For people who love crusty bread!

I love blogs. Blogs are wonderful for escapism. You visit a cooking blog and it is like you are hanging out with a talented friend who shares a common interest with you. Lately, one of my favorite hangouts is Macheesmo. Nick posts something on his blog six days a week! If he doesn’t have a recipe to share, he is sharing a tip, doing a round up of his favorite blogs or reviewing a cookbook. He posts plenty of pictures and everything he makes looks delicious. Last week, Nick shared a discovery he made with his favorite no knead bread recipe. After reading his post, I couldn’t get this bread out of my head. The technique was pure genius. He took his regular no knead bread recipe and when it came time to shape the bread, he formed it into a rectangle instead of a loaf. Just before baking the bread, he scored the dough into rough squares so that the loaf resembles a rustic looking set of pull-apart rolls. The difference is that these rolls are not light, buttery and fluffy, they are serious bread. When you eat these, you have to use your teeth! That probably doesn’t sound good, but it is very good. These rolls are enveloped in crunchy chewy crust, but the crumb is still like a good piece of artisinal bread. So… if you are the kind of person who loves the crust on a homemade boule, but you crave more of it, this is your bread!

The dough was wonderful to work with. I used my starter instead of yeast.  I mixed the dough and let it sit on the counter for around nineteen hours. I formed the dough into a rectangle. The combination of using starter instead of yeast and a cold house made it so my dough had to proof longer than expected, about five hours instead of two. But look how nice and puffy it got.

I had only one problem with Nick’s recipe, he instructed to bake the bread for 35 minutes, mine was done somewhere between 20 and 25 minutes and it started to burn a little by the time I discovered my bread was done. But look how pretty it turned out!

When you pull a roll off of the loaf, you can see the gorgeous texture:

Cut one in half and it is full of holes

I am going to definitely add this recipe to my rotation of breads I bake on a regular basis. It was so easy and the results are so perfect. The flavor was rich and complex and there was a nice sour tanginess. My boyfriend declared “these rolls kick butt!” I think that translates into, “Thank you Nick for the marvelous dinner rolls”. 😀

I am sending these crusty rustic rolls to YeastSpotting. Please click on the link to see some other amazing homemade breads and sweets.

Sourdough rustic no knead rolls

2 cups unbleached white flour

2 cups stone ground whole wheat flour

1/3 cup active liquid sourdough starter

2 tsp kosher salt

2 ¼ cups lukewarm water

Cornmeal and extra flour for dusting

In a very large bowl, Mix together both kinds of flour, sourdough starter, salt and water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand out on your kitchen counter for at least 12 hours, up to 19 hours.

Flour your work surface liberally. Turn the dough out onto the surface, form it into a rectangle and then fold it up like you are folding a letter. Repeat this process a couple of times being careful not to deflate the dough too much. Flatten the dough into a rough large rectangle a couple of inches thick. Transfer the dough to a peel that has been liberally dusted with cornmeal. Cover the dough with a clean dishtowel. Let proof up to five hours. The dough should be very puffy and if you poke it with your finger, the hole should spring back very slowly.

A half hour before you think you’ll be ready to bake, place a pizza stone in the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees, F.

Right before you are ready to bake, score the bread four times lengthwise and four times crosswise to form sixteen square rolls. Be careful not to cut all the way through the rolls, they need to be attached. Place a pie pan full of water onto the lower rack of the oven and then transfer the dough to the heated pizza stone. Bake the bread for 20 – 25 minutes. The bread should be browned and sound hollow when tapped from the bottom. Cool the bread completely before serving.

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Cranberries and Lemons: A couple of recipes to brighten your winter

To me December means lemons. I’ve kept Meyer Lemon trees for years. The first one was planted in my parent’s yard, the second one, in a pot that has moved from place to place with me for over a decade. The tree explodes with growth in the summer, flowering a couple of times over the season. The tiny fruits that form suddenly seem to go through a growth spurt by fall; quadrupling in size and then ripening by December. This humble tree who looks so beat up and seems to be on the verge of giving up on me year after year, manages to hang on and rewards my lackadaisical care with one to two dozen delicious fruits annually.

Meyer lemons are a cross between either an orange or a mandarin and a lemon. The fruit is extremely juicy with few seeds. The juice is less acidic than a standard lemon. The thin-skinned rind is different from normal lemon rind. There is a hint of pine mixed in with the normal lemony bite. It is a lovely fruit which lends a slightly more mellow flavor to dishes than a regular lemon would.

