“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”

James Beard (1903-1985)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

BBD#38 - No-Knead Festival: Medieval Masteluin

Jim Lahey must be one of the most appreciated men in the world, at least in the bread world. Thousands of frustrated, hesitant or new bread bakers sighed in relief when he revealed a no-knead bread method that allowed many to overcome the kneading hurdle, a big step on the way to beautiful bread. The No-Knead method flies into the face of all baking lessons: no pushing and squeezing until the dough develops elasticity, no looking for opaque windows, no measuring temperatures or watch for overproofing.

The secret is, instead of using your own muscles, to let time do the work. Yeah, you read it right. Time, that one thing that we all have equally much of, 24 hours in a day. Briefly mix all the bread ingredients together until a wet, runny dough forms, put it into an oiled bowl, cover and let it rest overnight. The resting time will develop wonderful flavor, a beautiful gluten network and a lovely, crisp crust when baked.

Masteluin, an equal mix
of wheat and rye flours
For this round of Bread Baking Day, number #38, Cindy from Cindystar's blog invites us to bake a bread according to the no-knead method. If you've never used this method before, this is a great opportunity to try it out! Read more on Jim and his method here.

I chose a flour mix for a bread called masteluin, half rye, half wheat, that was traditional for Holland during the Middle Ages. Nowadays, it is still popular in Belgium, but homebakers in the Netherlands are slowly gaining new appreciation for this bread. Because rye has a tendency to rise less, the bubbles in the bread are not as pronounced as with wheat, but it's still delicious!

2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 cups of dark rye
1 1/2 cup of warm water
1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast
2 teaspoons of salt

Mix the flours together, add the warm water and the yeast and stir together. Add the yeast, continue to stir the wet dough. Oil a bowl, scrape the dough into the bowl, turn it over and cover. Let it sit on the kitchen counter for at least two hours, fold it over and refrigerate overnight, or leave it on the counter.

The next morning, pull the dough from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Fold the dough over once and shape it, if possible. The dough is very wet. Take a heavily floured towel, or a couche, and let the dough rest for its final rise, seam side up. Preheat the oven to 500F. Since the masteluin was traditionally baked on the oven floor, I used unglazed tiles on the middle shelf instead. Place a baking pan on the bottom shelf.

When the dough is ready to bake, roll it over on a floured cookie sheet. Open the oven door, score it if you want and slide the bread onto the hot tiles and close the door. Get four or five ice cubes, put them in the baking pan so that they provide steam for the bread, and close the door again.

Bake the bread in about twenty minutes. Remove it from the oven, and let it cool on a rack. The masteluin mix is fabulous for cheese and sandwich meats, and tastes great toasted.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

BBB - Third Anniversary Baking: Ensaïmadas

Happy Anniversary, Bread Baking Babes!! This fabulous group of bakers have entertained and encouraged so many of us during these last three years, sharing their lives, their baking experiences and opening up their kitchens to let us, buddies, bake along with them and share in some of the joy.

This month's challenge was to pick a bread from the last three years and re-bake it. Where to begin? The fabulous spelt bread from last month, that wonderful Indian bread we baked some time ago? Should I dare bake another gluten-free bread, in the hopes that it would turn out lovely and fluffy this time? Nah.....the moment I saw what the challenge was I knew what I'd be baking again: the beloved ensaïmadas from my early teenage years, when I spent a year living in the birthplace of the ensaimada; the island of Mallorca.

Last time I baked these flaky, sweet twirly pastries with butter since the lard was a bit off and I hated the thought of ruining the experiment. Butter worked fine and gave a flaky, tender, buttery pastry. This time, however, I was set on using lard. After all, the name "ensaïmadas" means "covered in lard" and not butter!

I'm so glad I did. Even though the pastry was equally tasteful, and perhaps a tad flakier, it felt more authentic. All I was missing was the hot chocolate to go with it, but I shared them with my dear friend Ann over a cup of coffee. And what's better than sharing good pastries with good company? Pretty darn nothing, I reckon!

