Monday, December 12, 2011

Aroma Bread with Coriander and Fennel

     Recently, I purchased a new cookbook: Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck.  Had it not been on a top-ten of 2011 cookbook list, I don't know that I ever would have picked it up.  I had just come across another top-ten list: the worst things to eat for good health.  I have to admit that none of them was surprising, but of that list, I only eat one on a regular basis.  That item is white flour.  I really rather like products made with it, and I am the antitheses of gluten free.  I love rice for sure, as you've seen in previous blog posts, but a good rustic loaf right from the oven brings childhood memories that are only brought on by the scent of warm wheat and butter.  I decided I ought to find a way to satisfy my periodic fresh-bread cravings while alleviating the need for so highly-refined a product.  That, and whole grains are super trendy right now, so I decided to order the book.

     This is the first recipe I am trying out of Ancient Grains, and I am pretty pleased.  Below is the recipe, as it is written in the book and on  Instead of sunflower seeds I used millet that was soaked for about two hours, and I did not include any whole grains (all I could find in the cupboard was some expensive heirloom farro...).  My last change was that I did the final proof in a very well floured banneton, then turned the loaf onto parchment and baked it on a well heated stone at 400F until the interior was 200F. 
     It is indeed a very dense, aromatic loaf that would be epic toasted slightly with fresh butter and orange marmalade slathered on 
(the spices used to scent the bread all have distinct citrus notes and affinity for those fruits).  

Aroma Bread with Coriander and Fennel
yield: 1 2-pound loaf

  • 3 cups whole grain spelt flour (12 ounces)
  • 1 cup whole grain rye flour (3 3/4 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup coarse or medium stone-ground whole grain cornmeal (2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup flax or sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
    1/2 tablespoon fennel seed
  • 1/2 tablespoon caraway
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon rapid-rise or instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat, rye, Kamut, or spelt berries, soaked overnight and drained (optional)
  • 2 cups cold water
  • Cornmeal, for sprinkling

To prepare the dough, start at least 12 hours ahead. Whisk together all the ingredients except the whole grain berries and the water in a large bowl. Scatter the grain berries on top and add almost all the water. Stir with a dough whisk or a wooden spoon until the flour is incorporated. The dough should be wet and sticky to the touch, like firm oatmeal; otherwise, add a bit more water. But don't worry too much about the liquid-to-flour ratio, as this is a forgiving dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature to ferment for at least 12 hours and up to 18 hours.

The next day, finish the bread. Sprinkle a linen or cotton kitchen towel (not terry cloth) with cornmeal and generously flour your work surface. Using a bench scraper or a rubber spatula, scrape the stringy, bubbly dough onto the work surface. Using floured hands, fold it exactly 4 times, always toward the center — from the right and from the left, as well as from the top and the bottom. Turn the loaf upside down so the fold is at the bottom, and set it on the kitchen towel. Fold the towel over the loaf to cover, and let sit for about 1 hour.
3 After about 30 minutes, position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 475°F. Place a 4 1/2- to 5 1/2-quart cast-iron pot or Dutch oven with its lid in the center of the rack. After about 1 hour, your loaf should have nicely risen. (When you press it with your finger about 1/4 inch deep, the dimple should remain; if not, wait 15 more minutes.) But again, don't worry too much — I have sometimes been less than precise and still succeeded.

Using thick pot holders, carefully remove the cast-iron pot from the oven and place it on a couple of folded kitchen towels (to avoid cracking); uncover. Unwrap the dough, sprinkle with a bit more cornmeal, and invert directly from the kitchen towel into the pot, seam side up (it might look a bit wiggly; that's normal). If the dough doesn't drop into the center, shake the pot once or twice (use caution, it is hot!).

Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until the loaf is nicely browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 200°F, 20 to 25 minutes. Using thick pot holders, remove the loaf from the cast-iron pot and transfer to a wire rack. If you can resist, allow to cool completely, about 3 hours, before cutting the loaf with a sharp serrated knife. And a sharp knife it must be — this is a German-style bread, after all.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

in case you haven't heard...

...kale is the "it" ingredient right now...  

This green is incredibly nutrient dense, it tastes good, and it grows like a weed in our mild northwest climate.  We have it in our garden for at least nine months out of the year, so believe me when I say that I'm always looking for new things to do with it (over the summer, it was kale smoothies)!  It's great braised, sauteed, used in soups, and much to my surprise, raw.  

