EMILIE RAFFA’S HIGH HYDRATION SOURDOUGH

As you might imagine, I should stop buying cookbooks because I’d need to live to be 173 years old to go through the ones I already own. However, I am thrilled that I got the latest one from Emilie, pre-ordered the moment I saw it available: Artisan Sourdough Made Simple.


I’ve been following Emilie’s blog for a long time, and even reviewed her first cookbook a while ago (click here for a flashback).  The salad I chose to feature in that post is one of those rare recipes that ended up in our regular rotation. You know how it goes in the kitchen of a food blogger. We are always trying new recipes, it’s a bit compulsive sometimes, but when a truly spectacular thing lands on our table, we go back to it. With this new book, Emilie does exactly what the title states: simplifies the making of artisan sourdough bread. She offers a very detailed explanation on how to make your first sourdough starter (that method that collects microorganisms from the environment), how to keep it healthy and use it to make all sorts of wonderful concoctions, going beyond bread baking.  Formulas are simple, the timing is flexible, as exemplified in the recipe I share with you today. I was so fond of it that I made it four times in 5 weeks! Yes, talk about re-visiting something spectacular. I am not the only one smitten with Emilie’s book. Celia, the one and only blogger who lives in beautiful Australia, composed a wonderful review of Artisan Sourdough Made Simple, and I urge you to stop by and take a look… It might just be the push you need to take the book home with you (at least virtually, as I did with my Kindle version…). So, without further ado, my first sourdough bread from Emilie’s book…

HIGH-HYDRATION SOURDOUGH
(printed with permission from Emilie Raffa)

Tips from Emilie: The first step toward bigger holes is to add more water, or to increase the dough’s hydration. The second step is to expand your sourdough technique: Gently dimple the dough after the bulk rise and then shape it twice. Both techniques will help to open up the crumb and can be applied toward other doughs to achieve the same effect.

Suggested baker’s schedule: Thursday and Friday: Feed your starter until bubbly and active. Saturday Evening: Make the dough and let rise overnight. Sunday Morning: Shape the dough, let rise again, score and bake.

Bread formula
50 g (¼ cup) bubbly, active starter (mine was at 100% hydration)
375 g (1 ½ cups plus 1 tbsp) warm water
500 g (4 cups plus 2 tbsp) bread flour
9 g (1 ½ tsp) fine sea salt

Making the dough
In the evening, whisk the starter and water together in a large bowl with a fork. Add the flour and salt. Mix to combine, then finish by hand to form a rough dough. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 1 hour.  After the dough has rested, work it into a ball, about 15 to 20 seconds.

Bulk fermentation
Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise overnight at room temperature, about 8 to 10 hours at 70 ° F (21 ° C). The dough is ready when it has doubled in size, has a few bubbles on the surface, and jiggles when you move the bowl from side to side.

Shaping the dough
In the morning, coax the dough onto a floured surface. Dimple the dough all over with floured fingertips. Gently shape it into a round and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, line an 8-inch (20-cm) bowl or proofing basket with a towel and dust with flour. Using a bench scraper, scoop up the dough and flip it over so that the smooth side is facing down. Shape it again, and then flip it back over. Cup the dough and gently pull it toward you in a circular motion to tighten its shape. Place into your lined bowl, seam side up.

Final fermentation
Cover the dough and refrigerate for 1 hour to set its structure. Note: You can chill this dough for up to 6 hours or more. When ready to bake, let sit at room temperature while the oven heats up.

