Bucatini all’ Amatriciana

The earthquake in Italy had me thinking of this dish which is from Amatrice, the center of the devastation. Chefs around the country are making this dish to raise money for the victims. I made it here at home and will make a donation. I forgot the parsley!

Mario Batali’s Bucatini all’ Amatrciana
serves 4

1/2 pound thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
12 ounces prepared tomato sauce
Kosher salt
1 pound bucatini
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
Grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving

In a large, deep skillet, cook the pancetta over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a plate. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat in the skillet. Add the onion, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Return the pancetta to the skillet. Add the tomato sauce, season with salt and simmer until very thick, about 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. 

Add the pasta to the sauce along with the parsley and the reserved cooking water and stir over moderately high heat until the pasta is evenly coated, 2 minutes. Serve the pasta in bowls, passing the cheese at the table.

Sous Vide Tri-Tip

I haven’t yet conquered the perfect sous-vide egg. It remains elusive. Although, I will soon try David Chang’s slow cooked egg timing from the Momofuku cookbook. I will serve it with a plain fig, just to piss him off. I have, however, found my favorite thing to sous-vide: Tri-tip.

Tri-Tip roasts are a West Coast thing apparently. They’re a fairly tough cut of meat, but have a lot of flavor. That’s perfect for sous-vide cooking. They had them in Hawaii too where I setup my first crock pot sous vide. Now with the Nomiku in the house things are so much easier.

Sunday’s dinner included the tri-tip, with a most excellent mushroom demi-glace and re-fried four cheese mac & cheese. Fresh tomatoes and basil from the garden tossed with a little vinegar and olive oil rounded out the plate. An olive bread from the farmers market was also delicious.

Sous-Vide Tri-Tip

1 tri-tip roast
3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Red Miso
1 Tablespoon Honey
1 teaspoon each: garlic powder, ginger powder, onion powder
1 – 2 teaspoons of chili paste with fermented soy bean or other chili paste to taste

Mix all the marinade ingredients together. Rub all over the tri-tip. Put any excess into the vacuum bag you’ll be sealing the trip-tip in. Add in the tri-tip, vacuum seal and allow it to marinade in the refrigerator for an hour to overnight. If you don’t have time you can just go to the cooking stage.

When you’re ready to cook get your sous-vide going set at 130°F and put in the sealed bag. Cook for 4 hours. This will make the meat “prime rib” tender, but not mushy. If you like more chew, you could opt for 3 hours.

Heat up your grill or broiler

Take the meat out, adding any juices to any sauce you’ve got going. See below for approximately what I did for my mushroom demi-glace last Sunday.

Grill or broil the meat for just a couple of minutes per side. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes, then slice and serve.

Mushroom Demi-Glace

2 shallots minced
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound brown crimini mushrooms or other flavorful mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped (lemon thyme is lovely)
1 1/2 cups red wine
2 tablespoons Demi-Glace Gold (I keep this on hand. It lasts a long time)

Melt the butter over medium heat in a sauté pan. Add the shallots and sauté for a couple of minutes then add in the sliced mushrooms and thyme. Raise the heat and sauté until the mushrooms brown a bit. When the mushrooms are brown and have released most of their water mix the demi-glace gold into the wine and add it to the pan. Simmer until reduced to a thick sauce on the mushrooms at least a few minutes to burn off the alcohol in the wine. If it gets too thick, thin with a little water or more wine. Be sure to put in any juices  from the meat.

Refried Mac & Cheese

When you make your next mac & cheese make it in a loaf pan a day ahead. Put it in the fridge overnight and then pop it out of the loaf pan. While still cold, slice it into serving sized slices. You can do this ahead and pop it back into the fridge. At serving time, heat up the slices in a non-stick skillet or on a griddle over medium high heat. Let one side get crispy before turing it over.

My favorite:

Macaroni with Quattro Formaggi (four cheese mac & cheese)
from Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook

5 T. unsalted butter
1/4 c. flour
2-1/2 c. milk
5 oz. Gorgonzola, crumbled
4 oz. Fontina, grated
Pinch ground nutmeg
S&P to taste
1 lb. ziti, cooked al dente and drained
4 oz. Mozzarella, cut into 1/4″ cubes
4 oz. fresh Parmesan, grated
1 tsp. paprika

(optional)
Bread crumbs
Melted butter

Preheat oven to 350º. Butter a 2 qt. baking dish.

Melt butter in a med. saucepan over med. heat. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Cook, stirring constantly until lightly thickened to consistency of cream. Whisk in the Gorgonzola and Fontina. Cook, whisking constantly, until cheeses are melted. Season w/ nutmeg, S&P to taste. Remove from heat.

Combine cheese sauce and cooked ziti. Stir in the Mozzarella and spoon into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle w/ Parmesan and then paprika. Cover with breadcrumbs and dot with butter. (optional-my addition)

Bake until bubbling and top is browned, 30-40 minutes. Serve immediately.

Canelé de Bordeaux

As I said in my last post, reading other peoples food blogs inspires me. Gives me ideas. A lot of the time they go on the back burner. Sometimes for months, even years. I don’t have a to-do list of these things, but a new post by someone else may get me off my butt to try something new. My friend, blogger and cookbook author, Cathy Barrow (a.k.a., Mrs. Wheelbarrow) has been a solid source of inspiration since I joined #CharcutePalooza back in 2011.

Cathy and I chat via the internet and exchange ideas. She posted a picture of canelé that came in a jar with armagnac on Instagram that got us talking and plotting to make canelé. She opted to go the traditional route with copper molds. I went with the newer silicone molds, the far less expensive route. Those copper molds are outrageously expensive. We also needed organic food grade beeswax to use in coating the molds. Amazon to the rescue. I ordered everything a few months ago. We planned to wait until the new year, since the end of the year is so crowded with sweets and Cathy was busy promoting her cookbook Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry (go buy it).

Last week, I had brought home from the library Jacques Pepin’s Chez JacquesIt had a simple canelé recipe that only needed to rest 12 hours; most other recipes say 48 hours at a minimum. I chatted with Cathy right away and we set a date to bake on the weekend. I re-read the other recipes I had saved too.

I’ve probably mentioned this a dozen times, but I’ll say it again, Jacques Pepin taught me almost everything I know about cooking. I watched his PBS programs on Saturday mornings for years and years. I trust his recipes implicitly. I know they will work the first time and can take on new ones even when having guests over. So, it’s with his recipe I decided to plunge ahead with. With one exception, I had read about when using silicone for canelé you get better results when you coat the molds with a beeswax/butter combination.IMG_3020

I coated the molds, probably too thickly, and stuck them in the freezer awaiting the resting of the batter. The batter rested in the fridge until the next day, longer than the required 12 hours.

I poured in the batter and started to bake. They puffed. Oh no. I had heard terrible things about them puffed canelepuffing up and spilling over. Mine never spilled and eventually sank back down. Since then I’ve read puffing is normal, runny spilling over is not.

There’s two thoughts on baking temperature, one is to start them at a low temperature and then later raise it. Then there’s the opposite. I choose to follow the first as that’s what Jacques does. My silicone molds are significantly bigger than the ones in the recipe so the canelé took way longer to cook, but in the end turned out pretty good. They were crunchy on the outside and creamy custardy on the inside. Yummy indeed. They’re not without their problems though. Their tops have what is called “white ass”. No disaster, but an imperfection. Analogous to making macarons with no feet.

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Custardy centers

 

Well they were still good. And today I made more with the high then low temperature method. They took forever to bake and I finally took them out of the molds for a final browning. They got a little extra brown, burnt even, but are very crunchy. Their insides however are not as creamy as the ones on Saturday. Another batch is in the oven, going back to the low/high method. And the postman brought me silicone molds to match Jacques size. So, more experimentation is coming. Stay tuned.

Read Cathy’s experience: THE BAKE OFF: CANELÉ, CARAMEL TART, CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY STAR AND A GIVEAWAY

Round two canelé
Round two canelé

Making Chapati for 2

A few months ago a blog post I came across was for Bread from 1660 AD. Well, the recipe is from then anyway. It was a posting of one of the Bread Baking Babes. It was an intriguing recipe and I was going to make bread that day anyway so I made it, blogged about and posted all that same day. I found out that the group puts out a monthly challenge and those of us extras, known as Bread Baking Buddies, are given a couple of weeks to play with the recipe, and post about it. I’ve not been that interested in the intervening months’ recipes. Then came January’s Chapati recipe.

