Archive for the ‘Bread’ Category

Maddie’s Best Ever Nut Bread

26 May 13

This is from the wonderful girl that was my first love many (many) years ago. She is right, this is pretty good stuff.

{Herself Sez: Himself has impeccable taste. Maddie is a sweetheart and VERY married for many years! :-)}

The internet is wonderful for finding and keeping in touch with people that you haven’t seen for nearly 50 years.

660 g sugar (3 cups)
190 g Crisco, plain (1 cup)
9 g vanilla (2 tsp)
4 ea eggs, large
630 g flour (4 1/2 cups)
11 g salt (2 tsp)
10 g baking soda (2 tsp)
((420
g water (1 3/4 cups) AND <<==
40 g buttermilk powder (1/4 cups)) <<== OR
2 cups
Buttermilk
160 g chopped walnuts (1 1/2 cups)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

This method assumes a decent mixer like a Kitchenaid. You can mix by hand if you like.

Cream together shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and eggs. Now those who have been paying attention know that I seldom use shortening, I usually use butter. This is one of the places that you do not want butter. You would not get much, if any, lift. Your nut bread would be very dense and heavy. I think the best way to handle the Crisco is to get the bars. You probably already know the best way to measure out of a can, but I’ll review for you. If you need a cup of water or butter or anything else of a like consistency, then take a two cup measure and put in a cup of water. Begin adding the shortening until the water rises to the two cup mark. Pour off the water and you have a cup of shortening. As the philosopher said: “Eureka!” Of course, it is much easier to just weigh things.

Add the buttermilk and mix briefly. Now things will be better if you have some real buttermilk. I don’t keep it around, but I do keep a good grade of baker’s buttermilk powder. You can get it from King Arthur or your grocery may carry some. Bob’s Red Mill is a decent brand. At any rate, either use the fresh buttermilk or the powder and water. You will get a slightly lighter loaf with real buttermilk.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until completely incorporated. Add walnuts and mix just enough to incorporate.

Pour into three greased 9x5x3 loaf pans. I do use unsalted butter for the lube, but you can use what you like.

Bake at 350°F for one hour. Cool on a rack.

Like any other nut bread, this works well naked, spread with butter, served with ice cream, whipped cream, or whatever. Also works nicely toasted. This stuff also freezes rather nicely.

{Herself Sez: Sorry about no pictures – have to take some next time Himself makes this bread!}

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Brioche

30 January 13
Brioche

Brioche (Photo credit: joana hard)

Brioche is supposed to be a difficult and intimidating bread. Well, I don’t see that unless you decide to do things the hard way. Like any other bread, brioche can be made pretty much by the numbers if you do things correctly.

This is the size for two small bread pans or one Pain de Mie pan.

520   g   bread flour
160
  g   high gluten flour
63   g   cold water
6   cold eggs
17
  g   salt
82   g   sugar
1   pkg   yeast
3   sticks
  cold butter
1   egg, beaten with a dollop of water

This stuff is not really bread. It is not really pastry either. It is a bridge between the two, and shares characteristics of both. It is rather magical the way it does. Those who are totally nuts might think about doing this by hand. Those who are sane will use a good mixer.

First rule – everything must be cold. This is not optional. You must refrigerate all ingredients overnight. This includes the flour, water, salt, sugar, and yeast. Also refrigerate the mixing bowl and dough hook. Only take things out as you need them. Work quickly and all will be well.

Mix everything except the butter on first speed until everything is incorporated, usually about 3 to 5 minutes. Mix on second speed 5 to 7 minutes until the dough is strong and tough.

Meanwhile beat the cold butter with a stick between sheets of plastic wrap until pliable (but still cold). Use a French style rolling pin (just a tapered stick), not an American, which has ball bearings. If you don’t have a good French rolling pin then use a cut off broomstick or something similar.

With the mixer still running toss in chunks of the butter. You can toss them in one after the other; you don’t have to wait for the preceding to incorporate. Another 8 minutes and the dough should be smooth, silky, slick, and deliciously buttery.

Turn it out into a lightly floured bowl and wrap with plastic wrap so that NO air gets to it. I do a wrap around the dough and then a layer across the top of the bowl secured by a large rubber band. Works well.

Rise for 1 hour. This is not going to double in size. Don’t panic, just fold it and keep on going. Rise for 2 hours, fold. Rise for 3 to 4 hours, fold and place in the refrigerator overnight. You will note that there were 3 rises, and between 6 and 7 hours rise before you put it in the refrigerator. The reason that the last one is 3 to 4 is that I won’t stay up an extra hour.