Baking the bread
Heat your oven to 500 ° F (260 ° C). Cut a piece of 
parchment to fit the size of your baking pot. Place the parchment over the dough and invert the bowl to release. Dust the surface with flour and rub with your hands to coat. Using the tip of a small knife or a razor blade, score the dough with the pattern of your choice. Use the parchment to transfer the dough into the baking pot.  Place the pot on the center rack, and reduce the heat to 450 ° F (230 ° C). Bake the dough for 20 minutes, covered. Remove the lid, and continue to bake for 30 minutes. Lift the loaf out of the pot, and bake directly on the oven rack for the last 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: One of the advantages of a simple bread recipe is that you can concentrate on aspects other than the making of the dough, or its shaping, since it’s all so straightforward. This recipe was my gateway to practice different slashing patterns. My conclusion was that bread has a mind of its own. Almost every single time the final product was not exactly what I had in mind. But, isn’t that what life is all about? The more we try to control things, the more frustrated we might get. Until… until we learn to dance to the music and enjoy the unexpected, the stuff that does not go exactly as planned. No, I am not that wise yet, but working on it.

Indeed, for some members of our home, the way the bread looks is totally irrelevant…

Let me now show you my quartet of breads, all made with the same basic Emilie’s recipe, except that for the third loaf I increased the hydration even further (385 g water instead of 370g), and included one series of folds before the dough fermented at room temperature overnight.  I did that after the dough had rested for one hour, then waited 45 minutes more to shape it into a ball and leave it alone at room temperature until next day. The more you push the hydration up, the more you’ll need some type of folding or kneading to make sure you have some structure in it.  All things considered, I think Emilie’s formula as written is spot on,  considerably simplifying the process.

Slashing #1

That is the exact slashing that produced my featured bread.  You probably did not see anything wrong with it, but that’s because I picked the best angle of the bread to take the picture. Full disclosure? Here we go:

The slash at the base of the circle was probably a bit too deep, and the thing lift off like a lid! Looked pretty funny, almost like a Trilobite fossil in search of food. And the crust got a tad too dark in that spot.  Lesson to learn: be more gentle with the slashes at the base of the dough.

Slash #2

I was aiming for a yin-yang kind of thing.  Here’s the result after baking…

Nice, open ears, but definitely not what I expected. Not sure if I had to be more delicate with the depth of the central slashing… but I liked the way the bread looked.

Slash #3

I went with a star-type pattern, and diagonal small slashes all around….  This time I had no particular expectations, just decided to accept whatever the Gods of the Yeasty Things rewarded me with…

Slash #4

and the final, resulting loaf….

Probably my favorite… all plump and was singing out loud as it cooled…

All breads made with the high-hydration sourdough tend to have open crumb,
very creamy texture, with a hard crust.
The kind of bread we really love!

So there you have it, four loaves of bread made with a basic sourdough formula, according to Emilie’s Artisan Sourdough Made Simple.  The same formula produces amazing – let me state that again – produces AMAZING focaccia…

It is really a lovely book, Celia did a great job reviewing it, so let me just tempt you with a very simple list of breads included in one of her chapters. I want to bake every single one of them. Period.

Decadent Chocolate Chip (O.M.G)

Dill and White Cheddar

Olive, Thyme, and Parmesan

Seeded Pumpkin Cranberry (O.M.G. #2)

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip

Pickled Jalapeno, Cheddar and Chive (O.M.G. #3)

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary

Sticky Date, Walnut and Orange (I rest my case)

Emilie, thanks for giving me permission to share one recipe from your lovely book…  I am looking forward to baking more and more goodies from your tasty collection!

ONE YEAR AGO: Short-Ribs with Chickpeas and Chard & London Cookbook Review

TWO YEARS AGO: Asian-Style Short Ribs 

THREE YEARS AGO: Herbed Goat Cheese Souffles

FOUR YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

FIVE YEARS AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

SIX YEARS AGO: Scallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo

 

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QUICHE 101

Some people are intimidated by cake. Some by bread. Others by quiche. I am here to end your quiche-o-phobia once and for all. I promise you that you will be able to make any quiche you’d like without the need to look at a recipe. Yes, that easy. Your quiche will be slightly lighter in fat than the authentic concoctions from France, but you won’t even notice. All you need is a food processor, a skillet, and a bowl.  You could even skip the food processor and do the whole thing  by hand, just add a second bowl to the utensils needed.  Ready? Let’s go…

FOR THE CRUST

MEMORIZE  1 + 1 + 1/2

Add one cup of flour to your food processor bowl. All-purpose is fine.  Add to it one stick of butter, cold, cut in pieces.  Half a teaspoon of salt. Yes, it would be even easier if you could add a full teaspoon, so memorizing would be a triple “1.” But you don’t want to taste salt in the crust, so stick to half a teaspoon.

