Friday, December 31, 2010

First Feeding of Martha Stewart's Tartine Adventure

If you are following along on this adventure, you will have found a rather unpleasant sight when you removed the dish towel from the bowl containing your starter.  If you remember, we added the flour blend and water, covered it with a dish towel and let it sit for two days.  Hopefully, you will see some bubbles, most likely you will found a thin liquid on top of the flour mixture.  This is called hooch.  Don't be alarmed.  This is OK!  Just stir this all together.

Now the confusing part comes (at least for me).  Measure out 75 grams of the starter and discard the rest - which basically is 90% of the starter.  OK - here comes the sermon!  What a waste!  You are throwing away so much flour.  When I work with my starters, I deal with very small feedings.  My feedings consist of 4 T flour and 3 T water.  I never throw anything away unless my jar gets too full. Then either I make bread or dry the starter as a back-up.  So throwing away this much starter seems so wasteful.  End of lecture - class dismissed!

Back to the adventure.  I now put my 75 tiny little grams of starter in a mason jar to which I added 150 grams of the flour mixture and 100 grams of lukewarm water (78 degrees).  Mix this all up.  According to the directions you will have a thick batter.  HA!  It is more like a paste, but don't be alarmed.  I've have dealt with starters that are of this consistency and they do work.  So now cover the jar or bowl or whatever you have your starter in with a dish towel and we will repeat this experiment again tomorrow and for the next 14 to 19 days!  Now wasn't this fun!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Another Martha Stewart Adventure!

Don't you just love Martha Stewart "Adventures"?  To me it is a challenge!  Bring it on girl!  I know, Diane, get a life! 

In the January, 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living is an article on Tartine Country Bread made by Chad Robertson at the Tartine Bakery and Cafe in San Francisco.  Martha describes the bread as a "naturally fermented bread" - a polite term for sourdough!!  There is the challenge!! The whisks have been drawn, let the dueling begin!

This starter is very unique in that it is a combination of both white bread flour and whole wheat flour.  The recipe for the starter is:

1,135 grams of White bread flour
1,135 grams of Whole Wheat flour
455 grams of lukewarm water

It does sound like a lot, but this is what you will use over the next 15 to 20 days.

First, combine the two flours.  Place the 455 grams of water in a separate bowl and add 315 grams of the flour blend.  Mix until you have a thick, lump free batter.  You will now cover that with a dish towel and place in a cool, dark place until bubbles form around the sides of the bowl and on the surface.  This should take about two days.  Once this happens, it is time for the first feeding.

With each feeding, you will remove 75 grams of the starter (this you will keep) and discard the rest.  Feed the 75 grams with 150 grams of the flour blend and 100 grams of luke warm water. Like before, you will mix until you have a thick, lump free batter.  Repeat this for every 24 hours for the next 15 to 20 days.

See you in 15 to 20 days!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I made Pasta!

Well, it is not exactly earth-shattering news.  Don't stop the presses sort of thing!  But, I've never made pasta and I've always heard that it was hard to make.  I've always wanted to do it.  So I bought the book "The Complete book of Pasta and Noodles" - sort of the "everything you wanted to know about pasta but were afraid to ask"!  It is a HUGE book.  Trust me, only the first couple of chapters deal with actually making noodles, the rest are pretty much pasta recipes!

My good friend, old camp cook, sent me a pasta machine.  So today was a good day to give it a test run.  The recipe is so simple!

2 cups all purpose flour (either bleached or unbleached)
3 large eggs, beaten

That's it!  Throw this all together in your food processor, pulse it for about 30 seconds until the dough comes together (if it doesn't, add 1/2 teaspoon of water at a time), take the dough out of the food processor, knead it on a clean surface for about 2 minutes, cover the dough and let it "rest" for about an half hour. 

Follow the instructions on your pasta machine.  I found out the hard way that you really need a pasta drying rack.  Oh well, live and learn.  Off to ebay to find a drying rack.  Looks like homemade pasta for dinner tonight!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

And visions of Sugar Plums danced in their heads

Have you ever wondered about that line in "Twas the Night Before Christmas"?  What exactly are Sugar Plums?  I always figured that maybe they were just a variety of the plum.  But why would children dream of plums?  It would be like dreaming of  dancing apples or oranges - that doesn't sound like a very good dream.  So once again I did a little exploring on the Internet.

Sugar plums are confections (candy) and are quite easy to make.  The original Sugar Plums were sugar coated coriander with small bits of dried fruit added.  The current recipe is not as spicy.  Anyway, the reason why the childen had visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads is because they tasted so good.  Here is the recipe so you too can have dreams of dancing sugar plums:

Sugar Plums

from Saveur Magazine

2 cups whole almonds
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp grated orange zest
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1 cup pitted dates, finely chopped
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 400F. Arrange almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast in oven for ten minutes. Set aside to cool and then finely chop. Meanwhile, combine honey, orange zest, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Mix almonds, apricots, dates and spice mix in a large bowl. Mix well. Pinch off rounded teaspoon-sized pieces and roll into balls. Dust the sugar plums with powdered sugar and refrigerate in single layers between sheets of wax paper in airtight containers for up to one month.


O Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding

Have you ever wonder what the heck was Figgy Pudding?  It must have been good because the next verse in the song is "We won't go until we get some!"  Well, if they were in my house, they would be here for a very long time!  So out of curiosity, I did a search on Figgy Pudding and, much to my amazement, there is such a creature!!  It is a traditional steamed English pudding that is usually served during the Christmas holiday.

Traditional Figgy Pudding is similar to spice cake made with ground or chopped dried figs (obviously) and usually is served with custard sauce.  If you can't find dried figs, you can substitute dried dates.  You can always use whipped cream in place of the custard sauce.  The traditional version uses walnuts, but I think any type of nut would work, except peanuts.

Traditional Figgy Pudding

½ cup butter (at room temperature)
½ cup vegetable shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons rum extract (or flavored extract of your choice)
1 apple, peeled and cored and finely chopped
1 pound dried figs, ground or finely chopped
Grated peel of 1 lemon and 1 orange
1 cup chopped nuts
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 ½ cups dried bread crumbs
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 large egg whites, stiffly beaten

Custard Sauce

2 cups milk
1 large egg
¾ cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Generously grease an oven-proof 2-quart bowl or mold; set aside.

Cream together butter and shortening. Gradually add sugar, egg yolks, milk, extract, apple, figs, lemon and orange peel. Add next 6 ingredients, mixing well. Fold stiffly beaten egg whites into mixture.

Pour into prepared bowl or mold and place into large shallow pan and place on middle rack in oven. Fill the shallow pan half-full with boiling water and slowly steam pudding in oven at 325°F (160°C) for 4 hours, replacing water as needed.

For Custard Sauce: In saucepan, scald milk and allow to cool.

Mix together remaining ingredients, except for butter. Add to cooled milk. Cook over low heat until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter, mixing well.

Serve pudding warm with custard sauce or sweetened whipped cream. Store unused portions in refrigerator.

Makes 12 servings.

So the next time people show up at your doorstep singing "Bring me some figgy pudding" -  now you can!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Today's Adventure

Well, it's really not an "adventure".  I am just trying out a new recipe from Mark Sinclair.  He is one of my "bread" heroes.  I will not post the recipe here since he has it posted on his blog,

I have made several of Mark's breads and have been very pleased with all of them.  My favorite is his Portugese Sweet Bread recipe.

This recipe is called Soft White Bread.  He says it is for people who don't like hard crusts, so this should be perfect for my husband.  Mark sells this particular loaf to restaurants for their grilled cheese sandwiches.  I started the dough this morning around 8:00.  You let it rise twice before you divide the dough and shape it for 3 loaf pans.  The bread goes through a third rising in the loaf pans for 2 hours.   I love the feel of the dough, very nice to handle.  It bakes in the oven for only 35 minutes.

The bread turned out very nice - soft crusts like Mark promised.  The crumb (or interior part of the bread) is very soft.  This bread reminds me a lot of the Portugese Sweet Bread.  This is definitely a keeper recipe!
For those interested, here is Mark Sinclair's website:

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Christmas adventure!

We have a winter storm that "stalled" over the eastern part of Cincinnati last night and the early part of this morning dropping 4 1/2 inches of snow.  My husband took our truck, leaving the little Toyota Corolla which doesn't like it when it rains (don't even want to think what it would do in the snow!).  This is the perfect day to experiment.  So thanks to my good friend OldCampCook from Oklahoma who sent me a Stollen recipe to play with.  According to OldCampCook, Stollen is a German Fruit Cake.  I bought the ingredients last week in anticipation of a snow day (didn't think God would send one so fast!). The only ingredients that you might have to buy are fruit cake mix (candied fruit), sliced or chopped almonds, golden raisins, and instant dry yeast.  I will not post the recipe here since this is Bob's recipe.  It is listed on his web site -  It is listed under Holiday Stollen.

It is a very easy recipe to make.  The kneading takes up most of the time.  The fruit, raisins and almonds are added last and kneaded into the dough.  The dough looks so pretty with all the candied fruit and golden raisins.  You let the dough rise twice.  The second time is after you have divided the dough in half and created the two braided loaves. 

The loaves bake for about 45 minutes and are dusted heavily with powdered sugar after you take them out of the oven.  I think it looks more like a festive coffee cake than a fruit cake.  I probably should have taken a picture of the loaves before we dusted them with the powdered sugar so you could see how pretty the braiding looks.  Anyway, this is definitely a keeper recipe!  One of the loaves is already half eaten!