Monday, August 25, 2014
Thursday, July 24, 2014
It’s been a couple of months since I visited Le Casacce, but I remember it like it was yesterday.
Majestic Tuscan sunsets,
and beautiful roses
that frame the charming stone architecture with color and splendor.
I spent a couple of weeks in this paradise attending a conference and basking in the Tuscan countryside.
This post was supposed to be a review of the awesome experience I had at Le Casacce discovering more about writing and photography at the Plated Stories Workshop, and learning about Italian cooking from Enrico Casini, a renowned Italian Chef.
However, sadly, Enrico passed away in his sleep this past Sunday. So this is my humble tribute to him.
Enrico was a funny, dynamic person who loved to cook and share his villa and his creations with everyone.
This was his domain whether he was in the kitchen preparing a masterpiece or mingling with guests.
Everything he and his staff made turned to gold or at least tasted like it was made from some precious substance. He took great pains to make sure his creations delighted everyone.
At dinner every night, he would introduce each course as it was being served. He was proud of his land and especially his olive oil. He would enter the dining room with a smile on his face and say, “Excuse me!” and when everyone was silent, he would tell us in his broken English what each dish was made of.
He would say “… this dish is made with the meat (or cheese) from these lands (as he opened his arms to signify the land around him)and my olive oil … and my love … sokay! Thank you!”
One of the dishes we made in the cooking class is this ricotta gnocchi with creamed spinach and chard. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I hope to decipher my notes one day and recreate it.
Enrico reminded me of a flower child from the 70s. I didn’t really know him; I just observed his manner in the kitchen and around the villa. He usually had Barry White or Sade playing in the background.
He had a simple, yet captivating collection of paintings and photographs which hung in the dining room and patio area. The art provided a glimpse into his life and memories and made mealtime a precious experience.
Another endearing character at Le Casacce, was Enrico’s loyal sidekick, Socrates. Socrates is a friendly and woeful donkey. He would sing a song when he saw his master coming and sometimes the rest of us would hear it too.
Sweet Socrates, won’t you sing your song one more time?
Enrico, thank you for enriching our lives and our palates with your Roman traditions and welcoming us into your villa and your lands. We’ll cherish these memories forever.
Here’s to your olive groves, your lands and your lovely villa. May they forever hold your memory and your love deep within.
Farewell Enrico, you will be missed …
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
When you hear the term “artisan bread,” do you automatically think preferment, overnight sponge or sourdough (aka wild yeast)?
Usually when I make an artisan loaf, I like to add some sort of preferment or at least let the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight to help develop the flavor.
However, this past Saturday, I decided to answer the question: Can you make a whole wheat artisan loaf in one day and will it taste good?
I started the effort late morning. I chose a multi-grain bread which utilizes the straight dough method. Straight dough means it doesn’t include any preferment such as an overnight poolish or a sponge or sourdough. It’s just a straight dough.
This bread is based on the method for the 75% Whole Wheat Saturday Bread from Flour, Water, Salt & Yeast by Ken Forkish. The total amount of whole grain flour used (375 grams) is seventy-five percent of the total flour used (500 grams). I used a combination of hard red spring wheat, Durum wheat and rye flour for the whole grain portion.
I’m happy to report that you can make a whole wheat artisan loaf in one day and it does taste pretty good, especially with peanut butter, which is my litmus test to see if I like a bread. It also tastes great with butter or cheese. I haven’t tried it other ways because I ran out of it.
75% Whole Grain Saturday Bread
Adapted from: Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish
Makes: One loaf (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 125 grams (~ 7/8 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 35 grams (scant 1/3 cup) coarse rye flour
- 200 grams (scant 1 1/3 cup) whole wheat flour
- 140 grams (scant 7/8 cup) Durum wheat flour
- 360 grams (~ 1 3/4 cup) warm water (90 degrees F. to 95 degrees F.)
- 10 grams coarse sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon instant dried yeast
1) Mix the flour and water
Combine the all-purpose, whole wheat, Durum and rye flours and water and mix by hand using a wooden spoon or a Danish dough whisk until thoroughly incorporated.
2) Autolyse (rest the dough)
Cover the dough and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
3) Mix in the Salt and Yeast
After the dough has rested, sprinkle the salt and yeast over the top of the dough. Mix by hand until the salt and yeast are fully incorporated into the dough. Using wet hands for this part makes it really easy. Continue to wet your hands as necessary throughout the mixing process.
4) Fold and Turn the Dough
Instead of kneading the dough, Mr. Forkish uses the pincer method. I love the name of his method, but I’m more proficient with the fold-and-turn method from Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread so that’s the method I usually use for mixing dough.
