Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Half-Baked Idea

The end of the summer is still yielding a great bounty! This posting features a wilted arugula and cherry tomato omelette accompanied by a toasted kaiser roll with Kate's salted butter. The arugula and tomatoes are from Shortt's Farm & Garden Center in Sandy Hook, CT and the roll is homemade (see previous posting).

Like many of my creations, I used this combo because they were the only veggies left in the refrigerator. Wilting the arugula tames the flavor a bit and makes the stems slightly tough, so you can saute it first in some olive oil or throw it in the omelette raw. I sauteed the tomatoes ahead of time on high heat to give them a little caramelized color. These babies give the omelette sweetness and acidity...just make sure you salt them during cooking to temper the acidity.

As for the omelette, beat 2-3 eggs and pour into a HOT, oiled pan. I prefer aluminum or steel (no on-stick coating). As the bottom cooks, go around the edge of the omelette with a rubber spatula and lift slightly while tilting the pan so that the raw egg in the middle goes underneath the cooked egg. Do this all around the pan to give the omelette a nice texture. Sprinkle in cheese and dump the arugula/tomato mixture on on half and fold over. Serve with the toasted kaiser roll.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Turn Up the Heat

One of my neighbors recently opened a very unique gift shop in Monroe, CT, The Angry Pepper, so for their grand opening he asked me to come up with something unexpected that he could serve with barbeque. The majority of the items in his store are shake-on spices and sauces, so I came up with a chip that uses a mixture of dried chili flakes, poppy seeds, sweet paprika, salt and black pepper, and can be dipped (if you dare) in salsa. The chips are essentially pita chips that I rolled out with a pasta maker, and I only baked them once, so technically they are not twice baked pita bread, but they taste great and maintain an extreme crunch for a week or so.

The main heat source is a mixture of red savina and jabanero peppers by Dave's Gourmet (appropriately named Insanity Spice). One pepper flakes has about as much intensity as an entire shake of conventional hot pepper flakes, so watch out. The chips have enough flavor from the poppy seeds, paprika and salt, so the dough I used was not fermented very long. If you are making plain chips, though, you could ferment the dough overnight in the refrigerator (see Peter Rheinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice for the recipe).

For rolling the dough, use a pasta roller and a roller-docker. First divide the dough into 3-4 ounce pieces. Once completely rolled, each piece should cover half of a half-sized sheet pan. Flaten the dough to around 1/2 inch thick and coat lightly with flour, just so it doesn't stick. Pass it through the pasta roller set to 1, and repeat 3 times. Then set the roller to two and repeat the process. Move on through the settings until you reach 4. Lay the strips of dough side by side on the pans and dock with the roller. Wet each strips and sprinkle on the toppings. Bake according to the recipe, but watch carfully that the chips don't get too dark. You can break up the baked sheets into shards or slice into square with a pizza cutter prior to baking. To keep the pizza cutter from sticking, have a bowl of water handy and dip the cutter liberally between every few cuts.

<=check out the shine!

I also bake some baguettes and kaiser rolls today, but I only wanted to mention the kaiser rolls because I washed them with egg and water this time, and they got the classic shine. As I mentioned in a previous posting, Rheinhart's recipe forgets this step. I also added 1/2 tbsp. additional olive oil, which made the rolls slightly softer.

So, I hope you try both of these recipes (sorry I am making you buy the book...you could also visit your local library) and until my next entry, I'll be baking.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect

Well, like anything, practicing pie crusts more than once a year wil definitely lead to better quality. I baked two pies today with dough I made 3 days ago. I really think that the long chill had everything to do with the tender, flaky crust. I did, however, make it with a higher ratio of whole wheat pastry flour, and this seemed to take away slightly from the flakiness. I am not going to dote on that, though.

For these pies I chose CT grown peaches and blueberries. This year has been great to blueberries, which are still going strong into August. The peaches have started out spectacularly, and are incredibly juicy. That being said, I have learned a thing or two about juiciness. If you use the old fashioned pie method (fresh raw fruit, sugar, starch, butter) mix the fruit with the sugar and starch just before filling the pie. If you don't want a juicy pie, drain off some of the juice before mixing the sugar and starch. As an alternative, use the cooked fruit method and thicken the juice before filling the pie. This way you can use as much of the juice as you would like.

