p3: Cheesy White Loaf Bread

#23, Cheese-ish White Loaf

Garlic-Cheese-BreadI was requested to do some bread baking this past weekend to go with a Chicken Dumpling Soup family dinner. Didn’t feel like doing anything special, just a simple fresh baked, hot loaf Milk Bread would be AWESOME, so I never even thought I’d do a blog post on it. But then the idea got in my head to make it a bit different, try a little experiment if you will. See what happens if I add some cheese in the bread, both directly and sprinkled in before rolling. Sounds tasty, still fits the occasion, and IF it works out well enough then I have an excuse to do some writing. Clearly it didn’t backfire so immensely, so here I am. Didn’t use any special cheese, just some mass-produced shredded ‘monterey-like’ thing we keep in the fridge on hand, but it worked for now.

Recipe
2 tsp/0.22oz Yeast
1 5/8 cups/13oz Milk, Lukewarm
4¾ cup/21.5oz Bread Flour
1½ tsp/0.38oz Salt
¼ cup/1.33oz Powdered Milk
3¼ Tb/1.66oz Sugar
2 large Eggs
3¼ Tb/1.66oz Butter, room temp or melted
½-1 cup Shredded Cheese

Directions

  1. Bloom Yeast in the Milk at least 5 minutes, until soft a starting to lightly foam/bubble20160124_123020
  2. In a stand mixing bowl, mix together the Flour, Salt, Powdered Milk, and Sugar, followed by the yeasted milk, 1 Egg, and Butter20160124_123141
  3. With a paddle attachment, stir on low speed [may want to pulse initially] until it all comes together in a ball
  4. Switch to dough hook, increasing mixing speed to medium, letting it go for about 4-5 minutes until almost completely kneaded, adding any extra flour to make sure the dough clears the sides while sticking just slightly to the bottom of the bowl20160124_123718
  5. When it ALMOST clears the windowpane test, add in about half or more of your shredded cheese, letting it go until fully incorporated20160124_123947
  6. Transfer to lightly-oiled bowl, covering tight with plastic wrap and leaving to ferment 1½-2 hours, or until doubled in size20160124_141918
  7. Remove and shape into a nice, tight, smooth Boule. Mist lightly with spray oil, loosely cover, and let rest on the counter 20 minutes for glutens to relax and more fermentation20160124_142130
  8. Start to shape this into a loaf by pressing and pushing into a large, rectangular shape, pressing down with fingers to de-gas as one does so. Sprinkle thoroughly with most of the rest of your cheese20160124_144303
  9. Roll up, pressing the edge tightly with each turn to stretch the dough taught. Once rolled completely and tightly sealed, transfer to your loaf pan. Spray with oil, loosely cover, and proof one to one and a half hours or until doubled once more20160124_144502
  10. Preheat oven to 350F
  11. Vigorously beat your other egg with a teaspoon of water to make an Egg Wash. Brush this over the top of your risen dough, sprinkling with some more cheese to top20160124_154916
  12. Transfer to oven, baking about 35-45 minutes, turning halfway through, or until deep golden brown all around and gives a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom20160124_163605
  13. Leave to cool for an hour or more on a rack before slicing and serving as desired
  14. Enjoy

20160124_164145What Have I Learned This Time?

That my prediction of what would happen with the cheese-sprinkled-before-rolling technique was spot on; I figured there was a good chance it would create a little gap, so I’m glad I controlled the final amount like I did. That said, MORE CHEESE needed; it sadly didn’t come out as much as I wanted, so I need to add more INTO the dough. It seems like it could easily take more, as the final result even with the ¼-½  cup I had in there didn’t really affect the texture. Obviously a better, stronger flavored cheese would work better too.

There ARE notable results to forgetting the salt… which yes, I accidentally did here. Structure and quality wise it’s just as good, the same. But I did notice that the dough seemed to be ready with its fermenting/proofing periods earlier than stated. Not to mention the bread TASTED rather plain and ‘underseasoned.’ Still good of course, especially with butter and while warm.

20160124_163540Found a decent way to keep the bread warm for an extended period if needed [such as waiting for dinner]. Loose aluminum foil wrapping and inside the warm oven, actually didn’t negatively affect the product, at least not in any significant way that I noticed.

And finally, there actually IS such as a thing as too much dough in these recipes for my loaf pan; I probably should have cut a bit off for a separate bake like I usually do. Clearly one can see the overextending sides, which still baked up nice and well, but interestingly enough I found issues removing it from the pan for the first time. Some of it stuck to the sides and bottom, thus I didn’t care as much about cutting into it while still hot as the solidity was already ‘compromised,’ though questions still about as to how much this issue had to do with the cheese inside. Either way, good to know that I SHOULD ensure it keeps to the similar limit as I’ve randomly done before.

Any Thoughts?

