Sunday, June 29, 2014

Gluten Free Crepes and Ham Bread Pudding

I have recently written about both these foods: Crepes and Ham Bread Pudding. The Dacotah Prairie Museum asked me to put on a cooking presentation, making foods for a "Sunny Summer Patio Brunch". This event took place yesterday at The Granary, a Rural Cultural Center in the nearby town of Groton. The foods demonstrated were a Ham and Feta Bread Pudding, (a variation of the Ham and Blue Cheese Bread Pudding I had created earlier), a Fruit and Vegetable Salad and Crepes with Ricotta Cream Cheese Filling for dessert. To start out the presentation I made the pretty Edible Fruit Centerpiece, also described in a recent blog.

Edible Fruit Centerpiece
Going back over these recipes, I knew one of the young women working at the Dacotah Prairie Museum has gluten sensitivity, and if something is presented that has gluten, such as the ham bread pudding and the crepes, she would not be able to partake of the food. With her in mind, along with the great possibility of others present with this sensitivity, I had wanted to test making the Ham and Feta Bread Pudding using gluten-free bread. 

I had never used gluten free bread before. I was unsure of the texture and feel of what it would be. Would it absorb the milk and eggs properly? Would it end up too custard-like without regular wheat breads? Though a bread pudding is a custard based food, too much liquid to bread ratio would give too much room for an egg custard rather than the creamy bread texture from a really good bread pudding recipe. I could have made gluten free bread, and i am sure it would have made a wonderful bread pudding. Most people though, would not take the time to make their own bread before attempting a bread pudding. I had to be able to find the ingredients locally. I asked Marianne at the museum which bread she usually used and her first recommendation was Udi's. Available locally, I went and bought a loaf to test this out. 
Gluten Free Ham and Feta Bread Pudding


I wanted the bread pudding to still be warm when I took it in for the presentation. Though I could have mixed all the ingredients for the recipe the night before, I also wanted there to be some texture to the finished product, so I cut the bread cubes the evening before and covered the bowl on the counter. In a refrigerator container I pre-mixed the ham, Feta, scallions, white raisins, salt, nutmeg & pepper. I pre-mixed the eggs and milk and refrigerated those separately. Yesterday morning when I woke at 6 AM, I went straight to  he kitchen and preheated the oven. I uncovered the bread cubes, added in the two refrigerated containers and mixed it all well. This went into a casserole and into the oven less than 15 minutes later. While I continued on to get myself ready for the day, the casserole baked. It was done by the time I came back into the kitchen for breakfast. It smelled heavenly and looked wonderful. I had high hopes. 

Marianne had not known I planned to make this separate bread pudding, and she came to thank me for thinking of her. As it turned out, the recipe held no glitches. It was perfect and just as good as its wheat-based counterpart.

Making Gluten-Free Crepes: note the lacy holes
The other thing I had wanted to test was making the crepes gluten free. Using a 1:1 substitution of my 6:2:1 Mixture all-purpose gluten free flour for regular all-purpose flour in the recipe, I made the crepe recipe as it stands, only adding 1/2 teaspoon of guar gum to the recipe. The only difference I found was that the gluten free crepes took a trifle longer to set completely, and they tended to be more difficult to lift from the pan's surface. The crepe batter in the pan made many little holes, creating a very lacy pattern at the edges. Still, none of these gluten free crepes were torn or otherwise unusable, so I consider that a good recipe. The flavor was great. I know Marianne was not the only one to eat the gluten free version of these crepes. All in all, if anyone would be interested in these two recipes gluten free, I can fairly say that they work excellently.




