Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Growing up, I my sister and I used to lie awake in the summers watching the monsoon storms. We thought it was so cool to see all the lightning, and listen to the wind and the rain. I think I feel about the same about the California earthquakes. Sometimes the perspective gained from seeing the awesome power of nature is quite grounding. Hopefully these little tremors will continue to be that and not something more dangerous.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I started out with a pre-ferment, Reinhart explains that in order to get more flavor out of the basic ingredients, you really need to give them more time to work together. I picked the ciabatta recipe becuase it seemed straightforward, it was a lean bread, it would benefit from a long rise, and I had never done it before. In order to truly practice, I did not halve or reduce the recipe in any way, shape or form. I didn't want to wonder if I messed it up, although the author does specify that you should be able to learn to do this eventually, he encourages learning the recipe's formula as ratios so that you can always increase (or in my case, decrease) the yield.
The pre-ferment is just a mixture of a tiny amount of yeast, flour, and water which you let sit on the counter for about 3-4 hours. You then refrigerate it for at least 1 day to stop the fermentation and coax the flavor out of the flour. Here is my pre-ferment on the morning of baking day:This is mixed into the recipe for the rest of the bread, which has more yeast, flour, water, and salt. Supposedly the old and new doughs will combine to give you all the layers of beautiful taste between crust and crumb in these specialty breads.
They stress not over-kneading, and the dough will always look shaggy because a lot of work happens durring the multiple rises and rests that you give it after kneading.
To make the classic ciabatta, you fold the dough over itself in a bed of flour a few times to allow it to rise. I think the idea here is that in order to get those beautiful big holes in the bread, you really need to let the gasses develop in the dough during these phases. Mine rose significantly, but I am not sure now if they were really ready to go into the oven at this point. However, the time was right, and I was trying to be really careful to follow directions.
So what is the moral to the story? I did this a couple weeks ago, and I have honestly thought a lot about what to post about this experience. There is a part of me that seriously could be done with bread baking all together, aside from pizza, flatbreads, rolls, cinnamon rolls, etc. I have taken my oven stone out, and I am not sure if I will put it back in. I have really struggled with the fact that this went so poorly.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Both baked at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes.
The recipe specifies that the chocolate can come out before the yellow, which is true. However, mine were done at the same time. I think I might cook these at a little lower temperature for longer next time, because the yellow rose significantly in the middle. This is fine if you are a pro at leveling everything out before you assemble the layers, but mine weren't really thick enough to do so, and I am not a pro at that!
The recipe calls for a chocolate ganache filling and frosting. I used it only for the filling and frosted it with a vanilla frosting. Both options were good. I think the ganache over all would be great if you have a lot of choco-holics, but possibly too chocolatey for some folks. (Who are said people??? Do they exist and where in the world can they be found??? I am actually married to one, believe it or not. Crazy, but true.) So the ganache is super easy to make. Combine the cream and chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for a couple minutes.
Stir, or use a wire whisk to incorporate the chocolate into the cream.Keep stirring until you have a smooth, even consistency of chocolate ganache.Cut your cakes in half horizontally. This is the part that I am definitely not a pro at! As you can see the middle is a lot higher than the sides on my cake. My cutting probably leaves a lot to be desired too! Once you have the 4 pieces of round cake layers, spread the ganache almost to the edges of the layers, then layer the cakes, offsetting the flavors.
Once that is fully incorporated, and the sugar is completely dissolved, you transfer the whole thing to your stand mixer and add the butter. Then you let your stand mixer do all of the work. This takes a while, and despite all of the warnings, I didn't think it was going to come together.
Started out pretty runny.You have to walk away from it. It took me about 15 minutes or so, and I wonder if my batch was just too small for the mixer. I doubled her 'tiny' recipe, since I had already filled my cake and it was a 9 inch round. I would make more next time... I ran out of frosting. Also, in looking back on her pictures, I probably could have let the machine whip for a little bit longer. I never got to the chunky stage she shows, so that should have been a sign. I think I might have been a little anxious to get my cake frosted. So, for future reference for me, and for you too, I guess I would suggest not trying to do this step after the aforementioned dinner out at 8:00pm and before bed that same night. (smile) Ahem, well, then you proceed to frost the cake.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Once they are shaped, you roll them in powdered sugar to coat. A generous coat is required to get the crinkly look you are going for.
Once baked, they spread out and look like this. Good luck keeping them around for long afterwards!
Fresh mozzarella- boccini or perlini are my favorites
Droste Dutch Process Cocoa Powder
Classic Chicken Salad
Whole-wheat pastry flour
7th Generation dish soap
Jason organic hand soap
Don't get me wrong, I also have shopping spree urges for the mall, I can't resist heels from J.Crew, jeans at Nordstrom, tees from Anthropologie... the list could go on and on here as well! Hope you are having a great Tuesday.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ERIN!! I am waiting to call you until my lunch break because if I was a teacher on summer break, I definitely would not get up early on my birthday! Love you!
