KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON

When we worked in Los Angeles last year, on one of our many walks through the city with Phil’s son Casey and his partner Carly, we found a cool poster for sale at a store, and bought it to send to our students while we were away.   The message seemed quite appropriate, not only because we were far from our own lab at the time, but also because research can have many downs and not too many ups… 😉

Carly just sent me a link with the story behind our poster.  It’s amazing that it struck a nerve for us; we had no idea of its historical relevance.  Now we are overjoyed with the purchase, and we will cherish the message forever.   A simple message for life. Keep calm, and carry on!

Thank you, Carly!

AWARD-WINNING SOURDOUGH BAGUETTES

It was bound to happen.   Once I felt comfortable shaping baguettes, I went on the pursue of a recipe for a sourdough version. My number one source of inspiration for all things related to bread is Susan’s Wild Yeast, and this recipe charmed me right away.  Award-winning sourdough baguette version?  I am sold!   First thing I did was to drop an email to Samuel Fromartz, the writer-turned-baker behind the recipe,  asking for permission to publish his very detailed method.  To my delight, he replied within a few minutes, and we exchanged a few messages, in which I got great tips to improve steaming during baking  (I will test his method this weekend).   Sam Fromartz is currently working on a book about grains, bakers and bread for Viking/Penguin. So, if you are like me, and cannot have enough info on the subject, check his website for the development of his project.  I know I will…  😉

FROMARTZ BAGUETTE TRADITIONAL
(recipe published with permission from Samuel Fromartz)
(read original article at Chewswise blog)

Makes four baguettes

90 grams sourdough starter (at 100% hydration)
420 grams water
590 grams flour (I used King Arthur Organic All Purpose Flour)
10 grams whole wheat flour
13 grams sea salt
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast (I used  SAF Instant Yeast)
Olive oil to grease bowl
cornmeal to dust cutting board

FIRST DAY
Pour starter and yeast into bowl and add water, mixing until the starter breaks up a bit.  Add flours and salt and mix for a couple of minutes. The dough will be heavy and shaggy. Let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes, covered with plastic.

Rub the surface where you will knead the dough with a tiny amount of olive oil to prevent the dough from sticking (great tip originally from Dan Lepard).  Use a scraper to move dough onto the counter and begin to knead by stretching and folding dough, trying to use your finger tips.

After kneading for 5 minutes, scrape mass into a clean bowl or plastic bin. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.

Oil the counter again if necessary and remove dough to counter. Stretch it until 1-inch thick then fold top and bottom in thirds like a letter. Do the same type of folding, coming from left to right. Put dough back in the bowl, cover, let it  rest for 20 minutes.

Remove from bin, fold again, and put back in a covered bowl for 20 minutes.

Remove from bin, fold again for the third and final time. Clean the bowl, oil lightly (with 2 tsp olive oil), and put dough back inside. Cover and place in refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.

SECOND DAY
Place baking stone or quarry tiles in middle of oven. Place a thick rimmed cookie sheet or cast iron pan on oven floor or lower shelf. Heat oven to 470F (245 C).

Put a little olive oil in your palm and oil a 20-by-20 inch (50 x 50 cm) section of the counter. Remove dough from container. Cut dough in half. Put half back in container and into refrigerator. Cut dough into two rectangular pieces (about 250 grams each) and gently stretch into rectangles 5-by-7 inches (13-by-18 cm) with the long edge facing you.  Cover with light towel and let rest for 5 minutes.

While dough is resting, cut parchment paper large enough to fit your baking stone. Dust paper with flour. Dust  a couche (or kitchen towels) lightly with flour.

Shape dough into a log by folding top and bottom of rectangle toward middle and gently sealing the seam with thumb. Then fold top to meet the bottom and seal seam. You should have a log about 1.5 to 2 inches thick (4 to 5 cm). Gently roll and stretch into a 14-inch loaf (36 cm) or just under the size of your baking stone.

Place each loaf on parchment paper about six inches apart, seam side down. Place one rolled up towel underneath the paper between the loaves and one under each other edge, supporting their shape.  Cover with light kitchen towel and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Put 2/3 cup water in measuring cup and bring to a boil in the microwave.

