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

James Beard (1903-1985)

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.