Monday, July 14, 2008
There were things other than food too, this vendor was selling all kinds of colorful tablecloths. They looked so pretty hanging there. There were also food vendors of all types, one was a creperie, which was making sweet and savory crepes. It was still time for a late breakfast, so people were having different kinds of eggs, bacon, and spinach in the crepes that we saw. I also saw bananas and nutella at the creperie, which sounded more like dessert than breakfast, but I liked the idea. They were also making and/or selling roastisserie chickens, hummus, quiches, fruit leather, specialized salts, homespun angora yarn, natural pet foods, pesto, all sorts of things! The lady spinning the angora yarn literally had the rabbit on her lap while she added the fur to her thread.
We spied these artichoke flowers from across the way, I can't say that I had ever seen an artichoke blossom, and I had been clearly missing out! We bought some bunches of asparagus from this vendor which we also enjoyed last night. It was great, and had so many different sizes in the bunch. Overall they were more thin and tender than the regular asparagus this time of year, but there were some strands that were barely thicker than a french green bean. Most were about the size around of a pencil.
On Saturday I my newest cookbook arrived. I know you are wondering why I need another, and where it is going to fit, but so far I love it. I posted about it a while ago, it's the Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. I am about 60 pages in and haven't read a recipe yet, but it is great. Lots of background and teaching so far in there. I am hoping I will get far enough to make something by the weekend. They mention King Arthur Flour in the book as well as the bakers catalouge as a resource. Good thing that the Mercato had a stand with bread from Bread and Cie, so we got a couple amazing loaves. Otherwise I would probably be speed reading to try to get to the part where we can start baking. It has been really nice to spend the time trying to understand the background so that I can utilize this knowledge as much as possible.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Arugula and Basil washed and ready to go. I think there is probably about 2 tightly packed cups here, maybe a little bit more. You can use whatever ratio you have on hand or prefer, mine was a little more arugula than basil.
A little parmesan or romano cheese shredded, about a half cup.
Process until the nuts are ground, then drizzle olive oil with the machine running until it all comes together into a beautiful bright green sauce.
While I was making my pesto, I let some chicken breasts and zucchini grill. Before:
After:Okay, so here is the twist. Thursdays have basically become an unofficial pizza night in our house. To blend the pizza with the grilling and mediteranean flavors, I decided to make grilled pizza. I know. Sounds crazy. But I have heard it can be done! I took my regular pizza dough and divided it into two balls. I had let this rise in the fridge (straight from kneading to the fridge on Wednesday night). So it had been in there for about 20 hours or so. No 150 degree oven for these babies. I wanted the dough a little more raw. If you are having trouble getting it to roll out, walk away from it for a minute or two. It will be happier once it rests a bit. Once rolled out, a sprayed it with a generous spray of olive oil, a dash of kosher salt and straight onto the grill.
It cooked fast! Cook one side, (about 5 minutes or so) then top it and cook the other side. However, after doing this, I don't think I would try cooking the toppings on the grill. It was a pain. I would do the dough, but then cook the toppings under the broiler. Which is what we ended up doing after realizing that the crust cooked way too fast to melt the cheese. It did add a really good flavor to the pizza though...
Topped and ready to go on the grill. I used the grilled zucchini, chicken, tomatoes, mozzerella, and romano shavings.Not to be left out, I also decided to try grilling romaine. A little olive oil, salt and pepper was all that went on these.I served it with more shredded romano cheese and grilled plums. It was an interesting flavor. It was a good twist on a normal romaine salad. The finale: The pizza was great, thanks to my fabulous pesto. I can't begin to tell you how good that stuff is, you have to try making it yourself! So yummy.
Edited to add: So the toppings came to work with me today as a salad, and can I just say... there is nothing quite a fabulous the next day as grilled zucchini. Especially with a little vinaigrette and goat cheese. Seriously, it is sooo good! I have a good recipe for a salad with the two, I should post that sometime soon...
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I fear that I may have scared some of you off with my pizza dough recipe. I didn't mean to... I have tried so many variations, and really all of them work. So there is a lot of play in that recipe for you to try what you like. I could go on and on about things to change, but I don't want to scare you even more! Please let me know if you have any questions and I will answer then on a one-on-one basis. Also, as with anything, play with it. I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I have had to throw away the whole thing because it turned out horribly. If anything, you will probably have a lot of things turn out less than perfect, but not awful.
Back to my new pizza dough... It was truly a beauty.
At first a bit shaggy... I have never gotten this "look" with my other flour. Uh oh! I was a little nervous... After more kneading... starting to look a little bit more like normal. Still looks wet as compared to my other flour.In the bag to rise. Cooking spray works wonders here.Wow! It rose really fast! Only about an hour later.... Look at those puffy edges. The inside was soft and chewy while the outside was crisp, but not hard at all. When the pizza extends beyond the pan, I roll up the crust with a little cheese stuffed in the middle... not pizza hut's stuffed crust, but it sure is good.
This was our buffalo chicken pizza. Yummm.