I cook Indian a bit at home and I have made homemade naan before, but I generally buy frozen naan from Trader Joe’s or the nice toaster sized fresh ones at Costco and freeze them. I tend to always have a block of paneer in the freezer too.  So, last week I made an Indian dinner an Chapati to go with. I didn’t want to make a lot, since it’s just the two of us so I cut the recipe down. Chapatis are also known as Roti.

Since I have Indian grocery stores easily accessible I chose to use the traditional Atta flour. I got mine at Vik’s Chaat in Berkeley for $4.99 for 5 pounds. I’ll be able to make a lot of Chapati with that.

Chapati (makes 4 serving 2)

¾ cup Atta flour
½ teaspoon salt
up to ½ cup of very hot water, just boiled

Start out at least 45 minutes before you want to serve.

Put the flour and salt in a bowl. Add some of the hot water, but not all. Reserve a tablespoon or two. Add more water as necessary. You’re wanting to end up with a smoothish dough that isn’t too sticky. One blog I read called it silly putty consistency. And yes you young ones might not know what that is. Knead for a few minutes to get a smooth dough. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover and let rest for 30 minutes or more.

When you’re about ready to cook, divide the dough into 4 pieces. Heat a cast iron skillet or a Tava if you have one, over medium high heat. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough a thin, but not too thin thickness. The best way I can think to describe it is about the thickness of ten sheets of printer paper stacked up. I bucked convention and rolled all of mine and covered them with a cloth until I was ready to cook them. It worked for me.

Light a second burner on your gas stove to medium low. If you have electric read the original post for instructions.

For each chapati put it into the hot iron skillet cooking 30 – 45 seconds on each side. Small bubble should be showing. Then transfer immediately to the burner with the flame. Miraculously they puff up. Once puffed I turned them over for a few seconds on the second side.

I enjoyed making these. They were easy and tasty. I still prefer naan, but will definitely make these again.

Lamb Casserole for two

I read a posting today that reminded me of my own recipe for something that’s vaguely cassoulet-ish. It’s neither authentic nor traditional but tasty just the same. If you want to add some cut up sausage it would be a good addition. Or add some shredded duck confit. Or put in whatever you want, I give you permission.

Lamb Casserole for two

2 lamb shoulder chops, boned and cubed (leg works but dries out a bit)
1 14.5 oz can of white beans, drained and washed (cannellini, preferred)
1 14.5 oz can of chopped tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine (white vermouth is what I usually use, but if you have wine open, use that)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 small sprig fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp chopped parsley
a small piece of salt pork or a slice of bacon (optional)
1/4 cup of Panko bread crumbs
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Prepare individual gratin dishes or a small (3-4 cup) baking dish, by spraying with olive oil spray or other cooking spray.

In a medium sized sauce pan: if using salt pork or bacon, sauté over medium heat until all the fat is rendered. Remove and reserve the crisp meat. Otherwise heat a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan.

Raise heat to medium high and add the lamb. Sauté until browned on all sides. Remove and reserve.

Add the onion and garlic, add a pinch of salt & pepper. Sauté until soft. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Add chicken stock, thyme, beans, tomatoes, and parsley. Cook for 10 – 15 minutes, until the beans soften just a little and all the flavors come together.  If you’re in a hurry, simmer another 10 minutes, this will reduce the baking time. Add the lamb and salt pork/bacon. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the mixture into the baking dishes. Top with the bread crumbs and spray or drizzle a little olive oil on the crumbs.

Put into the oven and bake until golden brown and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 30 – 60 minutes. The beans should be very soft, with maybe some of them falling apart. That’s up to your taste. I like them to get a little creamy. Let them sit a few minutes before serving. If you want to gild the lily, drizzle with a little olive oil before serving.

If the breadcrumbs aren’t browned up at the end, put the dishes under the broiler for a couple of minutes.

Bread from 1660 A.D.

This recipe showed up somehow in my Facebook feed this morning on a day I was going to make bread anyway. It’s another bake along type challenges, with Bread Baking Babes & Bread Baking Buddies. I didn’t quite understand, until asking, what the difference is. The Babes are the regular cast and the rest are Buddies.IMG_2346
Anyhow, this bread is Robert May’s French Bread from the year 1660 A.D. It’s in his book The Accomplisht Cook; Or, The Art and Mystery of Cooking. It came to Ilva of Lucullian Delights via Elizabeth David’s In English Bread and Yeast Cookery.

Since it’s French, I decorated the top with a fleur de lys. It sure turned out pretty. I varied the recipe slightly due to the yeast I had on hand and a couple of my own favorite bread baking techniques. The bread has a nice crumb and is quite tasty. It should make lovely toast tomorrow morning.

Robert May’s French Bread
(my adaptation of yeast and baking techniques)

500 g/ 1 lb 2 oz preferably a half-and-half mixture of unbleached white and wheatmeal
7g of instant yeast
2 egg whites
1/4 cup of milk mixed with 3/4 cup warm water, plus extra water if needed
10 g salt

Put yeast, salt & flour in the bowl of a stand mixer.

Beat egg whites with a little of the water milk mixture until a little frothy. Add it to the flour. Add the remaining water milk mixture. Knead until you get a smooth dough. You may need to add bit more water at this point. Once the gluten is developed and the dough is smooth and glossy, put into an oiled bowl, turning once and cover with plastic wrap.

Let rise for 45 minutes to an hour until spongy and light.

Pull off a piece of dough to use for decoration. Form into a free-form round loaf and put into a rising basket or a bowl lined with a kitchen towel and dusted with flour.

Preheat your over to 450°F, with your Baking Steel or pizza stone in it. Dust your baking peel with cornmeal. Prepare you decorations. I rolled out the saved dough piece and used a cookie cutter for my Fleur de Lys.

After the dough has risen again, about 30-45 minutes, flip it overonto your cornmeal dusted peel. Brush the areas you want to put your decorations with a little water and put the decorations on. Slide onto the pre-heated Baking Steel or pizza stone. To get better oven spring I use a water bottle and spray the sides of the oven several times during the first few minutes of baking. Then this time I put a metal bowl over the loaf, a technique I just learned from one of the Bread Baking Babes. Remove the bowl after 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F. Continue cooking another 20-25 minutes until the bottom is browned, hollow when tapped and the internal temperature is 200°F at least. Use and instant read thermometer inserted from the bottom to test.

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It’s a yummy bread.

Rosemary Bread

This is the bread recipe that started really got me going baking freeform bread. It’s from the Il Fornaio Baking Book. It was a standard at my dinner parties for at least a few years. Sometimes I’d make it as rolls. I haven’t made it in a while and when I decided to bake some bread today this recipe came to mind. Baked on the Baking Steel, it came out glorious. Very nice oven spring.

Rosemary Bread, slightly adapted from the Il Fornaio Baking Book

3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (I use 1 tsp instant yeast)
1/2 cup warm water (105° degrees F)
1/2 teaspoon regular salt (I use Kosher)
1/2 cup cool water
1/4 cup biga (click for recipe) at room temperature
2 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour (more in humid environments)
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten (optional, Scott’s addition)

2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons to 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
coarse sea salt or coarse Kosher salt

In a small bowl sprinkle yeast over warm water and let stand until dissolved, about 5 minutes. If using instant, skip this and add the yeast to the flour and use 1 cup of warm water instead of the 1/2 cup of each warm and cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer add flour, and regular salt. Mix for just a few seconds. Add biga, milk, rosemary, yeast mixture and cool water.

Beat with dough hook for 10 minutes or knead by hand for 10 – 20 minutes

Place dough in an oiled bowl, turn over to oil top, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. (optionally refrigerate dough for the next day, then continue) Punch down and knead briefly on a lightly floured board to expel air. Repeat rising in oiled bowl until doubled again, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Punch down dough and knead briefly.

