Posts Tagged ‘tools’

Dutch Treat

A frequent customer to the shop where I work (and when I say “frequent,” imagine 3 or 4 times a day — she lives next door) is starting her own business as a personal chef. As she’s experimented with cooking and baking, we’ve often traded stories. She was quite excited to find that I bake and has now put me on her slate as her go-to person for breads and such should she have a need of them for a client. Woot!

Anyway, the other day, she brought in a loaf of bread which was quite good. When she told me it was a no effort at all bread, I scoffed. How could such a thing be possible? I soon found out as the next day she brought in the formula scribbled on an index card.

The result:
Dutch Treat

Late, late last night I put a few cups of flour, some salt, some yeast, and some water together and left it to sit in a bowl. Twelve hours later, I shaped it, let it rest for a couple hours, then plopped it in a pre-heated dutch oven (my gorgeous Le Creuset French oven to be exact), aaaaaand… baked.

No kneading, no fussing, and hardly any muss. WTF? We haven’t tasted it yet, but the crust sang for a good 15 minutes after I took it from the oven and the aroma is heavenly.


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Pie and Tart Crust

This morning, I was just about to make short crust for tonight’s dinner (it’ll be quiche, thank you) and remembered that a couple of people had requested what has turned out to be the Perfect Tart and Pie Crust recipe. So here it is, after the cut…

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Chocolate & Zucchini

Excuse me for a moment whilst I get all fangirly on you…

Clotilde’s site been one of my favorites since… three computers ago. I think she does some of the best food photography and writing on the whole Internet. This year (in case you haven’t been paying attention), Clotilde’s been providing a desktop calendar for her readers, as well as defining edible idioms.

She’s not an undiscovered secret (anymore), other people thought she was great and gave her a book deal. Although I’ve put quite a few of Clotilde’s recipes on the table, there’s nothing quite like having an actual book to refer to and use. My co-blogger gave me Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen for my birthday, and I’ve just spent the weekend nibbling my way through it. Twice in the past few days recipes from the book have ended up in front of my roommates, and another one will hit the table tonight.

Ah, nothing quite like curling up with a good book, a glass of wine, and a cat — just be careful it’s not a book that inspires you to get up and start cooking at 2am.

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Tarts and Pies, Oh My

Last week, I attended a tarts and pies class at the fancy cooking shop near my house. In two teams, we went through the stages of rolling out tart/pie crust (pre-made by our instructor the night before), slicing strawberries and apples for a crumble, slicing peaches for a crostata, and heating cream and milk to melt semi-sweet chocolate for a ganache.

Since I was busy with assembling the peach crostata while the rest of my team was making the ganache, I decided that the first recipe I’d try at home was the one I only observed. Besides, if it worked well, I’d use it for our birthday cake in two weeks (Cynthia and I share a birthday — er, off by a day).

The pie crust recipe our instructor gave us was titled “The Perfect Pie Crust” a boast which always makes me look askance at any recipe. But, indeed, it was the perfect pie crust. Even without a food processor (I mean, I have one, but it’s little and only good for pestos and small batching hummus), it came together perfectly under my pastry blade and rolling it out was a dream.

Here’s a little hint: if you really want to enjoy making pies and tarts, get a good rolling pin. In class I finally had the opportunity to try out different rolling pins, and I’ve been longing for one of these or these, but due to the cost, didn’t want to buy one until I was sure. After rolling out two crusts in class, I was sure that the two pound 20″ heavy Rock Maple straight pin (dude! He used to make his own drumsticks!) was meant to be mine. I didn’t have to worry about my crust exceeding the length of my pin nor did I have to struggle with stupid handles which have long since lost their center. And since it isn’t tapered, it’s easier to roll out a nice even crust (which, I might add, I was complimented on in class). It’s amazing how much easier it is to make things when you’ve got proper tools.

ANYway, yesterday’s chocolate ganache tart came together like a dream. I am not kidding. The milk heated at just the right speed, the chocolate melted perfectly, and the volume of ganache almost matched the volume of the tart shell. My only quibble was that I wasn’t able to reduce the bubbles from the beaten eggs and ended up with a few tiny bubbles all across the surface of my tart.

Just look at that flaky crust!

After serving a garlic scape pesto on pasta for dinner, I whipped some cream and at Cynthia’s suggestion zested a lime to sprinkle on top.

And for a good five minutes there was nothing heard ’round the table but yummy noises.

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Italian Bread

My first bread in the new house, and it decided to struggle with me. Yes, I had an argument with bread.

