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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pugliese Two Ways BBA # 29

This is a rustic bread. It is made with durum flour blended with bread flour. It has a high hydration status. I am getting a little more comfortable working with the very wet breads.

This bread starts with a biga. To it you add durum flour and bread flour, salt, yeast and the optional mashed potatoes. I happened to have some left overs, so in they went. The water was added to form a smooth, sticky dough. The dough was put on a floured square and stretched- and folded by very floury hands and left to rest three times. The third time, it fermented for two hours. After the two hours, the dough was shaped into boules. I made one boule and saved the rest for pizza. Shaping was interesting. It does not hold it shape well.

The boule was put in a proofing bowl, allowed to proof for 90 more minutes and then the loaf was turned out onto the parchment paper. It was a bit like working with the blob. I found it difficult to score. This is my first time working with the lame. I had better luck with the exacto knife. It was then baked in the oven that had been prepared for hearth baking.

Later that afternoon, I put it on the counter with a knife and some cheese and started to prepare dinner. I turned around and their was one piece left. It was delicious.

The pizzas were tasty too. I had a little more luck shaping them then I did with the pizza recipe in the BBA book.


Friday, November 27, 2009


Mags at The Other Side of Fifty was writing about how much her cooking skills have changed over the years and I was thinking about mine while I made our Thanksgiving dinner. Mags cooked the most beautiful dinner rolls that Frieda at Lovin' from the oven says are one of the most versatile recipes ever. They looked so good on Mags' post, I had to give them a try.

I wonder how many people are cleaning their ovens today? Part of cooking the perfect turkey was putting it in the oven at 400 degrees. That makes for a dirty oven. In 2003, Alton Brown had an article on the perfect turkey in Bon Appetit. He brines his and we have been brining ours ever since reading that article. When I first started cooking, I cooked my turkey until the red button popped up. I now use a thermometer.

I have always made my gravy from the drippings. Now I make a broth the day before out of all of the giblets and aromatics and use that to make the gravy.

Some of the sides I make have varied little from how my parents made them. I have never made mashed potatoes from a box. However I now add a little roasted garlic to the potatoes for an added kick. I used to make cranberries from the recipe on the bag, frequently I try an alternate. This year, I found a recipe on Lick My Spoon for Aunt Louise's cranberry relish. The garlic, shallots and jalepenos are amazing. I did not add the cilantro at the end, I enjoyed the taste so much without it.

I started making Pepperidge Farms stuffing from a bag and putting it in the turkey. In 1995, I made a Bread Stuffing with Mushrooms and Leeks We will never have another dressing. There is so much celery, leeks and mushrooms in the dressing, it is amazing.

I grew up having hubbard squash for dinner. It has been hard to find hubbards in Texas. Some years, I get one, some years I don't. My dad would chop it up and my mother would steam it.

I take it on to the back patio.

Put the dog in the house, because she would lick it to see if there was any hope for it, and I drop it. Then I brush the chunks with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast them in the oven. I would miss squash if we didn't have it, my kids would not.

My parents grew up in New England. I think that influenced our Thanksgiving meal. We have creamed onions. You take tiny pearl onions and peel them. I put them briefly in boiling water, which makes it easier to peel them. Then you return the peeled onions to boiling water and cook them until tender. You make a white sauce with equal part of butter and flour and let that cook for a couple mins then slowly add milk and salt and pepper until I have a thick and creamy white sauce. Finish with a touch of nutmeg. Delicious. It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without them.

Desserts are probably the most varied thing in my house. We aren't big dessert people, have formed no real attachments. Some of us live for the mashed potatoes and gravy. I make a pumpkin cheese cake. I have tried different recipes, they are all good. I try a different apple pie recipe every year.

I love the idea of traditions, passed on from generation to generation, mixed with some new recipes. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


My sons should be home by now. Matt has a Tuesday night class and went to the professor and asked him if he was going to cancel class or if Matt could miss it. The professor informed him that there was no way that he was going to cancel class and if Matt skipped it, he would receive a zero. So I booked tickets for the boys to fly home early Wednesday morning. About a week ago, the professor found out that he had Thanksgiving plans and canceled the class.

I am driving myself crazy waiting for them. I had some errands to do, a trip to Costco to pick up some wine, grapes and cheese. Joe has an affinity towards umami. His favorite condiment may be soy sauce and he needs a certain amount of aged cheese to be happy.

They both like spice cookies, so I made a batch and then I made the mistake of telling everyone that the cookies were for the boys. Which apparently, was poor form. I'm not sure that I understand how, since Emily and Tom get to eat everything that I cook and the boys get to read about it.