The crust was awesome. Even after sitting it out for a while it stayed nice and crunchy. And the cheese sprinkled on top! Truthfully it was sort of right at the edge of ‘too much,’ and certainly wasn’t like ‘extra cheese’ and more like ‘cheezit/baked cheese cracker’ flavors, which is fun as a crust.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

Seems to prefer the comfortable ‘safe zone’ in this relationship and isn’t quite ready for kinky experimentation… YET.

p3: Challah

#22, Challah

saffron-challah-loavesThere are two classic breads whenever one looks into the ‘enriched varieties;’ you know, the ones that have extra butter, milk, and/or eggs to make a richer and tender-crispy product. Of course Brioche is the first, and I gotta love making and eating them. Then there’s Challah, the braided wonder famous for its importance in Judaith traditions, eaten purely on the Sabbath. I mean, unless you’re like me and just want to eat it whenever you want. For instance, when I need something awesome to make an Almond French Toast for my Mother’s Birthday Brunch. I’ve bought it before from a store [and lucky for me I didn’t realize they only sold it on Friday, which is the day I HAPPENED to make it in and got the last loaf], but now I get the chance to make it myself!

Note that the recipe which follows will be for a simple 3-braided style loaf shape; there are quite a few others, including 4-braid, 5, and even higher which all have their own specific techniques to making the braid. I’ll probably try them out in the future should I ever attempt any other challah or braided loafs [hopefully!], but just letting you know for now.

I’d write more but I’ve been so busy with other things lately I don’t have anything else I really want to say here…

Recipe
4 cups/18oz Bread Flour
2 Tb/1oz Sugar
1 tsp/0.25oz Salt
1 ½ tsp/0.18oz Yeast
2 Tb/1oz Vegetable Oil
2 whole/3.3oz Eggs
2 whole/3.3oz Eggs, Yolks and Whites separated
7/8 cup/7oz Water, Room Temp
Sesame, Poppy Seeds, or anything else desired for Garnish

Directions

  1. Combine Flour, Sugar, Salt, and Yeast in bowl of stand mixer20160102_112732
  2. Separately, mix Oil, the 2 Eggs, 2 Egg Yolks, and Water until consistent, pouring into the dry mixture20160102_112841
  3. Mix on low speed, with paddle attachment, until everything congeals and forms into a ball; add more water if needed20160102_112854
  4. Switch to dough hook and let mixture run on medium speed around 6-8 minutes, adding more flour if sorta sticky, until it forms a smooth, supple mass and passes the windowpane test20160102_113626
  5. Roll into ball and toss in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and bulk ferment 1 hour20160102_113750
  6. At that point, punch or knead the dough down to de-gas, reforming into a ball and returning to covered bowl for another hour or until doubled in size20160102_135231
  7. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces, form into a Boule as shown Here and let rest on counter about 10 minutes20160102_135634
  8. Roll out each ball into as long and thin of a log/strand as desired, simply making sure that it’s somewhat thicker in the middle and thinner on the ends20160102_141810
  9. To shape loaves, lay each strand parallel to each other, and ideally vertical to you to discern a ‘right and left’ side. Take the end of the outer right leg, crossing it over the one to the left so that they’re crossed in the middle and the end is between the other two. Now take the outermost left strand and cross it over the now middle strand. Repeat where the end of the outer right is going over the middle and then with the left, until the ends meet up20160102_142156
  10. Do the same pattern with the OTHER half, only crossing underneath instead of over. Finish by pinching the ends closed20160102_142410
  11. Take egg Whites, beating well until frothy to make an egg Wash
  12. Transfer braid to parchment-lined sheet, brushing with wash and lightly spraying with oil before giving a loose cover of plastic or cloth. Proof 60-75 minutes or until doubled in size20160102_143244
  13. Preheat oven 350F
  14. Brush loaf once more with a coat of egg wash, sprinkling with Seseame/Poppy Seeds [or in my case, crumbled almonds]20160102_154743
  15. Bake for 20 minutes, turn 180 degrees, and then 20-40 minutes more depending, until it’s achieved a rich golden brown color and sounds hollow when thumped20160102_163051
  16. Remove and cool on rack at least an hour before serving. Enjoy

20160102_163120What Have I Learned This Time?

Apparently I need to find instructions on bread braiding that actually goes into proper detail on it. As you can see from my pictures, my loaf didn’t quiiiiiiieeete come out as pretty as a classic braid does… it has a cool shape, mind you, but not a proper braid. Figured out the reason though; the book I based this off has you label the ‘ends’ of each dough log 1, 2, 3. It says cross 3 over 2, then 1 over 2, then repeat. What it DOESN’T say is that when you cross one over the other, it then turns into 2 and the numbers switch so it’s always 1-2-3. So I kept trying to cross things over the main one and it didn’t turn out well for half the loaf.

Also, need to find a better way to make those dough logs/ropes… god it didn’t want to co-operate at all…

Any Thoughts?