Pulse everything in the processor until the butter look crumbly, probably 6 times or so, not more than that.

Now I ask you. How many different items did you add to the food processor?  Three. So that’s the number of tablespoons of very cold water you will drizzle on top with the machine running.  The moment it threatens to start crumbling together, STOP. Stop right away!  Pinch a small amount with your fingers, if they hold together you are done.  Dump it over a plastic wrap on your counter top, wrap it bringing it all together, it will smooth out considerably as it rests.  Do not try to knead it or you will end up with a tough crust. Place in the fridge for 20 minutes to 1 hour. Or more. You can do that the day before.

When ready to roll out the crust, remove from the fridge, and roll it thin enough to cover a 9-inch pie plate, preferably with fluted edges and removable bottom.  Dock the surface, refrigerate while you heat the oven, or for several hours.

Blind bake it  at 375 F for 15 to 20 minutes, with pie weights or dry beans. I like to cover the surface with plastic wrap so that any type of weight I use has an easier time reaching the edges. Remove the weights once the pie has been in the oven for 10 minutes.  That is it, your crust is done!   

FILLING

Anything your heart desires.  Amounts are pretty flexible, just use common sense, you need to cover the surface of the quiche, but not crowd it too much.  In this example I used diced prosciutto (straight from the package, not cooked in any way), sautéed mushrooms, grated Gruyère cheese, and minced parsley.  Place your goodies over the surface of the blind-baked crust.  Now get ready to make the liquid component, enough for a 9-inch quiche.

MEMORIZE 1/2 + 6

Measure half a cup of whole milk. Place it in a bowl, season lightly with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add to it 6 eggs, except that 4 will be whole, and 2 will be egg whites only.  Whisk vigorously, and pour on the quiche with all the goodies already placed on its surface.

Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes. It will puff and get all golden and gorgeous. Remove it from the oven and wait 15 minutes to serve, so that it sinks down a bit and gets a nice texture.

Voilà!  You made quiche!


Now here is my detailed recipe for you

MUSHROOM AND PROSCIUTTO QUICHE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick butter, cold, cut in pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons ice-cold water

for the filling:
about 10 ounces of mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup prosciutto, diced
1/3 cup grated Gruyère cheese
fresh parsley leaves, thorn into pieces
1/2 cup milk
4 whole eggs
2 egg whites
pinch of nutmeg

Make the crust by adding flour, butter and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times until butter is in large crumbs. With machine running, add the ice-cold water. Stop processing once it starts to come together in a mass.  Transfer to a plastic sheet, press delicately into a round disk, and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, but you can leave it overnight in the fridge.

Roll the pastry out and cover a 9-inch pie dish with removable bottom. Dock the surface, chill the pastry for at least 30 minutes before blind-baking it in a 375 F oven, with weights. You can cover the surface with Saran-wrap, as long as the plastic does not touch the metal pan. Bake for 10 minutes, remove weights, bake for 5 to 10 minutes longer, until it is opaque, but not getting dark.

Make the filling. Sautee the mushrooms in olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Make sure the mixture is not watery. Allow it to cool slightly. Sprinkle prosciutto all over the surface of the baked crust. Add the mushrooms, the shredded cheese and parsley.

In a medium bowl, mix the milk with eggs and egg whites. Add a pinch of nutmeg, and a very light touch of salt and pepper. Whisk well, and pour over the filling. If you like, you can reserve some or most of the cheese to sprinkle on top, that gives the quiche a darker color on the surface.

