Thursday, 30 September 2010

Nothing Says Chocolat Love Like a Giant Heart-Shaped Brownie

Few foods speak to the heart as chocolate does. There is something intrinsically sensual and personal about good chocolate, cacao, that ancient Meso-American bean born from tropical rainforests. The Maya and the Aztecs made spicy, frothy drinks out of cacao - and later the Spanish spread the love of chocolate all over Europe, adding sugar to the recipes.
For this month's Food'N'Flix movie club, we watched Chocolat. A delightful fantasy in which Juliette Binoche seduces a small French town with her seemingly magical chocolate concoctions. Through her offerings, the heart's true desires were revealed. And one by one the townspeople started to awaken from their lives of quiet obedience.

Where can I find my own Irish Pirate to feed chocolates to?
For my movie-inspired dish, I made chocolate brownies. In the shape of a heart.

Chocolate Brownies
adapted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 ounces best-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

Before you start
Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9 x 9 x 2-inch square cake pan.

   1. In the top of a double boiler set over simmering, not boiling, water, melt the butter and chocolate. Remove from the heat but keep warm.
   2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until pale yellow in color, about 2 minutes. Add the melted chocolate and mix to combine.
   3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
   4. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture in 3 batches, mixing on low speed until just combined. Do not overmix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Stir in the nuts by hand.
   5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until sides begin to pull away from the pan and center is moist but not runny and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
   6. When cool, loosen the edges of the pan with a knife and invert the brownies onto the cutting board. Cut into 12 brownies, measuring 3 inches by 2 1/4 inches, or serve straight from the pan.

The brownies keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze well wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to 3 weeks. Do not unwrap before defrosting.

*for a tropical option, substitute the walnuts for 1 tsp ground ginger, ¼ cup chopped crystallized ginger, ¼ cup sweetened shredded coconut.


Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Cheesy Parm Bread

What's better than a lovely sourdough baguette? A lovely sourdough baguette with Parmesan cheese studded throughout!
This loaf is a "spiked" bread, meaning it uses a sourdough pre-ferment and also a little yeast in the final dough. The results are light, cheesy, tangy and delicious. My husband and I ate half a loaf the first night.
The great thing about breads with pre-ferments and sourdoughs is that they naturally have a longer shelf life too. If you don't eat them up right away that is.
Bread does take time, but it is largely unattended. You can either bake this bread the day after making the pre-ferment or else let it retard overnight in the fridge for a more pronounced tang.
Happy baking!

Parmesan Cheese Bread 
adapted from Jeffrey Hamelmans' Bread
online recipe sourced from The Fresh Loaf, LindyD

Stiff levain build:
5.8 oz bread flour
3.5 oz water (that has been sitting out 12 hours to let the chlorine dissipate)
1.2 oz mature stiff culture

Build the levain and let stand about 12 hours at 70F.

Final dough:
1 lb., 10.2 oz bread flour
15.7 oz water
1.6 oz olive oil
.5 oz (2.5 tsp) salt
.1 oz (1 tsp) instant dry yeast  (NOTE:  if you plan on retarding the dough overnight, use half the yeast)
9.3 oz levain (all less 2 T + 1 tsp)
6.4 oz Parmesan cheese (half grated, half cubed)

Mix all ingredients except the cheese.  I mixed for about three minutes at speed 1 in my KA Artisan.  The dough will be a bit stiff.  Switch to speed 2 and mix for another three or four minutes.  You want moderate gluten development.  Add all the cheese and mix at first speed until it's incorporated in the dough. You'll wind up using your hands a bit.  Desired dough temperature is 76F.

Bulk fermentation is 2.5 hours.  Fold once at 1 1/4 hours or if the dough needs more strength, fold twice at 50-minute intervals.

Divide and shape into 1.5 pound rounds or batards. (I did French style loaves) Don't worry about cubes of cheese popping out.  Just stick them back in the top of the dough; they'll melt in the oven.

You can retard the dough for up to eight hours at 50F or up to 18 hours at 42F.
 If you are not retarding the dough, the final fermentation is 1 to 1.5 hours at 76F.

Oven temp should be 460F initially.  Bake with normal steam for a total of 40 to 45 minutes, but lower the oven temp to 440F after the first 15 minutes. (I found 30 minutes was ample timing - more may give you too dark of a crust and bitter tasting cheese)

Click here for shaping instructions.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Gifts Cooks Love - Recipes for Giving

Spreading the Love with Gifts from the Kitchen
What's better than a lovingly crafted foodie gift from your own kitchen? A homemade gift says that you care enough to give of your time and talent, and feeding someone has always been a symbol of love.