With the fold-and-turn method, you basically do a series of turns and folds in the bowl to develop the gluten structure.
Refer to my Tartine Bread post for a photo tutorial on performing the fold-and-turn method.
5) Bulk Fermentation
Cover the dough and let it rise. Do two folds during the first 1 1/2 after mixing. The first fold should be done about 10 minutes after mixing and the 2nd fold should be done within the next hour. When you see the dough spread out in the bowl, you’ll know it’s ready to be folded
You can fold the dough a little later if necessary, but be sure to let the dough rest during the last hour of rising. The dough should be triple it’s size in volume after about 5 hours after mixing. I started this process at Noon and the dough was ready to be shaped at 5 pm.
6) Shape the Loaf
I only made one loaf so I didn’t need to divide the dough. I just shaped it into a ball and placed it in a well-floured banneton basket. A mixture of all-purpose and rice flour works really well for this purpose.
7) Final Proof
Lightly flour the top of the dough. Cover the basket with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let the loaf proof for an hour to an hour and a half. If your kitchen is warm, it will only take about an hour.
Use the finger dent test to see when the loaf is fully proofed and ready to be baked. Watch a demonstration by Ken Forkish of the finger-proof test.
8) Prepare the Oven for Baking
45 minutes to an hour before baking the loaf, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the middle rack from the oven and place a Dutch oven on the bottom rack. I used the Dutch oven combo baker for this bread but you can use any Dutch oven.
9) Transfer the Loaf to the Dutch Oven
When the loaf is fully proofed and the oven is sufficiently preheated, carefully remove the Dutch oven using heavy oven mitts. Be careful not to burn your arms or hands on the sides of the oven or the pot. Gently invert the loaf from the proofing basket onto the bottom of the Dutch oven combo baker or into the large part of a regular Dutch oven. I sprinkled the bottom of the combo baker with cornmeal before inverting the loaf onto it.
I didn’t score this loaf, but you can if you like.
10) Bake and Enjoy!
Place the Dutch Oven on the bottom rack of the oven and cover it with the lid. Turn the oven down to 450 degrees F. Bake the loaf for 20 minutes with the lid on.
Remove the lid and bake for an additional 20 minutes or until the loaf is a medium dark brown. Just be careful not to burn the bottom of the loaf.
Remove the loaf from the Dutch oven to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Using herbs in loaves of bread provides an earthy characteristic and an intoxicating fragrance. When you add olive oil to the mix, it blends the elements together to form the perfect environment for a savory meal.
I particularly enjoy making breads with rosemary. As the bread is baking, the aroma of the herbs drifts out of the kitchen and follows me around the house until I succumb to it’s invitation.
It was this experience I was thinking about when I selected the monthly bread for the Bread Baking Babes. I’m the host kitchen so I wanted to present a bread that was simple, yet full of flavor and one would go well with a variety of foods.
I chose an Italian Rosemary Bread called Panmarino.
Panmarino is unique in it’s simplicity, but also in it’s history. Legend has it that it originated in the area called Ferrara, near Venice and was created by a baker named Luciano Pancalde.
The idea for Panmarino came about as Luciano was reading the chronicles of the d'Este family who once ruled Ferrara. When he learned about the magnificent court banquets where they served rosemary bread with a crust that "sparkled with diamonds," it gave him the idea to create his own loaf. He experimented and baked and tested some more until finally, he had the bread he was aiming for, an aromatic, dome-shaped bread that is scored in the pattern of a star and sprinkled with salt crystals.
Panmarino is a delightful loaf. If you are looking for a fragrant loaf that utilizes the freshest of ingredients, this is the loaf for you.
Don’t confuse simplicity with lack of taste or method. This is a fairly easy bread to make, but it takes about 20 hours from start-to-finish. Most of that time is spent on the overnight biga so the hands on time is minimal.
Panmarino – Italian Rosemary Bread
Adapted from The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking from The French Culinary Institute.
The source of the story about the origins of Panmarino is found here
These loaves are charmingly small and make great companions for an evening meal. I made two loaves and gave one away. If you look closely, you can just barely see the diamonds (sprinkles of salt) in the slashes.
The original formula made four loaves. I reduced it two loaves. I did the calculations based on baker's percentages, but you can halve everything and it should be fine.
I used sifted white whole wheat flour instead of bread flour in the final dough because I’m experimenting with home-milled flours, but feel free to use bread flour or regular all-purpose or spelt flour to make this bread.