I love this fruit in baked goods. Combined with sugar, you get the flavor of old-fashioned lemon candy without the acidic pucker. In breads and cakes and cookies, it is divine! One thing I love are lemon bars made with my Meyers. This year, I still had leftover cranberry sauce from my belated Thanksgiving. The leftover cranberry sauce is wonderful mixed in yogurt, but really, how much yogurt could we eat? I decided the cranberries would need to be used for something else (and soon!). Those remaining berries would come to make a wonderful addition to my lemon bars. I was able to use them in the filling and replace the milk in the icing with the syrup.

So… today, I am giving up my super secret well-loved cranberry sauce recipe. Although you could make the bars with the chunky canned whole cranberry sauce and make the icing with milk instead, I encourage you to make my sauce for these bars. In fact, there are still excuses for Turkey dinners. Make my Turkey au jus or bake some turkey cutlets and have the sauce as a side. Make it for festive holiday style fruit on the bottom yogurt (plain yogurt mixed with homemade cranberry sauce) or just add it to a sandwich made with deli turkey. You’ll be happy you took advantage of the season’s fresh cranberries.

Citrusy sweet n’ sour cranberry sauce

2 cups water

2 cups evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

4 cups cranberries, rinsed and picked over (discard any mushy or moldy berries)

The juice and zest of 1 orange

1 piece of Canela (Mexican cinnamon stick) or 1 Cinnamon stick

2 peeled slices of fresh ginger

1 – 2 tsp. Cinnamon

1/2 tsp. Allspice

A couple of liberal splashes of Grand Marnier, Brandy or Cassis Liquor

Combine sugar and water in a large non-reactive skillet. Stir well so that the sugar dissolves and then bring to a boil. Boil 5 minutes. Add the canela or cinnamon and ginger slices then the cranberries, bring back to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Allow the cranberries to simmer undisturbed for about 5 minutes or until all of the cranberries have cracked open. With a slotted spoon, move the berries to a large bowl being careful to keep the cinnamon stick and ginger in the syrup. Pour a couple of generous splashes of Grand Marnier (or the alternate alcoholic beverage of your choice) into the bowl with the berries. Allow the berries to macerate while you keep cooking the syrup. Add the orange zest, orange juice, ground cinnamon and allspice to the syrup. Raise the heat to medium and continue to cook the syrup until it is reduced by half being careful not to let it become candied. You still want it to be syrup but thicker. Pour the hot syrup over the berry mixture. Cool. Remove the cinnamon stick and ginger slices and then refrigerate for at least three hours before serving.

The cranberry sauce will keep for a couple of weeks to be enjoyed with all of the wonderful things I suggested. Make sure you save a little over half a cup of the sauce to make sure you have plenty of berries and syrup for the festive holiday lemon bars below.

These lemon bars are going to Eat Christmas Cookies event on Food Blogga. To see what everyone else has baked go here. There is still time to participate: Check here for details.

 

Meyer Lemon and Cranberry Bars

Crust:

1 cup unbleached white flour

¼ cup confectioner’s sugar

1 stick cold unsalted butter cut into pieces

A pinch of salt

Filling:

A little over ½ cup Citrusy sweet n’ sour cranberry sauce drained (syrup reserved for icing) or ½ cup canned whole berry cranberry sauce

Zest from 1 Meyer lemon (about 2 tsp)

2 tbsp Meyer lemon juice

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

2 tbsp unbleached white flour

½ tsp baking powder

Glaze:

¾ cup confectioner’s sugar

½ tsp vanilla

1 tbsp softened butter

3 tbsp cranberry syrup reserved from drained homemade cranberry sauce*

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, F.

Whisk together flour, confectioner’s sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the cold butter until it resembles coarse corn meal. Butter a 9” x 9” square baking dish. Press the crust mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust for 15 – 17 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly while you proceed with the recipe.

In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, eggs, flour and baking powder. Set aside. Spoon the drained cranberries onto the crust, making sure they are evenly spread over the crust. Carefully pour the lemon mixture over the berries. Bake the bars in the oven for twenty five minutes. Let the bars cool on a rack and then refrigerate.

* The glaze is optional but makes the bars pretty. If you used canned berries instead of making my recipe for homemade cranberries, make the glaze with a tablespoon of milk instead of the cranberry syrup: In a bowl, beat the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and butter with a mixer. Add the cranberry syrup or milk and beat until smooth. Transfer the glaze to a pastry bag fitted with a round tip. When the bars are cold, use the glaze to decorate the bars, I usually do a cross hatch pattern. Cut bars into small 1” or 2” squares to serve.