My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Indian Naan Breads

I have read that Naan bread is not terribly common in India. This is due to the fact that they are traditionally made in a tandoor oven, something that is not available to the common household. While naan may be served in large establishments or restaurants, the breads found in most households are simpler flat breads such as chapati, roti, puri, parathas and others. However, these fluffy and soft naan have taken the US by storm. This includes my husband and me. I have yet to actually make any of these other flat breads, but I have made naan quite a few times over the years and my husband is just crazy about them, wanting them any time I make an Indian dish.
Indian Naan Bread


I do not have a tandoor oven, of course, but I do bake naan by throwing the shaped dough onto a very hot pizza stone; while not as hot as a tandoor, it gives a somewhat similar result. There are any number of recipes for naan bread and I have no idea what might be most authentic. My recipe is a variation on recipes I have tried in the past from lots of Indian cookbooks. I had posted a different recipe for naan on my website some time ago, but I felt that while good, those were a little too dense in texture. I tried again, and came up with what seems a better recipe, yielding a softer, puffier bread. 

Does Naan Call for Yeast or Not?

I have seen recipes for naan that call for yeast and some that do not. I am not totally sure, but it seems like most of the packaged naan in the supermarkets more closely approximate a pita-type flatbread than a yeast dough. I could be mistaken. In a pinch, they are certainly tasty, with a nice soft texture. In the past I have made pita breads, watching them puff up into little balloons before shrinking back to the flat bread with a pocket. The naan breads I have made over the years have all used yeast as the leavening, though there are recipes for naan that rely on baking powder, baking soda or both. I was looking around just now for naan recipes that do not use yeast and found a new website, which I added to my favorites at right, called Veg Recipes of India. I got so involved looking at recipes on this site and seeing so many things I would like to try - I just lost an entire hour-and-a-half looking and dreaming (and salivating!). 

Unusual Seeds for Sprinkling

Naan can be made with no seeds on them of course, though if you happen to have them on hand, the flavors are certainly enhanced and exotic. Most people have used or eaten poppy seeds, but not everyone has used spices like nigella seeds (kalonji), black cumin (kala jeera), or Ajwain. This last one is apparently called Carom seed in English, but I really never seen it called that, so I stick with one of the (7 or 8) different spellings for Ajwain! All of these flavors are very different. Black cumin is almost unknown outside India. It is so unusual that when trying to buy black cumin online, one is most often being sold nigella seeds. Nigella is nigella sativa, to be absolutely sure. Black cumin is a completely different and unrelated plant, bunium persicum, or bunium bulbocastanum. So be aware, when buying online to get the correct seeds. Nigella is also often called "onion seed" though again, this is a misnomer. It is not related to onion at all, though the seeds look somewhat similar. Nigella and black cumin look nothing alike.

So, I like using yeast in my naan breads, though some day I must try a recipe that does not. For now, this is my latest recipe for a nice and tender naan made with yeast.
Indian Naan Bread, showing the seeds, a mix of black cumin and nigella


Indian Naan Bread

makes about 16 naan breads

1 1/2 cup warm water (90 to 110 degrees)
1/2 cup yogurt or buttermilk
2 cups bread flour
1 packet of instant yeast

3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter or ghee, melted
4 cups more bread flour, more or less as needed
More melted butter or ghee for brushing
poppy seeds, nigella seeds (kalonji) or black cumin (kala jeera) for sprinkling

Mix the warm water with the yogurt or buttermilk in a large bowl. Add the yeast, sugar and salt to 2 cups of the flour and stir to combine; add this to the liquids in the bowl. Whisk well to combine and set aside for at least 10 minutes or up to 30 minutes. The dough should have formed a spongy mass.

Add in the eggs and melted butter or ghee and mix well. Begin adding more flour, 1/2 cup at a time until  a stiff dough has formed. This may be done in a heavy duty stand mixer or by hand. Mix well for about 5 minutes or more as needed until the dough comes together. It should be tacky but not sticky. Cover the bowl with a cloth or with plastic wrap and let rise until about doubled in bulk.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 16 equal balls. Let the balls rest for 10 minutes to relax the gluten. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. If you have a pizza stone, set the stone on the lowest rack to heat with the oven. If you do not have a pizza stone, prepare baking sheets with parchment, sprayed with cooking spray. You will need to bake these in batches.