The next morning set it back on the counter and let it warm just enough so you can handle it. Fold, divide, shape it whatever you like and let it rise some more. You want about 50% of your form filled. Rise until 85% or a little more of the form is filled. Do an egg wash for anything but a Pain de Mie pan.

Bake at 375°F to 380°F. Time is dependent on the form. For a small bread loaf (this recipe makes two), you are looking at around 40 to 45 minutes. Set the pan on top of an airfoil cookie sheet in about the middle of the oven. If you don’t have an airfoil pan you can double stack just about any type of jelly pans. What you are doing is keeping the bottom from burning. Take a look at things somewhere around 20 minutes and if it is starting to get too brown tent with a bit of aluminum foil.

You really want to use a good digital insertion thermometer. That is really the best way to tell when it is done. 205°F is the target. It is not a good thump test type bread. When it is done properly it will be golden brown and smell wonderfully rich.

Last caution: Be very careful to not under bake this bread.

Lángos

24 December 12

[Once again, this is Herself, posting for Himself. Mainly, I forgot to log out and login under his ID.]

This is the plain lángos, similar to the fried breads that just about every culture has had at one time or another. Very near North American Indian fried bread. This is the HungarianCentral European – version. For more discussion see the Krumplis Lángos (potato lángos) recipe.

 450   g  flour (3 cups)
 1  pkg. yeast
 1  pinch   salt
 5  g  sugar (1 tsp)
 225   g  water (1 cup)
 10  g  unsalted soft butter (1 Tbs) 

Put everything in the mixer. 3 minutes first speed. 3 minutes second speed.

Put the dough ball into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise 1 hour.

Depending on what you want to do with this divide into somewhere between 4 and 16 pieces. Either pat it out or roll it out to about 1/8” thickness.

Fry in 375°F oil until golden brown. Turn and fry the other side. Let them drain on a paper towel. Hungarian style: rub with cut garlic and sprinkle with coarse ground salt.

Lángos with cheese and sour cream

Lángos with cheese and sour cream (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also good for making pocket sandwiches, tearing and dipping cheese, spinach, or whatever kind of dip. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, or honey, for a desert. Just spread butter or cream cheese or whatever for a nice bread side. Very versatile.

Banana Bread

27 September 12
300 g bananas – large and ripe, mashed (1cup) – (about 2 large bananas)
450 g all-purpose flour (2 cups)
5 g baking soda (1 tsp)
3 g salt (1/2 tsp)
1 stick unsalted butter
220 g sugar (1 cup)
2 large eggs
100 g milk (1/3 cup)
4 g lemon juice (1 tsp)
75 g chopped nuts (1/4 cup)

The simple way is to put the bananas in the mixer bowl first, then the rest except the nuts. Mix with a paddle on low speed until smooth. This only takes a minute or two with a good mixer.

Now the old (and harder) way is to cream the wet ingredients together, then sift and mix all the dry ingredients together, and add about a cup at a time to the wet mix, blending well, until all the dry stuff has been added and blended. You can use a mixer or go by hand for this method.

bananas

bananas (Photo credit: Fernando Stankuns)

Add the nuts and blend them in. Herself is a big fan of pecans, but suit yourself. Pour into a well-buttered 9x5x3 standard pan.

Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes to an hour or until center springs back when pressed lightly.

I think everyone knows that this is what you can do with over-ripe (blackened) bananas. Fortunately, this is also pretty good dessert. Goes well heated with some butter, or room temp with whipped cream.

Danish Pastry

30 March 12

Danish pastry is just another laminated dough which can be made from any laminated type recipe, such as this. Or you can use the croissant dough of your choice, it’s all the same. I’ve given a recipe for croissants before. This is not quite as rich and is more suited to stuffing in my opinion, but follow your own taste buds.

Pecan and Maple Danish

Pecan and Maple Danish (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Note that you will work this dough cold at all times. Keep the kitchen cool. If your hands get warm cool them off with a bit of ice or rinse with cool water. It is not necessary to have a metal or stone counter to work this stuff. My countertop is wood and works just fine.

