ANOTHER TWISTED SISTER OF THE SHEPHERD’S PIE

Gastronomic heresy alert: I am calling Shepherd’s Pie a concoction made with ground turkey and cauliflower topping. And what’s even worse, I’ve committed this sin before an I am doing it all over again, without a hint of shame.  This preparation is filling but moderately so. It won’t let you go into a state of total lethargy once you move away from the table. It is also low in carbs and saturated fat, in case you worry about those details. I used a trick quite popular in keto-type recipes to give ground turkey a more pleasant texture upon cooking. It involves baking soda and a few minutes of your time. Absolutely worth it. Read on the comments for full explanation on the baking soda trick.

TURKEY SHEPHERD’S PIE
(adapted from several sources)

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 head cauliflower, core removed, florets cut in pieces
½ cup water
Salt and pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 pound 93 percent lean ground turkey
¼ teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 tablespoon harissa
¾ cup homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan until ver hot. Add cauliflower and cook until softened and beginning to brown. Pour 1/2 cup water, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook until the cauliflower is fully tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor, and process until smooth. Add the egg and paprika, and process a few more seconds. Reserve.

Prepare the ground turkey: in a bowl, add the meat, one tablespoon water, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and baking soda, mixing everything together. Set aside for 15 minutes. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Make sure to use a skillet that can go under the broiler.  Add mushrooms and celery and cook until no liquid remains.   Stir in harissa and cook for a few more minutes.

Add broth, carrots, and Herbes de Provence,  and bring to a simmer.  Add the turkey meat, breaking it up with a fork.  Cover and cook until turkey is cooked through, about 10 minutes, stirring and breaking up the meat every few minutes. Whisk cornstarch and the 2 tablespoons water together in small bowl, then stir mixture into filling and continue to simmer until thickened, about 1 minute. Adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Pat the meat mixture to make it leveled, and spread the cauliflower puree all over the surface.  If you like, use tines of fork to make a pattern of ridges on the surface. Place skillet under the broiler and broil for about 10 minutes, if necessary move the pan around to get homogenous color on the surface.  Allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Quite often ground turkey develops a dry, unpleasant texture when cooked, unless you use alternative methods such as pressure cooking, or the crock pot low and slow for a long time. The addition of baking soda changes everything, by raising the pH. This has two benefits: it reduces the interaction between protein molecules in the meat (by a mild denaturing effect) and accelerates browning. Since the proteins are not able to interact with each other very efficiently, they acquire a more tender texture. It is important to not overdo it. You don’t want the meat to get all mushy, it is a delicate balance. In other words, don’t add the baking soda and walk away for a couple of hours.

This recipe can be assembled all the way and kept in the fridge. When it’s time to eat, place it covered in a low oven to warm up, then uncover and run under the broiler.  Leftovers are superb, and as usual, they showed up as my lunch two more times that week.

Note added after publication: a dear friend of mine from UK brought to my attention that a lesser sin would have been to call this a Twisted Sister of the Cottage Pie, as that at least involves other kinds of meat, whereas the Shepherd is always made with ground lamb.  So there you go, a bit more culinary trivia for us all.  I will keep my title, since one sister was already out there… (wink, wink)

Before you leave, grab a pin!

ONE YEAR AGO: Cashew Chicken, My Way

TWO YEARS AGO: Two Deliciously Simple Salads

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2016

FOUR YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung with Suzanne Goin

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chai Brownies

SIX YEARS AGO: Pomegranate-Molasses Glazed Carrots

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Peach Glaze

EIGHT YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

NINE YEARS AGO: Spring Rolls on a Spring Day

EXTREME CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

This is chocolate going where no chocolate has gone before. Total cocoa intensity. With each bite of these babies your mind will  buzz a little. A buzz of joy, that only real chocolate lovers will understand. If you join this cake with a good cup of java the world will be yours to conquer. Or at least it will feel like it.

