Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Birthday Cake

Well, its gone and happened again.  I'm a year older now, and I guess I'm supposed to be a bit wiser than I was at this time last year.  I don't know about that, but I do feel like I've learned alot about baking and cooking in the past year and I've had so much fun learning from and meeting other bloggers who share baking interests.

Last year I made a 10" blueberry tart for my birthday, so this year I figured I was due for a nice big layered birthday cake!  I couldn't wait and I knew just what book I wanted to pick the recipe from.  I'm quickly falling in love with at least one of Nick Malgieri's cookbooks, The Modern Baker.  So far I've made the blueberry muffins, the incredibly moist chocolate cupcakes, the strawberry shortcake, and now the Devil's Food Cake with Fluffy White Icing. 

I made a white cake with a lemon filling for my hubby's birthday last July, so I decided a chocolate cake was in order this time and the icing that went with Nick's Devil's Food Cake intrigued me.  I'd never made an icing with egg whites and sugar before. 

I usually don't cook dinner on my birthday, and since my mother-in-law sent me a little something in the mail, I decided we were going to go out for pizza.  So the afternoon was spent relaxing and having fun making my birthday cake.  This cake was so simple and it came together without any problems.  I used buttermilk instead of plain milk, since I had some in the fridge that needed used.  I just had to fish out the ice chunks before I measured it (the jug had gotten a little too close to the back of the fridge).  For the icing, it didn't take any time at all for the temperature of the egg whites and sugar to get to 130°.  I let it get to about 135° before I took the bowl off the pan with simmering water in it.  I used my stand mixer with whisk attachment to whip the egg white mixture after it reached the desired temperature.  I wasn't exactly sure what speed to use, but it worked fine and I just watched it til it looked fluffy and white.  Of course, I had to do a taste test, just to make sure it tasted good before icing the cake with it ;)

Hubby was impressed when he came home and saw my cake.  I was proud of it and I tried to make it look like the picture on the cover of the book as much as I could.  Hubby tasted the icing from the stand mixer bowl too.  He loved it.  I was relieved, because he normally does not like meringue anything.  We both thought it tasted like marshmallow fluff. 

The cake tasted awesome!  We shared some with the neighbors, although I don't know what they thought of it yet.  Hopefully they liked it too.  Hubby doesn't like to sing, so we skipped that part, but I did blow out my candles, though there were definitely not 43 of them on the cake.  I hope my wish can still be granted without the correct # of candles.

All in all it was a beautiful day and I got some cool new things, like my first banneton, a pizza peel, a large pot to use for canning, and a veggie grill basket.  I just wish I could've invited everyone over for cake!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pain Rustique (Mellow Bakers: June)

Yesterday morning was a little stressful, and I wondered at first if this bread would get made as planned for that day.  Tucker, my sous chef, was not feeling well at all.  He's not been that sick for awhile and, given his age, I was quite worried.  He was stable and more comfortable by 11 o'clock though, and so I went ahead with making my bread. 

Pain Rustique is first up on the list of breads for the Mellow Bakers in June.  I was really looking forward to this bread, as it seemed so similar to ciabatta, and we had loved the ciabatta that I made for the first time, back in February.   I decided to make two-thirds of Hamelman's Pain Rustique recipe from page 111, of his book, BREAD.  It's kind of nice to have one loaf to eat over a couple days and one to freeze to enjoy later.  Also, if I only made two loaves, I was hoping that both would fit on my pizza stone to bake at the same time.

The poolish for this bread was made the night before.  Since I was only making two-thirds of the recipe I had to do some calcumalatin' and at 9 o'clock at night, my little brain is tired.  I added my yeast to the water, dispersed it abit and then added my flour that I had weighed out.  Something didn't seem right as I stirred it all together and then I realized I hadn't used the correct amount of water for two-thirds of the recipe.  I measured out the extra water, dumped it over the rest and mixed it til smooth.  I covered it with plastic wrap and it sat out on the counter over night.

After making sure Tucker was OK, I made up the final dough the next day.  When the first 25 min. of bulk fermentation was up, I looked at the wet mass of dough in the bowl and since it seemed so much like the ciabatta dough that I had worked with in February,  I decided to follow the folding and shaping instructions that went with the America's Test Kitchen ciabatta recipe.

