There are few virtues a man can possess more erotic than culinary skill.
Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses
by Isabel Allende

Starting in November of 2009 Michelle at the Big Black Dog formed a group to bake its way through Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg. I loved Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, so I signed up with the group. Michelle first had us do a couple of warm-up assignments, which were my first attempt at blogging. The first "Official" post was on January 15, 2010, and it was followed by 41 more, on the 1st and 15th of each month. When I signed on I said I would bake the whole book, and like Horton (the elephant) I meant what I said and I said what I meant. I finished baking the book on October 1, 2011. Having completed that challenge, now I am just going to do some stuff, and post about it. As part of that stuff Michelle is posing a new, and different, challenge for us each month.

I am still baking bread, mostly the Five Minutes a Day kind, and if you would like to try the Five Minutes a Day bread method there are some links, with recipes, in the right hand column to get you started. Please give it a try.

But first, a word from my sponsor . . .
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One person, Greg Craven, has suggested changing the question from "which side is right" to "what is the wisest thing to do given the uncertainties and the risks involved?" To me, this seems like a very productive way to refocus the conversation. So, if you are confused about, concerned by, or interested in the issue of global warming please take a few minutes to watch his VIDEO. If you find it interesting or helpful, please pass it on to others.

This day be bread and peace my lot.
Alexander Pope

How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?

Julia Child

Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven.
Yiddish proverb
(And some are only half baked.)

There is no love sincerer than the love of food.
George Bernard Shaw, via Sharon

Of all smells, bread; of all tastes, salt.
George Herbert

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Olive Spelt Bread and Carrot Bread (6 of 42)

Errata: In the last post I offered, with respect to living with an abundance of women, the sentiment of Friedrich Nietzsche—and Conan the Barbarian—that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Since then, I came across a variant in Dr. Mardy's Quotes of the Week -- March 14 - 20, 2010 which to me seems more accurate, and so I offer this correction: "Adversity in immunological doses has its uses; more than that crushes."

So,  with that out of the way, on to this fortnight’s assignment. I first made the Olive Spelt Bread.
Olive, (n) small ovoid fruit of the European olive tree; important food and source of oil. Princeton’s WordNet
, (n)
1. (Triticum spelta) a hexaploid species of wheat. Spelt was an important staple in parts of Europe from the Bronze Age to medieval times; it now survives as a relict crop in Central Europe and has found a new market as a health food. Spelt is sometimes considered a subspecies of the closely related species common wheat (T. aestivum), in which case its botanical name is considered to be Triticum aestivum subsp. spelta. Wikipedia 2. A hardy wheat grown mostly in Europe for livestock feed. Princeton’s WordNet This latter definition is not to be confused with Dr. Samuel Johnson’s definition of oats: “a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” In response, the Scots noted that, as a result, England is known for the excellence of its horses and Scotland for the excellence of its people.
Bread, (n) breadstuff, staff of life, food made from dough of flour or meal and usually raised with yeast or baking powder and then baked. Princeton’s WordNet.

Olives are kind of a tough sell around here, especially green ones. While we are free to substitute ingredients, and I often do where I feel the results are substantially similar, e.g. slivered almonds for pine nuts in the Pesto Pine Nut Bread, I have decided that, as for me and mine, I would not make a substitution for an ingredient solely on the basis that it was new or different or something I did not think I liked. (Expense, on the other hand, is a valid basis for substitution.) After all, one of the points of this exercise, for me, is to try new things and experience all the recipes in HB in 5. As Lyndah at Bloom,  Bake & Create put it, “it stretches me to bake breads I wouldn’t have even thought about trying.” And, as Kansas City barbeque legend Arthur Bryant put it when asked why he still fried his French fries in lard, “if you want to do a job, you do a job.” 

I decided to get “better” olives for this recipe, and opted for the “olive bar” rather than the jarred variety. Having tasted one (if you are not tasting you are not cooking) I admit they were much better than I expected, and so was the bread. First, I made a regular loaf. I usually make an elongated loaf rather than a boule, since I can get more uniform slices.

