Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Rustic French Bread

Bread nombre trois in this Thanksgiving week of breads is what I call “rustic” French bread, for it is neither a thin baguette or a round boule, but is made with a similar dough recipe.  It’s ‘rustic’ because it is similar to some of the loaves you might see in small bakeries that dot the countryside of France.  (a shape the French might call a ‘batard,’ for it is perhaps a bastardized baguette)   This shape is also rustic to me because it’s the shape of loaf that my mom used to bake when she made “French Bread,” from the recipe in her little 1950s paperback French cookbook. 

The cookbook was folded over so that it was permanently turned to the French bread page, and thus that page was yellowed, dog-eared and foxed more so than the rest of the book.  (Mom didn’t do a whole lot of ‘other’ French cooking)

I like this loaf because it is a nice middle of the road size between small baguettes (which I love, but are difficult to make properly.  More on them in a later blog post) and full-sized sandwich bread. 

The key to making a good French loaf is to make what is known as a poolish, or starter, the night before.  This little bit of dough will undergo a long, slow fermentation all night long, developing some amazing, tangy, complex flavors that will show up in your final bread loaf.  Don’t skip this step. 

Rustic French Bread

for poolish:

5 1/4 Oz (1 1/4 Cup) Unbleached All Purpose Flour
5 1/4 Oz (2/3 Cup) 60˚F Water
1/8 Teaspoon Instant Yeast

The night before, mix dry ingredients together and then add the water and stir just to combine.  Cover and let sit overnight.  In the morning you will have something that looks like this and smells wonderfully ‘bready.’  

Note the bubbles in the poolish from the long fermentation. 

for main dough

10 1/2 Oz (2 1/2 Cups) Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 Teaspoons Instant Yeast
2 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
5 1/4 Oz (2/3 Cup)  60˚F Water
All of the Poolish

Place the flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of your mixer and stir to combine.  

Add the water to the poolish and use a fork to break the poolish dough free from its bowl.  Add it with the water to the mixing bowl of dry ingredients and run your mixer with a dough hook until the ingredients are just combined.  Let rest 20 minutes. 

After the rest, knead the dough by hand or with your mixer until it just becomes elastic and a bit cohesive.  Transfer to a lightly-oiled bowl and let rise for two hours, punching down and folding after one hour. 

After the two hour rise, move the dough to a lightly-floured surface 

and work it into a loaf shape.  

Then move it to a couche as I’ve done here and let the loaf rise for an hour or so.  

If you don’t have a couche, use a perforated ‘Italian Loaf’ pan or similar. 

Preheat oven to 500˚F with a baking stone inside. 

Using a bread lame or sharp knife, cut diagonal slits in the top of the loaf.

Transfer the loaf with a peel from your couche to the baking stone.  

Turn the oven down to 475˚F and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and crusty.  (for a crunchier crust, add a tablespoon or two of water to the bottom of your oven when you put the loaf in.  The steam created will help to crust up the bread!)  

Take loaf out of the oven and let cool a bit before slicing. 

When cool, cut off a slice and admire the crumb.  

Not a bad effort, but a master baker can usually get a lighter, airier crumb with larger cells or holes in it.  I'm just not there yet, and can't seem to do it on a consistent basis.  Here's a photo of another loaf I made with a slacker dough, and it is a bit closer to what I'm looking for:

But, I'd actually like to see even more, larger cells like what you might find when you cut into a loaf from France or an excellent artisan bakery.   Oh well, at least mine still tastes great!   Let's slice it up...

and serve it up with plenty of real butter!

It also makes an excellent base for cheesy garlic bread.

Just sprinkle the buttered bread with mozzarella and garlic salt and zip it under the broiler for a few minutes.  Mouthwatering!

Until next time,

Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving will be a hearty one!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Brotform Bread

Bread Number Two for our Thanksgiving week of breads is a simple country loaf that gets gussied up by doing its rising in a brotform.  I got this one from my mother-in-law as a gift last Christmas, and I've been enjoying using it this year.

A brotform is simply a wooden bowl made of spiraled rattan that imprints a delightful pattern on the risen dough that remains after the bread bakes, making for a much more attractive loaf.  But there's more to it than that.  Raising your dough in a bowl helps a slack dough gain a better rise, and not spread out everywhere like a pizza pie crust.  You could do this in a regular bowl, of course, but it wouldn't look as pretty.  I also believe the spiral channels, which hold flour, help facilitate the dough releasing from the brotform.

So now that we know what it is, let's make some bread.

Brotform Country Loaf

2.5 Cups Bread Flour
1/2 Cup Pumpernickel Flour
1.5 Teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
1.5 Teaspoons Salt
1 1/4 Cup Lukewarm Water

Preheat Oven to 450F.  Add the bread flour to the mixing bowl.

Then the pumpernickel.

Then the yeast.

Add the salt and then give all these dry ingredients a stir to thoroughly mix them.

Add the water.

Then attached a dough hook to your stand mixer,

and mix/knead everything until all is incorporated in a nice dough ball.

Knead for an additional four minutes or so.

Dump dough in an oiled bowl (not the brotform yet), cover and let rise for 1.5 to 2 hours.

At this point, toss a heap of flour around in your brotform to get it well-floured so the bread will release later.  Be generous with the flour here.

