Beyond Easy Recipe For Fresh, Hot Bread

bread-and-jam

I love this recipe, it is so easy. I was looking for a slow rise bread – they are thought to be easier to digest for people who have trouble with yeast or gluten sensitivities. And it has the added advantage of being super easy and almost fool-proof to make. Instant yeast is a must here, because the idea behind the slow rise is that the yeast has time fully flavor the bread and become more easily digestible.

Crusty Slow-Rise Bread

  • 5 ½ cups unbleached flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 ¼ tsp instant yeast (instant is important)
  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water (about 95 degrees F)

Add yeast to water and allow to proof for about 1 minute. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl until well blended and smooth, about 1 minute. Let rest uncovered for 5 minutes.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead for two minutes. The dough should be smooth, tacky, not dry or sticky. Adjust by adding flour and water as needed.

Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to four days.

It makes two loaves. If you’d like to make loaves separately, you can divide into to equal pieces, cover and refrigerate separately.

To bake:

Two hours before baking, remove from the refrigerator. Shape into desired loaf, spray lightly with oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise about 90 minutes until it’s increased 1 ½ times its original size.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and remove plastic from bread. Just before baking, score with three slices across the bread with a sharp knife. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and place in hot oven. I add sesame seeds on the baking sheet and place the loaf on that so it doesn’t stick and has a nice sesame seed crust.

Add a tray of ice to a baking sheet and place on the rack underneath the bread to create a steam bath for the bread.  This will give you a crispy, chewy crust.

Bake for 15 minutes, rotate pan and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until the bread reaches and internal temperature of 200 degrees F.  For crisper crust, turn off the oven and leave the bread in an additional 5 minutes.

Remove to a bread board and let cool for 45 minutes (ok, seriously, if you can wait that long, you’re a better person than I – I’ve scorched my fingers more than once sneaking a fresh hot slice).



 

Back to Basics: Pie Crust

Blueberry Pie photo by JeffreyW

I’m terrified of pie crusts. I can honestly tell you I’ve never made one. Ever. Until today.

I always thought that there was no way I could succeed at – it seemed like a science experiment that I was unprepared to undertake. I wasn’t quite wrong.

See a few years ago, my friend Alton (not that one) wrote a post on Ratios, a cookbook that was part science, part math, part foolproof recipes.He chose to try out the pie crust recipe and made it sound so easy that for quite sometime I toyed with trying it out.

Ratio isn’t a recipe book so much as an explanation of the different ratios that go into making various dishes. For example a pie crust is a ratio of 3:2:1. Three parts flour. Two parts fat. One part liquid. Put the ingredients together in these amounts and in this order and you get pie dough. This is the fact. The science. The structure behind cooking. The art is determined by how skillfully you blend the ingredients. What changes you make in ingredients.

Tonight I decided that with my desire to go back to the basics, this was a good a place as any to continue that journey.

Here goes nothing.

For perfect pie crust all you need is this ratio:

  • 3 parts flour
  • 2 parts fat
  • 1 part water
To that I added a touch of sugar and salt.  (I used 1-1/2 cups flour, 1 tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt , 1 cup butter and 1/2 cup water).  Sound easy? It was. And while not perfect yet – after all it was my first pie crust and working with it takes some practice. Hence JeffreyW’s photo and not one of my own. It was flaky and tasted ok.  I made blueberry turnovers. And I can say, I’m no longer afraid of pie crust.

There are some tricks to mixing together your perfect ratio.  Cold, cold, cold is the first tip. I cut frozen butter (oh, and I use butter instead of shortening in most everything because I like it and I always have it on hand) into small pieces and then put it back in the freezer, along with a glass mixing bowl, a measuring cup of water, my pastry cutter and my marble rolling pin.

I whisked together the flour, sugar and salt then cut in the butter with my pastry cutter, but not too much, the butter was already small, when those small pieces were smaller by half I stopped.  It was warm in the kitchen, so the butter softened quickly. I added the water, mixed it together until everything was moistened, then kneaded it lightly by hand. I divided into two sections, wrapped in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator until chilled. Then I rolled it out for turnovers.

I was still a little unsure of how thin to roll it out. This is something I’m going to research and play with and see what I can come up with. Maybe Mrs. J will have some suggestions.

Mmm…jalapeno pickles

I ventured out to the patio for long enough to pick some jalapenos from the two container plants out there.  Several had turned red, which was what I was waiting for.  I would have waited a bit longer but one of the first to turn was getting a tad soft so I went ahead and pulled them all, plus enough green ones to make a batch.

These are going to be “refrigerator pickles” in that I didn’t do a boiling  water bath.  I did sterilize the lids and jars, and boiled the brine-tried to keep everything a safe as I could.  All the jars actually sealed, and they may well keep on the shelf at room temperature but why take chances.