Right now, we have tender leaves about six inches long hanging out in the greenhouse, so I just had to do something that highlighted their delicate flavor.  Kale, like many plants in the cabbage family, develops a wonderful sweetness as the weather turns chilly, becoming especially delectable after the first frost.  This recipe was inspired by one I saw originally in a Tasting Table newsletter, but I have adapted it to suit my tastes using my favorite caesar dressing.  I served this recipe tonight to rave reviews, accompanied by eggs from our chickens poached in tomato sauce (eggs in purgatory).      

Raw Kale Caesar
yield: 4-5 servings

For the kale:
1 # cavolo nero (tuscan) kale, washed and dried

For the dressing:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
6 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
1 t dijon mustard
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T plain yogurt
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

To garnish:
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
4-5 slices rustic bread, brushed with olive oil and toasted under the broiler

To prepare the kale: holding the thick stem in your non-dominant hand (your left if you are right handed), slide the blade of a knife down then stem to shed the leaves from the fibrous, tough interior ribs.  Once you have removed the main rib, roll the leaves up like a cigar (maybe five or six at a time), and cut very finely to create 1/8"-1/4" wide strips that are the width of the leaf.  Continue until all of the leaves are shredded, and transfer them to a mixing bowl.  Cover with a damp paper towel and refrigerate until ready to use.  

To make the dressing, combine everything in a blender and run until smooth and creamy.  

Just before serving, dress the kale to your taste (I kind of like it juicy), arrange on chilled plates, and garnish with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a toast.   

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Phyllo with Leeks, Chanterelles, and Fontina

One of the biggest joys and challenges with holiday entertaining is coming up with something a little different for cocktail hour.  It's not like summer where you can pick something fresh out of the garden or farmer's market, do something minimal to it, and have a perfect representation of the season.  Winter demands more time, attention, and heat.

In this case, I decided to raid the freezer in which we preserved the bounty of our gardens and the items we foraged and caught.  We've got however many cubic feet of smoked salmon, leeks, green beans, and chanterelles put up for the winter (not to mention the obscene number of quarts of zucchini pickles, apple butter, and currant jelly, carrots, beets, potatoes, and butternuts in the back pantry).

I took two of these items: leeks and chanterelles.  From there, I decided to marry them together with a bit of fontina cheese and hold them with phyllo dough.  To start, since I had the leeks and mushrooms already cooked and frozen, I thawed them out together in a small saute pan and cooked them over low heat until they were fairly dry.  When you're working with phyllo, you don't want too much moisture in the filling or the dough will become soggy and may rupture during baking.  I added salt to taste, but it seemed a little flat.  Both leeks and chanterelles have some natural sweetness to them, so I decided to go with nutmeg to liven up the flavor profile a bit.  It rounded everything out nicely.  The flavors here are subtle yet satisfying in a delicate way.

Phyllo with Leeks, Chanterelles, and Fontina 
yield: 18-20 pieces

2 T butter, plus 4T melted and reserved
3 leeks, dark parts and root trimmed
2-2 1/2 cups chopped chanterelles
1/8 t freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 scant cup grated fontina
8 sheets phyllo dough

To clean the leeks, have a bowl of ice water ready to the side.  Cut the leeks lengthwise, and then crosswise into 1/4" half-moons.  Immerse the pieces in the water and agitate every few minutes to help dislodge the sand particles tucked in between the layers.  The leeks will float, and the sand will sink, so when you feel the leeks are clean, just lift them off the top of the water into a new vessel.

In a medium saute pan, melt the 2 T of butter and saute the mushrooms until all of the moisture has been released.  Add the leeks and cook over low heat until tender.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, then allow to cool slightly.  You should end up with about 1 1/2 cups cooked filling.

On a clean board, lay out two sheets of phyllo, keeping the rest under a tea towel to prevent them from drying out.  Brush generously with butter, then add two more sheets, and brush those as well (you don't have to brush in between each layer unless you really feel like it).  Brush a baking sheet with a bit of butter so you have somewhere to land.  Along one of the longer edges, make a log out of about 3/4 cup of the leek mixture, and top with half of the fontina.  Roll snugly and place on the baking sheet with the seam side down.  Brush with butter, then score the phyllo to create nine or ten pieces.  You don't have to cut all the way through- cutting about half way reduces breakage and flaking after you've baked them and are ready to separate the pieces.  Repeat with the second half of the ingredients.

At this point, you can either cover and refrigerate the rolls for up to 24 hours, or you can bake them off immediately in a 400F oven.  It should take 15-20 minutes to get the phyllo nice and browned, and the filling nice and hot.  After removing from the oven, cool slightly, then transfer to a cutting board and cut the rest of the way through.  Serve warm with something dry and sparkling.