Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pain de Campagne

The twenty-second bread of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge is pain de campagne. I am officially halfway through the challenge!! Woot Woot!! I am learned an incredible amount and had so much fun!

Pain de Campagne a very versatile bread for shaping. I could have been a lot more adventurous in shaping. The epi shape in particular looked intriguing, but this bread was destined for sopping up lots of oil and vingar so I chose the basic batard shape. I could have done a baguette, but I prefer more bread to crust.
The dough came together perfectly. Aside from forgetting I needed to make a pâte fermentée and thus postponing the bread making by a day, everything went smoothly. Normally I'll adjust the water and flour ratio to get just the right texture as it's mixing. For this bread my proportions were spot on and no additional alterations were needed. It was almost too easy.

No more cornmeal mess here! I finally just used parchment and slide the parchment on the baking stone. It was simple with no mess!
The bread was fantastic. I think this is my favorite bread. The bread was dense and chewy sort of like a bagel can be, but the crust was like a good baguette. I probably could have cooked the loaves about 5 more minutes to crisp up the crust more.
We enjoyed the bread with garlic olive oil, fig balsamic vinegar, and Tuscan dipping spices. Just seeing these photos again makes me want to make this loaf all over again!

Friday, March 25, 2011

{FFwD} Scallops with Caramel-Orange Sauce

This week's French Friday's with Dorie recipe is scallops with caramel-orange sauce. This was my first time ever cooking scallops. I'll admit, I was a bit nervous.

The recipe is actually quite simple. It begins with the caramel-orange sauce. The caramel sauce is made my cooking sugar down. Here's a picture of me testing the color of the caramel sauce on a plate. I was looking for a deep caramel color. I then added the white wine and juiced orange and cooked the sauce down. I think I need a bit more practice with reductions. It tasted great but I sense it should have thickened more.
 
I then cooked the scallops. What an adventure. Dorie says to heat the skillet on high. I did. I added the oil and then the scallops. They sizzled! They're poor bottoms stuck to the bottom of the pan. I finally was able to flip them after shaving off a bit. The same thing happened on the other side. They cooked. They looked nice, but I had a bunch of scallop stuck to my pan. In the end, I ended up with an edible product, so it was a success!

I liked the meal a lot but I'm not sure I'll be making scallops at home a ton so I'm not sure I'd repeat the dish, but it was a good meal!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Daring Cooks: Tempura

While I on my cooking hiatus the Daring Cooks made tempura! I was intrigued. I had to give it a try.
Tempura is a Japanese dish of vegetable or seafood that is battered and fried. I certainly don't need to add fried foods to my cooking expertise but I liked the challenge. I decided to do carrots, green beans, and mushrooms. They were all fantastic- the green beans especially.

It was a bit tricky for me since I'm not a food fryer and just don't have a lot of experience with a simmering pot of oil, but the mess was worth it. My batter ended up too thin. I understand why the batter is suppose to be thicker and lumpier. You need it to cling to the vegetable more.

We loved this dish, but I doubt I'll make it again soon. Not because it wasn't fantastic, but simply because I don't want to get into the habit of frying food- even if it is vegetables. The kids loved the carrots and green beans!!

Tempura
Recipe from: Daring Cooks
Printable Recipe

Ingredients
1 egg yolk from a large egg
1 cup (240 ml) iced water
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dredging
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) cornflour (also called cornstarch)
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (2½ gm) (0.09 oz) baking powder
oil, for deep frying preferably vegetable
ice water bath, for the tempura batter (a larger bowl than what will be used for the tempura should be used. Fill the large bowl with ice and some water, set aside)
Very cold vegetables and seafood of your choice ie:
  • Sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced, blanched
  • Carrot, peeled, thinly sliced diagonally
  • Pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed, thinly sliced blanched
  • Green beans, trimmed
  • Green bell pepper/capsicum, seeds removed, cut into 2cm (¾ inch)-wide strips
  • Assorted fresh mushrooms
  • Eggplant cut into strips (traditionally it’s fanned)
  • Onions sliced
Directions:
  1. Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura. 
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F/160°C; for seafood it should be 340°F/170°C. It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don’t have a thermometer, but it can be done. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready.
  3. Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, that won’t leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.
  4. Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor.
  5. Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Corniest Corn Muffins

I have found my favorite corn muffins! I am not a part of the Tuesday with Dorie blog group but I know a number of people who are so I see the recipes they bake from Dorie's Baking: From My Home to Yours cookbook. Dorie Greenspan is the author of Around My French Table the book I cook and blog for French Friday's with Dorie. My friend Kayte baked these muffins for the group last week. I was intrigued. Kayte let me know that Dorie gave permission for the host to post the recipe on their blog. Check out the recipe at Jilla's blog.