I make nearly all my breads from my favorite bread book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart.┬áMy friend K gave me this book as a gift a few years ago, and it’s the best book on bread baking I’ve ever owned.

The biga, day two.

The biga, day two.

Your biga is also known as the starter. There are several types of starter, which one you use depends upon what kind of bread you’re planning to make, and it does count toward your total flour weight.

Because of the starter, most bread recipes take at least two days to make, unless you’re really smart and make a whole bunch in advance.

Pieces of biga.

Now, you don’t just throw this in the mixing bowl, the biga has to come to room temperature to be of any use at all, otherwise you’ll shock your yeast and won’t get any rise out of it.

Gently cut the biga into about ten pieces with your pastry cutter and let rest until it comes to room temperature. This should take about an hour.

Be sure to cover it with a towel or plastic wrap for about an hour. This is where I went wrong, I wandered off and did some other chores and the biga pieces got a bit dry. Don’t let this happen to you.

Sift the dry ingredients together, remember what I’ve said about this before: how many times have you bitten into a delicious looking homemade chocolate chip cookie and gotten a nasty surprise in the form of a clump of baking soda? Sift your dry ingredients together people, even if the recipe doesn’t call for it.

With this recipe, dry ingredients include: flour, yeast, salt, and sugar.

Note the scale, please.

Note the scale, please.

One of the most important things I’ve learned from Reinhart is that you should weigh most of your ingredients instead of going by cup measure. The reason for this is really quite simple: depending upon any number of conditions, no matter how practiced you are at baking, you will never pull a cup of flour the same way twice. Never. Better to do by weight than the dip/level/pour method we learned from Betty Crocker.

In the mixing bowl, mix together the wet ingredients, including the biga pieces. I used to dissolve my yeast in the water, but have found that adding the yeast to the dry ingredients (yes, even when it’s cake yeast) and then letting the mixer do the work of dissolving it works ever so much better.

Olive oil for Italian bread, of course.

Olive oil for Italian bread, of course.

The water should be lukewarm: between 90F and 100F degrees. Don’t kill your yeast.

I love this measuring shot glass. Here it’s holding a tablespoon of olive oil, this is Italian bread after all.

After a few minutes of mixing with the paddle attachment or when your a cup or two from having added all the flour to the dough, switch to the dough hook and begin kneading.

It's all in the wrists now.

It's all in the wrists now.

My KitchenAid isn’t strong enough to bring the dough the rest of the way home, unless I’m standing right there holding it, it travels all over the counter and I can only do about the first four minutes before I get worried about the motor. This one can take it all the way, someday, someday… Anyway, the first kneading should take about ten minutes. I went for 20 on this one before it finally passed the windowpane test, and had the right feel and smell.

Then it’s back to the bowl for first rising. I like to rinse my bowl with warm water just before I get to the proofing stage, and then lightly oil it. Roll the ball of dough around to lightly coat it with oil, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

And then… two hours must pass.

Twice what it once was.

Isn’t that pretty? The hole in the middle is from the thermometer — I take its temperature all through the early process. We’re ready for the next step, as the dough has clearly doubled in size.

Gently, gently remove the dough from the bowl and separate into two roughly equal pieces. and then form into batards, all the while trying not to degas the dough too much. The batards should rest for five minutes before final shaping.



With a little rock and roll we get a torpedo shape. These did not quite turn out how I wanted, but at this point in the process you can overwork the dough, unlike during kneading when you can mangle the hell out of it.



Spray or brush with oil on the loaves, cover loosely with plastic wrap (I reuse what had been on the bowl — if I’m really on the ball, I still have the plastic wrap from the biga bowl, unless the biga is one I’ve pre-made and stored in the freezer) and a towel, then go away for an hour or so. Or until the loaves are one and a half times larger.

Then we pop ’em in a pre-heated oven and…

After about 20 minutes, we have bread! It should be turned 180 degrees halfway through baking. Also, your roommate will probably be a good measure for time if you don’t have a timer; popping into the room every few minutes to ask, “Is it bread yet?”



These are far from my best — but as a first go with an unfamiliar stove in a new kitchen, they’re not half bad.

You know what’s really cool about baking bread though? Other people’s joy. I love everything about bread making: the feel of it, the smell, every step in the process. I don’t understand it all yet — Reinhart is a great educator and I’ll be learning it forever. In the end though, the best reward is right when I get to say, after the loaves have cooled for an hour, “Okay, it’s bread now.” And seeing La Cyn, with a huge smile on her face, forego the lemon bar we got at Selmarie for dessert to do this …

... is sweeter than honey.

... is sweeter than honey.

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