At least 30 minutes before baking, preferably and hour, place a Baking Steel or baking stone in the oven and heat to 425°F. If you don’t have one of these two, go get one. If you insist on not getting one, place an empty baking sheet in the oven during this pre-heat and when the time comes, slide the dough onto this hot one.

On a floured board, shape dough into a smooth football shape. Or shape into 10 rolls. Place on a baker’s peel with a good dusting of cornmeal on it. You can use the back of a baking sheet as an alternative. Cover lightly with a towel and let rise until dough is puffy and holds a faint impression when lightly pressed, about 25 minutes. With a razor blade, slash an line about 1/4 inch deep down the top of dough. Sprinkle the slash with coarse salt.

Using a spray bottle, mist oven heavily. Wait 5 minutes. Slide bread onto Baking Steel, re-mist oven. Wait 5 minutes and re-mist oven. Or alternately, put a cast iron pan in the when you preheat the oven and drop 1/2 cup of ice into it at this point. 

Then bake until bread is deep golden, about 35 to 45 minutes for the loaf; 15 to 25 minutes for the rolls.. The bread should have a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.

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Scott’s Notes: If you’re going to bother to bake your own bread do invest in the two tools needed here: a baking peel and a baking stone or Baking Steel. It really does make it easier. Don’t be stingy with the cornmeal on the peel either. Make sure the bread is moving easily before you try to put it on the stone. I like more rosemary than the original recipe calls for. This recipe can also be used to make Olive Bread. Leave out the milk and rosemary and knead in 1/2 cup pitted chopped olives at the end of kneading.

Blueberry Pie

When I find a recipe that I like I rarely muck with it, but once in a while I can’t help myself. My favorite Blueberry Pie recipe for a few years has been one from America’s Test Kitchen. And although they have a couple of methods in it to keep the pie from being runny, it was still very soft and sometimes as runny as any other recipe. They also use their vodka method with the crust; something I tried for a while with success, but I’ve landed on what I believe to be a better crust.

This blueberry pie actual has a genesis in my peach glut earlier in the year. Canning guru Cathy Barrow (Mrs. Wheelbarrow, check her out) and I were chatting about things to do with my 80 pounds of peaches from our tree. I put them up under syrup as she suggested and then decided to tackle a Cardamom Peach Pie filling from her website. Her blog post highlighted the fact that the USDA only approves ClearJel for home canning of pie fillings. So, I ordered some via Amazon. But oops, I ordered Instant ClearJel and that’s not the one for canning, it’s just ClearJel. I made the filling with cornstarch after consulting Cathy.

So now I had this big bunch of Instant ClearJel. I Googled it and found that it was the perfect substitute for cornstarch or other thickeners in fresh fruit pie fillings. I left it sitting out in the kitchen so I wouldn’t forget to use it.

The blueberry bush never has enough ripe berries at once to do much with, so I collect them and freeze them until I have enough for a pie. Last year I still had to supplement with some wild frozen ones from Trader Joe’s. This year the pie was 100% Bates Motel berries. This pie was a huge hit. Even I, often hypercritical of my own cooking, couldn’t find anything wrong with it. It was a great pie, and for me there’s little better than that. You can have cake, give me pie.

Blueberry Pie

Based on America’s Test Kitchen recipe, but different crust, more berries, different thickener. I’m writing the recipe as I made it yesterday with 100% frozen fruit, this resulted in cooked but whole berries, which I think also made the pie better. A note about lard: get leaf lard if you can, if not get backfat (fatback) lard from your butcher. That stuff from the big grocery store from Armour might work, but not as well.

Pie Crust
3 cups flour or pastry flour
10 tablespoons butter
10 tablespoons lard, leaf lard or backfat lard from your butcher
large pinch of salt
8 tablespoons of ice cold water

Put flour in food processor. Cut butter and lard into piece and add to the flour with a good pinch of salt, smaller pinch if you’re using salted butter. Process in pulses until the fat is the size of peas. Add the ice water in one fell swoop. Process in a few more pulses until it starts to come together, adding more ice water by 1/2 teaspoons full if neccessary. Dump it out on a clean counter and very gently pull it together. Divide in two. Form into disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least a couple of hours. You can speed this up with some time spent in the freezer, but you don’t want it frozen hard.

Filling
8 cups frozen blueberries
1 apple, Granny Smith if possible
3 tablespoon lemon juice
zest of a large lemon
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon Instant ClearJel
a pinch of salt
one egg
sanding sugar

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Put 3 cups of berries in saucepan and cook over medium heat until they are reduced to 1 1/2 cups, 10 minutes or so. Stir frequently and you can mash up some of them if you like. I don’t find that necessary. Cool when done.

Peel apple, but leave the core in. Grate the outsides on the large holes of a box grater. Gather the result in a clean lint free kitchen towel and wring out as much moisture as you can. Throw the core to the chickens.

Put the apple shreds in a large bowl, immediately add the lemon juice and toss. Mix ClearJel with the sugar and add it with the zest, the cooked berries and the remaining 5 cups of frozen berries. Throughly toss everything together.

Roll one disk of dough out and line a 9” pie pan with it. I cheat and use one of these Pie Crust Bags to roll out the dough. I really helps cut down on flour use and lets you get a pretty thin crust. Fill with the filling. Pop it into the fridge or freezer while you roll out the top, especially if you’re in a hot kitchen. Roll out the top, use a small biscuit cutter to make some 1/2” holes in the top dough for steam vents. Or make any kind of vent hole you want. Take the pie out of the fridge and top with the dough, tucking the overhang under the bottom crust a the edges to form a good seal. Crimp the edges as you see fit. I always use a fork on blueberry pie, it just seems the way it should be done. Don’t ask me why.

Mix egg with 1 teaspoon of water to make an egg wash. Brush it all over the pie and sprinkle with sanding sugar. I was out and used plain sugar this time.

Pop the pie into the freezer for 10 minutes. Put it on a baking sheet and bake it in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 350°F and bake another 30-40 minutes, until the crust is brown all over, to your liking.

Cool completely for several hours before cutting. Serve with ice cream. Huber Keller’s Maple Fromage Blanc ice cream went well with it last night.

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Baking Steel

I purchased what I thought would be my final pizza stone a few years ago. It was very thick and very heavy. It should have lasted for as long as I would have it. But alas it slowly cracked and a few months ago finally broke into two. It was still usable, but the crack was right in the middle and the two pieces would magically migrate apart.

About this time I was hearing about a product called a Baking Steel. A heavy sheet of steel that would conduct heat better than a stone, thus providing you with a superior crust. Gail of One Tough Cookie got one and raved about how good her pizza was turning out. I hemmed and hawed for a couple of months and then finally ordered one for myself.

The first two times I used it was for bread. Using the pizza stone for years I was resigned to not getting the really brown bottom crust on my freeform loaves. The Baking Steel changed that! Both loaves had beautiful brown bottoms and they were crunchy. See the loaf to the left. The other thing I noticed was that I got a bit better oven spring on the loaves.

So, onto pizza, finally after having the steel for a while. I made the dough with Italian “00” flour and that recipe makes for a very stretchy dough that you can make very thin and it turns out crisp. I preheated the oven at 500°F for 45 minutes as directed. The rack it is on is in the upper third of the oven, so I turned the broiler on for a couple of minutes and then back to bake right before sliding the pizza in.

I kept an eye on the pizza and it probably took about 7 minutes to cook. The crust was CRUNCHY! There were air bubbles and it was cooked evenly all over. It was an Emeril Legasse recipe for Duck Confit Pizza. It was good, but lacking some zing. It was better leftover today than last night. I don’t think I”d make that recipe again. But I will make my take on it: no potatoes, more cheese, a good amount of chopped rosemary. The picture is up top.

So, if you want some really crispy thin crust pizza at home I can heartily recommend a Baking Steel.

Here’s the recipe I follow for the dough:

Neopolitan Pizza Dough          Servings: four 8″ pizzas

1 1/2 cups warm water (105-115°)
1 t. instant yeast
4 cups Italian “00” Flour
1 T. sea salt

Mix everything together in a stand mixer using the dough hook. Knead until it’s glossy and smooth. This will take 10 – 20 minutes. If it’s not coming together because it’s too wet, add a a little more flour. If it’s too dry add some water.