SUPER-MOIST CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES
(slightly modified from Sally’s Baking Addiction)

3/4 cup (95g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (42g) natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (100g) light brown sugar
1/3 cup (80ml)  canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla paste  
1/2 cup (120ml) milk soured with a squirt of lemon juice (or commercial buttermilk)
frosting (recipe follows)
sprinkles to decorate (optional)

Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. If you have a second pan, line two more muffin tins, the recipe will likely make 14 cupcakes.  

Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla paste until completely smooth. Pour half of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Then half of the home-made buttermilk. Gently whisk for a few seconds. Repeat with the remaining wet ingredients and buttermilk. Stir until just combined; do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into the liners. Fill only halfway.  Bake for 18-21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

BLACKOUT CHOCOLATE FROSTING
(from Kara’s Couture Cakes)

1/2 cup butter 
2/3 cup black cocoa powder 
3 cups powdered sugar
a little less than 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
black gel food color (I used Chefmaster)

Melt the butter and stir in the cocoa with the paddle attachment on a stand mixer.
Add powdered sugar and mix on low-speed. Start with 1/3 cup heavy cream and add it to the mixer. Increase the mixer speed to medium. Add 2-4 tablespoons more heavy cream till you reach the desired icing consistency.
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Add vanilla extract and black food color and turn the mixer to medium high and beat for 90 seconds.
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Ice the cupcakes once they are completely cold. Have fun with sprinkles!
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ENJOY!

to print the recipes, click here

Comments: Sally’s Baking Addiction is a fantastic site for bakers. I’ve mentioned before that one of my nieces in Brazil is a great cake baker, to the extent that for a while she was doing it professionally. She baked super fancy and decorated cakes for birthday celebrations, in a special-order kind of deal. One day we were talking about blogs and cookbooks, and she mentioned Sally’s blog (not mine, mind you) as one of her favorite sources exactly for the reason that her recipes are so reliable. It was fun to learn that we subscribed and faithfully the same site for years without knowing we both did. But I digress. Sally’s chocolate cupcakes deliver exactly what she promises: moist, decadent, and perfectly shaped little concoctions. The most important instruction in her recipe is to fill the muffin tins only halfway to the top. Not a teaspoon more. It will seem inadequate, but resist the temptation to add more batter.  They will bake perfectly, without a super inflated dome that always sinks in unflattering ways as the cake cools.


The frosting. Normally, I am not wild about American buttercream, but this is not your regular kind. For starters, the black cocoa powder is so intense, that it can stand up to the extra sugar. Also, the addition of heavy cream is a game changer. If you are counting calories or saturated fat, this is not your best option for dessert. But if your life-style allows some room for indulging, this might very well be your best option for dessert.  The cake with the dark cocoa icing is a match that will rock that world you are about to conquer.

I hope this photo conveys how deliciously moist this cupcake turns out. You can pile the icing higher if you dare, but I think a bit of moderation is in order. It is very rich and satisfying. As to decoration, I pretty much opened my box of sprinkles and had a blast with them. The dark background is friendly to so many color combinations! Pure white (those tiny marshmallows looked adorable on the cake), red, pink, coral, bright mixed colors, or you can use a color scheme geared to a particular occasion. Come to think of it, St Patrick’s Day could showcase some of these with green and white sprinkles…

I close this post with a daring statement. Ready? Here we go: these are the best chocolate cupcakes I’ve ever had. There. I said it. You must bake a batch…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Sunflower Seed Kamut Sourdough

TWO YEARS AGO: The Joys of Grating Squash

THREE YEARS AGO: Auberge Pecan-Walnut Bread

LENTILS AND RADICCHIO? YES, PLEASE!

I bet many of my readers will consider clicking away from the blog right now, because… lentils? Not the most popular item in the pantry. Radicchio? Not the veggie that jumps into the grocery cart of most shoppers. Both together? Thanks, but no thanks. Can I ask you to trust me on this? Actually it’s not even me you should trust, but someone with a lot more gastronomic fame: Melissa Clark. And credit should actually go to my beloved husband who not only found the recipe but made it for our dinner. So basically I am  giving to charity from other people’s wallets. But hey, I am the resident blogger. So there!

