BBA#15: ITALIAN BREAD

IMG_2097

Fifteen breads down, twenty-eight to go…

Once more I should say that all recipes from the challenge can be found here, a must-have book for any serious (or beginner) bread baker.

Reinhart’s Italian Bread is quite similar to the previous one (French Bread), except that it takes a “biga” instead of a “poolish”. No need to run away all scared, those are terms to describe the pre-mixture of flour, water, and yeast, that generally ferments for 24 hours before being used in the final dough. Usually a “biga” is firmer (contains less water).

For this bread, I changed the method of kneading. Instead of adding the dough to the Kitchen Aid and watching the machine do its job, I kneaded it myself, but used my favorite method: folding. I put the advice from bakers over at “The Fresh Loaf” to work, folding the dough twice, at 40 and 80 minutes, then forming a “boule” at 120 minutes. One more hour rising, and into the oven it went. These pictures show the second folding (made in two directions), and the “boule” right after shaping. Notice how bubbly it was, even before the final rise.
composite1

After 1 hour at room temperature, the dough rose about 1.5X of its original size, as expected. It had a spongy texture, airy and light. It lost some of it when I dumped it into my clay pot, but not much. It had good enough oven spring to recover.
finalboule

This bread is spectacular, the crumb has excellent texture, the crust is not too hard, not too soft, just right. As my husband put it, “it is not very easy to stop eating it”. Indeed. It was a wise decision to make half the recipe, because there is only so much running one can do. 😉
IMG_2095

A final shot of the crumb…

crumb

Friday Night Dinner

Fridays are wonderful! We’d like to plan a special dinner that opens the door to the weekend, but, let’s face it, Friday is still a work day. So, coming up with a special meal is challenging. If you suffer from this “Friday Night Dilemma”, let me rescue you with a simple dish that delivers great flavor, elegance and a wonderful ending to your week.
Medallions1

PORK MEDALLIONS WITH MUSTARD-CAPER SAUCE
(adapted from Simple Recipes, recipe originally published in Bon Appetit)

1 lb pork tenderloin, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 white onion, finely diced
1 cup chicken broth (homemade if possible!)
4 Tbsp whipping cream
3 Tbsp drained capers
2 Tbps good quality mustard

If your pork slices are not even, use a mallet to gently pound them into 1/2 inch thickness. Season with salt and black pepper. Melt the butter in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork to the skillet and sauteé until it’s brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Remove pork slices to another plate as you proceed to make the sauce.

Add the diced onions to the skillet and stir for about 1 minute. Add chicken broth and cream. Boil until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon, stirring up the browned bits. It should take a little over 5 minutes. Mix in the capers and mustard; return the pork to the sauce. Simmer the mixture until the pork is heated through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

ENJOY!

Serves 3. (original recipe says it serves 4, but we respectfully disagree…)

jump for more photos and a few comments

Continue reading

Good Article Alert

This article appeared today on the New York Times, and might be interesting to those who “sometimes” might buy too many berries… 😉

It describes using a very hot water bath before storing the fruit, substantially reducing spoilage by molds. We are definitely trying it soon.

To read the whole article, click here

TERIYAKI CHICKEN THIGHS

This is a special recipe for me, because it’s from the first cookbook I ever bought here in the US, back in 1986, when my English was poor and my cooking not much better.  Since then, I moved between different countries a few times, but always managed to take this cookbook with me.   Ironically enough, it is not one of those “classic” cookbooks, but a simple, down to earth publication from Sunset called “Easy Basics for Good Cooking” (first published in 1982). My copy shows the passing of the years, with stains marking many of the recipes that I cooked again and again ;-).    Maybe it’s not the fanciest cookbook in the world, but whenever I pick it up I cherish the memories,  remembering how I was nervous  trying to translate everything correctly, to find the right ingredients, and to cook a nice meal.  Allow me to share with you a recipe that I’ve made so many times, in so many different settings, that I could probably make it with my eyes closed.