Adapted Formula (makes 2 loaves)
- 71g (~1/2 cup) bread flour
- 60g (scant 1/4 cup) water
- pinch instant yeast
- 442g (~3 1/2 cups) bread flour *
- 240g (1 cup) water
- 22g (2 T) milk
- pinch instant yeast
- 44g (1/4 cup) olive oil
- 4g (2 T) rosemary
- Biga, all
- 11.5g (~ 3 tsp.) salt **
* I started with 568g of whole wheat. After I sifted out the bran, I ended up with 472g so I had a little extra for sprinkling, if necessary.
** Some of the other bakers thought this was too much salt. Feel free to reduce the amount of salt to suit your tastes.
Original formula (makes 4 Loaves)
- Bread flour 143 grams/5 ounces
- Water 122 grams/4 1/4 ounces
- Pinch of instant yeast
- Bread flour 884 grams/1 pound 15 ounces
- Water 477 grams/1 pound 1 ounce
- Milk 44 grams/1 1/2 ounces
- Biga 265 grams/9 1/3 ounces
- Salt 23 grams/3/4 ounce
- Pinch of instant yeast
- Olive oil 88 grams/3 ounces
- Chopped fresh rosemary 9 grams/1/3 ounce
Prepare the Biga:
Combine the flour, water and yeast in a mixing bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon or Danish dough whisk until well blended. Scrape down the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest at 75 degrees F. for 14 to 16 hours.
Making the Final Dough:
Combine the flour, water, milk, and biga in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until blended.
Add the salt and yeast and mix on low speed for 5 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and mix for about 7 more minutes, or until the dough is smooth. When the gluten is fully developed, mix in the olive oil and rosemary on low speed.
Lightly oil a large bowl. Scrape the dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment for 45 minutes.
Remove the dough to a lightly-floured work surface and divide it into four (or two if you halved the recipe) 450-gram /16-ounce pieces. Shape the dough pieces into rounds. Cover with plastic wrap and let them bench rest for 15 minutes.
Place two couches on a separate work surface or bread board and dust them with flour.
Uncover the dough and, if necessary, lightly flour the work surface. Gently press on the dough to degas and carefully shape each piece into a tight and neat rounds. Place one loaf on one side of the couche, fold the couche up to make a double layer of cloth to serve as a divider between the loaves, and place a second loaf next to the fold. Repeat the process with the remaining two loaves and the second couche. Cover with plastic wrap and proof for 1 hour.
I proofed the loaves on cornmeal-dusted parchment paper instead of a baker's couche. I baked the loaves on the parchment paper on a preheated baking stone and used a cast iron skillet on the top shelf as the steam pan. You can proof the loaves in a proofing basket if you prefer.
About an hour before you plan to bake the loaves, place a baking stone (or tiles) into the oven along with a steam pan (underneath) or iron skillet (on the top rack) and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Uncover the dough and score the top of each loaf in a star pattern using a lame or sharp knife.
Optional: sprinkle sea salt into the crevices as the original baker did to make it "sparkle with diamonds."
Carefully transfer the loaves (on the parchment paper) to the preheated baking stone using a peel or the back of a baking sheet. To make the steam, add 1 cup of ice to the iron skillet or steam pan.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until the crust is light brown and crisp and the loaves make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.
Remove the loaves from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
I’m sending these loaves to be yeastspotted.
These are easy and pleasant loaves for summer baking. I think you’ll enjoy them.
Check out how the other creative Babes handled this bread:
The Bread Baking Babes (current dozen) are:
- Bake My Day - Karen
- blog from OUR kitchen - Elizabeth
- Bread Experience - Cathy
- Feeding my Enthusiasms - Pat/Elle
- girlichef - Heather
- Life's a Feast - Jamie
- Living in the Kitchen with Puppies - Natashya
- Lucullian Delights - Ilva
- My Diverse Kitchen - Aparna
- My Kitchen In Half Cups - Tanna
- Notitie Van Lien - Lien
- Thyme for Cooking - Katie (Bitchin’ Bread Baking Babe Bibliothécaire)
Would you like to be a Bread Baking Buddy?
I’m the host kitchen this month and I’d love for you to bake along with us.
Just make the Panmarino, then email me your link (or email your photo and a bit about your experience if you don't have a blog). My email address is breadexperience (at) gmail (dot) com. Submissions are due by July 29th. Once you've posted, you'll receive a Buddy badge for baking along, then watch for a roundup of all of the BBBuddies posts a few days after the close of submissions.
I hope you'll join us this month!