 Note the high-tech arrangement to help keep the dough from spreading too much as it rises—2x2’s. I wanted to incorporate duct tape into the design, but that just made a mess.

The bread baked up beautifully, and tasted very good, with a distinct, but not overpowering, taste of olives.

“Celebrating Spring” is the theme of this assignment.  And it so happened that on the first day of Spring we were having a group of friends over for dinner.  We had worked together almost 30 years ago, and have stayed close.  We dubbed the group the Magnificent Seven (not to be confused with either the Seven Samurai or A Bugs Life, although all three are basically the same movie), although there were usually either 6 or 8 in the group.   Anyway, I decided on a Spring theme for dinner.  Spring Rolls, Spring lamb with mint pesto, new potatoes with peas, chilled asparagus, and strawberry-rhubarb shortcake.

In addition, to all of the above I made one other recipe for our dinner that always reminds me of Spring.  It is not a very “haute” dish, it is Jell-O® (brand gelatin) based.  (As a learned college professor once famously observed, when Jell-O® was first introduced, it was amazing, like the iphone.  According to Wikipedia, before the invention of  Jell-O® “Gelatin was sold in sheets and had to be purified, which was very time-consuming. It also made gelatin desserts the province of the relatively well-to-do.”)   But it is a recipe my sister always made for Easter, and over the years it became  associated with Spring for me.  So it is more about the associations than the dish, but I do like it a lot.   It is savory rather than sweet, and green.  I confess that most of my family do not share my enthusiasm for it.  I continue to make it for Easter, however.  

Anyway, I know my sister would want me to share her recipe, so here it is:
Karen’s Lime Jell-O® Salad
1 Regular size package Lime Jell-O®
1 Small carton cottage cheese
3/4 cup Mayo
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/4 cup chopped green onion tops
(Sugar free Jell-O®, and low fat cottage cheese and mayo are fine.) 
Dissolve Jell-O® in 1/2 cup boiling water, let cool to consistency of egg whites and whip until frothy (this “frothy” business never works for me but it is what the recipe says,  I skip it).   Stir in cottage cheese, then Mayo, then other ingredients.  Pour into an 8 inch square baking dish and refrigerate until set.  Serves 9 (or just me).  Double or triple for a large mold.  

This seemingly pointless tangent does connect, because for my Spring Dinner I also made the rest of the Olive Spelt dough into a focaccia.   

Unfortunately, by the time I remembered to take a picture, it had already been set upon.  As you can see, it was pretty well received.


The second task was the Carrot Bread.  I had been looking forward to this bread since I first saw it in the book, and I was not disappointed.  For the dried fruit I used a 7 fruit blend.  I baked the entire 1/2 recipe at once, which was a bit more dough than called for.  I also let it rise quite a bit longer than I meant to-- it was warm and sunny and I got to working in the garden, and next thing I knew

 I had a pretty full loaf pan.

It baked up beautifully, though it did take quite a bit longer to bake than the recipe suggested, no doubt due to the size of the loaf.   

I am looking forward to seeing what everyone else did with this dough.   
 Be sure to check out the links at Big Black Dog,  to do the same.  And be sure to tune in next time when we go gluten-free!


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Avocado-Guacamole Bread and Pesto Pine Nut Bread (5 of 42)

With this iteration of the Challenge we are celebrating St. Patrick’s day.  All these years and I had not realized that guacamole and pesto were Irish.  I should have known, of course, since they are both green.

Of course, in addition to celebrating St. Patrick's Day, today we also celebrate, as we all know, the anniversary of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, fought on March 15, 1781.  Though the British "won" the battle, it was the high water mark of their southern campaign, and cost them men they could not replace.  Seven months after his victory at Guilford Courthouse, Lord Cornwallis would surrender to the combined American and French forces under General George Washington.   This weekend saw a reenactment of the battle.