LENTIL SOUP WITH RADICCHIO SLAW
(adapted from Melissa Clark)

for topping:
half a radicchio head, thinly sliced
drizzle of olive oil
lemon juice to taste
1 avocado, diced very small
salt and pepper to taste
for soup:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 cup green lentils
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
Juice of 1 lemon, more to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Make topping and reserve in fridge by mixing all ingredients together in a small bowl.

Make the soup: In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and sauté for 2 minutes longer.

Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.  Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot.  

Stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup and add a generous amount of radicchio slaw on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This soup was excellent served with a mixed olive sourdough (recipe published not too long ago in the blog, click here if you’ve missed it). I find it a bit hard to decide if the topping made the soup or if it would shine as brightly on its own. A perfect combination. We had leftover radicchio slaw, and found ourselves munching on small amounts once our bowls of soup were appropriately empty. Next day we improvised a full salad with the other half of the radicchio head, adding a bunch of goodies we had in the fridge.

We mixed radicchio, tomatoes, olives, and avocados together. Dressing was kept simple again, olive oil and lemon juice, right before serving we added a tiny touch of white balsamic vinegar. OMG this was good. Later on we decided that capers would have been perfect, and of course some feta cheese or other sharp cheese of your choice.


Simple dinner… Red snapper, a little rice and this tasty salad… 

The secret with radicchio is to allow it to sit with the dressing for a little while, or warm it up very very briefly to soften the leaves. But that is another method that I intend to share in the near future. The great thing about this preparation is that leftovers keep very well in the fridge for 24 hours. My lunch next day was this salad with a fried egg, sunny side up. I was a happy camper.

ONE YEAR AGO: Tres Leches Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: The Joys of Grating Squash

THREE YEARS AGO: Auberge-Pecan Walnut Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Gluten-free and Vegan Raspberry Bars

FIVE YEARS AGO: Lasserre, a French Classic

SIX YEARS AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

EIGHT YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

NINE YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

 

 

CARROT CAKE MACARONS

You read that right. Carrot Cake Macarons. I am a member of a Facebook group for Macaron-Baking-Addicts and a couple of months ago a very experienced baker raved about them. I am usually not that wild about store-bought products, but for some reason that recipe intrigued me enough to make me go for it. The product in question is a Carrot Cake Spread by Trader Joe’s. I added it as the main flavoring for a simple Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and that was the filling for coral-tone macarons. Living Coral, the Pantene color of 2019. I had to try and match it, just because macarons are by definition a celebration of color. At least in my mind they are…

CARROT CAKE MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the shells:
150 g almond flour
150 g powdered sugar
56 + 56 g egg whites
40 g water
150 g granulated sugar, super fine
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
gel food dye (2 parts red, 1 part yellow, 1 part pink)

for the Swiss meringue buttercream filling:
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
pinch salt
3 to 4 tablespoons carrot cake spread 

Make the shells: Add the almond flour and the powdered sugar to the bowl of a food processor and pulse it 10 to 12 times. You want to have it fine but not allow the oil in the almonds to seep out and turn it into a paste.  Immediately sieve it on a large bowl and reserve.

To a small bowl, add half of the egg whites (56 g), then add the food dyes and vanilla. Mix until it is all well incorporated, the dye sometimes resists mixing homogeneously into the egg white.

Now comes the fun part. You will add the other half of the egg whites to the bowl of a mixer and the granulated sugar and water into a small saucepan. Have an instant thermometer ready. Start beating the egg white in slow-speed, as you turn the heat and start bringing the sugar syrup to a boil, without stirring (this is important, or you risk crystallizing the sugar and having to start all over). When the sugar starts boiling, increase the mixer to medium-speed. You want it to be at the stage of soft peaks by the time the syrup reaches 244 F. Once that happens, slowly drizzle the syrup into the egg white-sugar, as you continue beating. Beat until the temperature cools down to around 115F, no need to bring it down all the way to room temperature. You don’t want to have a very stiff meringue at this point, or it will be too hard to incorporate into the almond flour.

