first rise is complete shape the dough into a boule or a log and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. You can also divide it into two loaves. Cover with greased plastic and let rise another hour. After second rise, slash the top (dust with flour or brush with an egg wash) and bake for 45 minutes until the bread is golden brown. Note: recipe said 30-34 min. but 45 worked for me. (internal temp should be about 190° F.)

And then it came out. I was really excited and could hardly wait till it cooled so I could cut it. I am happy to say it was a success. It is a pale bread but that is what the recipe said. No sugar but the fruit lends a subtle sweetness. I think it is good just plain but Curt says toasted with butter is the way to go. So if you happen to have sourdough starter around or get ambitious to make some, this is a good first bread to try, especially if you are a beginner like me.

Revuelto, a spring Migas of sorts

This week David Tannis, food writer for the New York Times reprised a recipe for Spanish Asparagus Revuelto from an article originally published in 2014 titled Asparagus, Spanish style.  The inter-web tells me that revuelto is Spanish for scrambled eggs.  So, Spanish asparagus and scrambled eggs.  Sounded good to me.

In reading through the recipe, it struck me that this revuelto sounds a lot like a variation on Migas, which we wrote about several years ago.  A comparison of that Migas to this Revuelto reveals a similar approach in preparation but with more vegetables, without the chickpeas and with eggs scrambled in rather than cooked separately and presented on top of the other ingredients.

I followed Mr. Tannis’ recipe but roughly cut it in half except I used 4 times the amount of pimentón that he called for and double the amount of chorizo.

The end result was very tasty but the eggs didn’t exactly scramble, rather they formed more of a sauce that coated the other ingredients.  I think the asparagus brought a lot more moisture to the dish than I had anticipated, making for the sauciness.  Yummy none the less.

Asparagus Migas

1-1/2 Tbs. olive oil
2 peeled garlic cloves, whole, plus 1 small clove, minced
1 cup day old bread (baguette or ciabatta), torn into 1/2″ pieces
Salt and pepper
2 oz. Spanish chorizo, cut into matchstick pieces
3/4 pound thin asparagus, cut into 1″ – 2″ pieces
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped
4 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp. pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
2 Tbs. Italian parsley, roughly chopped

Saute the whole garlic in olive oil until lightly browned, remove and discard.

Saute the bread in the oil until lightly browned and crispy.  Remove from the heat and add a pinch of salt, some pepper and 1/2 tsp of pimentón.  Remove from the saute pan and allow to cool.

Saute the chorizo a minute or two to release some of its oil, add the asparagus and saute for several minutes until the asparagus is tender but still firm.  Add the green onions and saute an additional minute.

Beat the eggs with 1/2 tsp of pimentón and a pinch of salt and some pepper to taste.  Add the eggs to the asparagus mix and cook, stirring until the eggs are just soften and creamy.

Divide the revuelto onto two plates, top with parsley and croutons.  Serve immediately.

The Basic Batard

No, not bastard; batard.

detail of bread crust

A batard is basically a loaf of bread lacking the confidence to be a baguette, that classic bread of France. The classic baguette is around 24″ long and around 2-1/2″ in diameter. The batard is shorter – around 12″ but sometimes as little as 6″.

I like baguettes/batards for several reasons. The crust to crumb ratio is pretty high so you get lots of nice crispy/chewy crust (my favorite). You don’t need to slice it because its small diameter allows for the primal pleasure of just tearing a piece off to dip into your soup. And, lastly, the baguette/batard is the prefect bread for making pain perdu, French toast.

While I have made bread for many years, I’ve avoided trying to make batards.  When I have tried in the past, they came out pasty, with poor crust and just plain boring.  The problem was not enough temperature and humidity.

But, I have solved those issues.  I haven’t done anything that most good bread cookbooks don’t tell you.  It’s just that I actually followed directions this time and it worked.

Basically this is the same dough I use for my basic bread using the well-known recipe for no-knead bread from Jim Lahey and popularized by Mark Bittman in a video in the New York Times.  The difference for batards is in the final rise and baking.

Batards rising. Note generous coating of flour to keep the dough from sticking to the towel.

Batards rising. Note generous coating of flour to keep the dough from sticking to the towel.

