BBA#25: PIZZA NAPOLETANA

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I was looking forward to this recipe, because for years I’ve been making pizza dough from a recipe published in Fine Cooking;  the BBA Challenge gave me the impetus to try something different.   Interestingly enough, my usual method is similar to Peter Reinhart’s, but it takes a little less olive oil, and is made in seconds (literally) in the food processor.

Reinhart’s recipe uses a regular mixer (or hand kneading) to make the dough, that then goes into the refrigerator for 1 day.  Two hours before making the pizza, he brings the balls of dough to room temperature.  In the book you’ll see a photo of Peter himself throwing the dough up in the air like a pro. I was looking forward to giving it a try, but my dough was just too uncooperative.   As I prefer to avoid  wearing the food that I’m cooking, I stretched it with my hands instead. 😉

Without further ado, some pictures of my pizza adventure!

The dough is supposed to stick to the bottom of the mixer, never clearing it completely…

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I made four balls of dough with the full recipe….

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And after spending the night in the fridge, they came back for a final rise at room temperature…  very soft and bubbly-looking…

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Some of the ingredients we chose: mushrooms, tomatoes, black olives, sliced ham, fresh basil…  plus the usual suspects (homemade tomato sauce & mozzarella cheese)

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Ready for the oven, a mushroom and black olive concoction….

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The pizza was good, but both me and my resident food critic prefer the Fine Cooking recipe, which I’ll describe on my blog in the near future.

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I should point out that most of the bakers loved this recipe, and you can check two of them at these links:

for “The Other Side of Fifty”, click here….

For TxFarmer and her take on a pine nuts pizza, click here….

Twenty-five recipes down, only eighteen to go!

A CLASSIC ROAST CHICKEN

From Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home

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I confess to a love-hate relationship with roasted chicken: Love to eat it, hate to make it, because some recipes that promised “the best roast chicken you’ll ever eat” gave me only grievance instead.   Here are two examples.  One famous recipe calls for blasting the bird in a 500F  oven, which made an unbelievable mess, set off every smoke alarm in the house, and left a lingering smell of roast chicken for days.   I also fell for a recipe that insisted the best way to roast a chicken is to first sear it in a frying pan, and then move  it into a hot oven.  That method resulted in both the stove AND the oven covered in oily splatter.  I dealt with it in the hope of  “… the best ever“, but… it wasn’t.

Every recipe in Keller’s book makes me want to jump to the kitchen to start working on it, so I couldn’t resist his take on roast chicken.   I’m glad that I didn’t, it was simple to prepare and finished with a happy ending.  This recipe is a full  meal in itself:  you’ll have a nice roast chicken, crispy and moist, with a bonus side dish accompanying it.  It was satisfying home-cooking at its best.

(para receita em portugues, clique aqui)

ROAST CHICKEN WITH ROOT VEGETABLES
(adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc)

1 whole chicken, preferably organic (4 – 4.5 pounds)
2 cloves garlic, mashed
fresh thyme sprigs
salt and pepper
3 rutabagas
2 turnips
6 carrots
12 small yellow or red new potatoes
1/3  cup canola oil
4 T butter at room temperature or 2 T duck fat
1/2 lemon

If you are particularly fond of crispy skin, leave the bird uncovered  in the fridge for a couple of days.  Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 1.5 hours before roasting (important step, don’t skip it).

Heat the oven to 475F.

Season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper, add the garlic, 4 thyme sprigs, and the lemon half in the cavity.  For a nicer presentation, truss the chicken (see how to do it here, but you may omit this step if you prefer – read my comments).

Cut the rutabagas and turnips in similar sized pieces, about 3/4 inch wedges. Cut the carrots in half crosswise and again lengthwise. Keep the young potatoes whole, or, if they are a bit too big cut them in half.  Place all veggies in a large bowl, add  1/4 cup of canola oil,  2-3 thyme sprigs, salt, pepper, and toss well.  Transfer them to a roasting pan, make a small space in the center to place the chicken.  Rub the remaining canola oil all over the skin of the chicken, seasoning it again with salt and pepper.

Just before roasting, add pats of butter over the breast, or brush with some duck fat (it gives a deeper flavor to the chicken,).

Roast at 475F for 25 minutes, lower the temperature to 400F and roast for 1 hour, but check the internal temperature after 45 minutes, if it reaches 160F remove the chicken from the oven.  Allow the chicken to rest under an aluminum foil tent for 20 minutes before carving.

A few minutes before serving, place the roasting dish on the stove and heat the vegetables, moving them around to coat with the juices accumulated during roasting.

Enjoy!

to print the recipe, click here


Jump for final comments and additional photos

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BBA#24: PANETTONE

Here we are, at bread number 24 of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge, started by Nicole from “Pinch My Salt“. Read all about it here.