The reason that I suggest these two methods is because when I made the apple pie from the last entry I mixed the sugar and starch with the apples and let them sit for about 30 minutes. So much water was leached out (and therefore there was very little starch that stayed with the apples) that the pie was a little dry.

If you want to make these pies, here is the formula:

-bottom and top crust
-2 lbs. of fruit per pie
-6 oz. sugar
-0.5 oz. corn starch (2 tbsp.)
-1/8 tsp. salt
-1 oz. butter (2 tbsp.)

Mix the fruit, sugar, starch, and salt. Fill the pie, put on the top crust and close pie. Bake at 400 for 30 mintues, then 350 for 20-30 minutes. Brush with egg wash and dust with sugar.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

American as Apple Pie?

Apple pie is the quentessential American dessert - that is, apple pie with lots of cinnamon. I prefer my pie with no cinnamon. Yes, I said it...no cinnamon. Take your recipe card and cross it off! I made the pie with nutmeg and lemon zest, which both let the flavor of the apples sing without the over-powering spice of cinnamon.
I really want to focus on the crust, though, because this is my first scratch crust that has turned out tender and flaky. First off, I use all butter (shortening is for short-cutters). If you treat butter right it can be just as good to you. The key, I think, is the chilling and adding all of the liquid at once so the dough is not over mixed. First I cut the butter in small cubes, mix it with the flour, and put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes. After that, I pulse the butter and flour mixture in the food processor to make larger-than-pea size chunks. Then I add all of the cold water (also chilled in the freezer in a cocktail shaker) with the salt and sugar at once. I pulse it for a bit longer, say 30 seconds to 1 minute, and turn the dough into a bowl. I press it into a ball and wrap it in plastic. Finally, I chill it for 20-30 minutes in the freezer. I will venture to say that chilling the dough in between handling served it well, and I would suggest doing this often.

The crust rolled incredibly easily on a pastry cloth (I found this great pastry cloth at Bed Bath and Beyond, but I forgot the name of the company. It is 100% natural and made by a company in Texas...that is all I remember).

As for the filling, I think the most important lesson I learned was not to toss the fruit with the sugar until you are ready to fill the pie. Most of the juice was leached out of the apples and the corn starch and sugar stayed behind with the juice I as loaded the fruit into the pie. It was still good - don't get me wrong - there was simply no thick, appley, syrupy goo in the pie. Oh well, I guess I will get it right next time.

Until then, I'll be baking...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Kaiser Rolls & Ciabatta Batards

Finally, my first post about something I baked! This bake included Kaiser Rolls and Ciabatta Batards. The Ciabatta dough was not as wet as real Ciabatta (actually, it was more like a super-hydrated French Bread dough) but it still yielded a spongy crumb with large holes.

The Kaiser Rolls turned out soft and flavorful due to the long, cold overnight fermentation and came out of the oven slightly crusty (though they softened after they cooled). The rolls are knotted. Both recipes came from Peter Reinhardt's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

Actually, both recipes used long, cold overnight fermentation by using a component called a pre-ferment. The pre-ferment in both recipes is the same, and when I make the pre-ferment I double or triple the recipe and bake a few different breads at once. Check out the book for the recipes.
Before I close, a couple of tips: Red Star Active Dry yeast acts very similarly to instant yeast and can be used as a substitute. Using Peter's steam pan method is the best way I have found to get a crispy crust. You can also spray the loaves as they are proofing to give them an interesting texture. Finally, for the Kaiser Rolls, use an egg wash to get the tops shiny. The recipe doesn't call for it but has a picture of egg-washed rolls in the book. Until next time...I'll be baking.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Nothin' from the oven

Well, so far I have not been able to take any pictures of anything. My wife had the digital camera while she was on a business trip. I now have the camera but have not baked anything when there was sufficient natural light to photograph. I hope to get some pictures up soon...nay, I vow to get some pictures up soon!

Friday, June 20, 2008

What its all about

Hi! This is the first post on my baking blog, and I have no photos with me at the moment, so you'll have to wait to see some of the goodies I've been making. Just last night I made bagels for the second time and found that it is pretty easy to achieve consistency. My favorite things to bake are muffins, scones and lean breads.

In the course of writing this blog I will attempt to post an entry about everything I bake. If it is a repeat I'll discuss what I did differently and describe the results. I look forward to hearing feedback or personal experiences.