MEXICAN FOCACCIA

Recently I took the liberty of calling an avocado dip as “hummus”, and now I will push the envelope once more and share with you my Mexican focaccia.   If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you know I am crazy about all things bread. Focaccia is a favorite in our home, because it is so simple to put together: no kneading, no complex shaping, just a simple flat bread that you can cut in squares and bring to parties, potlucks, or save it all for yourself…  The inspiration for this twist on focaccia came when I had leftover tomatillo sauce from Marcela’s enchiladas suizas.  As to the basic focaccia recipe, you can find it here.

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What you will need…

…. your basic focaccia recipe

…. good quality olive oil

…. tomatillo sauce a la Marcela Valladolid

…. yellow tomatoes, sliced thin

…. Mexican oregano

…. crumbled Cotija cheese

…. Maldon salt flakes

Once you make the dough and open it on the baking sheet, pour some olive oil on the surface, make indentations with your fingers.  Spread a nice coating of tomatillo sauce,  layer yellow tomatoes on top.  Sprinkle oregano, Cotija cheese, a little salt.   Bake as instructed in the original recipe.

Let it cool on a rack, cut in squares and ENJOY!!!!!   ;-)

served

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ONE YEAR AGO: Sunny Kamut Salad with Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

TWO YEARS AGO: Pane de Casa & Crostini

THREE YEARS AGO: Down-home Dig-in Chili

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Cinnamon Rolls

CARROT AND SESAME SANDWICH LOAF

From the one and only Dan Lepard, a loaf to satisfy your cravings for a hearty sandwich bread, with the slightly nutty flavor of sesame seeds and a very subtle sweetness from grated carrots in the crumb.  Very easy to make, very easy to love…    You can find the full recipe on The Guardian site, by clicking here.

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Here’s a little virtual tour of the process, starting with a quick preparation of your loaf pan.  You might be surprised to learn that I am a complete disaster when it comes to using scissors. I cannot make a straight cut to save my life.  So I was proud of my job here, although truth be told, it took me almost 15 minutes to do this.

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You weigh your ingredients, and make a nice, smooth round of dough…
weighingdough
Thanks to the use of Rapid Rise Yeast (which is unusual for me, I normally go for the regular kind), you will end up with a shaped loaf that will threaten to escape its container, so make sure not to leave the house to run a few errands as the dough rises…  ;-)
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The carrots are very evident in the dough, but they get baked into the crumb in a wonderful way. They won’t disappear, but you won’t feel any harsh bits of carrots as you bite into the bread.  A very soft crumb, with a nice crunchy top given by the sesame seeds.  Make sure to follow Dan’s tip on adding them: wet the surface of the slashed dough with a little water so that the seeds can stick better.  He used black sesame seeds, for quite a dramatic look.  I could swear I had black sesame seeds somewhere, but I could not find them, so I used regular, white seeds.
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And I share with you a favorite lunch option: an open-faced sandwich made with  this bread, slightly toasted, some smoked ham, and cottage cheese with enough salt and black pepper to make it all shine…  Perfection, if you ask me!

sandwich

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ONE YEAR AGO: Border Grill Margaritas

TWO YEARS AGO: Goodbye L.A.

THREE YEARS AGO: Vermont Sourdough

TAKING A BREAK FROM THE WILD

I’ve always been fascinated by bread baking. For years I would read books and blogs, but get discouraged because the breads I fell in love with were all made with a sourdough starter. You know, that wild yeast thing.  I would close the book, click away from the site, telling myself “why can’t they bake bread with regular yeast, like normal people?”  It was so frustrating!  Of course, if you follow my blog, you’ll know that now I love to walk on the wild side…  ;-)   Like many bread bakers, using commercial yeast almost feels like cheating. But, a bread leavened just with instant yeast can be amazing too. In this recipe, 80% of the formula comprises flour fermented overnight with a small amount of yeast.  It comes from Flour Water Salt Yeast, by Ken Forkish.
ready

WHAAAT? NO RECIPE?