Panettone, the traditional Italian fruit bread, is very popular in two of my former homes, Sao Paulo and Paris, during Christmas.  I wish I could say it brings back fond memories of childhood, but the truth is that I never cared for it. In my memory, panettone was a dry, chalky bread with hardened pieces of fruit in the crumb.  What can I say?  I was a difficult child. 😉

Nevertheless, Peter Reinhart says that this recipe, which is more involved than most, produces the best panettone in the world.  I was a bit skeptical, but gathered up all the ingredients and hoped for the best.

Was it good?  Oh, YESSS!  The best in the world?  Well, I haven’t sampled that many, but my husband considers himself a panettone connoisseur, and he and I agreed that this was the best we’ve ever had, by far. The crumb was moist and velvety, with the right amount of fruit and sweetness, plus that unmistakable hint of “fiori di Sicilia“, the extract that gives panettone its characteristic holiday flavor. It was impossible to eat just a single slice of this bread…and we shouldn’t have brought out the butter…in a few minutes nearly half the loaf was gone!  The other half will make some graduate students very happy tomorrow!

This is it!  The panettone for this year’s holidays!

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The recipe needs advance planning, as it uses a wild yeast sponge (mixture of water, flour, and a sourdough starter) as part of the final dough.  The fruits soak in rum, orange and fiore di sicilia extracts overnight.  The process went smoothly, my loaf is a little shallow because since I didnn’t have a 6-inch pan, mine was 7.5 inches in diameter.

This is the wild yeast sponge ready to go into the dough…. sponge2

Dried fruits soaking in rum, orange and fiore de sicilia extracts

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The dough smells wonderful from the very beginning….

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Ready to go into the oven…

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Just out of the oven…

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Check out the panettone posts by other bakers following along the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge:

Oggi, from I Can Do That

Mags, from “The Other Side of Fifty”

TxFarmer, from Sina.blog

BRAZILIAN PAO DE QUEIJO: Love at first bite!

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If you happen to know any Brazilians leaving abroad, ask them to name the five foods that they miss the most. I’m willing to bet that “pao de queijo” (little cheese bread) makes the list. Some might even shed a tear or two thinking about it.

 

Originally from the beautiful state of Minas Gerais, they are made with a farmer’s type cheese, quite unique (Minas’ cheese, read about it here).   Brazilian cheese bread  is so popular that nowadays you can buy it in stores all over the country called ‘Casa do Pao de Queijo” (Home of the Cheese Bread),  or as a dry mix, in colorful bags available at most grocery stores. I’ve lost track of how many such bags we’ve stuffed in our luggage coming back from annual trips to visit family and friends.

Last year I found a recipe for pao de queijo  published by Fer,  in her blog Chucrute com Salsicha. She is  a  Brazilian-American like myself, and she raved about them. When things like pao de queijo are on the line, Brazilians attentively listen to each other… At least three Brazilian bloggers back this recipe.  Try it, you’ll love it

BRAZILIAN CHEESE BREAD
(adapted from Fer, original recipe from Neide)

1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup farmer’s cheese (see comments)
1 T Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
1/2 tsp salt

for topping (optional)
fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
kosher salt

Add all ingredients, except those for the topping, into a blender.  Blend very well at full speed, stopping a couple of times to scrape the surface of the blender’s cup, making sure no bits of tapioca starch are left unmixed.

The mixture will be a little thinner than pancake batter.  Pour the batter in mini-muffin tins, to no more than  3/4 of their capacity,  as shown here.  The recipe makes 24 little cheese breads.

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Add a little bit of salt and rosemary on top, place in a 400F oven, and cook for 20 minutes.

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Most will come out right away without sticking.  If some stick slightly, allow them to cool for a few minutes and probe them out gently with the tip of a knife.

ENJOY!

 

to print the recipe, click here

 

Comments: In the original recipe, Neide was trying to mimic little cheese breads she had at a restaurant in Rio de Janeiro. She used exclusively Parmigiano cheese in the batter.   I’ve  made this recipe many times,  and now settled on a combination of two cheeses: a melting type, preferably Mexican, and a small amount of Parmigiano to sharpen the taste.  Of course, depending on the type of cheese, adjust the salt.  In this batch I did not add any rosemary, but please do so, it is perfect with it.

They resemble popovers in texture, but are gluten-free, so folks with gluten allergies can still enjoy them!

Now, allow me to share a couple of photos sent by Mia, a reader of my blog who just made a batch!  In her version, the mixture ended up with a firmer texture, so she was able to roll them as little balls, which I must say made them a lot more “authentic-looking”.   Awesome job!

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Mia, thanks so much for trying one of my favorite Brazilian recipes, and for sending the photos and allowing me to publish them…   Now I am craving “pão de queijo” again…..

CAULIFLOWER SOUP, All Dressed Up!

