24 Loaves: Pan Gallego

I’ve been on a Spanish kick the last week or two. I’ve also been thinking that if I’m going to make the 24 loaves I committed to earlier in the year, I need to move on from the perfect baguettes that I’ve been making with the basic AB5 recipe. These two factors directly contributed to me making a truly gorgeous, albeit moon-like, loaf of Pan Gallego Sunday night.

Pan Gallego

There are many variations on this loaf, but at its heart, this is a rustic, multi-grain bread from Galicia, in the Spanish northwest.  This version includes both white and whole wheat flours, with additional flavor and texture coming from pumpkin and sunflower seeds and millet, a tiny grain I’d previously only encountered in birdseed.  This was my first truly multi-grain bread, and my first experience trying to knead anything into an already risen loaf.  I’m pretty sure that more of the seeds ended up in the bread than spread across the counter and on the floor, but I’m not confident that I achieved a really good distribution throughout the loaf.

I am, however, pleased to report that our $2 paving tile has proved to be a reliable baking stone.  Instead of sliding the loaf on and off of a cornmeal-coated baking sheet and moving pans of water into and out of the oven – as recommended in the recipe – I gently transferred the twice-risen loaf to the very hot tile and added a bit of water to the broiling pan that lives in our oven for just that purpose.  In under an hour, we had an amazing 2 pound loaf of bread – more than enough for the two of us for a week, but tasty enough that it might not last that long.  I’ll definitely be baking this one again.

Recipes:
Pan Gallego from Spanish – the actual recipe used varies only slightly from the one linked

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Two Recent Conversations Over Breakfast

A couple of weeks ago:
Shane, eating breakfast: “Where did this bread come from?”
E, making coffee: “It’s just the normal baguette.”
Shane: “Oh! It’s really good! I thought maybe it was still some of the Roadhouse bread that Gemma had bought.”
E: “That’s maybe the best compliment you’ve ever made about my cooking!”

And then this morning:
Shane, eating breakfast: “Why does your food taste better than my food?”
E: “My food has a greater degree of chaos”

24 Loaves: Month 1

In the last month, I’ve baked 8 loaves from the basic Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day recipe.

Five boules, which were more or less successful. The first couple were great, including the two I baked while extremely hung over the weekend of my birthday. That’s the beautiful thing about this recipe – even if your head is throbbing and you want nothing more than to be horizontal, you can shape a loaf and get it in the oven and have fresh bread to sop up last night’s indulgence in little more than an hour. We had a couple of loaves come out a bit spongy and without the gorgeous crackly crust, which I think was because I baked them at a lower temperature than was prescribed. I also think that I’m going to add a bit more flour in the next batch, as the dough has been really wet.

Look at that!

Two pathetic demi-baguettes made with the ends of the first batch of dough. They tasted fine, but were difficult to shape and never really rose.

Flat Baguettes

One ciabatta, which I forgot to photograph, but which we used for sandwiches the other weekend with roast beef and good mustard.

One gorgeous baguette, so gorgeous and perfect that I went out in the snow just to take photos. Crackly crust, great crumb, can’t wait to bake another one.

Baguette!

Technically this amounts to eight loaves in one month, but really it was just one recipe and a bunch of different shapes. I figure that’s a good start, right?

24 Loaves: Basic Boule

So tonight I made this sauce.  Except that instead of velvet buttery goodness after 45 minutes, after an hour and a half the sauce was still chunky and would not reduce.  I spooned a cup or so of sauce over a leftover chicken breast and warmed them together in the oven, hoping and hoping that the rest of the sauce would reduce.  Um, nope.  Are you sensing a theme to this week?  Oh well, it was still tasty, and after another hour and a half on the stove, it’s finally getting impossibly rich.  Too bad we ate dinner an hour ago.

DSCF5137

But that wasn’t what I came here to tell you about today. Today is all about the bread.

Blessed Boule

One of my resolutions this year was to learn to bake different kinds of bread: 24 loaves, to be precise. While I’ve made pita bread and English muffins since embracing this challenge, this was technically my first loaf of 2011. The Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method relies on a slow ferment – like the No Knead Bread recipe that failed me (or I it). I started with the basic recipe, which makes enough for four one pound loaves.

First, mix everything up in a lidded (but not air-tight) vessel large enough to handle the rise:

Rising Bucket

After two hours in the warm kitchen, the dough more than doubled in size:

2 Hours Later

At this point, you could scoop out a pound of dough and bake yourself a beautiful loaf – or you could stick the bucket in the fridge to continue to ferment. Here’s where this recipe is different from the No-Knead Bread. The cold rise does something wonderful to the dough: it allows the good bacteria to ferment and the long-chain starches to break down into sugars.

When you’re ready to bake, you scoop out and shape a beautiful boule, then let it rise 40 minutes at room temperature while your oven warms up. 30 minutes in the oven, and you’ve got this:

Look at that!

We ate the whole damned thing before the steam stopped rising. And I can’t wait to bake another loaf, except that I might need to run a few more miles before I do.

