Tag Archives: bread

Easter Sunday (and Easter Monday) Dining

Sorry for the delay in posting … no real reason.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend with friends and family. Four days off seems like a lot but, amazingly, it’s Monday already and they flew by. It was a mild weekend so I went outside and bbq’d a tray of lamb shoulder chops, a package of asparagus and a package of jumbo hot dogs for my Easter dinner. It was all delicious.

Supper – Chickpea soup with a crispy kale garnish and the lamb chops, kale salad, sweet potatoes and grilled asparagus.

Instead of buns or rolls, I used part of the dough from the traditional Romanian Easter bread, pasca, which I posted already, to make a pull-apart braided cross.

And here’s the star of the meal. The cheese filling is an accent not the main feature.

I cut some of the flowers from the front ‘garden’ for my Easter table and though the daffodils are all faded (they were gorgeous last weekend) the narcissus are beautiful, as always. My dad’s plantings are doing him proud yet again.

And speaking of plants, I planted a small egg tray (2 seeds in each of 6 cups) of lavender seeds a couple of weeks ago but there’s no sign of any seedlings yet. I’m not quite sure why I decided to plan them, but I have had this package of seeds for a while so I thought I’d give it another try in the face of previous fails.  UPDATE (04/22) : only 1 seedling germinated. It was never a very successful package of seeds so I suspect there was something wrong from the source.

I’m debating on what else I should plant this year from my collection of seed packets. Mostly herbs since that’s mostly what I have. Basil (Italian and Thai), some shiso since none of the four or so lovely plants I had in the house over-wintered successfully indoors, from the fall planting. One leaf after another dropped off until all I was left with was a bare stalk with faded blossoms on it. I suppose I could have gathered the seeds but I didn’t plan ahead. As to the mitsuba, I have one very leafy plant sitting on the window sill in the entry way. I pinched off the older faded leaves as a new furl appeared in the center and now I have huge leaves on it. The pot isn’t very large or deep but I’m wary of transplanting in case the shock causes them all to drop off.

It seems like the sage plant I bought from the city market has overwintered successfully outside without any type of covering but the rosemary … I’m pretty sure it’s dead. Thyme, oregano and mint plants were also in the pots but it’s too soon to tell if they’re going to come back.

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Pasca cu aluat de cozonac (Romanian Easter Bread)

There are several kinds of Easter bread or preparations called variously, pasca or pascha or paska. One is even a molded type of cheese. But this version, made with the same sweet yeast dough as cozonac, has a sweetened cheesecake filling. The cheese used is a dry curd cheese, though ricotta, drained cottage cheese or even cream cheese has been used in recipes I’ve seen on line. I had a bit of cottage cheese in the fridge but not enough for the recipe I wanted to try so I made a batch of paneer (cheese made from acid curdled milk) which I drained well and used instead.

I wanted a higher cheese to bread ratio so I only used 1 1/2 pounds of dough (instead of the full two pounds the dough recipe makes) for the pasca.

Paneer – freshly made curd and after being drained and pressed

 

The sponge for the dough was allowed to proof for 30 minutes and was then combined with the rest of the ingredients

Dough shaped into base and braided border – next time I have to press down the center area where the cheese is spooned in.

 

I made a braided bread cross with the remaining dough.

 

In Romania and other countries where the pasca is made, it has deeper religious meaning, but it’s also a very tasty bread enjoyed at this time of the year.

Honey Whole Wheat – Trio of Experiments

An early pair of experiments in which I transformed a yeast mini loaf recipe into one with JUST sourdough was a success so I repeated it here, in reverse, starting with yeast and sourdough (SD) starter and gradually reducing the amount of yeast used. I baked the bread in an actual loaf pan … something I rarely do … just because I’m bored and this will at least make me feel like I did SOMETHING productive. The bread was pretty good too, though next time, I’m only going to use whole wheat in the starter, as I’m not very fond of the taste in the finished loaf.

Nice bubbly starter fed with all purpose and whole wheat results in a ‘poofy’ dough after bulk proofing. Don’t you just love the technical jargon of bread baking?