Pat or roll the little balls of dough into long, narrow  wedge shapes. Pull one end to create the teardrop shape. Set the shaped dough aside onto a lightly floured surface as they are formed. Brush them with the melted ghee or butter and sprinkle with seeds of choice, or leave plain. 

If baking on a pizza stone, place two or three naans at a time (however many will fit) onto the very hot pizza stone. Alternatively, place 2 to 4 of the prepared naans onto the baking sheet and place in the lower third of the hot oven. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until they are well browned. As the naan are done, set more onto the pizza stone, or have a separate baking sheet prepared for the next batch. 

I never need this many naan breads at one meal, so I package them into zip top bags and freeze them for up to 3 months. To reheat, heat the oven to 350 degrees and set them onto baking sheets for up to 10 minutes or until hot. Watch closely - you are not cooking them, only reheating. To keep them softer, wrap in foil before reheating.

Naan breads are meant to be served with very sauced dishes, curries and the like. It is meant to be an either/or. If rice is served, the bread is not necessary. Not so for my husband! Serve these delicious breads with any food, as desired.
 


My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Potato Pea Curry Quick and Easy

Last evening I was really late getting into the kitchen to make dinner. I had some pork chops I was planning to grill, with the idea of just slathering them with some barbecue sauce at the end of the grill time. I looked in the fridge; no barbecue sauce. Drat.

My next idea was to just use my marinade for Pork with Indian Spices. This marinade is so very delicious on pork, chicken or turkey, though I had never used it on pork chops before. Still, same difference so I proceeded. The marinade is tried and true and best of all, quick. I mixed up the marinade in a zip-top bag, placed the pork chops into the marinade and tossed it around a bit to coat. And then I was left with what to make for a side dish. My husband is very fond of potatoes. We have been eating potatoes all sorts of ways lately, including some new takes on potato salads. None of these were quick enough to get done in a reasonable amount of time for dinner when I was already running late.
 
Pork Chops in Indian Spices and Potato Pea Curry
Pork Chops in Indian Spices and Potato Pea Curry

Making Potato Pea Curry

Then I got that light bulb flashing on again. Since I was making Indian flavored pork, I would make Potato Pea Curry. I have made this a few times in past and it doesn't take very long. While the pork chops marinated, I started making the Potato Pea Curry. This curry by all rights should really have chopped fresh tomatoes in it, with a little tomato juice as the sauce, but my husband has an extreme distaste for fresh tomatoes. He absolutely loves almost any tomato based sauce; just nothing fresh. I use a can of tomato sauce which works well, giving the nice tomato base flavor and no despised chunks.

Obviously this curry has potatoes and peas in it, hence the name. Just FYI, "Aloo" is potato and "Mattar" means peas in Indian, so this can be called an Aloo Mattar Curry. Other Indian spices that flavor this dish are the ubiquitous coriander and cumin seeds. I know they may not be in every single Indian dish, but they certainly seem to be a set of main spice staples. Heat can be modified to taste. I used a little ancho chile powder and one jalapeno with seeds and membranes removed. Were Mario Batali to make this curry, I could imagine him using a goodly pinch of red pepper flakes and throwing in 2 or 3 sliced whole Serranos. Make the heat level to your taste. 
Potato Pea Curry (Aloo Mattar Curry)
Potato Pea Curry (Aloo Mattar Curry)


Other ingredients in this curry are onions, garlic and fresh ginger. Garlic and ginger are another two staples that go into most Indian dishes I have encountered. They are generally minced together finely, in more or less equal amounts. The last most important part of this dish is a good amount of cilantro. I use a large handful, chopped coarsely, but if this is objectionable, just use less, to taste.  I do not add turmeric to this curry, though it is certainly fine to use. I did add in a small bit of true cinnamon quill and 2 whole cloves. I highly recommend having a small coffee grinder to use only for spice grinding, if you do not already have one. The use of whole spices, freshly ground, makes a world of difference to the flavors in a dish. Though I really love black pepper, I left it out of this dish because of the heat coming from the ancho powder and the jalapeno. I tolerate a lot more heat than does my husband, so in deference to his taste buds, I try to keep the heat at a very tolerable level. I can always add in more pepper or cayenne to my taste at the table. 