Recipes:
Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter from Smitten Kitchen
Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day from the book of the same title, by way of Alexandra’s Kitchen

25 Recipes #2: Goulash

I’ve been cooking up a storm since we got home from Cleveland last Wednesday – I just haven’t been blogging about it. I made hummus and fresh pita bread for our friends’ New Year’s party – the latter was perfect, unlike earlier pita efforts. We were both somewhat worse for wear on Saturday, and the Barefoot Contessa’s fresh pea soup was just the thing for our troubled stomachs. On Sunday, I made the first recipe from my new Essential New York Times Cookbook: mushroom caps stuffed with sausage and duxelles – simple but incredibly flavorful, and destined to be on our table many times in the future. I also took on the second recipe from my 25 Recipes list: goulash.

Goulash!

I’m not sure how goulash got on our list exactly. I approached it with a bit of trepidation, as Shane grew up in a city whose cuisine is as influenced by Eastern Europeans as my hometown’s is by the Swedes.

I was concerned because there seems to be a great deal of disagreement about what constitutes authentic Hungarian Gulyás. Many recipes call for tomatoes, while others swear that goulash never contains tomatoes. Some recipes call for potatoes to thicken the stew. Others suggest serving the stew over dumplings or egg noodles. The goulash I remember from my childhood always involved ground beef and elbow macaroni, and is apparently known as American Chop Suey in some parts of the country..

Browning the beef

Fortunately for me, Shane doesn’t have any particular memory of a specific goulash, so I was safe to proceed. The one thing all goulash recipes seem to agree on is the paprika, which gives goulash its characteristic color and savory smoky flavor. The paprika differentiates goulash from more pedestrian (but no less delicious) beef stew. In this goulash, the paprika is cooked in bacon fat already used to brown your beef and saute onions and garlic.

Sauteeing onions and garlic

Add everything to the pot – the browned beef and bacon, plus stock, diced red peppers, tomato paste (oh, the heresy!), seasonings, and water (or beer) enough to get the right consistency. Let it all simmer for an hour or so – enough time for me to shred and then prepare some pasta – and you’ve got a warm and hearty dinner. I was going to add ‘flavorful’ to that list of adjectives, but I was honestly underwhelmed by this recipe. It was good but not remarkable, which is probably the case with most comfort foods.

Kitchen Assistant

Either way, Mina was happy to supervise, Shane was happy to eat it up, and I’ll be happy to make it again. Maybe we’ll try a more authentic recipe next time.

Recipe:
Goulash from Smitten Kitchen – 1/4 recipe with egg noodles and some bread was enough for three portions

1212 English Muffins

English Muffins!

I go through bread baking phases. When I first learned how to bake bread – back in 2003, in the apartment with a horrifically carpeted kitchen and tile on every surface – it was a revelation. We were broke, and the bread we bought was generally of the extremely inexpensive store-brand variety. Occasionally we’d get a Parmesan pepper baguette or a loaf of olive bread from Mary’s Market. Realizing that I could make an excellent sandwich loaf for not very much money – and also work out aggression from a long day of talking to angry customers – was just as wonderful as you might imagine.

Since then, I’ve gone back and forth. I baked regularly when we first moved to A2 and I was unemployed – but then I got a job and we decided we could splurge on a half loaf of something awesome from Zingerman’s from time to time – or we could stock up on half price breads at Plum after 8pm. I have no complaints about this. I like good bread, and I like not always having to make it.

But here’s the thing – there’s a whole world of breads out there, and I only know how to make a handful of ’em. In the last year I’ve made bagels and yeast rolls, zucchini bread and no-knead bread. In the next year, I want to learn about bread – breads of all kinds! 24 loaves in 12 months. I would consider this morning’s baking a preview for the main event.

We’ve been buying English muffins for the last few weeks in an attempt to perfect the breakfast sandwich – and even though I’m over the breakfast sandwich kick for the moment, I’ve been enjoying them smeared with peanut butter along with my breakfast Greek yogurt.  I’ve had a couple of different English muffin recipes bookmarked for a while, so this seemed like a great project to take on this morning.  With a pot of beef stock simmering on the stove, the kitchen was sufficiently warm for the first rise, and the running dishwasher provided enough heat for the second.  I toasted the muffins in the cast iron, then transfered them to the toaster oven for the final bake.

The end result? 9 golden muffins, all very tasty but a little too dense, and lacking the nooks and crannies that are so good at catching melted butter and fresh jam.  While that’s not going to stop us from eating them – we enjoyed a couple with tonight’s frittata – I think that next time I’ll be a bit more gentle in forming the muffins.  Because there will be a next time.  Maybe even this week.

Recipe:
English muffins from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by way of Pete Bakes

1111 Snack dinner with seasonal veg

I’m starting to think that snack dinner is our equivalent of leftover casserole – you know, a bit of this, a bit of that, finishing off a few things that are in the fridge or that looked appealing during the last minute run to the store. (I’d link you to the episode of Malcolm in the Middle that talks about leftover casserole, but in my memory, it’s a just a throwaway laugh, not worth any further mention. We’ll see if I’m wrong.)

I wasn’t feeling up to making, much less eating, the risotto we’d planned on having for dinner tonight, so Shane ran up to Plum to get a baguette and a few other things to have with a tin of tuna and whatever veg side I could throw together during his shopping trip.  I came up with two: spinach sauteed with butter and garlic (and a bit too much salt, which is something you’ll almost never hear me say) and a wee butternut squash, cubed and roasted with ras el hanout.  And I’m not ashamed to say that we finished all of it – baguette, tuna, veg, and a bottle of wine – over the course of the evening.