The second fun part starts now, the famous macaronage. Add the dyed egg white and the meringue on top of the almond flour and mix gently but decisively. If you have never made macarons before, I advise you to watch some videos on youtube to familiarize yourself with the proper macaronage. You want the batter to flow from the spatula and form a figure eight on the surface as you allow it to drip, but it should not flow too rapidly. If you spoon some batter on parchment paper, it should smooth out in about 30 seconds or so.  Once you get to the right stage, fill a piping bag fitted with the piping tip of your choice (I like a 1/2 inch opening), and pipe on parchment paper or Silpat.

Bang the baking sheet a few times to release air bubbles, and allow it to dry at room temperature for 30 minutes or until the surface feels dry to the touch.

Bake at 300F for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool before peeling off the baking sheet. Decorate either before filling them or after, depending on the type of decoration you choose. I used an air-brush and stencils (see my composite picture), with the color Sunset Orange from Chefmaster.

 Make the filling. Place the egg whites and the sugar in a large metal mixing bowl set above a pot of simmering water. Whisk the mixture until the sugar melts and the mixture becomes warm and very thin in consistency, reaching a temperature of around 160F. 

Transfer the contents to a Kitchen Aid bowl and whisk on high-speed until stiff peaks form. Now, change the whisk to the paddle beater, add the butter and salt, mixing on low-speed.  Add the butter piece by piece and keep mixing. When the butter seems to be all incorporated, even if it looks a little curdled, increase the speed to high. The mixture will become smooth and totally creamy within a few minutes. 

Add the carrot cake spread and mix on low-speed. Taste and add more if you feel like it. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with an open star piping tip and fill your macarons.

Place them in the fridge overnight and bring to room temperature 15 minutes before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I have a lot of macaron recipes. They always involve the French meringue method because it is so simple and it has always worked for me. I had issues with the Italian meringue and several batches were a failure, but I know that many bakers find them better in terms of texture and reproducibility. Basically because the Italian meringue is much more stable and is less affected by humidity in the environment.

My main goal in macaron baking is maximize the proportion of feet, because I like them with bigger feet and a plump shell, so I like to try different methods and compare how they work for me. The Swiss meringue method should happen eventually, although for the time being I intend to play with the current recipe a few more times.  I am happy that this batch worked perfectly. The main thing I changed was adding the food dye to one half of the egg white component, and add that to the almond flour together with the Italian meringue. In the past, I followed recipes that instructed you to add the egg white to the almond flour first, forming a thick paste and allowing that to sit while the meringue is prepared. I found that this approach makes it pretty tough to incorporate the meringue and probably negatively affected the macaronage step that follows.

The filling. O. M. G. These macarons will be so unique, different from any macaron you’ll ever have, I guarantee it. It is sweet, perhaps sweeter than most fillings I enjoy, but it has that spicy characteristic of carrot cakes, the cinnamon-clove mixture, that breaks the sweetness a bit. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s around, the product is available through amazon. The texture was perfect, no hollows, and with a nice “macaron-chew.”  I will play with this method on my next mac-adventure, that will involve more than one color of batter. Let’s hope that the stars will align properly at the time…

ONE YEAR AGO: Soup Saturday: Say Goodbye to Winter

TWO YEARS AGO: Manchego and Poblano Soup

THREE YEARS AGO: A Smashing Pair

FOUR YEARS AGO: Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

FIVE YEARS AGO: Crispy Chickpea and Caper Spaghetti

SIX YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Chickpea and Fire Roasted Tomato Soup

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Double Asparagus Delight

NINE YEARS AGO:  Sun-dried Tomato and Feta Cheese Torte

 

 

 

RAINBOW CARROTS WITH ROSE HARISSA

Giving credit where credit is due, I saw this recipe over at Eats Well with Others, and made it that same evening. I did not have pomegranate seeds at the time, so I used diced mango as a sweet component. We loved it so much I made it again a few days later, this time pomegranate seeds were involved, and I can tell they are a must here. Because I used rainbow carrots, there was not that much contrast of color, but their tiny bursts of sharpness and fresh flavor contribute a lot to the sweetness of the carrots. This will certainly be a regular appearance in our meals, at least for as long as I can get my hands on the amazing ingredient that is rose harissa. Thank you, Joanne!