Potato Pea Curry (Aloo Mattar Curry)

serves about 6
Potato Pea Curry (Aloo Mattar Curry)
Potato Pea Curry (Aloo Mattar Curry)

2.5 pounds potatoes, peeled, cubed
1 tablespoon salt, for potato cooking water
1 1/2 cups frozen baby peas (about 6 ounces)
1 - 2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 to 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced with
1 large knob fresh ginger, size of a walnut
1 jalapeno, minced finely
1 1/2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1/2 inch true cinnamon quill
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon pure ancho chilie powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 can (14.5 - 15 ounces) tomato sauce
large handful of cilantro, coarsely chopped

Place the cubed potatoes in a saucepan with water to just cover and bring to a boil. Once the pot boils, add the tablespoon of salt. I keep coarse sea salt for this purpose. Cook until the potatoes are tender. Drain and set them aside. Add in the frozen peas while the potatoes are hot and they will quickly come up to temperature. 

While the potatoes are boiling, set a large skillet to heat. Once hot, add the oil and then the onions, stirring often until the potatoes are softened, translucent and beginning to color. During this time, place the whole spices into a spice grinder and once fine, mix in the ancho powder and salt and set aside. Mince together the garlic and ginger, and then the jalapeno. Once the onion is softened, add in the garlic, ginger and jalapeno and toss until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add in the spices and toss well to combine, another 30 seconds. Add the can of tomato sauce and bring to boil. lower heat and cook for about 2 minutes. Pour this sauce over the potatoes and peas along with the chopped cilantro and stir well. Serve immediately.

Once the sauce had come together for the curry, I lit the grill. I got the pork chops on the grill a few minutes later. These were not thick chops, so they didn't take long on the grill. The whole dinner, from conception to table was 1 hour. Not bad.



My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Cherry Frangipane Tart with Pate Sucree

Cherry Frangipane Tart with Cookie Dough Crust
A few days ago I made a Cherry Frangipane Tart, which was delicious, no question. When I made it, I used a simple roll cookie dough for the crust; great also. When I was making the decision to use a cookie dough for a crust, I also was considering trying a Pâte Sucrée; French for "sweet pastry". In actuality, a Pâte Sucrée falls somewhere between regular pastry or pie dough and cookie dough in sweetness and richness.

Sweetness Factor

When making different recipes for a plain pie pastry, some of the recipes use a little sugar in them though most do not. The recipe I usually make, Never Fail Pie Crust, does call for a couple tablespoons of sugar, though it is not necessary for a great outcome. If making a savory tart, pie or galette, I leave the sugar out. For a Pâte Sucrée, I have seen recipes with as little as 2 teaspoons of sugar and up to 1/2 cup for a recipe for 2 tart pastries. The amount of sugar is certainly varied.

Richness Factor

Very simple pie pastry is made from flour, some kind of fat, whether shortening, butter or lard, salt and water. They can get fancier, calling for sugar, egg, vinegar, buttermilk and other enriching ingredients. My Never Fail Pie Crust calls for sugar, egg and vinegar. The type of fat involved is strictly up to individual taste, though there is always the crispness and flakiness that will depend on the fat used. A Pâte Sucrée nearly always has egg and sometime just egg yolks to enrich the dough, and I have not yet seen a recipe that calls for anything but butter as the fat used. Butter obviously imparts wonderful flavor and tenderness, but without the flakiness of shortening or lard.
Cherry Frangipane Tart with Pâte Sucrée Crust

