Saturday, September 23, 2006

Levy's Bagels

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I know, I know, I KNOW that I should always read these recipes carefully and preferably at least twice. There is often helpful, if not vital, information tucked into the middle of a paragraph. I was merrily weighing the flour when, after I'd mixed in all the flour, I realized that I wasn't supposed to add it all at once, and that the last two tablespoons were to be added only if you wanted a heavier, denser bagel "which some people like." (Implying, I think, that only people of lesser taste like it that way). Well, nothing much that can be done about it, so I continued.
After I added the tablespoon and a half of softened butter, I read Rose's comment at the end: butter will make the bagel have a softer and lighter crumb; personally, she says, I prefer them without butter. Drat! I wanted to make these just exactly like Rose likes them. Okay, I've screwed up twice, and I'm not even at the hard part yet.
Bagel dough can spend a lot of time in the refrigerator, which is good, because we had house guests this weekend, and we also went to the new Tyrone Guthrie theater on Friday night, and to see the Minnesota Opera's La Donna del Lago on Saturday night, leaving me only Sunday to shape, boil, and bake the bagels.
Bagels were on my list of scary breads, but they really aren't that difficult to make. The shaping gets a little tricky, and a couple of my attempts look like they were made by someone who said, "I could do that with my eyes closed." And they just looked weird when I took them out of the boiling water (with molasses and baking soda added). But after they came out of the oven, they looked gorgeous--except for the misshapen ones--with a lovely golden brown color.
We dug into them almost immediately. Because of my braces, I had to cut them in pieces before I could eat them, giving a Baby's First Bagel quality to the eating experience, but even so they were quite delicious. I was hoping they'd be good, but also hoping in a way that they wouldn't be noticeably superior to the bagels from the Bruegger's shop that's only a few blocks away, so that I would be able to tell myself it wasn't worth the trouble to make them myself. That is not the case, however. After two bites, Jim asked me if they were so difficult to make that I wouldn't be serving them routinely. When I choked at the word "routinely," he amended it to "maybe when we have company for breakfast?" I think I could handle that.

We ate the bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon and/or cream cheese and raspberry preserves. The smoked salmon was the Minnesota kind, not New York lox, but it was good nonetheless. Good enough for a repeat. Next year.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Kheema Paratha

Sunday, September 17, 2006
First of all, the name of this bread makes me think of Hakuna Matata, so that everything I think about making it, I start humming that song, which is one of those Disney songs that's hard to get out of your head, like It's a Small World After All, which is the very worst. So it had that strike against it.
Then, just reading the directions made me tired. The dough itself is easy--just mix up half whole wheat, half white flour, add a little powdered dry milk, salt, and water, and let it rest. No yeast, no sourdough, no nothing. But then you have to cut it in eight pieces, roll each piece out in a circle, brush it with clarified butter, fold it, brush it again with clarified butter, then roll it out again, put the ground meat filling (which you've already made, and which has about 42 ingredients) on it, top it with another rolled out circle, crimp the edges, turn it over, roll it out again, then cook it in a special pan, which I don't have.

I just used my griddle that I bought to bake English muffins and crumpets, and it worked just fine.

And, by the way, while the dough was resting and the ground meat filling was cooking, you make a Yemenite green sauce that has lots of cilantro, garlic, hot peppers, and olive oil.
At one point, I seriously thought I was still going to be rolling out these paratha at midnight, which would be two days in a row of late-night bread making. But, like so many things, once you get in the rhythm of it, it goes much more smoothly.
They turned out to be crazily delicious. They're a little like pita and a little like naan, but not really like either one. The ground meat filling is satisfyingly spicy, but it's flavorful, not just hot. The Yemenite green sauce, a sort of middle-Eastern pesto, is the kind of sauce that makes you think of other foods it would go with and improve.
I made four of the paratha. Jim ate two for dinner, and I ate one. I'm zealously guarding the leftover one, which I plan to have for lunch tomorrow. I feel that I'm getting fanatically food-centered. Last night I went to bed thinking about eating pumpernickel bread for breakfast, and tonight I'm going to bed thinking of kheema paratha for lunch.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread

Saturday, September 16, 2006
I was in a bad mood when I started this bread, which is not a good idea because I'm pretty sure the bread dough knows when you're not treating it with appropriate respect. I believe this even though it's nonsense. First of all, the bread calls for caramel powder. Usually Rose is very good about telling you where and how to obtain products that are hard to get. But "caramel powder" is just in the list of ingredients as though it's an everyday staple. I had no idea where caramel powder would even be in a grocery store, and none of the three grocery stores I tried had it or had even heard of it.
In all fairness to Rose, after I began this diatribe, I decided I'd better go make sure that she didn't say anything about caramel powder, so I turned to the other, non-sourdough pumpernickel bread recipe, which I also haven't made, and saw a note to go to page 556, "Coloring Agents." There it says that you can use either liquid caramel, which is like burned sugar, or caramel powder, and that this is the secret to a dark, dark pumpernickel. Shit. Well, I still don't know where to get it, and this puts me in a worse mood because I know that my sourdough pumpernickel is not going to be perfect.
Also, I was annoyed because I could only find coarse-ground pumpernickel meal, instead of pumpernickel flour, which would presumably be a finer grind. This irritates me because I think it will make the bread too grainy. And I also wish I didn't have to throw away so much of my sourdough starter, which is supple and lovely after I've fed it a few times. Not to mention the fact that the bread takes six to eight hours to rise, plus another four to five after it's shaped, which means it won't be ready for cocktail hour today, even though I started on this bread yesterday morning before I went to work. In fact, I don't think it will be ready for a midnight snack. I love the sourdough breads that I've made, but I'm still not sure they're worth all the trouble.
Later.....While waiting for the bread to rise, I decide to order some better pumpernickel flour from The Baker's Catalogue. After I add it to my cart, a list of things I might want to buy since I'm buying pumpernickel flour pops up. The first thing on the list is caramel powder. I order that too and try to look on the bright side--that my second loaf of pumpernickel bread is going to be perfect.
Still later.....What a great loaf of bread! Never mind that it didn't have any powdered caramel--it's still a dark, authentic-looking pumpernickel. The crust is very crisp, and the glaze (cornstarch and water) makes it exceptionally shiny. Never mind that the flour was actually meal--it wasn't too crunchy or too mealy. And it was ready for a midnight snack. It was a great midnight snack, (Jim said it's one of his favorite breads so far), and I'm looking forward to having a few slices for breakfast, along with a bowl of yogurt with slices of fresh Michigan peaches.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Cranberry-Banana-Walnut Quick Bread

Saturday, September 9, 2006
After I turned off the oven to crisp the bread sticks, see Previous Entry), I turned it back on to make my second bread.
We had a wedding reception to go to at 3:00, and after all the fussing with the bread sticks, there was no time to waste. Fortunately, this was a quick bread that lived up to its name. I'd already chopped and toasted the walnuts and cut the cranberries, so I only had to toss everything in the mixing bowl and give it a few minutes to blend.
This is not just an ordinary quick bread--it's probably the best one I've ever tasted. I've had banana-nut and cranberry and cranberry-nut, but this is the first time I've tried all three of them. It's a wonderful combination. The banana mellows the cranberries, and the nuts complement both. (Luckily for me, I've decided that nuts pose no problem for my braces).
The bread was not only done before we left, but we also had time to eat a slice, still warm, before we left for the wedding reception, where there was plenty more food, but you never want to drive somewhere on an empty stomach. That's my theory, anyway.

Spicy Herbed Bread Sticks

Saturday, September 9, 2006
I'm getting so close to my goal that my daughter Elizabeth, who has always thought my recent obsession with bread was a little odd, decided that she wanted to fly home for the weekend to help me make a few loaves of bread. I told her I was planning to bake two this week and that she could choose them, so she picked breadsticks and cranberry-walnut bread.
Although Liz said she wanted to nice relaxing weekend, her idea of relaxing is different from that of normal people (that is to say, me). So we picked her up at the airport, went out for lunch, went to the Mall of America to buy shoes and a dress, get manicures, and go to a Minnesota Twins-Detroit Tigers game (Go Twins!), so we didn't have time to start on the bread until 11:00 Friday night. Fortunately, the breadstick dough was quite easy to mix up, so I did that and put it in the refrigerator.
Saturday morning, we started working on the bread sticks. These are grissini, very thin, crisp Italian breadsticks. I told her that Rose's instructions were to shape them in a pasta maker, but I balked at buying a new pasta maker just for this occasion. She said, "Mom, we have a pasta maker--don't you remember? You gave me a Hearthsong cooking club membership when I was about 12, and one month I got pasta stuff." I said, "I don't remember, and I'm sure we don't still have it." She said, "I'm sure we do since you people never throw anything out."
Damn! She went through a drawer and found the pasta maker.

I said, "Oh, I think I'll just shape them by hand. I think that will be quicker." She said, "The directions say to use the pasta maker, and that's what I'm going to do." Damn! Hers were perfect--beautiful, long, and thin, and mine were short and stubby. I turned to the pasta maker after it became clear that this method worked much better.