The brine is just a basic mix, nothing too fancy.  Today I used 3 cups white vinegar, 3 cups water, 3 T pickling salt, 3 T cane sugar, 3 t black peppercorns, and a couple of bay leaves.  Bring it all to a boil and then keep at a simmer until all the jars are topped off.  I tossed a peeled clove of garlic into each jar, along with some onion pieces, and some carrots chopped into chunks.  There was enough brine for four pints of pickles with a bit left over.  These will get better as they age, a few weeks at a  minimum I should think, better a month or more.

Sesame Crackers

Mrs J made some more doggie biscuits today.  They looked and smelled great.  I was a bit jealous of the dogs.  That set me to searching about for a cracker recipe.  I’ve been wanting to make some crackers for a good while and the luck of the dogs having such a good dog momma rubbed off on me today.  Mrs J agreed to make the sesame crackers that I downloaded a recipe for.

As  with most new things the first batch was a learning experience.  They were just a bit too thick to crisp up nicely, or we didn’t give them long enough in the oven, or both. I gave them 20 minutes at 350+ degrees.  They came out more cookie than cracker.  A good flavor, though maybe a bit bland, I was sure we were on the right track.  The second batch were pretty much the same thickness so I was determined to give them all the time they needed.  In the end they were in there for a tad over thirty minutes.  We also upped our game on the ingredients–we ground some sea salt over them, and Mrs J found some Mrs Dash herb seasoning that we sprinkled over them, too.

I did some additional recipe searching while the second batch was in the oven, and found a recipe that was nearly the same except they used some sesame oil in the dough instead of butter, and a bit less water.  A comment on that post mentioned using a pasta machine to get the dough thinner and more uniform.  We might try that next time.  I have ordered some new cookie cutters, the plastic cap Mrs J used to cut the crackers out was not the best.  A pretty good size, though.

Enjoy!

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Mmm…Fried Mushrooms

I bought some fresh mushrooms the other day, used a few in a stir fry but the rest were slowly going brown on me, I needed to “use em or lose em”.  Well, shucks, ma’am, batter frying is an easy way to use up stuff.  If nothing else, the doggies can be persuaded to help eat some.  (Mrs J is not a fan of fungi.)

Batter was 1 cup flour, 1 egg, and 1 cup water.  There are better batters out there but this one is simple and easy and works well enough.  The dip in the bowl is the last of a sweet chili sauce.  I’ll have to remember to restock next trip to the Asian grocery.

Enjoy!

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Peter Piper Picked a Peck

I’ve been playing with pickling veggies lately.  First was the daikon/radish thing for the Vietnamese sammiches. Seemed so easy that it wasn’t long before I was stuffing onions and peppers in atop those two things.  While looking at the muffaletta sammiches I ran across giardiniera-a veggie medley in a vinegar brine just like the one in the daikon-radish recipe.  I bought a jar and looked it over, seemed simple enough to do so I gave it a try.  Hasn’t been in the pickle very long but we had some tonight and I think it will be very good.  The recipe in the link above is fine but I’ve been using a bit of malt vinegar in my pickle along with the cider vinegar for a little extra flavor.  I think the big jar I have going will never be finished for the odds and ends I keep stuffing in there.

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Pickled Daikon/Carrot Garnish

While surfing around the other day looking at various sammiches, a Vietnamese street favorite caught my eye.  It is a banh mi, based on a small loaf that is split from the top and stuffed with various meats and veggies.  I’ll get to the sammich recipes some other day, today I want to talk about what seems to be a necessary garnish:  Pickled daikon and carrot.  Daikon is a long white radish-looks like a huge albino carrot.  I wish I had thought to take a before picture of the one I chopped up just now.  There are plenty of pickle recipes online, I found the one I used here. It has plenty of pictures so I don’t feel too bad.  There are plenty of links on that page to find sammich recipes, I’ll look at some of those when I get around to making them.  The veggies need 3-5 days to get right.

Summertime…and the Living is Easy

Just getting into the spirit of the summer.  A classic-lemon/lime shakeup.  This one is sweetened with Splenda.  The fruits are just sliced and tossed into a large tumbler.  Add sugar or sweetener to taste and a splash of hot water and mash it up as best you can with a wooden spoon or similar.  Top with crushed ice and fill with water or seltzer.  Stir some more and taste, add more sweetener if needed.  Mmm good.  the drink can be topped off with additional water and ice-just give the citrus another good pounding.  Similar citrus ades use other fruits, oranges are a perennial favorite.  Something to try:  Boil the sliced fruits with sugar and water to make a flavored simple syrup.