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

James Beard (1903-1985)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

BBB - Ensaïmadas

It's odd. I've baked for years and never once remembered to bake ensaïmadas. Even worse, I never once thought about ensaïmadas until I saw this month's Bread Baking Babes challenge, posted by Karen. As soon as I saw the title my memory took me back to the time I lived on Mallorca, during the late seventies.

I had a friend named Cora Guiscardo with whom I often hung out after school. Cora, her two sisters and I would treat ourselves to tender, flaky ensaïmadas that we'd rip to pieces and dunk into our cups of hot creamy chocolate for our afternoon merienda. We'd sit on the balcony of their parent's apartment, close to the Palma harbor, and enjoy the beautiful view, wondering what else was out there beyond the horizon.

Well, there's plenty out there and sometimes I wonder if I've seen it all. So I have no hesitation to bake myself back into my early teens and memories of the company of three dear friends on a sunny balcony in beautiful Spain. Let's go!

Give them plenty of time to rise
3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, divided
1/3 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup milk, warm
2 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
5 tablespoons of soft butter (the traditional version uses lard)
1 tablespoon of powdered sugar

Mix 3 cups of flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and add 3/4 cup of warm milk. Sprinkle the yeast on top, stir once or twice and cover. Let sit for five minutes, then stir in the rest of the milk, the eggs and one tablespoon of olive oil. Knead into a soft and supple dough, adding flour if needed. Place in a greased bowl, cover and rest for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
Not for the faint of heart....
Use the second tablespoon of olive oil to grease the counter. Take the dough out of the bowl, weigh and divide into 6 equal parts. Roll each into a ball, set aside and cover. (If you have an untreated wooden rolling pin like I do, rub a little bit of olive oil into the wood before you start rolling, it will avoid tearing the dough). Roll each ball into a thin circle, then use both hands to carefully stretch the dough thinner. The dough will grip the oiled counter, allowing you to stretch really thin. Spread the soft butter onto the dough, then carefully roll the dough into a tube, starting from the top. Here's a video that shows you how to do it: much easier then me trying to verbalize it!
Coil the now rolled dough onto a baking sheet prepared with parchment. Leave some space in between the individual circles so that the dough can fill this up when it proofs. Cover and rise in a warm kitchen up to 4 hours. Heat the oven to 350F and bake the ensaïmadas golden brown in about 15 minutes. Cool on a rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar: eat and grin!

Saïm stands for "lard" in Mallorquin. Ensaïmada therefore means something like "covered in lard", or "larded" (Is that a word?).  I guess mine should be called "enmantegadas" (mantega = butter) which doesn't half sound as yummie.

As for the chocolate recipe: melt one 8.8 oz bag of Dove chocolates in a small saucepan with 1/ cup of milk and 1/4 cup of whipping cream. Pour in a pretty cup, tear a piece of pastry off and dunk :-). Yeah, it's not healthy but it sure tastes good!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Bruschetta Braid

After communicating with Gretchen about the apricot almond twist, I mentioned that I'd like to try a savory version with goat cheese, tomato and basil. Ofcourse that thought haunted my brain for the rest of the evening and was the first thing on my mind when I woke up this morning. So after work I stopped by the store, bought tomatoes and basil and came home, ready to get this puppy going!

I was a little cheese-happy and next time would probably reduce the amount of goat cheese I used for the recipe. It tends to saturate the dough inside the bread and make it rather heavy, and the braid doesn't hold its shape that well. On the other hand, it might not be a beauty but goshdangit, the smell and the taste make more than up for the looks! And that is with wintery tomatoes and hothouse basil, just imagine what this will be like with sunkissed tomatoes from the garden and freshly picked herbs......I am SO ready for summer!!

Purists will say that this is neither a bruschetta nor a braid......oh well. Just humor me :-)

Bruschetta Braid
2 cups of bread flour
1/2 cup of warm water
1 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 Roma tomatoes
8 ounces of goat cheese, room temperature
10 leaves of basil
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Put the flour in a mixing bowl, pour the warm water in and spinkle the yeast on top. Stir several times until blended, then add the olive oil and the salt. Knead until supple and soft, for about 5 minutes on a lightly floured counter top. Set aside in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for about 45 minutes or until 3/4 of its original size.

In the meantime, cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Place the tomato halves cut side down on a paper towel to drain. Mash the goat cheese with a fork until smooth and creamy. Wash the basil leaves, dry them, roll them up and cut them in tiny, narrow strips, chiffonade-style. Cut the tomatoes in thin strips and dice them.

When the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl and place it on the counter. Make sure you have a light dusting of flour underneath. Carefully pat the dough into a rectangle, cover and let it rest for about ten minutes. Then roll it out into a rectangle, taking care to not roll it too thin or to push out too much of the gas. It's worked hard to get this airy!

Spread the cheese on the dough surface, being careful to leave about an inch of margin on all sides. Distribute the tomato dice over the cheese and decorate with the basil strips. Carefully roll the dough, starting from the top, towards you making sure you roll it tight but not too tight. Pinch the seam when you get to the bottom and place the roll, seam side down in front of you. Now cut the dough roll in half, lengthwise.

Place each roll next to each other, cut sides up, on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Starting from the center, "braid" each half over the other until you reach the end. Pinch ends and tuck under. Make sure that you keep the cut sides facing upward as much as you can. Repeat with the other side. Push back any pieces of tomato that may have fallen out. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise for about 30 minutes or until it has increased about 1/2 of its original size.