Enjoy!

The Metamorphosis

 

met·a·mor·pho·ses 

1.  A transformation, as by magic or sorcery. 

2.  A marked change in appearance, character, condition, or function. 

Sometimes, my laziness know no bounds. I have been baking so much bread, cornbread, waffles and cakes over the past few weeks, that I ran out of white flour, brown rice flour and whole wheat pastry flour. I was beginning to run dangerously low on cornmeal, rye flour and stone ground whole wheat flour too. Herbert has been fed a steady diet of organic unbleached white flour since his inception. I wanted to keep feeding him his normal diet but the best price on my favorite brand of white flour is at a store on the other end of town. I really didn’t really want to make an extra trip there unless I had to. That’s why I started feeding Herbert stone ground whole wheat flour. By the end of the week, he was mostly whole wheat Herbert. A new and entirely different creature, indeed. 

Mostly whole wheat Herbert is brown with flecks of grains. When you open his jar, a miasmal cloud wafts up from his surface. When I stir flour and water into Herbert to nourish him, it is not the same. He doesn’t form a sticky glutinous mass, the flour stirs right in. If I don’t feed mostly whole wheat Herbert on time, a thick layer of hooch forms on the surface. Should I have been afraid? No, on the contrary I was excited to bake bread. From my research on sourdough, I have heard that feeding the starter whole grains can increase the sour flavors in the starter. I was excited to find out. 

I had plenty of stone ground whole wheat flour in the pantry. I had a bag of flax seeds just begging to have something done with them. I decided to let the sourdough recipe I have been working with for the past few weeks evolve one more time into a whole wheat flax seed bread. With a bunch of techniques now under my belt and a desire to play in the kitchen, I decided I would knead the bread by hand for close to twenty minutes to really get the gluten going. I would allow the dough a first rise on the counter and then pop it in the fridge for fifteen hours to really bring out the flavors. I would pull the dough out of the fridge, and let it come up to temperature in my banneton (which took the remainder of the next very cold day) and then bake a wonderful loaf of bread. 

My plan was a success. I ended up with a dense whole grain bread with a distinct sour tang and a good complex flavor. I’ll be making this bread again. The only thing I may change would be to bake the bread in a loaf pan next time. The bread just begs to become a sandwich and I think I would love to have more even slices throughout the entire loaf next time. 

Mostly whole wheat Herbert? I may let him be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It is nice to have the whole wheat starter for special loaves but a good white flour starter can make the fluffiest cakes and pastries. Me? Still lazy. 

This fable is going to YeastSpotting a place for bakers, their breads and their stories. 

 

Whole wheat flax sourdough 

1 cup water 

1 ½ cups active liquid sourdough starter, fed whole wheat for past four feedings 

3 ½ cups stone ground whole wheat flour 

1 tbsp honey 

1 tsp salt 

2/3 cup whole flax seeds 

Place Flax seeds in a blender.  Use the chop button to pulverize the seeds.  I ended up with some ground flax seed meal, some partially chopped seeds and a lot of whole seeds.  I wanted these textures for the bread and you do to… 

In a large bowl, Mix together all dough ingredients including the flax seeds, mixing with a rubber spatula until all of the ingredients are combined and form a solid mass of dough. Turn the dough out onto a wooden board and knead for up to twenty minutes until you can stretch the dough and see through it without breaking it (window pane test). Wash and dry the bowl. Oil the bowl and place the dough in it, covered with a clean dish towel. Allow the bread to rise until doubled, three hours or more in a cool kitchen. 

Turn the dough out onto the wooden board. Flatten it out into a rectangle and then fold it from the short sides inward like you are folding a letter. Flatten it again and fold it again. Form the dough into a tight ball place the dough back into the bowl. Refrigerate up to twenty four hours. 

Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to sit on the counter to warm. Flatten the dough and then form it into a ball. Place it in a banneton covered with a clean damp dishtowel. Allow to sit until doubled (the dough will still be cold and this could take several hours in a cool house). 

Place a pizza stone in your oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Dust a peel with cornmeal and turn the dough out onto the peel. . Slash the loaf and then place it in the oven. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until browned and the bread makes a hollow sound when you tap it on the bottom. Place the bread on a cooling rack and cool completely before serving.

Winner of the Muir Glen Tomato Giveaway!

The winner of the Muir Glen Tomato Giveaway is the 15th commenter on the post: Carol.

Congratulations Carol! I’ll be contacting you shortly

Muir Glen Tomatoes: Product Review and a Giveaway!