20160102_175244I wish I hadn’t forgotten to take pictures of the awesome-as-hell Amaretto French Toast that I made with this… I mean damn it was good. Though, on its own, having a bite with just that bit of toasted almond on top was just nutty goodness. Oh, and I absolutely love this fresh from the oven; the crust is delightfully crunchy and toasty, perfect with that slightly-enriched center. I forgot how much lighter it was compared to brioche, so a bit of butter definitely brings it to awesome heights [I don’t care if it’s kosher or not! And I’m too lazy to find out!]. I sort of want to make it again as a fun all-purpose bread, especially to practice my braiding techniques, and use different oils and things to see how it affects the final outcome.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

The dough? Yes. In fact, I think it loves me like family now. The whole braiding technique thing isn’t impressed though… I’ll have to bring it chocolate and flowers next time.

p1: Gigot d’Agneau a la Pleureur

The Dish

b840179a361e48ef94435b49a7c01546I’m no longer allowed to make ANYTHING lamb when my mother is around, since SOMEONE’S sensitive about it being ‘not as old’ as Mutton… doesn’t matter what age it may be, but nooooo more lamb allowed in the house. So for a particular recipe I’ve been gearing to make for a while, I’ve had to wait for that perfect opportunity where 1: the folks are out on vacation, 2: I’ve got enough time in my schedule to plan and set up a night to cook it, and 3: have the opportunity where I can bring in at least a few friends and family member to make it a fun food gathering, as it should be. Yay me I got a perfect evening on the LAST weekend that I had the whole house just to myself.

And what is this dish? Gigot d’Agneau a la Pleureur. Translated as “Weeping Leg of Lamb Roast,” the whole idea is that it’s indeed just a simple roasted lamb leg… sitting on a rack over a bed of potatoes, so every little ounce of melted fat, dripping juices and other goodies fall onto and absorbs into the delicious tuber as they cook. A full on foray into the indulgence and epitome of a pure meat and potato dish.

Now what’s the history of this dish? Truthfully… there really isn’t anything significant that I can find at ALL. The time that sheep became used often for food in France is the time these roast dinners would have popped up. And there’s no real particular region for this either; it’s famous in Bordeaux, grass-eating sheep in northern Normandy form delicious rich flavors, and the particular Buzzfeed list this came from has it under the southern reaches. So no help there. Not to mention it comes in many forms; the whole ‘roasting over potatoes’ thing is really only just one of a few twists to the preparation next to just cooking the lamb on its OWN. It’s not necessarily THE most traditional form of it, though gotta admit it’s one of the most rustically beautiful and delicious.

One interesting thing I’ve found. The French word for leg of lamb, ‘Gigot,’ comes from a root that means ‘fiddle.’ Rather apt considering the shape. But the thing is this word, ‘gigue,’ derives from Middle High GERMAN term ‘gige.’ Potential past influence via European neighbors/invaders? Considering the potatoes… possibly.

A Word On…

20151213_120924Lamb: This is rather simple, we’re just looking for a leg; so long as you’ve found a favorite and reliable butcher/deli, it’s a snap just to order. Though I doubt you’ll be getting a whole leg unless you’re willing to put down a LOT of money [my partial leg at 5+ lbs set me back 60 bucks], so a partial/center cut section of leg is fine. Just make sure there’s a big bone inside for flavor! That and to make some soup afterward.

Flavor Infusion: Garlic and rosemary are the boss here; there may be some use of OTHER herbs a la thyme, oregano, bay leaf, parsley, etc [mixtures known as ‘herbes de provence’], but truly these are the only two used consistently and to the best, most distinctive effect. Plus you just gotta love rosemary [oh how I wish I still had my pot of it…]. But the main consideration here isn’t what aromatics to use, but HOW to use them.

There are two techniques. One of the more classic and sort of ‘fancy,’ or presentable, ways of doing it is to literally push big chunks of garlic and rosemary INTO the lamb, ‘studding’ it with flavor that will then permeate as it cooks. This is what I’m doing as I’ve been really wanting to try it out for meat flavoring, that and the whole compound-butter-under-poultry-skin thing. The second technique is, quite simply, cutting a big bunch of each up [maybe making a paste with some butter/oil] and rubbing it all over the lamb as a seasoning/marinade. This is used quite often too, and I actually wanted to do BOTH to really ensure an awesome flavor all inside and crusted outside… but of course I didn’t properly check my garlic stocks until last minute. Soooooo nowhere near enough, I get to see what JUST studding will do for me.

Roast Time, Lamb: So, interesting, my favorite super-classic-French-food-‘encyclopedia’ states that a roasting temperature of 425F with a time of 20-22 minutes per lb of lamb yields a perfect pink center. But all other recipes seem to hang at 350-400, mostly leaning towards the latter half, stating 18-20 minutes at MOST for the pink insides. By the way, you want the pink… ‘fully’ cooked at brown throughout, that’s just wrong. You ‘well done steak’ people are monsters, you do understand that right? Ahem, anyways, I’m attempting mine at something close to what my book states, 400F with an average of 20 minutes a lb, of course giving the poke test around that time to see if it’s where I want it to be. With luck, it’ll be beautifully golden brown on the outside and tenderly medium-rare inside!