RAINBOW CARROTS WITH ROSE HARISSA
(inspired by Eats Well with Others)

1 pound carrots of several colors
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp rose harissa
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
lemon juice to taste
½ cup pomegranate seeds
fresh cilantro to decorate (optional)

Heat oven to 450F.
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Peel the carrots and cut into batons. In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, harissa, cumin, pomegranate molasses, and salt.  Add the carrots to the bowl and toss well to combine. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, or until starting to caramelize and become tender.

Remove from the oven, add some lemon juice and  sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Decorate with cilantro leaves, if so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I am absolutely in love with this dish. I had to wait a long time to get rose harissa, since it was shipped all the way from England, so I get very protective of my bottle and always wonder if I should really use it in this or that preparation. Well, this one is definitely worth getting that couple of tablespoons from My Precioussssss.  My love for this sauce should be quite clear from the composite photo above… It is not really hot, it’s intense and complex, with a very subtle floral component from the rose. The more I use it, the more I love it. Which means soon it might be time to cave and place another order for it. Either that or emigrate to UK.

ONE YEAR AGO: Deviled Eggs go Green

TWO YEARS AGO: Tiramisu

THREE YEARS AGO: Pulled Pork, Slow-Cooker version

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Pie of the Century

FIVE YEARS AGO: Bon Bon Chicken

SIX YEARS AGO: Leaving on a Jet Plane

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A Pearfect Drink

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Ming Tsai Under Pressure

NINE YEARS AGO: Paris, je t’aime!

 

A SOURDOUGH QUARTET

Today I share four different ways to play with sourdough… Different amounts of whole-wheat flour, different ways to slash and decorate it, and a version studded with a mixture of Kalamata and green olives that was probably the winner with the resident bread taster.

First, a loaf that pushes the level of whole-wheat a bit higher than I normally go for. I am calling it 50:50 sourdough, for obvious reasons

50:50 SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

100 g active sourdough starter at 100% hydration
390g water
250g whole-wheat flour
250g bread flour
10g salt

Dissolve the starter in the water in a large bowl, mixing well until it is well-dispersed. Add the flours and salt, mix with your hands or with a wooden spoon until it forms a shaggy mass.

After 20 minutes, do a minimal kneading, about 10 times or so until the dough becomes smooth. You will now allow the dough to ferment for 4 hours at room temperature, folding the dough every 40 minutes, and keeping it covered with plastic. You don’t have to be precise, but allow the full four hours fermentation to take place.  You can do foldings at 40 min, 1h 20 min, 2 hs, 2 hs 40 min, 3 hours 20 min. After that final kneading, leave the dough undisturbed for 40 minutes more, then proceed to shape as a round (or a batard, if you prefer).

Place inside a banetton well dusted with flour and keep it in the fridge overnight, from 8 to 12 hours.

Next morning, heat the oven to 450F.

Invert the dough on a piece of parchment paper and lightly, very lightly coat it with flour, then rub all over the surface with the palm of your hand. Score the pattern of your choice.

Bake at 450F for 45 minutes, preferably covered for the first 30 minutes to retain steam.  Cool completely over a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The amount of whole-wheat flour in this bread makes it hearty and quite filling. I kept the hydration level of the final dough at 78%, because it makes it easier to slash the surface. If the hydration is too high, it’s a lot harder to get a pattern going.  I started from the center and drew a little spiral, not too deep but deep enough to coach the bread into opening a bit. Then I use a brand new razor blade to form the design inside the spiral.  I really liked the way it turned out, and the crumb was more open than I expected.

Next, a very similar formula, but lowering the level of whole-wheat a little bit.

