Monthly Archives: November 2016

Post Thanksgiving / Pre-Christmas Doldrums in Cooking

If it weren’t for bread and soups, I wouldn’t be doing much new cooking at all these days. I’m not counting the six kinds of fudge I’ve made since Thanksgiving.

These are no knead sourdough breads where gluten development comes about from letting flour, water and starter autolyse for a long time at room temperature. Unlike high hydration doughs, which develop their gluten through a series of stretches and folds, and produce artisanal loaves full of large holes, the crumb of these loaves is more dense and you get lovely sandwich type breads as a result.

SweetDried Cranberry, Honey and Orange Zest

You can use various fresh or dried fruit, nuts and zest to make each loaf different.

SavouryBacon, Old White Cheddar and Cracked Black Pepper

I decided to stick with just a few ingredients so as to let them stand out in this loaf but dried herbs, and inclusions like black olives, pickled or fresh peppers (jalapeno or serrano), seeds and grains and even caramelized onion can be added.

A basic soup includes a liquid like a stock or water, a flavourful vegetable mixture, a starch (potato, pasta or rice), a protein (meat or dried bean or lentil), herbs and seasonings.

Italian sausage tortellini in a marinara broth and Turkey and wild rice in a light chicken stock

Beef and pot barley soup and Creamy turkey, potato gnocchi and veggie soup

Odds and Ends

Breakfast of sunny side up eggs, bacon and toasted sourdough bread

Pan-fried pork chop, mashed potatoes and coleslaw and home made ricotta filled beet (root) pasta ravioli in browned butter, sage and pine nut sauce with garnish of grated Parmesan cheese

Eye of Round Roast – a bit overcooked but I made a lovely gravy with the drippings/au jus

Purchased mititei/mici (skinless Romanian sausages) as part of a quick meal including several dips … marinara sauce, tzatziki sauce and hummus

Sourdough Duo – Carole L’s Bread and Rosemary and Garlic Focaccia

ETA: A quick picture of a holiday loaf version of Carole’s bread … Dried Cranberry, Honey and Orange Zest.

Add-in: 1 cup dried cranberries, 1 tbsp honey and 1 tbsp orange zest.

I decided to combine two sourdough bread posts into one to reduce the post overload. I’m putting Carole L’s bread (two versions) first because I’m including the recipe with it (it’s only available on FB and I’m rewriting the instructions with more information). I’m also going to make it again while I’m unlikely to repeat the focaccia one. It was good but not amazing.

Carole L’s No Knead Sourdough Loaf

Trial 1 – plain, baked at temperatures and times given

I over proofed the bread before baking so my slashes weren’t very effective

Trial 2 – Parmesan, basil pesto and pine nuts, baked at higher temperatures, with time adjustments

Crust is nice and crunchy … a bit of pressure and it cracked

Parmesan, Pesto and Pine Nut Small Sourdough – makes one 1 1/2 pound/ 700 gm baked loaf

Dough 1

1 1/2 cups flour (all purpose or bread flour)
1/2 cup room temperature water
1/2 cup sourdough starter

Dough 2

1 1/2 cups flour (all purpose or bread flour)
1/2 cup room temperature water
1 tsp salt

Optional add-ins:
For the 3P version above, I used 2 tbsp each of grated parmesan cheese, basil pesto and pine nuts. I’m thinking of doing a cranberry and orange version for Christmas.

In a large bowl with a lid or a container that you can seal well with saran wrap, mix together the ingredients for Dough 1 and form a ball. Cover the bowl and leave on the counter at room temperature (~70 deg F) for at least 12 hours. (Longer is fine. I left the first attempt for over 20 hrs which helped develop the ‘sour’ taste that gives sourdough its name.)

The next day, add the ingredients for Dough 2, including any add-ins you might like and knead for 2-3 minutes.

Shape into a boule (ball) or batard (torpedo shape) using a bit of flour and place into a banneton or a bowl lined with a flour dusted linen type towel. Make sure your bowl is large enough for the dough to double in size. If the bowl has a lid, use it, otherwise, place the bowl into a large plastic bag and tie it close. (Some heat is generated during the rising process. You wouldn’t think so, but it’s true. Keep it in if you can.) Place the bowl in a warm place for about 2 hours.

