A Bread-baking Experiment

At the end of the year, Bon Appetit published a list of great recipes for using a Dutch Oven. One included in the group was called BA’s Best Bread.  I still had some time off from work and thought it would be fun to try. A classic 3-day bread starting with a poolish. In typical fashion, I really didn’t read the entire (4-page when printed) recipe, but thought it would be fun. I still had never used my Dutch oven for bread-baking, and thought I should try with a “real” recipe.

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Of course, I didn’t have any rye flour, but did have white-whole wheat, since I had taken advantage of a free-shipping offer from KAF prior to the holidays. I did also have some pumpernickel flavoring from there (the flavors really are great that they sell – pumpernickel in particular – since it’s all of those minor ingredients you need, but don’t have on hand unless you bake all the time) – the first ingredient is rye flour, so I just added a teaspoon or two and made up for the rye with a bit more white whole wheat. It added a LOT of color, but probably not more than if I had used regular whole wheat anyway. Also – if you look at the photo closely – very interesting weight measurements. I do actually bake a fair amount of bread, and so I’m kind of used to the “feel” of it – these are really exact! And yes – I did weigh all of the ingredients faithfully – also, who knew how little one gram of flour actually is!

Anyhoo, poolish made and left to ferment for a day – by timing made it such that it was going to sit longer than the 14-18 hours, but it was a test for me, so it worked out how it did – I mean my life can’t be driven by a loaf of bread (even if it’s supposed to be “BA’s Best”).

The next day a lot of slapping, dropping and a little bit of kneading ensued. There was making the initial dough; letting it rise for a couple of hours; a lot of dropping of the dough back onto the counter from a height – for a while; then slapping it around in the bowl; and finally forming. This was the “work day” and the recipe warns that if you’re not tired at one point – you are really not doing it right! It was kind of fun manhandling it and dropping the dough from a a couple of feet above the counter so that you could hear a good thwack! The dough was then supposed to be placed in a kitchen towel-lined colander that was dusted with rice flour – fortunately there was an alternate – but of course, it’s really hard to get that to stick uniformly. A round of parchment is placed on top – and then the whole thing is plopped into the refrigerator for a day or two. Since this wasn’t exactly a photo-shoot – no pictures – that’s probably a good thing because I think I looked fairly ridiculous for much of the time.

Fast forward. Might even have been the 2nd day – over the holidays there are other priorities like making merry and such. I dutifully put the oven on (mine actually says it goes waaaay above 500 degrees, but I stopped there. No fear, my beautiful black Staub pot that I got last year has a metal handle on the top – no barriers or compromises. Typically, the pot gets heated for about 40 minutes, the bread is removed from the fridge, tuned over onto a plate or something so it can be slipped into said pot, and then… oh, my! there was a huge lump of flour on the top that had to be dusted off. There were also polkadots of a flour pattern due to the colander. Hmmm, but once dusted off, and a few slashes made, I successfully (ish) plopped it into the pan (parchment side down), covered it and back into the oven. 15 minutes or so covered, then another 35 or so uncovered. Guess what? it worked! with the exception of the two little spots that caught on the side of the pot when I was slipping it in – this was one beautiful loaf – if I do say so myself!

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Of course, we are always stridently cautioned to not cut the bread warm. Clearly anyone who enjoys a beautiful slice of warm bread just out of the oven, slathered with butter is a Philistine. Since this was an experiment, we waited. So that it would be perfect.

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We eventually did get to have some bread. And I have to say, I was pleased to see those tell-tale bubbles. The color was a little dark (drat that pumpernickel flavor!).

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The flavor was pretty good. The texture – like all of these, maybe a little moist for me. The crust was really, really good. Perfectly chewy and very satisfying. We’ve enjoyed it plain, and as a bruschetta with ricotta, caramelized onions and roasted butternut squash (yum!) and with leftover beef and horseradish sauce. I had it toasted with an omelette. Like all breads of this kind, it changes a little over time. The crust gets pretty durable… when toasted. We are probably about half-way through it. I suspect it won’t actually be consumed (particularly since I’m making some different bread as I type).