Bake for 30 minutes, remove from the oven, allow it to cool for 15 minutes before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: This was part of our Valentine’s dinner menu. I made the dough and rolled the crust early in the day. Once we arrived home, all that needed to be done was blind-bake the crust and prepare the mushrooms. Piece of cake. So much better than going out. Last year we made that mistake, and were unlucky enough to wait 45 minutes for our order to arrive at the table. Keep in mind we don’t live in LA or New York, and were not enjoying our dinner at a super fashionable and crowded restaurant, where seeing and being seen trumps the quality of the service. Anyway, we could not make the same mistake two years in a row.

I was debating whether to cut the mushrooms in smaller pieces, but I’m glad I went with bigger chunks. Much more satisfying that way.  If you omit the prosciutto, this would be a perfect meal to entertain your vegetarian friends. Use sun-dried tomatoes in small pieces instead. I bet that would be lovely.

On the side, a version of a recent salad we truly enjoyed. This time I used dried cranberries and roasted pistachios, same dressing. No cheese, as we had enough of that in the quiche.

It was a lovely dinner, in the comfort of our home, fireplace on, pups happily snoring nearby, waiting for the time when the dishes get done and some bits and pieces of goodies might “accidentally” find them…

ONE YEAR AGO: Persian Butternut Squash Soup

TWO YEARS AGO: Walnut Cranberry Sourdough Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Ottolenghi in Brazil?

FOUR YEARS AGO: Roasted Winter Vegetables with Miso-Lime Dressing

FIVE YEARS AGO: 2012 Fitness Report: P90X2

SIX YEARS AGO: Caramelized Bananas

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Whole Wheat Bread

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A VALENTINE’S DAY OPERA

Not everyone is fond of opera. I go as far as saying that it is an acquired taste. But if you switch from music to cake, the polls are reversed: most people will go weak in the knees anticipating a slice. Opera Cake is often described as a dessert in six acts. Layers of thin cake, moist with a delicate coffee syrup, separated by luscious coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache. A real French classic. A real beauty. A perfect way to say I love you on February 14th. Or any other day of the year. Because this is a cake that creates its own moment. And thanks to Colette Christian and  Craftsy lessons online, Sally, the cake-o-phobe produced a version that made her very happy…

 

OPERA CAKE – RECIPE OVERVIEW

(based on Colette Christian’s Miniature French Desserts at Craftsy.com)

 

It all starts with the mis-en-place for a Joconde sponge cake. With a name like that, you know it’s going to be special. Joconde is a cake leavened exclusively by beaten eggs, with a nice proportion of ground almonds (or almond meal) in the batter. Colette gives very nice tips to make it homogeneous in thickness, because the Opera Cake is all about precision. Any small mistake in a step, and the outcome might suffer.

You can use any formula you like for the cake, I will give you one example from BBC food, very similar to the one I used from Colette.

JOCONDE SPONGE CAKE

3 whole eggs
15g sugar
100g almond flour
100g icing sugar
3 egg whites
20g granulated sugar
30g cake flour
30g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Almonds and icing sugar are sifted into a large bowl, eggs added and whisked to combine.

A meringue is made with the egg whites, raining the granulated sugar slowly, until soft peaks form. Increase the speed to medium-high, and mix until the whites are at a firm peak. Add 1/3 of the meringue to the almond mixture. Add half the cake flour and half the melted butter.  Add another 1/3 of meringue, the rest of the flour and butter. Finally fold in the remaining third of the meringue.

Spread the batter as homogeneously as possible on a half-sheet pan. Try not to deflate it and bake it right away for about 15 minutes at 375 F. The cake should not get any color, but it should spring back lightly when touched at the center.

 

After baking, the cake is cut in three rectangles. Try to be precise, but don’t worry too much, as the cake will be trimmed at the very end. One layer is painted with melted chocolate and allowed to set. That layer of chocolate will be the very base of the final cake, preventing any soaking syrup from forming a puddle in the bottom.