Roast Time, Potatoes: 2 hour maximum, if not a little less. It’s something that needs noting, as some legs of lamb can go for even longer. In which case, you’ll have to roast it in or over another pan before transferring the taters into the oven at the appropriate time. Which has a great benefit in that you can use the other pan, filled with some lamb juices, fat, and hopefully the crusty fond, to make…

Sauce: There’s nothing really traditional ‘have to have’ with gigot d’agneau a la pleureur, but I just don’t see doing a lamb and potato dish without some good sauce. But in these scenarios, one can’t beat a simple pan sauce. That’s when you’ll take your roasting pan with that beautiful fond in it, or a sauté pan that some of the meat has been seared in, put it over a hot stove and add some wine and, preferably, a related broth/stock. This will dissolve all those delicious goodies from the meat that’s sticking to the pan, adding their flavor, and cook down into a perfectly thick and flavorful liquid. From which one can adjust with any number of herbs, spices, or other aromatics. I ended up making my own last-minute kind of pan sauce with some scraps, a ‘recipe’ which I added after the gigot to give an idea on what you yourself can do at home.

Gigot d’Agneau a la Pleureur
1 Bone-in Leg of Lamb
4 large cloves of Garlic, at least
6-10 Rosemary Sprigs
4-6-ish Russet Potatoes
½ an Onion
Salt and Pepper
1 stick Butter
Pan Sauce [a recipe follows]

Directions

  1. Remove Lamb from wrapping, rinsing off thoroughly in sink, drying just as thoroughly with paper towels
  2. Start cleaning the lamb. With a sharp boning knife, or other delicate blade, carefully slice off as much skin, film, and fat from the surface of the meat as possible, still leaving a bit of fatty outside sections for rending and flavor. Reserve for sauce20151213_120834
  3. On the side, cut each clove of Garlic into 4 slivers and break Rosemary stems into 2-3 solid bunches each
  4. Taking your boning, or some other thin sharp, knife, carefully stab around 16 deep slivers into the leg. Into each of these, force one piece of garlic and rosemary, leaving the newly studded meat to rest at least one hour before cooking20151213_125434
  5. Preheat oven to 400F
  6. Thoroughly rub butter all around the lamb, judiciously seasoning the outside with a light crust of salt and pepper20151213_151505
  7. With a mandoline, slice your Potatoes and Onion into 1/8-1/4” rounds. Layer these in roasting pan with dabs of the remaining butter and sprinkles of salt and pepper20151213_151105
  8. If lamb is expected to cook for OVER 2 hours, set it on a rack over a separate roasting pan, preparing to move to potatoes later on in the baking. If UNDER, rest lamb on rack above potatoes and slide into oven now
  9. Roast as directed, 18-ish minutes per pound, until brown and delicious on outside and almost fully cooked, thus nicely pink, inside20151213_165644
  10. Remove lamb, setting to rest on cutting board at least 10 minutes [w/ foil tent over ideally] before cutting. Leave potatoes in oven to cook further as this happens20151213_170520
  11. Cut lamb into slices after removing potatoes, working carefully around the bone
  12. Plate meat and potatoes together, finishing with a prepared Pan Sauce
  13. Enjoy20151213_171010

Andrew’s Substitute Pan Sauce
Leftover Lamb Scraps
Another ½ an Onion
1 cup or more, as needed, Red Wine [preferably French]
1 Sprig Rosemary, Chopped
1 tsp Capers, Chopped
Salt and Pepper

Directions

  1. Heat a pan to a high, but NOT scorching/smoking, heat
  2. Throw in Lamb Scraps, the cut off fat and skin, letting it sear and sauté for 5-10 minutes with minimum stirring20151213_152335
  3. Once the stuff is somewhat browned and, more importantly, the pan has started developing a fond, remove almost all the lamb and pour off most of the excess fat. Feel free to leave in any little chunks of meat that may have been attached to the fat20151213_152517
  4. Dice Onion, tossing in to sauté in the rendered lamb fat, 2-4 minutes or until somewhat soft20151213_152855
  5. Deglaze with Wine, adding in the Rosemary and Capers, leaving to boil and reduce until the wine has thickened20151213_153923
  6. Remove from heat, taste, and season with Salt and Pepper as desired
  7. Reserve for lamb

20151213_171144The Verdict

I love it when a lamb comes together [get it!? Like the A-team… yeah I’m not proud of me either]. And darn if this didn’t come out… just like I wanted it to. I mean, as I mentioned earlier, the cook-time estimates I found had it go a BIT beyond what I personally wanted; would much rather prefer having more pink, but it was still there closer to the bone. Besides, the not-so-pink meat was still juicy and tender, and damn if it wasn’t full of flavor. Perfectly rich lamby taste, seasoned good… and I admit I didn’t expect MUCH effect from just the studding-infusion of the garlic and rosemary without also having a rub, but they actually gave a notably gentle aromatic addition to the flavor.

THEN we get to the potatoes… a bit on the fatty side of the flavor, so a big plus in my books. Flavors have officially soaked in. But it’s when you take a giant scoop of meat, potatoes, and sauce together that it’s best. What starts off as a fancy-like, seemingly classically haute-dish reveals its highly rustic charms as all I wanted to do was shovel more and more of it into my mouth. I just love when I fully enjoy one of these recipes like so. I could and probably should try to talk about other ‘elements’ of it and execution, but this is about all I want to really say.