Place the dough in lightly oiled container with a lid or a bowl with some plastic wrap. Be sure to turn the dough once to coat it with the oil.

Let rise 4 hours in a warm place.
Or, place it in the fridge until an hour before you’re ready to use it. It will keep in the fridge for several days.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces or for larger pizzas make just 3.

Stretch, shape or even roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a floured board. This dough stretches easily without tearing. Top and bake.

I was not compensated for this post. It’s just my opinion.

Shrimp & Grits for two

This is my adaptation of a Food Network Tyler Florence recipe.

Grits:
1 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup stone-ground white cornmeal
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional see Scott’s Notes)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Shrimp:
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium white onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 links spicy sausage, cut in chunks
1 tablespoon Dry Roux or all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
3/4 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 green onion, white and green part, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme and/or 1 tsp. Cajun or Creole Spice (Scott’s addition)

To make the grits, place a 3-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal. When the grits begin to bubble, turn the heat down to medium low and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Allow to cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and thick. Remove from heat and stir in the cream and butter, season with salt and pepper.

To make the shrimp, place a deep skillet over medium heat and coat with the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic; sauté for 2 minutes to soften. Add the sausage and cook, stirring, until there is a fair amount of fat in the pan and the sausage is brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to create a roux. Slowly pour in the chicken stock and continue to stir to avoid lumps. Toss in the bay leaf, thyme & Cajun Spice. Simmer for a while, 45 minutes if you have the time, if not you may need to use a bit more dry roux or flour to thicken.

Once the sauce is thickened add the shrimp. Cook the shrimp in the stock for 2 to 3 minutes, until they are firm and pink and the gravy is smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper; stir in the most of parsley and green onion. Spoon the grits into a serving bowl. Add the shrimp mixture and optionally, mix well. (I don’t mix.) Top with remaining parsley. Serve immediately.

Scott’s Notes: This dish is easy and very good. I add a little Thyme to it for better flavor. I also used more stock and cooked it longer for more depth of flavor. You can easily omit the cream from the grits and it’s still tasty. Just thin the grits with water or more stock.

You could easily use boxed grits instead of the cornmeal. Just make according to directions, using stock instead of water.

Granny Foster’s Refrigerator Rolls

The dough for these rolls can be made well in advance and kept in the fridge, pulling off what you need to make dinner rolls. It also makes a great dough for Cinnamon Sticky Buns shown above. Sarah Foster of Foster’s Market shared this recipe on one of Martha Stewart’s shows. I’ve been making it ever since.

Granny Foster’s Refrigerator Rolls
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
One 1/4 ounce package active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Grease a baking sheet and set aside.

Place the warm water, yeast and about 1 teaspoon of the sugar in a small bowl; stir once or twice just to mix. Let stand in a warm place for 5 or 7 minutes, until small bubbles form on top.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the butter, milk, salt and remaining sugar and cook over very low heat, stirring constantly until sugar has dissolved and butter has melted. Do not let the mixture go over 115 degrees or it will kill the yeast; it should just be warm enough for the sugar to dissolve. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture into a large bowl.

Add the yeast mixture to the milk mixture and stir until combined. Stir in about 6 cups flour and mix until the mixture forms soft dough. Add the remaining flour if the dough is still sticky.

Remove the mixture from the bowl and knead on a lightly floured work surface for about 5 to 8 minutes, until the dough is smooth.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl; cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warn place about 30 to 45 minutes, until dough has doubled in bulk.

Punch down the dough and divide it into two equal pieces. Place the pieces on a work surface and cover loosely with a tea towel or inverted bowl and let rest 5 to 10 minutes. (The dough can be refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use at this point. Remove from the refrigerator and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes, then proceed as the recipe directs.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll out on a lightly floured work surface until 3/4 to 1-inch thick. Cut with a 2 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter.

Place rolls on the prepared baking sheet and let rise 20 to 25 minutes more, until rolls have doubled in bulk. (It may only take 10 to 15 minutes longer for dough to rise if it has been refrigerated.) Brush the tops lightly with melted butter. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

For Cinnamon Sticky Buns

1/2 a recipe of the refrigerator rolls above
3 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1/4 chopped pecans or other nuts to your taste
1/4 cup brown sugar (dark or light to your taste)
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons Cinnamon, to your taste

Preheat oven to 350°F, if you’re baking right away. Butter a rectangular baking dish.

Roll the dough into a long rectangle.

Spread butter on the rectangle.

Evenly spread the pecans and brown sugar over the dough. Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon.

Roll up along the long side to form a long log. Cut into 12 pieces and place in the pan.

Let rise for 1 hour. At this point you can put it into the fridge overnight and bake off in the morning. In the morning: take them out of the fridge and put on the top of the stove while the oven pre-heats.

Bake for 25 – 35 minutes until lightly brown all over. Let cool a few minutes before eating. Optionally: make a glaze with confectioners sugar and just enough milk to make a glaze. Then put that on almost fully cool or fully cool buns.

Apple Cranberry Crostata

I love this recipe. Today is the second time making it. It’s delicious and simple. John’s recipes are well tested and just work.
Apple Cranberry Crostata
The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook By John Barricelli

MAKES ONE 10-INCH CROSTATA, SERVES 8

1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 3), cored, peeled, and cut into 1/2” slices
1 cup fresh or frozen (unthawed) cranberries
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of grated nutmeg
your favorite single pie crust, John calls for Pate Brisée, chilled
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch bits
1 large egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
1 to 2 tablespoons sanding sugar, for finishing

1. Set the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with a nonstick silicone baking mat (do not use parchment paper, as the crostata will stick to it).

2. In a large bowl, toss the apple slices with the cranberries, lemon juice, sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg.

3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a l4-inch round and place on the prepared baking sheet. Mound the apple-cranberry mixture in the center of the dough round. Dot with the butter. Fold the edges of the dough round in toward the center to
make a 2-inch border of dough all around. Brush the dough with egg glaze. Sprinkle generously with sanding sugar.

4. Bake the crostata for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 375°F. Rotate the baking sheet and continue baking until the crust is golden brown and the apple mixture is bubbling, about 20 more minutes. Let cool fully on the baking sheet before transferring to a
platter and serving.

Braised Chicken Thighs in Red Wine with Porcini

Cookbooks litter my kitchen and sometimes I have them for a while, years maybe, before I cook out of them. This one “Good Meat” was a gift a couple of years ago. I’ve cooked out of it twice before I think. I was thinking the other day that I didn’t want to make another roasted chicken. Even though we both love it, I wanted something different. This book caught my eye and I read a few recipes, landing on this one.

What’s particularly cool about this recipe is it’s a make ahead recipe. Better after it sits in the fridge for a day or three.

Braised Chicken Thighs in Red Wine with Porcini – from Good Meat by Deborah Krasner

4 skin-on, bone in chicken thighs (although skinless would be fine in my opinion)
1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
about 1 cup red wine
Salt & pepper

Blot the chicken dry and let sit at room temperature.

Soak the dried mushrooms in enough hot water to cover them by an inch.

Melt the butter in a cast-iron frying pan and turn the heat to medium, adding the bay leaves and the rosemary. Let them fry gently for a few minutes.

Brown the chicken on all sides in the pan.

Remove the re-hydrated mushrooms with a slotted spoon, squeezing out as much moisture as you can. You can send the liquid through a coffee filter to get out all grit, but I usually just let the liquid settle and pour off all but the last bit that is gritty. Add enough red wine to the strained mushroom liquid to yield 1 1/2 cups total.

When the chicken is nicely browned on all sides pour in the liquid, scraping up and bits on the bottom of the pan. Simmer slowly for about 30 minutes, until the meat is falling off the bone tender. Remove and discard the bay and rosemary sprigs.

Put everything into a container to go into the fridge for at least one day.

When you pull the container out of the fridge, remove the top layer of fat. Re-warm the chicken and sauce. I microwaved ours.
Serve over rice, risotto, farroto, quinoa or whatever grain you like.