This really was a fun project. We liked it – but it was a huge loaf, and way too much for us to eat while it was/is at its prime. I don’t know that it lived up to it’s title (seriously? this is your very best bread at BA? that’s a bit sad). But I’m very happy to have tried it. I’ve always wanted to try baking a bread with a poolish, since my friend Teri had a baking blog years ago and we would get samples (she’s the reason I ever started myself!). I’m incredibly happy with using my Dutch oven for an artisan bread. No doubt, I will go back to my normal “5-minutes a day” recipe, where I can adjust the loaf size for our use. And see if the smaller quantities of dough will work in the Dutch oven – if not, I might just have to look for a smaller one! 😉

Now, back to finishing up my Walter Sands sandwich bread – oh and some cinnamon rolls with half of the dough. I’m quite contented to be pedestrian, if that’s what I am. It will suit just fine. I’m also excited that I finally got around to a project like this.

 

 

CtBF -Scalloped potatoes with blue cheese and roasted garlic

Wow, these may have been the best scalloped potatoes I’ve ever had!

Today, I thought I’d use a BLUFbottom line up front. Bottom line – these are amazing! And to be fair, I think that this is one of the times when an amazing-quality ingredient really was worth it.

To back up, there are plenty of French recipes that have you add a blue or roquefort cheese to a dish. I think there are mixed results. Sometimes it’s overpowering, others simply discordant. For this recipe, I decided that I would try to get around all of this – and went to the cheese counter. They were very helpful in providing descriptions. The one I bought said that it was creamy and smooth – wonderful melted. Seemed the perfect cheese for my dish.

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The cheese, if you’re interested is “St Agur Blue”, and is French in origin, though the helpful label says simply that it is made from Cows milk, penicillium roqueforti, salt and rennet. If you’re familiar with the recipe, you can see that I’ve also cheated with the garlic. This is remarkably delicious when added to recipes – and this was to be a week-night meal. I really didn’t have time to roast more garlic – and decided not to use the leftover roast garlic that likely remained tucked alongside the roasted beets from earlier in the week. And no – I didn’t even peel the potatoes! I did, however harvest some chives from the garden!

Simply put, layers of thinly sliced potatoes lay the groundwork for the chives, cheese, salt, pepper and roasted garlic. I made three layers. And then poured the half & half (with a dash of cream, yes) on top. I skipped the heating of the cream – it was going into the oven.

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I covered mine for about half of the time. The dish was pretty deep, so I think it took a bit more than the hour at 375 degrees. I uncovered it to get the nice crust – pushing the potatoes under the cream as I did so.

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This creates a dreamy dish of terrific flavors – all blend well, but have their subtle counterpoints in the dish. To say we loved it would be an incredible understatement. I served it with a simple, perfectly-grilled steak. Yes, I should have had a salad, and it would be terrific with this too.

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This is such an incredibly simple and fast dish to prepare – all of the time is spent while the potatoes bubble and simmer away in their cheesy-creamy bath. So while decadent, this is an easy dish for a show-stopping weeknight meal, or of course a special occasion. Not for everyday, but certainly is simple enough that it could be so.

To find out how others made their potato recipes, you can check the links out at Cook the Book Fridays.

CtBF – Baked eggs with kale and smoked salmon

Ramekins filled with baked eggs and other items are always a treat. Individual servings are always fun! This particular version includes sautéed kale with a good dose of garlic, smoked salmon and some cheese, along with house-made garlic crumbs to top it off. 

I chose baby kale, since kale doesn’t really really get very tender with a short sauté. I also chose some “hot smoked” salmon, instead of the standard soft lox-type. Since we wouldn’t be using it all for breakfast, that was more appealing to me in other guises. 

Essentially, make the bread crumbs – seasoning with a good helping of garlic and thyme. Sauté the kale in more butter, and more garlic. Assemble the ramekins and bake until the whites are set, but the yolks are still a little runny.

I served these with some crispy toast soldiers. We thought it ended up being the perfect amount as well – with just one egg (I can’t imagine eating 3 eggs in this!). Both the plain and smoked salmon versions were enjoyed. 

If I were making this again, I probably would substitute spinach. Or maybe beet greens, which I think would be delicious. The goat cheese was good, but I might sub that out – oh, wait! That’s what makes this preparation such a great one. The versatility. Each person can have the combination that most appeals! 

