Sunday, October 31, 2010

(Unofficial) FFwD: Hashis Parmentier and Apple Cake

Many of the bloggers whom I've met through the BBA Challenge, the Mellow Bakers, and the Modern Baker Challenge also participate in Tuesdays with Dorie, a group dedicated to baking Dorie Greenspan's recipes each week. Although I've never owned one of Dorie's cookbooks, I enjoy reading what they bake up each week. And a few weeks ago, when a new group formed (French Fridays with Dorie) to cook through Dorie's new cookbook: Around My French Table, I was very tempted to join. But given how busy life is with the new job, coaching, two little ones, and two other baking challenges, I just couldn't commit.

And then posts about Dorie's Hashis Parmentier started popping up a couple of weeks ago and I knew I just had to try it. And then the next week, posts about Marie-Helene's Apple Cake gave nothing but rave reviews. I don't have Dorie's cookbook (yet!), but she was nice enough to both choose the recipes for the first month and also to post a little starter packet for people who don't have the book yet (although now I can't find that link...).

So, even though I am not an official member, today we had a Dorie Greenspan dinner with both Hashis Parmentier and Apple Cake.

The hashis parmentier (like a really fancy shephard's pie) was time consuming but not difficult. It starts with making beef bullion (which tasted amazing on its own, by the way), then cooking up some meat (sausage and cube steak), and then making some mashed potatoes and grating some cheese. Put it all together, bake it for thirty minutes until the potatoes and cheese are brown and bubbly . . . and then find yourself unable to have any conversation around the dinner table because it tastes so incredible.

The apple cake was easy, and because I'd read about how good it was, I baked two: one for our dinner and one to take to work. I used honeycrisps and harrelsons from our trip to the orchard yesterday, and then a couple of red delicious apples and jonagolds.

I didn't have an 8" springform, so I used my 9" cake pans with parchment paper on the bottom. I knew that Di's cake ended up under-baked, so I baked mine for a really long time. I'm not sure how long; I just kept adding five more minutes, five more minutes, five more minutes, until the tops were nice and dark brown. Then I flipped them over onto the cooling rack. The cake was as delicious as promised. I really wanted to try it with ice cream, but with all of my little "just a taste"s, I figured I'd already eaten way more than my share.

Both of these are bake-agains and the cookbook is a must-buy!

"The best peach applesauce ever!!!"

 We're staying in today. Yesterday, we spent the day at the apple orchard and a pumpkin festival . . . Great fun. But all of us have been fighting colds this week, and we decided to spend most of today indoors.

Looking for a fun fall/Halloween cooking project to do with the kids this morning, I found a recipe for peach-applesauce in one of the little guy's favorite cookbooks: C is for Cooking.

(Like his mom, he cannot seem to own enough cookbooks . . . or spend enough time paging through them. Luckily, his nana works at a library and is frequently able to get him discarded cookbooks!) Having just been to the orchard yesterday, we had three bags of apples sitting on the counter, waiting to be made into something yummy.

The last time I made applesauce, it didn't go very well and I swore I wouldn't do it again. Looking back, I think I just didn't cook the apples long enough, so they were incredibly difficult to get through the food mill. Today, it went much better! The recipe in the Sesame cookbook calls for peeling and coring the apples and cooking them in a ton of water. It seemed like it would make a pretty watery, flavorless applesauce. So, I combined instructions from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and ATK's Family Cookbook, in addition to the Sesame idea of adding canned peaches.

The BEST peach applesauce ever!
1. Cut 10 large apples into four to six pieces.
2. Cut a can of peaches into small chunks. (This is a great job for the little ones!)

3. Fill a large dutch oven with about 1/2 inch of water. Add a pinch of salt.
4. Dump in the apple pieces, cover, and bring to a boil over medium heat.
5. Once boiling, take the cover off, and add 1/4 cup brown sugar and two cinnamon sticks.
6. Stir frequently until the apples are mushy mushy mushy (about 30+ minutes).
7. Add the chopped peaches.
8. Pass through a food mill. (Another great job for the little ones, providing they have some help with holding the mill onto the bowl.)
9. I added a bit more brown sugar (maybe another tablespoon or two); our apples weren't very sweet to begin with.