You will also need to make a coffee buttercream, more specifically a French buttercream, in which a mixture of sugar and water is cooked to 236 to 240 F (soft-ball stage).  You can use this recipe, which is again very similar to the one I got from Craftsy. Just include 1 tablespoon of coffee extract together with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. You need coffee extract to make sure the flavor will come through without diluting the buttercream too much and affecting texture.

Apart from the buttercream, you’ll need chocolate ganache for one of the cake layers.  A regular kind, equal weights of chocolate and heavy cream, allowed to cool to room temperature and placed in a piping bag.  The buttercream also goes in a piping bag, the easiest and less messy way to assemble the cake. No need to use a piping tip, just cut the bag to form a 1/2 inch opening.

To assemble, first start with the cake painted with melted chocolate at the base. A nice soaking of coffee syrup (water, strong coffee extract and sugar, cooked until the sugar fully dissolves). A layer of buttercream. A second layer of cake. More soaking. Ganache lavishly spread on top. Final layer of syrup-soaked cake, final top layer of buttercream. Now, the assembled cake rests in the fridge for a couple of hours, waiting for the final step. Don’t worry about the way the sides look now. It will all be fine in the end…

The pouring ganache, perhaps better described as a chocolate glaze. A good formula would be 227g chocolate (at least 60% cocoa), 170g heavy cream, and 28g light corn syrup. The glaze cannot be too hot, and cannot be too cold. A little colder than body temperature will be perfect. Colette shows a nice technique to pour the glaze, so that it sits as a very smooth layer on top. Once all that is done, the cake is refrigerated for several hours so that all layers are nicely set. Do not dare cutting it before it sets, you will not have defined layers unless you exercise patience. That gave me a bit of a chuckle. Me, advising patience, the virtue I lack the most…

Then what? Then the final fun begins… I decided to cut the cake in 2 inch squares, and for that I used a very cool gadget. I tell you, just getting that tool ready made me feel like some heavy hitter baker… I know, I’m easily amused. But, seriously, just look at how cool that is:

I also used this tool to cut the laminated dough for croissants and pain au chocolat, but failed to get a picture at the time.  All you need to do is measure the precise dimension of what you want to cut (or score the surface, as in the case of the Opera Cake), and lock the rolling blades in place.  Gently roll them over the surface of the fully set cake, and you will have perfect squares, ready to be sliced with a serrated knife. The edges are trimmed off to reveal clean layers on all sides of the cut pieces. The secret is to place the knife in very hot tap water, and clean the blade after every cut you make. If you’d like to order one, here is a link to amazon.com (I do not make any profit from your purchase, by the way).

A little buttercream goes in a small piping bag couple with a star tip. And you are ready to decorate the top. Or, you can do the more authentic decoration, writing Opera on each slice. Since I opted to cut the cake small, I went with the buttercream instead. What do you think?

This cake was so much fun to make!  I started early on a Sunday morning, and tried to work as relaxed as possible. It is cake, after all, and they make me a little nervous. But, less now than in the past.

For those who celebrate…

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!


I know I’ll be repeating myself, but I must give high praise to the online baking classes from Craftsy, particularly those taught by Colette Christian.  Without her guidance, making the Opera Cake would have been a tragedy in six acts… 


ONE YEAR AGO: Incredibly Simple Times Four

TWO YEARS AGO: Raspberry Chocolate Truffles

THREE YEARS AGO: Red Velvet Cupcakes

FOUR YEARS AGO: Valentine’s Day: The Finale

FIVE YEARS AGO: Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

SIX YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food

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FESENJAN, FAST-FOOD STYLE

When you buy a container with fresh pomegranate seeds from the store, you need to put it to use before the husband hits said container and inhales them all while watching Broadchurch late at night. I managed to salvage enough seeds to showcase them over a favorite of mine, Fesenjan. Yes, I’ve blogged about it in the past (click here), but this time I used the pressure cooker and really enjoyed the added lusciousness-factor the method provided. If you have a pressure cooker,  or the fashionable instant pot, you can turn this classic into fast-food. Can you imagine so much joy on a weeknight dinner?