CtBF – Salted Butter Caramel Chocolate Mousse

Anyone who knows me, or follows my blog, knows that I sometimes don’t always read things thoroughly before I start (back in the day, I would fly into a city to do a 1st site visit without having the address – this before smartphones and GPS – just pick up a map at the rental car counter “I can find it”… with about 2 exceptions of 150 at that job – it worked!). This was no different. When I read about the 2 June recipes, I transposed the dates. So… I did not get this made in time, and though I had purchased the ingredients, was not worried about not making the dessert when I made said purchase… um.

Well, all of the bloggers at Cook the Book Fridays seemed to love this. I saw notes about someone(s) making it several times in a week! Well – could not miss out on that!

I hosted by book club  (GOBC) in Sedona last Sunday. It was incredibly nice of my friends Teri and Kate to come up – their significant others (including kids!) helped them make a day of it. And no – I don’t have pictures – I get sidetracked at events. Anyway, I thought that it would be a perfect time to make the mousse. I had decided on making a grilled soft-taco lunch – steak, shrimp, fresh salsa, guacamole, tortillas, beans… chocolate would be a perfect ending to that!

While I was deciding what to make, I had the Food 52 Genius book out. I kept going back to that blueberry pie! Anyway, the mousse is fairly straightforward. As a fun treat, I decided to use my grandmother’s little “ice cream” dishes – perfect for this!

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The big difference with this recipe is the caramel. I wanted mine to be fairly dark to add some different notes to the mousse. I actually am fine with making caramel. Have I ever taken it a bit to far? Sure. But it’s not that big of a deal. Seriously. You just can’t step away from it.

Once the caramel is the color you want, you whisk in the butter, and then the cream. The cream will make the caramel harden, so it takes quite a while to melt – but it will!

This mixture gets cooled, the egg yolks added to the chocolate, and then the whipped whites get incorporated (per usual, about 1/3 to loosen the mixture, then the remainder).

This actually made a perfect amount to fill 6 of my glass dishes. These get chilled in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

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Do I have beautiful photographs of the mousse as it was served? Um, no. So very typical, I just got sidetracked with my friends.

Did we like it? Yes. But seriously, I could only eat about 1/2 at a time (though Mom had no such problems when she had hers!). This is a serious chocolate dessert. The texture is beautiful and I enjoyed the additional flavor of caramel. I’d used gray salt for my salt in the dish, and liked it – I could have added a few grains on top (or maybe some smoked salt).

But, remember that blueberry pie? I couldn’t resist. I had some blueberries, and they had loads of them at the market. The photo in the book was just gorgeous (!) and when I read the recipe, it’s very much like a strawberry pie that my grandmother made when I was growing up. The crust is baked, and the filling is added. I didn’t make the incredibly complicated crust from the book – used the butter crust from KAF.

The filling is made by cooking a bit of the fruit with a little sugar and water, then adding cornstarch for thickening. While that’s still hot, the remaining fresh blueberries are added, mixed well and the put into the crust. That’s it. Let it cool. Eat it. Be amazed.

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The filling worked perfectly, and as you can see – the pie holds its shape – makes for a beautiful slice (not that I have pictures of an actual slice, mind you).

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Truth be told, I served both for my book club. Like my friend Betsy, I’m not the chocoholic in the house, so I really loved the pie. Seriously. But I will say that both desserts were a hit – just oh so different. Given all of the flavors at the gelato spot – I never pick the chocolate. So, I would definitely serve this again (think of all of those gluten-free folks!), and if I were not worrying about gluten, I think this would be fabulous in mini tart shells – how wonderful on a mini-dessert tray? Or the dessert shot glasses that were so popular a few years ago. The chocolate is such a rich blast of flavor – that would be a super-fun way of serving it. Oh, and I did not include whipped cream on either – though it would be good. Just more. Neither actually needed it.

The mousse can be found on p258 of My Paris Kitchen, and you can find out what other bloggers in our group thought of the recipe here. The pie can be found on pp204-207 in Genius Recipes (Food 52).

 

 

CtBF – Belgian beef stew with beer and spice bread

This is a tale of two recipes. The first recipe is for pain d’epices, which is a honey-spice quick bread. And that is then sliced and slathered with mustard – and is put on top of the beef stew stew to thicken it.