Here’s the deal: I sent a couple of messages to Mr. Forkish asking his permission to publish the recipe, but got no answer. Of course, it’s quite possible he never checks his Facebook account.  I know many people who don’t even remember having one!  ;-)   Without his permission, I don’t feel it is right to include the recipe. You can read more about this subject at the end of my post.

If you want to try his method, you can click here for a great variation on his recipe that includes barley flour in the formula. The technique is exactly the same, though. I intend to make it myself soon, as I am quite fond of barley flour.

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Comments: Of all breads I’ve made, this one was by far the loudest singer.  The noises it made while it sat on the counter, cooling, were unreal!  Interestingly, Jane, the blogger behind The Wayward Oven, had this to say about her version of Forkish’s White Bread with 80% BIGA:

“It had a wonderful aroma and the crackling as it cooled was so loud I could – no exaggeration! –  hear it across the room.”

Yeah, that was exactly the case!   I also loved Forkish’s approach of letting the bread rise with the seam side down, and then invert it for baking, without scoring the crust. The bread opens in a natural,  more rustic-looking way.  This bread has a double personality:  the taste and crust of a regular sourdough, and a crumb with the softer texture usually found in breads made with commercial yeast.  Quite an interesting combination!

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And now, for something completely different…

When I started blogging, I did not give too much thought about publishing recipes from cookbooks. I changed the wording around, gave credit, and felt it was good enough.  As time passed, my views on the issue started to change, in part because I learned that some cookbook authors are completely against having their recipes out in the blogosphere, even if proper credit is given.  Then, my virtual friend Joanna published a thoughtful article on her blog, and that pretty much did it for me.  Ever since I read her post, I decided not to transcribe a recipe from any cookbook here, unless I get permission from the author, which unfortunately is not always that easy.  

If I adapt a recipe, I will publish it and link to the “inspirational source”. In fact, that is a practice considered ok by copyright laws. A very good article on the whole subject was written by David Lebowitz and is available here.  As to recipes published in food magazines,  Fine Cooking editors told me they do not mind their recipes being published as long as a link is provided to the source.  And other magazines -  such as Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, Saveur, Cooking Light – have their content online for public access, so it is not a problem to blog on them.

ONE YEAR AGO: Zucchini-Spinach Soup

TWO YEARS AGO: Pollo en Mole en Cacahuate

THREE YEARS AGO: Thom Leonard’s Country French Bread

SOURDOUGH BREAD WITH WALNUTS AND DATES

Another example of inspiration coming from The Fresh Loaf.  David is a regular contributor to the forum, and every bread he makes is a work of art. He is the type of baker comfortable enough around sourdough starter to  devise his own recipes, having recently come up with a fig and walnut concoction.   David had access to fantastic figs, but when I went to the store I was not particularly impressed with what was available.  Since I am no longer afraid to improvise ;-), I used dates instead.   This bread is perfect to practice mindful eating. Don’t devour it. Instead, savor each bite as slowly as you can. Awesome bread, very complex taste.

crumbSAN FRANCISCO-STYLE SOURDOUGH WITH WALNUTS AND DATES
(adapted from David, at The Fresh Loaf forum)

for the stiff levain
41 g water
66 g sourdough starter
78 g all-purpose flour
4 g rye flour

for the final dough
337 g water
416 g all-purpose flour
46 g whole wheat flour
11 g salt
189 g levain
98 g dates, diced fine
98 g walnuts, diced and lightly toasted

Dissolve the starter in the water. Add the flour and mix thoroughly until the flour has been completely incorporated and moistened. Ferment at room temperature for 16 hours.

In a stand mixer, mix the flour and water at low-speed until it forms a shaggy mass. Cover and autolyse for 30 minutes. Coarsely chop or break apart the walnut pieces and toast them for 8 minutes in a 300ºF oven. Allow to cool. Coarsely chop the dates, rinse in cool water, drain and set aside.

Add the salt and levain to the autolyse, and mix at low-speed for 1-2 minutes, then increase the speed to medium (Speed 2 on a KitchenAid) and mix for 5 minutes. Add flour and water as needed. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl but not the bottom. Add the walnuts and the figs to the dough and mix at low-speed until well-distributed in the dough. (About 2 minutes).