FESENJAN
(slightly adapted from A Calculated Whisk)

6 ounces walnut halves, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in half
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 shallot, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons honey
½ cup pomegranate seeds, for serving
chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

Place the toasted walnuts in a food processor and grind them to a coarse powder. Reserve.

On a large skillet or in the pressure cooker (on the instant pot), heat the olive oil and add the chicken pieces seasoned with salt and pepper. Brown them lightly, if necessary in two batches. Reserve.  Add the shallots, saute’ for a couple of minutes, then add the turmeric, cinnamon and cardamon. Stir until fragrant. Pour in the chicken stock. If using a skillet, transfer the mixture to the pressure cooker now.

Add the ground walnuts, pomegranate molasses and honey. Stir to combine, Close the pressure cooker and once full pressure is achieved, cook for 15 minutes. Release the pressure, if the sauce is too thin, cook for a few minutes with the lid open to reduce it.
Serve the chicken with fresh pomegranate seeds and cilantro leaves scattered on top.
 
 ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

Comments: If you don’t have a pressure cooker (or an Instant Pot) you can obviously adapt it for a regular pan, just cook it on a very low simmer for 45 minutes to one hour. I like the chicken to be super tender.  Pomegranate molasses is a great ingredient to have in your pantry. You can cook down pomegranate juice with sugar to the point of a syrup, and use that instead, but the convenience of opening a bottle is hard to beat. If you’d like to make it from scratch, here is a good method.

Fesenjan goes well over white rice, over Persian rice (see my version here), or cauliflower rice for those who prefer to follow a low-carb route. Leftovers enjoyed inside a corn tortilla are a no-no. If you know a food blogger who admits in public to doing that, stop following her (or him) immediately.

ONE YEAR AGO: Lavender Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache

TWO YEARS AGO: Raspberry Chocolate Truffles

THREE YEARS AGO: Red Velvet Cupcakes

FOUR YEARS AGO: Happy Valentine’s Day!

FIVE YEARS AGO:  A Few Blogging Issues

SIX YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food

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A SPINACH SALAD TO WRITE HOME ABOUT

I know, spinach salad is not the most exciting item in the culinary world. I admit it. But this one got two very enthusiastic thumbs up from the husband, who prefers to reserve his excitement for things like a juicy T-bone steak, or falling-off-the-bone barbecue ribs. Every component helps the other one shine. Give it a try.

SPINACH SALAD WITH PEARS AND WALNUTS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the salad:
a bunch of spinach leaves, preferably baby spinach
a handful of walnuts, lightly toasted with a touch of salt
one or two Bartlett pears, peeled and thinly sliced
feta cheese, crumbled, amount to taste
pomegranate seeds, sprinkled with abandon

for the dressing:
3 tablespoons grape seed oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
a touch of mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together. I actually prefer to add everything but the oil, so that the salt dissolves well into the vinegar. Whisk the oil, make a nice emulsion and reserve.

Add the spinach leaves to a platter, place all other components on top. Add the dressing, toss the leaves very gently to coat.  Serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I confess to having a problem with pomegranate seeds. I cannot stop grabbing the cups full of them, sold at Dillon’s.  I know, who needs to buy that when you can get the fruit and whack it yourself? I can tell you one thing, if you could watch me performing the maneuver of getting seeds off the fruit, you would understand why I avoid doing it. Yes, I’ve tried every single “easy and efficient” method published in magazines, books, and websites. Even the one describe as “The Ultimate Trick for Pomegranate Seeds Removal.” Thanks, but no thanks.  But, whatever your method of choice, try this salad, it is really delicious, and elegant enough for company. The juicy pears, the salty feta, the nutty nuts, well… you get the picture.

