PANE DE CASA & CROSTINI

We were invited for a dinner party last Saturday, and I asked the hostess if I could take some homemade bread. Keep in mind that she had just returned from Paris and would be serving us, her lucky guests, an assortment of cheeses brought straight from the City of Light.  My mind was already set on this great post by Celia with a step-by-step tutorial for making her “pane de casa,” a variation of ciabatta. It seemed like a perfect option for the occasion.  Celia experimented and optimized a recipe that includes semolina flour in the dough with great success!  All I had to do was to follow in her footsteps…  😉

CELIA’s PANE DE CASA
(from Celia, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial blog)

500g (3½ cups) bakers/bread flour
500g (3½ cups) fine semolina (durum wheat) flour
7g (1¾ teaspoons) dried/instant yeast (or one sachet)
18g (2¾ teaspoons) fine sea salt
750g (3 cups) fridge cold water
rye flour, for dusting

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, yeast and salt.
Add the cold water, and mix the ingredients together to form a sticky dough. Really squelch the mix through your fingers until evenly combined. Scrape off your hand and cover the bowl with a towel. Allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Give the dough a quick knead in the mixing bowl – after the short rest time it will have relaxed a little. Just fold it over itself a dozen or so times, and then scrape your hand off again and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow to prove until well risen – this might take up to three hours depending on your kitchen conditions. In our kitchen the dough was ready in a little over 2 hours. It should be very airy and full of bubbles, almost fully doubled in size.

Heat the oven to 480 F (220 C). If you are using pizza stones, place them on the racks to heat up, and tear off four sheets of parchment paper. If you do not have pizza stones, line a couple of baking trays with parchment.

Heavily dust the bench and your hands with rye flour, then scrape the dough out gently – be careful not to knock all the air out of it. Fold the top of the dough into the middle, and then fold the bottom over to enclose it, forming a long rectangle. Keep your hands well dusted with rye flour, and use your scraper if necessary to help you handle the dough. Dust the top of the dough with more rye flour, then using your scraper, cut the dough into four roughly equal pieces. Dust your hands again with rye flour. Pick each piece of dough up by the ends, give it a little stretch, and then place it on a sheet of parchment to go onto the pizza stones, or onto the lined baking tray.

Spray the top of each loaf with a little water. Turn the oven down to 425 F (220 C) and put the loaves in to bake for 20 minutes. Then rotate the loaves (if you’re baking on stones, remove the parchment now) or the oven tray, and lower the heat to 350 F (125 C). Bake for a further 15 minutes, or until the loaves are crusty and hollow-sounding when tapped.

To make the crostini:
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch of dried herbs of your choice (I used herbes de Provence)

Mix the olive oil with the herbs.  Once the bread is completely cold (or next day), cut it in slices 1/4 inch thick. Brush the oil very lightly on both sides of the bread, and grill each side until nice marks form.  Give each slice a slight turn  after a couple of minutes to produce a crisscross pattern.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  As you can see in the photo, two of my loaves ended up lighter and the crust opened almost as if the bread had been scored (it had not). Those were baked exactly as Celia did, spraying a little water on the surface.  The other loaves were baked under an inverted roasting pan previously filled and empty of hot water to generate steam in the initial 20 minutes of baking.   The difference in the crust was quite amazing!   For this type of bread, I prefer the ones baked uncovered.  Their taste was very similar, and so was their crumb structure.

In theory, crostini is simply a toasted bread and could be made in the oven, but for me nothing beats the taste and texture provided by grilling.  The use of herbs is optional, I made half of our crostini plain, so we could have some flexibility with the different cheeses.

This is a wonderful bread, with a beautiful yellowish tint due to the semolina, that also makes it last longer than regular ciabatta. Even if you are a novice in bread baking, with Celia’s detailed instructions and photos, you’ll be able to bake it without problems.

