p3: Bagels

#24, Bagels

fresh-baked-bagels-4268-lgI’ve been wanting to do a recipe for bagels for quite a while, we’ve been stocking them more often in the pantry again, always a favorite breakfast snack! But there have been two distinct notes of opposition preventing me from doing this: first, of course, find a couple day period to spend making them, a pain when one keeps getting distractions or days that make you just not want to do anything. But the second, and bigger issue, is my recipe book’s requirement for “High Gluten Flour.” And no, this doesn’t mean just bread flour, high-gluten is a step higher than that and apparently instrumental to making those perfectly chewy bagels.

But apparently no one has it in stores, at least not the ones I’ve tried near me, and it is flipping pricey to buy online JUST for a bag of flour. So the thought was doomed, left to be procrastinated on for who knows how long. Thankfully, though, I ended up catching an episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they made, gasp, bagels! In it they DID use bread flour, or mentioned it was still a viable substitute for their recipe, helping get my brain back on track to the idea of making these holey goodies. Found a recipe online that actually STARTED with the ATK recipe but made his own manipulations to get an end result that was a little more classic and refined [plus without all those extra little odd steps they do in the show, which makes an awesome recipe yes but not a very classic one].

20160217_002101A few notes, this IS one of the bread recipes where, much like pretzels, the proofed dough is dunked into a boiling water solution mixed with baking soda to gelatinize the outer layer for an even thicker and distinct crust after baking. The dough itself is made VERY firm and stiff; it is highly advised you do NOT try to man up to knead it and just use a stand mixer instead. Because even THOSE will be struggling to whip it around. And I mentioned the special ingredient of high gluten flour, but there’s another one: Malt Powder or syrup. Apparently they’re used as the sweet aspect in lots of bagel recipes, both for the yeast to eat and to add an additional edge of flavor to the final product [likely a continued nod to the older times where some bagel makers just used some cheap available leftover materials from their or other beer making]. The powder itself is sort of in the same category as the flour, likely needing to order it, but one can find Barley Malt Syrup rather easily in stores, which I LOVE using by the way. For anyone who’s made beer and had to start out using the syrups and powders alongside the malt, they know the concentrated almost-molassasey goodness that this offers! Need to find some other cool things to mix it into… oh, and fair warning, this mofo is STICKY as all hell. No matter what it will not just fall off anything naturally, so be warned with pouring!

Recipe 20160217_001752 6 cup High Protein/Gluten or Bread Flour
2 ¼ tsp Dry Yeast
1 Tb Kosher Salt
1/3 cup + 1 Tb Barley Malt Syrup or 2/3 cup Barley Malt Powder
2 cup Hot Water [88-100F]
1 Tb Baking Soda
Desired Toppings, if any
Egg White Wash [if topping]

Directions

  1. Combine Flour, Yeast, Salt, and Barley Malt Powder [if using] in stand mixer20160217_002316
  2. If using 1/3 cup Barley Malt Syrup, mix with Hot Water to dissolve, slowly streaming into the flour mixture while mixing on low speed [using paddle attachment]20160217_002608
  3. Once all loose flour has come together into a single mass, exchange paddle for dough hook and start beating around the dough on medium speed20160217_002739
  4. Mix for at least 10 minutes, and yes your mixer WILL be working hard to do this, until your sturdy dough is smooth and elastic20160217_004341
  5. Plop this on counter, loosely covering with plastic wrap or damp towel, and let rest at least 5 minutes to relax20160217_011256
  6. Divide into 12 even-sized pieces. Placing a piece between your palm, fingers bent like a claw, and the counter surface [or if it has NO traction like my counter, your other palm], roll the dough rapidly in circles until it forms a smooth boule. It can help to tuck parts of it into the back like with regular boule-making technique at first
  7. Take each ball, gently pushing a hole straight through the center with your finger/thumb, and begin working this hole out to at least 1½” wide by slowly turning and pressing evenly with your thumb [that whole “spinning around your finger” trick probably DOES work, but only if the dough is absolutely perfect to start out with]. Alternately, one can roll the dough into an even log and wrap around your palm, re-connecting the ends into a perfect circle. Good luck20160217_013512
  8. Transfer to cornmeal-dusted pan, cover with plastic and move to refrigerator overnight20160217_115621
  9. The next day, take dough out and prepare your water bath. Combine 1 gallon water, the 1 Tb Malt Syrup, and Baking Soda, bringing to a boil20160217_120518
  10. Dip 3-4 doughnuts into the water at a time, leaving to boil on one side for one minute before turning over for another minute20160217_121003
  11. Transfer to a cooling rack to drip for a bit and then to another cornmeal-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough. As this is going, preheat oven to 450F20160217_122514
  12. If sprinkling any toppings [I myself used a Lemon Flake Sea Salt on some], brush the tops and sides of your bagels with Egg Wash [1 tsp of water mixed w/ one egg white vigorously], then sprinkle as generously as desired, patting ingredients down and into it afterwards20160217_124754
  13. Move into oven, baking at least 15-20 minutes, turning 180 degrees halfway through cook time
  14. Once deep golden brown and baked through, remove20160217_124805
  15. Let cool half an hour before use or, if you’re cool, cut open immediately and cover those hot insides with butter and/or a schmear of cream cheese
  16. Enjoy

20160217_154230What Have I Learned This Time?