Transfer to a lightly floured board, do a stretch and fold, and form a ball. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly. Ferment at 76º F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours with a stretch and fold at 50 and 100 minutes.  Shape as a large ball (or divide the dough in two and shape as two smaller loaves)  and place in banneton. Proof at room temperature (68-70º F) for 1-2 hours. Cold retard the shaped dough overnight.

The next morning, proof the dough at 85º F for 2-3 hours. Heat the oven to 480º F. Score the bread as desired, and bake with initial steam, reducing the oven to 460 F when the bread goes in. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, and cool completely on a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

boule1

I am still having issues with our oven, the temperature shoots up and down, making it hard to control proper baking.  At some point in the future we’ll change our kitchen appliances, but for the time being we dance according to the music. That’s the proper Zen attitude. Or so I am told…  ;-)

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ONE YEAR AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

TWO YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

THREE YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

RED WINE SOURDOUGH BREAD WITH CRANBERRIES

The Fresh Loaf Forum is a virtual paradise for bread bakers, as not only very experienced folks share their best recipes, but you can also get feedback in case problems arise with a recipe.  Last week I stopped by the site and the thread right at the top had the following title: Sourdough Wine Bread. That got my full attention.  I clicked on it, and was blown away by the gorgeous photos, and the unusual color of the bread’s crumb, given by the wine and the dried cranberries.  I revived my starter that same day, and started this bread on a Friday night.  Sometimes you  should not wait to chase a dream.loaf1RED WINE SOURDOUGH BREAD WITH DRIED CRANBERRIES
(adapted from The Fresh Loaf Forum, bread by Yuko)

102 g sourdough starter (at 100% hydration)
288 g  all-purpose flour
80 g water
123 g red wine
6.7 g Salt
80 g dried cranberries

In a bowl, mix flour, wine, and water roughly, cover it with plastic and keep for 12 hours in the fridge (autolyse).

Add sourdough starter and mix by folding dough in the bowl. Add  cranberries and mix by folding dough in the bowl. Add salt and slap & fold for 3 - 4 minutes or until the dough becomes a ball.  Bulk fermentation at room temperature, folding the dough every half and hour until it develops enough strength (I did 4 sets of folds).

Let it rise until the dough starts showing the yeast activity. It takes about 6 hours total depending on the temperature of your kitchen (I used my bread proofing box set at 78 F).  Shape the bread as a boule (or 2 baguettes), place in a banetton or other appropriate container, and let it proof in the fridge for 16 to 18 hours.

Pull it out of the fridge and leave it out for one to three hours (see comments).  Slash the bread and bake in a 450F oven with initial steam for a total of 40 minutes (for a boule), or 20 to 25 minutes for baguettes.

Cool on a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

crumb

Comments:  Preparing this bread had me worried up until the point I finally sliced it. Something seemed terribly wrong, as I detected very little fermentation, even though I kept the dough for almost 7 hours at 78 F. The original recipe called for retarding the dough in the fridge and shaping it next day, but my dough seemed so…. slow!  I decided to shape it on the same day, and retard the dough in its final form, ready for the oven.  Ideally, you should remove the bread from the fridge and allow it to almost double in size.  That was not happening, so after a couple of hours I simply had to bake it.

Now, a little tangent.  I usually wake up several times during the night, and tend to think about our experiments while trying to go back to sleep.  Sometimes (unfortunately not that often),  when I wake up again an hour or so later, I have a new idea to solve a problem or at least approach it.  Almost as if during my sleep something goes to work “behind my back”…   ;-)  That Saturday night, I went to bed thinking about the red wine sourdough and why it seemed so weak.  Exactly at 2am I woke up with one word blinking in my mind: SULFITES!  All wine these days is preserved with sulfites! Maybe some batches have a higher concentration, maybe some of the bacteria or yeast in my starter was particularly sensitive to it.  At any rate, one thing is certain: when you add red wine to make the dough the pH will be lower (higher acidity) so that will affect the efficiency of fermentation.  Add to that the sulfites, and things can get trickier.   Discussing these points in The Fresh Loaf forum, one of the bakers mentioned that when he adds wine to the dough the crumb of his bread gets tighter (indicating lower production of gas). For that reason,  he normally tweaks his recipes to lower the alcohol and increase the water.  Since in this case we are hoping for a nice red tint in the crumb, compromise is in order.  I’d say keep the recipe as it is, and see how your starter behaves with it.  Just for fun, I’ll try to find an organic red wine for my next “experiment”. Organic wines cannot have extra sulfites added,  so the levels of the chemical will be low, ranging from 10 to 20 ppm (parts per million).  Non-organic red wines often reach 125 ppm of sulfites or higher.