But I digress, the first step is really to make the bread. It’s a simple honey-spice bread. The recipe talks about different honeys creating different flavors. I had a jar of very-flavorful Manuka honey, and used that, supplementing with a bit of mesquite blossom honey. The unusual piece about this bread is that the honey is heated with water, salt and brown sugar, then 1 cup of flour is added and the mixture cooled. Then the remainder of the ingredients (including a healthy amount of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and cloves) are combined and baked into a loaf. The recipe says it’s better over time. What I can tell you is that it was delicious when I made it, for sure. It did get a little dryer, but is a really nice tea bread on its own.

The stew itself is fairly straightforward. At least to begin with. The beef is browned – really to caramelize the surface. This is done in a few stages in a large pan. Once that’s done, the vegetables and quite a large amount (2 c!) of bacon are sautéed as well.

The pan then gets deglazed with water, scraping up the browned bits. And the amber ale added. The beef, along with the bacon and onions are added back. Adding thyme, bay leaves cloves and salt, this is all allowed to simmer for an hour or so.

Finally, the semi-crazy part (for my western sensibility). 4 slices of the spice bread are lightly coated with dijon mustard and then laid on top of the stew. Covered and allowed to simmer for another couple of hours (with a stir or two along the way), the stew gets thickened and flavored with all of the spices from the bread. (and of course, why would I take a photo of the most unusual part of the recipe?). The result is an aromatic and flavorful stew with a bit of an unusual flavor combination.

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I served it with a mash of cauliflower and potatoes, some more Belgian lager and of course, some bread – both a crusty loaf and the spice bread.

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I have to say, this was a popular dish. Different for sure, but warming and tasty. Everyone enjoyed the spices in the dish, and the texture of the meat and sauce appealed. With the somewhat lighter mash to go with, it really was a great combination.

I’m not certain that this will replace my “go-to daube” a la Dorie Greenspan, but it was very good, and I wouldn’t mind having it again. Thought the added step of the bread might make it tricky for someone with my lack of meal planning.

I know there are others that have made this dish and posted about it. You can find their links at Cook the Book Fridays!

ffwd – never doubt Dorie (aka, who knew?)

This second celebratory week for the French Fridays with Dorie group asks the question “what recipe(s) were surprises for you?”. OK, that wasn’t the real question, but when I think about the title – I think about those recipes where I was very quite skeptical, but learned that Dorie knew what she was doing when she wrote about it – and I was happy to have tried it.

There are three recipes that immediately came to mind. The very first recipe I ever tasted in the book was gérard’s mustard tart. My friend Teri, who got me started with this whole blogging adventure, served it at a book club meeting that she hosted. She did indeed make the selfsame tart as in the book. She’s a very skilled baker, and hers looked just like Dorie’s. She also introduced me to the group, since she planned on joining, and thought it would be fun for me too. I had been following her baking/blogging adventures and thought that it would be fun. Her blog certainly informed my concept, including documenting the steps in the process, etc.

To be honest, I didn’t really love, love the original version. It was good. So when it was time to make the tart in October of 2010, I decided that I would take advantage of a different version in the book. The tomato-mustard tart. This is something that I really must make again. I often forget because I think it would be amazing with summer tomatoes. But the mustard, the crème fraîche, the fabulous pastry – all combine with the tomatoes and rosemary combine for an amazing affect! Not in a million years would I have expected to like this so much (of course another benefit was making her tart dough…)

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The photos don’t do it justice, but certainly, this is one of those haunting – “wow that was good” recipes. Thank goodness it will be tomato season soon!

tourteau de chèvre was another surprise. This is a cheesecake of sorts – but one as unlike any American cheesecake as can be imagined. It really is the simplest thing to make – A crust of Dorie’s sweet tart dough, and then just eggs, goat cheese, a bit of sugar, vanilla or orange-flower water, touch of cognac and a bit of cornstarch. I am fairly certain that was my first use of the orange-flower water as well. Another item introduced by our author.

I really was taken aback by just how good this was. Not too sweet, a bit of tang from the goat cheese. I actually made mine with the regular pastry crust, not the sweet version. Either would be terrific. 100_0802

It was fun too, to have a recipe end up looking so much like the photo in the book. So satisfying.