For the recipe, click here to be taken back to the original recipe. If you want to bake with lard, just replace the amount of butter in the recipe with lard and you're good to go.

So, once again, Happy Anniversary to you, Bread Baking Babes! It's been a fantastic time, and I look forward to many more baking challenges!

Monday, January 24, 2011

My Dutch Baking Blog: Driekoningenbrood

My Dutch Baking Blog: Driekoningenbrood: "Three Kings Day, or Epiphany, is traditionally celebrated on January 6th. It's supposedly the day that the three Magi, Balthasar, Melchior a..."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

BBB - Hildegard's Spelt Bread

I say it all the time, so it must be getting old to some of you readers, but I just love baking with these Bread Baking Babe girls! This month, we had a special lady join us, Hildegard von Bingen, not necessarily in baking but most definitely in spirit.

This month's Bread Baking boniface, Astrid from Paulchen's Foodblog, chose Hildegard's Spelt bread for the Bread Baking Babes challenge. Whole grain bread tends to be heavy, both in chewing and on the stomach. This bread however, although 100% spelt, is tender, pleasant and has a wonderful flavor. If you have never worked with spelt before, this recipe is definitely worthwhile!

Here's what Astrid has to say about spelt: "Spelt is closely related to the common form of wheat and is not suitable for people with coeliac disease. Some people with an allergy or intolerance to common wheat (like me) can tolerate spelt. Spelt flour can replace whole wheat flour or whole grain flour in recipes for breads and pasta. Some people like to blend spelt flour with wheat flour. I have used spelt to make bread, rolls, sweet-breads, cookies, muffins, bagels, pretzels and I have used spelt to replace wheat in almost any recipe."

So who is this Hildegard? Is she a new Bread Baking Babe? No, but she might have well been the first one. According to Astrid's page, " Saint Hildegard von Bingen lived from 1098 to 1179 in Germany. She joined a Benedictine convent in Disibodenberg and became the Abbess at the age of 35. St. Hildegard had visions all her life, which helped her see God’s wisdom and be seen as a prophet. She wrote down what God told and showed her through these visions and published many volumes on science, medicine and theology.

She was also very outspoken, going on missionary trips and preaching in other cloisters and in market places. Today, there is a revivalist culture around her teachings, especially her teachings on how to eat to stay healthy and many of her medicinal and herbal remedies."

And here is what Hildegard had to say about spelt: "The spelt is the best of grains. It is rich and nourishing and milder than other grain. It produces a strong body and healthy blood to those who eat it and it makes the spirit of man light and cheerful. If someone is ill boil some spelt, mix it with egg and this will heal him like a fine ointment.”

“Spelt is the best grain, warming, lubricating and of high nutritional value. It is better tolerated by the body than any other grain. Spelt provides the consumer with good flesh and good blood and cofers a cheerful disposition. It provides a happy mind and a joyful spirit. No matter how you eat spelt, either as a bread or in other foods, it is good and easy to digest.”

“When someone is so weakened by illness that he cannot eat, then simply take whole spelt kernels and boil them vigorously in water, add butter and egg (and a pinch of salt). This will make the food tastier and the patient will want to eat it. Give this to the patient and it will heal him from within like a good healing salve.”

I found spelt flour at Winco, in the bulk section, but had a harder time finding the spelt flakes and ended up ordering them from the local health food store. It is a Bob Red Mill's product and you will find it with the other products in the hot cereal section.

Hildegard’s Spelt Bread
This bread is a riser!!
4 cups of spelt flakes
4 cups of whole spelt flour
2 teaspoons of salt
1 scant tablespoon of active dry yeast
3/4 cup of milk, lukewarm

2 cups of water, lukewarm
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sunflowerseed oil

Mix the spelt flakes and spelt flour with the salt. Dissolve yeast in milk and let it rest until the yeast proofs, about ten minutes, then add the liquid to the dry mix. Knead a couple of times, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rest for about 15-20 minutes.

Add the warm water and lemon juice to the sponge and knead for at least 15 minutes, gradually adding the sunflower oil. Form doughball and coat with warm water. Cover again with kitchen towel and let double in size. This bread LOVES to rise, so get a big enough bowl and keep an eye on it! Knead for another 2-3 minutes.

