“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, August 22, 2010

BBD#33 - Torrijas de vino

Oh those girls (and boys) from Bread Baking Day......I am so glad the weather is finally turning into something a bit more agreeable, because I've missed these baking challenges. This month's recipe is Bread with Booze, hosted by Baking Powders, and wouldn't you know it......

I've only recently begun enjoying wine again and, as it happened, had a bottom of Barefoot's Muscato wine in the fridge. It's a very sweet, almost dessert-ey kind of wine. Together with several slices of day-old bread on the counter and a couple of eggs, I made something I had been wanting to try for years: Spanish torrijas de vino.....sweet wine soaked pieces of French toast.....yum! This dish is great for dessert, served with some freshly cut fruit, or as a breakfast item for an early morning start.

Yesterday I baked bread for our monthly ladies dinner. It's an eclectic but wonderful group of women who meet to eat, greet and laugh. A lot. I kept one loaf for breakfast this morning and by the end of day had only half a loaf left. It was perfect for this dish! You really want bread that has lost some of its moisture so that it soaks up the wonderful flavors of the sweet wine. Remember to save the wine you soaked the bread in so that you can reduce it to a syrup afterwards.

Torrijas de vino
Half a loaf of day old bread, preferably baguette or something else with a crust
1/4 cup of sweet white wine 
1/4 cup of warm water
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 large egg
3 tablespoons of butter
4 tablespoons of honey
Powdered sugar

Cut two inch slices off the bread, preferably at an angle so you get a nice large piece. Mix the wine and the warm water with the sugar and stir until the sugar is melted. Pour into a bowl large enough to soak the bread in. Beat the egg in a separate bowl.

Place the bread one side down into the water/wine mix, then turn over so that the bread soaks through. Take it out and coat it in the beaten egg. Melt the butter in a skillet and place the soaked pieces of bread in the pan, and fry them golden brown on both sides. Place on a plate with some paper towels to soak up most of the grease.

In a separate sauce pan, add the remaining water/wine and stir in the honey. Slowly stir and reduce by half to a syrup. Place the warm torrijas on a plate, pour the syrup over the bread and dust with powdered sugar. Eat warm. The slight tang of the wine combined with the honey syrup and wonderful eggy bread is an absolute must to try!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

BBB - Portuguese sweet bread

The sweet smell of Portuguese bread is filling my kitchen while I type this post. It's lemony, sugary and promising....it's going to be a good one. Sweet, eggy, lovely breads like these are dangerous for me to bake. Dangerous because I'll stand at the counter, slathering butter on a slice of still warm bread, take a bite and dream away.........and before I know it, half the loaf is gone and I am slightly nauseous from all the eating.

For this month's Bread Baking Babes, Tanna chose this lovely sweet Portuguese bread. What a way to start my day! The bread is easy to make (remember to make the sponge the day before) and will toast up lovely if you don't eat the whole loaf in one go. I chose to make a loaf according to instructions, and one pan loaf, so I could slice it and make toast for the next couple of mornings.

Sweet Portuguese Bread
For the sponge
3/4 cup of bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup potato water (I didn't have any so used water with a pinch of mashed potato flakes)

For the dough
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 cups of brown sugar
Lemon zest of one medium lemon
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, room temp.
1/2 cup of milk, room temp.
4 1/2 cups of bread flour

Mix together the sponge the night before baking the bread. Leave sitting at room temp 8 to 12 hours (overnight).

Beat sugar and butter until creamy. Add zest and salt and beat. Beat in each egg separately and completely; mix will appear curdled. Stir in milk and sponge.

Stir in 2 1/2 cups flour and beat vigorously (in a stand mixer it would clear the sides of the bowl, by hand lifting the spoon up should stretch the dough about a foot.) Add remaining flour to make stiff dough. Knead 5 minutes or more to incorporate all the flour. The dough should be smooth, soft and very supple with a slight stickiness. Looks a little like very thick cake batter or a brioche dough.

Shape into ball, oil bowl and dough ball. Cover and allow to rise about 2 hours, should almost or triple in size. Divide into two pieces. Shape both as a boule, or shape for loaf pan or cake tin.

Allow to rest 20 to 30 minutes before final shaping. Use a skinny rolling pin or a 1 1/2 inch dowel to make indentations in the dough. Allow to rise an hour to 2 hours; more than double in size.

Before placing in the oven brush with egg wash if you want that beautiful glossy finish. Bake at 350° for approximately 50 minutes. After 35 minutes or so, check to see if the top is not burning or getting too dark. If so, then tent with aluminum foil.

Brush with melted butter when hot from the oven. Try to refrain yourself from cutting into the loaf until it's cooled down sufficiently. Good luck......I failed miserably and cut a big chunk of bread out of the round loaf, slathered it with butter and stood at the counter with a happy-go-lucky greasy grin on my face.....