Skip to main content

article

Life’s Simple Pleasures



One of them could be the lunch I had today. While everybody was cheating on pizza at our managers' meeting, I patiently waited to get home to make me one of these: Salmon on fresh toasted Ciabatta rolls.
Fresh slamon, panseared and flaked, fresh local tomatoes, greens, onions and local jalapenos…Delish!
I make a big batch of these rolls on sundays and stash them in the freezer so I can prepare a nice panini or improved burger for Mr. B and after almost 8 years of marital bliss he still thinks I am Da Bomb!

The recipe is really easy:
Ciabatta, from Epicurious.

This flavorful Italian loaf begins with a biga, the Italian term for "starter dough." Make the biga a day before baking the bread.

1 cup plus 1 tablespoonroom-temperature water (75°F to 80°F)
1 1/4-ounce package dry yeast
3 1/3 cups bread flour

For dough Biga (starter dough; see above)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons room-temperature water (75°F to 80°F)Pinch of dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons semolina flour*
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
Additional semolina flour
*Also called pasta flour, semolina flour is available at natural foods stores, Italian markets and some supermarkets.
Make biga:Place water in processor. Sprinkle yeast over. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 8 minutes. Add 1 cup flour; process until blended. Scrape down sides of work bowl. Add 1 cup flour; repeat processing and scraping. Add remaining 1 1/3 cups flour. Process until small moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball (dough will be firm); place in large bowl. Cover; chill overnight (biga will soften, resembling thick oatmeal in texture).
Make dough:Pull biga into walnut-size pieces; place in a clean large bowl. Add water, yeast and 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons semolina. Using 1 hand, squeeze ingredients together 2 minutes. Work dough 4 minutes by scooping sections from sides of bowl and pressing into center, blending into very soft, shaggy mass. Using spatula, scrape dough from sides of bowl into center. Let dough rest in bowl, uncovered, 10 minutes.
Sprinkle salt over dough. Using 1 hand, knead dough by rotating bowl 1/4 turn at a time, scooping dough from sides and folding down into center until dough starts to come away from sides of bowl, about 5 minutes. Scrape dough from hand and sides of bowl. Cover bowl with towel; let dough rest 20 minutes.
Rotating bowl 1/4 turn at a time, fold dough over onto itself 6 times; turn dough over in bowl. Cover with towel and let dough rest in bowl 20 minutes.
Bake bread:Preheat oven to 425°F. Sprinkle work surface with additional semolina. Turn dough out onto semolina. Using pastry scraper or large knife, cut dough in half; keep halves separated. Let stand, uncovered, 20 minutes.
Sprinkle 2 large baking sheets with additional semolina. Transfer each dough half, semolina side up, to 1 sheet. Stretch each dough half to 16×4-inch rectangle. Press fingertips into dough in several places to dimple surface (characteristic of this bread). Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool. (Can be prepared 2 weeks ahead. Double-wrap in aluminum foil to freeze.) Makes 2 loaves.

I usually skip the shaping process and form rolls or subs.
The recipe may look intimidating but all that kneading is actually quite relaxing.

Southern Treat


I think the saying usually goes "when life throws you lemons, make lemonade". Well, here in the South, it usually is "when life throws you pecans, make sandies". Pecan sandies are a very popular treat in my house and although they are not difficult to make, I feel that I could buy shares of this Keebler treat. Mr. B is addicted, a whole pack does not survive the weekend, especially during events like the World Cup, the Tour de France or the Olympics.
Well, little Elf you ain’t going to get my money anymore!
Another reason for making these has come from a good summer cleaning of the freezer to make room for the ice cream maker canister and bags of frozen fruits for instant frozen yogurts and smoothies. I found 3 huge bags of shelled pecans that I collected last year from our pecan tree. I think pecan pie is calling my name next!

The particularity of the Pecan Sandies, is not as much in the pecans as it is in the crispy, buttery taste, the "sandy" aspect of it, and all the recipes I had tried up until now were lacking this shortbread quality… until today. Can’t figure out why it took me so long to check this site, but I should have known that somebody, in the trillions of people who try recipes everyday, somebody would come with a great one for Sandies. Store bought cookies always have this extra bite to them, that mass produced, artificial preservative taste. Not here! Pure buttery joy!
I took some liberty with the original recipe and you can find my notes in ().