Cut dough in 2 equal halves, roll them in the remaining spelt flakes and place each in a greased baking pan. Cover and let rise again until doubled in size.

Bake the first 15 minutes at 390°F, then lower heat to 375°F and bake for another 30 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on a rack.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

BBD#36 - Corn-y Pandebono from Columbia

This month's it's bread with corn, hurrah!! Heather from Girlichef announced this month's Bread Baking Day topic, and it's corn galore...... I've had my eye on these Columbian pandebonos for a while, and this is a great excuse to get busy!

If you are not familiar with Bread Baking Day, or BBD for short, it's a monthly event for bakers and wanna-be bakers that was created by Zorra of Kochtopf.  A new theme is chosen by a different host each month. You bake and post your findings on your blog, send in the picture and the URL and hey presto! At the end of the month there is a roundup and your picture and your blog will be showcased for all to see.

It's a great way to get into baking, or to expand your repertoire, and it is fascinating to see what everybody's interpretation of the theme is. This group has some amazingly creative people! Bread Baking Day can also be found on Facebook.

Pandebonos are cheesy, corn-y little rolls that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or as a snack. Traditionally from Columbia, the story goes that an Italian street vendor would offer these for sale, announcing his wares with "pan del bono, pan del bono" ("the tasteful bread"). Over time, the rolls were called pandebonos.....

Whether it's true or not, who cares.....the cheesy rolls are pleasant to eat and easy to make. Now that's good bread!

I found the Harina P.A.N. at our local Hispanic markets and some larger local grocery stores have started carrying it as well. If you are unable to find it, use a finely ground corn meal instead and skip the two tablespoons of yellow corn meal in the recipe. The Harina P.A.N. that I used is the white variety and I wanted a bit more color in the rolls. If you use the yellow harina, you can skip that step as well.

As for the cheese, queso fresco or farmer's cheese is the cheese by choice. Taste the cheeese beforehand to determine how salty it is, farmer's cheeses tend to vary greatly in level of saltiness. If rather bland, you may want to add some salt to the dough. Personally, I'd prefer a bit more cheese flavor, so will probably replace one cup of the queso fresco with feta, or with a sharp cheddar or an aged Gouda. Not entirely traditional, but hey.....this Dutch girl likes her cheese!

1 cup of precooked corn flour (harina pan)
1/2 cup of tapioca flour (also known as tapioca starch)
2 tablespoons of yellow corn meal
2 teaspoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
2 cups of shredded queso fresco
2 eggs
1/2 cup of milk
salt to taste

Mix the two flours, the corn meal, the salt if needed, the sugar and baking powder. Add the cheese and stir in the eggs, one by one. Add half of the milk and knead, if it's too dry use the rest of the milk. Knead for a good five minutes or until the dough comes together and the grittiness of the precooked corn meal has disappeared. Divide into fifteen pieces, roll each piece into a ball of about 2oz. Place next to each other, but not touching as they puff up considerably, on a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet, or grease a muffin pan and place a dough ball in each muffin space and push them down a tad so they fill the cup.

Bake at 400F for a good fifteen minutes or until slightly golden. Cool for a bit, if you can wait, and eat lukewarm......yummie!!

Makes about 15 pandebonos.

Monday, December 27, 2010

BBB - Taralli Pugliese

These girls sure know how to find great recipes. After a heavy Christmas baking session with cinnamon, sugar, candied fruits, almond paste, more sugar, chocolate and did I mention sugar, I am ready for something simple, savory and cleansing to the palate.

Ilva from Lucullian Delights is this month´s host for the Bread Baking Babes. She chose an Italian specialty called taralli pugliese, a crunchy, crispy dough ring to munch on. Perfect!

The recipe calls for fennel seeds but since I don´t have access to any, I chose fresh rosemary. Works great as well, especially with the olive oil.