Scott’s Notes: In a pinch, I’m sure boneless, skinless thighs would work, but the bones do add flavor. The skin ended up gummy and so I don’t think it was necessary.

Brioche Bread

Since this week started out with me making a recipe that’s been bubbling up my list of must makes, croissant dough, I felt like ending the week with another. At least this one I took enough pictures I could update this long ignored blog.

I have this old duct taped up Beard on Bread. Every time I purge cookbooks I think about purging this one, but do keep referencing it. Brioche Bread was a recipe from it that I’ve thought about making for a long time. It’s not a traditional brioche, but it is a nice bread.

The recipe is actually pretty simple. I didn’t get quite the rise out of it that I thought I would, but it’s tasty. The crumb is nice and it smells incredible baking.

Brioche Bread – James Beard

1 1/2 packages of active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup warm water (100°F – 115°F )
1 cup melted butter
1 1/2 tsp salte
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs lightly beaten
1 egg yolk mixed with 1/4 cup evaporated milk
or light cream

Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water and allow to proof. Mix the melted butter and salt. In a large bowl combine everything together with a wooden spoon until smooth. (I did this in my stand mixer.)

Place in a buttered bowl and allow to rise to double, 1 – 1 1/2 hours.

Punch the dough down, divide into two pieces and form into loaves. Place in loaf pans and let rise again until double, about an hour or so.

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.

Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg/milk mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the loaves are deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Cool on a rack and try to resist cutting the end off an buttering it up .

Miso Rye Bread Updated

I’ve been making this bread for a year and a half now and have made a couple of minor changes to the recipe for more consistent results. They are the kind of adjustments a seasoned bread baker would make because they know the consistency that bread should have at the different stages. The metric measurements are all by weight.

You’ll need some starter for this, so you’ll need to start at least a few days ahead. I’m a fan of rye starter as it seems to be easier to keep going and handle. The recipe is below.

Miso-Rye Bread

For the sponge:
1/3 cup warm water (77g)
1/2 cup starter (125g) Recipe follows or use your own
2 teaspoons sugar (11g)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (164g)
1/2 c organic rye flour (60g)

For the final bread:
2 teaspoons instant yeast (9g)
1/4 cup warm water (57g)
1/4 cup white or red miso (65g) (lower sodium if possible)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (4g)
the sponge
2 cups unbleached bread flour (278g)
OR 2 cups all purpose flour plus 1 tablespoon wheat gluten(10g)
2 – 3 Tablespoons Malted Milk Powder or Barley Malt Powder (optional)
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional, I rarely use)

water bottle for misting the oven(optional)

The night before or several hours before combine the sponge ingredients together in a bowl and stir with wooden spoon until everything is combined. Feel free to add a tablespoon or two more water if the dough isn’t a bit soft and sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until doubled in bulk. I turn my gas oven on for a minute and then back off and pop it in there. This makes about 85°F environment and speeds things along. It takes 3 hours or so at 85°F. You can test if it’s ready by seeing if a small pinch of it will float in water. If it does, it’s ready. Bring miso to room temperature.

Combine miso & water, whisk until smooth. Put 2 cups flour in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl if you’re kneading by hand. Add yeast & malt powder, stir to distribute. Add the miso water mixture and the sponge. Add caraway seeds if using. Put the bowl onto the mixer outfitted with the dough hook. Start the machine kneading. Add additional flour if needed and keep kneading until you get a smooth and elastic dough. The dough should be a little sticky, but balling up and moving away from the sides of the bowl. I usually knead for a couple of minutes by hand on a floured board at this point.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turn it over once, cover an let rise until doubled in bulk. This takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

Punch down the dough. Optionally, you can repeat the rising. I usually form the dough into a round boule at this point and place it in a rising basket. Mine is a brotform that leaves a nice spiral on the top if flour it with a mixture of 1/2 rice flour 1/2 wheat flour before placing the dough in it. If you don’t have one you can use any bowl lined with a clean lint free kitchen towel (the flour sack kind) that has been dusted with flour. Or you can use the Abby Dodge method: put it into an oiled 8”- 9” cake pan.

Preheat the oven to 425°F with a pizza stone on the lowest rack.

Let the dough rise again until almost double in bulk, 30-45 minutes depending on how warm you kitchen is. It should bounce back lightly when poked. When ready, mist the oven with your water bottle. Dust a baker’s peel with cornmeal and turn the loaf out onto the cornmeal. Make some decorative slashes in the loaf and slide the loaf onto the pizza stone. Bake 5 minutes and mist the oven again. Try not to mist the loaf directly. Another method is to put a shallow pan of boiling water on the floor of the oven for the first 15 minutes of baking, removing it for the remainder.

Lower the temperature to 375°F and bake for 45 – 60 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. It should have a internal temperature of at least 200°F, you can test this with an instant read thermometer inserted in the bottom. It will get quite dark if you cook it longer, but you certainly can if you like it that way. I find darkly cooked bread a little bitter. So people like that.

Scott’s notes: They do make low sodium miso, try to use that because salt can inhibit yeast. If you’re using regular miso cut down the salt by half. I’m not super fond of the caraway seeds, but some might like. Today when I made this recipe it required quite a bit more flour to get the right bread consistency. When done mixing it should be only slightly sticky.

Rye Starter

3 Tablespoons organic rye flour
3 Tablespoons bottled or distilled water
a jar

I’ve found rye starter easier to get going and easier to maintain. After you get it going you can convert it slowly to a white starter by feeding it unbleached white flour. Always use water that isn’t chlorinated. I use distilled.

• Day 1: mix the flour and water in a jar. Loosely cover.
• Day 2: feed the starter with 2 Tablespoons of rye flour & 2 Tablespoons of water. Stir it all up. Loosely cover. It should start smelling yeasty at this point.
• Day 3: throw out roughly 1/3 of the mixture and feed again. Loosely cover.
• Day 4: repeat
• Day 5: it should be fairly active at this point and ready to use. Keep it going by throwing out roughly 1/3 and feeding. It improves with age.

After your starter is active you can keep in the fridge and only feed it once a week or so. And you can feed it in much larger feedings to get the amount of starter you need. Just add enough water to keep it a thickish paste. No harm if you add extra water, but I find it easier to work with on the thick side.

If at any point the mixtures smells bad, start over. It should smell yeasty and bit sour, but not like ammonia.
You don’t always have to discard part of the starter. If I’m baking the next day I usually don’t. If you’re worried about the waste, it’s probably only a penny’s worth.

If you’d like more detailed explanations and instructions on the starter: click here.

Weeknight Gumbo for Two

I made a batch of Andouille Sausage a few months ago that wasn’t quite right. I think I smoked them too long and they dried out. So, they’re not really great to eat alone. So, I’ve been slowly using them up making this recipe. Not sure what a true Cajun or Creole would think of this recipe, but I suspect they wouldn’t disapprove too much. It’s a quick and easy one that is pretty satisfying even without the longer simmering. I usually have everything in the house or freezer for this. One of my variations that I also do when I make étouffée is to use double the amount of vegetables than the usual.

1 Andouille Sausage, sliced, or any sausage you like
8 Shrimp (21-25 per pound)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 large green pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups stock, seafood or chicken (see note)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Dry Roux or all purpose flour (see note)
1/2 tsp Cajun spice, I like Tony Chachere’s More Spice, more or less to your spice tolerance
two sprigs of fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
chopped parsley for garnish
cooked rice, still hot

Thaw shrimp & sausage if you have time. If not just cook them longer at the end.

Heat the olive oil in the pan. Optionally brown the sausage in the pan and reserve on the side. Add the vegetables and Cajun spice and sauté until the vegetables are soft and the onions brown a little. Add the dry roux or flour and stir around for a minute or so. If you’re using flour go a little longer to brown the flour a bit.
Add the stock and thyme and simmer covered for at least 30 minutes, an hour is better. The stock should reduce to about two cups. Check for seasoning. Usually the Cajun spice adds enough salt and pepper, but you can add a bit more if needed. Remove the thyme stems.

Add in the shrimp and sliced sausage and simmer until the shrimp are done, about 5 minutes. Serve over hot rice, sprinkled with the parsley.