Experiment 1 – 2 tsp of dry yeast and <1 cup of SD starter, mostly all purpose (AP) flour but with some whole wheat (WW), 2 lbs of dough all baked in one 9×5″ loaf pan, at 375 deg F.

I learned not to trust internet sources too much as 2 lbs of dough were obviously too much for the 9 by 5 inch bread pan and I ended up with a mushroom topped shape. Over proofing probably didn’t help. Oh, and the cracks in the crust? I dropped the pan as I was transferring it to the cooling rack. (sigh)

Experiment 2 – 1 tsp of dry yeast and <1 cup of SD starter, as above, 1 1/2 lbs of dough baked in loaf pan and the other 1/2 lbs of dough were baked in a smaller disposable aluminum foil pan. The resulting mini loaf was quickly sliced and devoured … for quality assurance, you understand.

Using only 1 1/2 lbs of dough in my pan gave me a much nicer final loaf shape after baking. I proofed the loaf a bit longer as I had reduced the yeast to 1 tsp, rather than 2 tsp, while still keeping the same amount of starter.

Experiment 3NO YEAST, only <1 cup SD starter, as above, 1 1/2 lb of dough baked in loaf pan, rest of the dough (>1/2 lbs) shaped into crescent rolls. I used 1 cup of  WW flour to ~ 2 1/4 cups of AP flour in this final trial.

Shaping the crescent rolls – > 1/2 lbs dough rolled out into an 8 x 14 inch rectangle. Triangles had a base of 7 inches resulting in 3 perfect triangles and a 4th triangle pieced together out of the two end halves.

PS: Gave away the loaves from Experiment 2 and 3, as well as the 3 crescent rolls, so I only have the brioche buns I made a while back and some of the bread from Experiment 1 left in the freezer.

I may write up the recipe of a basic version of this loaf but it’s pretty repetitive of previous ones I’ve posted.

Sourdough French Baguettes, Naan and Popovers

I know … you’re probably thinking I should rename this LJ/blog “The Sourdough Fanatic” with all the sourdough baking I’ve been doing. It’s addictive even though, as I’ve said before, I don’t actually like sourdough bread that much. At least not the ‘artisanal’ high hydration doughs with the big holes. However, feeding that jar of starter on the top of my fridge and watching it double in a couple of hours, and then triple, before finally collapsing as the gas produced stretches the gluten strands past their limit is something that must be experienced.

And I really liked the sourdough tortillas I made so, when I ran out, I had to make more on which to serve the chicken fajitas from a recent purchase of boneless, skinless breasts.

And, let’s be honest. Baking bread is cheap.

Even if it’s not the greatest bread in the world, you can turn it into croutons or bread crumbs, or dressing as I did with some of the jalapeno-old cheddar cheese sourdough I baked recently. Not that it wasn’t good, I just needed some bread to go into the giblet and rice dressing I made to serve with my roast turkey.

Did I post a picture?

No?

Well, just one of the outside of the loaf.

I tried making French baguettes out of Carole L’s no knead sourdough using the shaping technique I used in my previous attempt at sourdough French baguettes. They tasted great and the crunchy, chewy crust and toothsome interior can’t be beat fresh out of the oven. But they don’t hold up. By the second day, the crust has softened and the interior is dense. You can warm it up in the oven and it’s edible, but no where close to its previous state. Still, it was an interesting experiment. And I had fun practicing my slashing technique.

I also used some of my sourdough starter to make Indian naan or flatbread. The first batch was plain but I fancied up the second batch by adding dried fenugreek leaves (methi) and powdered garlic. A bit of melted butter on the warm naan and it’s a wonderful snack or vehicle with which to pick up and eat a saucy curry dish.

And, before I dried the last of the sourdough starter I had revived this time, I used the King Arthur recipe for a quick batch of eggy sourdough popovers. Whether you serve them with a roast beef dinner or enjoy them with honey and a cup of coffee for breakfast, it’s a great way to use up some of that sourdough starter.

Well, that should satisfy my craving to nurture sourdough for a while

Visual Guide to Baking Carole L’s No Knead SD Bread

This easy no knead, sourdough bread recipe was shared by Carole L on FB. I took a number of pictures at different stages during the bake as a visual reminder of what one would expect when making it.