ONE YEAR AGO: Karen’s Four Hour French Country Bread

TWO YEARS AGO: The Siren’s Song of the Royal Icing

THREE YEARS AGO: Blog-worthy Roasted Butternut Squash

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chocolate Currant Sourdough Loaf & Roasted Beet Hummus

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sesame and Flax Seed Sourdough

SIX YEARS AGO: Spanakopita Meatballs

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Pain de Mie au Levain

 

 

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SLOW-COOKED CHICKEN MEATBALLS

A little note added after publication: today is the first Monday of the month, so let me tell you which was my favorite post of January: Happy New Year in My Kitchen!  If you’ve missed it, here is the link.  But come right back, ok?  To see what many of my virtual friends pick as their best post, visit Sid’s blog.

Sometimes a dinner makes me so happy I cannot stop smiling. This was one.  Not only because it was delicious, but because I made it all in advance and we arrived home to a dinner ready and waiting, without that “crock pot taste” that so often is present when recipes take the “dump it and forget it” approach. Basically, not every type of meat shines during long cooking. These meatballs do. And they even hide a little surprise inside…

SLOW-COOKED CHICKEN MEATBALLS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, adapted from many sources)

1 pound ground chicken
1/2 pound mild Italian sausage (casings removed)
1 Tablespoon coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 bunch kale, stems removed, coarsely chopped
1 small shallot, finely minced
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/4 cup almond meal
salt and pepper to taste
1 large can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup water (or chicken broth)
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
small mozzarella balls, one per meatball

Start by sauteing shallots in coconut oil in a large skillet until translucent and fragrant. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then add the kale. Cook until wilted, transfer to a bowl and allow it to completely cool. If you like to cool it faster, add it to a baking sheet on a single layer.

In a large bowl, add the two types of meat, the sautéed kale, egg and egg yolk. Season with a little salt (the sausage is already seasoned), then add the almond flour.  Mix gently and form into large balls, incorporating a small mozzarella ball in the center. You should have enough for 8 to 9 chicken meatballs. Refrigerate them for one hour or more to firm them up. You can make this the day before.

Pour the crushed tomatoes in the bowl of a crock pot, add the water (or stock) and the butter cut into large pieces. Season with some salt and pepper, add the Herbes the Provence. Place the meatballs gently inside. Cook on low for 5 hours. If you have a chance, flip the meatballs after a couple of hours.

Serve right away or save in the fridge for next day, when flavors will be even better.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I prepared the chicken meatballs on Sunday, stored them in the fridge, started them cooking next day during our lunch break. My slow-cooker keeps the food warm for a couple of hours, so we don’t have to worry about rushing home in that type of situation. Mondays are usually tough. You’d think that we would be all relaxed after the weekend, but truth is there is so much to do around the house that by the time Monday comes we are seriously hoping it would be Friday instead… For that reason I try to plan a very easy dinner for the first evening of a working week.

Now, of course, not everyone is as spoiled as we are, having the chance to go home for lunch. Keep in mind you can always do the slow-cooking part in the evening, then enjoy them for dinner the day after, they only get tastier. I was thrilled that Phil decided to stick with his smoothie and cereal bar for lunch later that week. I did not have to share the leftovers…  Yes, he is a keeper. But I suppose I’ve mentioned that a few times.

ONE YEAR AGO: Zesty Flourless Chocolate Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Maple Pumpkin Pecan Snacking Cake

THREE YEARS AGOSilky Gingered Zucchini Soup

FOUR YEARS AGO: Sweet Fifteen!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sesame and Flaxseed Sourdough