Stock Note: You can use many different things for the stock. I keep bonito flakes, from the Japanese section of the grocery store, on had to make a quick seafood stock with. Just pour boiling water over them and let them steep for a few minutes and strain out the fish flakes. They also sell it in powdered form, which I sometimes use. Water plus a bottle of clam juice, totaling 3 cups works. Or just use chicken stock. OMG! I originally published this without the garlic.

Dry Roux Note: Look for dry roux with the other Cajun/Creole items at the grocery store. Here in the Bay Area they now carry it. It’s basically browned flour, but some brands also include some Onion Powder and Garlic Powder. It’s great to have on hand and a wonderful substitute any time you need to thicken. It adds great depth of flavor and umami. I prefer Kary’s brand, but Tony Chachere’s is fine too.

Miso Rye Bread

Visit the UPDATED version of this recipe: here.

The mere mention of Miso Rye bread in David Lebovitz’s February 2012 blog entry, Pear-Fennel Soup, got me excited. David linked to Gontran Cherrier’s website, which was where the bread was purchased. Even switching into English on the site didn’t give me much of a clue about what’s in this bread other than the obvious.

A Google search didn’t give me much either, except a miso rye seaweed recipe using only rye sourdough starter. I tried the recipe twice, leaving the seaweed out, but the dough was really wet and hard to handle. The flavors were great, but I wasn’t happy with the texture or how long it took to get a decent rise. If I remember right, the second time I even added yeast and it didn’t rise nicely.
In the end I kind of had to invent my own recipe, taking a little from here and there and settling on a recipe that uses the sourdough starter and yeast. The miso-rye combination is delicious, especially as toast. The bread browns nicely and if you like a dark brown loaf with that little bit of bitterness that comes with it, you’ll be able to easily get that with this recipe.

You’ll need some starter for this, so you’ll need to start at least a few days ahead. I’m a fan of rye starter as it seems to be easier to keep going and handle. The recipe is below.

This is not a good recipe for a beginner bread baker.

Miso-Rye Bread

For the sponge:
1/2 cup warm water (111g)
1/2 cup starter (125g) Recipe follows
2 teaspoons sugar (11g)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (164g)
1/2 c organic rye flour (60g)

For the final bread:
2 teaspoons instant yeast (9g)
1/4 cup warm water (58g)
1/4 cup white or red miso (65g) (lower sodium if possible)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (4g)
the sponge
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (188g-148g)
2 – 3 Tablespoons Malted Milk Powder or Barley Malt Powder (optional)
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)

water bottle for misting the oven(optional)

The night before or several hours before combine the sponge ingredients together in a bowl and stir with wooden spoon until everything is combined. Feel free to add a tablespoon or two more water if the dough isn’t a bit soft and sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until doubled in bulk. I turn my gas oven on for a minute and then back off and pop it in there. This makes about 85°F environment and speeds things along. It takes 3 hours or so at 85°F. You can test if it’s ready by seeing if a small pinch of it will float in water. If it does, it’s ready. Bring miso to room temperature.

Combine miso & water, whisk until smooth. Put 1 1/4 cups flour in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl if you’re kneading by hand. Add yeast & malt powder, stir to distribute. Add the miso water mixture and the sponge. Add caraway seeds if using. Put the bowl onto the mixer outfitted with the dough hook. Start the machine kneading. Keep adding flour as needed and keep kneading until you get a smooth and elastic dough. The dough should be a little sticky, but balling up and moving away from the sides of the bowl. I usually knead for a couple of minutes by hand on a floured board at this point.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turn it over once, cover an let rise until doubled in bulk. This takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

Punch down the dough. Optionally, you can repeat the rising. I usually form the dough into a round boule at this point and place it in a rising basket. Mine is a brotform that leaves a nice spiral on the top if flour it with a mixture of 1/2 rice flour 1/2 wheat flour before placing the dough in it. If you don’t have one you can use any bowl lined with a clean lint free kitchen towel (the flour sack kind) that has been dusted with flour. Or you can use the Abby Dodge method: put it into an oiled 8”- 9” cake pan.

Preheat the oven to 425°F with a pizza stone on the lowest rack.

Let the dough rise again until almost double in bulk, 30-45 minutes depending on how warm you kitchen is. It should bounce back lightly when poked. When ready, mist the oven with your water bottle. Dust a baker’s peel with cornmeal and turn the loaf out onto the cornmeal. Make some decorative slashes in the loaf and slide the loaf onto the pizza stone. Bake 5 minutes and mist the oven again. Try not to mist the loaf directly. Another method is to put a shallow pan of boiling water on the floor of the oven for the first 15 minutes of baking, removing it for the remainder.

Lower the temperature to 375°F and bake for 40 – 60 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. It should have a internal temperature of at least 200°F, you can test this with an instant read thermometer inserted in the bottom. It will get quite dark if you cook it longer, but you certainly can if you like it that way. I find darkly cooked bread a little bitter.

Scott’s notes: They do make low sodium miso, try to use that because salt can inhibit yeast. If you’re using regular miso cut down the salt by half. I’m not super fond of the caraway seeds, but some might like. Today when I made this recipe it required quite a bit more flour to get the right bread consistency. When done mixing it should be only slightly sticky.

Update: Recently I remembered that another rye bread recipe I have calls for malted milk powder. I started using it because it adds another flavor dimension which I love.

Rye Starter

3 Tablespoons organic rye flour
3 Tablespoons bottled or distilled water
a jar

I’ve found rye starter easier to get going and easier to maintain. After you get it going you can convert it slowly to a white starter by feeding it unbleached white flour. Always use water that isn’t chlorinated. I use distilled.

• Day 1: mix the flour and water in a jar. Loosely cover.
• Day 2: feed the starter with 2 Tablespoons of rye flour & 2 Tablespoons of water. Stir it all up. Loosely cover. It should start smelling yeasty at this point.
• Day 3: throw out roughly 1/3 of the mixture and feed again. Loosely cover.
• Day 4: repeat
• Day 5: it should be fairly active at this point and ready to use. Keep it going by throwing out roughly 1/3 and feeding. It improves with age.

After your starter is active you can keep in the fridge and only feed it once a week or so.

If at any point the mixtures smells bad, start over. It should smell yeasty and bit sour, but not like ammonia.
You don’t always have to discard part of the starter. If I’m baking the next day I usually don’t. If you’re worried about the waste, it’s probably only a penny’s worth.

If you’d like more detailed explanations and instructions on the starter: click here.

Very Vanilla, Lemongrass Pots de Crème

I cannot deny that our friends hold my cooking skills in high esteem. I am a very good cook. But I do have my days where things don’t go exactly as planned. The resulting food may be fine, but I’m my harshest critic and feel disappointed when things don’t turn out right.

Yesterday was one of those days, on several fronts. My 100% sourdough bread turned out flat and dense. The rolls from the dough were a bit more successful. The dinner I made was Lobster Fra Diavolo with homemade pasta. It was fine, but maybe not the best use of lobster. The spicy flavorful sauce muted the lobster flavor. It was good, but not special dinner good. The pasta was perfect though, so something did go right.

Then there was these pots de crème. I turned my back on the custard on the stove and I came close to having scrambled eggs. I strained and whirled in the Blendtec blender to get back to a smooth custard. The end product was OK, but once again far from perfect. I should have started over. The other disappointment was that the lemongrass flavor was very subtle. Served with lots of sauce and all troubles were effectively covered up. I might try these again with a second stalk of lemongrass or just some lemon extract instead. They do have a really strong vanilla flavor. Abby’s original recipe is here.