And finally, another recipe that I adored, but didn’t expect to. goat cheese and strawberry tartine. It would never have occurred to me to put together this simple combination – but with such amazing results! We had this with a bit of wine on the patio, but the same idea could be used at any time of day. The sweetness of the strawberries and the tang of the goat cheese are accented with a good-sized grind of black pepper and some Balsamic vinegar.

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It will be fun to see what others thought about this little assignment. There were other surprises for sure, some of them not so pleasant even, but these were at the top of my list. To see what other Doristas thought about their never-doubt-Dorie moments, you can find their links on the French Friday with Dorie website.

ffwd – the “aha” moment (aka, the top 5)

For the next several weeks, the participants in French Fridays with Dorie will be exploring our experiences over the past several years to answer a few interesting questions. This week’s challenge is to “choose your favorite, loved the most, best recipe in FFWD to share this week and tell Why? Also share with us your Top 5 favorites list”.

Not surprisingly, this is turning out to be a difficult task. After hundreds of recipes – there are many choices. One of the most interesting things will be to read about what all of the others chose as well. Since we are a diverse and international group – I hardly think that the lists will be the same (though I suspect a couple will resonate across the board).

And making things a bit more interesting over the next few weeks, there are a couple more challenges – The Never-Doubt-Dorie Moment and The Play-It-Again-Dorie Recipe, prior to our finale and last hurrah! from this particular book. Lots of potential for crossover! And I have to say, that as I look through the recipes, and when we made them, we really came out of the gate at a grand pace! Lots of contenders from 2010 and early 2011! And a warning: some not-so-great photos of some of my top favorites! At least I maybe have learned a bit more the just how to make some great French recipes!

So, on to Candy’s Top Five Six!

#5 – Hachis Parmentier. This was also a candidate for the Play-It-Again-Dorie category. I have made this quite a number of times, always to rave reviews. But this kind of dish, as something French was a revelation. I’ve made it in the different versions, and it still remains a staple. And of course, seeing it on the menu at French restaurants (once within a month or so of its first appearance) sealed it as a resounding favorite.

#4.5 – Creamy Mushrooms and Eggs. I almost forgot this. What an amazing dish! Perfectly cooked mushrooms with shallots, and added cream, with a bit of thyme. Served on toasted Brioche with soft poached eggs. This is a to-die-for dish. Rich yet simple, and utilizes a number of French techniques. Can’t believe I almost missed putting it on the list!!

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#4 – Scallops with Double Carrots. The original recipe called for Monk Fish. None to be had here – but good quality scallops can be found. The sauce created by using carrot juice in addition to carrots themselves – well, it made the dish. Oh, and you can’t go wrong with bacon and scallops either. It was a completely new idea to me to create a sauce that way, and so it was a great lesson learned. So creative! I can’t for the life of me find a photo. Really? Do a search – many images of other Dorista’s versions available!

#3 – Salted Butter Break-Ups. No Dorie Greenspan book would be complete without an amazing dessert recipe. And even more quintessential, a cookie recipe. This recipe for oversized cookies that get broken apart at the table – well it makes for such a charming way of serving (assuming you are not surrounded by unreasonable germaphobes), but it also produces a dramatic, lovely and incredibly delicious cookie! Crunchy parts for those who love that – a bit more chewy for that preference. All in one cookie. Something for everyone!

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#2 – Roasted Salmon and Lentils. I am not a huge fan of salmon (unless I just caught it!), and had never really had any lentils that I liked (or, let’s face it, tried many) until this recipe. Oh. My. Goodness! This recipe single-handedly made me a convert to Lentils de Puy, as well as salmon. It’s that good. The lentils are perfectly seasoned, the salmon cooks perfectly, it’s hearty, healthy and very elegant in a French manner.

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#1 My Favorite, Best Recipe is: Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake. I thought about this a lot. But decided that this typically French apple cake, with it’s marked butter flavor, bursting with apple chunks got my vote. Yes, its relatively simple, but it seemed to embody the idea of a meal around Dorie’s French table.

This was a fun journey back in time to re-visit posts, what I thought, and also, what I thought was good enough to make again. All of these dishes fall well outside of the category One-And-Done. And while I had to rely on the original photos (or none at all!), they all offered something so good, that I was willing to brave the reminder of some pretty poor photography skills!

There is a celebratory air around the French Fridays with Dorie group, you can get a peek into all of the participants’ posts at the site.