To make the basic dough:

—–Butter Center—–
unsalted butter, slightly softened (1-1/2 cup)
38 g bread flour (1/4 cup)


—–Dough Outer—–
525 g flour (3-1/2 cups)
110 g water (1/2 cup)
2 pkgs. yeast
1 egg
180 g cold milk (3/4 cup)
80 g sugar (1/3 cup)
3 g salt (1/2 tsp)

With a decent mixer making the dough is not hard. Without, you will need lots of elbow grease.

—– Butter Center —–
Get the butter just warm enough to be plastic, but not really soft. Cream the butter until it is soft and silky then add the 38 g (1/4 cup) of flour and blend completely. Put down a sheet of waxed paper on the counter and plop the butter into the center. Cover with another sheet of waxed paper and press it out with your hands to make a very neat and precise 9” x 11” rectangle. Be very fussy about getting it accurate and really square. No – I’m not just being obsessive – it does matter. Slide onto a sheet pan and put into the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

—– Dough Outer —–
Mix together the 525g (3-1/2 cups) flour, water, yeast, egg, milk, sugar, and salt. Mix 3 minutes 1st speed, and 3 minutes 2nd speed. You may use either bread flour or all-purpose flour. I think that bread flour makes a nicer crust. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 10 minutes or so.

Sprinkle your work surface with a generous amount of flour. When you turn the dough out it will be soft, but somewhat stiff with the cold. Roll out to a 10” x 14” rectangle. Once again be somewhat fussy about the size and squareness. Place the butter on top of the dough offset such that 3 of the sides have a 1/2” border of dough. Roughly 1/3 of the dough will be exposed at one end. Starting with the exposed dough end make a 2 part book fold. In other words fold the exposed end over the butter, which should be about 1/3 of the length, fold again so that the finished piece is 1/3 the length of the original. Be fussy and make sure all is aligned and square. Put the dough on a jelly roll sheet or cookie sheet, cover, and put in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes take the dough back out and roll out to a 10” x 14” rectangle, do the double book fold, and put it back in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Repeat twice more – a total of 4 times folded. Kinda’ like Japanese or Damascus steel. A whole bunch of thin layers of dough and butter alternated. This is why this kind of thing is called laminated dough.

Egg Wash:
Beaten egg yolk with a teaspoon of cold water.

Croissants:
Now you can make croissants if you like, roll out into a rectangle 15” wide by 1/8” thick and as long as it winds up. Cut in half so that you have 2 strips 7-1/2” wide. Cut triangles with a base of 4-1/2” and a length of 7-1/2”. Roll the croissants from the base toward the point and then form into the crescent shape that gives them their name. Brush them with an egg wash if you want them shiny. Bake at 425°F for 20 minutes until golden.

Some other shapes are cockscombs, pinwheels, envelopes and braids – well, false braids work nicely.

Cockscomb:
Roll pastry into 16” x 18” rectangle. Cut longwise into 4 strips. Spread about 2 tablespoons down the center of each strip. Fold the dough over and seal. Cut into 3 pieces. Notch the folded side of each piece 7 times. Bow the pieces on the sealed side so that the notches open up. You can refrigerate overnight. Heat the oven to 400°F. Brush with egg and bake 5 minutes, drop the oven to 350°F and bake for another 15 minutes.

Pinwheels:
Roll dough into 18” square, cut in half both ways so that you have 4 9” squares. Re-roll the squares if necessary. Make a 4” slit from each corner toward the center. Put whatever filling you like, about 1 tablespoon between each 2 slits, 4 tablespoons per pinwheel. Fold over every other point of the corners into the center. This will partly cover the filling and form the pinwheel shape. It may help to wet the tips to make them stick better. Cover with plastic, refrigerate overnight. Brush with egg, cook 5 minutes in 400°F oven. Reduce to 350°F and cook another 30 minutes.

Envelopes:
Roll dough into 18” square, cut in half both ways so that you have 4 9” squares. Re-roll the squares if necessary. Put 2 tablespoons of filling in opposite corners and fold like an envelope. Cover with plastic, refrigerate overnight. Brush with egg, cook 5 minutes in 400°F oven. Reduce to 350°F and cook another 30 minutes.

False Braid:
One of the niftiest ways of doing things. Cut the dough book in half and roll the half into an 8” by 16” rectangle. You will need about 1 cup of filling. Lightly mark the strip into thirds lengthways. With a pastry knife start at one end and cut off a triangle about 1” wide at the side and to the top at the other end. Should be about 30° or so. Cut the remainder of the pastry into 1” strips on each side.

