Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ciabatta Using Double Flour Addition and Double Hydration

Saturday, January 16, 2010

This is another bread from,Steve B's website devoted to "professional quality baked goods from a home kitchen." I was quite worried about him because he hasn't blogged since June 14 of 2009. But then I noticed that he's been faithfully answering people's questions on his blog, so I could stop fretting about his well-being.
I made his version of white whole-wheat bread and grumbled about its being bitter. But there will be no grumbling about this bread. I wanted to try this bread for a few reasons: first, the photos on Steve B's blog looked gorgeous and second, I couldn't resist the title with its uber-scientific "double hydration" and double flour addition method. All it means is that you add both the water and the flour in two separate additions, which turns out not to be so mysterious after all. I got the gorgeous-looking bread, learned a few new techniques, and loved the taste of the ciabatta.
It starts out with a poolish that's mixed together quickly and left standing at room temperature for about 12 hours, so it's perfect to do the night before you're ready to start making the bread.

In the morning, you mix the poolish with some of the water and olive oil, using the whisk attachment (new technique #1) until it's mixed to a "homogeneous slurry" (new word combination #1). Some of the flour is whisked in, and then the rest of the flour added, switching to the dough attachment (this is the "double flour addition").
Oh, and by the way, this recipe specifically calls for King Arthur Organic Select Artisan Flour. They may have changed the name, but this is the closest I could get.

Now comes the "double hydration" part.
You mix everything together except for about 40 grams of water. It's a fairly wet dough as it is, but after mixing and mixing, and allowing to rest, you add the additional water just a little at a time.

I don't know if you can see the difference in the picture on the left and the picture on the right, but it was actually great fun to watch the dough slowly absorb even more water.
Now I understand that "fun" is a relative concept, and if most people were asked to rate, say, 100 activities for their fun quality, and one of the 100 were "watching bread dough slowly absorb small amounts of water," that might, in a general election, come in last. But I get more enjoyment out of that than I would out of hang gliding, which doesn't sound at all fun.
You can see that after all the water is absorbed, it's a very wet dough.

After three hours of rising, the dough is divided in half.

Then this very wet dough is shaped, floured and placed on a couche to let rise again. This is new technique #2. When I mentally pictured the bread on the couche thing, I pictured a big horrible mess. I decided to give it a try anyway.

To my amazement, it wasn't a mess at all. The bread pretty much shaped itself into nice oblong loaves, and they didn't stick at all.
Here's what the directions say: "After proofing, the dough peices are gently flipped onto a transfer peel and then slid from the transfer peel onto an oven peel." Huh? I though I was doing good to have a peel. I definitely don't have one that I consider my transfer peel. I have a peel. One.
So I hoisted both breads on a baking pan lined with parchment and placed the pan on an oven stone. I couldn't decide whether the loaves should be dimpled, so I dimpled just one.

Both loaves came out of the oven looking crispy and golden brown, and smelling delicious. I think that the one I dimpled had a slightly more even shape.

I was so pleased with their appearance that I didn't want to cut into them. Steve B's pictures showed such big holes and great texture, and I was sure mine would not be up to snuff (maybe because I didn't have a transfer peel), but they had the promised "wide open interior crumb."

We ate this bread as an accompaniment to soup, but the bread is so good that the soup (which was good too) became an accompaniment to the bread. This is not a dead-easy bread, but it's worth the time it takes. It's one of those kinds of breads that will make you feel like a professional bread-baker, and it will wow your friends.

If you're wondering what I made for January Coffee Hour #3, it was these cranberry scones:

They're from America's Test Kitchen cookbook, and can also be found at Smittenkitchen.
I've already blogged about these, so I won't say anything more than that they're still about the best scone around: not dry, not too sweet, tender, flaky, and delicious. Add whatever you want. Make a glaze by brushing on cream and sprinkling on sugar (or not). They're hard to mess up.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cinnamon Sugar Popovers

Saturday, January 9, 2010

This is the second thing I've baked for our annual Saturday morning coffee hours. (The first, a chocolate streusel coffee cake, can be seen on heavenlycakeplace).
I got the idea for these cinnamon-and-sugar popovers from a comment by PinkNest on my Thanksgiving popovers. She said her favorite popovers were with cinnamon and sugar. She didn't say whether butter was involved in her equation, but I liked the idea of rolling them in butter and then in a cinnamon-sugar mix.
This popover recipe is so good! And you can either mix it up the night before, as I did, or make it immediately before putting the popovers in the pan. Just brush each pan with a bit of melted butter, heat the pan for a few minutes, and pour in the batter.

I truly believe these popovers, if made as directed, are foolproof. I have made them several times, and they have never failed to do exactly what they're supposed to do: rise up high and handsome with a delicious taste and a texture that's decidedly non-gummy.
I had a bowl of melted butter and a bowl of cinnamon and sugar waiting for them when they got out of the oven.

The popovers keep their shape, so it's not difficult to pick them up with tongs, roll them in butter, and then spoon the cinnamon-sugar over them.