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting

ONE YEAR AGO: Down-Home Dig-in Chili

TWO YEARS AGO: Cinnamon Rolls

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KOREAN BARBECUE BURGER

Coming back home to our kitchen was wonderful, of course, but coming back to my 6 shelves of cookbooks was almost as good!   Whenever I got tired of unpacking and organizing stuff, I would take a “cookbook-break” – not really opening any of them to avoid getting too distracted, but just looking at the titles and trying to remember my favorite recipes inside.  That led me to the shocking realization that quite a few books remain “uncooked from.”   One of my goals – which I intend to take without pressure – is to bring them to life in our kitchen. The first one was The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook, a colorful, fun book written by  Jaden Hair.  I’ve had it for a couple of years, inside I found a small card with quite a few page numbers market “to try soon.”  No one can say I lack good intentions.  😉

KOREAN BARBECUE-STYLE BURGER
(adapted from The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook)

1 + 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 Tsp finely minced garlic
2 Tbs minced ginger
2 + 1/2 Tbs soy sauce
2 + 1/2 Tbs brown sugar
3 Tbs finely minced green onions
3 tsp sesame seeds
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 hamburger buns

for the pickled veggies
1 cup matchstick cut carrots
1 cup matchstick cut cucumber
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
4 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar

Mix the ground beef with the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, brown sugar, green onion, sesame seeds, salt and pepper.   Try to mix it gently, but incorporating the ingredients well.   Divide the mixture in 4 equal portions and shape them as patties, making a small indentation in the center, as you see in this photo.   Let the meat rest while you prepare the quick veggie pickle by mixing  all the ingredients in a bowl. Wait 5-10 minutes and the pickle will be ready.

Cook the hamburger on a hot grill or on a frying pan with a little oil, for 5 to 6 minutes per side.  Serve with the carrot-cucumber pickle and other toppings of your choice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  My main modification in the recipe was to reduce a little the amount of garlic – in case you didn’t notice, we tend to use garlic with a lot more restraint than most cooks – and also the amount of ginger.  In her recipe, she used 3 tablespoons of ginger and we both thought even 2 Tbs was a little much, the ginger taste is quite pronounced.   If you are more of a purist when it comes to tasting the meat first, consider reducing it further.  The hamburger turns out moist, succulent, the brown sugar/soy imparts a beautiful color.

I had to refrain from eating the pickled carrot/cucumber by the spoonful.  Loved it!  It goes perfectly with the burger.  If you find good quality kimchi, consider that as a topping too.

Summer is hamburger season by definition, and the 4th of July is right at the corner, so this could be a nice change of pace for the usual burger, celebrating the melting pot of cultures this country is all about!

ONE YEAR AGO: A twist on pesto

TWO YEARS AGO:  When life gives you chard…

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AWESOME BROCCOLINI

Ah, the bliss, the joy, the thrill of a stove with hot burners!  Stir frying, and any  other cooking style that imparts a wonderful, golden brown color – promises of great flavor ahead – just can’t materialize without intense heat.  I look at the powerful flame on our stove, and discreetly wipe a tear from my eye … Some things get to me.  A big sink to wash dishes.  An oven with three racks and the capability of 500 F.  Stuff like that.  But, back to food.  I found  some organic broccolini at the grocery store.  It’s a great veggie, a perfect side dish for anything from poultry to seafood.  BTW, it’s not baby broccoli,  but a cross between broccoli and  kai-lan, a Chinese leafy cabbage.  The cross mellows the broccoli character, almost yielding the flavor of asparagus, which explains one of its alternative names: asparation (I’m glad this name didn’t stick!  ;-))

My take on broccolini is a slight departure from the stove-top version of broccoli that I posted a year ago.

BROCCOLINI WITH GINGER AND LEMON
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 small bunches of broccolini, preferably organic
2 tsp olive oil
red pepper flakes
1 tsp grated ginger
zest and juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
splash of water (if needed)

Heat the olive oil in a large stainless steel skillet (that will hold the veggies without crowding), when smoking hot add the red pepper flakes, swirl for a couple of seconds and immediately add all the broccolini. Do not move them around, let them get a nice brown color at the bottom. Season with salt and pepper. After a couple of minutes, add the ginger and lemon zest, and shake the pan to move the broccolini and coat well all sides with the ginger, lemon zest, and oil.

