Sunday, October 30, 2011

Berne Brot Six-Strand Braid (Mellow Bakers: October)

I was excited and very nervous at the same time, when I saw that a braided bread was on the agenda for October for Mellow Bakers.  I have wanted to try braiding for quite awhile now, but just kept putting it off.  So this past week I bought a small pack of Play-doh, as suggested by Hamelman, to try and practice the braiding pattern for the six strand braid from the book Bread.  I managed to start the braid looking at the four pictures on page 305 of the book, but I just wasn't seeing the pattern.  I am a visual person and I do best if I see someone else actually doing something a couple times and then I try it myself.  It was also difficult working with the Play-doh, because even though I tried making the strands thicker, they kept breaking on me as I was braiding.

I had made up the dough for the Berne Brot, (which is a braided Swiss bread), the day before I planned on braiding it.  Hamelman had suggested that this dough was one that lended itself well to overnight retarding in the refridgerator.  I wasn't really all that interested in attaining the benefits of overnight retarding, which are improved dough texture and keeping quality, as I was in getting my head around that six strand braiding technique.  I was almost ready to ask my hubby for help, because he's really good at that sort of thing, seeing patterns and such, but then I thought I'd just see if there was a video on the internet that might help me.

It turned out to be very easy to find the video I was looking for.  The first video I opened up seemed perfect for me.  It was straight forward and Maya braids the whole challah from start to finish slow enough for me to grasp the pattern after watching it several times.  Here's the video in case you've had trouble with a six-strand braid or are thinking about having a crack at it for the first time,
I couldn't bring the computer downstairs, so even though I felt kind of silly doing it, I opened up a small card table next to the computer, brought my rolled out strands, parchment paper and sheet pan upstairs and started the braid with Maya as she did hers in the video.  After finishing the braid, I was shocked that it had seemed so easy.  I stood back to admire it, and thought surely I must have somehow messed up the pattern somewhere, but I believe I actually nailed it.  My next thought was, 'Yes, bring on more strands!'  I was pumped and wished I had a bunch more strands waiting there for me to practice on :)

I wasn't sure if the braid should be baked on a stone or not, so I just decided in the end, to bake it on my sheet pan.  I covered the braid with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let it proof for an hour and a half after braiding it, and then after applying a generous amount of egg wash and the sesame seeds, I popped it into the oven.  Here it is just before it went in,

I usually don't do this, but I was so excited about making my first braid, that I sat on the floor in front of the oven window, with my knees pulled up and my arms wrapped around them, and watched the baking braid almost the entire time.  It came out of the oven with a beautiful golden brown color, and it smelled rich and buttery.  We had four slices of the loaf for dinner with some Italian Wedding Soup, and I think we were a little bit surprised how wonderful it tasted; fluffy soft, buttery with a smidgen of sweetness.

Golden slices destined for French Toast

Most of the rest of the loaf was used in French Toast the next night for dinner.  Abby, over at Stir it! Scrape it! Mix it! Bake it!, was nice enough to share her go to recipe for French toast and, even though hubby is not a French Toast person, he said it wasn't bad.  I love French Toast so I was really, really happy with dinner and hopefully he will let me make it again since it wasn't similar to his previous encounters with eggy, soggy French Toast!

Now that I've made one braid I'm all ready to try another, maybe even that Winston Knot one, but we'll have to see.  Abby did a wonderful job on the Winston Knot braid with her Berne Brot.  Check it out here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pumpkin Roundup & BOM Pumpkin Knot Yeast Rolls

Phyl from Of Cabbages and King Cakes has invited us to a pumpkin roundup on this beautiful, warm and colorful weekend.  We were asked to pick a course from his list, appetizer, soup, side, etc., and so I decided to go with a main course selection, Pumpkin Ravioli, since all the dessert and bread categories were well covered.

I reasoned that I might as well go all out for this roundup, so when Whole Foods received their first shipment of pie pumpkins, I grabbed one.  My favorite brand of canned pumpkin, Libby's, hadn't appeared on store shelves yet anyway.