Even if the fermentation was not at its peak, this bread was delicious!  I love the slightly sweetness given by the cranberries.  My favorite match for the bread was a Maytag blue cheese, sharp and salty.   Next day, slightly toasted, it seemed even better!

plattercheese

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ONE YEAR AGO: Award-Winning Sourdough Baguettes

TWO YEARS AGO: Country Rye (Tartine)

THREE YEARS AGO: Penne a la Vechia Bettola

SESAME AND FLAXSEED SOURDOUGH

This  loaf of bread was made on a whim on a busy weekend mainly devoted to the lab. Tired of refreshing my starter and putting it back in the fridge, I decided that – no matter what – we would be having home-made bread on Super Bowl Sunday.  I had to cheat, though. The dough got spiked with some commercial yeast to speed up fermentation. Let’s hope the Wild Yeast Gods will have mercy on me…  ;-)
boule1

SESAME AND FLAXSEED SOURDOUGH
(inspired by Hamelman’s Bread)

Starter mix:
2.4 oz bread flour
3 oz water at room temperature
1 Tablespoon mature sourdough culture

Soaker:
1.5 oz flax seeds (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup water at room temperature

final dough:
12 oz bread flour
1.6 oz rye flour
2 oz sesame seeds, toasted
5.7 oz water
10 g salt
all the soaker
4.8 oz starter mix (you will have a small amount left)
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

Prepare the levain build 12-18 hours before making the final dough. Mix all ingredients and leave in a covered container at room temperature.  At the same time, make the soaker placing the flax seeds with water in a small bowl.  The seeds will expand quite a bit, so use a bowl that will allow that to happen without overflowing.

Next morning, make the final dough by mixing all the ingredients together in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer.  Mix on lowest speed for a couple of minutes.  Check the hydration level, adjust if necessary.  Increase speed to medium-low (level 3 of a KitchenAid), and mix for 3 to 4 minutes.

Let the dough ferment in a lightly oiled bowl for 2 and half hours, folding the dough twice at 50 minutes interval. After 2.5 hours, shape the dough as a ball and place in a suitable container for the final proofing.   My bread was ready to bake in 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Bake in a 450 F oven for 45 minutes. If baking covered to generate steam, remove the cover after 30 minutes.  Cool completely before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Whenever I bake a loaf of bread, I go into full scrutiny mode. I stare at the crust,  inspect the edge of the slashing,  and look for small blisters on the surface.  Then, after patiently waiting for the bread to cool,  I cut a slice and start the convoluted process of analyzing the crumb.  Phil knows better and allows me this important “bread-introspection” time before reaching to grab a piece. But, once he senses the green light, it never fails:  “This is good bread”.  Really, this bread is awesome!”   It gives me a thrill… I know he means it, and it puts all my bread scrutiny into perspective.   For instance, I had to stop beating myself up because the holes in the crumb did not organize into the pyramidal shape I love so much.  Oh, well… This is good bread.

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The flax seeds are visible, of course, but the sesame more or less disappears in the crumb. However, the flavor is there beyond any shadow of a doubt, and complements very well the small amount of rye and the hint of sourness.  Everyone watching the Super Bowl loved this loaf, some even preferred to turn the back to the TV and concentrate on it.  ;-)

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ONE YEAR AGO: Green Beans with Miso and Almonds

TWO YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

THREE YEARS AGO: White Bread