We ended up with two pints of peach-applesauce for the freezer and another two pints for the fridge. Plus a few bowls for taste tests. The little guy's verdict? "Mom, this is the BEST peach-applesauce in the whole world!!!" and then he had thirds.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mellow Bakers: Challah (October)

I've made challah a couple of times before. In fact, after I began to bake my own bagels a little over a year ago, it was a challah recipe that inspired me to branch out and try other bread baking, and which eventually lead me to my discovery of Nicole's BBA Challenge. And the rest . . . is history!

The dough came together beautifully (I made a half-recipe): bread flour, a little vital wheat gluten (Hamelman calls for high-gluten flour which I didn't have), salt, sugar, instant yeast, eggs, vegetable oil, and water. After a few minutes in my stand mixer, it was the perfect texture, and I put it in an oiled bowl. After an hour of rising, I degassed it and moved it to the fridge.

I've tried traditional challah braids before, so I wanted to do something a little different with this recipe. I was really inspired by Celia's blog posts about braiding and wanted to try a round loaf. Like others have mentioned on the Mellow Bakers forum, I'm a little frustrated by the lack of specific measurements or weights in the braiding instructions in Bread.

I used 125 grams of dough per strand and rolled my strands out to about 20 inches/51 cm. The strands seemed long and to be a good width, but they were not even close to long enough to finish the braid. I got about 2/3 of the way through the instructions and then had to call it done. I still thought it looked pretty good, though!

It baked for about 35 minutes, smelled heavenly, and was a beautiful golden color. As for the taste? I was not disappointed, as I'd been by the recipe in the BBA. I'm not sure it's as good as the Joan Nathan recipe I originally tried (because I baked it so long ago) . . . but it's definitely has that distictively challah taste. I'm hoping enough of the loaf makes it until Sunday so that I can treat my in-laws to challah French toast!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Modern Baker: Marbled Chocolate Brioche Loaf

A college friend was in town the other day, and she brought me two dozen fresh eggs from her mom's chickens. I've never cooked with farm fresh eggs before; what a joy! Last night, we ate scrambled eggs and pancakes, and then I searched for an eggy bread. Voila! Nick Malgieri's Modern Baker.

We are on the third section of The Modern Baker Challenge already: yeast-risen specialties. And the second recipe of the section is my official recipe: marbled chocolate brioche loaf. (Renee at Every Pot and Pan recently posted her brioche, too!)

I started by heating up milk and whisking in some instant yeast and flour. I let this rise on the counter for 20 minutes. NM says it will "become bubbly and somewhat risen." I didn't notice any major bubbles, but it easily doubled in the bowl.

I combined cold butter, sugar, salt, eggs and egg yolks, lemon zest, and dark rum in my food processor, and then added the yeast mixture and the rest of the flour. Given what others have said about the challenges of completing these recipes in food processors, I'm even more grateful to my hubby who bought me a beautiful new processor for Christmas last year!

The dough was divided into three, and then I mixed one section with a chocolate enrichment: melted bittersweet chocolate, water, baking soda, and cinnamon. I stacked the three pieces in a brioche dough sandwich, cut the stacks into three strips, and then cut each strip into smaller pieces. These were then mushed in a bowl to create the marbled effect.

Then, into a pan, simple rise, and into the oven.
farm fresh eggs!

I'll be honest; this is just not my kind of bread. I didn't love it when we made it for the BBA Challenge, either. I'm just not a breakfast bread person - donuts, coffee cakes, brioche - none of it works for me. When I suggested that it wasn't great to my hubby, he said incredulously, "What?!? You don't LOVE this?!" So I guess it was a hit!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

World Bread Day: Whole wheat multigrain levain

Happy World Bread Day to all of my bread baking buddies out there!

World Bread Day 2010 (submission date October 16)

I was nervous about being able to fit a bread in today as we're in the midst of a very full weekend: a friend visiting from out of town, another friend's wedding, free tickets to the family concert of our local chamber orchestra, a housewarming party. And then I couldn't decide what to bake. Finally I decided to combine two goals and bake a bread that I could bring to the housewarming. These friends love whole grains, so I settled on Jeffrey Hamelman's whole wheat multigrain levain.

It was a little exciting and a little nerve-wracking that JH doesn't give list any specific grains in any specific amounts. He just says to make a soaker of a combination of grains that total 165 grams. I ended up using oatmeal, flax seeds, wheat bran, barley, and coarse corn meal. I made the soaker and the liquid levain last night.