I couldn't remember how much puree a pound of pumpkin yields, but I figured I could get enough puree from this little 2 pounder to make several things.  I roasted the pumpkin the day before I made my main course dish, so that there wouldn't be so much work the next day.   I washed and dried Mr Pumpkin, cut him in half, placed both halves cut side down into a baking dish with ~ 1/4" of water in it, and baked it @ 350° for about 45 minutes.

Once Mr. Pumpkin was all roasted and cooled, I peeled off the skin and placed the chunks of cooked pumpkin into my food processor and gave it a whirl until it was quite smooth.  I ended up with 2 1/2 cups of puree.  I put my puree into the fridge for the night, but not before I made a half batch of the BOM Pumpkin Knot Yeast Rolls that the Artisan Bread Bakers, a facebook group, are doing for October.  With that out of the way, I could focus on my main course selection the next day.

Ever since trying Giada's recipe for Turkey and Cranberry Ravioli from her book "Everyday Pasta", and just loving it, I've wanted to try her recipe for Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage and Toasted Hazelnuts, but that recipe calls for fresh pumpkin ravioli.  She seems to insinuate that you might be able to buy fresh pumpkin ravioli somewhere, but I've kept my eye out for pumpkin ravioli for a couple years now, and I've never seen it anywhere for purchase.  So here I am, finally making my own pumpkin ravioli. 

I searched the internet and found several promising recipes, but for my first attempt I decided to go with a pumpkin ravioli recipe from Wolfgang Puck that was on Food Network, for the filling, because it was a bit simpler and used fewer ingredients.

I followed Wolfgang Puck's recipe, halving the ingredients so that I had enough filling for ~ 2 servings of ravioli.  After I had my pumpkin ravioli complete, I switched over to Giada's recipe for the sauce.

Now before you get the idea that I made this TOTALLY from scratch, let me just say that I still use store bought wonton wrappers when I make ravioli.  I see perhaps, a pasta roller attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer in the future, so maybe some day I'll make my own pasta dough for truly homemade ravioli.
For now though, I use,

The meal came together without too much trouble and after carefully placing my ravioli into water at a rolling boil, I cooked the ravioli for about 3 minutes until they floated to the top.  I set aside the ravioli, covered w/ foil to keep them warm, and made my butter "sauce" which goes over the top of the ravioli in the finished dish,

The ravioli was topped with the butter "sauce" that had been made by gently sauteing some torn sage leaves in melted butter with a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts, freshly grated parmesan and grated amaretti cookie.

I warmed up my pumpkin knot yeast rolls in the oven and placed one on each of our plates.  Hubby and I thought these rolls were incredibly delicious.  They were very, very soft with just a hint of sweetness.  My rolls did not turn out quite as golden in color as I'd hoped they would,  because my pumpkin puree was a lighter color than the canned stuff.  I am not very good at forming the knotted rolls and of course we ate the uglier looking ones the night before, so they wouldn't end up in a picture.  With practice, though, hopefully they will get better.

The verdict on the dish was that it was tasty, but not spectacular.  It was a little lacking in the flavor department.  I think it could have used more sage, more nutmeg and/or more of the amaretti cookie since  those flavor components were essential to complete the overall flavor of the dish, and I could not taste them very much.  For now, my favorite is still Giada's Turkey and Cranberry Ravioli.

To finish the roundup and complete the evening's meal, I just couldn't resist making probably my favorite scone recipe, for dessert.  I almost didn't make them, because someone else had claimed them, but they are so easy and I couldn't find another pumpkin recipe I wanted to try for dessert.  These scones are awesome and perfect with a little of both, minced crystallized ginger and cinnamon chips, in them.  The recipe for the scones is a KAF recipe that I stumbled across last year here.

That's all for this roundup from my kitchen.  I can hardly wait to see what the others made to complete this pumpkin themed meal!  I just wish I could've sampled a taste of each of them.