After an hour, preheat the oven with a dutch oven, including lid, to 500 deg F/260 deg C.

NOTE: Test the dough for rise (it may not double) after about 1 1/2 hrs to see if it’s risen enough by pressing lightly with your finger tip to about 1/2 an inch in depth. You want the dough to spring back a bit … not immediately, cause that means it’s not proofed long enough. If you press down on the dough, and the shape of your finger remains, you’ve over proofed it. Oh well.

Turn out your dough into your hot dutch oven. If you’re afraid to burn yourself, line a large baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper and turn it over onto your rising bowl. Then flip the bowl so your dough ends up on the parchment paper. Transfer the dough including the parchment paper sling into your dutch oven.

Place the dutch oven lid on top and bake for 30 minutes. You may want to throw a couple of ice cubes into the dutch oven before you add your bread, but that’s not essential.

Take the lid off the dutch oven, reduce the heat to 425 deg F/220 deg C and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes.

Remove the dutch oven from the oven and cool the bread on a cooling rack for at least 2-3 hours before cutting.

* * *

I was going to bake another tartine loaf but then I saw an amazing focaccia on a FB sourdough group and gave it a shot. I still cut my breads too soon after baking but, as a new sourdough baker, I just can’t wait to see what that crumb looks like.

The recipe I used was found here. I steeped minced garlic and finely chopped fresh rosemary in warmed extra virgin olive oil and then basted the oil over the top of the dough before I baked it. I think I went a bit overboard on the rosemary for my taste but otherwise, it’s a tasty bread to split and use as a sandwich bread or for dipping into stew, marinara sauce or seasoned extra virgin olive oil. The texture of the bread is quite similar to a loaf of ciabatta bread, but shaped into a flat sheet so there’s no ‘wastage’ with the taller areas of a loaf.

Before and after baking

Cut into strips and dip into marinara sauce or split in half and toast for sandwiches.

Repeated … Asian Themed Dishes

I’ve been craving sushi again … and you know what THAT means.

I make a bunch of my favourite Chinese and Japanese dishes, take pictures of them and share them with you all.

Okonomiyaki (Japanese cabbage pancake) – I diced some fake crab legs (surimi) and added it to the pancake mixture. The cooked strips of bacon are added to the top of the pancake before it’s flipped over and the top is cooked. I’m wrapping the two I made and freezing them away for future meals.

Szechuan shrimp and broccoli over longevity lo mein noodles – 3/4 of a pound of white Pacific shrimp in a spicy sweet and sour type sauce. I bought a bundle of broccoli cheap (88 cents). It was most mostly stem and very little florette so I threw in all the florettes and froze some of the stem for vegetable stock.

Sticky Asian drumsticks

Sushi hand rolls (temaki sushi) – A shiso (perilla) leaf gives these hand rolls a great fresh flavour. And they’re so inexpensive. Cook up a cup of sushi rice and you have enough rice for 8-10 hand rolls.

All you need is a drizzle of soy sauce before devouring these beauties.

Odds and Ends of Meals over the last 4 weeks

Warning: LOTS of pictures

I haven’t made anything post worthy in ages. Maybe the sourdough focaccia I made a few days ago. But, I’m sure you’ve had enough of my sourdough/bread posts. (Or, maybe, not.)

Still, a woman’s got to eat and I’ve been doing pretty well over the last 2-4 weeks.

I even made some Halloween themed sugar cookies and tried to decorate them. THAT was fun … NOT!

At least they tasted good.

Snacks like spicy salami, brie and quince paste on toasted crostini (I bought a baguette at the grocery store).

Various meals … mostly chicken (or turkey) and pork

Hot Italian sausage in a creamy blush sauce over shell pasta

Sourdough Tartine loaf toasted and topped with tuna or egg salad. A few pancakes with the sourdough starter discard. (The rest of the starter ended up in that focaccia, I mentioned.)