20151213_170236Primary Pairing – “Koggen”

One of the epitomes of French Meat and Potato dishes, I’ve gotta use a beer sooner or later [I’ll try not to use one in the next meat-potatoes-ish one]. Something dark, malty, and heavy would do the trick, but I feel anything porter/stout-related might be a bit too much. Which is when I happily ran across a beer in a specialty shop known as ‘Koggen.’ One of the few true German-only styles, it’s a wheat-based style which, if I’m correct, can be seen in the lighter hefeweizen or heavier dark versions. The idea of having something simple and German with this very rich, heavy, and gamy meal felt just perfect, hopefully combining in the same way it did so in my Cassoulette adventure.

My Bottle: Apostelbrau Naturally Cloudy Koggen

To continue, upon pouring of the beer I was able to discover the delightfully malt-heavy flavor profile it displayed. Though I didn’t expect it to be REALLY hoppy, the aromatic greens were barely seen at all except for the subtle support structure you knew it had. The drink itself turned out almost dense, concentrated with that sweet, almost caramelly-savory profile which helps cut through and pair with the perfectly golden-roasted game meat. Part of the flavor make me wonder if I remembered it wrong and that the beer was mostly RYE focused vs wheat, but either way it was good, simple, letting the subtle notes of garlic and rosemary shine from the lamb while matching it’s heaviness. Just rustic perfection.

Bordeaux_1680129cSecondary Pairing – Right Bank-based Red Bordeaux

To be more specific, Bordeaux wine from one of the renowned riverside ‘Haut Medoc’ communes. Those are the ones that actually ARE mostly Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated, creating that image of the big, heavy, tannic reds for which the French region is so well known for. These are also the ones that are so famously known as the drink of choice for one of the region’s most famous dishes… which also just happens to be a giant, heavy roasted leg of lamb. Truly it’s evolved as one of the most delightfully perfect dinner pairings in the world. The bodies match, the heavy tannins work with the chewy game meat in encouraging our own salivation to its limit, and the strong acid backbone cuts through the still-present fat character. Not to mention the very spicy, herbaceous, wild eucalyptus and ‘garrigue’ flavors which were made to compliment the meat just like, and next to, the garlic and rosemary we love so much here. For those interested, and able, look for Boreaux wines with the names St Estephe, Pauillac, St Julien, or Margaux on the label. Those are your best bet, though aren’t always perfect. Otherwise, as money for these bottles isn’t always on the easy end, Haut-Medoc or Pessac-Leognan labels will work too.

p3: Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

img_6469-version-2#21, Cinnamon “Raisin” Walnut Bread

I’ve had the house to myself for a while, need some loaf bread around, and it’s the holiday season so I’ve got to make something at least semi-suitable. Well truthfully I just wanted to make something simple, like a loaf bread, that I could turn into a project article and didn’t feel like doing any of my past recipes. And as I’m flipping through the book, I come across a recipe that I had completely forgot to take under my wing; I planned on making it at an early point but had yet to get around to it. Considering the time of year and need for something a bit simple, it seemed right to make a big loaf of Cinnamon Walnut Raisin Bread for the house; good on its own and interestingly versatile in the sandwich game. Not to mention I DID just recently receive a bag of organically small-farmed walnuts… had to crack the damn things myself, took two days, but they were worth it!

Thoug20151206_114957h of course I don’t actually HAVE any raisins… which is why we improvise, there being quite the simple solution here. It WAS a good way to use up all the leftover dried fruit I had from my yearly fruitcake making. With luck, my mixture of dates, figs, dried apples and walnuts, matched with this homemade recipe, can put the many horrible memories of childhood daycare cinnamon bread ‘snack times’ to proper shame.

 

20151206_115043Recipe
3½ cups/16oz Bread Flour
4 tsp/0.66oz Sugar
1¼ tsp/0.31oz Salt
2 tsp/0.22oz Dry Yeast
1¼ tsp/0.16oz Cinnamon
1 Large Egg
2 Tb/1oz Butter, room temp
½ cup/4oz Buttermilk or Whole Milk, room temp
¾ cup/6oz Water, room temp
1½ cups/9oz Raisins or other Dried Fruit [chopped if large]
1 cup/4oz Toasted, Chopped Walnuts

Directions

  1. Stir Flour, Sugar, Salt, Yeast, and Cinnamon in stand mixer bowl20151206_115658
  2. Add Egg, Butter, Buttermilk, and Water, mixing on low until everything comes together in a moist lump20151206_120803
  3. Switch to a dough hook and mix on medium, adding flour as needed if dough is too sticky, until it starts to get soft and pliable20151206_121036
  4. When it seems close to done, about 6-7 minutes-ish, add in Walnuts and your Dried Fruit of choice, mixing until everything is fully incorporate and fully kneaded, 1-2 minutes20151206_121852
  5. Transfer to oiled bowl, covering with cling wrap and bulk fermenting at room temp up to 2 hours, or until doubled in size20151206_141824
  6. Divide dough in 2 equal pieces or use it all for a bigger loaf, dimpling down to briefly degas before shaping into a loaf as directed Here. Place the shaped dough into a thoroughly oil-misted loaf pan, loosely covering with plastic20151206_142228
  7. Proof 60-90 minutes, until nearly doubled in size and risen above the edge of the pan
  8. Heat oven to 350F, moving the loaf pans on a sheet tray for baking20151206_153341
  9. Cook for 20 minutes, rotate 180 degrees, and continue for a further 20-30 minutes until golden brown and hollow sounding when bottom is thumped
  10. Remove from oven and pans, placing bread on cooling rack for at least an hour before eating
  11. Slice and enjoy!