And then the Vodka Factor

Much more recently, I read an article on Food 52 (though originally from Cook's Illustrated), where they described a most wonderful way to help out making a very flaky pastry: substitute 1/2 the liquid called for in the pastry recipe with vodka. The reasoning is that once water or other liquids are added to a pie pastry, any manipulation of the dough will begin to work the gluten. Too much working of gluten and the pastry will be tough. Substituting half the liquid amount with vodka will help out with the overworking of the gluten, but it also has the good grace to evaporate out of the crust while baking, leaving behind a far more crisply flaky finished pastry. Using the vodka is not a necessity. If not using, simply use all water for this recipe.
Cherry Frangipane Tart with Pâte Sucrée Crust

Pâte Sucrée

makes two 9.5-inch tart shells

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter in small cubes
1 egg +1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cold water
1 tablespoon cold vodka

In the bowl of a food processor, pour in the flour, sugar and salt and pulse to combine. Alternatively, mix these ingredients in a bowl. Add the cubed butter to the food processor and pulse until well blended, or cur butter into the flour mixture by hand with a fork or pastry blender. Mix together the egg and yolk and pour into the processor while running, then stop to check consistency. Mix the water and vodka together and dribble in a small amount. Pulse the mixture a few times. If it is coming together, stop and do not add more. If needed, dribble in a bit more water and vodka until the mixture just holds together. Turn out onto a counter and bring the mass together. Divide into two portions and wrap each portion well. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to three days. The pastry may also be frozen for up to 2 months, giving the option of making another tart at a moment's notice. Thaw on the counter for 1 - 2 hours until pliable before using.

This pastry may be blind baked: fit the pastry to the tart pan, trim the edges. Place a sheet of foil into the pastry, fitting it gently all the way to the edges and corners. Fill with dry beans or other pie weights and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, lift out foil and pie weights and return to the oven for another 10 minutes, or until the pastry is golden. Cool before using.

The New Cherry Tart

I made the Pâte Sucrée dough last evening, pulling it out to work with this morning. The dough was beautifully pliable, rolled easily and went into the tart pan with no difficulties. When eating the last Cherry Frangipane Tart, I considered that I might have left the cherries whole, instead of slicing them in half. The tart was really excellent, but I just wanted more cherries in a cherry tart. So, in addition to using a different crust recipe, I also left the pitted cherries whole in this new version. The third thing I did differently was with the Frangipane filling. In the last couple of instances when I needed a frangipane filling, I used almond flour or almond meal. This time I didn't have quite enough, so I went back to making it from scratch: I brought whole, raw almonds to a boil for 1 minute, drained them and removed the skins. I set them on paper toweling to dry off a bit, then into the food processor with the sugar in the recipe to process the almonds finely. It seems to me that this way yielded more volume of almonds than the 1 cup I allowed for with the almond meal. This could be just because the almonds had been boiled and were a bit waterlogged still. 

With the recipe for Pâte Sucrée making 2 tarts worth, I used the second half of the pastry to line four 5-inch tart pans. I had two peaches in the refrigerator, and wanted to try them out in a tart. As I only had 2 peaches to work with I could only make two of the small peach tarts. I set the pastry lined small tart pans in the freezer along with the large one for the cherry tart. When making the frangipane, I doubled the basic recipe, up to the added flavorings/liquids and then divided it into two separate bowls. For the cherry tart, I used only 1 tablespoon of Kirsch and 1 tablespoon of water, along with some almond extract. To the other half I added 1 teaspoon of Matcha Green Tea powder, 1 tablespoon of water, 1 tablespoon of apricot brandy and 1/2 teaspoon of peach flavoring. This yielded a nice green frangipane, which I thought would make a nice backdrop for the bright orange peaches.