Cover the pan, let it cook for 2-3 minutes more, then add the lemon juice – test the broccolini with a fork to see if it’s done to your liking.  If it’s not, and the pan is too dry, add a splash of water and cover the pan again, checking after a minute.  Once it’s cooked al dente, transfer to a serving dish and…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  If you are anti-broccoli and think broccolini resembles it too much, please reconsider!  There’s absolutely none of the broccoli flavor/smell that many object to.  Avoid over cooking it, and buy young broccolini, with a bright green color and a firm flesh. This recipe is low in carbs and fat, but sky-high in flavor!  Lemon, ginger & red pepper flakes might very well be my favorite flavor mix right now: good on everything!

ONE YEAR AGO: Pizza! Pizza!

TWO YEARS AGO:  From Backyard to Kitchen

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ROASTED TOMATO SOUP

This post is a bit nostalgic, as this was the last recipe I made in the nano-kitchen, but we left L.A. before I had a chance to write it up. A very simple recipe designed with the idea of using ingredients hanging around before our departure from California. It turned out so delicious! Plus, it was a nice match for the weather we were having then. Now that the thermometers are wonderfully stuck in the high 90’s, the thought of soup is not particularly appealing, but this one would work equally well chilled.

ROASTED TOMATO SOUP
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

8-12 ounces of grape and/or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 shallots, cut in half
1 garlic clove, unpeeled
kalamata olive oil (or another olive oil of your choice)
splash of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
vegetable stock (or water)
2 Tbs orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
chives for garnish

Place the tomatoes, shallot pieces and garlic in a bowl and add enough olive oil to just coat them lightly. Transfer them to a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil or parchment paper, set the tomatoes with the cut size down. Sprinkle some salt and pepper all over, and a splash with balsamic vinegar.

Roast in a 425F oven for 20-25 minutes, until the tomato skins and the edges of the shallots start to get brown. Remove from the oven, let it all cool slightly, and using gloves peel off the skin of the tomatoes (you can leave them on if you don’t mind their texture in the soup). Squeeze the garlic out of its peel, and transfer it together with the tomatoes, shallots and any liquid accumulated in the pan to a food processor. Process it until smooth, pour into a sauce pan over medium heat, and add enough vegetable stock to give a consistency you like. Let it come to a gentle boil, add the orange juice, orange zest, taste for seasoning, and serve with chives sprinkled for garnish.

ENJOY!

                             to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I had a mixture of grape and cherry tomatoes that needed to be used, and a couple of yellow grape tomatoes went into the mix too. Feel free to improvise, nothing can go wrong with this soup: add different types of herbs, or go for a cumin or cayenne blast. I had planned to make some parmiggiano crisps to serve with the soup, but the electric burners in the nano-kitchen failed, and I was left with a big lump of cheesy mess. Once the weather cools, I’ll revisit this soup – cheese crisps included – and add some mushrooms to the roasting pan. I bet a roasted tomato & mushroom soup will be very flavorful.

ONE YEAR AGO: Turkey Meatballs

TWO YEARS AGO: Focaccia

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BEWITCHING KITCHEN TURNS TWO!

Two years of blogging!  Forgive the cliche’, but it does seem like yesterday.  😉  I’m a few days late for my own party, mainly because the move home wasn’t trouble free.  Our internet and cable services needed some tweaking, and then a tree fell on our bedroom roof during a hail storm!  We certainly can’t complain for lack of excitement!

And what’s more exciting  than Sally baking a layered cake?  My adrenaline level went sky-high, but, in the name of my blog anniversary,  I grabbed my wooden spoons and marched with cautious optimism to the Kitchen Aid.   Things quickly went downhill, but I managed to make the cake!

TUXEDO CAKE
(from The Pastry Queen, by Rebecca Rather)

For the cake batter:
4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 cups water
4 large eggs

For the whipped cream filling and frosting:
4 cups chilled whipping (heavy) cream
1¼ cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar

For the chocolate glaze:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
½ cup whipping (heavy) cream
¼ cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350o degrees F. Prepare three 9-inch cake pans: lightly grease the pans with butter, line with parchment paper and then lightly grease the top of the parchment paper and dust with flour.
In a large mixing bowl combine sugar, cocoa, flour, baking soda, and salt; whisk together to mix. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan combine butter, oil, and water. Heat over low heat until the butter is melted, stirring often. Pour the butter mixture into the sugar mixture. Using a Kitchen Aid type mixer on low speed, stir or whisk until combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula so the mixture blends evenly.  Add the eggs, one a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.  Finally, add the buttermilk and the vanilla extract, stirring well until smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a  toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place pans on a rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes then remove cake from the pans and place the cake on the wire cooling rack to finish cooling. Cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the whipping cream until soft mounds form; gradually add the powdered sugar, continue beating until thick and stiff.
Place one cake layer on a cake plate. Using an  offset spatula thickly spread some of the whipped cream over the top. Top with the remaining cake layers, coating the top of each with the whipped cream, and then covering the sides of the cake. Spread the cream as smooth as possible over the top and sides. Refrigerate the cake at least one hour to stabilize the whipped cream before glazing.

Chocolate Glaze:
Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a small heavy saucepan over medium low heat, heat the cream until it is hot and just beginning to steam. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate, stirring until the chocolate is completely melted. Add Lyle’s Golden Syrup and vanilla, stirring until completely mixed. Pour the chocolate mixture into a measuring cup with a pouring spout and let the glaze cool for 10 minutes, no longer than that. Slowly pour the glaze over the cake. Cover the top of the cake entirely, letting some of the glaze drizzle down the sides, and allowing some of the whipped cream show through the drizzles around the side of the cake. Refrigerate the cake until the glaze is set and the whipped cream frosting is firm, at least one hour.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  When I baked my first layer cake last year I had problems with small differences in the diameter of my 9-inch pans. Now that I am one year smarter,  I took one of my pans to the store and bought siblings pans of the exact same size.  After a deep breath I opened the book and got started preparing the pans and the batter.

Keep in mind that this is enough batter for three layers of cake. In other words, it’s A LOT of batter. The Kitchen Aid was almost full, and pretty heavy.  I poured some batter in the first pan, the second pan, the third pan. I was filling each one a little more when the bowl slipped from my hands into the center of one of the half-full pans!  Chocolate batter splashed everywhere, onto everything in its path, including my laptop’s charger (that had no business being on the countertop, what was I thinking?), the bag of flour, the carton of eggs…  the list goes on.     I confess to some pretty crass language that would extremely disappoint my mother.

The pans went in the oven, I cleaned up the kitchen chaos, and while washing my feet and flip-flops I told myself that only a good night’s sleep would purge my cake demons and prepare me for phase 2: the FROSTING.

What can possibly go wrong with whipped cream?  In theory, not much, especially because I make it so often. But, because this was intended to frost a cake, I immediately spilled the whipping cream as I poured it in the bowl, making a big mess.  My quick cleaning was apparently not thorough enough, requiring the additional help that you see here, from our puppy Oscar.  Our other dog Chief,  who’s been with us for 12 years, disappears from the kitchen whenever I bake, so Oscar went at it alone.

Apart from those “issues,”  the frosting and the icing went smoothly.  I decided to reduce the cake to two layers because it’s already so caloric. Three layers is just too much for us, in my humble opinion.  However, it tasted incredibly good: rich, chocolatey and succulent, so if you have a special occasion to celebrate, make this baby and get ready for the compliments…    😉

Now let’s have some fun on this anniversary celebration:
help me pick a cake for next year!  Just leave your suggestion in a comment (even if it involves that dreadful “cream sugar with butter step”) and I’ll conduct a random drawing to select my cake challenge for the the blog anniversary in June 2012.    You can include a link to a recipe, or just the name of the cake.

Thank you for hanging out with me for these two years of culinary adventures!

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SPICY KALAMATA SOURDOUGH

I cannot think of a better way to re-open the Bewitching Kitchen than a loaf of sourdough bread!  My sourdough starter was refreshed the day before we left L.A., and a small amount came with us in the car.  One more refreshment once we arrived, and I was back in business. Instead of using a recipe from a book, I adapted a basic formula, adding three ingredients that remind me of our times in L.A.

1. Kalamata olives, because we went through countless bottles of the very affordable and delicious  Trader Joe’s pitted Kalamatas.  We brought a bottle with us, it will be a sad day when it’s finished now that we don’t have a Trader Joe’s 3 miles from home.

2. Red pepper flakes, because quite a few of our friends in L.A. were heavy into hot and spicy food (and drinks!).  The more we hang out with them, the more we got into pepper ourselves.

