DAN LEPARD TIMES THREE

Dan Lepard is the person who many years ago started my bread baking adventures through his fascinating book The Handmade Loaf. I even named my sourdough starter “Dan” and he is now a healthy and bubbly 8-year-old boy. Dan is better known as a bread baker, but his talent goes way beyond that, as you can see in his book Short and Sweet, which I reviewed five years ago. He often writes articles in The Guardian and in Goodfood (an Australian online publication) and I try not to miss anything new coming from him.  Today I share three wonderful recipes, one published in Short and Sweet (but shared by Dan in The Guardian) and two from Goodfood. Dan prefers not to have his recipes published in food blogs, so respecting his wishes, I will only share the links. You can fetch them easily and make them in the comfort of your kitchen…

First, a batch of brownies that could very well be my favorite brownie recipe ever.  Very sophisticated and complex, even those with issues against brownies will be awed by Dan’s take on it.  Figs and chocolate are a great match, but add a little red wine and you’ll hit a jackpot.  Make them. You must.

SHIRAZ FIG BROWNIES

First you reduce Shiraz on the stove top until it is a concentrated purple-reddish beauty that smells wonderful… then you add to it chocolate, butter, walnut halves and dried figs. By the way,  get the best quality figs you can find for these brownies. Also, make sure to keep the walnuts in large pieces, don’t go dicing them.  The texture of the figs, the gooey chocolate and a slight touch of fennel seeds make this recipe shine! A real masterpiece in brownie format.

for the full recipe, click here

 

Tell me, don’t you wish you could have a piece like RIGHT NOW?

 


Next, let’s talk Chestnut Ginger Biscuits. I adore ginger and anything sweet with spices, but normally have a bit of a problem with crispy cookies. I am definitely a soft-baked kind of girl. Sorry, odd phrase. Anyway, these cookies are basically dressed-up gingersnaps. They are crispy, they are hard, but once you bite into them, they melt in your mouth, and your senses are invaded with the warmth of ginger and cloves. Spectacular. Make them. You must. 

CHESTNUT GINGER BISCUITS

The recipe uses chestnut flour, an ingredient that might be a little tricky to find, but you can order it online. Smells amazing, actually. As usual for nut flours, keep it in the freezer. The preparation is actually quite simple, a one-bowl type of thing. Melt the butter, add the spices, get all happy with the intense smell as you mix the dough, that must sit in the fridge for a little while before scooping little balls and rolling in coarse sugar.  They are fun to make, fun to watch as they bake and get all cracked, and fun to share with co-workers. On a side note, I baked mine for only 18 minutes instead of 25 as called for in the recipe, and they turned out perfect.  As soon as they started to collapse a little, I removed them from the oven.

for the full recipe, click here

Finally, let me share a special bread. It is not a Johnny Depp-like loaf. No, definitely not eye-candy. It is black, with a tight crumb, quite humble looking. But when you taste it, you realize you are in front of bread royalty. Believe it or not, I made it in December 2014 and never blogged about it, hoping to make it again and perhaps get better pictures. I have good intentions, but they don’t always materialize. Oh, well. Make this bread. You must.

 

RUSSIAN BLACK BREAD

Very interesting preparation, rye flour is added to boiling water, then allowed to cool to lukewarm.  Yeast and sugar are added.  At that point, I realized I was out of an important ingredient to continue with the recipe (caraway seeds!) so I dashed to the grocery store, and returned to find quite a bit of a mess over my counter.  On the positive side,  at least I could be sure the yeast was alive and kicking.  Or, should I say, bubbling?  Another interesting twist in the recipe is the addition of grated carrots to the dough. All in all, a very straightforward bake, the bread will be ready in less than 3 hours start to finish.

 

 

for the full recipe, click here

As I mentioned, I baked this bread back in December 2014, when two very special friends (Marijo and Vlad) visited us. I knew that Vlad grew up in Russia enjoying dark rye breads, and decided to try and bake one for him.  Of course, I trust any recipe designed by Dan, and this one hit the spot. Vlad said that my bread took him straight to his childhood and teenage days. I cannot think of a better compliment…

Bumper sticker from Penzey’s, a company I’ve been a customer for 15 years. They are taking a firm stance on a message of inclusion, of embracing diversity and refusing hate and division.  On top of it, their spices rock!  Visit and support their online store with a click here.

 

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ONE YEAR AGO: Turkey Portobello Burger

TWO YEARS AGO: Raspberry Ricotta Cake

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2014

FOUR YEARS AGO: Whole-Wheat Pasta with Lemony Tomatoes and Spinach

FIVE YEARS AGO: Blood Orange Duck: A work in progress

SIX YEARS AGO: Grilled Mahi-mahi with citrus marinade

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Memories of Pastéis (and my Dad)

CHESTNUT BROWNIES & A BLOG AWARD!

