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.
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.
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.
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.
Or what did you do all day? This was a question that we got a lot when we first retired. Usually when asked this I go blank. I know I didn’t just sit around (though that occurs), or take a nap (Curt does like to nap) or read ( yep, everyday), but what exactly did I do with the rest of the time? Well here goes, not a typical day but close.
I am not an early riser but I did want to go to the Farmer’s Market yesterday morning and Curt promised he wasn’t planning on being out the door at 7am. So we were up at 8 am and out the door by 8:20 am. We found a good parking space (yes, it is much more crowded when you get there a bit later) and hit the market. Four bags later we had mushrooms, zucchini, butternut squash, eggs, raddichio, peppers, cilantro, Spartan apples, carrots, eggplant, baby pattypan squashes, blueberry kringle (our breakfast) and apricots. Home by 9:30 where we made coffee and ate the kringle.
Once home I got the first of two loads of laundry in the washer. Curt started working on his chicken which was to be smoked. I got the miscellaneous dishes cleaned up and loaded the rest in the dishwasher. By now it is close to lunchtime. After lunch I got the last load into the dryer and went off to printmaking workshop over at the university. Last weekend we were part of a huge printing project ( 26 artists, each doing a 7″x7″ woodblock of a letter of the alphabet. These were put together into one huge print.) This week the print studio was open to anyone who wanted to do shorter individual prints using the same letters. I did three prints. You may notice I made a rookie mistake on one of the prints. Yes, the word DRIB was supposed to be BIRD. Whoops! Later I’m cutting the letters apart.
I had muffins planned for the zucchini I had bought in the morning so I got those mixed and into the oven. While they baked I folded and sorted the laundry.
The potatoes for our dinner were done and cooling. The chicken was done. So Curt worked on a batch of cherry tomatoes (blanched and skinned) to put in the smoker. These get frozen in small batches and are great additions to soup, stew or sauce.
The tomatoes and chicken got packed and put into the freezer. We had a great dinner of potato/smoked chicken salad and finished out the day cleaning up the kitchen which looked pretty trashed after all the cooking and smoking and baking. Time to collapse into those comfy front room chairs.
What’s on for today? I think some reading, napping, a little football (Go Pack!). Afterall, Sunday is the day of rest. Ha! Oh wait, I was going to do something with those apples.
For Christmas my son gave me Dorie’s Cookies by Doris Greenspan. It is a cookie recipe book. It was an especially nice gift because he had heard about it while listening to a podcast on Public Radio. Yes! I knew I had raised him right. The book itself is quite beautiful, great cover, lots of pictures ( my kind of recipe book!) and it weighs a ton.
That poundage is because there are 160 cookie recipes in this book. While my son was home he mentioned that he was interested in the savory cookies and sure enough Dorie has a section called Cocktail Cookies that looked pretty interesting. So since the weather outside for the last week or so has certainly been nasty I decided it was time to try two of the savory selections. Half for us and half to be mailed to Nathan.
My first choice was Cranberry Five Spice Cookies. Chinese five-spice powder is a blend that includes star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves and fennel. Dorie loves this spice and says it is equally good in sweet or savory dishes. She likes it best when paired with something tart or tangy so that’s why she has put cranberries into the mix. Here’s the recipe:
Makes about 50 cookies
5 Tbls sugar
1/2 C fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 3/4 C flour
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut in chunks, room temperature
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 large egg
1/2 C salted peanuts ,coarsely chopped
Mix 1 Tbls sugar and cranberries in a bowl, set aside.
Whisk flour and five-spice powder together.
In another large bowl with a mixer or by hand, beat the butter, remaining sugar and salt together till smooth and creamy. Add the egg and beat for one minute. (The mixture will look curdled, that’s ok.) Add flour mixture all at once and mix till it becomes a dough. Spoon the cranberries (drain off any liquid first) and the nuts into the dough and mix just to incorporate. You can do this with a spatula or with your hand. I found my hand worked great. Turn dough out onto counter and knead gently. Divide in half and pat each into a disk.