I sprayed my dough scraper with non-stick spray and gently lifted one side of the dough in the bowl and folded it over to the center.  I rotated the bowl 90° and did the same again.  I repeated this 6 more times, for a total of 8 folds.  After 50 minutes I repeated this procedure, being very gentle as I lifted the dough with the dough scraper and folded it to the center. 

Next, I lifted the dough onto my floured mat, and cut the dough into 2 pieces with my bench scraper.  I gently pressed each dough piece into a rough rectangle with my fingertips and then, folding it like a letter, I brought each of the two shorter sides into the middle.  I carefully flipped each piece of dough over and placed them on their own floured piece of parchment paper.  I covered and left them for another 25 minutes of final fermentation while the oven preheated. 

To bake I uncovered the two pieces of dough, pressed them out gently with my fingertips again to form a rough rectangle and then spritzed each dough piece with water.  I slid each piece of parchment onto my stone and spritzed each loaf again twice with water during the first 5 minutes of baking. 

The two loaves turned out beautifully.  I was really happy with the results.  Don't know if Hamelman would have approved, but my slight change in methodology resulted in nicely shaped, textured bread.  We enjoyed ours with soup last night and tonight we're having spaghetti and meatballs to finish the loaf with.

The bread was very similar to the ciabatta I made before, just the crust was a bit chewier and crunchy.    The ciabatta I made before was done with a bit of milk and so I think the interior of that bread was a little more tender.  We loved the Pain Rustique just as much as ciabatta, and I'm sure I'll be making this again.  It's kind of relaxing working with the wetter dough in that you don't worry about a perfect shaping of the final loaf. 

Here's another picture that shows the slices a little more up close,
Tucker was feeling alot better by dinner time and even though he was begging for a teeny bite of bread, we decided it was best not to let him have a taste this time :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Celia's Raspberry & Chocolate Friands

I just couldn't resist trying these friands, which I saw posted at Celia's Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, one of my favorite blogs.  It took me a few weeks to decide that I really wanted to buy that bag of almond meal at the store, but finally I broke down a bought the bag of Bob's Red Mill finely ground almond meal.  This was the only brand I found at any of the stores I checked.  It is a little pricey, but now that I've tasted these, I'm glad I made the investment.

Originally, I was going to use some older raspberries that were in my freezer, but when I pulled out the bag on Saturday and saw that they were from 2009, I decided to use the raspberries I just picked  a week ago, and had frozen.    I used Domino Confectioners Sugar, which is icing sugar mixture I guess, since it contains cornstarch, and for the chocolate I used ~80g of a Lindt Smooth Dark 70% cocoa bar.  I used my chef's knife to chop the chocolate up into maybe 1/4 inch pieces.  I sifted all of the dry ingredients, but it was hard getting alot of that almond meal to go thru the small holes, so I ended up just dumping the remaining almond meal that wouldn't sift, into the bowl with the rest.

Hubby and I had these warm off the cooling rack as we could hardly wait to try them.  They looked and smelled wonderful.  We both love dark chocolate and raspberries couldn't go better with dark chocolate.  These were a success and a bit hit here!!  We were a little surprised how heavy the friands were when you picked one up, as we expected them to be much lighter, but the taste was awesome. 

My favorite way to eat the remaining friands was to heat them up a little in the oven, just til the chocolate got hot.  Even though I didn't have them with tea, I imagine this would be the perfect pairing when the weather turns cool here in the fall.

Now I can offer people a delectable dessert from my home, that you will only find in Australian and New Zealand cafes:)  How cool!  I want to make the blueberry friands next, from the linked recipe that Celia has on her blog.  Another good sounding one to try are these Chocolate Hazelnut Friands.

So if you're like me and love to try new recipes check out Celia's Raspberry and Chocolate Friands! You'll love 'em.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sun-dried Tomato, Asiago, Rosemary & Olive Oil Focaccia

I was trying to think of what I could make with local herbs and/or spices for the June Bread Baking Day, and for some reason, focaccia kept popping into my head.  However, maybe that's because I hadn't made a foccocia since last year and I have a large rosemary plant on my front porch just begging to be placed atop a tender focaccia.  I don't think rosemary is necessarily a local herb, but people here do love growing it and its especially popular here at Thanksgiving and Christmas on roasts and large birds. 

As I was contemplating the possibility of making focaccia, I realized the only focaccia I had made thus far was a bread machine recipe that I had made once.  I had never made focaccia from any other recipe.  This definitely needed remedied soon. 