Today (after the concert), I mixed everything together: bread flour, whole wheat flour, yeast, salt, water, honey, liquid levain, and starter. I let the dough rise for a couple of hours with a fold in the middle. Then I shaped it into two loaves, stuck them in the fridge, and headed out to the wedding.

After the wedding (and totally exhausted), I put the loaves into a preheated oven with steam and almost forty minutes later, I took them out and went to bed!

Next day report:
Delicious with butter or as a sandwich base. Dense, chewy texture. Nutty, rich flavor.

Be sure to check out Zorra's site for the WBD round-up!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mellow Bakers: Roasted potato bread (October)

Nearly halfway through October, and I've finally made my first Mellow Bakers bread of the month. I know I'll make the challah (we are big lovers of French toast in this house, and challah is the perfect bread for that). Lastly, we have pretzels, which I'd love to make in the authentic way ~ but I'm nervous about Mr Hammelman's instructions to use lye, so we'll have to see what happens.

Anyway, the first bread of the month was roasted potato bread. I used Yukon golds, as recommended; they are our favorite kind of potatoes and we pretty much always have them on hand. I roasted them last night. The only complication was that I roasted about 12 ounces, which ended up cooking down to only 5 (the recipe called for 8), so I had to roast a second batch. No biggie; hubby enjoyed the leftovers! I also made the pre-ferment last night, which had developed nicely by late this morning.

All of the ingredients went into the mixer: bread flour, whole wheat flour, potatoes, water, salt, and instant yeast. Then I added the pre-ferment in chunks. The dough was perfect and seemed to behave just as it should. After an hour and a half (with a fold in the middle), I shaped it into an oval and a boule, and then left the house for a bit.

When I came back, at exactly the 75 minute mark (as I said, the dough had been behaving perfectly on schedule), I found two very clearly overproofed loaves. When I scored them, they instantly deflated and spread out. I was so bummed!

But all was not lost! They baked for about 34 minutes, and when I took them from the oven, even though there wasn't much oven spring, they had clearly rallied.

This bread was awesome. The flavor of the roasted potatoes really shines through. The kiddos both asked for seconds (the baby even asked for thirds) and hubby had even more. It was lovely with butter, as well as dipped into ATK's recent recipe for slow-cooker minestrone (which was, unfortunately, a little disappointing). A definite repeat!

Check out other Mellow Bakers' October breads here.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Modern Baker Challenge: Ham and Cheese Focaccia

I was looking for a quick bread (not a quickbread) to make for my book club this afternoon. Unfortunately, my "official" recipe for the next section of The Modern Baker Challenge (marbled brioche) requires a lemon, which I didn't have.

I came upon ham and cheese focaccia, did the time math in my brain, and decided it would be perfect for a lunch-time bookclub. Besides, my hubby loves anything that includes bread, meat, and cheese.

The dough mixed together quickly and easily: all-purpose flour, salt, instant yeast, water, and olive oil. And then it doubled easily in an hour.

Knowing that N.M.'s doughs usually seem quite wet, and having just read about Phyl's adventures with very wet babka dough, I used a heavy hand when flouring my counter to shape the dough. The dough stretched into a rectangle fairly easily. And then I went to drop the fillings on half of my rectangle.

I can't believe how much meat and cheese he calls for: 350 grams of each! Because I hadn't shopped for this recipe, I just used what we had on-hand in the fridge: shredded mozerella, parmesan, and romano (350 grams total) and 250 grams of salami. Even though I was short on the amount of toppings, there still seemed to be so much. When I went to fold the second half of the dough over, there was no way it was going to fit. N.M. says to do it without stretching the dough. I sure didn't feel like I was stretching it, but it didn't matter; the dough just started to shred. After transferring the dough to the pan, I tried to gently stretch it to fill the pan, and again it shredded. There were a ton of bare toppings, and I could see that the dough was pulling apart on the bottom, too, and there were some bare batches of pan.

It smelled wonderful while baking, and the taste was . . . fine. Good, even. As hubby said, "You can't even really taste the bread; it just seems to be a vehicle for the meat and cheese." Hubby ate the third I left for him, and my book club devoured the other part. But with a never-fail, always-amazing focaccia recipe in my repertoire, I won't be making this one again.