Set the baking sheet in a preheated oven (350F) and bake for about 45 minutes. Drizzle with the tablespoon of olive oil, let cool on a rack, slice and enjoy!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Apricot Almond Twist

I have all these jars of jam. Apricot jam, rosehip jam, lemon-pear jam, reine-claude jam, strawberry freezer jam.....Some have been given to me by thoughtful friends, others I have made myself. It's almost as if I collect them because all these jams do is multiply in my cupboard and fridge. They hardly ever get eaten. I have a sweet tooth alright, but somehow jams are just not part of my breakfast repertoire.

More so, I feel guilty for opening a jar of jam when they all look so pretty and comfortable in their glass containers. Their colors vary from golden yellow to ruby red and are often a reminder of summer. They're like a blank notebook: the possibilities are endless. And yet, when I finally open a jar and help myself selfishly to its contents, it ends up sitting there for ever and ever without being used up. The only good thing about this is, I guess, that jams are so sugar-riddled that they very seldomly go bad before I end up using them out of sheer pity for something else than a bread topping.

So, too, this almost empty jar of apricot jam. I love apricot jam on toast....about once or twice a year. I've been confronted by the sight of this violated, purpose-less jam jar every time I've opened the refrigerator door. It's been silently begging me to put it out of its misery, to empty out its half leftover life and to use it to its final glory. And so I did. Finally. Today.

When Canela Y Comino announced that it was hosting Bread Baking Day #27, I visited the website, took duly note of the requirements for this monthly baking event and quickly scrolled down to see what else was on the site. Wow! A gorgeous bread, succulent with orange marmalade and walnuts called Twisted Orange Nut Bread, was proudly displayed on the front page. And no wonder, go see for yourself. As soon as I saw that bread, I knew I was going to make it even though I abhor orange marmalade and I didn't have any walnuts in the house. A replacement was easily found: I would finally honor the remainder of that apricot jam. Any jam would be proud to end up as the key ingredient to this beautiful creation!

Gretchen's recipe calls for over 4 cups of flour: I reduced the recipe in half and still ended up with a huge bread, enough to provide a coffee treat for eight or more.

Apricot Almond Twist

For the dough
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons of milk, warm
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons of butter, melted
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of active dry yeast
2 tablespoons of warm water
1 egg
2 cups of flour

For the filling
1/2 cup of apricot jam
1/2 cup of almond slivers

For the topping
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon of demerara sugar

Proof the yeast in the warm water. Add to the flour in a bowl and quickly mix, then add the warm milk, the butter, the sugar, the salt and the egg until everything is incorporated, about three minutes. Take the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead until soft and supple, about five minutes. Oil a bowl, place the dough inside, turn over so that the top of the dough is coated with oil and cover the bowl. Set aside in a warm place and rise the dough until 3/4 larger than its original size.

Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Carefully take the dough out of the bowl and place on the lightly floured counter. Push some of the air out of the dough, pat it into a rectangle and cover. Let it rest for about ten minutes, then uncover and roll it out into a rectangle, making sure it is no larger than 3/4 of the width of the baking sheet. Brush the dough with the jam, taking care to stay withing an inch margin of the edges, and sprinkle the almonds on top.

Now roll the dough from the top tightly towards you, making sure you don't leave any large gaps and that the dough is rolled evenly across the board. Pinch the seam and turn the dough over so that the seam is on the bottom. Cut the roll lengthwise in half. Carefully transfer one half onto the baking sheet and place the other half next to it, both with the cut side up. You'll be able to see the different layers in the bread.

You'll have to work quickly now. Working from the middle, carefully cross the cut halves over one another until you reach the end. Tuck the ends under, turn the sheet around and do the same with the other half of the bread. Cover the bread with a greased piece of plastic wrap and let rise in a warm environment for about 25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and brush the dough with the egg, then sprinkle the coarse sugar on top. Readjust any pieces of nut or dough that may have fallen out of place.

Bake the bread on the baking sheet for 35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a rack and enjoy slices with a cup of coffee or tea and a lick of butter!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

BBD#27 - Pan de jamón (Ham bread)

Yesterday I had the opportunity to learn how to make this wonderful bread from a great cook from Venezuela, Jorge Kleiss. Excellent timing, because Canela Y Comino is hosting this month's Bread Baking Day #27 which is a monthly breadbaking event for passionate bakers and bread lovers around the world.

The bread is a traditional dish for Christmas time and is filled with ham, bacon, raisins and green olives. The filling seems rather odd: ham and raisins, bacon and olives? Smokey, sweet and salty? And yet it works wonderfully well. Give it a try and enjoy this great bread all year long!

Pan de jamón
2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
1/2 cup of milk, warm
2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 stick of butter, room temperature
1 egg, beaten
16 slices of smoked ham
4 slices of bacon, uncooked
1/2 cup of raisins
1/2 cup of green olives, stuffed
1 egg, beaten (for brushing)

Activate the yeast in the warm milk and mix with the flour, the sugar, the salt, the butter and the egg. Knead into a smooth and supple dough: cover and rest for 30 minutes. If the dough is too dry, add a tablespoon of milk at a time. If it's too wet, add a tablespoon of flour at a time. The dough should be soft and pillowy, and not too sticky.

Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface to about half an inch thick, into a rectangle. Distribute the slices of ham across the dough, overlapping. Place the four slices of bacon on top, then sprinkle the raisins and olives over the surface. Now roll the dough toward you, fairly tight, into a neat dough "sausage". The olives will bulge the dough so you don't want to roll it too tight and risk the olives breaking through, but not too loose either because you want the roll to stay compact. Brush the part of the dough below the last row of ham slices with some beaten egg, then pinch the ends and pinch the seam. Place the bread seam-down on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover with a humid towel or some plastic wrap and rest for about 20 minutes.

Heat your oven to 350F. Carefully brush the bread roll with egg. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool on a rack, slice and serve. Christmas or not, this bread is wonderful!