Put disks between parchment paper and roll to about 1/4 inch thickness. She says then freeze for about an hour. I found this too long. You need the dough firm to cut out cookies but if it is frozen you have to wait till it softens enough to get your cutter through it. Use your judgement.
Preheat oven, 350°, line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using approx. 1 1/2″ cookie cutter, cut and place cookies on sheet. Bake 12 -14 minutes, rotating sheet half way. Cookies should be lightly brown on edges and just firm to touch. Mine needed about 18 minutes.
Repeat with remaining dough and don’t forget to use the scraps as well.
Recipe #2 was Smoky, Cheesy Cookies.
Makes about 45 cookies.
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
4 ounces cold smoked Gouda, cut into tiny cubes
2 ounces shredded sharp cheddar
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly grd black pepper
pinch of cayenne
1 1/4 C all purpose flour
Put the cold butter, Gouda, Cheddar, salt, black pepper and cayenne in a food processor and pulse until butter is in bits and mixture forms small curds. Add the flour and with long pulses mix until dough is moist and forms large popcorn-like curds. (Should be noted, mine took forever to get large popcorn-like curds. They never really were large but the dough finally started to combine and it felt moist so I just turned it out and scrunched it together and then kneaded it.)
Shape into ball, divide in half and do the same rolling, freezing and cutting as above with the Cranberry Five-spice cookies. Put on parchment paper or silicone sheet.
Bake 350 degrees. Bake 16 -18 minutes, rotating half way through. Mine went a little longer here too.
In the Cranberry Five-Spice, I couldn’t detect the five-spice flavoring that Dorie gets all excited about but the nuts and cranberries come through nicely, especially the nuts. She suggested sprinkling salt on the tops before baking and I did this for half. Both are good but my husband prefers the ones with salt. I also think they were better on the second day.
On his initial taste of the Smoky, Cheesy ones my husband said, Cheez-its. Oh no! I went to all this trouble and they taste like Cheez-its. But not really. Yes, they may give you that at first bite but then the smokiness of the gouda comes through. These are quite nice with a little sausage and a glass of red wine or with eggs and bacon for breakfast.
I will definitely be trying more of Dorie’s recipes.
My son’s share went into the mail today. Hope I packed well.
No, not bastard; batard.
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.
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.
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.
Allow the batards to cook on a wire rack and store at room temperature. Bon appétit!
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.
While browsing through the seemingly millions of posts on my Facebook since the day before, I happened upon a picture of a Dutch Baby. No, not an infant from the Netherlands but a really wonderful looking pastry. It reminded me of a savory dish called a sausage puff that one of the cooks in our original eating group served us.
The caption under the picture said this was essentially a sweet popover. After a little research I found a few other facts about a Dutch Baby. It was sometimes called a German Pancake, a Bismarck or a Dutch Puff, derived from the German pfannkuchen. The “Dutch” part is not so much a reference to the Netherlands but a corruption of the word for German, ‘Deutsch”, as in Pennsylvania Dutch, who were German/American immigrants.
Well we were having a friend over for dinner the next night and I thought this would make a fine dessert, even though it is usually considered a breakfast or brunch treat. The original recipe (from Williams-Sonoma Taste) served 4 but since there were only going to be three of us and this was going to be served after dinner, I felt it needed to be cut down so in my recipe the measurements in parenthesis are what I used. So here is my version of a:
Dutch Baby with Fresh Berries
5 Tbls unsalted butter (3 Tbls)
3/4 C flour (1/2 C)3 eggs (2)
3/4 C milk (1/2 C)
1 tsp vanilla (2/3 tsp)
2 Tbls sugar (4 tsp)
1/2 tsp salt ( a big pinch)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Put the butter in an ovenproof 12 inch fry pan. I used a 9 inch cast iron pan. Place in oven for 5 minutes to melt the butter. (Don’t put in too early because you don’t want to burn the butter but just get it melted and hot).
While the butter melts, combine the flour, milk, eggs, vanilla, sugar and salt. (This recipe uses a blender but I used a whisk. Just blend or whisk till all lumps are gone.)