Carefully move the paper with the loaves onto a flour-dusted overturned cookie sheet or cutting board. Dust top of loaves very lightly with flour. Use a bench scraper to gently adjust the loaves and straighten them out.

Make four cuts on the top of the loaf with a razor blade, 1/4-inch deep, running lengthwise on the dough. A swift slash at a sharp 20-degree angle works best. Take cutting board and slide parchment paper with baguettes onto hot baking stone. Shut oven door. Open door, and carefully pour 2/3 cup water onto cookie sheet or cast iron pan. Be very careful if using boiling water. Shut door. Do not open the oven again while baking.

Check baguettes after 18 to 20 minutes. They should be dark brown and crusty. If pale, continue baking for 1 to 2 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes on rack before eating. They are best eaten within 6 hours.

While baguettes are baking, form the remaining dough into loaves or leave for up to 24 hours and make fresh loaves the following day.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

for a streamlined version, click here

Comments:  To read the fascinating story behind perfecting  this recipe, check Sam’s write up about it here.

If you are a novice in baking bread, baguettes can be tricky, but you can find very detailed discussions about this particular recipe in his blog about it.  Don’t forget to read the comments, because they contain a lot of useful, additional information.  Sometimes little details we read  en passant  might mean the difference between failure and success.

I absolutely loved this recipe!   Handling a dough from the fridge is quite a bit easier than at room temperature (about 78 F), I had no problems shaping the loaves and going for their final stretch.   I will be playing with this recipe for a while,  using it to practice my slashing technique (just got a new blade, per my friend Gary’s recommendation), and baking with steam.  The baguettes had a complex “feel”,  with very delicate sourdough flavor, open crumb, and a hearty crust.  I know that when I overcome the steaming problem they will be even better… stay tuned, friends… stay tuned…

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

ONE YEAR AGO: Meet our Lab (Lab = laboratory, not Labrador Dog… ;-))

TWO YEARS AGO: My New Favorite Tomato Sauce

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IT ALL STARTED WITH A ROOF

Back in 1999, when Phil and I were dating, his house was in desperate need of a new roof. While in college, he worked as a roofer to make some cash, so he was set on doing it all himself and asked if I’d be interested in helping “a little”. Of course, that meant I had to overcome my intense fear of heights, which was not easy. The first time I managed to go all the way up the ladder, I froze.  I could not bring myself to take the final step up on the roof, and I could not come down either! The impasse seemed to last for an eternity, much to the amusement of a couple of neighbors watching the scene. I vaguely remember some screaming on my part.  But, as you can see from the photos, I came, saw, and conquered! 😉

My job was to pull the old shingles and remove the tar paper underneath. Each shingle revealed an army of spiders running away in panic. A panic at first closely matched by my own, but within a couple of hours I barely even noticed them. A considerable amount of Aleve and sunscreen were consumed during those summer months, in which me, Phil, and his twin sons worked very very hard under the intense Oklahoman sun.

Phil installed the new, gorgeous roof, and I helped him roll out the new tar paper, and nail it in place. The evening after we finished the job, as we crashed on the sofa, absolutely exhausted, he popped the question “Will you marry me”?

March 07th, 2012.

Twelve extremely happy years married to my best friend, co-worker, running buddy, golf instructor… I look forward to the next twelve, and many more!  😉

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WATERCRESS SALAD

In case you haven’t noticed, I have a weak spot for words. I fall in love with certain words (no matter what’s the idiom) the very first time I hear or read them.  Watercress is one of those.  I just love to say it, and I love to see it written with the twin s’s at the end shushing along hand in hand.  And I also love the veggie, but where we live it’s hard to find.  Plus, when we do find watercress it’s pricey, and sold in plastic containers that require a degree in Puzzle Solving to open. It’s precious stuff!  When I found a carton at the grocery store the other day I gently placed it in my cart, hurried home and made a salad that received intense nods of approval from all guests. Full disclosure: there were two guests, me and my beloved.   😉

WATERCRESS SALAD WITH GINGER VINAIGRETTE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

Watercress, preferably young leaves
Orange segments
1 avocado, sliced
cherry tomatoes, cut in half, lightly salted
squeeze of lemon juice

for ginger vinaigrette
1/8 cup rice vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp grated ginger (or use 1 Dorot cube)
salt and black pepper to taste
1/8 cup grapeseed oil

Start by making the vinaigrette.  Dissolve the sugar in the rice vinegar, add the ginger, salt, and pepper, and whisk.  Leave it at room temperature for 10 minutes while you prepare the salad.    Right before dressing the salad, you will add the oil, form an emulsion by vigorously mixing it.