IMG_2065

TERIYAKI CHICKEN THIGHS
(adapted from Easy Basics for Good Cooking)

8 chicken thighs
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
3 T honey
2 t grated fresh ginger
3 T dry sherry (see comments)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 t red pepper flakes

Place the chicken in a plastic bag or bowl. Combine all the other ingredients to form a marinade, mixing them well to fully dissolve the honey. Seal the bag or cover the bowl, and refrigerate from 4 to 24 hours.

Remove chicken from marinade and place all pieces skin side down in a single layer. Pour some of the marinade over them, to reach the level of the bottom fourth of the layer (see photo after the jump). Bake, covered with aluminum foil in a 325F oven for 1.5 hours. Remove the foil, turn the chicken pieces skin side up, and bake at 425F for 20 minutes more. If you like a particularly crispy skin (we do!) turn the broiler on and watch carefully, as the honey from the marinade might burn.

Serve it with white rice and some sauteed vegetable (baby bok choy is also perfect!).

Enjoy!

jump for additional comments and photos….

Continue reading

BBA#14: FRENCH BREAD

FB2

Another bread I was looking forward to! We arrived from the other side of the world a little tired, but after a nice shower I grabbed the book and prepared  “pate fermentee”. It’s a fancy name for a simple thing: flour, salt, yeast, and water, kneaded together, allowed to rise for one hour and placed in the fridge overnight.

French bread is reasonably easy to make, but tricky to shape, as the dough contains a high proportion of water. Refrain from adding too much flour and you are half the way there.

These photos show the complete dough (pate fermentee’ + more flour, salt, yeast and water) before and after rising for 2 hours at room temperature.  I cut the dough into three pieces, shaped as baguettes, taking care to deflate it as little as possible.

FB1

The baguettes rise one more time, at least 45 minutes, then go into a 500F oven. I need more practice shaping baguettes, but overall I think they worked quite well.

IMG_2039FBfirst

FBcrumb

The crumb is not very open, but the bread has excellent flavor and texture.  They were a nice complement to our dinner tonight!

Dining out on Oahu: 21 Degrees North

Vacations are an amazing, revitalizing, much needed break, but some things are a bit tricky when away from our cozy home.  Like cooking, which is not that easy in someone else’s kitchen.  After several days of “not-exactly-home-cooking” in a bungalow close to Waimea Beach, we treated ourselves to a dinner last night at  “21 Degrees North,” in the Turtle BayResort.  The name reflects its location on the planet, at 21 degrees north of the Equator.  What a gorgeous setting, we had a table window overlooking the ocean, totally romantic…

turtlebayskyNEW

Not to detract from the aura, the restaurant lightning was dim,  which meant bad news for blogging.  But, my husband managed to snap a few reasonably good photos (thanks, honey!).  First, the appetizer that we shared, foie gras potstickers, joining two of my favorite things in the gastronomical world.

FoiGrasPotSticker1

His main course was a  crab-crusted Hawaiian sea bass served over mixed beans and sauteed spinach, in a lemongrass coulis. Very delicious, with a quite stunning presentation…

CrabCrustedSeaBass

I had a fantastic pepper-seared ahi tuna, cooked to perfection (nearly raw inside…), served over thin ribbons of zucchini, carrots,  and summer squash in a miso sauce, with corn crisps (think about a thin corn pancake, crisp on the outside, tender and creamy inside).  Sorry, no pictures of my dish.

Their signature dessert is a chocolate souffle with creme anglaise, a classic that was scrumptious.

ChocSouffle1

And to keep the touristic chronicle going, here are a few photos from the last couple of days,
click to enlarge them.

Turtle Bay

IMG_1957

Surfing lessons at Turtle Bay – yes, I was a little tempted…. 😉

IMG_1956

Waimea Beach, our favorite

DSCN2779

A tree, with fruits and amazing seed pods… called “Autograph Tree” (thanks for the info, Rhea!)

IMG_2002

they do look like some extra-terrestrial beings!  Amazing!
(make sure to click on this last photo to enlarge it)

IMG_2003