Friday, July 11, 2014
Zucchinis, zucchinis everywhere. The two plants in my community garden plot have been producing more zucchini than I can shake a stick at. However, the ones in my raised bed garden at home haven’t produced anything. That’s the way it works with gardening. I divided up my plants between the two gardens in hopes I would get some bounty from at least one if not both of them. So far, it’s worked pretty well this season.
Since I’ve had a surplus of zucchinis, I’ve made a bunch of zucchini bread, but one can only make and give away so much at a time so I’ve been trying to come up with other ways to use the squash.
I had soup on my mind the other day and decided this would be a good way to use some of them. I didn’t want a cold soup even though that’s what you usually think about for summer soups. I wanted a warm and creamy comfort food-type soup that melts in your mouth and soothes your soul.
I ran across several zucchini soup recipes as I was thumbing through my recipe books, but none of them were exactly what I was looking for. So I decided to make my own. I took what I liked from each recipe and used the ingredients I had on hand to create this smooth and creamy curried zucchini soup. It was just what I needed for a lazy Sunday afternoon meal.
Instead of using sour cream or another type cream to thicken the soup, I used a classic method, called beurre manié. It’s made with equal parts butter and flour. I loved the rich, buttery flavor it imparted to the creamy soup.
This soup tasted so good I made it again and doubled the recipe to use up the rest of my zucchini.
Creamy, Curried Zucchini Soup
Adapted from: Soup: An inspiring collection of soups, broths, and chowders by Love Food and Soups by Marguerite Patten
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 lbs. zucchini, unpeeled and sliced
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or stock)
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup flour
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes.
Add in the zucchini, chicken or vegetable broth, and curry powder and a pinch or two of salt, if you are using unsalted broth. Bring the soup to a bowl, then reduce the heat and cover. Let it cook gently for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
Let the soup cool slightly, then transfer in batches to the blender or food processor. Process just until the soup is smooth. It should still have some green flecks from the unpeeled zucchini. If you’re using a food processor, strain off some of the liquid, then reserve it. Just process the soup solids (cooked vegetables) with enough liquid to moisten them, then mix it with the remaining liquid. If you’re using a blender, process the soup solids and the liquid together.
Return the pureed soup to a clean (rinsed out) saucepan and reheat gently over low heat until hot. Do not let it boil.
In the meantime, make the beurre manié by mixing the butter and flour together in a pan and cooking on low heat until it is thoroughly incorporated.
Make sure the soup is hot, then drop small amounts – about the size of a large pea – into the soup. Wait until it is completely absorbed into the soup before you add anymore. Continue adding it until the soup is the consistency you want. You may not need all of the beurre manié. If you have any left over, store it in a covered container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.
Try the soup and adjust the seasoning, if desired. Then ladle it into soup bowls and enjoy. I added some cracked black pepper as a garnish.
Sunday, July 6, 2014
Do you ever wonder what to do with stale bread; besides giving it to the birds or throwing it in the trash?
Since I bake at least once a week, I’m always looking for creative ways to use up stale bread. My favorite way to enjoy bread is to eat it fresh, but artisan breads don’t contain any preservatives so these types of loaves get stale more quickly than store bought loaves (that contain preservatives). This means you have to eat the bread quickly or find other uses for it.
When I was in Tuscany, I learned how to make a simple and delicious garlic bread, called Fettunta. Fettunta is a tasty and aromatic garlic bread, made with stale bread.
Don’t let the simplicity fool you. Those Tuscans know how to do garlic bread. They use the best ingredients from local and regional sources. So although the bread may be stale, the other ingredients aren’t.
The version I enjoyed in Tuscany was made with local olive oil, garlic and Tuscan bread. Tuscan bread doesn’t usually contain salt so the chef sprinkled a little bit of salt on top of the olive oil to enhance the flavor.
I enjoyed this garlicky, toasty bread so much, it was one of the first dishes I wanted to recreate when I got home.
For my Fettunta, I used slices of Einkorn & Wheat Tartine. I grilled the slices and rubbed them with garlic grown locally in my garden. Then I drizzled Tuscan olive oil over them. The homegrown garlic is so flavorful and aromatic but it doesn’t overpower the grilled whole wheat bread. It was delicious and crunchy.
This garlic bread makes a very tasty and filling appetizer or snack. It also goes well with pasta, of course.
Makes enough for 4 people
- 8 slices of stale (but not moldy) bread
- 1 garlic clove
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Grill or toast the slices of bread; then rub them with garlic. Place them on a plate or serving tray and drizzle them with olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.