This season, gourmet toy store Sur La Table and award-winning cookbook author Diane Morgan have come out with an entire book of great foodie gift-giving ideas for year-round sharing. Sweet, savoury, baked, cured and smoked, even drink gifts are covered - all with gift tag, recipe card, and decorative packaging ideas to make any holiday special. Some require specific equipment, like the canned items - sauces and jams and chutneys - dehydrated foods and baked goods. And some are easily mixed together - such as the Backyard BBQ Rub and Seven Month Vanilla Extract. And there is even a section in the back for assembling great foodie gift baskets - S'mores Kit, Breakfast Kit, Pasta Kit, Cheese Kit, Retro Popcorn Kit and the Grill Kit. Each kit expands upon the recipes included in the book for a complete package to delight those special people on your list this year.There is something for everyone, and for every skill level, in this book. Make a little homemade magic in your kitchen this year!

Gifts Cooks Love
Recipes for Giving
Diane Morgan, Sur La Table
Hardcover, 192 pages

I whipped up a batch of the Orange-Cardamom Marmalade, sweet, sticky and delicious on hot toast with a cup of Earl Grey tea. I've already sent one into the city for my husband's English co-worker and will be leaving one in my neighbour's kitchen when I go and check on her puppy today. What a fun way to add a little sunshine to a person's day!

And the Bollywood Coconut Curry Popcorn Seasoning is perfect for my daughter and her roomies, away at university. Popcorn is a student's best friend and this seasoning makes it truly exotic.

And, wearing the red flowered hat, I have made the Apricot-Bourbon Mustard. Simple to make, with big wow-factor, this is a pungent mustard for the savoury people on your list. I think it would be wonderful with soft pretzels.

Below is a sample recipe from the Sur La Table website. Mini Apricot and Ginger Quick Breads.

This Christmas I may try the Biscotti Christmas Tree - I think the kids would like that. And the Blackberry Merlot Jellies..  well, those would be for me. ☺

Monday, 27 September 2010

Further Adventures in Cheese - Ricotta Salata!

This month the intrepid Forgers made Ricotta Salata, a semi-firm cheese made by pressing and salting ricotta cheese. It is mild, salty, and fresh tasting - and is excellent on pasta. An easy one to make at home, all you need is a container to press it in (I use a plastic container made from pvc pipe, with holes drilled into it and with a fitted wooden disk on top), some cheesecloth, and something heavy to weight it down. (I pile on my cast iron enamelware - seems to do the trick)
"Ricotta Salata is one of Italy's most unusual and least understood sheep's milk cheeses. The milk curds and whey used to make this cheese are pressed and dried even before the cheese is aged, giving this pure white cheese a dense but slightly spongy texture and a salty, milky flavor -- like a dry Italian feta.
Despite its name, this is not ricotta as Americans have come to know ricotta. In Italian, ricotta simply means "recooked." It is a cheese-making process rather than a specific cheese. This ricotta is also a salata, or "salted," cheese. Sicily, because of its abundance of sheep, is justifiably famous for its sheep's milk cheeses.
Use ricotta salata to dice into salads of all kinds--particularly pasta salads and spinach salads, or serve with fresh or grilled vegetables, beans, and fruit. Its firm texture makes it perfect for tossing. Also try ricotta salata crumbled over garlicky sauteed vegetables, tomato-based sauces and bean dishes." A.G. Ferrari Foods

Ricotta Cheese
from jam it, pickle it, cure it by Karen Solomon
yield: 1¼ c.

8 c. whole milk
1 tsp. citric acid
¼ c. water
2 Tbs. half & half
1 tsp. kosher salt

Pour milk into saucepan.  In small bowl, dissolve citric acid in water, then add it to the milk and set over medium heat.  Stir to distribute the acid evenly.  When temperature of milk reaches 190° F (~15-20 mins.), turn off the heat.  Do not stir or disturb the milk and let sit for ~10 mins. to allow curds and whey to separate.

Gently strain solids from the liquids in a fine mesh sieve.  Don't press or squeeze at all.  Once most of liquid has dripped out, move the curds to a bowl and toss with cream and salt.

