Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lighten Up!

After finishing off 2008 with a complex and calorie laden dessert, the Daring Bakers decided to lighten things up for the start of the new year. The first challenge of '09 was to make Tuiles, the light, thin cookies you often see shaped into curves, or cones and filled with a sweet treat like chocolate mousse or cream. Tuiles can also be savory as in Thomas Keller's classic savory salmon tartar cornets - savory tuiles filled with a salmon mousse that look like an ice cream cone.

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

I opted to stick with the basic sweet version, and copied the idea posted in the challenge, to make my tuiles shaped as butterflies, because I knew H would like butterfly cookies. You can make any shape you can make a stencil for, and you can make the stencil out of almost anything. You want to keep it quite thin however, maybe a 1/16th of an inch. I used a piece of thin, stiff cardboard, and cut the butterfly shape out of it. When you are are ready to make the cookies, use an offset spatula to smear the dough across your stencil, lift the stencil up and reuse it for the next cookie.

We had the pleasure of serving these cookies alongside some wonderful mini lemon souffles that our good friend (and great cook) Cat brought over. I had made lemon cream from the Tartine cookbook to go with the tuiles, so the meyer lemon souffles Cat made were a perfect addition. It ended up being a great dessert that topped off a wonderful meal (I'll be blogging that soon!).

Butterfly Tuiles

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

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

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

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

Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from baking sheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pizza Night

Every once in a while we like to have pizza night. It's always fun because you can put together any sort of combo you want for your own personal pizza creation. This is another good way to clean out the fridge, because almost everything tastes good on a pizza. That said, I also have some very strict traditional neapolitan/NY pizza beliefs, but those fly out the window on the fridge clearing pizza nights.

I had some Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day style semolina dough in the fridge. Although I am trying to expand my bread baking skills, I still have a love for the 5 minute a day bread. It's there, hanging out, ready for an impromptu pizza night celebration at a moment's notice.

This night I didn't have any mozzarella in the house so we got creative. I made a BBQ chicken and cheddar pizza for the kids. I ended up making another one later in the evening, just to finish up the dough, with some peppers and onions added.

For R and I, I made a prosciutto, roasted potato, caramelized onion, and feta pizza. It was really good, but I couldn't shake the feeling that it was something that would have been on the menu at L'idiot in the movie LA Story with Steve Martin. It just had this very yuppy/hipster/1989/California feel. Who cares? It was good.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Finally - Some Good Old Fashioned Sandwich Bread

I swear I have been planning to make sandwich bread for the family for about 9 months now. I had this dream of delicious and healthy bread, whole grains, and no preservatives. This was going to be the perfect bread for PB and J, swiss cheese sandwiches, and toast with butter and jam. As it turns out - all true.

I finally got around to making sandwich bread, and I took the advice of Susan from A Year in Bread and Farm Girl Fare (whose recipe I used) and baked three loaves at once. After they cooled, I put two into the freezer and we ate one of them throughout the week.

The bread is quite good, definitely better than the store bought alternative. It was a bit weird for me, having only baked crusty "artisan" breads as of late, to make a soft-crumbed and soft-crusted sandwich loaf. It came out just like sandwich bread. I'm not sure why that was so odd to me, but for some reason it was.

The original recipe uses a combo of flours including some white whole wheat. I didn't have enough of that in the house so I subbed some organic dark rye instead and it worked great. The dough handles very well, and really is not a lot of effort for the end result - three large loaves of healthy, delicious sandwich bread for your family.

Honey Wheat Bran Sandwich Bread
Adapted from A Year In Bread

4 cups | 568 g all-purpose flour
2 cups | 290 g bread flour
1 cup | 122 g oat bran
1 cup | 109 g wheat bran
1-1/2 Tablespoons | 17 g instant yeast
2 Tablespoons | 30 ml canola oil or melted butter
1/3 cup |102 g honey
5 cups lukewarm milk (about 85 degrees F)
4 cups | 453 g white whole wheat flour
1 cup | 155 g rye flour2 Tablespoons | 30 ml salt

Mixing and fermentation
In a very large bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour, bread flour, oat bran, wheat bran, and yeast. Pour in the canola oil, the honey, and then the milk. Mix well, then continue to stir vigorously. Stir in the rye flour, and then slowly add 1 cup of the white whole wheat flour at a time, until you've added 3 cups, or until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough. This should take a few minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 6 or 7 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface. This is too much dough for me to knead in the stand mixer, but it kneads easily by hand.

Place the mixing bowl over the dough, and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Remove the bowl, flatten out the dough with your hands, and sprinkle about half of the salt over it. Begin kneading the salt into the dough. After a few turns, sprinkle on the rest of the salt and continue to knead for 5 to 7 minutes, until the salt is completely incorporated and the dough is soft and smooth.

Place the dough in a large plastic straight sided container with a snap-on lid. With masking tape or a felt tip pen, mark the spot on the container that the dough will reach when it has doubled in volume. Set it somewhere that is preferably between 70F and 78F for about one hour. During the winter, I put it in the oven with the oven light on. Ideally, the dough should also be between 70F and 78F - you can check with an instant read thermometer.

Shaping and final rise (proof)
Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, flattening gently with your hands to break up any large air bubbles. Divide the dough into three equal pieces.

Shape the dough into loaves and dust the tops with flour. Place loaves seam side down in greased loaf pans.