The little drawing should make things a bit clearer. Lightly mark the dotted lines so you can keep things even. Cut off and discard areas ‘X’. Or make them into mini croissants. Cut the strips in the areas marked ‘Y’. Cover the area ‘Z’ with filling. Starting at the end that you cut the ‘X’s from alternately fold the strips over to the opposing side, which will cover the filling nicely. Roll each end over, moisten and pinch closed neatly. Cover with plastic, refrigerate overnight. Brush with egg, cook 5 minutes in 400°F oven. Reduce to 350°F and cook another 30 minutes.

Glaze:
1-1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar. ½ stick melted unsalted butter. A few drops of lemon juice. 1 tsp vanilla. Add water as necessary to make a smooth glaze to drizzle over the pastry. Can be used over any of the pastries.

Fillings are multitudinous. A few are as follows:

Almond Filling:
1 egg white
1/2 cup almond paste
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

Cardamom Filling:
6 Tbs soft butter
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup currants
1/2 tsp ground cardamom

Macaroon Filling:
1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup finely crushed almond macaroons
1/2 tsp almond extract

Pecan Filling:
1/4 cup soft butter
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp rum extract

Your favorite jam, jelly or marmalade if they are good and thick can be used for filling.

Krumplis Lángos

15 October 11

Theoretically the original flame baked flat bread was introduced during the Ottoman Turk occupation of Hungary in the 16th

2014-02-12 17.45.40century. An alternate theory is that they descend from the Roman hearth bread panis focacius, which is also an ancestor of the Italian focaccia, which I have written about elsewhere. Actually, both theories could be correct – since the Turks were Byzantine Christians until the Moslem conquest and Constantinople was the Eastern Rome. Things have changed a bit over the centuries. The bread is no longer cooked in front of an open flame, but has become deep fried. The basic version –lángos – is a standard bread kind of thing. These are the potato variety – called krumplis lángos. I’ll write up the plain lángos one of these days – they are good also.

340 g mashed potato (3/4 lb)
1 pkg yeast
 5 g sugar (1 tsp)
250 g all-purpose flour (1-3/4)
15 g olive oil (1 Tbs)
5 g salt (3/4 tsp)
125 g milk (1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, cut in half

You know the basic drill for a mashed spud: peel it, whack it into about 8 pieces, put into boiling salted water for about 15 minutes. The test is to stick a fork in it. When the spuds are tender all the way through drain them and then mash them up. Put the mashed spuds and everything else except the garlic into the mixing bowl. Mix with the flat beater for about one minute, just to get things together. Swap the beater for the dough hook. Mix 3 minutes on first speed. Mix 3 minutes on second speed.

You will notice that the dough starts off rather dry, but becomes pretty loose and wet by the second speed mixing. This behavior is pretty typical of potato breads. Put the dough into a lubed covered bowl and let rise until doubled. Don’t be fooled, this stuff rises pretty fast, as in about 20 minutes or less should see the volume double.

You will find this to be some of the smoothest, silkiest dough that you have ever felt. Anyway, cut into four pieces, flatten on a floured board and form into rounds. Cover with plastic or a floured cloth and let rest about 20 minutes.

In an electric skillet, or a large fry pan heat up about 1 inch of good oil to about 375°F. Peanut or canola come to mind.

Flatten and stretch each piece to an 8” round on the floured board. Fry them one at a time for about 2 minutes 30 seconds per side. You are looking for a rich golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

The most frequent way of serving these is to cut a piece of garlic in half and rub it over the round while it is still hot, then sprinkle with a good coarse salt. A good Atlantic sea salt or a Himalayan pink do very nicely. Himalayan pink is actually from Pakistan, which I’m not fond of enriching, but I won’t let that get in the way of the taste buds.

Other common toppings include sour cream and minced dill, shredded Emmanthaler and/or Gruyere (try mixing in 1/3 Parmigiano-Reggiano). For a nice desert cinnamon/sugar or powdered sugar work well. Really, you can top them with anything you like.

People have referred to lángos – pronounced lon-gosh – as Hungarian pizza. I disagree. These have got a whole lot going for themselves and don’t imitate anything. They are their own wonderful flavor.

I suppose I should mention that these have spread all over Eastern Europe, popular everywhere. Mostly served in fast food joints or by street vendors.