70:30 SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

100 g active sourdough starter at 100% hydration
400g water
350g bread flour
150g whole-wheat flour
10g salt

Dissolve the starter in the water in a large bowl, mixing well until it is well-dispersed. Add the flours and salt, mix with your hands or with a wooden spoon until it forms a shaggy mass.

After 20 minutes, do a minimal kneading, about 10 times or so until the dough becomes smooth. You will now allow the dough to ferment for 4 hours at room temperature, folding the dough every 40 minutes, and keeping it covered with plastic. You don’t have to be precise, but allow the full four hours fermentation to take place.  You can do foldings at 40 min, 1h 20 min, 2 hs, 2 hs 40 min, 3 hours 20 min. After that final kneading, leave the dough undisturbed for 40 minutes more, then proceed to shape as a batard (or a round, if you prefer).

Place inside a banetton well dusted with flour and keep it in the fridge overnight, from 8 to 12 hours.

Next morning, heat the oven to 450F.

Invert the dough on a piece of parchment paper and brush off all the flour stuck from the banetton to keep it as clean as possible. Place the stencil of your choice on top of the bread, shake some all-purpose flour, lift the stencil carefully. Slash the bread in a way that will be compatible with the design. You need to cut one or more reasonably deep slashes to coach the bread to open in those spots.

Bake at 450F for 45 minutes, preferably covered for the first 30 minutes to retain steam.  Cool completely over a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The overall technique remained the same, but the reduction in the proportion of whole-wheat makes the bread considerably lighter not only in color but also in taste. Since the slashing was going to be a lot simpler and the main decoration would come from the stencil, I increased the hydration a little bit to 80%.

Next, comes a loaf with even less whole-wheat in the formula, but made more special thanks to the inclusion of a good amount of olives, both Kalamata and green. I had never mixed two kinds of olives in the same loaf, and I can tell you this will be happening again soon. Phil decided this might very well be his favorite bread of 2019. It turned out divine, even if I say so myself.

MIXED OLIVES SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

50 g active starter
380 g  water
470 g  bread flour
30 g whole-wheat flour
9 g fine sea salt
150 g pitted green and kalamata olives, chopped
1 tsp Herbes de Provence

Dissolve the starter in the water in a large bowl, mixing well until it is well-dispersed. Add the flours and salt, mix with your hands or with a wooden spoon until it forms a shaggy mass.

After 20 minutes, do a minimal kneading, about 10 times or so until the dough becomes smooth. You will now allow the dough to ferment for 4 hours at room temperature, folding the dough every 40 minutes, and keeping it covered with plastic. On your first folding cycle, add the mixture of olives. You can do foldings at 40 min, 1h 20 min, 2 hs, 2 hs 40 min, 3 hours 20 min. After that final kneading, leave the dough undisturbed for 40 minutes more, then proceed to shape as a round (or a batard, if you prefer).

Place inside a banetton well dusted with flour and keep it in the fridge overnight, from 8 to 12 hours.

Next morning, heat the oven to 450F.

Invert the dough on a piece of parchment paper and brush off all the flour stuck from the banetton to keep it as clean as possible. Place the stencil of your choice on top of the bread, shake some all-purpose flour, lift the stencil carefully. Slash the bread in a way that will be compatible with the design.

Bake at 450F for 45 minutes, preferably covered for the first 30 minutes to retain steam.  Cool completely over a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: A light crumb due to the smallest proportion of whole-wheat (only 6%), and a hydration of 76% bumped a little bit due to the water content of the olives. The presence of the olives also made me reduce slightly the amount of salt.

Hard not to use superlatives to describe this bread. Green olives are definitely under-appreciated and I admit to this sin. Of course the Kalamatas bring a lot of flavor and moisture, but there is definitely a lot more happening through the slightly sharper nature of the humble green creatures. I did not pay close attention to the ratio of the olives in the mix, but I think it was pretty close to 50:50.  The crumb turned out pretty open and very moist, difficult to eat only one slice, and it went well with pretty much anything we paired it with, including a nice lentil soup made by the husband.