20151206_212936

What Have I Learned This Time?

I think I’ve noticed a trend in the fruit+nut-filled breads, mainly in the definite need for one to fold in as much mix-ins and other flavorings as possible. Truly they’re the main performers, for in all cases I’ve found so far the bread ON ITS OWN, if tried fruit-free, has felt very much on the plain/boring, if not even under-seasoned side. In the future, I believe I can improve this by increasing the salt additions for flavor, really felt like it needed it here alongside more cinnamon, but it’s just an interesting pattern of note. Though I’d bet a proper Panettone might be pretty darn good on its own… but there ARE always exceptions to every situation. But the main thing I took from it is that, in these recipes from here on out, I want to try to maximize the workable amount of mix-ins to as high as I possibly can without ruining the composition. If anything, it’ll just be awesome loading them up with goodies.

I’m not sure if this counts in this area, but after looking through pictures, it seems as if many a cinnamon-bread has a distinctive swirl going through it. That wasn’t achieved here, and I’m wondering if that is best done through rolling it even tighter, to create more ‘layering,’ or if I should just try dusting it with cinnamon before shaping a-la Caramel Rolls. Hopefully I’ll get to try.

Any Thoughts?

Not really… though I did REALLY enjoy the distinctly crisp texture on the outside. Not sure if it was natural with the bread or if I ended up over-kneading it, but I liked it! Money’s on the sugar addition helping it out though.

And yes, before those who’ve read these posts before [rare as you may be], I did end up forgetting to take a couple pics after it was baked.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

It turned a bit ugly, but I think the fruit made sure the loaf bread is still sweet on me.

p2: Navettes des Marseilles

The Sweet

Due to flavor requirements from a certain Tropezienne cream-filled Tarte, I am now stuck with almost a full vial of Orange Flower Water with nothing to use it on. Lucky me, however, I recall yet another recipe in my lineup that calls for this not-so-oft-used ingredient. Luckier still, this past Thanksgiving had me as the person to bring over desserts; and with the host not actually like pumpkin pie or other very sweet items so much, a secondary confection was called for. And these guys just happen to look like little French footballs!!

navette064

For those in the know, I’m of course discussing Navettes des Marseilles; also known as ‘Navettes de Saint-Victor,’ ‘Navette a la fleur d’oranger,’ or simply ‘Navette’ cookies. These little spritz/sugar cookie/shortbread-like treats come equipped with a pow of distinct floral flavor from the orange flower water, though they can be easily flavored via other means depending on region and personal preference. Their unique oval and middle-indented shape belies their name, which roughly translate can come to mean ‘boat’ or ‘transport.’ This to supposedly celebrate the arrival on Saint Lazarus, Saint Mary Magdalene, and Saint Martha by boat in the Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer over 2,000 years ago. Though the Catholic roots of this sweet have ALSO claimed that it was created as a ‘souvenir’ of sorts for wooden statue of ‘Our Lady of the New Fire’ that washed ashore of Lacydon in the 1200’s.

Nowadays various bakeries have become quite cult famous in their areas for their proficiency at putting this little treat together… which feels like it won’t bode to well for my attempt, but we’ll see how it goes!

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

I’m not really sure I have anything to discuss here, though a fair warning as you read through the recipe: I didn’t state it, but I added thyme to this recipe, which can sort of be seen in some of the later pictures. Obviously this has NOTHING to do with the classic cookie, but I wanted to do a flavor twist for the people I was serving this to. Plus it was for a Thanksgiving dessert, had to get something besides just orange in there.

Oh you know what, there IS one thing. I’ve noticed a lot of recipes, after or before shaping the dough, have you ‘rest it’ for 2 hours on the counter before baking. I have NO idea what this is for. If there was yeast or notable leavening ingredients in, or if it was simply pie dough, it’d make sense… here just don’t know. Perhaps it wants to rest any potential firmness of the dough right after being worked by hand so much, but I don’t see why it needs that long. I’ll do it anyways just to see if there’s anything I can divine.

Navettes des Marseilles
200g Sugar
3oz/6 Tb Butter
2 Eggs
1 Tb Orange Flower Water
1 Tb Kosher Salt
500g Flour
Milk

Directions

  1. Cream Butter and Sugar until fluffy20151123_202606
  2. Add in Eggs, one at a time, Orange Flower Water, and Salt, blending until fully incorporated into creamy batter20151123_202858
  3. Slow mix in Flour in thirds, waiting until mostly incorporated before adding more, and blend into a dough20151123_203755
  4. Divide dough into 24 even pieces via cutting in half, each half in quarters, and splitting each of those into 320151123_204655
  5. Shape pieces into flat, pointed ovals: one popular technique is to roll into a cylinder, press flat, slightly shaping into good starting form as you do, and pinching each end. Will likely need further manipulation20151123_205406
  6. Press a slit down the middle with back of knife, spatula, etc, arrange on baking sheets and leave to ‘rest’ for 2 hours at room temp20151123_213232
  7. Heat oven to 350-375 degrees [it’s not really consistant]
  8. When ready, brush tops with thin layer of Milk to coat20151123_224536
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes minimum, until firmed up and, ideally, it’s developed a light golden color around sides
  10. Remove, let cool, and enjoy20151123_234502