Dough 1 – just mixed                            Dough 1 – 6 hrs later, room temp (70 deg F)

Dough 1 – 15 hrs later                        Dough 2 – mixed, shaped and put in bowl  to rise

Dough 2 – after 2 hrs of proofing           Dough 2 – turned out onto parchment paper
at room temp

Slashed and ready to bake                     Baked

Loaf cut in half to see the crumb

French Baguettes 2 Ways

ETA: The 2nd version, with sourdough, would be considered the ‘best’ of the bunch. I like the first version.

I’ve made ‘baguettes’ before using regular bread dough, and even sourdough, but the attempts didn’t really conform to the traditional recipe (no sugar, just yeast or starter, flour, water and salt) and shaping of the real thing. I wanted to join a recent sourdough French baguette event on a FB group I belong to but didn’t have any active starter as it’s been either frozen or dried.

An attempt to thaw and build up some of my first sourdough starter from the freezer was a failure as I rushed things and overfed the small amount of live yeast in the frozen starter. I ended up adding some of the failed starter to a regular yeast bread recipe because I didn’t want to waste the flour. I even made a “lame” with a razor blade (package of 5 for $4) and a bamboo skewer so I could I could do proper slashes. I rehydrated some dried starter for the second try.

Lame

Comparison between the two baguette trials … the baguette on the left of the picture (yeast one) was pulled from the freezer so it looks a bit shriveled.

French baguette Trial #1 – yeast (plus failed starter from the freezer so as not to waste the flour). I used Kat’s French bread recipe from FB as a base but omitted the Vital wheat gluten.

 

The slashes opened up during baking but the placement was a bit off.

French baguette Trial #2 – sourdough using the recipe here and referring to the YouTube video for shaping

Crumb of the yeast (left) and the sourdough (right) baguettes

  

Pork Crackling Yeast “Biscuits” Redux

It’s been almost a year since I last made these pork crackling biscuits and I’ve been wanting to make some for the last month or so. They’re not particularly pretty  (I still took a lot of pictures to make up for the bad ones posted before) but they’re fluffy and tender from the pork fat in the cracklings. Some recipes grind half the cracklings to a paste and leave the other half more granular, but I kept them all granular. Duck fat was used to help create the layers.

Chunks of ground pork cracklings give texture and flavour to the biscuits

Two Different Finishes to the Biscuits  – The cuts on top should have been only 1/4 inch apart but I got lazy. The top layer slid off so it wasn’t as photogenic as the ones I made a number of years ago.

Pork Cracklings – cut into chunks and then ground

Layering the Dough

Duck Fat Brioche, Oreo Fudge and Chicken Livers

Work is slow in January, after the return from the Christmas break, and as teachers gear up for the last few weeks before the end of the fall semester. So, when I was at home on the first day back, I decided to make another batch of the duck fat brioche dough that I’ve posted already. In the meantime, I’ve eaten several of the rolls I made and assembled sandwiches from the rest, which are all wrapped up and in the freezer. So, I need bread.

I decided to post the brioche recipe to make it more convenient for anyone who wants to give it a try and doesn’t want to have to deal with eliminating the sourdough starter from the recipe.

You can shape the dough in various ways, as seen in the previous post. I made 9 inch long hoagies and rolls using a couple of different braiding techniques, this time.

One strand braids, Easter wreaths and a mini hoagie

Duck Fat Brioche Dough – makes ~ 1 kg/2.2 lb dough, enough for about 16 buns or rolls

1 cup warm milk (or 1 cup water and 1 tbsp milk powder)
1 tbsp dry active yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 1/4-4 1/2 all purpose flour (or a combination of all purpose, bread and semolina flour), divided
1/4 cup melted duck fat (or bacon fat or butter, if you can’t get the duck fat )
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg and 1 tbsp water, for egg wash

Dissolve the sugar in the warm milk, then stir in the yeast. Let sit and proof until foamy, about 10-15 min depending on temperature in the room.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of flour and the salt and mix through. Make a well in the middle and add your eggs, melted fat and yeast mixture. Beat well with a large wooden or metal spoon until you get a sticky batter. Gradually stir in the remaining flour, 1/3-1/2 cup at a time until you can no longer stir it and a ball starts forming around the spoon. Turn the batter onto a lightly floured working surface and gradually knead in more flour until you get a soft but not sticky dough. It will take you about 7-10 minutes. You can take a break after 5 minutes. Cover the dough with the bowl that you made your bread in and after a few minutes continue kneading.