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by the nice folks at Muir Glen tomatoes. They offered me a free sample of their 2009 Reserve Tomatoes to review on my blog. The nice folks at Muir Glen, are really nice folks: they also offered to let me give away the same nice box of goodies to one of my lucky readers. (I’ll give you more details at the end of this post).

When I was corresponding with the representative from Muir Glen, I tried to appear really casual. You know, really savvy and cool. I let her know that by sending me and my readers freebies, she was not guaranteed a good review! Little did she know  the reality of the situation:  I use their tomatoes every time I cook (so she was almost guaranteed a good review, in fact, I was trembling with anticipation about receiving this kit!). I came across their products years ago and in my opinion, the canned tomatoes are the best on the market. They taste good. They don’t taste like the can they come in. Not only do they have tomatoes of exceptional flavor, but the tomatoes are organic which is important to me. Why? Because not only am I concerned about the pesticide residues in my food and in the environment, but tomatoes have been one of those foods that have been genetically modified quite often in the past. Although there is no proof (yet) that GMO foods are harmful to us, I have a gut feeling that I should avoid them. Certified organic foods cannot contain GMOs. After the box arrived, I started pouring through the materials included in the shipment. I learned that the high quality of the tomatoes has to do with careful handling from the farm to the can. I also learned that these tomatoes are grown in California which for me, makes them a local food (yeah!).

Now, let’s talk about the box I received in the mail. It is gorgeous! You get a wooden crate filled with goodies.

Inside the box is a packet talking about the two cans of Reserve tomatoes included within. There are also two recipe cards. Now… I was promised recipe cards and at first I was a little disappointed because I saw only two recipe cards and I didn’t yet realize what the book underneath these materials was.

It turns out that the book is a gorgeous cookbook, with all of the information about how they grow and package the tomatoes, but…it includes 50 pages of delicious sounding recipes with full color photos of the food. This is a gorgeous book, and in my opinion. it is  worth as much as the tomatoes themselves if not more. After perusing this book, I decided I would use the four cans of tomatoes to make two of the recipes from the book so that you can get an idea of what the recipes are like.

Below the books, nestled away, were the four cans of tomatoes. There were the two cans of reserve tomatoes: Yolo Red diced tomatoes and Brigade whole tomatoes. Also included were Fire Roasted tomatoes and Adobo Seasoned tomatoes.

I used the reserve tomatoes to make Braised Tuscan Chicken with Fennel and White Beans. Upon opening the cans of tomatoes, I took a taste of each. I was disappointed with my choice in recipes for a minute, because the Yolo Red tomatoes where so sweet and delicious, they would have been wonderful used in something fresher such as a bruschetta or in a salsa. (If you win my contest, take note of that). The Brigade tomatoes had good acidity and tasted like they would be perfect for this slow braise. The only surprise I had, happened when I poured the Brigade tomatoes out of the can. If memory serves me right, a 15 oz can of tomatoes usually includes about 5 or 6 tomatoes. When I poured, three perfectly gorgeous round tomatoes popped out of the can. I had to laugh, I guess they didn’t want to smash them, so they only include enough tomatoes to not get smashed in transit. Luckily, the can of diced Yolo Reds where packed full, making it so that I had plenty of tomatoes for the recipe. The braised chicken came out delicious. The sauce begged for bread to sop it up and was loaded with chunks of vegetables and beans and a hint of herbs, the tomato flavor was outstanding. The chicken was falling off the bone tender. I’ll be making this chicken dish again!

The next day, anxious to taste the Adobo seasoned tomatoes, I decided to make the vegetarian chili recipe. I tasted the tomatoes upon opening the cans. The fire roasted tomatoes are familiar to me. They have a good roasted tomato flavor with a hint of smoke from the charred tomato skins you see floating among the diced tomatoes. I tasted the Adobo Seasoned tomatoes. The flavor was strange and familiar at the same time. I had to taste again before I realized that it is a light version of the super hot adobo sauce you find in a can of chipotle with adobo sauce. It is like they added just a hint of chipotle to their tomatoes. I had a really good feeling about cooking with these!! The chili turned out to be a smash hit. I followed the recipe exactly, using the prescribed amount of jalapeno and chili powder even though I knew that half my tomatoes had a good kick already. The chili came out spicy with a hint of that good chipotle flavor. It was wonderful. I’ll be looking for the Adobo Spiced tomatoes at my grocery store, I can think of many recipes that would be improved by using them.

