Sunday, January 31, 2010

Anadama Bread


I have had this recipe sitting on my bookshelf, twiddling its thumbs and patiently waiting for me to pay any attention to it, for over a year. An entire year, people! I have no good reason for unjustly ignoring other than I simply haven't gotten into the habit of baking my own loaf bread yet. Yes, I, Miss Everything From Scratch, still purchase our weekly loaf of sandwich bread at the grocery store and, with each sandwich I eat, I lament the fact that I didn't take the time to make my own bread and vow to do it the next week. Sadly, "next week" came and went about 52 times and now I am kicking myself for all the time I've lost with this fantastic loaf and its soft, hearty, moist, and flavorful characteristics.


This particular recipe comes from Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" (which, if you don't already own, you should go buy). Though the recipe may look long and tiresome, it's not difficult, and doesn't require a lot of hands-on time. I prefer this bread sans butter, jam, or honey; it's perfectly balanced, quite moist, and needs no additions (though it does make the best peanut butter and preserves sandwich I've ever had). For you molasses haters out there, don't be scared. The molasses is present, but up against the subtly nutty cornmeal soaker, it takes a backseat, spares you the full spectrum of its flavor profile, and pulls through with just a hint of sweetness and depth. On that note, I think it's time for another slice.

Peter Reinheart's Anadama Bread

Soaker:

1 cup (6 oz.) cornmeal, preferably coarse grind
1 cup (8 oz.) water, at room temperature

Dough:

4 1/2 cups (20.25 oz.) unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons (.22 oz.) instant yeast
1 cup (8 oz.) water, lukewarm (90-100 degrees F)
1 1/2 teaspoons (.38 oz.) salt
6 tablespoons (4 oz.) molasses
2 tablespoons (1 oz.) shortening or unsalted butter, at room temperature
cornmeal, for dusting (optional)

1. The day before making the bread, make the soaker by mixing the cornmeal and water in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight at room temperature.

2. The next day, to make the dough, stir together 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, the soaker, and water in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and ferment for 1 hour, or until the sponge begins to bubble.

3. Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of flour, the salt, molasses, and butter and stir (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients form a ball. Add water if necessary to make a soft, slightly sticky mass.

4. Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook), sprinkling in more flour as needed to make a tacky, but not sticky, dough. The dough should be first but supple and pliable and definitely not sticky. It will take about ten minutes of kneading to accomplish this (or 6-8 minutes in the electric mixer*). The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77-81 degrees F.

5. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment the dough at room temperature for about 90 minutes, or until it doubles in size.

6. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 2 equal pieces of 24 ounces, or 3 pieces of about 16 ounces. Shape the dough into loaves** and place them into bread pans that have been lightly oiled or misted with spray oil (the larger loaves should go into 9x5" pans and the smaller loaves into 8 1/2x4 1/2" pans). Mist the tops of the loaves with spray oil and loosely cover tops with plastic wrap.

7. Proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the loaves crest fully above the top of the pans. (If you want to hold back any of the loaves, place them in the refrigerator without proofing, where they will hold, or retard, for up to 2 days. Remover them from the refrigerator about 4 hours before baking and proof them at room temperature, or until ready).

8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Place the pans on a sheet pan and remove the plastic wrap. Mist the tops with a spray of water and dust with cornmeal.

9. Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the sheet pan for even baking and continue to bake 20 to 30 minutes***, or until the loaves are golden brown, including along the sides and the bottom, and register at least 185 to 190 degrees F in the center. They should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.

10. When the loaves are done, remove them immediately from the pans and cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.

NIC NOTES:

* My dough needed 11 minutes with the dough hook before it passed the windowpane test. Also, depending on the brand of flour you use and the humidity levels in your kitchen, you may have to add what feels like quite a bit of flour or water to your dough.

** To shape your loaves, flatten the measured piece of dough with your hand, folding in the edges to make an even-sided rectangle about 5" wide and 6 to 8" long. Working from the short side of the dough, roll up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease with each rotation to strengthen the surface tension. The loaf will spread out as you roll it up, eventually extending to a full 8 to 9". Pinch the final seam closed with the back edge of your hand or with your thumbs. Rock the loaf to even it out; do not taper the ends. Keep the surface of the loaf even across the top. Place the loaf in a lightly oiled loaf pan. The ends of the loaf should touch the ends of the pan to ensure an even rise.

*** My loaves were done after 32 minutes (20 minutes, turn, then 12 minutes). Your time may vary.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Change of Pace


Most mornings, my breakfast consists of the same thing: unsweetened steel cut oats with raisins and a splash of milk. If I'm feeling adventurous, I might throw some dried cranberries in the mix and really shake things up. The rest of my day can be pretty fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, and I'm perfectly happy with that, but mess with my morning bowl of oats? Never.