Store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

NOW that you have fresh Ricotta cheese....let's turn it into Ricotta Salata!

from jam it, pickle it, cure it by Karen Solomon
yield: 1 (6-8 oz) cheese

1 1/4 c. Ricotta Cheese Curds
4 tsp. kosher salt, or more if needed

Pour the cheese curds into a cheese press and press at room temperature for 3-4 hours, until solid.  Once the cheese has come together, gently coat the exterior w/ 2 tsp.of the salt (or more), then wrap in a clean kitchen towel.  Place wraped cheese on a plate, and refrigerate for 2 days.

Remove cheese from fridge, rub with 1 more tsp. salt and replace cloth with a clean cloth.  Let sit another 2 days.  Repeat once more; cheese should be quite firm.

Once it's ready to eat, brush off as much of the salt as possible, and slice from center out-as you would a pie. Enjoy immediately.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Italian Sausage and Red Pepper Relish - and the Joys of Renovating

One of these things is not like the other...

When renovating, one likes to think of paint colours, fabric swatches, objets d'art and console tables. One rarely thinks of the fact that they will have a toilet sitting at the basement bar (as handy as that may sound) for a month! One does not factor in one's hard-working spouse getting sick mid reno, and one really should be sainted for not braining said spouse when the cold lasted more than the allowed week.
Instead the sainted one busies herself upstairs with homemade sausage, and homemade relish. Because she is cool like that. And she wants him to get better, and stronger. Fast. And finish the freaking bathroom. Before she finds something else for him to do. Did I mention that she made him delicious fresh Italian sausage?

Homemade Italian Sausage
Makes 1.5 lb, adapted from Symon's Live To Cook by Joanne of Eats Well with Others

1 1/2 lb (fatty) pork shoulder, either diced or ground by your grocer
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted

1. Combine the meat, sugar, salt, garlic, and fennel seeds in a bowl.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. If you diced the meat, then grind the sausage in a grinder or food processor.  Return it to the fridge to cool for 30 minutes.  If you bought the meat already ground, then you are good to go! (I ground my own)
Shape into logs or patties and cook through. (150°+)

Red Pepper Relish
Makes 2 cups, adapted from Symon's Live To Cook by Joanne of Eats Well with Others

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and diced very finely
2 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (Joanne used POM)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the olive oil to glaze the bottom of the pan.  Add the onion, garlic, and salt and sweat until the onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes.  Add the bell peppers and jalapenos and sweat for 2 more minutes.  Add the coriander seeds and cook for another 30 seconds.

2. Add the sugar and vinegar and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.  Add the pomegranate juice and simmer.  Stir occasionally, until the liquid completely reduces.  Michael says this only take 10 minutes. Joanne figures that is a lie.  15-20 minutes seems better.  Remove from the heat and allow the relish to cool to room temperature.  Season with salt to taste and fold in the cilantro.  Refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Onion Wheat Submarine Rolls

If you are going to make an excellent sammie, you need to start off with a great bun. Whether layering on
charcuterie, garden tomatoes or grilled brats, you need a good foundation. These buns are soft and delicious and can be made in an afternoon, just in time for dinner.
Plus, your house will smell gloriously like caramelized onions. And there are few things that are better than that!

Onion Wheat Submarine Rolls
adapted from The Village Baker, Joe Ortiz

Onion Flavouring
3 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
3 tbsp vegetable oil
¾ tsp salt

1 pkg (2½ tsp) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water, divided
1 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup whole wheat flour

All of the sponge
1½ tsp salt
¼ cup cool water
2 cups unbleached AP flour
Onion mixture from above

Egg wash
1 egg, beaten

Make the sponge
Combine ¼ warm water and the yeast in the stand mixer bowl. Let bloom for 10 minutes. Add the rest of the sponge ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon for 3 minutes. It will be very wet. Cover and let rise for 2 hours.

Make the onion flavouring
Heat the oil on medium-low in a large skillet, add the sliced onions and salt and sauté until soft and nicely coloured, about 15-20 minutes. Put aside.

Make the dough
At the end of the 2 hours, add the rest of the ingredients to the mixer and, with the dough hook, mix on low until combined. Add most of the onions, saving 3 tbsp for the tops. Raise speed to medium and mix for 3-5 minutes, adding flour as necessary, in small increments, until the dough cleans the bowl. Make into a boule (ball) and let rest, covered in a slightly damp tea towel, for 40 minutes or until doubled in size.