That I still need more work with shaping, these bagels were a pain trying to keep even and ‘perfect’ looking. At least those rough edges softened up by the final product through proofing and baking, but I may have to try the ‘roll and wrap’ technique for shaping if I ever do this again.

Bagels definitely do NOT need egg wash if there’s no topping; I much prefer their color when baked as-is, the others made me nervous of being in too long.

The benefits of using a slightly damp towel when resting certain doughs; the bagel dough definitely started to get one of those firm skins on parts of it before shaping, which made the process itself that much more difficult. I feel like it developed one rather fast too. Sadly I hadn’t noticed the ‘damp towel’ instruction in the recipe [and it might have just been in another one that I read earlier actually], but it definitely would have helped here.

Any Thoughts?

The end result comes reminiscent of pretzels… not surprising given the similar boil-bath before baking. Big, chewy, and for once with a crunchy exterior when eaten close to fresh, it’s a good version of a bagel. Can’t wait to try one in New York in a month or so to do a proper comparison.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

It still thinks I need to work on my massage technique…

 

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.

p2: French Sea Salt Caramels

The Sweet

4293852900_16753e7c6f_oSo my recent job, if I haven’t already mentioned, has kept my schedule notably busier and with less time to devote towards planning and developing the many recipes on my list. Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying to do them all, of course, it just may take much longer than I thought… though luckily it should clear up a bit more in a few months. Every now and then I get a chance to go after something small, or something cool that fits a little request… more often than not, it’s been the desserts lately. What can I say, guess I like baking and such. For this past weekend, I took about an hour to make a little bite that Buzzfeed paired with Cheese Souffle: Salted Caramel pieces.

Did you know there’s an actual REASON that Salted Caramel hasn’t been used and popular until our recent 20th century? And no it’s not just because ‘modern chefs are more creative.’ In 1343, a large salt tax was put in place by King Philip VI, making it a luxury that only rich could afford. Thus even simple salted butter couldn’t be used by the masses until Brittany unified with the Kingdom of France. Even then, the ‘staple’ salt, Guerende Sea Salt, was a rather difficult ingredient to obtain [and I’ll admit, I myself just used a simple sea salt that’s in our pantry. We’ve got so many salts as it is, no reason to buy another one]. Thus the overall USE and distinction of it historically as far as pastries are concerned, a craft which focuses a lot on transforming very INexpensive ingredients, would logically take a much longer time to be realized.

In fact, that time came in the later 20th century, with Henri Le Roux, son of one of France’s most legendary pastry chefs. With his continued Swiss educated, he became France’s best chocolatier and caramel maker, ‘inventing’ the little confection midway through the 1900’s. Though it snuck in rather low on our radar, in 1980 salted butter caramel was voted the best candy in France. And now… well, now it’s the over-used dessert addition/focus that some people still use and rave over as if it was 5-8 years ago when the fad seemed to kick in.

That’s not to say it isn’t still delicious; there IS a reason it’s been so popular.

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

It is often read with this particular recipe, or really ANY French recipe with such simple components as such, should really be made with the BEST of each ingredient in order for it to come out in that perfect form of buttery-salty-caramel chew. Of course, my idea on making this was rather last minute and I didn’t exactly grab everything that fit that bill. Which I actually don’t mind, since it was my first time attempting the caramel recipe and I don’t want to ruin any awesome ingredients with a minor screwup that masks everything.

20160116_225956That said, I DID have a little bit of leftover Organic Can Sugar that I mixed with my regular sugar, we’ve had plenty fantastic Scottish Butter sitting in our freezer for months now, so I used some of each to help level it up decently.

There’s a rather decent technique I’ve found about for this, one which makes a lot of sense. Let me start off by saying that caramel really IS quite simple; you cook the sugar until it turns color, not too much, and then add in your cream and butter. That said, one usually has to be careful adding in the cream, since he shock in temperature can make the hot liquid sugar seize up and turn solid too fast. It’s fixable, just got to slowly bring it back to temperature, but not condusive and a pain. So, as other recipes have done, one just heats up the cream on the side to a simmer, leave it warm, and add it in like so. This is also a great way to dissolve most of the salt to the mix into the caramel.

Of a quick final note, it’s very important to prepare your pan to pour the caramel in afterwards. Parchment paper works perfectly, though I’ve seen a recipe with aluminum foil too; the main key to it, however, is getting a thin layer of Vegetable Oil brushed along the bottom and sides to ENSURE that no sticking happens. Which is a pain, since with the paper already there it tends to pool. And don’t try to play with different oils unless they’re even MORE neutral in flavor; otherwise you’re getting an olive oil-flavored caramel [which actually doesn’t sound too bad if done right, but not the goal here]. I bring it up mainly since coating the knife or other cutting/handling tools for the finished candy is a great way to keep it clean and easy handling. May just want to pat with some paper towels afterwards to soak up any excess.