Once you’ve done these you can pretty well knock them out while preparing the rest of dinner. Be warned that these are addicting and filling – particularly the original garlic and salt variety. {{Herself Sez: Yummmm!}}

Portuguese Sweet Bread

4 June 11
Yeast bread dough, ready for proving

Image via Wikipedia

I first saw this stuff in the James Beard’s book Beard on Bread. Herself was making it back when. As in the old back-breaking way. When she expressed a desire to have it again I told her that I’d look into it… and update to a more bakerly approach. I don’t have any patience with that old feel your way through school of thought. Precision! That way you can bang it through with little hassle and get consistently repeatable results.

You will notice that this is a lot like kulich or brioche. In fact – most of these sweet butter and egg yeast breads look a good bit alike and are handled in similar fashion. There are, however, differences in taste and texture which make each unique and delightful.

725    g bread flour (4-3/4 cups)
230    g sugar (1 cup)
1    stick unsalted soft butter
125    g water (1/2 cup)
125    g milk (1/2 cup)
3     eggs
18    g salt (1 Tbs)
2    pkg yeast
1     egg, well-beaten, for brushing

Weigh everything except the last egg into the bowl and mix 3 minutes on 1st speed and then 3 minutes on 2nd speed. You will have a rather wet and sticky dough, but don’t worry – this is correct. Into a buttered bowl to rise. Cover with plastic wrap.

Bulk rise for 1 hour, then fold. Divide in half. The choice of shape is yours. The traditional loaf is the standard round loaf. If that is what you want then lube up a couple of 9” pie pans and set the rounded loaves in them. This dough is wet enough that it will spread out too far if it is not supported at first. There other way to do it is to use standard 8.5” x 4.5” x 2.5” standard loaf pans well lubed.

Whichever shape you use cover with plastic and let it rise. This is SLOW rising stuff, so don’t freak out when it doesn’t jump up like normal dough. In fact, it will benefit from a couple of hours rise, then retarding overnight in the refrigerator. Take it out the next morning and let it come up to room temp. You only want this to rise up to 75% or so of the pan height. It will really balloon out when it hits the oven.

Oven temp 350°F. Brush the tops with the last egg, well-beaten. Oven time will be 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on shape. This is not a good thump test bread, the best way to tell when it is done is a thermometer, which will be at 205°F when it is just right. The top will usually be a dark brown from the egg wash.

Dump onto a cooling rack and let it cool before cutting.

{{Herself Sez: As long as I’m posting this for Himself, I’ll add a comment or two. His version here is delicious. I do prefer the round loaf, though, and Himself will make it that way next time. If you look at the Brioche and Kuliche recipes (if not posted, then to be posted shortly), you will be able to see the similarities. But there are differences, and each of these breads tastes somewhat different from the other two, and each has a different texture. Thank you, dear, for editing this recipe so I can make it – should it become necessary.}}

A Very British Meal (and a Touch of France)

1 June 11

I can’t think of any greater British contribution to world cuisine than the famous roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. A standing rib roast was always the meal that I requested for birthday dinner when I was growing up. My Mother did it rather well.

Then the first girl that I ever really liked was half Brit, and her mother introduced me to Yorkshire pudding. Oh my, that stuff is good.

And of course, you know I have to add a bit of a French touch. The dipping juice reduction is very French.

Yes, rib roast is pretty expensive, but if you really watch your meat prices you can probably get a fairly decent buy once or twice a year. We find that a two rib roast will yield several meals and some nice sandwiches.

bone-in prime rib
cloves garlic
salt and coarsely ground black pepper
red wine
beef stock
chopped fresh thyme leaves

Remove the meat from the refrigerator and let it come up to room temperature. Maybe an hour depending on the size. 30 minutes is about right for a two rib roast.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Garlic the roast, you know the drill. Make small slits and plunk a slice of garlic in all over the roast. Rub all over with a mixture of coarse salt and coarse pepper. Set it on a rack in a pan, bones down and fat up. (You do know that you need a bit of fat for basting and flavor, don’t you?) You can lube the rack with non-stick spray if you like, but don’t lube the pan. If it worries you then you can put in a layer of aluminum foil. I can’t tell you how long to cook it. About 15 to 18 minutes a pound is what is usually quoted for bone-in and 350°F cooking temp. That ain’t the way to go. Put a thermometer in the meat. Thermometers of the electronic oven type are pretty cheap anymore, and your cooking consistency will improve. What you want is medium rare, or 135°F at the center. Even if you are one of the unwashed heathens that wants done shoe leather, don’t. The flavor is at peak at medium rare. Reheat your slices if you must. But you should really try it the right way first. Tent the roast with foil while you do everything else. The rest will do it good.