To get the best effect of a stencil design made with white flour, start with the bread inverted from the banetton and delicately but thoroughly brush off any residual flour that might have stayed glued to the surface. Then sprinkle the white flour over the stencil of your choice. If the bread has any flour on the surface, the design won’t be as evident after baking. The other thing to keep in mind is that you need to try and avoid the bread from opening right in the middle of your design. The best way to avoid that is to make a deep slash coaching the dough to open where you want it to. You can never be 100% sure it will work, but that’s your best bet. You can see how I dealt with it on the composite picture above.

Finally, I share a bread that used the exact same formula of the previous one, but no olives. In this case, my main goal was to do a white-on-black stencil design. Some bakers use charcoal powder, I decided to go with black cocoa powder, the kind that is used to bake Oreo type cookies.

BLACK COCOA SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

50 g active starter
380 g  water
470 g  bread flour
30 g whole-wheat flour
10 g fine sea salt

water and black cocoa powder to form a thin paste

Dissolve the starter in the water in a large bowl, mixing well until it is well-dispersed. Add the flours and salt, mix with your hands or with a wooden spoon until it forms a shaggy mass.

After 20 minutes, do a minimal kneading, about 10 times or so until the dough becomes smooth. You will now allow the dough to ferment for 4 hours at room temperature, folding the dough every 40 minutes, and keeping it covered with plastic. You can do foldings at 40 min, 1h 20 min, 2 hs, 2 hs 40 min, 3 hours 20 min. After that final kneading, leave the dough undisturbed for 40 minutes more, then proceed to shape as a round (or a batard, if you prefer).

Place inside a banetton well dusted with flour and keep it in the fridge overnight, from 8 to 12 hours.

Next morning, heat the oven to 450F.

Invert the dough on a piece of parchment paper and brush off all the flour stuck from the banetton to keep it as clean as possible. Make a paste with cocoa powder (preferably dark) and water. Brush the surface of the bread with it, then immediately place the stencil of your choice on top of the bread, shake some all-purpose flour, lift the stencil carefully. Slash the bread in a way that will be compatible with the design.

Bake at 450F for 45 minutes, preferably covered for the first 30 minutes to retain steam.  Cool completely over a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The goal for this bake was to play with a new stenciling technique. After the shaped dough is inverted out of the banetton, simply make a little paste of cocoa powder and water, liquid enough to brush with a silicone brush, but not too soupy.  Then, add the stencil on top and dust with all-purpose flour.  I imagine other colors could be used. Beet powder, sweet potato powder, butterfly pea powder…  I am not sure the red color of beet powder would be preserved during baking, I tried using it in the dough once, and the result was a brownish color with very little to do with my expectations. Worth giving it a try, I am sure. Even if it turns brown, could be still a nice contrast with the white pattern of the stencil. I should mention that there is absolutely no taste of cocoa in the baked bread.

The bread had absolutely amazing oven spring, which in a way messed up the design a little, but a baker should never complain of too much oven spring, since that can upset the Gods of the Sourdough and result in failure after failure for months to come. Yeah, I am a scientist. Very pragmatic. But I try to keep a sense of humor.

Final remarks: these loaves use a very simplified method.  I did not do autolyse, and did not bother adding the salt later, it all went into the dough at the same time. As you can see from the photos, I got enough oven spring and a nice crumb using these shortcuts. Also, I never bother waiting for the shaped bread to sit at room temperature before baking, or keeping the oven at 450F for an hour before baking. Some bakers insist those steps are important for a good bake. They are not. Once the oven reaches temperature, my cold, shaped bread goes in. It amazes me that people would waste so much energy heating up an oven to very high temperature for a long time before baking their loaves. Trust me, it is not at all necessary.