My Thoughts

In the vein of these being a French, orange flower water-flavored sugar cookie, this recipe worked out brilliantly! I may have overcooked probably half of them, but the flavor of the orange flower water came through nicely through a nice spritz-like cookie base flavor and texture. In the vein of what I WANTED to make… I chose the wrong recipe. From the pictures I saw, in creation and final product, I expected to see these cookies rise a bit, create that proper slit-bread-like-rift on the top, with a thicker form and softer, ender texture. Mine just came out firm, like an Italian biscuit cookie… though I did read a description that these ARE at times considered in the same context for texture, makes me feel a bit better. That said, I’ve encountered a few recipes that, among the proportions I’ve used, also add in Baking Powder and up to ½ cup of Water. Figured this would have greatly helped achieve the outcome I was looking for, but made the decision to avoid the baking powder since it didn’t seem like something that would have ORIGINALLY been used; debated the water, but the texture of the dough seemed perfect for me, as many a page mentioned ‘sticky look/feel but not actually sticky.’ So I know what I’ll be adding in next time when I want to make the other outcome.

20151123_234509Though there’s also the chance that I could have heavily improved my odds, perhaps even fixed the issue altogether, by leaving the cookies thick, perhaps even shaping them as big as I originally wanted with the slit. Thus by the time it was ‘fully cooked’ and had a bit of browning on the very edge/bottom, the more voluminous insides would remain soft and tender as opposed to getting so firm.

I swear it feels as if the purpose of this blog has switched from celebrating awesome recipes to simply providing perfect examples of what NOT to do.

Possible Pairings

Though many alcoholic accompaniments may taste good alongside these, truly there are a few exceptional options one should attempt to actually find.

First and foremost, ‘Orange Muscat/Moscato.’ Unlike how its name suggests, it is not moscato flavored with oranges; it is actually a specific variety/member of the grape’s extended ‘family.’ That said, it almost always carries an exceptional and deep flavor of the citrus fruit along with all other similar aspects. There are some lighter, classically fizzy versions, but here we want the dense and flat proper dessert wine versions. These will be reminiscent of what one will find in the dessert wines of the Italian Islands and French Mediterranean.  Not to mention perfect for dipping these little buggers.

cantucci-vin-santoSpeaking of dipping, ‘Vin Santo,’ an Italian dessert wine made by drying the grapes to concentrate their sugars and sweet flavors, is traditionally paired alongside biscotti for that exact purpose. And the flavor is amazing and deep. Perfect for these.

Finally, a simple glass of Grand Marnier with ice, or perhaps a similar Orange Liqueur-based cocktail, ideally with brandy. One could still dip for the more viscous drinks, or simply enjoy the matching flavors, letting the more complex notes of any of these options shine while the connected floral orange flavors of both cookie and drink tie them down to earth.

p2: French Yogurt Cake

The Sweet

French-Grandmothers-Lemon-Yogurt-Cake-5I do love when a recipe ends up convening with an appropriate get-together, and with a day of hangout following my cousin’s birthday it only made sense to tackle one of the many cakes on my list. To make things even more perfect, one of the more simple ones I’ve been meaning to make comes out like the classic birthday-favorite white cake, but of course with a little twist and some added flavor. French Yogurt Cake takes a simple sweet batter and mixes in that classic Mediterranean ingredient for added moisture, texture, and a little bit of tang in the cake itself; definitely helps with leavening too when combined with baking powder.

There’s little history to find on this, but what is known is rather interesting; not because of anything that ties into world events, local sourcing requirements, economics, fun accidents or whatever, but due to the homey simplicity. For one thing, the actual French name of the cake is ‘Gateau de Mamie,’ or ‘Grandmother’s Cake.’ This is due to the long habit, truthfully I don’t know how far back it goes, of this recipe being made by old French Grandmothers; or maybe it was just one generation that did it and it stuck. What makes it stick out is HOW they made it though. First, yogurt in France was actually bought in these small glass jars, like many things were packaged. This was dumped out into the bowl… and the jars re-used to measure everything else! So instead of weighing or leveling things by specific milligrams or liters, it was ‘one jar’ or ‘two jars’ etc, thus the recipe was ever a simple game of proportions, easy to make no matter what size jar or measuring devices one had on them.

Which made it easy to do recipe conversions; for though many would try to justify if these jars were exactly ½ cup or more, less, etc, at the end of the day all the ingredients just had to stay in these proportions. Most of the ‘conversions’ I found were exactly the same; and considering the jar-based source of this recipe, I almost wonder if it originally came off a company’s package a-la the famous Hershey Chocolate Chip Cookie. That said, there was one which looked absolutely delightful, the only difference being an extra egg, and I can’t say no to that.