Pecan Sandies, adapted from allrecipes.com

Prep Time: 15 MinutesCook Time: 10 Minutes
Ready In: 30 MinutesYields: 96 servings (mine yielded half because I used a 2Tb. cookie scoop)

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup margarine, softened (I used butter)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
1 cup confectioners' sugar,
sifted
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar (did not use)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 cup white sugar for
decoration (did not use)
DIRECTIONS:
1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
2.In a large bowl, cream together the margarine, vegetable oil, 1 cup white sugar and confectioners' sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in the pecans. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and roll each ball in remaining white sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.
3.Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are golden. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.
Find the original here.

I had to hide the second batch…from the both of us!

Weekend Dog Blogging


Let’s start this wonderful day with a revelation from our dog Tippy: I need to stop blogging around and do some laundry…darn!

Check out the round up of the latest Wekend Dog Blogging at Sweetnicks

Pains Au Lait – The Recipe


Sorry it took longer than expected to add the recipe for these great little rolls. Here it is, found on a site I visit often and where I found great brioches recipe (and you know how much i love them).
Baking bread is a daily ritual for me, I start when I get home from work and bake the bread in the morning. I use my bread machine for making the dough just as much as I use my KA, it really depends on my mood, I never used the machine pan for baking, as I found the pan quite ugly and too square.

Milk Rolls, adapted from La Panetiere:
– 260 gr. milk ( regular, almond, rice, soy, goat, buttermilk,…)
– 1 egg
– 1 tsp.salt
– 50 gr. sugar
– 5oo gr. all purpose flour
– 2 tsp. instant yeast
– 40 gr. butter

-If you use a bread machine, put all the ingredients in the pan and set on the dough program. After it is over, portion the dough into 15 pieces, let rest 15 minutes. Form into shapes. At this point you can leave them plain, or add chocolate chips, or dried fruits ( I used dried raspberries).
– Let rise for another hour or so and bake in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. I brushed mine with milk and sprinkledwith sugar before baking.

If using a regular stand mixer: dissolve yeast in the milk at 110-115 degree. Let rest until foamy. Put into the bowl of a mixer and add the flour, egg, salt, sugar. Mix until dough forms, slowly incorporate the butter which should be soft. Let rise 1 1/2 hours.
-Proceed with the recipe as above.

Pains Au Lait


These are also called Viennese Rolls, but literally translate from the French as "Milk Rolls". They are traditionally made like a brioche, with less butter and a higher amount of liquid, milk instead of water, hence the name. You can go for regular old milk, but I chose almond milk this time and it added a nice softness to the bread. You could use orange blossom water or a touch of orange juice to perk it up, instead of the almond milk. I added dried raspberries, but you could use chocolate chips, or again…leave them plain.
They are traditionally of oval shape, but you can make rolls or pretend they are palying bagels…!
They are awesome served warm for breakfast or toasted for foie gras and pates.

Recipe to come later on today…I am beat.

Bakewell Tart: Did Grandma know?


When I was growing up my grandmother used to make this tart with a very nice shortbread crust, jam at the bottom and covered with a nice cream sometimes flavored with almonds, sometimes not. The other day I was perousing the various foodie events for June and the words Bakewell Tart made me raise an eyelid: what was that? A tart I did not know existed? There I was checking Andrew’s site to get more details about it and decided to go online and try to find a recipe.
Dang! It was my grandma’s tart! or should I say Grandma borrowed it from the English?! I love this tart but I never really saw her follow a recipe nor did she leave me with one. After looking at about 5 or 6 recipes online I kind of understood that even without the exact same ingredient amounts the concept of the bakewell Tart is the same: a shortbread crust, a layer of jam and an almond flavored cream. I used the one found here but modified it like so: I doubled the amount for the filling part, added a good handful of toasted and ground almonds and used homemade nectarine and rhubarb jam instead of a berry one, most commonly found in the Bakewell Tart.

Bakewell Tart (includes modifications)from The Green Chronicle

Ingredients:
Pastry :
2 cups plain flour
4 level tablespoons shortening
4 level tablespoons butter or margarine
pinch of salt
cold water

Method- Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.- Add the lard and the butter and chop it up roughly with a knife.- With cool fingertips, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.- Add 2 tablespoons of cold water and then, using a knife, mix lightly into a dough.- Add a little more water if necessary but be careful not to add too much.- The dough should not be sticky.- Gently bring the dough into a ball by hand, gathering up any stray bits of dough.- Leave to rest in the fridge for a couple of hours before using.- To use, roll lightly with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface.

The Tart:
1/2 cup jam
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup caster/superfine sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
a good handful of ground almonds

Method- Line an ovenproof dish with the rolled out pastry.- Spread some strawberry jam on the pastry base.- Cream the sugar and butter together.- Add the egg, flour and baking powder, beating until smooth.- Beat in the essence.- Pour the mixture into the pastry case over the jam and bake in a hot oven until the pastry is cooked and the filling is firm to the touch.