If you are going to do Yorkshire pudding you will need a couple of tablespoons of the pan drippings. Be sure to get out what you need and get the puddings going into the oven at this point.

Now here comes the French part. Put the pan over a burner or two on your stove and add some wine. I can’t tell you how much. I can tell you that a 2 rib roast is about 1 cup of red wine. Reduce it over high heat, stirring often and mixing up any pan goodies. Add twice as much beef stock as the wine, 2 cups for a two rib roast. You will notice that the wine/stock ratio is 1/2 and everything else in proportion. Keep reducing and stirring until it is reduced by nearly half. Taste, salt, pepper as necessary. Be careful not to over salt things. Keep it a little lighter than you would normally like, the meat already has salt and pepper on it. We like some thyme in ours. You’d need a light tablespoon full of fresh chopped thyme or about half that of dried for our hypothetical two rib roast.

Slice the roast fairly thin and serve with the juice. Au jus just means “with juice.”

Now the Yorkshire pudding part; which you actually start making as soon as you put the roast in.

Yorkshire Pudding

150 g all-purpose flour (1 cup)
4 g kosher salt (1/2 tsp)
230 g milk (1 cup)
25 g melted unsalted butter
2 eggs
roast drippings

A bit of discussion: According to the aforementioned first girlfriend’s Brit mother it may not be possible to make a true Yorkshire pudding with anything other than true British flour. I have pretty good results with King Arthur all-purpose, but I won’t swear that it is authentic Yorkshire.

Further discussion: The true and original is blended by hand and sat under the roast and cooked with meat juice dripping into it. Not the way it is usually done nowadays, even in England. There are two ways that it is done nowadays, single dish where you get one big pudding. The multiple version is done in muffin tins or something similar so that you get many individual servings. That is how I prefer it.

A note on proportions: This will make about a dozen individual puddings. If you need to double it, add an extra egg.

Dump everything into a good mixer and blend it 30 seconds low speed, 90 seconds on the highest speed you can do without sloshing over. This is probably about speed 6 on a Kitchenaid. This should be nice and smooth and about the consistency of heavy cream. Let it sit, covered, for about an hour.

When you take your roast out raise the oven temp to 450°F.

For a single put a couple of tablespoons of pan drippings into a 9×12 ovenproof dish. Heat the dish in to oven for about 10 minutes. Then pour the batter into the pan, bake for about 15 minutes at 450°F, then reduce the setting to 350°F for another 15 minutes or so.

For the individual, or popover version put about 3/4 teaspoon of drippings in the bottom of each cup. Pop the muffin tin into the oven for about 3 minutes. Then pour batter into the pan, about 1/3 full. Bake for 15 minutes at 450°F and then reduce the temperature to 350°F for another 10 minutes or so.

Keep an eye on things, you want a really puffed up, golden brown creation.

As a point of information: anytime you have an oven temperature reduced partway through the cooking, usually for baked goods, you are trying to mimic the action of an old-fashion masonry oven. This was called a falling oven, and it is one of the things that really expensive baker’s ovens try to imitate.

I should also mention that Yorkshire pudding will not keep. In fact, it begins to deteriorate as soon as it comes out of the oven. So serve it immediately. If you are having some other courses ahead, make sure you time it so the puddings are eaten as soon as they come out.

{{Herself Sez: OMG! Yorkshires get my “inner Labrador” in a frenzy! Himself made the mistake of making 5 the other night. We each ate one. He was going to throw out the rest. I “rescued” them from a fate worse than death – I ATE THEM!! Just YUMMM!}}

Almond Biscotti

7 May 11

Legend has it that the twice baked treat that we call biscotti originates in the Italian city of Prato and should be called biscotti de Prato. Prato is in Tuscany – kinda’ North Central Italy. The original jobbies were supposed to be this nice almond version. These may go way back. We do know that something like these was being made in the medieval period. The first “official” recipe was somewhere around the 1800’s or thereabouts. People who like biscotti are nuts about this version. It is not hard to make at all.