The muffins were light and fluffy and just the perfect cornbread muffins for our meal. Dorie uses a cup of whole kernel corn in the recipe too. I love whole kernels in my cornbread.

I had to share my first big funny failure of the year too. I baked the muffins and then set the tin on top of my stove. I have a glass top stove. I thought I'd turned off all the burners but apparently I hadn't. I'm sure I got distracted my some kid incident. Partway through dinner I started to smell smoke. I went into the kitchen and noticed one of the muffin tins smoking. I had placed the tin over the burner and one muffin was on low simmer. Burned muffin! Luckily, the other muffins survived!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Modern Baker: Chicken Pie with Biscuit Topping

The Modern Baker Challenge has been working on savory tarts and pies since January. I had intentions of making many of the delicious looking tarts, but I am sadly quite behind. Before we move on to the next section (sweet tarts and pies!) I had to post my chicken pie attempt. Again, apologies, it's been awhile since I cooked it and my memory of details has faded.
First of all, check out my new food processor in action! I finally understand Malgieri's obsession with the food processor. The biscuit dough was so easy to make!

I was very eager to have a go-to chicken pot pie recipe in my repertoire. Unfortunately, this one missed the mark for me. The filling was good, but I personally prefer lots of vegetables in this kind of dish. I felt like the carrots, peas, and onion were kind of boring. Personally, I would have doubled the vegetables and added more variety- perhaps broccoli and potato.
The biscuit dough did come together well, but there was a ton of it and since I used it all, it felt like I was eating a huge biscuit with a little chicken and vegetable on the side for dinner. In addition, the dish was super liquidy. I even cooked it longer than it stated, but the liquid just didn't boil down. Chicken pot pie soup anyone?
The flavors were all good. The biscuits were delicious. But, the proportions were just wrong for me.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

{FFwD} Savory Cheese and Chive Bread

Dorie is at it again with this incredible savory cheese and chive bread, which was the first French Friday's with Dorie recipe is month. This quick bread is delicious as is and yet so versatile! Be warned, it uses a significant amount of cheese. I used gruyere and cheddar. I loved Dorie's suggestion of making this bread with all of the leftover chucks of cheese in the fridge. 

How can the french eat so much cheese and stay so healthy? Oh, perhaps they're not eating the entire loaf in a night. Gotta work on that. The whole family loved it. Even the 16 month old who discovered it on the edge of the counter and started pulling chunks out of it before I caught her.
One of my favorite parts of baking this bread was reading the story about "complaining, the french way" on the page opposite the recipe. The story explains how Dorie asked a cheese steward at a local store for cheese advice one day. The next day she was treated as a "regular" and because she politely complained about some cheese, from there forth had her very own cheese steward who saw to all of her cheese needs. "... in America, if you complain, you're a crank; in France you're a connoisseur." Loved it!

Friday, March 11, 2011

{FFwD} Begger's Linguine

As I jump back into cooking, I am so excited to see what is going on over at French Friday's with Dorie. This week's recipe is begger's linguine and it was fantastic! 

The linguine is tossed with browned butter, pistachios, almonds, figs, and lots of Parmesan cheese. I omitted the raisins. Those that have read my blog in the past will understand why. It certainly was not on the healthy side with the amount of butter and Parmesan cheese included, but it tasted delicious and was super easy to throw together. I'm sure with a few modifications I could get this recipe to within more healthful standards, but I also wonder why I'd take the time to do that. Instead, I should just plan for this to be a 'heavy' meal and plan accordingly for the week! Dorie includes grated orange zest and I personally was not a fan of the zest. I'd omit it next time or perhaps try lemon zest, a zest I'm much more fond of.

Monday, March 7, 2011

BBA: Pain à l' Ancienne

My little cooking hiatus lasted longer than expected, but I'm back! My poor kitchen has suffered through too many frozen dinners recently. It's time to get cooking again! I'm really excited to get back to the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge in particular.

The twenty-first bread of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge is pain à l' ancienne.

To be honest, it's been a bit since I've made this bread so I can't remember all the details. I do remember that the dough came together well. I had a good feeling for it. I did have trouble transferring it for baking. I haven't quite figured out how to do that process without a mess of cornmeal. I'm only halfway through the book though, so there is lots of time improvement! I do remember that the bread was fantastic!! The crust was crunchy and the bread was chewy and soft. I think we ate all three loaves in 36 hours with a lot of oil and balsamic dipping.
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