This is the first recipe I cooked from Thomas Keller’s new book “Ad Hoc“.  He calls it “Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Red Beet Chips.” Fair enough, but I wish the name was a bit more catchy, because the recipe sure deserves it.  😉
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I’ve made many types of cauliflower soup, from simple versions (cauliflower, onions and water) to involved interpretations in which the cauliflower is first roasted, then paired with different spices, truffle oil, etc…. you get the picture.

Thomas Keller’s recipe takes the soup to a new level. Not only because the red chips refine its look, but because it also tastes refined. You’ll swoon over the first spoonful, and then wonder if any other mix of flavors could work so well together.

CREAM OF CAULIFLOWER SOUP with RED BEET CHIPS
(adapted from Keller’s “Ad Hoc”)

1 head of cauliflower
2 T butter
3/4 cup chopped yellow onions
1/8 tsp curry powder (I used hot curry from Penzey’s)
kosher salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 + 1/2 cups water
peanut oil for frying beet chips
1 beet
1 tsp white vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
black pepper, freshly ground

Make the soup….
Remove the leaves and core of the cauliflower, separate about 1 cup of good-looking florets, not larger than a quarter, and reserve them.  Chop the rest of the cauliflower in chunks of similar size.  Melt 1.5 T of butter in a large saucepan, add the chopped onions, curry powder, and cauliflower, sprinkle 1 tsp salt, and cover the whole mixture with parchment paper, making a “false lid” right on top of the cauliflower.  Cover the saucepan with its regular lid, cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower starts to get tender.

Remove the parchment paper, add milk, cream, and water to the pan, and simmer, skimming the foam every now and then, for 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender (I did it in three batches), and blend until fully smooth.  Adjust the seasoning.

Make the red beet chips….
Peel the beet (wear gloves) and make paper-thin slices using a mandoline. Ideally, you want to use only nice, full circles (good luck!).  Heat the peanut oil (about 1 inch of oil in a deep pan), and once it is hot but not smoking, add a few beet rounds. Fry them until they stop bubbling hard, it should take a little over 1 minute. Place them on a baking sheet over paper towels, seasoning with a little salt right after frying.  If needed, keep them warm in a 200F oven.

Cook the reserved florets….
Bring some salted water to a boil, add the teaspoon of vinegar, and cook the reserved florets until tender, about 5 minutes.  Drain them.  Right before serving, melt the remaining 1/2 T butter in a small pan and allow it to get dark golden. Watch it carefully, because burned butter is nasty, and tastes bitter. Once the butter is turning a nice golden brown, add the florets and saute them until golden too.

Serve the soup….
If the soup is too thick, thin it with a little water.  Ladle it into a bowl, add some cauliflower florets in the center, and a few beet chips on top.  Serve more florets and chips alongside.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here.

Comments: My only modifications were to slightly reduce the amount of heavy cream, and omit the croutons called for in the original recipe. Keller recommends serving a few chips on the soup itself, and the rest on a separate plate, because they may get soggy. I actually didn’t find that a problem: they released a bit of red juice into the velvety soup, creating a nice visual appeal, and they weren’t soggy to the point of losing their texture.

You’ll notice that he uses a false parchment lid over the veggies, an important step.  The dish has little liquid at that point, basically only some moisture released by the onions – by using the parchment “lid”, you lock the moisture in, and at the same time the curry becomes nicely toasted and permeates the cauliflower more efficiently.

Making the beet chips was an adventure… The book shows a photo of Thomas Keller in a pristine looking kitchen, with perfect rounds of chips resting on a baking sheet, well organized in perfect rows. It made me feel… let’s say…. a little inadequate…   My kitchen looked like the set of a horror movie, red beet juice everywhere, and carbonized chips begging for the trash can to end their misery.  Oh, well – at least I managed to get enough chips to serve to the two of us.

This is a classy soup, so if you are into soup shots to open a dinner party, it could be a fine option.

para receita em portugues, veja a proxima pagina

BBA#23: PANE SICILIANO

I’ve made this bread about a year ago, and it didn’t turn out very good, so I was not exactly thrilled to make it this weekend for the BBA Challenge.  It takes three days from beginning to end, on the first day you make a pate fermentee, on the second day you make the dough and shape the bread, put it in the fridge overnight and bake next morning.
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My pictures tell you two things: first, I had problems shaping the dough, instead of a nice S shape, it got kind of bulky. Second , the bread had almost zero oven spring (a term used by bakers referring to how much the bread rises during baking).  My loaves ended up quite small, a problem that also happened to Paul (you can check his website following a link at the end of my post).

It tasted ok, but not great, a little too dry for my taste. I don’t think I’ll be making it again.

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Check out the loaves made by my virtual friends ahead of me in the BBA Challenge:

Paul….

Carolyn

Oggi

Joelen

Mags

and TxFarmer

Next in this baking journey: panettone! Looking forward to it…