Remove the pan from oven and CAREFULLY pour the batter into the pan. Return to oven and bake until sides are puffed and dark golden brown, 15 -20 minutes. I went the full 20 minutes plus some since it seemed the center wasn’t done. However that was just some residual butter floating around. It was done! So don’t be fooled.
Be sure to have your guests gathered in the kitchen when you take it out of the oven because it is an amazing sight but will deflate fairly quickly.
Williams-Sonoma would have you put a dollop of crème fraiche in the middle, sprinkle with berries and dust with confectioners sugar before you cut. I, instead, divided it into serving sections, and added the berries and sugar once it was on the plates. Tasted great, looked great. And that browned crust may look stiff but was surprisingly soft.
I don’t know why I decided to make a Shepherd’s Pie, maybe because it has a good name. It originally was called Cottage Pie referring to a rural dwelling. And lamb is traditionally used because shepherds herd sheep not cows or chickens. Whatever, once I made that decision I had to locate a recipe. I tried some of my own cookbooks but Martha was putting a rutabaga mash on top of hers and Jamie Oliver and Julia didn’t even list it in their books. So next up, the internet. Of course there are a bazillion recipes to choose from so I went to a few of my standby sites and settled on Epicurious because 1) traditional mashed potatoes on top and 2) ground lamb, which I already had in the freezer (some recipes called for ground beef). Being super easy was a third benefit. Frankly, most Shepherd’s Pie recipes are pretty easy.
The Sheep Herder’s Dinner
1 Tbls vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 pound ground lamb
1 cup beef broth (or chicken)
1 Tbls tomato paste
1 tsp rosemary
1 Tbls chopped Italian parsley
1 cup frozen peas
2 lbs russet potatoes (peeled and cut into chunks)
6 Tbls unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk (any fat content)
salt to taste
Preheat oven to 375.
1. Bring the potatoes to a boil in salted water. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.
2. While potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a large saute pan, then add the onion, carrot and meat. Cook until browned, about 8 – 10 minutes.
3. Drain the fat and add the broth, the tomato paste and the herbs. Simmer until the juices thicken, about 10 minutes, then add the peas.
4. Pour the mixture into a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Set aside.
5. Mash the cooked potatoes with butter, milk and salt. Spread them over the meat mixture, then rake a fork over the top so it looks like a plowed field.
6. Bake until golden, 30 -35 minutes. Need it to be more golden? Put it under the broiler for a minute or two, keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
And that’s Shepherd’s Pie. Pretty easy and pretty tasty.
This recipe serves 6 statistically average people or 3.14 hungry shepherds so the two of us have a lot leftover. I’m guessing it will reheat well but it won’t look as pretty since it has to be repackaged to go in the freezer. But I was cook tonight so Curt is in charge of cleanup. I’m sure he will think of something.
Hope you had a Happy Pi Day. Did you make pie?
“Saturday, March 14, 2015 will be a very special Pi Day – one that only comes along once every 100 years! This year, not only does the month and day of the date (3/14) correspond to the digits in the mathematical constant, the digits in the year do too. If you write the date in the month/day/year format, then the digits of the date 3/14/15 correspond to the first 5 digits of pi: 3.1415.
But that is not all. This year’s Pi Day goes a step further – at 9:26:53 am and 9:26:53 pm, the date and the time will exactly correspond to the first 10 digits of pi: 3.141592653.” -thanks to TimeandDate.com
When I read that I thought it was pretty amazing but you know what is more amazing?
My son called today because he wants to make a steak and kidney pie for a Pi Party he is attending on Saturday. He usually calls his Dad, the chef around here, when he has a cooking question. Curt tried to help him out even though he has never made a steak and kidney pie. Bottom line the hardest task will be finding kidneys. But we sent him recipes anyway, for steak & kidney pie, along with Beef Bourguignonne Pie and Cock-a-Leekie Pie. Nathan said he already had a recipe for a cheese pie, not a quiche, which he was going to try in addition to the S & K pie. Sounded interesting so we said if it turns out send us a picture…and the recipe.