Very Vanilla, Lemongrass Pots de Crème

Makes 4 servings and 1 1/3 cup sauce
For the pots of heaven:
1 vanilla bean split or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or paste
1 cup half & half
3/4 cup whole milk
2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped OR 1/2 tsp lemon extract
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
For the blueberry strawberry sauce:
10 ounces frozen blueberries, thawed
1/4 cup strawberry jam (I use seedless)
1/4 – 1/2 cups (1 to 2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of table salt
To make the pots:
1. Measure the half & half and milk in separate microwaveable containers.
2. Position the vanilla bean on a cutting board and, using the tip of a sharp knife, split the bean lengthwise down the middle. Slide the edge of the knife down the cut side of each piece of the bean to release the seeds. Add the seeds and vanilla bean pieces to the half & half. Put the chopped lemongrass into the milk. Heat the mixtures in the microwave until very hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover and let the mixtures steep 30 or up to 2 hours. The longer the half & half and the vanilla bean and seeds steep, the more pronounced the vanilla flavor. Strain the lemongrass stalks out of the milk and combine with the half & half.
3. Position the oven rack on the middle rung. Heat the oven to 325°F. Arrange four 6-ounce ramekins in a baking pan with 2-inch high sides. I use my 8-inch square baking pan.
4. In a small saucepan, whisk the yolks, sugar and salt until well blended.(Don’t let them sit or the eggs will begin to break down.)  Uncover the half & half and, whisking, slowly pour the half and half (with the vanilla bean pieces) into the yolk mixture. Whisk until well blended. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a spoon or heat-proof spatula, until thickened and coats the back of a spoon or spatula (170-172°F on an instant read or candy thermometer), about 4 to 5 minutes. DO NOT LEAVE UNATTENDED FOR EVEN 5 SECONDS!
5. Slide the pan from the heat and fish out the vanilla bean and scrape any custard from the pod back into the custard. Stir in vanilla extract or paste, if using.  Pour the custard into the ramekins (for a super-clean pot filling, I like to pour the custard back into the 2-cup measure and then pour it from there into the ramekins – the pour spout makes it so easy.) Carefully fill the baking pan with hot tap water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins and cover the pan loosely with foil.
6. Bake until the pot de crèmes wiggle like jello when nudged, 35 to 45 minutes depending on thickness of the ramekin walls. Transfer the baking pan to a rack let cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 2 days before serving.
To make the blueberry strawberry sauce:
1. Combine the thawed blueberries, jam, 1/4 cup (1 ounce) confectioners’ sugar and the salt  in a food processor or blender. Whiz until pureed and well blended. Taste and add a touch more sugar if needed. Press through a fine-meshed sieve if you want a seedless sauce.
To serve:
1. Spoon a little of the custard out  of the center  -don’t go for perfect – and pour a little sauce into the cavity. Serve the remaining sauce on the side.

Lavender & Crystalized Ginger Whoopie Pies

This month’s not official #Baketogether is Whoopie Pies. The grand nieces were visiting so I enlisted their “help”. I didn’t have any buttermilk in the house and I needed to steep the lavender flowers in hot milk to extract their flavor. From what I’ve read heating buttermilk isn’t a good idea. So, I used regular milk and buttermilk powder. The lavender flavor is mild in this version, so feel free to up the quantity of flowers for a more intense flavor. The ginger was also a bit subdued, so I might try adding some ginger powder to the filling if I made these again.

Lavender & Cyrstlaized Ginger Whoopie Pies
       Makes 14 filled whoopie pies

For the whoopies

2 cups (9 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons buttermilk powder (optional)
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste or extract
1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon lavender flowers, or more to your taste
purple food coloring (optional)

For the filling

4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
4 oz butter at room temperature
3 – 4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup crystalized/candied ginger cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder (optional)

Make the whoopies
1. heat the milk and lavender flowers together just until small bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Steep for at least 15 minutes. Strain out the flowers
2. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line three cookie sheets with parchment or nonstick baking liners.
3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, buttermilk powder and salt in a medium bowl until well blended and no lumps remain. Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until well blended and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just blended between additions. Add the vanilla with the last egg. Add food coloring. Do a better job than I did. I ended up with a purplish gray. Stop to scrape down the bowl and the beater as needed. Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended. Add the milk and mix until just blended. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended.
4. Using a small mini scoop, shape the dough into balls and arrange about 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake, one sheet at a time, until a pick inserted in the center of one whoopie comes out clean, 9 to 11 minutes. Move the sheet to a cooling rack, let the whoopies sit for 10 minutes, and then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

Make the filling
Beat the cream cheese and butter together. Add powdered sugar and ginger powder. Add enough so that you have a fairly stiff filling. Fold in the ginger.

Fill the whoopies by spreading a generous amount of filling on one half and topping with another half.

Cavatelli with Duck Ragu

For Xmas Howard got me an item from my much neglected Amazon.com wishlist, a cavatelli maker. It’s made by CucinaProCucinaPro and works like a charm once you get the dough the right consistency, which is stiff, but not dry. I’ve made three batches of 100% semolina cavatelli since Christmas. They have a nice firm “bite” as they say. The cavatelli maker came with a sheet of recipes, all of which use all purpose(AP) flour. For this recipe I decided to try one of them. They turned out lighter, and really lovely with the Duck Ragu.

The ragu is adapted from Mario Batali. I only employ a couple of small changes, but both are meant to increase the umami flavor. I add in some dried, reconstituted porcini mushrooms and a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Mushrooms and anchovies both add to umami and depth of flavor. I also cook this sauce a bit longer than Mario, melding the flavors more.

AP Flour Cavatelli (serves 4)
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons shortening
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup hot water
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Knead everything together until you get a smooth dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes or more.

Roll the dough out to about 3/8 inch in thickness. Cut into 1/2 – 3/4 inch strips. Feed through your Cavatelli Maker. Or do a Google search on how to hand roll them. Put them on a well floured sheet pan to dry out a little before using.

Duck Ragu (serves 4)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large or 4 small skinned duck legs
salt & pepper
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, thinly slice
4 fresh sage leaves
2 cups red wine
2 cups duck (or chicken) stock
one 6 oz can of tomato paste
Worcestershire Sauce
parmesan

Heat one cup of the stock to at least very hot and add the dried mushrooms. Soak for 10 minutes or so. Remove the mushrooms and chop. Let soaking liquid settle.

Salt and pepper the duck. Heat the oil in a dutch oven until hot and brown the duck legs on all sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the onion, carrot, garlic, celery and sage to the pot. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the vegetables are soft. Add chopped mushrooms, wine, stock, tomato paste and the reserved mushroom soaking liquid, avoiding the last bit of mushroom liquid that is most likely sandy. Add a couple of dashes of Worcestershire Sauce.
Add the duck back in and simmer for an hour.

Remove the duck to a plate. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and add back into the sauce. Simmer for another hour or longer, adding more stock if it gets too dry. You want the sauce to end up thick. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust. I added a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce at this point to add a little tang.

Cook the cavatelli in abundant salted water until they float for a minute or two. Taste along the way to your preferred doneness. Drain and add them to the sauce, letting them soak up the sauce for a minute or two. Serve, topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Crispy, Carob Crinkle Cookies

I’m allergic to chocolate. Yeah, it sucks. But I’m not epi-pen allergic, it just causes upper respiratory problems, sinus headaches, etc. So, I eat some here and there, but I seem to be gradually more allergic to it. So, after a 40 year absence I’m checking out carob again. Carob is made from the seed pod of the carob tree and somewhat good foil for chocolate. As a kid I made a terrific carob cake only to have it spectacularly fail the next time I tried. Today I made some pretty tasty and chocolate craving satisfying cookies. Here’s the recipe:

Crispy, Carob Crinkle Cookies

1 cup + 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon carob powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
(optional)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons butter at room temp
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
sugar for rolling, coarse sanding sugar preferred

Sift the dry ingredients together.

In the bowl of a mixer cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla. Beat to combine.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients. Form the dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Shape pieces of dough into 1” – 1 1/4” balls. Roll each ball in sugar. (I place them on a parchment lined sheet and freeze at this point so I can take out a few at a time.)

Place balls a couple of inches apart on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Bake 10 – 12 minutes until set. They fall immediately as you take them out of the oven. Cool on baking sheet for five minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Makes about 30 cookies.

Hint: if you forget to take out the butter ahead, cut it into small cubes and put it into the bowl of the mixer. Wait 15-20 minutes and then proceed

Miso-Rye English Muffins #Baketogether

Yeah, yeah, another Miso-Rye recipe. Get over it.