Divide dough into 6 equal portions, shape them into logs and place on a lined baking sheet. Brush with eggwash and sprinkle on remaining onion mixture. Cover with the damp tea towel and let rise 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, set the oven to 400°F to preheat.
Bake buns for about 15 minutes, until lightly golden. Let cool on racks for an hour.

These rolls have been Yeastspotted!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Bourke Street Bakery - The Ultimate Baking Companion

The Ultimate Baking Companion
Paul Allam and David McGuinness
paperback, 368 pages

Australia's famous Bourke Street Bakery, that little shop with the big reputation and equally long line-ups, has come out with a paperback version of their highly acclaimed baking companion.
Filled with full-page colour photos of the most exquisite baking porn, you will just want to climb inside the pages and cuddle up between the breads and pastries, dreaming happy, floury dreams.
The authors start you off with an introduction to ingredients, equipment and technique, and then go into the breads. The breads each have a master recipe; and many of them have subsequent variations that you can make from that particular dough. They include sourdoughs, derivative breads, yeasted breads and olive oil breads. Then the book gets into pastry, including croissants, danish, pies and sausage rolls, before ending with desserts.
I tried out two of the master recipes, and divided each into two for a total of four different, delicious breads.

 From the Olive Oil Dough, with the optional pre-ferment, I made this Rosemary and Olive Flatbread...

And these yummy Panini.
They were both very straight-forward and fairly simple to make, with delicious results.

And with the Croissant Dough, with pre-ferment and overnight retarding, I made these classic Croissants...

And these delicious and flaky Bear Claws. I had actually never had a bear claw before - they are so yummy! Although in retrospect I suppose I should have made only a few cuts in the dough as my pastries look less like bear claws and more like the little ghosts from Pac Man.

The Bourke Street Bakery baking companion is definitely a book that belongs on every avid baker's shelf. I would say it is not for absolute beginners, the breads are mostly artisan loaves and some familiarity with bread baking would be an asset with this book. The dry measurements are given in grams, ounces, and volume and the liquid is given in fluid ounces and milliliters. The recipes also call for fresh yeast, but there is a conversion key in the beginning of the book for people using dry.

Some of the recipes on my Must Make Soon list include:
Apple, Yoghurt, Rye and Cinnamon Loaf
Mr. Potato Bread
Grape Schiacciata
Chorizo and Thyme Rolls
Sweet Potato, Chicken, and Lime Pickle Pies
Lamb, Harissa, and Almond Sausage Rolls
Goat's Cheese and Leek Tarts
Vanilla Brûlée Tarts with Strawberry Purée
Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Muffins
And the Chocolate Prune Brownies

As this book has two authors, a bread baker and a pastry chef - it is bound to satisfy both sweet and savoury bakers alike.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Chicken a la Nueces de la India

This is a delicious and, despite the long recipe, fairly quick dish to put together. Pounding the chicken thin gives you lots of surface area for caramelization and to carry the nutty sauce. Ground cashews are called nueces de la India in Spanish, and Padma Lakshmi adapted this recipe from a friend from Mexico. Serve with fragrant rice, and greens for colour, sautéed or fresh.

Chicken a la Nueces de la India
(Cashew Chicken)
adapted from Padma Lakshmi
Tangy, Tart, Hot, and Sweet

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2/3 cup flour for dusting, on a dinner plate
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup roasted unsalted cashews, puréed into powder
3 Tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup shallots, finely chopped
2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1½ cups chicken stock
3 Tbsp honey

Gently pound the chicken breasts into thin cutlets, about ½ inch thick.
Season with salt and pepper.
Heat the 2 Tbsp olive oil in a medium skillet.
Lightly dredge the chicken in flour.
Sauté the chicken, a few at a time, until lightly golden on each side.
Set aside, covered, to keep warm.

Purée cashews in a food processor until powdered or finely ground. Set aside.
Heat the 3 Tbsp olive oil in another skillet. When hot, sauté shallots for 2 minutes. Add garlic, crushed red pepper, and thyme, and cook for 1-2 more minutes, just until shallots are glassy.
Pour in the chicken stock, Add honey and stir until this comes to a gentle bubbling boil.
Turn heat to medium low and add cashews, stir vigorously so lumps won't form. Turn to low and cook until the sauce becomes gravy or sauce-like in consistency. Season to taste. (If it becomes too thick, add more chicken stock.)
Return chicken to skillet on medium low just until heated through. Now pour sauce over chicken and serve hot.
Serves 6