Hubby and I had really loved the first focaccia I had made topped with rosemary, garlic, and kosher salt, but I wanted to top this one a little differently.  I love to peruse the breads in the bakery section of The Fresh Market, a gourmet grocery that has locations scattered all over the central and eastern part of the United States.  I don't ever buy their breads (way too expensive), but I get ideas on what I'd like to make at home.  I saw a basketful of focaccia last week and the variety that caught my attention was the sun-dried tomato, asiago, rosemary and olive oil one.  It looked soooooo good!  The perfect toppings.

The recipe for focaccia that I chose was from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion.  The recipe looked interesting to me because of its list of ingredients, which included potato flour and nonfat dry milk, and because of the first step in its preparation.  I knew that the inclusion of potato flour and nonfat dry milk would definitely yield tender results. 

The first step listed in the preparation of this focaccia was to mix hot water and flour together and beat for several minutes to develop a smooth batter.  Hmmm, I'd never mixed boiling water and flour together before for a dough.  I wanted to give it a try.  When I did this, it didn't necessarily seem to me like a batter, but more like a paste:

It didn't look like much in the bowl, certainly not very appetizing.  I decided to cut the recipe in half so 1 cup of boiling water and 1 cup of flour didn't amount to much.  I added almost an 1/8 tsp of yeast to the batter (paste) and let it sit on the counter for 4 hours.  This was to develop flavor in the finished focaccia, as well as a soft interior texture.  After the four hours though,  it looked pretty much the same.  I had thought it would swell quite a bit, but it only got very slightly puffy.

Next, whisk potato flour with the remaining flour, dry milk, yeast, and salt.  I added this to the batter/paste, while beating it together and then put in 1 Tbsp of olive oil.  I beat this a little more by hand, which was hard, because it was so stiff and thick.  I put it into my stand mixer bowl and used the dough hook on medium speed for at least 10 minutes.  It seemed like I was adding alot of extra flour to the dough to get it to come together.  The directions didn't say what the finished dough consistency should be like, so I just had to hope I was doing this thing right.  Here's my dough after kneading and placing in a lightly greased bowl.

I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise on the counter for 30 minutes.  The dough increased by about one third and looked puffy.  I then pulled the sides of the dough up and over in a folding motion (while keeping the dough in the bowl).  I did this several times to release some of the gas, and then I let the dough rise for another 30 minutes. 

I drizzled 1 tablespoon of olive oil into my 8 inch round pan and smeared it around a bit.  I placed the dough into the pan, gently stretching it to fit, covered, and let rest for 30 minutes.  Stretched it a little more to fit the pan and then preheated the oven to 400°. 

Just before sliding the focaccia into the oven, I dimpled it with my fingertips, brushed it with a little olive oil, and topped it with my sun-dried tomato, asiago, rosemary, and just a pinch of kosher salt.
I had meant to put some of the sun-dried tomatoes inside the dough, but I kind of forgot.  Into the 400° oven it went.  In only about 10 minutes, I could smell the melting asiago from the upstairs landing.  I could hardly wait for it to finish baking.  It took about 25 minutes before the focaccia was a nice deep, golden brown all over. 

I don't know if the folding of the dough was correct or if I dimpled it properly, but who cares after it comes out of the oven looking like this:
Ahhhhh, it smelled sooooo good.  I'm glad I had made a light dinner of 1 fish fillet (that we split) and rice, because we each had a quarter of this and we highly considered consuming the entire thing, it was that good.  Here's one of the quarters,

Tender Focaccia
yields two 8-inch round or one 12- to 14- inch round focaccia

2 cups (16 ounces) boiling water
3 3/4 cups (16 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 1/2 ounces) potato flour, or 1/3 cup (3/4 ounce) potato flakes
1/4 cup (1 1/4 ounces) nonfat dry milk
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus
2 to 3 tablespoons to grease the pan and the surface of the dough

Well, it wasn't very creative or elaborate, but it was what I decided to do for this month's bread baking day.  I will however, continue to try to experiment with my fresh herbs over the next few months in some more breads. 