Cover the loaves with a damp tea towel and let them rise for 45 to 60 minutes. The dough should rise well above the rim of the pans, and when you lightly poke it with a floured finger it should spring back just a little.

Bake in a preheated oven (on a stone if you have one) at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown and the bottoms sound hollow if tapped (you can carefully pop one out of the pan and put it back in if it's not quite done). Remove immediately from pans and let cool on a wire rack. Wait at least 40 minutes before cutting into a loaf, as it continues to bake while cooling. Store at room temperature or freeze in zipper freezer bags. Make sure loaves are completely cooled before sealing in bags.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chili Pepper Sauce - 3 Ways

Turns out, peppers like neglect. Several months ago, we wrapped up the summer garden and sort of ignored everything for a few weeks. Lo and behold, a trip around the garden revealed that apparently, we had been over watering the peppers, because once they dried out from our neglect, they flourished. We had five pepper plants overflowing with chilis -jalapeno, fresno, serrano, thai dragon, and a bell pepper that had cross pollinated with the others into the hottest bell pepper you've ever tasted.

At the same time, I ran across a recipe on Mark Bittman's blog that I was excited to make and would use up all of the peppers.

Because we had several varieties of chilis and they were at different levels of ripeness, I ended up make three different styles of sauce. The red one is a mix of four different chilis - jalapeno, fresno, serrano, thai dragon - all picked when ripe red. The lighter green sauce is a mix of the same four chilis picked when still green, and the darker green sauce is a mix of fire roasted bell pepper, jalepeno and fresno chilis (cooked on the grill, skinned, and seeded) with a few fresh serranos tossed in for heat.

The chilis are blended with salt and white vinegar, boiled for about ten minutes and cooled for three days on the counter. They can then be kept in the fridge indefinitely.

Each sauce has a unique flavor and they are all amazing. The red sauce is a very classic chili sauce that adds nice heat with a bit of sweetness. The light green sauce is similar but more floral than sweet, and the roasted sauce is not as hot, but has an amazing depth of flavor - smoky and rich.

There are no exacts in this "recipe"; it's really more of a method.

Chili Pepper Sauce

A mix of fresh chilis - as much as you have - stemmed, and seeded if you want, but it doesn't make a big difference.

Put the stemmed chilies in a blend, add a handful of salt, eyeball it, but make sure it's at least several tablespoons, even a 1/4 cup or so.
Add white vinegar until the chilies are fully submerged.
Blend well, pulsing on and off until well mixed and blended.
Pour the sauce into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
Cook for about 10 minutes.
Cool a bit and decant to jars.
Cover with a towel and let sit for three days.
The vinegar will separate from the bulk of the pepper sauce. It will rise to the top. Pour off the majority of this peppery vinegar and reserve for other uses.
Cover jars with lids and put in fridge.

NOTE: While blending and cooking the sauce, don't inhale the fumes, and try to work in a well-ventilated area. This stuff is pretty powerful and will linger in the air for some time.

Use on eggs, chicken, fish etc. Anything really. You're going to find yourself scrambling eggs just as an excuse to eat more pepper sauce!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fridge-Clearing Potato and White Bean Pasta

Towards the end of the week I often run out of ideas for what to make for dinner. I am trying to get better about not overstuffing the fridge and tossing food we don't eat, so I look for dishes I can put together that will use up a bunch of what we have around. This meal was one of our recent fridge-clearing experiments, but it turned out so good, it was declared an instant winner.

I had some yukon golds, a few bell pepper halves, green onions, and one carrot in the veggie crisper and a few meyer lemons on the counter. I always have a few types of pasta and usually a can or two of several types of beans in the cupboard. The whole meal came together quickly and was fresh and delicious. The vegetables and quantities can vary depending on what you have, but the white beans and potatoes make this dish special. We served it with some broccoli that was quickly blanched, put in an ice bath to stop the cooking, and then dressed with salt, pepper, toasted bread crumbs, and a squeeze of meyer lemon.

Fridge-Clearing Potato and Bean Pasta

3-4 medium yukon gold (or red) potatoes, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1 Cup chopped onion (white, yellow, red, or any mix thereof)
4 cloves minced garlic
1 Cup chopped bell pepper (green, red, yellow, or any mix thereof)
1 Carrot, chopped
1 14.5 oz can white beans
1 14.5 oz can of broth (chicken, or veggie, or ideally homemade, but the can works fine)
1 lb. + favorite pasta shape (something smallish)
1 or 2 meyer lemons
grated pecorino or good parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

In a pot large enough to cook the pasta, parboil potatoes in a lot of salted boiling water till softened, but not cooked through (about 8 min.).

In a large saute pan, saute onions in olive oil over medium heat until they turn translucent and start to brown slightly (5-10 min.).

Drain potatoes with a slotted spoon and add to the onions with the garlic and saute for several minutes.

Add pasta to the water you cooked the potatoes in, and cook according to package directions.

Add peppers and carrots to onions and potatoes and saute for 5-10 minutes to let veggies soften and cook. Season with salt and pepper.

Add beans and broth to veggies, cover, and simmer.

When pasta is done (and drained) and sauce has cooked down slightly, toss veggie and pasta together.

Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Squeeze a few halves of meyer lemon over the pasta and serve with pecorino.