{Herself sez: Well, pics will have to come later – we ate them up before I could get my camera out and set up! They are THAT good!}

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
230 g sugar (1 cup) – can be reduced to 200 g easily, or less by taste
3 eggs
3 g anise or vanilla extract (1 tsp)
320 g all-purpose flour (2 cups)
8 g baking powder (2 tsp)
dash salt
80 g chopped almonds (1/2 cup)
milk for brushing
sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

You should use a mixer for this unless you have more energy and strength that good sense. You can use a flat beater or a dough hook. If you want to be really efficient use the flat beater until you add flour and then switch to the hook.

Cream the butter and sugar until nice and smooth. Use less sugar if this is too sweet for you. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix for a few seconds. Anise may be the more traditional flavor if you have it. Remember vanilla wasn’t available until the conquest of Mexico. Interesting that both chocolate and vanilla come from the new world. Add all the rest except the almonds and mix together. Lastly add the almonds and mix briefly to evenly distribute. Traditionally you just use plain old almonds – not blanched or anything else. You don’t really have to chop them, when you slice the stuff you will cut the almonds anyway. Follow your own preferences.

Use the biggest pan that will fit in your oven. If you don’t have a good sized pan then use two smaller pans. Cover the pan with foil and then butter the foil quite thoroughly. Divide the dough in half and then spread it on the pan with a good space between. You will wind up with two strips 12” x 3” or 10” x 4” depending on the size of your pan. You will find it easier to just pat into place rather than trying to spread with a utensil. Keep them as far apart as your pan will allow and as square as possible. You don’t want the two strips to melt together. This will all make sense after you do it the first time.

Brush the top with milk and sprinkle well with sugar. You will probably use about 1/4 cup of sugar or a bit more when it is right. Bake at 375°F for around 20 minutes. You want a nice golden brown and it should be firm to touch.

When nice and brown remove from the oven and turn the heat down to 300°F. Slide the foil and pastry onto a wire cooling rack. Let it cool for 15 minutes. You have to be very careful with these steps as the pastry is rather fragile here. After it has cooled for the required time you need to get the pastry off the foil. The best way that I have found is to place the foil/pastry to the edge of the counter with the strips parallel to the edge. Support the strip from the bottom as you slide the pastry off the counter while peeling the foil down. When you have finished the first strip turn the foil around and do the other. This is the time to be very careful or you will crack the stuff. Slice the pastry with a good bread knife at a 45° angle. If the knife is not good and sharp you may rip the almonds around.

Put the slices with a cut side down on an ungreased baking sheet. You will do much better to use a jelly roll pan (the kind that had a lip all the way around). If you use a real non-stick cookie sheet the slices are likely to go sailing as it takes almost no movement to get the slice sliding. Bake them at 300°F for 10 minutes or so on one side, turn them over and do another 10 minutes. Just turn the oven off, crack the door, and let them cool for a while in the oven. After things have cooled off store them in a really airtight container.

Since these are so bone-dry they are traditionally served with something to dunk them in. Coffee and tea are well thought of. The old Italian tradition was orange juice after dinner. Try it – the reason most stuff (food wise) gets to be a tradition is because it is good.

Loaf Pan Sourdough Loaf

1 May 10

This is a nice loaf for loaf pans. (Not that you can’t do baguettes or free-form). It does pretty good for toast, sandwich, cheese toast and the like. This is a pure sourdough with no additional yeast added.

—–Overnight Starter—–

340   g   fed sourdough starter (1-1/3 cups)

303   g   water (1-1/3 cups)

340   g   bread flour (3 cups)

—–Next Morning Sponge—–

170   g   flour (1-1/3 cups)

—–Dough—–

170   g   water (2/3 cup)

14     g   butter or oil (2 tsp)

340   g   bread flour (3 cups)

19     g   salt (3 tsp)

—– Starter —–

Mix starter, water and flour together and cover. Substitute whole wheat or white whole wheat for half the flour if desired. Let ferment overnight.

—– Sponge —–

Mix in flour. Ferment 4 hours.

—– Dough —–

Mix in all ingredients. Mix 3 minutes low speed, 3 minutes second speed.

Ferment 4 hours, should be doubled.

Divide, shape, place into lubed pans, ferment until doubled – about 3 hours. This recipe makes 2 8-1/2” x 4-1/2” x 2-1/2” loaves, or one larger loaf.

Baguettes or free-form: Slash, steam. Bake covered 15 minutes at 450F. Uncover and reduce heat to 425F for 15 minutes.

Loaf pan: Steam. Bake at 400F for 45 minutes.

Not a purist’s French bread, since butter is added to the mix, and by French law only flour, water, yeast and salt are allowed in something called “French Bread”.


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