So… you are probably wondering how you can get a box of these tomatoes and recipes for yourself.  Please leave a comment on my blog between now and Monday December 7th. I’ll hold a random drawing and one lucky Delectable Tidbits reader will receive a Reserve kit from Muir Glen.  Unfortunately, Muir Glen can only ship the reserve kit to people in the U.S., Sorry.

If you are not the winner, you can still get a Reserve kit. Muir Glen has these Reserve kits available for $7.00 at this link. By my calculation, that price barely covers the cost of the tomatoes much less the shipping and you get a crate to recycle for storing CDs and the cookbook and… Muir Glen will donate money to the charity Chefs Collaborative each time we buy a reserve kit. They are donating $2 for every Reserve kit they sell and $1 for each person who becomes a fan on their Facebook page (My friend Kevin is laughing at me right now because I am anti-Facebook, but hey, it’s for a good cause! So stop laughing Kevin!)

So, all of my friends and lurkers, leave me a comment.  Good luck everyone!!

Biscuits: the forgiving bread product

Unmarried, childless and middle-aged. Therefore, expected to be a Thanksgiving guest in my parents home instead of the host of a Thanksgiving event. I love being with them but once I get home, I need to have a personal Thanksgiving dinner of my own devising. Tuesday was Thanksgiving again for me. I made my favorite turkey breast recipe (there would only be two of us so we didn’t need the whole bird), stuffing with pecans subbed in for the fussier chestnuts, maple glazed sweet potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, steamed brussels sprouts and green peas (two very pedestrian vegetables to cut through the richness of the meal). It was a three-hour whirlwind cooking experience and in the middle of it, I realized there was no bread. I meant to buy rolls, but I forgot. I didn’t realize my error in time, so I couldn’t make bread. Once I thought about what to do, realized I had something good in my repertoire that I could toss together between making the sweet potatoes and finishing the rest of the cooking: sourdough biscuits.

As luck would have it, I did plan to make a sourdough loaf the next day for turkey sandwiches, so Herbert was happily bubbling away on the counter. I made sourdough biscuits a couple of times before, but I always made them with whole wheat pastry flour and I always had buttermilk on hand. I was nearly out of pastry flour and I was certainly missing the buttermilk. There was no way I could leave to go to the store. What do I do when I have no buttermilk but need to make a recipe that requires it? I substitute plain nonfat yogurt diluted with nonfat milk. You see, buttermilk hasn’t been real buttermilk for years now. Instead of being the liquid that is leftover as a byproduct of making butter, it is now a cultured milk product similar to yogurt or kefir, but not as thick. I love using buttermilk in recipes. It makes things tender, flavorful and fluffy, but a mixture of yogurt and milk makes a good stand in.

The resulting biscuits were everything I needed. They were quick to prepare. They were flaky and tender. Because I used mostly white flour, they also carried the yogurt/sourdough flavors well. My boyfriend could not stop eating these biscuits and he could not stop talking about how delicious they were. To me, that is the best praise of all. Now that I happened onto this new method for making biscuits, I think I will revise the recipe for good.

These biscuits go to YeastSpotting, showcasing the best bread on the internet every week!

Oh… and before I forget… I have the opportunity to give away a Reserve kit of Muir Glen Tomatoes this week. If you are interested in my contest, click here and drop a comment on the Muir Glen Tomato Giveaway post.

 

 

Sourdough biscuits redux

Adapted from the Golden sourdough biscuits recipe on Recipe finder

½ cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp baking soda

½ cup cold unsalted butter

1 cup well fed sourdough starter

¼ cup nonfat plain yogurt

¼ cup nonfat milk

2 tbsp melted butter for brushing the muffins

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees f.

In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, white flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Using a pastry-cutter cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Don’t let the butter get too warm, you want the cold butter chunks to stay pretty solid to help with the flakiness of the finished biscuits. Mix together yogurt and milk. Mix with a whisk or fork until smooth. Mix the sourdough starter into the yogurt mixture. Add the yogurt mixture to the flour mixture. Using a silicone spatula, mix the dough until well combined.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Knead the dough a dozen times. Pat the dough into a 1“ thick round. Cut the dough with a 2 1/2” biscuit cutter. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or butter the cookie sheet. Place the biscuits close together on the lined sheet. If there are dough scraps, gently press them together, form a ball and pat it out to 1” thickness again. Cut more biscuits. If I have enough scraps left for one more biscuit, I usually just squash it out into one last free form biscuit. Just don’t over knead the dough while you work with the scraps.

Bake the biscuits for 12 – 15 minutes until golden browned. Remove from the oven and brush the biscuits with melted butter. Allow them to cool before serving.