BBD #41 - 4th anniversary editon - bread with herbs (last day of submission July 1, 2011)If you'd like to participate in bread baking day   #41, hurry and get baking your bread with local herbs and/or spices and go to My Discovery of Bread, the host, to get the details of how to submit your bread.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mexican Chicken Meatloaf

I thought I'd stray from the usual bread post today (I hope that's OK), since I was so excited about coming up with my own meatloaf recipe that tasted really, very good.  I don't often successfully come up with my own dishes, but since I'm becoming a better baker & cook, it does happen a little more often.

It all started when I asked my husband what he wanted in the way of meals for the rest of the week.  I don't often ask him this question, as I invariably get 'meatloaf' as one of his answers, which is what happened on this occasion.  Now there is nothing wrong with meatloaf, it's just that I have no favorite meatloaf recipe right now - except possibly one.  However, it was hot again yesterday, near 88°, and ground beef in a meatloaf just didn't sound good to me.  I thought, 'but maybe, I could use ground chicken and come up with my own mexican type/style meatloaf'.

The one meatloaf recipe that I can say I'm still happy with, is a Mexican Meatloaf from Taste of Home's Cooking for Two.  Two of my main criteria for a good meatloaf is, 1) it must be moist, and 2) it must have good flavor with ingredients that go well together.  (I have had some rather strange, meatloaves this past winter in my search for some favorite recipes).

I wanted to incorporate aspects of the above mentioned mexican meatloaves, but come up with a recipe that used fresh produce, at least one fresh herb, and had good seasoning.  I don't buy packaged taco seasonings any longer (except for chicken taco seasoning from Penzey's), so I would have to use some of the spices in my cupboard to get that taco flavor.  This past year I discovered Emeril's Taco Bar recipe, which I have been using whenever I happen to make beef tacos, and I love his use of the ground cumin and ground chipotle pepper to create that taco like flavor.  For the fresh herb, I didn't have to think too hard or long on that, because cilantro is my favorite fresh herb, and I had lots of it in the fridge.  Cooking for two can be a challenge at times, and although I wanted to use some tomatoes in my meatloaf, I didn't want to open a can of diced tomatoes and end up wasting some of them.  I decided on using organic roma tomatoes, from Whole Foods, which have been really good the past month or so.  They taste like they're straight from the garden (kind of).  So here is my take on a good mexican meatloaf, using ground chicken instead of beef, for a lighter, more summery type meatloaf:

Mexican Chicken Meatloaf
(makes 2 individual sized meatloaves)
created by Melanie with a little inspiration from above mentioned recipes

1/2 of 1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup crushed, tortilla chips (just put a handful in a sandwich bag, seal, & crush with a rolling pin)
1/2 cup peeled, diced organic roma tomatoes (see *Note)
2 Tbsp finely diced onion
1 Tbsp diced green pepper, or other pepper of your choice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 cup salsa, (any heat level you prefer)
3/8 tsp Chipotle Chile Pepper (I used McCormick Brand from their Gourmet Collection)
1 tsp ground cumin (I used Penzey's cumin seed, India Ground)
1 Tbsp minced, fresh cilantro
1/4 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 lb of ground chicken

*Note- to peel tomatoes I cut an 'X' lightly with a knife at the stem end of the tomato, place the tomato in boiling water for 10-15 seconds, cool slightly, then peel off the skin with your fingers.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place egg in a large bowl, add crushed chips, tomato, onion, pepper, garlic, salsa, chipotle pepper, cumin, cilantro, cheese, and kosher salt.  Stir to combine.  Add the ground chicken and gently mix with a spoon to incorporate the wetter ingredients.  Finish combining gently with your hands, then divide the mixture into two portions (this recipe makes two individual meatloaves).  Spray a glass baking dish with cooking spray and lay the individual meatloaves in the dish making sure to leave at least an inch between them for even cooking. 

Bake, uncovered for 30-40 minutes, until a probe thermometer inserted into the center of a meatloaf reads 160°, which is the doneness temperature for ground meats.
From the first bite, hubby said this was really good, and it's hard for me to get a compliment from him, so when I do, I know its pretty good.  When all the different varieties of peppers start showing up at the farmers market by mid-summer, I'm going to experiment with different types of peppers in the meatloaf, perhaps a 'hot' poblano type pepper, roasted, skinned and diced.  You could serve this meatloaf with some homemade tomatillo salsa and chips, and maybe some spiced, roasted potatoes and I think the guy(s) at your table would be very pleased :)

Thank you for visiting my blog and if you're in need of a meal idea for next week, like I was this past, maybe you could give this a try.