However, I've recently decided to break out of my breakfast rut. I'll probably never be able to eat eggs and bacon first thing in the morning, but granola I can do. (I know you're thinking "You're breaking out of an oatmeal rut with... oatmeal?" but hey, they're rolled oats, not steel cut, and they're sweetened. Baby steps).

This is just a base recipe to which you can add nuts, spices, and dried fruits to build a personalized granola. Try macadamia nuts with dried mango and pineapple, walnuts with dried cranberries and blueberries, or keep it simple with just almonds and raisins. Substitute cardamom for the cinnamon, vanilla for the almond extract, honey for the maple syrup, or go buck wild and throw some molasses in there.

Basic Granola Recipe
Adapted, with changes, from Alton Brown

3 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2-3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, cinnamon, and brown sugar (and any nuts, if you use them)

3. In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, salt, and almond extract. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.

4. Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add any dried fruit and mix.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My New Favorite


Maybe I'm jumping the gun, but I can't wait for spring to get here. I woke up the other day with a wicked craving for something grilled, some watermelon, and potato salad. I even contemplated making some southern style sweet tea, which I'm pretty sure I can chalk up to pregnancy cravings since I've never in my life wanted to drink something that sweet. In an attempt to assimilate with these crazy cold-weather notherners, I planned to fire up the grill and make a completely unseasonal summertime meal; however, my feelings changed the second it started sleeting outside. Fortunately, by that point, the only thing I was still craving was potato salad, and fortunately, I made some.


I've been told I'm too picky when it comes to potato salad, but I just don't have much appreciation for a flatly-flavored, mushy potatoes loaded down with mayo. It's kind of gross, really. This salad, though, has just enough mayo to bind everything together, plenty of radishes and pickled cucumbers (I'll get back to those in a minute) to provide a welcome burst of crunch, and a hearty dose of dill to keep the flavor bright. It's my new favorite potato salad.


I would urge you to make an extra batch of the pickled cucumbers. I ended up eating so many of them from the bowl while they were pickling, I wasn't sure that I would have enough for the salad. They're delicious, addictive, and they're so easy to make, I can't think of a reason to not have them in my refrigerator at all times for salads and sandwiches.

Dilled Potato and Pickled Cucumber Salad
(Adapted from here)
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 1-pound English hothouse cucumbers, very thinly sliced
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 10 medium), unpeeled, cut into large bite-sized pieces
Additional coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup very thinly sliced white onion
4 radishes, trimmed, thinly sliced
1/3 cup mayonnaise (use more or less, depending on how much mayo you like)

Directions:
1. Stir vinegar and 2 teaspoons coarse salt in small bowl until salt dissolves. Place cucumbers and 1/4 cup dill in heavy 1-gallon resealable plastic bag or plastic container. Add vinegar mixture; seal bag. Turn or stir several times to coat. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight, turning or stirring a few times.

2. Pour cucumber mixture into large sieve set over bowl. Drain at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours. Discard brine.

3. Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain. Cool potatoes completely. Place potatoes in large bowl; sprinkle generously with coarse salt and pepper. Add drained cucumbers, onion, sliced radishes, and remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons dill; toss to blend. Let stand 1 hour. Stir mayonnaise into salad. Season generously with salt and pepper, if desired. (Salad can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Mound salad in bowl. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Banana Blueberry Muffins with Lemon Glaze


Wow. Has it really been almost 2 weeks since I last posted? I wish I had a spectacular recipe for all of you patient readers out there (yes, all two of you!), but all I have to offer right now are these muffins. At the moment, I have a fantastic caramel pudding setting up in the fridge and a very promising potato salad doing its thing, but I'll have to tell you about those later.


I baked these muffins in an attempt to find a healthy-ish baked good to pack in my husband's lunch. I expected a moist, flavorful muffin with bursts of blueberry goodness; however, all I got out of these was a slightly dry muffin with not a whole lot going for it in the tastiness department. I did manage to salvage them with a lemon glaze because, let's face it, anything can be improved with lemon glaze. Yes, it may negate anything healthful about these muffins, but what good is a healthy muffin that you don't want to eat?

Banana Blueberry Muffins with Lemon Glaze
(Adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 cup whole-wheat flour (spooned and leveled)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas (about 1 pound)
1/3 cup reduced-fat (2 percent) milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup frozen blueberries


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a bowl, whisk together flours, wheat germ, baking soda, and salt.

2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In another bowl, mash bananas with a fork (you should have 3/4 cup); stir in milk and vanilla.