ONE YEAR AGO: When bad things happen to good people

TWO YEARS AGO: Sweet Potato “Hummus”

THREE YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Crust Pizza

FOUR YEARS AGO: Silky Rutabaga Puree

FIVE YEARS AGO: Bon Bon Chicken: Light and Spectacular

SIX YEARS AGO: Red Wine Sourdough Bread with Cranberries

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Award-Winning Sourdough Baguettes

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Country Rye (Tartine)

NINE YEARS AGO: Penne a la Vechia Bettola

 

 

 

 

AFRICAN PEANUT STEW WITH SMOKED TURKEY

Fact: I’ve had this recipe waiting since 2005 when a friend raved about it. I know that for sure because I was cleaning files in my computer and stumbled on this folder of “must make recipes.” with a date of May 2005. Fourteen years. Talk about taking my sweet time. To make things even more interesting, I did not include the recipe, but something that at the time seemed enough for me to retrieve it. Mean Chef’s Favorite Chicken Peanut Stew.  Anyway, to make a long story short, I have no idea which recipe he was referring to, but found a bunch of possibilities online and from that I came up with this version that turned out absolutely blog-worthy. I used turkey breast that we smoked ourselves, but you can go with the more authentic version that calls for chicken thighs.

AFRICAN PEANUT STEW WITH SMOKED TURKEY
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, adapted from several sources)

1/2 turkey breast, smoked (or 4 chicken thighs, bone-in, skinless)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 piece of ginger, minced (about 2 tsp)
salt and pepper
2 sweet potatoes, cut in large pieces
3 cups chicken stock
1 can small diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glen, about 15 ounces)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
2 tsp ground coriander

Heat the olive oil in a large pan. If using chicken thighs, brown them well on all sides, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go, and adding more oil if needed. Remove the chicken to a bowl as you work with the other ingredients.

Add the fennel pieces and the ginger to the pan, a touch more of salt and pepper, saute until fragrant.  Add the sweet potatoes, stir a few times, then add the chicken stock, stirring the contents to release any bits stuck to the pan.

Add the tomatoes, peanut butter, peanuts, and coriander, mix well to combine. If using chicken thighs, add them now. Cover the pan and cook for about one hour at gentle heat, until chicken is cooked through.  If using smoked turkey (or any type of pre-cooked poultry), cook the sweet potatoes until tender, then add the pieces of meat and simmer everything together for 10 minutes or so.

If using chicken thighs, when they are tender, remove the pieces, shred the meat, discard the bones. Add the meat back to the stew and simmer it all together for 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning, add cilantro right before serving.
.

SMOKED TURKEY BREAST

1 turkey breast, bone-in
1 (64-oz.) bottle apple cider
3/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 rosemary sprigs
10 fresh sage leaves
1 hickory wood chunk
1 black walnut wood chunk

Make the brine in advance to give it time to cool completely. Bring cider all ingredients up to wood chunks to a boil in a large stockpot. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until salt and sugar are fully dissolved. Cool completely.

Place turkey in brine; cover and chill for 12 hours.

Heat smoker to 250 F. Place wood chunks receptacle. Remove turkey from brine, and dry with paper towels. Smoke turkey, maintaining temperature inside smoker between 225° and 250°, for around 4 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 165°. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I know most people do not have an electric smoker, but please don’t let that prevent you from trying this recipe, go for chicken thighs and it will be equally delicious. I must say, however, that the stuff that we smoke at home is so much better than anything bought at the store, that it makes the investment worth it. Salmon is the best example, but turkey comes a close second. I would not dream of making this stew using store-bought smoke turkey. It is way too harsh and intense, with a very dry texture. In this dish we can detect some hint of smoke in the background but it is subtle and delicate.

We both thought that this would be a perfect recipe for Thanksgiving for two or four people. You know, when roasting the whole bird seems like unnecessary trouble. It has the perfect combination of flavors. Add some sage instead – or in addition to – coriander, and you will be all set with a great meal for that special holiday of November. I intend to remind my readers about it when the time comes… but first, there is a lot of Spring and Summer to enjoy and I CANNOT WAIT.

ONE YEAR AGO: First Monday Favorite Feb 2018

TWO YEARS AGO: First Monday Favorite Feb 2017

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