June 12th, 2013 § § permalink
I have plans for these cherries. Big ones that requires yeast and time and a lot of kneading and did I mention time?
For now, I have a lot of speculation and combinations and a multitude of cheeses that I pair with these morsels… but time, there’s just simply not enough. For now, I am more than content to put these warm, rosemary roasted cherries on some brie or mixed into a salad with blue cheese. They’re great with a tad of honey.
To roast cherries, just pit* the cherries and string them onto rosemary branches. The stems are too thin for grilling so I suggest doubling up on the stems if you plan on grilling. In the oven, they take at least 30 minutes if you have it on 350°F. The longer you roast, the less juicy they get so don’t go overboard unless you want cherries for your granola.
*If you love cherries as much as I do, it’s worth investing in one of these gadgets. It is worth every penny. Before I got mine, the kitchen would get quite bloody each time I made cherry preserves or pies.
September 17th, 2012 § § permalink
The grape harvest is an exciting time of year in northern California so I am once again revisiting Tuscany for another culinary inspiration. I found this dish, grape focaccia, while perusing Nigel Slater’s new book, Ripe, which horrified me from the first few pages: pheasant with apples, blood sausage with apples, guinea fowl with sausage and apple… let’s just say that it took a few chapters before I was convinced Nigel was capable of writing recipes for the vegetarian in me. Don’t get me wrong, I think meat tastes great, but I don’t eat it so after 310 pages, I was glad to have found this focaccia recipe, and it’s a great one.
The best part about this classic harvest bread is that it can be subtly adjusted for a more savory flavor. Here, Nigel uses sugar to make a sweet caramelized grape crust, but I have also seen grape focaccia with rosemary and fennel toppings. I’m sure they are all amazing.
My first focaccia attempt earlier this summer was a recipe from a lovely book, which I have otherwise found many treasures… but a whole grain focaccia as a basal effort? I should know better than to start running before I learn to crawl. Working focaccia dough is like quicksand, the more you struggle, the more you sink. This was a hard lesson for me after some sticky, disastrous attempts until I tried the stretch and fold method for kneading bread. Don’t get me wrong, I love kneading bread and all of its glorious exercises but sometimes, it’s worth abandoning for the sake of sanity.
Schiacciata con l’uva (grape focaccia) inspired by Nigel Slater’s Recipe
3 1/4 c. white bread flour
1 package of yeast ~2 ts.
1 ts. sea salt
1 tB sugar
1 1/2 c. warm water
14 oz black seedless grapes
2 TB olive oil
2 TB raw sugar
confectioner’s sugar for dusting
+ Mix yeast and sugar in warm water (115°F) and allow to sit for five minutes until it begins to bubble a bit. In a large bowl, mix salt and flour together and stir in yeast water once yeast is finished activating.
+ Once the dough has been mixed in very well, allow to sit for five minutes and dump the dough onto a floured surface and stretch dough out using this method: The stretch and fold technique from Peter Reinhart.
+ Allow folded dough to sit for 45 minutes and repeat stretch and fold. Allow to sit another 45 minutes, but on the last dough stretch, fold in half of the grapes and allow dough to rise until doubled in size.
+ Preheat oven to 425°F. Top dough with olive oil, the remaining grapes, and place into the oven to bake for about 35 minutes. Once finished, dust the top of the focaccia with powdered sugar. Serve with butter.
August 20th, 2012 § § permalink
There’s hardly a more rewarding form of exercise than kneading dough in the dark of evening, for all that hard work is the prelude to a morning of fresh bread. After the first three minutes, my arms begin to tire but that’s when the shaping becomes rhythmic meditation: thoughts saturated with the scent of fermenting yeast and binding strands of elastic gluten. My short stature makes kneading much more difficult as I have to stand on my tippy toes. I use a timer so there’s no cheating – adding a few extra minutes to ensure that the dough gets worked extra hard. It is much easier to use a bread machine, but where’s the fun in that? Hand kneading is an imperfect art, like Wabi-Sabi.
Undertaking bread baking was the first step to absorbing the vast quantities of preserves I’ve accumulated, a residue of the season’s work – not to mention clearing out last year’s preserves to make room for new ones. The ratio of bread to preserves requires a lot of carb consumption. I can’t complain…
Then, there’s the dogged pursuit of artisanal bread on mornings when you wake up feeling famished from a night of heavy dreaming, the kind of soul-seeping hunger that devours a silo’s worth of grain if only that silo was bedside. It is the promise of bread that coaxes my sleep-heavy body out of bed towards the expectant loaf that ballooned in volume while I slept: I heat the oven and bake the bread as I shower, and by the time I’m dressed there’s a hot loaf coming from the oven, warming the kitchen with its comforting aromas of whole grain goodness. The first few slices are always euphoric, but for days I take intermittent pleasures in private Eleusinian celebrations, feasts of bread and butter accompanied by fresh berries and creature cups.
Suggested Literary Accompaniment: Six Thousand Years of Bread by H.E. Jacob. I’ve been slowly savoring this volume, and it’s nothing short of amazing. Then again, I’m a book fiend when it comes to culinary history.
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking
Beer adds a light sweetness and a beautiful brewery aroma to this loaf. It’s a sandwich bread but I like the flavor so much i’ve been eating it with my latest fruit butter.
3/4 c. amber ale/mild beer
1/4 c. orange juice
3 TB honey
4 TB butter, cut into small chunks
1 3/4 c. whole wheat bread flour
1/2 c. rolled oats
1 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 ts. salt
2 1/4 ts. instant yeast*
+Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for at least 10-12 minutes or until dough feels smooth, elastic, and holds its shape. This is a sticky dough, so if you don’t like to knead by hand, by all means, use a bread machine.
+ Placed kneaded dough into an oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rise until doubled in size (typically 2.5 hours). Gently, squeeze dough and deflate with oiled hands… there’s no punching needed. Shape dough into a bread pan and cover until doubled in size (another 2.5 hours).
+ Bake bread in a 350 °F oven until internal temperature reaches 190°F (about 30 -35 minutes, tent your bread halfway through to prevent overcooking the top).
*If you have active dry yeast, it must be proofed prior to mixing. Just heat up the OJ and honey until it’s warm to the touch (110-115 °F ) and pour the yeast into the liquid while you measure and mix together the dry ingredients. The yeast should start to bubble after 5 minutes. If it is not visibly bubbly, dump the liquids and use different yeast – old yeast will not proof and therefore should not be used.
Recipe for Ginger Peach Butter: http://bklynfoodie.com/?p=3120
I didn’t think this recipe was solid enough for a butter, but the flavor is beautiful. The boyfriend approves. I plan on making it into teeny bite-size hand pies with some fresh peaches.