Cherry Frangipane Tart with Pâte Sucrée

makes one 9.5-inch tart
From the oven: Cherry Frangipane Tart with
Pâte Sucrée


1/2 recipe Pâte Sucrée (above), chilled at least 2 hours
1 pound Bing cherries, pitted

FRANGIPANE:
3/4 cup (4 ounces) almonds
2/3 cup  (4.6 ounces) sugar
2 tablespoons  (2 ounces) melted, unsalted butter
1 large egg + 1 yolk
1 tablespoons Kirsch or other liquid

1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon almond
extract or cherry flavoring 


PASTRY: Roll the chilled Pâte Sucrée to fit a tart pan with removable rim and trim edges. Set the pan onto a baking sheet and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375. Line the partially frozen pastry with foil and fill the bottom with dry beans or other pastry weights. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and lift out the foil and weights and allow to cool while making the frangipane.

FRANGIPANE: Blanch almonds in boiling water to cover for 1 minute. Drain and slip off skins. Place almonds in a food processor with the sugar and process until fine. Whisk together the egg and yolk with the Kirsch, water, flavoring and melted butter. Add this mixture to the processor until well combined. Spread this mixture into the bottom of the cooled crust. 

Set the cherries onto the frangipane. Bake the tart in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until the frangipane is set and the crust is golden.  

NOTE: This pastry can also be used to fit to a pie pan for making a sweet pie.

Peach Matcha Frangipane Tartlet with Pâte Sucrée

Peach Matcha Frangipane Tartlets

makes four 5-inch tarts

1/2 recipe Pâte Sucrée (above), chilled at least 2 hours
4 peaches, peeled and sliced

FRANGIPANE:
3/4 cup (4 ounces) almonds
2/3 cup  (4.6 ounces) sugar

1 teaspoon Matcha Green Tea Powder (optional)
2 tablespoons  (2 ounces) melted, unsalted butter
1 large egg + 1 yolk
1 tablespoons Apricot or Peach Brandy or other liquid

1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon almond or peach flavoring


PASTRY: Roll the chilled Pâte Sucrée to fit a tart pan with removable rim and trim edges. Set the pan onto a baking sheet and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375.

FRANGIPANE: Blanch almonds in boiling water to cover for 1 minute. Drain and slip off skins. Place almonds in a food processor with the sugar and Matcha and process until almonds are very fine. Whisk together the egg and yolk with the Apricot Brandy, water,  flavoring and melted butter. Add this mixture to the processor until well combined. Spread this mixture into the bottom of the frozen tart shells. 

Set the peach slices onto the frangipane. Bake the small tarts set onto a baking sheet in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes, or until the frangipane is set and the crust is golden. 

NOTE:  If Matcha Green Tea Powder is not available, simply make this into Peach Frangipane Tartlets. This frangipane would also be wonderful made with pistachios instead of almonds. Follow the same procedure.




My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cold Rise Bread is the Best Ever

I have been making bread for over 40 years, but until recently, I knew little of the theory. After receiving a a donation of "new" books from the local Dacotah Prairie Museum through my sister-in-law, I sort of glommed onto one of them and have been going strong ever since. I have been talking about this book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart repeatedly in my blogs of the last almost 2 months. It is highly recommended if you, like me, love making bread and enjoy a new challenge. I have made a starter dough from scratch, allowing the wild yeasts in the air to populate the starter, then the "Mother" starter or "barm," as PR calls it. I proceeded to make an Onion Deli Rye Bread, a Sunflower Rye Bread, a 100% Sourdough Rye, Challah and a white Sourdough Bread. I also found one of the recipes in his book to be exceedingly similar to my Mom's bread recipe, and adapted the theory and practice to Mom's recipe, making the best batch of her bread, ever!
Baguettes from Pan a l'Ancienne


I had all these breads, and have frozen one or two loaves of most of them, so I was less inclined to jump into another one too soon. Man (woman) cannot live by bread alone! But I started getting the itch to try another one, and one that had caught my eye right at the beginning of this adventure was "Pan a l'Ancienne". This bread is not made from the wild starter barm, which is one reason I hadn't made it yet to date. Looking for ways to use the starter was my goal. But this bread kept calling to me, so I finally sat to read the whole recipe over and over, in order to absorb the details. It calls for mixing up a very simple flour, water, yeast and salt dough; the difference being that the water called for is ice water

ICE WATER?