Of particular note was the contribution made by the lovely Ellen, in her fetching chapeaux.

There is a distinction between being committed to something and involved in something.  In the case of bacon and eggs, for example, the hen is involved.  The pig is committed.   I may have crossed from involved to committed with regard to bread baking.  This may be  a good thing, since my daughters often tell me I ought to be committed.  (I have three beautiful, smart and gifted daughters.  And a wonderful, long-suffering, and fairly patient wife (who does at least derive the benefit of my culinary efforts).  Even the dog is female.  In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche—and Conan the Barbarian—what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.   This Braid is kind of the same thing, heavily weighted to the distaff side.  But at least here I have Elwood at Flour Today, Bread Tomorrow to be in my Band of Brothers (we are but bakers for the working day, our gayness and our gilt are all besmirch’d with dusty flour and sticky dough, and time hath worn us into slovenry.  But, by the mass, our loaves are in the  trim).)

Anyway, I sprung for a flour mill.  After reading various reviews and posts I decided on a Nutrimll.  
I had read that it was a bit of a “puffer” in that it puffed out some flour as it ground.  I did notice a fine dusting on the counter, but I make way more of a mess when I bake.  So far I have only used it once, and was pleased with the flour.
I used hard red wheat from Pleasant Mill Grains, which is also where I got my mill.   I used it to make the Master Whole Grain.  I was a bit concerned, based on the experience of Mama Peck at Bread That’s Good for You, who had some trouble getting the hydration right.  I decided to weigh the flour, since after milling it would be particularly “fluffy,” and it seemed to work out fine.  It seemed a bit wetter when I mixed it, but after a spell in the fridge I did not notice any difference from my usual batches.  And the bread was great, and more nutritious.  What more can I ask?   

Anyway, as to the tasks at hand, I first made the Pesto Bread.  I used frozen pesto from last Summer’s garden, and slivered almonds instead of pine nuts (cheaper, and I had some in the freezer).  In keeping with this “healthy” thing, here is a recipe from Curlytopbop for
Almost No Fat Pesto
1-2 cups spinach
1 cup basil
2-3 tbsp Parmesan
1/3 cup walnuts
Garlic salt (or garlic) to taste
And the key ingredient--1 whole tomato (the juices are the perfect replacement for olive oil in this recipe)
Toss everything in a blender or food processor and blend your way to "green sauce" heaven.

The dough had a greenish tinge, and a great smell.    After rising and chillin’ in the fridge I formed it into a loaf, let it rest, and slashed it. 
   It baked up beautifully.   And tasted good too. 

It had a subtle flavor, perhaps because my pesto used a mix of spinach and basil. 

So I thought “What could be better than that?”  And it came to me-- use the dough to make pepperoni bread. 

A little pepperoni,                                                                                         a little cheese

and great Pesto Pine Nut Almond Pepperoni Bread. 
Then, as I lay in bed not sleeping (one of the curses attendant to the Old part of being  Old Pop) it occurred to me that you could use almost anything in this dough in place of the pesto.  So I made a batch with Trader Joe’s Spicy Black Bean Dip and pepitas.  It, too, was great.  Now, I think I have some roasted red pepper spread somewhere . . . .

Since we had a thaw here on the North Coast, I fired up the grill and made grilled flatbread from both  the black bean and the pesto dough.   I think this is probably the easiest way to make bread.  I just pull off a hunk, flatten it, and throw it directly on the  grill grates.  A few minutes on each side and it is done.    

And finally, I made the Avocado-Guacamole Bread.  I  used about a third of a cup of canned diced tomatoes, thanks to the idea offered by Judy L, since tomatoes are not at their peak around here at this time of the year.
         The dough did  spread a bit, perhaps because I let it rise quite a while, but I thought it was pretty tasty.  Also, the bread happily contained both the green chunks of avocado and the “orange” chunks of tomato—perhaps prompting us to hope for peace in Ireland?