Miso-Rye English Muffins (adapted from Abby Dodge’s Whole Wheat Honey EM)
Makes 8 big muffins

For the English muffins

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour + extra for dusting
3/4 cup rye flour
1 package instant yeast (a scant tablespoon for those you who buy in bulk)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon malted milk powder (optional)
1 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon caraway seed (optional)
1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon water (see note)
1/4 miso (red or white, low sodium if possible)
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons honey
Cornmeal for dusting
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Make the dough
1.    In a large bowl of electric stand mixer, combine the all purpose flour, rye flour, yeast, baking powder, caraway if using and salt and whisk until well blended. Clip the bowl into the mixer stand and fit the mixer with the dough hook.

2.   Heat the water and milk until very hot but not boiling. (I do this in a Pyrex measure in the microwave but a small pan on the stovetop will also work). Stir in the honey and miso. Mix until thoroughly combined. Check the temperature using an instant-read thermometer. For the yeast to activate, the liquids need be between 120°F and 130°F degrees (I shoot for 125°F).

3.  With mixer on medium speed, slowly pour the liquid into the flour mixture. Mix until the flour is completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the bottom and sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. Stay close while it’s mixing as the mixer might dance around on the counter.
4.   Scoop up the dough and shape it into a ball, lightly flouring your hands. The dough will be sticky but resist the urge to add too much flour. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl and pop the dough, rounded side up, back into the bowl. Cover the top securely with plastic wrap or a plate.  Let the covered dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 to 60 minutes.
5.   Sprinkle an even layer of cornmeal over a cookie sheet or half sheet pan. Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured work surface (the dough is sticky but use the least amount of flour as possible) and gently press to deflate. Using a bench scraper or knife, divide the dough into 8 even pieces (4 1/2 ounces each).  Shape the dough into a round balls (about the size of a blood orange) making sure the top is smooth and there is one seam on the bottom. Again, use very little flour. Arrange about 2-inches apart on the cornmeal-lined baking sheet and gently press down on each, lightly flouring your hands as needed, until they are about 3-4 inches in diameter and about 1/2 inch thick.  Lightly spray the tops of the dough with oil (I used olive), cover loosely and let the dough rise, in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 25 to 40 minutes. I covered mine with a kitchen towel.
Cook the muffins
6.   Heat a griddle to medium heat. Brush or spread the butter evenly over the griddle (it will sizzle). Carefully lift the muffins, one at a time, and gently place, cornmeal side down, on the hot griddle, about 2-inches apart, so as not to deflate the dough. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the bottom is well browned (reduce the heat if they are browning too quickly) and the sides look dull and a bit dry, about 10-15 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully turn the muffins over, reduce the heat to low, and continue to cook until the bottom is browned and the muffins sound hollow when gently tapped,  about 10 to 15 minutes. Mine took a good 30 minutes total, maybe a little longer. They will deflate a little when you turn them.

7.   Remove the muffins from the griddle and set them on a wire rack and let cool until warm or cool completely before stowing in an air tight container for up to 3 days (they also freeze nicely). The muffins are best when served toasted. Using a fork (you can use a serrated knife but your muffin will lose is crumble-topped texture), split the muffins in half, toast and serve immediately with butter, honey or nut butter. Some people don’t like this flavor combinations with jam, some do.

Scott’s Notes: Although thoroughly cooked I found them a little on the gummy side when I toasted them. Next time I’ll cut down on the water a little. Fork split they did have nice “nooks and crannies” as they say. I forgot the malt powder, but I think it would be a good addition. It adds depth of flavor in the miso-rye bread I make. Abby makes 6 out of this recipe. She calls them big, I’d say enormous. I made 8 and they were still pretty big. Abby also had flour weights. Sorry I didn’t weigh the ingredients. I didn’t use caraway, but it would be a good addition as Abby pointed out.

Ricotta Squash Gnocchi

These gnocchi turn out very light and fluffy, but are a bit delicate. It took my inspiration from two different recipes to come up with a very light gnocchi. They are a teeny bit hard to handle, but that keeps them fluffy.

For the gnocchi:

1 pound butternut squash pulp squeezed dry
1 large egg + 1 egg white, lightly beaten
15 oz whole-milk ricotta (or 16 if your container is that size)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

For the sauce:
3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 fresh sage leaves, torn
Coarse salt
1/3 to 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Cut squash lengthwise in half. Place on baking sheet, cut side down. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Let cool slightly; remove and discard the seeds, and scrape the pulp from the skin. Place the pulp in a large kitchen towel (not terrycloth), wrap it around the squash, and squeeze out most of the juices. Measure out one pound of this pulp for the recipe saving the remainder for snacking.

2. In a large bowl, combine the squash pulp, egg, ricotta, Parmigiano, salt, and 1 1/3 cups of the flour. Mix with a wooden spoon or your hands until thoroughly blended together. Transfer the mixture to a lightly floured wooden board, and, with your hands, work gently into a dough, gradually adding a little more flour if the dough sticks too much to your hands and to the board. Dust the dough lightly with flour, and place in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.

3. To form the gnocchi, cut off a piece of dough about the size of an orange. Flour your hands lightly. Using both hands, roll out the piece of dough with a light back-and-forth motion into a rope about the thickness of your index finger. Cut the rope into 1-inch pieces. Roll lightly in flour. Use as much flour as necessary to keep them from being sticky. Transfer gnocchi to a lightly floured platter or baking sheet. The gnocchi can be cooked immediately or refrigerated, uncovered, overnight.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a tablespoon salt and gnocchi, cooking them in batches to avoid crowding. Cook until the gnocchi rise to the surface, 1 to 2 minutes. Let cook for just a minute or so more.

5. As the gnocchi are cooking, make the sauce: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When it begins to foam, add the sage, and stir a few times. Remove the gnocchi from the pot with a slotted spoon or a skimmer, draining the excess water back into the pot, and place in the skillet. Season lightly with salt, and add a small handful of the Parmigiano. Stir over medium heat until the gnocchi are well coated with butter. Taste, adjust for seasoning, and serve immediately with a sprinkling of Parmigiano.

Potato, Leek & Spinach Soup

Yesterday we got a box of produce from a new service in the Bay Area, Full Circle. It’s all organic, delivered to your door. It arrived just in time for a Meatless Monday, which we don’t do often enough. In the box were, among other things, leeks, potatoes and spinach. I made this soup, which turned out nicely. It’s a bit subtle in flavor and you can certainly up the spices to your liking. Sorry for the crappy photo, but it’s all I took. Lazy me.

Potato, Leek & Spinach Soup with Indian Spices

1 pound leeks (about 2)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes diced (optionally peeled)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 pound spinach, well washed and roots trimmed, keep smaller stems
1 lemon
2 tablespoons of cream, half and half or whole milk (Optional)

Optional step: Slice the green tops off the leeks, wash them throughly and combine in a pot with the stock and water. Simmer for 10 – 20 minutes to flavor the stock. Strain and set aside. Discard leek tops.

Slice the leeks crosswise and wash very throughly. Using a big bowl of water changed at least a couple of times works well. Heat butter & olive oil in a large saucepan. Add leeks and sauté over medium low until they’re very soft, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
Add the broth, potatoes and remaining spices. Bring to a boil and simmer covered until the potatoes are very tender, about 10 – 15 minutes. Add the spinach and cook an additional 3 or so minutes, until the spinach is completely wilted and the stems are very soft.

Puree in a blender in batches. As you do you can optionally strain the pureed soup through a fine sieve. I like a really smooth sauce and I usually do this, especially if I didn’t peel the potatoes. Reheat on medium heat. Stir in cream if using. You may also chill the soup at this point and serve it cold. I had it that way on day 2 and it was possibly even better.

Serve with a small drizzle of lemon juice to brighten the flavors.

Optional garnish: a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche, croutons, fried cubes of paneer might be nice too.

Rainbow Cupcakes

These little gems came out beautifully, but I have to admit they were a bit of a pain to make. They’re easy, but time consuming.

Take your favorite cupcake recipe and when the batter is ready, divide it equally into six bowls. Add food coloring to each bowl, use a good amount to make brightly colored cupcakes. I used: red, orange, yellow, green, blue & purple.

After that you spoon equal amounts of each color into the cupcake liners. For me that was about a tablespoon of each batter color. Bake them at the recipe’s prescribed temperature and frost with your favorite frosting.