The first guest arrived just as I was putting the popovers on a platter. She grabbed one off the platter, and was delighted with it.

In fact, everyone loved them. I don't think I've ever baked something for these Saturday morning open houses that anyone has liked better. Someone compared them to the beignets served at Cafe du Monde.

All the neighbors were trying to outdo themselves in flattering comments so they would be quoted in the tasting panel: "An incredible explosion of deliciousness!" I had to explain that I don't have a tasting panel feature in this blog. They couldn't believe it when I ran out. "Didn't you make two pans?" A neighbor who arrived after the twelve popovers were eaten was morose. "I only got up because you told me you were making cinnamon and sugar popovers."
It looks like I'd better make these again, and soon.

--From The Bread Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum
Wondra flour: 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons or 145 grams
Salt: 1/2 teaspoon
Sugar: 1/2 teaspoon
Whole milk: 1 liquid cup or 242 grams
Eggs: 2 large
Unsalted butter, melted and cooled: 4 tablespoons or 56 grams (divided)

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Slowly whisk in the milk. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking for about 1 minute after each egg is added. Beat until batter is smooth. Beat in 2 tablespoons of the melted butter. Transfer batter to a pitcher. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

2. Before baking, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

3. Using a pastry brush, coat the interior of the popover pan (you can use either the pan that makes six large or the one that makes 12 small popovers). Put the pan in the preheated oven for about 3 minutes (don't let the butter burn!) until the butter is hot.

4. Remove the pan from the oven, and fill each cup about half-full. Bake for 15 minutes.

5. Lower the heat to 350 F. and continue baking another 20-25 minutes for small popovers and 40-45 minutes for the larger ones.

6. Ten minutes before they're done, open the oven door and, with a sharp knife, quickly make a small slit in the side of each raised popover. This will release the steam and let the inside dry out more.

7. Lift the popovers out of the pan and onto a rack. Let cool slightly.

8. For cinnamon-sugar popovers, dip each popover into melted butter (melt 4-6 tablespoons butter) and then into a cinnamon-sugar mix (about 1/2 cup sugar, preferably extra fine, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon).

9. Serve immediately.

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year's Eve Dinner

Friday, January 1, 2010
And it seems like only yesterday that we were in a panic about Y2K. Do you even remember it now?
Two years ago, I blogged about our annual neighborhood New Year's Eve travelling dinner party. Last year, I didn't. The neighbors complained: "I was looking forward to seeing pictures of all the food--what's wrong with you?" This year, I assigned Jim camera duty. The neighbors complained: "Don't we have any privacy rights? What's wrong with you?" This is a hard bunch to please.
To respect their privacy rights, about which they have never before expressed concern, I will use only their initials.
This year, our theme was Volume I of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The book club went to S.P.'s sister's house in Martha's Vineyard last fall, and we saw Julie and Julia as a group. When we came out of the movie, someone (M.W.) said, "Why don't we make recipes from Mastering the Art for our New Year's dinner?" We all agreed this was a fine idea, especially since New Year's Eve was three or four months away, and so the idea didn't really require a lot of commitment.
As NYE approached, we didn't lose our enthusiasm, and we passed around the several battered copies of Mastering that, among us, we owned. I was assigned the hors d'oeuvre course. L.D. got the soup, S.P. the salad, and B.B. drew dessert. M.L. said she wanted to do Julia's classic boeuf bourguiggnon, and J.N. volunteered to be M.L.'s assistant. (Using initials is harder than you might think--I keep forgetting who these people are).
I spent a lot of time looking through the small hors d'oeuvre chapter, while also perusing a lot of related information. I finally settled on vegetables a la Grecque, cold Roquefort balls, Quiche Lorraine, and creamed shrimp on toasts.

The shrimp on toast required bread, naturally, and Julia recommended homemade pain de mie. Ha! I can do that, I thought to myself. I had forgotten had easy it is to make pain de mie, AKA Pullman loaf. I got out my Pullman loaf pan, and The Bread Bible, and mixed it up in just a few minutes. It was easier than going to the grocery store and buying a loaf, especially since the roads are still very icy and all parking lots have huge piles of snow sitting around blocking your view of oncoming traffic.
On Thursday, I sliced the bread--it slices very nicely--

and cut the slices with a two-inch biscuit cutter.

I really enjoyed cutting the bread circles. I also enjoyed making clarified butter, and sauteeing the rounds. I was still moving at a slow pace and having a good time.

Then I put together the vegetables a la Grecque. I've never hankered to make these because they sound kind of boring, but the other things I was making were heavy-laden with cream, eggs, cheese and things of that nature, so something less artery-clogging seemed in order as a palate cleanser.
I decided to make a small plate of mushrooms, red peppers, and carrots.

To make them in the Greek manner (or what the French consider to be the Greek manner), you cut them up and cook them in a broth made of water, olive oil, lemon, shallots, celery, herbs, fennel seeds and peppercorns.

This is how they turned out. The picture is a little dark; they were actually quite pretty.

