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

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bradley Benn’s Beer Bread and Cracked Wheat Bread (31 0f 42)

Spring is coming to the North Coast.  Slowly perhaps, but it is coming.  
Here is my first harvest of the year (or the last of last year), overwintered parsnips. 

I recently made a recipe for a breakfast charlotte which called for using Soft White Bread pressed into a springform pan to make the crust.  Soft White Bread was necessary since it will smoosh together well.  So, for the first time in over 2 years I bought some Soft White Bread (which had been our bread of choice for more decades than we would like to admit to).   As I was making the crust I tried a bite of the bread.  Julia Child was right (as I should have known).  It does taste like Kleenex!

When I saw that this assignment included Bradley Benn’s Beer Bread I got really excited.  We used beer in the Emmer Bread last time, and that worked out GREAT.  The Bradley Benn’s Beer Bread recipe was, however, a total disappointment.  The Emmer Bread only used 1/4 cup of beer, 2 ounces, leaving 10 ounces for the Baker.  The full recipe of Bradley Benn’s Beer Bread I made used 1 1/2 cups of beer--12 frickin' ounces--THE WHOLE BOTTLE!  So while the bread got leavened, the Baker did not.

The actual bread turned out pretty well.  It has some rye in it, in addition to the beer, and it is stuffed with a mixture of sautéed onions and walnuts.  (What I thought were walnuts in the fridge turned out to be pecans, so I used those.)  It was also good toasted. 

Since I had made a full batch, I also baked some without the filling.  It was a little dense, but tasty, and you could actually make it in 5 Minutes a Day, which is kind of a stretch if you have to sauté the onions first.

I also used some of the dough to make Pigs in a Blanket.  For the Pigs I used some chicken sausage.  On the basis that turnabout is fair play, it seems to me that if pork chunks on a stick are called City Chicken, then chicken sausage wrapped in dough can be called Pigs in a Blanket.   I rolled some dough out to about  a 1/8 inch thickness, cut it into rectangles appropriate to the size of my Pigs, sprinkled on a little shredded cheese, rolled up the Pigs, set them on parchment paper and slid them into a pre-heated 425 degree oven. 

 I baked them for about 20 minutes.  (Since the sausages were fully cooked, I did not have to worry about that, thought I think they would have cooked through anyway.) 
I served them with some marinara sauce. " That'll do, Pig[s]."

The second assignment was Cracked Wheat Bread.  My first thought was that Cracked Wheat meant Bulgur.  But apparently they are not the same thing.  According to Wikipedia, "Bulgur for human consumption is usually sold parboiled and dried, with the bran partially removed. Bulgur is sometimes confused with cracked wheat [see?], which is crushed wheat grain that has not been parboiled." Since I have buckets of wheat berries, I decided to try to "crack" my own.  After a quick search on the web, I got the impression this was easy to do in a food processor, so I dumped a cup of wheat berries into my food processor, with the steel blade, and let 'er rip.  For a long time.  And not much happened to the wheat berries.

I wondered it the bowl of the processor was too big.  It seemed that the berries just rode around without making significant contact with the blades.  So I dumped them into my mini food processor and tried again.  That did the trick!  In addition to the cracked wheat I also got some wheat dust.  I sifted this out, using a fairly coarse strainer. 

 Since this "dust" seemed to me to basically be flour, I used it as part of the flour in this recipe. 

 The dough was wet when first mixed, which I expected since the cracked wheat was not soaked, but it firmed up in the fridge.  I formed two baguettes, and as I was forming I rolled one in some of the leftover cracked wheat, as an experiment.  We thought that the added crunch was a nice touch.  

These loaves baked up nicely, with a good crumb.  We both enjoyed them very much.  
So that concludes another episode of The Dough Also Rises. 
Be sure to tune in next time for 10-Grain Bread and Buckwheat Bread (I don't know about you, but I am excited).

Monday, April 11, 2011


I was browsing the web for woodworking tools (I got myself a lathe recently--not only did I turn this little vase, but the sawdust adds fiber to my bread)
 and came across a tool blog about making pastrami.  Pastrami is smoked corned beef.  And this particular blog was about making pastrami starting with store bought corned beef.  Corned beef goes on sale around St. Paddy's Day, so I stock up, and having some corned beef on hand, I thought I would give pastrami a try.

 There are two approaches here, depending on whether or not you have a smoker.  The blog that got me started, Cheater Pastrami and Getting Stuff Done is for those with no smoker, hence the "cheater" part.  You can also check out  Cheater Pastrami at Cheater Chef for another version.

I do have a smoker, an Old Smokey Electric Smoker, which I just love.
It is electric, so no fussing with adding charcoal to keep it going, and does not use a water tray since the smoker is basically a sealed drum. It is easy to use and I have used it to smoke brisket, chicken, salmon, pork tenderloin, catfish, and even cheese. 

So I started looking for a recipe using a smoker, and found one for Making Pastrami at  I pretty much folowed it to the letter.
You start by soaking the corned beef, to remove some of the salt.
 Then you make a rub, and coat the meat well,
 and put it in the smoker for about an hour per pound.  I used apple chips made from prunings from my apple trees.   To quote Ina Garten (who actually referred to The Hamptons as "The 'Hood"), how easy is that? 

 To make slicing easier, I put it in the fridge over night.  

Meanwhile, I baked a loaf of HB in 5 Whole Grain Rye.  I revisited my Pullman Pan technique, and used about 3/4 of a full batch of dough. 
 I put my foil wrapped cardboard lid on, and weighed it with pie weights.  Given the size, I baked it at 375 for an hour covered, then 15 minutes uncovered. 