Prepare the dough as directed in the recipe.  After the dough has fermented over night, divide it into 2 or 3 pieces, handling it carefully so as to not deflate it.  Shape (stretch) each piece into a 12″, or so, long form and place on a floured tea towel to rise.  You can bunch up the towel along the loaf to help keep it from spreading too much.  Use a separate towel for each loaf because you will use the towel to roll the loaf onto your baking sheet.

While the loaves are rising, pre-heat the oven to 500˚ F. Put a large roasting pan on the lower rack of the over with 1″ hot water in it.

Slashed loaves on baking sheet ready for the oven.

Slashed loaves on baking sheet ready for the oven.

Roll the risen loaves onto a dry baking sheet.  Using a very sharp knife or single edged razor blade, slash each loaf (classically with 3 long diagonals) about 1/4″ deep.  Put the sheet into the hot and humid oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Finished loaves fresh from the oven.

Finished loaves fresh from the oven.

Allow the batards to cook on a wire rack and store at room temperature. Bon appétit!

The "Taster" waiting for his sample of the fresh batards.

The “Taster” waiting for his sample of the fresh batards.

The “Taster” is a small sculpture that hangs on our kitchen wall.  It was made by Andrew Lonnquist of Olander Earthworks.  We bought ours at the Saturday Market in Portland, Oregon but is also available (along with a number of other characters) at his Etsy site.

Naan for You

naanheader

Last night the Foodies gathered at Barbara and Micheal’s for one of the wonderful dinners we share every two – three months or so. Some groups like ours meet once a month but we are busy people with travel and family and god knows what sometimes, so every couple of months is a real achievement and a treat. Barbara and Michael once again outdid themselves. Most of the credit goes to Barbara since Michael had been out of town for the week leading up to dinner but his tandoori mushroom appetizer was a hit.

But this brief writing is only going to be about the naan. Dinner was sort of an Indian theme, with lamb, and some marvelous vegetable dishes but with our soup course we were served naan. Naan is a leavened oven-baked flatbread and when we saw it for the first time on the table we asked our hostess where she purchased it? Is there a great Indian grocery or restaurant in Green Bay that we don’t know about? Ha!

Barbara calmly told us she had made it herself and she doesn’t even have a tandoor oven.

Making naan in a traditional tandoor oven

Making naan in a traditional tandoor oven

She got the recipe from Epicurious. It was originally from an Oct 2014 issue of Bon Appetit. The fresh naan she served us was beautiful but we were too busy eating to take pictures. Fortunately she sent home some leftovers and even the next day you can see that this naan looks really good. Barbara made a few changes which I have added in red print to the recipe. Try it, we sure will.

Barbara's next day Naan

Barbara’s next day Naan

 

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/4-ounces envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for surface and hands
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (she omitted onion)
  • 1 cup whole-milk yogurt (not Greek) (all she had was Greek and it turned out fine)
  • 2 tablespoons melted ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil plus more (no time to make ghee so she went with straight butter)

Preparation

Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until an instant-read thermometer registers 100°F. Transfer to a small bowl and whisk in yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Whisk 3 1/2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl to blend. Add yeast mixture, onion, yogurt, and 2 tablespoons ghee. Mix dough until blended but still shaggy.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead until a smooth dough forms, adding flour as needed (dough will be sticky), about 5 minutes. Lightly grease another large bowl with ghee, place dough in bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough and divide into 10 pieces. Using floured hands, roll each piece into a ball on a lightly floured surface. Cover with plastic wrap; let rest 10 minutes.

Heat a large cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly coat with ghee. Working with 1 piece at a time, stretch dough with your hands or roll out with a rolling pin to 1/8″ thickness. Sprinkle with salt. Cook until lightly blistered, puffed, and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Wrap in foil to keep warm until ready to serve.

DO AHEAD: Naan dough can be made 4 hours before shaping. Cover and chill.

Bánh mì, One Really Great Sandwich

slice of bmIn the previous post one of the things I said I loved was a great sandwich. Not just a good sandwich but a great one. I make ‘good’ sandwiches, my husband makes great sandwiches and his bánh mì is one of them.

It is not a difficult sandwich to make if you have the ingredients and that is the key. Curt can pull together a great sandwich just from what he finds available in the fridge but if we are having bánh mì, then you know it is a plan.