Salted Butter Caramels
1¾ cup Sugar
Vegetable Oil
1/3 cup Cream
¾ + tsp Sea Salt
5½ tsp Butter, cubed
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Directions

  1. Place Sugar in sauce pan, moving over medium heat, stirring very often and NOT leaving the kitchen20160116_230959
  2. While this is initially heating up, quick mix the Cream and ½ tsp of Sea Salt in another pan over low heat, bringing to a simmer before removing. Keep warm20160116_230106
  3. Also, line a square baking pan with parchment paper, lightly brushing the bottom and sides with Vegetable Oil20160116_230528
  4. Stir more often as the sugar melts, making sure not to let it sit too long and burn while others are still crystallized20160116_231132
  5. When most of it’s melted, stick in a candy thermometer, continuing to stir and cook until the sugar reaches 180C [supposedly 356F]20160116_231334
  6. Briefly remove from heat and slowly, carefully add the warm cream mixture, stirring in until fully incorporated20160116_231626
  7. Return to heat until sugar has come back up to 140C [284-ish F]20160116_231944
  8. Remove from heat again, adding in Butter and Vanilla, mixing quickly until it’s thoroughly incorporated and smooth20160116_232220
  9. Pour the caramel into the parchment-lined baking pan, sprinkle the remaining sea salt over the top20160116_232530
  10. Leave to cool for about an hour or more
  11. Upturn onto the cutting board, taking a knife to cut into the desired piece sizes. If still rather sticky, coat the knife blade with some of the vegetable oil every now and then20160116_235716
  12. Transfer to bags, wrap in wax paper if needed/desired, and enjoy20160117_000330

My Thoughts

Of course it didn’t come out as I wanted. I could see even before it was fully cooled that this caramel would be much firmer than what should have been achieved; instead of that soft, stretchy, tender little chew, I got a hard and crunchy-chewy toffee-like creation. Not that I mind in general, it’s still quite delicious to suck on; creamy-buttery richness with that almost-burnt sugar mixed in. Perhaps not in a perfect blend, again not ALL the ingredients were of anything more than average/cheap quality, but it succeeded where needed. Well, it needed more salt, could only taste it IF sucking vs chewing, and then only in the fir half minute. I’m debating if it’s just the result of not using a classic big-grained French sea salt, which may have more compact flavor too, or if the recipe needed more… I blame the recipe.

As for why the sweets didn’t turn out as desired in consistency, I have two main theories. Either I may have cooked the sugar a bit hotter than called for at one or two periods, very possible though I’m pretty sure it didn’t get THAT much higher than the recipe called for, or the recipe really needs to have notably more butter and cream added into it. My money is on a combination of the two.

Possible Pairings

cremant-de-bourgogne-4278-1-2Not the kind of recipe that usually comes with a whole glass of alcohol to ‘pair’ with, but assuming one DOES want to imbibe while chewing on a [properly] soft and salty-creamy piece of cooked sugar heaven, I could think of a few tasty options.

The first thing that comes to mind is Bubbly; just a simple glass of that delightful drink that never really needs to be fully figured out as to why it tastes good with anything. Since there’s no real confining aspect to the candy that requires distinct characteristics in its partnered drink to balance out, besides the sweetness itself [the saltiness is already being handled by its own sugar content], we can revel in the option of that most celebratory of wines. A Champagne or nice Cremant de Loire/Bourgogne/Alsace wouldn’t be out of the question. The beautiful complexities of a good bottle can be easily featured under the simple candy, any toasty/buttery notes compliment the buttery/creamy aspect of the caramel, they’re even paired often with local seafood dishes so it works with the salt aspect on a secondary level. The one thing I WOULD make sure to try and do, if possible, is to get a Demi-Sec [the sweeter styles of French bubbly], just to make sure the balance is right.

B9315771956Z.1_20150107133802_000_GIS9K0B6R.1-0Many a sweet, fortified, and aged wine will shine here, much like the delectable muscat-based creations from the south of France. Though in this category I can’t think of anything better than a properly thick, brown, caramelly ‘Sticky’ from Australia. Or, as they’re technically known as, Tawnies, influenced by aged ports and one of the best things to ever come out of the country in my opinion.

Of final note, any Aged Spirit would also be on my list, a-la Whiskey. The vanilla and caramel flavors picked up from the toasted oak will compliment these flavors greatly, and high-alcohol actually helps pair with various difficult food concerns. Very ‘heavy’ meals, fatty, acidic, but especially SWEET things can be cut or balanced next to a good spirit. If I had to pick one thing, though, I’d definitely have to go for a GOOD quality, special Rum. Aged well and from a proper estate, they’re flavors are amazing and encapsulate the epitome of ‘sugar’ complexities. They even make some in the French Martinique. Just saying.

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.