But the constant question, what to cook for dinner, was lurking. I had some left over chicken from last night's roast. For years I made something that Matt called ingredients, who knows why. You saute onion, mushrooms and celery in about 4 tablespoons of butter. Then you add four tablespoon of flour, cook to burn off the flour taste and add milk or half and half until you make a thick creamy mixture. The leftover chopped up chicken, salt, pepper and whatever herbs you have around are added. This was a favorite before we started eating more and having less leftover chicken. Quick and easy and a good way to use leftover poultry.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gravy for Matt

Matt, or as he prefers to be addressed, number one son, is allergic to turkey. I am sad to confess that for years I have been making homemade gravy for the rest of family and giving him chicken gravy from a jar. Tom cooks Matt's alternate protein on the grill or in the smoker. There aren't any drippings and it is just easier to buy the jar.

The other night, Matt and some college friends had a Thanksgiving feast at their apartment. Matt made the gravy. When he thought he had it close to where he wanted it, because of his allergy he had to call his friend Garrett over to try it. I've fed some of Matt's friends, they will eat anything. They are college rowers and are as far as can tell, perpetually hungry. I'm not sure how sophisticated Garrett's palate is, I do know that he would be a willing taste tester.

Any way I felt sorry for Matt when I heard that he was unable to eat his own gravy. I decided to make him some for his beer can chickens. First I bought a roasting chicken and put the giblets, the edible offal of a fowl, with some onion, celery, bay leaf and water into a pan and simmered it for an hour.

The bay plant in my backyard is making its way towards the second story. It typically grows to about five feet, but can grow to sixty. I guess that I have the sixty foot conditions. It does like a hard pruning in the autumn.

I decided to roast the chicken for our dinner, I need its drippings for Matt's gravy. Cooks Illustrated recommended 15 mins on one side, 15 mins on the other and then breast up for a succulent bird. I'm always willing to try a new way to roast a chicken.

There is one problem with my plan, at the end of the evening, I will have a roast chicken and fresh gravy. How will I convince Tom and Emily that they will enjoy the gravy in the jar?

Once the chicken was roasted, I got rid of the fat. I added a half a cup of water to the dripping then some butter and flour, simmered to heat off the flour flavor and then added the broth. I let it cook to thicken and now have a delicious container of chicken gravy waiting for Matt and a roast chicken for dinner.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Potato Rosemary Bread BBA #28

I had been looking forward to making this bread for some time. I like rosemary and roasted garlic and have a favorite roll recipe that uses mashed potatoes. I had high hopes for it.

Yesterday, I made the biga and left it in the refrigerator over night. I woke up early and started roasting garlic. The house was soon filled with a delicious aroma. I cooked some potatoes and assembled the mis en place. The biga was cut into smaller pieces and allowed to come to room temperature. Then it was combined with flour, salt, black pepper, yeast, mashed potatoes, rosemary and water. I used my mixer to form a soft and supple dough. The dough fermented until doubled in size and then I divided it into one large loaf and eight small rolls. These were again allowed to double in size and then they were baked.

I wish you could have smelled them baking. What an aroma. When the bread came out of the oven, Scout came around the corner. Scout has an affinity for bread products. We don't give them to her, but as an intelligent labrador she is always looking for opportunity. She has been known to steal any bread products left unattended. I believe that she thinks that some day I will come to my senses and recognize her as an equal with full rights to anything that comes out of the oven. Today would not be that day.

I had reached the most challenging part of Mr. Reinhart's recipes, the mandatory cooling period. We are getting better at waiting. However, at this moment Emily woke up, drawn by the aroma, she was staring at the rolls. I can't stand the thought of a hungry child, so I gave her one. She made the mistake of deliberately walking by her father who was unable to understand why she could have a roll and he couldn't. Somehow, we started down that slippery slope and there almost weren't any rolls left to photograph. They were delicious. I am looking forward to making the loaf into sandwiches. My main stakeholder says that this may indeed be his favorite, but I have heard that before.

My backyard has turned into a jungle. The rains after the drought have all the plants confused. They are having an unusual growing spirt considering it is fall. My rosemary has added inches, my bay tree will soon take over the house, the basil is going wild, even the mandevilla is blooming. I had thought that I would photograph the rolls in the rosemary so you could see the lush growth.