Bánh mì is a Vietnamese term for all kinds of bread but mostly it refers to a baguette. But if you walk into a Vietnamese restaurant in America, bánh mì is a type of meat-filled sandwich on a short baguette or bánh mì bread. In Green Bay you can get a pretty good version at Pho #1 Noodle & Grill.  (their bánh mì is image #6 in their menu slide show).

Typical fillings for a bánh mì may include pan-roasted or oven-roasted seasoned pork belly, Vietnamese sausage, grilled pork, spreadable pork liver pate, grilled chicken, roast duck, soft pork meatballs in tomato sauce, fried eggs, and even tofu – in other words, whatever is at hand and that strikes your fancy. That sort of flies in the face of a plan but you’ve got to have the roll and the pate’ or liver sausage is an important flavor.  Accompanying vegetables typically include fresh cucumber slices, cilantro and pickled shredded carrots and daikon radish. Common condiments  might include spicy chili sauce, sliced chilis, mayonnaise, and cheese.

Mise en place:  bolillo, ham, liver sausage, Shriracha laced mayo, frresh pickled carrots and cabbage, cilantro and mint

Mise en place: bolillo, ham, liver sausage, Shriracha laced mayo, fresh pickled carrots and cabbage, cilantro and mint

Curt’s version starts with a baguette, or a hoagy roll, or most likely a bolillo (a short baguette-like roll common in Latino markets).  Not shown in the mise en place photo, is a little commercial sandwich dressing (he used Beano’s Original Submarine Dressing) which he squirted on the greens – you could substitute any Italian dressing or just oil and vinegar.

Bánh mì (ala Curt)

Bánh mì, ala Curt.  This is a pared down version.  A more authentic bánh mì would also include lean roast pork and thinly sliced fresh green chiles.

Put it all together and voilà – a great sandwich. If it is a serious plan he usually gets roast pork slices and good ham from the deli which in my opinion is better than just ham.

Hey, look, it’s lunchtime by my clock and writing this post has made me hungry. I think I’ll go see what sandwich fixin’s I can find…maybe even get Curt to give me some pointers.

Closed and ready for the first bite!

Closed and ready for the first bite!

We need a dessert… Houston, we have a persimmon.

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A while ago we started watching series shows with some friends. I think it started with Justified. We had watched the first season on Netflix streaming but we don’t have DISH or Direct TV so when the 2nd season started we were out of luck for probably six months before we could view it. But then we got talking with some close friends who were also hooked on Justified and they had DISH, woo hoo! They were recording season 2 and already had about four on their DVR. They invited us over for dinner and TV. We brought dessert and we all had a great time. A couple of weeks later we went back for two more episodes but this time we brought dinner and they did dessert.

A regular get-together was born.

Rules: One, no overly crazy cleaning, except maybe the bathroom. Two, no gourmet cooking, keep it simple. We alternate dinner and desserts.  We’ve gotten through three seasons of Justified and the fourth starts this January. In between seasons we watched Longmire and started The Borgias. Since neither of us has Showtime we got The Borgias on disk from Netflix. Last night was the first episode of Season 3 and Pat and Dick were coming to our house with dinner in tow. We were on for dessert. With a persimmon sitting on the shelf just ready to burst Curt knew it was destined to become our sweet treat for the evening.

You may remember that we posted a short piece about persimmons several years ago.  If not, you can refer to it here.  Mostly, I like to eat persimmons as a fresh fruit – the Fuyu variety that is.  The Hachiya variety is a whole different matter.  If you try to eat them before they’re fully ripe you’ll be met with an astringent mouthful you won’t be able to swallow.  Hachiya need to sit and slowly ripen to the point that they’re like a squishy orange/red water balloon.  The skin turns almost translucent and the flesh is more like a soft jelly that a fruit.  That’s what we had.  I’m led to believe that some people let their Hachiya get to this stage and then cut or bite a small hole in the skin and suck the flesh out like a Slurpee, but not frozen.

persim3

A ripe Hachiya persimmon, cut in half

In casting about for some recipe to use with this beautifully ripe but somewhat intractable fruit, I came upon a reference in a bread book by James Beard that had a Persimmon Bread recipe.  It looked good and so, off I went.