Oil a large bowl, place your ball of dough into the bowl and turn it around a bit so the ball gets lightly coated with oil as well. Cover the bowl with a large sheet of plastic food wrap and a clean towel and place in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, 1 – 1 1/2 hr depending on the temperature in the room.

Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 2 portions. Divide each half into 8 portions and shape as desired.

Cover with an oiled sheet of plastic food wrap (oil the one you used previously) and a clean towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 45 min to 1 hr.

Preheat the oven to 425 deg F. (For the buns or rolls, you can preheat the oven to 375-400 deg F.)

Brush the buns or rolls with egg wash and bake until the top is golden brown and the bottom is firm, about 18-22 minutes. If you think you need to bake a bit longer, cover the tops with a sheet of aluminum foil and continue baking for several more minutes.

Hoagie buns – you can make about 8 6-8 inch long buns (113.5 g/ 1/4 lb each). When baked, you’ll end up with a 9 inch long hoagie or submarine bun. For 12 inch hoagies, you might want to use double the amount of dough (227 g/ 1/2 lb)

For the Oreo cookie fudge switch-up, I used the basic vanilla fudge recipe, added a couple of ounces of finely shaved white chocolate and 6 crumbled Oreo cookies.

I know not everyone likes chicken livers but I do. So I bought 2 pounds, cleaned them up and then fried them in a couple of tablespoons of canola oil with a finely chopped onion, a splash of French brandy and a bit of paprika for colour. Delicious over mashed potatoes or the creamy polenta below.

Brioche Dough … Kaiser Rolls and Hamburger Buns

A brioche dough is a type of enriched dough. Milk, butter and eggs give you a lovely tender crumb and, whether you shape it into a bread loaf or any of the many shapes of buns and rolls, you’ll be happy with the result.

Crumb of the rolls

I used a basic brioche recipe as I have in the past for my hybrid hamburger buns, sans sourdough starter. (Replace the starter with ~ 2/3 flour and 1/3 liquid.) I DID make one other important change. Instead of using butter, I used leftover duck fat, for an even richer flavour.

Half of my dough (~2 lbs total) ended up as kaiser rolls and the other half was portioned slightly larger into buns.

 

December 2016 Cooking Wrap-Up

Cooking wise, if not in other respects, 2016 has been a successful year.

I made a second sourdough starter with canned pineapple juice and whole wheat flour and then made some great breads with it. I thickened it up quite a bit compared to the one I made in 2105 and that may have accounted for some of the success. Experience helped as well, as I’m less hesitant about trying new sourdough recipes. I did revisit the old stand-by, regular yeast, and made a delicious honey challah just before Christmas. Definitely something I’ll be repeating next year.

Bacon, Cheddar Cheese and Cracked Black Pepper Sourdough loaf and round Honey Challah

Crumb of the challah

Cooking on an even stricter budget than ever before resulted in having to be creative with simple ingredients bought on sale, like chicken, pork and ground beef, or leftovers, and the results were mostly successful. You’ll have to scroll back through the posts to see them. I do miss fish, seafood and steak however. I’m also grocery shopping less often and there’s less wastage as I try to use up what’s most perishable first. I’m also going back to basics with the dishes I’ve been making such as cookies and fudge. I haven’t been buying as many jarred sauces as in the past, while using up the ones I already have in things like stir-fries.

The meat sauce I made recently with a simple spaghetti sauce base was delicious as well as economical.  One pound of ground beef was stretched to make eight cups of sauce.

I turned some leftover mashed sweet potato into muffins with raisins for added sweetness using a recipe found on Rachel Ray’s web site.

And because I missed seafood … I bought a package of mussels in garlic sauce on sale, and one of cooked shrimp, and made this pasta dish with the spaghetti sauce.