3. With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture and banana mixture to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined. Fold in frozen blueberries.

4. Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Let cool in pan 10 minutes; transfer muffins to a rack to cool 10 minutes more.

To make lemon glaze: Combine the juice of one lemon with enough powdered sugar to create desired consistency (I like mine a bit on the thick side). Drizzle over muffins while they cool on the rack.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pork and White Bean Ragout


I seem to have a knack for unintentionally keeping recipes to myself for entirely too long. I've made many a delicious meal, documented them with honest intentions of blogging them ASAP, and then promptly let my culinary ADD take over and completely forgot about it until months later when I found the photos lurking in my archives. Such was the case today when I was cleaning up my photo folders and came across pictures of these gorgeous blood oranges I enjoyed a few months ago (you know, the ones I didn't tell you about). In case you were wondering, they were as delicious as they were beautiful.


Of course, in my usual fashion, I bought a few more oranges than I could eat and had to find other uses for them, which brought me to this recipe. The blood orange juice and red wine (sangria, anyone?) give this dish a wonderfully bold, fruity element, but the paprika, cloves, and chili flakes lend enough spice and heat to remind you that this is a dish for cold winter nights, not for muggy summer picnics. My only complaint was that the rosemary almost overwhelmed the dish in a not-so-pleasant, piny sort of way. For a less woodsy experience, I'd suggest using less than the requested 3 branches.


Pork and White Bean Ragout
(adapted, with small changes, from here)

1 cup dried white beans, rinsed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Grated zest and juice of 1 blood orange
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
3 branches fresh rosemary (I would use a bit less next time)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Small pinch red chili flakes
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Place beans in a saucepan, cover with water by 2 inches, bring to a boil, cook 2 minutes, cover and set aside to soak 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 4-quart casserole and brown pork without crowding over medium-high heat. Remove. Add onion, garlic and bell pepper. Sauté over low heat until soft. Stir in paprika, cloves and zest. Stir in orange juice and wine, scraping bottom of pan. Return pork to pan. Set aside until beans have finished soaking, then drain beans and add. Add rosemary, black pepper and chili. Bring to a simmer.

3. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 hours, until beans are tender. Add water occasionally, if needed. Season with salt. Leave in casserole for serving or transfer to a serving dish. Scatter parsley on top before serving.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Quick and Easy Chocolate Buttercream


I made this cake for Christmas, and though I was a little underwhelmed by the cake itself (almond and my picky preggo palate just weren't jiving that day), I loved the chocolate buttercream. It's a lighter chocolate flavor, so if you're looking for a death-by-chocolate sort of deal, this is not your frosting (though I do have something to post for you fellow chocoholics later). I'm a bit surprised by how much I liked this, considering it's a quick buttercream and not the cooked meringue style I usually prefer; however I do think it could be improved upon with a bit of Bailey's. Either way, I like this for a quick, not-too-heavy on the chocolate chocolate buttercream. It's not the greatest for decorative piping, but it works enough for the basics.


Chocolate Buttercream
(adapted from Martha Stewart)

3 cups butter, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. bittersweet chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled(I used Callebaut)

1. In a large mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter until creamy.
2. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and beat until incorporated into butter.
3. Add vanilla and salt, beat until incorporated.
4. Add chocolate and beat until chocolate is thoroughly mixed and buttercream is light and fluffy.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

...And in the Morning, I'm Makin' WAFFLES!


If you're wondering what that "whoosh" sound was, that was the sound of the holiday season flying by at breakneck speed, leaving all of us in its wake wondering what to do next. From New Year's until the first signs of warm weather, I always get this sense that I'm meandering through some sort of suspended animation, trapped in a cold-weather induced mental fog with my head down and my eyes focused on my feet. I don't know why I always feel so subdued this time of year, but I do know that it doesn't take much more than a waffle to coax me out of my semi-hibernation. Though I prefer the classic yeast-risen waffle, this recipe is worth keeping in your repertoire for whenever you need a waffle fix, fast. The batter comes together quickly, and although it doesn't create a waffle as light and fluffy with as crisp of an exterior as some of the yeasted Belgian waffle recipes do, it's definitely got a leg up in those categories compared to most of the other quick batter waffles I've tried.

Buttermilk Waffles
(Adapted from Mark Bittman)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, separated
4 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then stir in the buttermilk, egg yolks, butter and vanilla.

2. Preheat the waffle iron. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks, then gently fold into the batter.

3. Spread a half cup to cup or so of batter onto the waffle iron and bake until the waffle is done (amount of batter and bake time will vary, depending on your waffle iron). Serve immediately.