We baked them all, and then turned the oven off, and put them back in the oven for about an hour to let them get super-crisp. This worked beautifully, and in the end we had fabulous, flavorful grissini--with pepper, parmesan, fresh herbs and Tabasco.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Chocolate Almond Swirl Kugelhopf

Monday, September 4, 2006

A three-day weekend may mean sleeping late or going on picnics or walking around the lake to some people. To me, it means a chance to bake three breads. My Labor Day project was chocolate almond swirl kugelhopf.
To bake this bread, I needed either a kugelhopf pan or a rose bundt cake pan. For some reason, the frugal side of my nature, which is not usually very visible, came out for this pan purchase. I balked at the idea of paying full price for a decorative cake pan that I would might never use again, so I went to E-bay. Even on E-bay, the Nordicware rose bundt pans were not cheap, but eventually I got one for $10. NIB, as they say. And even from a non-smoking household.
When it arrived, I saw why it was so cheap. It was new and it was Nordicware, all right, but it wasn't the nice heavy cast aluminum pan; it was lightweight, thin-as-paper aluminum. So light that the rose petals and rose leaves weren't well defined, and my rose-shaped bread came out looking more like blob-shaped bread. It wasn't a case of false advertising, either, just of bad reading.

Still, although the uncut bread didn't look like much, once I started slicing it, it turned beautiful! The chocolate schmear(I like saying schmear almost as much as saying LaCloche), made with cake crumbs, almond paste, egg, butter, corn syrup, and chocolate, spread on the rolled-out dough easily, and I rolled the dough up without any mishaps. I even had time for a quick trip to Target while waiting for the dough to rise.
I promised myself I would eat only ONE PIECE of this very rich, chocolatey, delicious bread. But I ate two. And the night's not over yet. I plan to take the rest of this bread into work tomorrow, though, so temptation will be removed.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Raisin Pecan Bread

Sunday, September 3, 2006

According to Rose's notes on this bread, it's her husband's very favorite, of all the different breads she makes, and I'm sure she's made even more than 82. I'm not sure it was Jim's favorite, but it may well have been in the top five. I loved it too. Fortunately, I decided that I wasn't going to let my braces keep me from eating nuts and raisins, although, strictly speaking, they're both on the verboten list.
Although this isn't a cinnamon-raisin bread (which I already made, back in the distant past), I kept thinking that I smelled cinnamon while it was baking. It must be that the aroma of raisins calls up the thought of cinnamon. It didn't need any cinnamon, or anything else, though, because it's packed with nuts and raisins. So packed that I had trouble keeping them all in the bread dough because they kept wanting to rise to the surface and then make their way out onto the counter.
This bread, like the last few I've made, is supposed to be baked in an oblong LaCloche. Why didn't I just buy one? I have the round LaCloche, and I figured that was enough. Clearly, however, if I wanted to achieve perfection, I should just have ordered still another baking accoutrement. Even without being baked in LaCloche, this is still a fine-looking loaf of bread, but I know that somehow LaCloche makes it a more beautiful golden brown. Besides, I like saying LaCloche.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Mantovana Olive Oil Bread

Saturday, September 2, 2006

After this bread, I have only 21 breads left to bake to meet my goal. Only 21! Just a year ago, the idea of baking 21 kinds of bread in one year would have seemed laughable to me. And now I'm thinking that 21 seems like a breeze. As I get closer to the end of this project, Jim is sounding more and more wistful. He says things like, "It would be so sad not to have bread every weekend" and "Doesn't having fresh bread seem so homey?" I think he's afraid that once I make my way to the end of the bread list, I'll pack everything away and start buying Wonder Bread.
This olive oil bread is definitely not Wonder Bread, although it is quite wondrous. I just finished eating the last piece of sourdough wheat bread with seeds, and this bread's ingredients are similar to that one, but the final product is so much different. Despite all the seeds and the whole wheat flour, the olive oil bread is more tender, even delicate. I'm not sure if it's the olive oil that makes the difference, but the differences are pronounced.
Rose recommends serving this with Italian cured meats, so I went to Broders Italian Deli and got Prosciutto de Parma, Tuscan Salami, Mortadella, gorgonzola dolce latte, pecorino, and roasted red peppers stuffed with goat cheese. It made a lovely platter, and our mid-afternoon snack turned into dinner.

(The pecorino was made with milk from black sheep. It was one of many things that remind me of my sister Roberta, who died much too young. She would have loved the idea of black sheep cheese!) We drank it with some delicious rose wine--like most everyone else, we have scorned rose wine for many years. Now, like most everyone else, we're learning to love it again. Is there anything that won't come back in fashion eventually?