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

20151025_122414Obviously I don’t have, and am too lazy to go find, the little French yogurt jars this recipe is based off of, but any decent Greek or Greek-style will do. Though I didn’t realize the one we had at home was Vanilla flavored, as opposed to plain, until I started, and I’m rather squeamish with the idea of any ‘flavored’ yogurts… make one wonder how properly yogurt-ish it actually is. But at least vanilla is simple, and I could just use THAT instead of adding extract like recipes usually do.

Speaking of additions, there is of course the classic ‘vegetable oil’ necessity in the recipe, providing a full liquid fat for texture and moisture. A few recipes allow, and even suggest, substitutes for Canola or Grapeseed, even Coconut, oils. None of which I had, and truthfully I didn’t like the state of my cheap-ass vegetable oil. Thus I made the decision, since there IS noted flexibility here, to use Olive Oil instead; which I think would be rather fitting, considering the region’s Mediterranean ties, the use of olive oil and yogurt together, and just the fact that it would only make it taste BETTER.

Finally, one particular requirement leads to a fun little lesson in a daily kitchen cheat! This, like many cake recipes, requires lining just the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment paper. We could try cutting out a circle to fit, but the bottom we trace for it would be too big. I’ve learned an easy little trick where we take our decently-sized sheet of parchment paper, fold it in half, then again in quarters, and again and again… until one ends up with one thing, triangular sliver of multiple layers. Hold this above the pan, with the point at the center, and cut it just a bit under the inside edge of the cake pan, giving it a curve as you do. Unfold and there you go: perfect fit.

20151025_122825_001

Recipe
½ cup Greek-style Yogurt
1 cup Sugar
3 Eggs
1½ cups AP Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Salt
Zest from 1 Lemon (optional)
½ cup Vegetable, Olive, Sunflower, or Other Oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and generously spray 8” Cake or Springform Pan with oil, lining the bottom with your circle of parchment paper (discussed earlier)20151025_122921
  2. Whisk Yogurt, Sugar, and Eggs together in bowl20151025_121335
  3. Add in Flour, Baking Powder, Salt, and Zest if using, mixing until just combined20151025_121727
  4. Add Oil, stirring until fully incorporated20151025_122555
  5. Pour into pan, tapping to remove any potential air bubbles20151025_123114
  6. Transfer to oven and bake anywhere from 30-50 minutes depending (check early), or until toothpick stuck in center comes out clean20151025_144740
  7. Remove and cool on wire rack, turning over from pan or releasing sides after about 10 minutes to continue cooling20151025_173542
  8. Cut into wedges and enjoy as desired, perhaps with some homemade ice cream…

My Thoughts

20151025_173805Just like a classic white birthday cake, on its own it’s soft, tender, with that great extra cake flavor and a base that allows any addition, like that lemon zest, to shine. And it may not be very distinct, but one CAN get a little bit of that yogurty sense if one looks for it. Also like any other white cake, one almost craves to pile it in whipped cream, frosting, dessert sauce, fresh/cooked fruit, whatever you can find to make it even BETTER, because you know it’d work as an awesome base. And the recipe itself turned out well, no issues I could see besides taking an extra 10 minutes of baking time than the original recipe called for.

Though let me say that a big attraction of this recipe for me was the picture of a perfectly flat, even, browned top on the cake. Which sadly did not get reproduced in this attempts, one of two reasons: either I should have given the pan an EXTREME amount of buttering so it didn’t rise in the middle, a-la soufflé technique. OR, and I’m now very heavily suspicious of this considering how the pictures on the original website are angled… they probable cut the domed top off and just turned the damn cake upside-down! The conniving old bastards! Tricking me with promises of caramelly cake crust deliciousness… I mean, I guess I got that anyway, but with a curve…

Possible Pairings

Ugh, I started this a couple weeks ago, had a brilliant idea on what would be perfect with this, and then went on vacation and forgot what it was! Not fair!

mlkThough I will say the idea of a Milk Shake seems fantastic. This IS totally the cake+ice cream kind of thing, sort of, so I could see myself going for that. Perhaps with a boozy addition of Cream Liqueur to boot; either that or just do it straight with ice. No Bailey’s, something purely cream/vanilla-focused alongside the supporting flavors… I used to love soaking my Tres Leches with Tres Leches Liqueur, or Rum Chata.

Speaking of liqueurs, keeping things simple is definitely the name of the game for this not-complicated dessert, and a nice, chilled glass of Limoncello would be a great way to match and improve the sweet cake without overriding any subtle flavors; matches the lemon zest too. Not to mention the recipe I got this from DID have a lemon icing glaze.

Though truthfully I think any simple, sweet fruit or creamy liqueur or non-complicated liqueur-based cocktail would work wonderfully with this, especially if one took the cake up a notch with some frosting or whipped cream and any accompanying toppings. But if one wanted to try something a bit off-base and fun, then perhaps a nice, simple glass of demi-sec or other semi-sweet sparkling wine, a regional French Cremant or Prosecco or something. Interestingly, I might actually AVOID Champagne, as I think the fruity-fresh-tart flavors are more preferential than the very yeasty-toasty-buttery notes that are so predominant with the classic methods so prevalent in that region.

I do wish I knew what my idea was though… pretty sure it had something to do with the yogurt aspect of the whole thing…