As you might remember from a recent post, I was looking forward to playing with what was left of my precious chestnut flour, born and raised in Corsica, matured in Paris, and lovingly transported all the way to Kansas, USA.  Celia, my dear virtual friend who blogs at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, urged me to try her chestnut brownies, so on a warm Tuesday evening, I went right to work. By the way, these are gluten-free, so if you have allergies or other wheat-related-issues, go ahead and indulge!

ChestnutBrownies

CHESTNUT BROWNIES
(from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial)

90g (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
225g (8oz) 50 – 60% cacao semisweet chocolate (I used Zoet 57%)
150g (¾ cup) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
40g (¼ cup) chestnut flour (sifted)
150g (1 cup) chocolate chips (you can substitute toasted walnuts, same amount) 

Heat oven to 175C/350F or 160C/320F with fan.

Measure out all your ingredients and have them ready to go.  Line a 20cm (8″) baking pan with parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, then add the chocolate and stir over low heat until melted and smooth.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla until combined.

Stir in the eggs one at a time.  Add the sifted chestnut flour all at once and stir vigorously until you can feel the batter “snap”. The batter starts out grainy and fairly loose.  As you beat it by hand, it will initially feel like nothing is happening, and then it will suddenly feel a bit stiffer – that’s when you’ll know a state change has occurred.  This might take one minute, or it might take several.  Stop occasionally to check how it’s going. Unlike true fudge, it’s not a huge “snap”, but the texture will definitely change noticeably – it will feel stiffer, look smoother, and pull away from the sides and bottom of the pan.

Gently stir in the chocolate chips (or walnuts).

Scrape the batter into the lined pan and smooth out the top.  Bake for 25 minutes until just firm.   Do not over-bake. Allow the brownies to cool completely before lifting them out of the pan and slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

ChocolateZoet
It is not very easy to find chocolate with less than 60% cocoa where I live, but one store carried Zoet, a brand I had never heard of.  So, that’s what I used, and the brownies turned out delicious! My beloved husband is very hard to please as far as brownies are concerned (and cakes, and muffins, and pies – I’m clearly a martyr), but he was totally in love with them, and insisted I should write an email to Celia right away to say “Phil is giving these brownies two thumbs waaaaay up“.

WithCoffee

We started the morning savoring a piece with our cappuccino – can you recognize perfection when you see it?  That was it.  The rest of the batch was offered to our colleagues at the department. That Wednesday started gray and rainy, a bit on the cold side, but I hope the  brownies helped face it with a smile. Did you notice?  Baked them on a warm Tuesday evening, served them on a cool Wednesday morning… that’s Kansas spring in all its glory… 😉

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And now it’s celebration time!  I was recently nominated by Tuscas Värld for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award.   I love dragons, I think they are a good match for a bewitching site, don’t you agree?

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The rules for the award are simple, you have to link back to the blogger who nominated you – done! – post the logo on your site – done! – and tell 7 interesting things about yourself.  Not sure they will be that interesting, but here they are:

1. Every time I see a recipe with a title that starts with “Healthy”, I roll my eyes to the ceiling. Every. Single. Time.

2. I pay as much attention to movie reviews as I do to wine ratings: none. 

3. I went through a phase of intense fear of flying that lasted for a couple of years.  I managed to get over it, but a little turbulence still sends me into panic mode. Interestingly enough, I would love to learn to fly a plane. It’s all about control, I suppose…   (sigh)

4. If I had to choose between having a root canal or going to a live performance by Celine Dion I would set the dentist appointment right away.

5. I don’t like to be away from Phil, a trip without him has no appeal for me whatsoever. Even if it involved Paris.

6. We started watching Breaking Bad (disclosure: 90% of the time I say Baking Bread) a couple of weeks ago and we are hooked!  For other fans of this amazing series, take a look at this letter from Anthony Hopkins to Bryan Cranston. Awesome!

7. I am terrified of heights, but this video mesmerized me!  Phil and I watch it over and over. The song is great, the people super cool… It’s decided: on my next life I won’t be a wimp! 😉

 Again, thank you for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award, I do realize that I should pass the award for other 15 bloggers, but as I explained in the past, I do not forward awards, I hope it’s not a serious drawback.   One of the ways I like to show my appreciation for bloggers is doing what I just did in this post: cooking a recipe from their site.