SIX YEARS AGO: Green Beans with Miso and Almonds

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

EIGHT YEARS AGO: White Bread

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CARAMEL CHOCOLATE TARTLETS


With this post I become a life-time member of The Craftsy Cheerleading Club.  Quite likely the oldest member of the organization, but my enthusiasm matches that of a sophomore. This class in particular Pies and Tarts for Every Season, is taught by  Gesine Bullock-Prado. I’m a bit distant from TV (except for binge watching stuff like Broadchurch, Outlander, Black Mirror) so I had no clue she is such a hot commodity in the media. Deservedly so. Teaching is a bit of a performing act. You need to capture the attention of your students and at the same time convey your message in a clear and efficient way. Lightening up a lecture using jokes and funny analogies is a nice way to make sure your audience stays with you. However, balance is everything. There is a delicate line to negotiate between lightness and solid info, and she really shines at it. I learned a lot about pie crusts, how to manipulate each kind, how to choose which crust to bake depending on the type of filling. All in a fun, relaxed way.  I am always amazed at the quality of online classes offered by Craftsy, and the reviews by users are for the most part spot on. Before buying any class, you can browse through to see exactly what you’ll be getting, and the feedback from other users. A win-win situation. Now, for the bit of bad news. I could not get permission to publish the recipe, so if you are interested in the exact formula Gesine used for crust and filling, you’ll have to get it from the site.

OVERVIEW OF THE RECIPE

It all starts with the crust. You have several options. You can make a single larger tart, or shape about 50g of dough per tartlet, using muffin rings or a tartlet pan like I did. Compared to a muffin ring, my tarts were a tad bit bigger, so I used 60g of dough for each one. Her recipe has some cute twists, like using condensed milk in the dough. It gives not only a more intense sweetness, but it browns nicely in the oven.  Following her detailed instructions, I was happy to get all tarts to bake evenly, no soggy bottoms (who wants to have that? not me!), and basically zero shrinkage (scary thought).

I added my own little twist to the preparation by placing the pie weights (and dried beans) into the shells using food grade plastic wrap instead of parchment paper. It does not melt in the oven, as long as you crumble it on top preventing it from touching the metal of the pan, you’ll be fine.  I love the way it allows the beans and ceramic balls to reach the edge of the tart. As long as you don’t bake the shells in a higher than 400F oven, no problem.  After the initial baking with weights, I removed them, got the shells back in a baking sheet and baked with the bottoms up in the air as shown in the photo. I just wanted to prevent any soggy bottom phenomenon (watching Great British Bake Off made me traumatized about those).

For her caramel recipe, she uses a bit of maple syrup in addition to usual suspects. Any caramel recipe you enjoy will do, make sure to cook it to the correct temperature, 240 F, that will provide the perfect texture. No caramel running out when you slice the tartlet, no biting into a rock either.  It hardens very quickly, but I still allowed the filled tartlets to rest at room temperature for a good 45 minutes before adding the chocolate ganache.  Again, any recipe will do, but you need to have it almost cool to room temperature, so that it pipes nicely using a 1/4 inch piping tip.

You can be creative, do swirls, waves, fill it solid and play with the surface using an off-set spatula. Once it’s set, sprinkle Graham cracker crumbs on top, or anything else you might like. A drizzle of white chocolate? Oreo crumbs? Gold leaf in pieces? Or as Gesine does in the video,  top with toasted mini-marshmallows and call them Caramel Smore’s Tarts.   Brilliant!  You can probably see a picture on Craftsy. Adorable stuff.

I had a blast making these… and the taste? Spectacular, even if I say so myself

That’s what you want… A nice layer of caramel in between the crunchy crust and the luscious chocolate ganache. Next time I will use muffin rings, so that the top of the crust will be leveled with the chocolate. If you have muffin rings, give them a try as tartlet containers.

Did I mention these would be amazing on Valentine’s Day?

Gesine, thank you for your helpful comments,
I have quite a few of your projects on my list of stuff to try soon….  

ONE YEAR AGO: Chicken Korma-ish

TWO YEARS AGO: Sunday Gravy with Braciola

THREE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, February 2015

FOUR YEARS AGO: Avocado and Orange Salad with Charred Jalapeno Dressing

FIVE YEARS AGO: Green Olive, Walnuts and Pomegranate Salad

SIX YEARS AGO: Romanian Flatbreads

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Ziti with Artichokes and Meyer Lemon Sauce

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Blasted Broccoli, Stove-top version

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