Taralli Pugliese
adapted from Anna Maria Gostti Della Salda's monumental food bible "Le ricette regionali italiane"

4 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of tepid water
2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, minced (or 2 heaping teaspoons of any other favorite, Ilva uses fennel seeds)
1 tablespoon of active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs, beaten

Dissolve the yeast in the 1/4 cup of tepid water. Mix the yeast water with the lightly whisked eggs and the olive oil. Mix flour, rosemary and salt and then add the liquid. Start working the dough and continue to add small amounts of tepid water until you have a firm but pliable dough.

Start rolling 2 inch long ropes that are as thick as your little finger and pinch the ends together to make an oval. Put the taralli on a parchment paper, cover with a towel and leave them to rest about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 390°F.

While the taralli rest, bring a large pan with water to a boil. Put 3 to 4 taralli at a time in the simmering water and when they surface, remove them with a skimmer and put them to dry on a kitchen towel or a rack.

Put them on baking sheets covered with parchment paper and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. They should be lightly tanned and dry to the touch. Try one to see if it´s fully baked and not still raw on the inside! You want to have a crunchy bite, inside and out, not chewy like a bagel.

Place them on a cooling rack to cool, then try not to eat them all at once.... I made these this afternoon and at first, everyone present found them a little blah..."they could use a bit more salt", "I would have liked more rosemary" etc etc. But not even fifteen minutes later, they were all gone. Ha! These little bagel-esque taralli will surprise you with their simplicity.

Monday, December 13, 2010

BBD#35 - Bread with dried fruits

Ah, the challenge! Everywhere in the world, novice and seasoned bakers await excitedly for the topic of the month. Will it be a sweet bread? Maybe something with grains? How about a bread with booze? You can practically hear the groans when it turns out to be a sourdough bread. But whichever one is picked, each participant and host adds a very personal and creative contribution to the Bread Baking Day Challenge.

This month, Umm Mymoonah from Taste of Pearl City is hosting this month's Bread Baking Day. She picked dried fruits for this month's challenge, perfect for this time of year!

I initally planned to bake a kerststol. I love the sweet buttery dough, the chewiness of the raisins and the slight tangy-ness of the candied peels. The almond filling is creamy, nutty and makes the whole bread just one fabulous experience. But the prospect of having an entire stol sitting on my counter (and then having to eat it *grin*) was not entirely convincing so I ended up doing something a little different :-). For a step-by-step instruction on how to make the flowers, see Mis Recetas Favoritas (where you can see a beautiful example!) I love the shape, but found it too cumbersome with the wet filling. Next time I'm going to go with either a pastier filling, or a different shape. Still, they may not look pretty but they were very good!

Christmas Daisies
For the filling
1/2 cup of golden raisins
1/2 cup of candied peel
1 cup of orange juice

For the dough
1 cup of milk, warm
4 tablespoons of sugar
3 tablespoons of butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of yeast
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups of all-purpose flour

4 grams of cream cheese
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of flour
1 egg, beaten

Soak the raisins and the candied peel in the orange juice. In a small bowl, add the yeast to the warm milk and let it proof. In a larger bowl, place the flour, salt and the sugar. Add the yeasty milk, stir until well blended (the flour will be dry), then add in the two eggs and the butter. Knead everything into a nice, shiny, slightly sticky dough. Cover and rise for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, beat the cream cheese with half of the beaten egg (you'll use the rest for brushing the bread), the sugar and the flour into a thick paste.

Carefully punch down the dough and cut pieces of 2 1/2 oz, roll into balls. Cover and rest while you squeeze the orange juice out of the soaked fruits.

Now carefully roll a ball of dough into a larger circle. Spread some almond spread on top and sprinkle with some soaked fruits. Pulling the dough around the filling up, pinch the seams and carefully roll the ball back together. Place on the counter, seam down and covered, while you fill all the other ones.

Pat the dough down, cut and fold according to the instructions. The filling is wet and lumpy so it takes a bit of practice (or a lot). I'm sure you can do better than I did!

Put your flowers on parchment paper on a baking sheet, or a silicone mat, cover and let rise for another thirty minutes. Brush with eggwash, and bake in a 350F oven for about 25 minutes or until golden.