It’s really good, very easy to put together and most pleasing to everybody, great for all season if you want my opinion.

Note: I now it looks like the bottom crust is not cooked through and you would be right but there is a reason for it: the Cookie Monster likes his pie crust like his cookie dough: undercooked…yikes! I usually finish baking my slice separately.

Milk and Cookies

Yes…this is what I have just eaten as I got back from work but it is also the title of a blog I have come to visit everyday. JenJen at Milk and Cookies never ceases to tempt me with cookie creations and since I live with the Cookie Monster I need more than the traditional chocolate chip or oatmeal varieties to keep this household straight.

Since she posted about Jaime Oliver’s Orange and Polenta Biscuits, the demand has been high for a recipe and she finally caved in the other day. Thank you!

I foolowed her recipe but my first batch did not spread in the oven, and I ended up smashing the little thing down with the back of a spoon. The flavors are just right, they are nice and crispy and great dunked in tea.

Here is the recipe:

Orange and Polenta Biscuits
170g unsalted butter
170g sugar
255g polenta
100g plain all-purpose flour
zest of 2-3 oranges, finely chopped
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 190C. Combine butter, sugar, polenta and flour in a bowl and rub them together until the mixture becomes crumbly. Mix in the orange zest and two eggs and beat until well incorporated.If necessary, cover the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge until slightly firm. Take a portion of dough and roll it into a ball and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Space the balls approximately 5 cm apart, as the biscuits will spread upon baking.Bake in the oven for 6-10 minutes, or until the outside edges are lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

(Hers)NOTE: I found that there was no need to refrigerate the dough as I was baking these on a very cold day and the dough was firm enough. This step is optional, depending on the temperature in your kitchen.

Recycling


The other day I made a batch of vanilla ice cream and I had about 6 egg whites left over. I used a couple to brush on some bread/brioche, but I had still that tiny container staring at me everytime I opened the refrigerator. Light bulb image and I promptly searched for a Financier recipe while I was checking other things online. I feel like a petit financier myself making good use of my money and my food, my daddy would be proud…

Here is the definition of this tasty pastry from Wikipedia:

A financier, sometimes called a friand, is a type of pastry in French cuisine. The financier is a light tea cake, similar to sponge cake, and usually contains almond flour, crushed or ground almonds, or almond flavoring. The basis of the cake itself is beurre noisette (brown butter), egg whites, flour, and powdered sugar. Financiers are often baked in shaped molds. The name "financier" is said to derive from the traditional rectangular mold, which resembles a bar of gold.
Financiers are often served topped with whipped cream, berries, or other fruit, and served accompanied by ice cream or other frozen confections.
Recently, a number of artisanal bakers have begun making non-traditional financiers, using flavorings such as coconut, chocolate, banana, and hazelnut.
Financiers are somewhat similar to madeleines.

For the recipe, I used one found on Our Patisserie, that she found in Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri. Here is my adaptation:

Pistachio Financiers (from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri)
2 oz. ground toasted almonds
3/4 c sugar
1/2 c flour
5 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbs dark rum
1 tsp vanilla
4 egg whites
pinch of salt
Confectioners' sugar if desiredPreheat your oven to 350F. Grease and flour the insides of 2 12-cavity mini muffin pans. Process the pistachios and 3/8 c of the sugar until very fine. Mix in the flour. Melt the butter, stir in the flavorings and set aside to cool. (I browned the butter as I like the nutty taste.) Beat the egg whites until they hold a soft peak. Add the remaining half of sugar gradually as you continue to beat the egg whites. Stop before the meringue is stiff. Alternately fold in the nut and butter mixtures, stirring after each addition. Use a spoon to fill the cavities of mini muffin pans 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Cool briefly, unmold, and serve with a dusting of confectioners' sugar if desired.

The almonds and the rum made a great combo and out of the 10 that I made using Flexipan pyramid molds, there are only 6 left..don’t look at me like that!

I do urge you to make these, changing the nuts and liqueur to suit your taste because they are incredibly easy and delicious.

Under The Rain and WDB


The weather is nasty but on the other hand there is the World Cup to keep us occupied…oh yeah I am already losing my voice!
Not sure what to make this sunday. There are great recipes I want to try: cookies, gelato, cakes..everything looks so tempting…a trip to the grocery store will help me decide.

In the meantime here is my #1 fan,Tippy, wishing tomorrow weren’t a school day!
You can see the WDB round up on Sweetnicks' blog here.