Some of the recipes we sent him came from my February issue of Bon Appeitit magazine which gave me a head start on my pie making last week when I made a “Carmelized Garlic, Spinach and Cheddar Tart” from the same issue. Except, I substituted onion for the garlic. The garlic was supposed to be the hero of this dish (and I like garlic) but three heads of garlic just wasn’t getting me excited. So, after wresting the kitchen from my husband’s clutches, I pretty much followed this recipe except for the onion, the creme fraiche and the fancy crust. If you wish to see the original recipe it is linked above. Below is my variation.
Pillsbury pie crust (because I just don’t have my Grandmother’s ambition)
4 large eggs
1 large onion (cut into wedges)1 Tbls olive oil
1 Tbls balsamic vinegar
1 Tbls pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp dried rosemary or (1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary if you have fresh)
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme ( I had fresh thyme )
freshly grd black pepper
6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups baby spinach (torn in pieces)
3/4 C sour cream
3/4 C heavy cream
Unroll one of the Pillsbury crusts and line a 9″ pie pan. Turn up the edges and crimp with a fork. Line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans and bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. I crimped aluminum foil on the edges so they wouldn’t dry out or over bake, the one problem I have with pre-made dough. If crust bottom is not dry after 20 min. put it in for about 5 more minutes without the paper and beans. Remove, let cool.
Meanwhile put the onion wedges and olive oil in a pan and cook till the onions start to soften and turn a light brown. The wedges will fall apart but still will be in bigger pieces than if you cut slices. Add vinegar and 3/4 -1 cup water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer till onion is really tender. Add maple syrup, rosemary, thyme and salt and pepper. Cook until liquid is syrupy but there will still be onion pieces present, maybe 5 minutes.
Take your cooled crust and scatter the cheese over the bottom, top with the spinach. Whisk the sour cream, the cream and the 4 eggs in a medium bowl, season with salt and pepper. Pour over spinach…it does fit. I was at first unsure and only used three eggs and then realized I needed the fourth. Add the onion mixture evenly on top.
Bake at 350 till custard is set and golden brown in spots about 40-45 minutes. I put foil on the edges again for part of the time. Cool on wire rack.
Because of the sour cream the custard will be very soft, not firm like a straight egg custard, but trust me, it is cooked through and tastes yummy.
For Saturday, official Pi Day, I am planning on making Shepherd’s Pie. That is if I can reserve my spot in the kitchen.
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.
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.
- 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)
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.
BAKE. Yes, fans and friends, we are back to what we do best, prepare some yummy food. Since it is me and not my Sweetie, we’ll be having dessert today. He’s the savory, spicy one of our duo.
Some foodie friends recently introduced me to a new cookbook, PIES: Sweet and Savory by Caroline Bretherton. I immediately got it from the library because I like to look at a book like this first, try some recipes and get the feel for it, before I plunk down dollars to make it my own. So far this book has a lot of potential. It’s filled with meat pies, quiches, filo pies, tortes and tarts. Some of the pot pies look great and I will revisit them soon but the recipe that first caught my eye was the Apple Tourte with Nuts and Raisins. They describe it as a French”pielike” classic, I think it is more cakelike. The picture was great, and I’m a sucker for pictures, so off I went to gather my ingredients.
7 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup self-rising flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 sweet apples, peeled, cored and finely sliced
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
The rest is really easy.
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and line w/parchement paper the bottom of an 8″ round springform pan.
Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
Whisk the sugar, vanilla and eggs together in a large bowl. Whisk in the cooled melted butter until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Sift in the flour and cinnamon and fold it together well. Finally, fold in the apples, raisins and walnuts.
Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. As you walk your pan over to the oven watch out for cats who insist on getting underfoot, thinking you are going to drop chicken or grated cheese on the floor.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until it is well risen and golden brown, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
Set it aside to rest for 15 minutes before serving warm with whipped cream, or cold as a cake (see, they now are saying cake!) Serves 8. Can be stored, well wrapped up to 2 days.
And baking on a cold day is a good thing, the temperature outside is up to -12. Who-hoo!!