The cold Roquefort balls were also easy and make-ahead. Roquefort cheese, butter, chives, minced celery, a dash of cayenne, and a few drops of Worcestershire; shaped into little balls and rolled in breadcrumbs and minced parsley.

Butter and cream are so tricky. They can actually make things seem light--these little cheese balls were so ethereal and delicate. It's a miracle to me that you can mix two high-fat foods together and end up with something that could be packaged with a "Lite" label. But that would be wrong.

At this point, I was feeling pretty good. I had got two of the appetizers already made and in the refrigerator. But I still had to do the quiche, which means making the crust and refrigerating it for a while. Suddenly, all the time in the world has collapsed into just a few hours.
I had already decided that I'd try to follow the details of the recipes as much as possible, which meant homemade bread and following Julia's pastry recipe. She didn't use a food processor, so I wouldn't use a food processor. She used a crazy amount of butter (13 tablespoons for two cups of flour--her pate brisee recipe); I'd use a crazy amount of butter. It's not easy to work that much butter into flour, and I never did get to the stage of small pea-size bits of butter. I thought maybe it would be ok because I still had to do the step called fraisage, where you use the heel of your hand to work butter into the flour, but even after that, I didn't think it was right. But I was running out of time and couldn't start over, so this was going to have to do.

But I ultimately worked it into a tart pan. I remembered that I had some pie weights somewhere, bought at some point when I was going to try to get better at making pastry. I make these pie resolutions periodically and then get discouraged when I mess around with pie dough. Today was no exception.

The pie crust shrank, as is its wont, and I forgot to put it on a pan when I filled it and put it in the oven. In my defense, I have to say that Julia Childs' recipes are often not that easy to follow, and they often have key instructions hidden in some random part of the recipe. Not in my defense, I should have figured out without being told that a tart pan with a removable bottom and filled with uncooked custard was going to leak. It did. My oven was a mess. I neglected to do the top with butter. But the quiche still turned out looking pretty good.

Julia's quiche Lorraine recipe is made without cheese, so it's just a plain custard and the bacon pieces are pressed down on the bottom of the pastry. The quiche itself is very delicious, and so were the sides and tops of the crust. The bottom was very soggy, though--it didn't get done enough during the partial bake to withstand the custard.
Finally, I made the cheese puffs. The official title is fondue de crustaces, or cream filling with shellfish, plopped on top of an already-made sauteed bread round, and broiled. These were the most delicious of the four appetizers I made, and a huge hit. It was a race against the clock to finish them by 7:00, the designated starting time. And neither Jim nor I had time to take pictures of the process. It's a thick cream sauce, flavored with tarragon and a little sherry, as well as some grated Swiss cheese. (I used a nice French Abondance). I diced cooked shrimp, which I heated up with a minced shallot, and put it into the very thick sauce and sprinkled it with a little more cheese. This is worth making again, although it's time-consuming, expensive, and very rich.

We served Argyle sparkling wine, made from an Oregon vineyard, with the appetizers, which I highly recommend.
The only thing remaining on the plates when we left to go to L.D.'s house for soup was about a quarter-cup of vegetables, which I take as proof that if you offer people vegetables, bacon, cheese, or shrimp, you'll always have leftover vegetables.
The soup was the mushroom soup from Mastering the Art, and L.D.'s rendition was perfect. She grumbled about how it took her all day, but she turned out a soup you could dream about. As I'm writing about it now, I wish I had just one more taste.

S.P. didn't make a salad from Julia's cookbook--it turns out that there is no salad chapter, and Julia would probably tell us a salad in France is lettuce with a good vinaigrette. Don't be adding fruit or nuts or cheese or some other fancy stuff, she might say. In fact, S.P. made a green salad with a perfect champagne vinaigrette--courtesy of Ina Garten--and toasts with goat cheese.

I'm pretty sure this salad would be just fine with Julia.
Next, the main course, presented by M.L. and J.N.--Julia's classic boeuf bourguignon. This was the first recipe of Julia Child's that I ever tried, and it forever changed the way I thought about what I used to call stew.

With roasted vegetables on the side, it was a wonderful entree.

I wondered what dessert B.B. would make: a tart? a sweet souffle? Maybe a mousse? Well, B.B., who is well known for having a mind of her own, decided she didn't really want to make a French dessert, so she made a chocolate mousse pie.

She might have been able to get away with claiming it was a variation on a version of one of Julia's chocolate mousse recipes if it weren't for the Oreo crust. I can't say for sure that Julia never made an oreo pie crust, but it seems unlikely. In fact, she said she'd never even tried an Oreo (or a Twinkie), although she always claimed not to be a food snob, and said she loved hamburgers, hot dogs, and potato chips. So she might very well have been just crazy about this chocolate mousse pie, which was especially good with the big cloud of whipped cream and the shaved chocolate.
Unlike some recent years, we made it up well past midnight. We made predictions for 2010. The person who has the most correct predictions gets to have a bright green glass women's head wearing a Santa Claus hat for a year. Tiger Woods featured prominently in this year's predictions.

Happy New Year to you all, and may you enjoy good food and good company throughout the year!