Usually, bread making calls for warm water anywhere from 90 to 110 degrees. Then of course, with instant yeast, which can be mixed into the flour and doesn't even need to be proofed, the warm water is not truly necessary. It can be helpful when it is really frigid outside and the house temperature causes very sluggish reactions from the yeast. But it's
Baguettes
not necessary. So reading this recipe, which calls for iced water - ice cubes in the water to keep it very cold till needed - I was intrigued. So far, almost everything I have made following PR's descriptions has come out perfectly, so I certainly didn't want to go changing things at this point. Ice water it would be.


Once the dough is mixed with the icy water, then kneaded, it goes directly into the refrigerator overnight. Since I mixed the dough in the morning, it was in the fridge for nearly 24 hours before getting it back out into room temperatures. Another intriguing aspect to this recipe was that the dough was cut into thin strips for baguetttes, but not "formed" as is usual; very rustic. The oven is heated and prepped for "hearth baking" and the bread is baked as soon as the oven is at temp. The directions concluded with the admonition that this could also be made into ciabatta simply by allowing the baguettes to proof for a couple of hours, in which time they would spread more and develop the larger holes. A third possibility was to make focaccia. I decided to try using half the dough for baguettes (3) and half made into a focaccia. 

HEARTH BAKING

PR does things a bit differently from any I've seen in regard to making a home oven act similarly to a bakery's hearth. Rather than trying to maintain moisture over the bulk of the baking time, he says that anything past the first couple of minutes is counterproductive. A dry pan is placed into the oven to heat. Once the high temperature is reached, the bread is placed in the oven and one cup of boiling water is added to the empty hot pan. Even with boiling water, once it hits that super-heated pan in the oven, it splutters all over the place. One cup of water in an oven that hot does not last for long. The next step in this process is to use a spray bottle and spray the oven walls after 30 seconds, then again after another 30 seconds, and then once more after 30 seconds. At this point, the oven temp is lowered and the bread is left to bake. No more moisture is added during the remainder of baking time.
Focaccia

Peter Reinhart stated that it is possible that the dough in the refrigerator may have risen a little overnight, depending on the temperature of the fridge and how often the door is opened. By morning when I pulled the container of dough out of the fridge it had actually doubled in size. I was ahead of the game. So all that was left was to allow the dough the 2 hours on the counter to lose the chill. This dough is very, very wet. It is not actually "water" wet, but just a dough with a high moisture content and exceedingly soft. It is difficult to "work" with this type of dough, so it is good that PR calls for very little handling. Turning it out onto a heavily floured surface to avoid any sticking helps. PR calls for cutting apart the dough into the pieces necessary, using a bench scraper or knife. No sawing motions either; just straight cuts.  
Three baguettes left                                                            Focaccia with herbed oil right

I cut the dough in half. One half I cut further into three pieces, which are gently stretched to the length of the pan while transferring them to the pan. The other half, which I made into focaccia, was gently lifted onto another pan lined with parchment and a liberal amount of herbed oil. Then the dough is dimpled and spread without completely deflating, topped with a lot of herbed oil and left to rise for 2 hours.  The baguettes I baked right away. Once cooled, I tasted an end of the bread. 

Focaccia from Pan a l'Ancienne Dough

THE BEST BREAD FLAVOR EVER

Obviously, since the one major difference between this bread and most others is the ice water and the chilled rise, these factors have to be the reasons for the amazing flavor in this bread. The focaccia was equally fantastic, with the added flavors of the herbed oil soaked in. I used about 1/2 cup olive oil, adding one huge clove of garlic, minced, 1/4 cup of chopped fresh basil and 2 teaspoons each of fresh thyme leaves and rosemary. All of this oil was either on the parchment underneath the bread or puddled into the dimples on top and most was absorbed into the baking focaccia. Amazing. 



My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies. 

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