Beard on Bread by James Beard, 1973

Beard on Bread by James Beard, 1973

Persimmon Bread (adapted from Beard on Bread by James Beard)

1-3/4 C. all-Purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. mace, ground
a few gratings of nutmeg
1 C. sugar
1/2 C. butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 C. bourbon
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 very large, very ripe Hachiya persimmon, cored but not peeled, pureed, about 1 C.
1 C. coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 C. currants, plumped with 1/2 Tbs. bourbon

1 Tbs. coarse sugar (raw sugar, rock candy, or the like), broken into edible-sized pieces if necessary.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Make a depression in the center and add the melted butter, eggs, bourbon, pureed persimmon, nuts and currants.  Mix the batter well, until there are no dry bits left.  Butter and flour a 1 pound and a mini loaf pan.  Fill them about 3/4 full with the batter.  It’s pretty stiff, so use a spatula to make sure it gets into the corners.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake for 1 hour at 350˚ or until a skewer comes out clean.  Let the loaves cool in the pans and then turn out onto a rack.  Serve with fresh butter.  Keeps wrapped for 1 to 2 weeks.

Persimmon bread adapted from James Beard

Persimmon bread adapted from James Beard

And for your viewing pleasure, we all recommend Justified, Longmire and The Borgias.

A Good Bun is Hard to Find

My hotdog lunch w/ yellow mustard, dill relish and tomato slivers.

My hotdog lunch w/ yellow mustard, dill relish and tomato slivers.

I know we promised you Chinese Food at the end of the previous post but Curt is still fussing with the pictures from our trip and hasn’t located the precise images he needs to express his food rant so I thought it was time for a great hot dog. You heard me, hot dog …a sausage, a frankfurter, encased meat. Hot dogs get a bad rap. All that talk about what is really inside the casing and what the casing is made of has frightened away people from a really enjoyable foodie experience. But more about the dog later, the really critical part is the bun.

My experience with hot dog buns is that soft, squishy Wonder Bread type of bun that comes in a package of eight while the hotdogs come in packages of ten. To make everything come out even you really have to buy 5 packs of buns and 4 packs of dogs. But you’ll get really tired of eating hotdogs long before you use them up. Sure you can freeze everything but by the time I am in the mood for a hotdog they have all experienced major freezer burn. And frankly those soft buns just don’t freeze well. The other problem with finding the perfect bun is size. They are either way too short or if you decide to go with a brat bun, way too thick and big. Both are just too much bread and not very good bread at that.

A couple of months ago while picking up our favorite ciabatta bread made by “New French Bakery Take N’ Bake”, Curt noticed that they also made nice sized breadsticks.  Breadsticks that just might work as  hot dog buns. New French Bakery bread is especially good for store-bought because once you get it home you pop it in a 375 degree oven for 3-5 minutes. It comes out with a nice crust and tastes like fresh-baked. The breadsticks are 6.5 – 7 inches long. Longer than a regular bun but also narrower.

New French Bakery products

New French Bakery products

New French Bakery breadstick,

New French Bakery breadstick, 7″ long

We had found the perfect bun. A nice crust, flavorful, and just the right size for a Nueske’s Big Dog, extra long hot dog. No not Oscar Meyer, then you might have to worry about what might be inside, but a Nueske’s, pork/beef wiener in natural casing, Applewood smoked . A really good hot dog, fried up with just a light char.

Nueske's hot dog

Nueske’s hot dog, at least 7″ long

Now for the condiments. Curt made a spicy relish by using a Mixed Pickle Relish. It was the closet he could find to a mango pickle. His relish had one part mixed pickle to one part minced fresh tomato. The other item was thin slices of tomato.

Spicy relish and thin tomato slivers

Spicy relish and thin tomato slivers

But I’m not a spicy relish person. My condiments of choice, Mustard Girl: Sweet n’ Fancy Yellow and a great home-canned dill relish, a gift from a friend. I added some of those tomato slivers. Perfect.

mustard

Mustard and Relish

But no matter what condiments you prefer if you add a natural weiner to one of these breadstick “buns”, you’ll have an ideal hot dog lunch.  A nice break from Chinese food. The only problem: 6 breadsticks…….10 hot dogs! Oh well.