3. Fresh rosemary,   because it grew wild around our neighborhood.  In fact, on our second week in L.A., I was staring at a huge plant near our house, when the owner of the home came out and said hello.  I asked, in disbelief – “Is this rosemary”?  – she smiled, and told me to get some whenever I wanted, as evidently the plant was threatening to overtake her property!  😉

So, here is my take on a sourdough to bring a little of L.A. into our kitchen.


SPICY KALAMATA SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

200g (ml) water at room temperature
142g  sourdough starter (at 100% hydration)
1/4 tsp instant yeast
280g bread flour
85g dark rye flour
9 g salt
3/4 cup kalamata olives (cut in half)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbs fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

Dissolve the starter and the instant yeast in the water in a large bowl.  Add the flour, mix to incorporate (or use a Kitchen Aid type mixer for a couple of minutes on low speed), then cover with a plastic wrap and allow it to sit for 20 minutes undisturbed.

Sprinkle the salt on top, and mix by gentle kneading or with the mixer for a few more minutes.  Once the salt is incorporated, add the olives, red pepper, and rosemary, and knead by hand or with the mixer (again in low speed).

Let the dough rise for 3 hours, with quick kneading cycles at 40 min, 1h 20 min, and 2 hours (timing is pretty flexible, no need to pay too close attention to it).  Shape the dough into a round, place in a banetton or other appropriate container with the seam up.  Let it rise for 3 hours, until almost doubled in size, and with an airy feeling as you gently press the surface of the dough.

Bake in a 450F oven,  covered for the first 30 minutes, then uncover and lower the temperature to 425F for the remaining time.  If you have a favorite method to create steam, use it in the initial baking. I prefer to use a roasting pan previously filled with water, emptied of the water and quickly inverted on top of the loaf as my steam source.

Let the bread completely cool on a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Wild yeast purists, forgive me, because I cheated.  Yes, I admit, I added commercial yeast to this bread.  It turns out that I baked it the day after arriving home, and my schedule for that day was a bit iffy.  I wanted to make sure the bread would be ready to bake before too late.  Also, I was hoping for a crumb  a little more tight, to use the bread for sandwiches, so I proofed a little less and reduced the number of kneading cycles.


The bread has intense olive flavor, and a nice hint of heat every now and then.   The rosemary flavor was not as strong as I had hoped for,  so next time I’ll increase that amount.   A delicious bread, fantastic as an open face sandwich with a slice of ham, cheese, tomato slices, and a run under the broiler.

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event…

and you can also see it on Tastespotting

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MAJESTIC SEDONA

Our long road home passed through Sedona, where we and our dogs rested for a day before facing the second day of travel, a grueling 13 hour drive to our final destination.  We’ve been to Sedona a few times before so we know what a fantastic place it is, surrounded by awe-inspiring red-rock canyons  that create a mystical atmosphere all their own.  It’s hot in the summer, but the altitude tempers the dry heat and a cool breeze  blows after sunset.  Sedona is a hip town,  with art, healing vortexes , great food, and lots of outdoorsy, hippie folks.  Wherever you look you’ll see bronze suntans and beautiful legs,  from lots of mountain hiking. We were re-energized the moment we completed the winding descent from Flagstaff to Sedona.  It’s not a drive for the faint of heart, but it’s worth every mile… so beautiful!

How could we not feel re-energized in such a setting?

The last evening in Sedona found me worrying about the drive home.  Will the dogs be OK? Will the drive be too hot?  Will the car break down in the middle of nowhere?  I was contemplating these issues in the backyard with a couple of dogs close by competing for attention, unaware of my state of mind.  Suddenly, the most amazing and long-lasting shooting star crossed the sky in front of me!  It was so brilliant that I lost my breath for a few seconds and couldn’t say a word, but when I finally screamed for Phil the show was over.  I’ve seen many  shooting stars in the past, but none like my Sedona Shooting Star.  I’m not a mystical person, quite the contrary, but the beautiful view of that meteor crossing North to South soothed my mind.  It was a good omen for the remaining journey home.   And home is where we are…

…with the Bewitching Kitchen back in full swing, so stay tuned for recipes!   😉

ONE YEAR AGO:  Caipirinhas

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