Monday, March 1, 2010

100% Whole Wheat Bread with Olive Oil; Aloo Paratha; and Southwestern Focaccia with Roasted Corn and Goat Cheese (4 of 42)

On this episode of The Dough Also Rises we are baking variations using the 100% Whole Wheat Dough with Olive Oil.  Because this dough will only keep for 7 days I made two separate half batches.  The combination of 100% whole wheat and the olive oil made for a bread that did not rise as much or get as much “oven spring” as most of the AB/HB in 5 breads, at least for me, and yielded a loaf that was more dense and heavy than some of the others.  In my opinion this dough worked better for flatbreads than as a loaf. 
First, I made the Southwestern Focaccia with Roasted Corn and Goat Cheese.  I employed the services of Becca, my Commis, who was home from school for the weekend.

  (Don’t you love her dimple?)

Becca formed the dough.

Who says she doesn’t have skills?

While the dough was resting I browned some frozen corn in a frying pan, to get the “roasted” effect,  it being too brisk here on the North Coast, and I being too wimpy, to fire up the grill.  We made the sauce as directed, but it seems to me that a good salsa of your choice would offer a quick version that would work just as well. 

When  the dough had rested, we put on the toppings. 

When I had made focaccia in the past from doughs in AB in 5 they had a lot of “oven spring” and often domed up a lot in the middle.  I was a little worried about losing my toppings, but as noted above, this dough just did not give me that spring, which in this case was a good thing.
  The loaf ended up like a thick pizza, and was enjoyed by all. 

From the Southwestern Focaccia with Roasted Corn and Goat Cheese, which was kind of a Tex-Mex-Franco-Italian-Fusion thing, the assignment proceeded to the subcontinent for Aloo Paratha, a stuffed Indian bread.  We made ours folded, like a calzone, but one of our members, Aparna, in Goa, India, has offered a post on her My Diverse Kitchen blog discussing the origins of parathas, along with her recipe, and a video demonstrating the traditional method of forming them, in which they are rolled out.  It is well worth the visit. 
Although the recipe calls for making mashed potatoes for the filling, I had some leftover potatoes from Julia Childs’s Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise (scalloped potatoes) which I ran through my potato ricer.
I mixed the spuds with curry powder and peas, rolled out the dough, formed the paratha 

and baked it.

It turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself.

I also made a loaf, but given the type of dough it was pretty heavy, as mentioned above, and not my favorite use for this dough.   So, I made another focaccia, this one without any topping but salt and pepper.

Then, I split it horizontally, and made a panino (note the singular form, Ellen).  I put the cut sides up and down, with the top and bottom  crust to the middle, since the cut sides would brown better.  This was one of the 8 Tips for Making Great Panini from Kathy at Panini Happy.  In her recipe for a Bacon Tuna Melt Panini Kathy gives a shout out to AB in 5!

I filled mine with a tuna salad with home-made sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red and yellow peppers, and fresh mozzarella, and cooked it in my panini press.

Since I had some extra dough, I made some pesto knots, rolling out the dough, spreading pesto (frozen from last Summer’s garden) on it, folding it in half, rolling it again, cutting it into strips and tying them into knots (or twists).  They were quite tasty.  

I still had enough dough for something else, so I made a Chicago-style deep dish pizza, using a cast iron skillet.

I rolled the dough out larger than the skillet, which I oiled well,

and put the crust in, running it  up the sides.

Then, borrowing a trick from Broa in a Cast Iron Skillet, I put the skillet over high heat on the stove while I filled it, to give the crust a head start.  

Then I baked it in the oven at 450 degrees, and 30 minutes later, Voila!


I used the scraps from the crust to make some very good breadsticks, which served admirably to hold us over for the 30 minutes the pizza was baking.

All in all, I think this dough worked best for flatbreads.  But I also  I think that many of the other doughs work as well for flatbreads, and are more versatile.