Cut the avocado and sprinkle the slices with lemon juice to prevent oxidation. On a serving plate,  distribute the watercress leaves, the avocado slices, tomatoes, and orange segments.

Add the dressing (you may not need it all, save leftovers for later), adjust seasoning, and….

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

If you don’t like ginger, this vinaigrette is definitely not for you… Both rice vinegar and grapeseed oil are very mild in taste, so you need something to perk this dressing up.  If ginger is a no-no, add some lime zest and a little squeeze of lime juice.  That should do it.

Blood oranges are perfect if you find them in your markets.  In that case, I’d probably  use yellow grape tomatoes, just to mix the colors.   Chow-mein noodles  are another great addition to this salad.  I avoid bringing them home, though, because they usually win the battle against my will power.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Carrot and Sweet Potato Puree

TWO YEARS AGO: Chocolate Bread

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THE WHEAT BERRY TRANSMOGRIFICATION

A post dedicated to “The Big Bang Theory” fans… 😉

Wheat berries are an amazing ingredient. You can use them for breakfast, desserts, salads, risotto-type dishes, you can add them to soups and stews.  Since I am always searching for side dishes to incorporate in our menu, wheat berries are a great alternative to give some rest to the usual suspects: rice, pasta, and couscous.  The other day I was feeling adventurous, and decided to create my own recipe for them.  Problems started right away.  A search on my cookbooks and online sources left me surprised (and quite puzzled) at the many different methods used to cook the grain.  Some people swear you must soak them overnight. Some insist you need a pressure cooker. I threw caution to the wind, didn’t soak them, didn’t invite the pressure cooker to play, but simply cooked them in salted water as if preparing pasta.  It took a little over 1 hour to get them the way I wanted: tender but not mushy.  After that, I incorporated them with two veggies I adore, and… side dish mission accomplished!

WHEAT BERRIES WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND CELERY
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 cup wheat berries
1 medium butternut squash, cut in medium dice
olive oil
salt and pepper
smoked paprika
1 large celery stalk, cut in slices

Heat the oven to 420F.

Cook the wheat berries in plenty of salted water until al dente (depending on the brand, it might take from 1 to 2 hours).  When cooked to your taste, drain, and reserve.  If not using immediately, add just a little drizzle of olive oil to prevent the grains from sticking too much. Can be prepared a couple of days ahead.

While the wheat berries are cooking, place the diced butternut squash in a bowl, and drizzle olive oil just enough to lightly coat the pieces. Season the squash with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.  Add them in a single layer over a rimmed baking dish.  Roast in the hot oven until cooked, and the edges start to brown (25 to 35 minutes).

Mix the cooked wheat berries with the roasted squash, add the raw celery, incorporate everything together gently.   Adjust seasoning, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

We both loved this recipe!  Roasted butternut squash has a special place in my heart, and now stores in our neck of the woods carry those cute little bags with the cut veggie, so I often cave and bring those home to make my life easier.

We are also quite fond of raw celery. In this recipe, it gave the needed “crunch factor” to oppose the chewiness and softness of the wheat and squash.  The squash, when roasted, tastes a little sweet, so the smoked paprika and the celery help cut through that.

We enjoyed this dish with grilled pork tenderloin, but of course it goes well with all sorts of main dishes, standing also on its own if you add a hearty salad.

Hope you try it!

ONE YEAR AGO: Curried Zucchini Soup

TWO YEARS AGO: Roasted Onion and Asiago Cheese Miche (an outstanding bread!)

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