My goal was a sandwich, though I am not sure what kind I made.  According to Wikipedia, a Reuben "is a hot sandwich of layered meat, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese, with a dressing. These are grilled between slices of rye bread. The meat is either corned beef or pastrami, and the dressing is either Russian or Thousand Island dressing."  A Rachel "is a variation on the standard Reuben sandwich that substitutes pastrami for the corned beef and coleslaw for the sauerkraut."  Well, I used pastrami, and a homemade Quick Sauerkraut that was more like a slaw, and a remoulade type sauce I cobbled together.  I also used my panini press.   A rose by any other name ....

I sliced the pastrami thinly and steamed it;
added the Quick Sauerkraut (which is milder and, since it does not taste so much like old socks, is more to my liking than regular sauerkraut);
topped it with Swiss cheese and Dad's Remoulade;
and grilled it in the panini press. 
It was a resounding success!

So, if you have any corned beef hanging around, or even if you don't, you might give this a try. 
Dad’s Remoulade
 1/3 cup light Mayo
1/3 cup light Sour Cream
1 tsp Sweet Relish or Hot Dog Relish
1 tsp Horseradish
1 tsp Ketchup
1 tsp Spicy Brown mustard or Dijon Mustard
Several dashes of Hot Sauce
 Mix and let meld.

Friday, April 1, 2011

"Medical" Marijuana Laced Brownies!! (30 of 42)

April Fool!
We are really baking Emmer Bread and Focaccia with Garlic Shards, Artichokes and Rosemary.

According to Wikipedia, Emmer is "a low yielding, awned wheat" (an awn is "either a hair- or bristle-like appendage on a larger structure," so the heads of grain are hairy or spikey.  

The article notes that Emmer "was one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East" and that "[i]t was widely cultivated in the ancient world, but is now a relict crop in mountainous regions of Europe and Asia."  That being said, the article notes that while "[t]oday emmer is primarily a relict crop in mountainous areas" and that "[i]ts value lies in its ability to give good yields on poor soils, and its resistance to fungal diseases," "[i]n Italy, uniquely, emmer cultivation is well established and even expanding."  

The recipe in HB in 5 gives a source for Emmer flour, but with shipping it was kind of expensive for one loaf of bread.  While searching for other sources online I noted that the Italian variety is called Farro.  And Farro, as a cereal, was available locally.  So I got some Farro and ground that to use in my Emmer Bread.

You know, sometimes a recipe just resonates with you, and the Emmer Bread was one of those recipes.  The recipe calls for beer.  I made a half recipe, which calls for 1/4 cup of beer.  Now I hate wasting any ingredients, so I had no choice but to drink the rest of the beer.  Also, many times recipes will call for different kinds of the same ingredient to enhance flavor--several kind of apples for a pie or applesauce, for example.  So I thought it might be good to use different beers, which meant I had to finish TWO bottles.   Baking can be nasty work, but someone has to do it.  I am not sure what the beer did for the bread, but it enhanced the mood of the baker.   

I baked the Emmer Bread  in my perforated bread pan.

 And the result was really very good.

Perhaps it was because we had been away on Spring Break (see YouTube for my wet T-Shirt performance) and this was the first homemade bread we had had for awhile, but we both really liked this bread.  In addition to the beer there was also a bit of vinegar.  Cooks Illustrated uses beer and vinegar in its no-knead bread recipe to enhance the flavor.  Since Emmer is just an heirloom wheat, I do not see why you could not make this recipe substituting whole wheat flour for the Emmer.  Seems to me to be worth a try. 

For the Focaccia I used the 100% Whole Wheat with Olive Oil.  Focacce (the plural of Focaccia, Ellen) are some of my favorite breads to bake.  They are fairly quick, and unlike most loaves, you get to eat them warm.   For this loaf I gently sautéed some thinly sliced garlic in olive oil.  I used the garlic for the "shards" and drizzled the garlic infused oil on the bread.  I used canned, not marinated, artichokes, which I patted dry with a paper towel so they would not make the whole thing too wet.  I flattened the dough on some parchment paper (to make getting it into the oven easier) dimpled it with my fingers, topped it with the garlic shards and thinly sliced artichokes, and let it rise.
 After about 20 minutes I slid it (easily) onto the pre-heated baking stone.  After 15 minutes I pulled it out to take it off the parchment paper.  I took this opportunity to do two other things.  First, I sprinkled on the rosemary, which I had forgotten, and second, I did some re-dimpling.  The oven spring usually un-dimples (de-dimples?) my Focacce, so I while the dough was somewhat set, but not fully baked (read half-baked), I judiciously re-dimpled.  I was a little worried that the dimples would be doughy, but I did not notice that, and the finished product was more Focaccia-looking. 
To go with, I made a modified version of Rachel Ray's Broccoli Rabe and Salami Pasta.  (When doing what Winnie the Pooh would call my Stoutness Exercises I watch the Food Network.)  I cooked some broccoli in the nuker, then sautéed it in some olive oil with some garlic and red pepper flakes.  While the pasta (whole wheat) was cooking I cut up some capicola I had and mixed it with half of a 16 ounce carton of low fat ricotta and some Parmigiano-Reggiano in a large bowl.  When the pasta was done, I added a cup of cooking water to the cheese mixture, to make a sauce.  Then, I added the broccoli and drained pasta, and Bob, as they was, was my uncle.  (I actually had an Uncle Bob.)

It went great with the bread.

So that's all he wrote for this time, be sure to tune in next time.
And watch out for those April Fools!