 Celia, thank you for the constant inspiration not only in cooking, but through your approach of “Living well in the urban village”. You do that like a pro!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Quinoa with Cider-Glazed Carrots

TWO YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday: Heirloom Tomatoes Steal the Show

THREE YEARS AGO: Pain de Provence

FOUR YEARS AGO: Golspie Loaf, from the Scottish Highlands

CHESTNUT FLOUR SOURDOUGH BREAD

On the last In My Kitchen post, I promised to come back to talk about a bread made with chestnut flour brought all the way from France. The Bread Baking Queen Farine was the one who got me into this bread adventure, and advised me to search for this exotic flour in Paris. When I sent her a photo of the bag I bought she was super excited because it turns out chestnut flour from Corsica is considered the best in the world!  Amazing that it was exactly the type available near our hotel. Pure luck. With the stars so beautifully aligned, I was sure this would turn out as a wonderful baking project!  Was I right?  Well, let’s say that troubles were brewing faster than the wild yeast in my sourdough starter.

chestnutbread12

CHESTNUT SOURDOUGH BREAD
(from Farine’s blog)

(makes 4 small loaves)

For the pre-fermented dough
175 g mature white starter
494 g unbleached all-purpose flour
258 g water
26 g raw wheat germ (I used toasted)
12 g salt

For the final dough
750 g unbleached all-purpose flour
400 g chestnut flour
700 g water
450 g fermented white dough
5 g instant dry yeast
25 g salt
200 g whole, peeled cooked chestnuts, crumbled into chunks

For the fermented dough
Mix flour, water and white starter until the flour is well hydrated, cover with a cloth and let rest 20 minutes. Add salt and mix until you get a gluten window (when you stretch some of the dough really thin, you see strands of gluten and almost-see through spots). Put in an oiled bowl and cover tightly.

Let rise at room temperature for about two hours, then put in the fridge for up to 48 hours

Remove from the fridge at least two hours before using

For the final dough
Combine the flours in the bowl of the mixer, add the water and mix well. Cover with a cloth and let rest for 30 minutes

Add the fermented dough and yeast and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic. Sprinkle the salt over it and mix some more.

Very lightly flour your work surface. Place your dough on it, rough-side up, and flatten it out with your fingers. Spread the chestnut pieces over the top and press them well into the dough. Fold a few times so that all the chestnuts are incorporated into the dough. Form the dough into a ball, put it into an oiled bowl, cover with a cloth and let it rest for 40 minutes.

Lightly flour your work surface again, and turn the dough out on it. Fold the dough (on all four sides), then put back into your bowl, cover with baking cloth and let it rest for another 20 minutes. Lightly flour your work surface again, turn out the dough and divide it into 4 equal pieces.  Shape as desired.

Place on a semolina dusted parchment paper over a sheet pan. Let rise, covered with baking cloths, for 1 ½ hour or until just doubled in volume.

Meanwhile turn on the oven to 500ºF/250ºC with a baking stone in it and an empty cast iron (or metal) pan on the bottom shelf. When ready to bake, score the breads the way you like, pour 1 cup of water in the cast iron (or metal) pan and slide the breads (still on their parchment paper) onto the baking stone, spray some water into the oven and close the door quickly.

After 5 minutes, turn the oven down to 440ºF/220ºC and bake for another 20 minutes. Check to see if the loaves need to be turned around or if they need to switch places, then bake for another 10 minutes as needed

Let cool on a rack.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

ChestnutsDough1

Comments: When you buy 500g of chestnut flour several thousand miles away from home, you become very protective of it  A recipe that calls for 400g (in other words, 80% of my treasure) prompted me to launch a quick email to Farine, asking her thoughts on halving the recipe.  She is far more experienced in sourdough baking than me, so when she speaks, I listen. Once she gave me the ok to go for it, I felt empowered, on top of the world. Yes, I will be able to bake this bread and have a lot of chestnut flour leftover to play with. How cool is that?  So, being the super smart person I like to think I am, I made a nice table in which all amounts were cut in half, and went to work.

The catastrophic event was completely neglecting to look back at the table when mixing starter with the other components of the dough. I would have noticed that only HALF of the fermented dough should be added. So, that beautiful photo you see above, with a stretched out dough and the chestnuts waiting to be incorporated, was taken right before the piercing cry, the calling myself names, and the scared dogs running after Phil as he dashed out of the kitchen.  It is shocking and appalling to realize how little sympathy I get from those who live with me.

It is not easy to think rationally under duress, but I figured that the only way out of my self-inflicted misery was to discard half of that dough (ouch, it hurt!)  and add more of all other components to the other half, except (obviously) the starter.  Two problems with this strategy: I would not have time to let the flours go through autolyse before mixing, and I would have to use more of my precious chestnut flour.  With a heavy heart, that’s what I did.

compositechestnut

I was absolutely sure the abused bread would turn out to be a complete failure, but the Gods of Bread are a lot kinder than the Gods of Golf, so all had a miraculous happy ending.  Maybe the crumb turned out a little too tight, but I can tell you this bread tastes amazing!  If you can find chestnut flour where you live, or if you can order it online, try this bread. And, I echo Farine with one piece of advice she gave me: it is ok to scale down the recipe, but do not substitute walnuts or other nuts. Chestnuts are essential…

MC, thanks for the constant inspiration, and sorry I messed up the recipe. There’s always next time, as long as I find a good source for chestnut flour here in the US. Amazon.com to the rescue?  😉

Breads11

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting

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