Take your dough from the first bowl and place it, smooth side down, into the brotform.  Do not press the dough into the brotform, simply let gravity do its work.

Let rise for another 1.5 hours.

At this point, gently turn the dough out onto baking sheet, stone or floured peel.  If dough doesn't drop out, gently tap on the side of the brotform and it should release.

Cut a cross pattern of slits in the top of the loaf with a lame or sharp knife.

Bake in your 450 degree F oven for 40-45 minutes, until the crust is dark brown and makes a hollow sound when you thump it.

Remove from oven and let rest for a couple minutes.

Then slice it up and serve piping hot.

Until Next Time,

Here's hoping you get a rise out of this bread!



Monday, November 24, 2014

Cheddar Drop Biscuits

It's Thanksgiving week here at An Eat'n Man, so I've decided to post a trio of awesome bread recipes to supplement those ubiquitous Parker House rolls that always get served.  First up are some awesome cheddar drop biscuits.

These biscuits are reminiscent of those served at a certain seafood establishment named for a reddish crustacean, but I think this version is even better.  Fix ya up a mess of 'um, and see if I ain't right.

Cheddar Drop Biscuits

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
3 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Sugar
2 Teaspoons Salt
1 Cup Buttermilk
1 Stick Unsalted Butter,
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar

Preheat oven to 475F.  Grease a sheet pan.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt until thoroughly combined.  Add the cheddar and mix this in thoroughly as well.

In another bowl, combine the buttermilk with the melted butter and stir until clumps of butter start to form.

Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until just combined.

Use a greased tablespoon or 1/4 Cup measure to dole out the dough...

...and 'drop' it on the sheet pan.

Repeat until you've used all your dough.  Should make about 12 biscuits.

Brush with additional melted butter and then bake at 475F for 12-15 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown and gorgeous.

Serve immediately with some additional butter and your guests will be sufficiently wowed.

Until Next Time,

Drop ya some biscuits, y'all!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs always call to mind the 1970s.  They were a fad party dish back then, like Fondue for Shish Kabobs.  But don’t write ‘em off like you did your old bell bottom jeans or rhinestone disco jacket.  Swedish Meatballs are savory and delicious and a lot of fun to serve.  (so are fondue and shish kabobs, but those are for another time) 

Swedish Meatballs have a really unique flavor that’s worlds apart from your run-o-the-mill (or perhaps it’s run-o-the-meal) meatball that accompanies your spaghetti and depends on a fab sauce for its flavor.  Nutmeg and Allspice play a key role here in these little balls o flavor, and the sauce ain’t half bad either.  So put on some Bee Gees, or better yet, some ABBA, and get to cooking. 

Swedish Meatballs

1 Cup Breadcrumbs
2/3 Cup Milk
1 Large Onion, Finely Minced
4 Tablespoons Butter
2 Eggs
1 Lb Lean Ground Beef
1 Lb Ground Pork
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Allspice
1/4 Teaspoon Cardamom
2 Tablespoons Olive or Vegetable Oil
1/4 Cup Flour
16 Oz Beef or Veal Stock
1/2 Cup Sour CreamPreheat oven to 375F

Add your bread crumbs to a small bowl.  

Add the milk and mix thoroughly.  

Set aside for 15 minutes or so until the bread crumbs absorb all the milk.  Melt one tablespoon of the butter in a skillet.  

While this is melting, mince your onion finely.  I like to halve it, then quarter the half onion, 

and then use this little device (a Slap Chop!)

to really mince the onion finely, almost making it a paste.  

Repeat with the other half of the onion and then sauté the onion paste for a few minutes to build flavor.  

Remove from heat and let cool. 

Add the cooled onions to a large mixing bowl, then add the eggs, ground beef, ground pork, salt, nutmeg, pepper, allspice and cardamom.  

Finally add the milk and breadcrumb mixture to this, then using your hands, knead and mix the whole affair until the spices and other ingredients are thoroughly incorporated into the meats. 

Next, begin forming your meatballs!  Grab a palm-full of the meat mixture and form it into a nice ball.  

We’re making these a little larger than what we would for meatballs destined for spaghetti—make them about two inches across for more-than-a-mouthful greatness.  Pack the balls as tightly as possible so that they will stay together for the next step.

Make as many meatballs as you have mixture.  This recipe should make about 16-20 meatballs.

Heat your oil in a skillet and then sauté the meatballs 

in batches, turning them all around....   

...until they are well browned on all sides.

Transfer them to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Since the meatballs are so thick, we are going to roast them to finish cooking the meat on the inside.  Place in the 375F oven and roast for 20 minutes or so, or until a meat thermometer reads 150F in the center of a meatball.    

While the meatballs are cooking in the oven, make your gravy.  Add the other three tablespoons of butter to skillet 

and when it has melted, sift in the flour.  

Let this cook a moment or two, then stir it a bit, then slowly add the beef stock.  (if you have access to veal stock, use that for even better flavor)  Let this mixture simmer for a bit to thicken, and adjust flavor with salt and pepper if necessary. 

When the meatballs are done, 

platter then up and cover them with the sauce.  Serve immediately. 

We like to serve them simply, on top of some nice butter noodles.  

Until Next Time,