Scout felt for sure this was her time. Who puts food down in the backyard and doesn't give it to her? She is sulking in the corner right now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Portuguese Sweet Bread BBA # 27

This is a one day bread, assuming you have six and a half hours free. Which, I actually did. I got up early and made the sponge. The mixture of flour, sugar, yeast and water bubbled away for an hour. Then I mixed sugar, salt, powdered milk, butter, shortening together until it was nice and creamy. I was glad that I had a mixer and not a wooden spoon. Then I added eggs and was supposed to add both orange and lemon extract. Too close to the panettone experience, I chose to add lemon zest and vanilla extract. The sponge, additional flour and water were added and the dough was mixed for about 12 minutes by the mixer.

It made a very supple, fun to work with, dough. At this point it was left to rise for two hours. After two hours, I shaped it into three boules with the intention of giving some or all of it away. There is a limit to the bread that can be in my life. Left to rise for three hours, slowly but steadily they rose. While I went off to hike in the park, fill the car with gas, run several other errands. This is not a quick process.

Then they were baked for 30 mins, less time than the book, but mine were smaller. About this time, the plumbers showed up. We wanted to replace one of our toilets with a low flow toilet. They were thrilled by the aroma, better than much of the things that they smell. Then they went to work, ruining the lovely bread baking aroma and informing us that there was a flange that needed to be repaired, did we want them to do that. No I want you to leave the gaping hole with the fumes in my floor... How many people say no to this question? Oh, did I mention it would cost four hundred more dollars! They quickly went about their business and soon all was well in my world.

The delicious aroma of bread fresh from the oven filled the air. Not surprising, I had to try this bread before the recommended 90 minute cooling period. I really like this bread, I am surprised at how much I like this bread. I like it so much that I realized how much I like it I had to give it away, quickly. The plumbers looked quite happy when I handed them a loaf. I am already planning breakfast. Pass the nutella.

Poolish Baguettes

These baguettes started with a poolish, a thick pancake batter like mixture of flour, water and yeast. The poolish spent the night in the refrigerator. Then whole wheat flour, bread flour, salt, yeast and water was added. Formed into a soft dough, it was allowed to ferment for two hours. After it had doubled, it was kneaded and allowed to ferment for an additional two hours and then it was formed into baguettes, which you won't be surprised were allowed to ferment for an hour. Then they were baked.

This was not my favorite loaf. I prefer the french bread recipe or the pain a l'ancienne. We had them that night with pasta and they did not fly from the table as some of the other breads have. Maybe we are breaded out. Or maybe the adults realize Thanksgiving is coming. We need to pace ourselves.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pain de Mie

Pain de Mie is a sandwich loaf, or pullman loaf. Baked in a long rectangular pan, it makes a perfect slicing loaf. King Arthur was having a sale on their pain de mie pan. They have apparently come out with a newer version. I had been intrigued by the pan for some time and couldn't resist the sale, which is no longer going on.

But I have been caught up with the breads of the BBA challenge and hadn't a chance to give the pan a try. However, the major stakeholder is upset. He said that we didn't have good closure with the Panettone. By good closure he means he didn't enjoy it. He came home from work one day bemoaning that fact that there was no bread available.

This is a man who honestly prefers white bread to any other type of bread. Panettone is pretty far away from white bread. He had some fairly onerous paperwork to take care of. So I took pity on him. I used the King Arthur recipe. It was fun to make something that only took a morning to come together. I ran off to get my hair cut while it was baking. The major stakeholder is quite good with a thermometer, he uses them while he grills. He did a great job of removing the bread from the oven and surprisingly waited until I came home to photograph it before eating any of the bread.

It made delicious sandwiches. I prefer the multigrain extraordinaire for sandwich bread and I do all the baking so it is what will be in the oven. But for those days when you want grilled cheese on white, this is an easy recipe.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I love fall. I grew up watching the trees change colors, wearing sweaters and tights to school, watching your breath in the morning. Here in Texas, we kind of slide into winter. The days are milder, there are more highs of only 80. Last night it actually got down to 50. It is a very pleasant change from the heat of the summer, but it doesn't seem like fall.

Because we found ourselves with an extra hour, we went for a hike this morning. The park was filled with flowers and plants that have been rejuvenated by the recent rains.

Scout was excited. She tolerates the paved path, but really enjoys the limestone trails. We may all have twisted our ankles, but somehow it seems more like real hiking to get off the paved paths.

There were tons of butterflies dancing around. American Snout butterflies are abundant after the recent rains. Monarchs fly higher, more intent on heading to Mexico.

A beautiful fall day in Texas. I've decided that the best way to convince my mind that it is fall is to eat orange foods... I love squash. Butternut squash soup is easy and delicious. Saute some leeks or onions in some butter. Peel a squash, scrape out the pulp and seeds, cut the squash into chunks. Add to the pan with the leeks and cover with chicken broth, simmer until tender, puree the squash, add salt and pepper and enjoy.