February 22, 2013 § 3 Comments
Sometimes after dinner you’re just hungry all over again. It happens. And it’s understandable if, say, you’ve been on a 12-consecutive-day yoga binge.
Open the cabinets. Raisins: Nope, not substantial enough. Almonds: It’s got the crunch but they aren’t gonna cut it. Not tonight. The bag of chips (healthy chips, of course) disappeared last night. There’s a nice hunk of Jarlsberg in the fridge…where’d the crackers go? Oh, they went away as a quick pre-yoga snack the other afternoon.
Bummer. I. Am. HONGRY. Hongry, by the way, is when you are very, very hungry.
But wait. I’m a baker. I’m not going to complain. I have the power to make my own crispy-crunchy goodness. And quickly, too.
I recalled I had found a super-good and super-quick herbed flatbread recipe on the Shutterbean blog not long ago. It was within my power to make these quick crackers – quackers? – before I became HANGRY, which means to be angry due to hunger. And since I had made them once previously, I new the tricks and adaptations to get these in and out of the oven in less than 20 minutes.
So, if you suddenly have guests or are ravenously empty-stomached and have nothing in the house, don’t complain. Put your baking cap on.
Quick Herbed Crackers (adapted from a recipe on Shutterbean)
- 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup olive oil – keep the bottle handy
- Some fancy salt if you have it
1. Preheat oven to 450F. Really, this will be the longest step in the whole process.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and give it a quick stir to mix.
3. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add in the water and oil. Fold in the flour mixture with a spoon or large fork until its nicely incorporated.
4. Turn out the dough onto a work surface. No need for additional flour—this dough will not stick! Amazing and true. It’s the olive oil. Give it a really quick knead – a 5 or 6 times maybe – to make sure the dough is all snug together. Cut the dough ball into 3 chunks.
5. Roll out one dough ball until it’s super thin. You can roll it on the work surface or on a piece of parchment. Just be sure if you roll it out on the work surface that you can get it onto parchment with no problem. Roll into into whatever shape you want – it doesn’t have to be round. Color outside the lines with this.
6. Once on the parchment, experience has shown me to use a fork to prick the dough surface. Otherwise I ended up with super-big air bubbles in the finished cracker. Looked kinda cool and rustic, but not what I was looking for. After pricking, brush a tiny bit of olive oil on the dough surface and sprinkle some fancy schmancy salt on top. I happened to have some pink Himalayan sea salt on hand. Tasty.
7. Pop it into the oven. The recipe says 8-10 minutes. For crispy, keep it in 10 min, or even more. I’d say keep an eye on it and pull it out once it looks darker than you’d like. It all depends on your oven, really.
8. Let cool on a wire rack. Or not if you can’t resist.
9. While one is cooking you can roll out the other and put on new parchment. Recipe says to hold off on the oil and salt until just before popping into the oven, but I forgot for one of them and it was fine.
A few notes:
- The recipe called for fresh rosemary. I didn’t have any on hand, but recalled that if using dried herbs in place of fresh that one should use 1/3 the amount. So, if you’re using fresh rosemary, use 1 tbs of finely chopped herb.
- Try it with other herbs, too. Sage, for instance. But use less since sage is mighty powerful.
- It’s a throw-it-together kinda recipe, but be precise with the oil and water measurements. I used too much of one of them last night and the dough came out sticky enough to actually stick to the work surface. Lesson learned—I’ll never eyeball a 1/3 cup of liquid again.
December 9, 2012 § Leave a comment
At least that’s what I tell people it is—pumpkin bread. No pumpkin at all. Just like that pumpkin latte you’re drinking—there’s no pumpkin in there. You knew that, right?
My “pumpkin” bread is made with butternut squash. So is my pumpkin pie. And any other “pumpkin” thing I bake. Oh, wait … did you think I opened a can of Libby’s pumpkin puree and just slid that muck right into my recipe? No no no … that’ not how I roll. Nope. You’re more than welcome to, of course—I have nothing against it. But slicing, peeling, boiling and pureeing a butternut is no big deal for me and I don’t mind doing it to produce my squashy puree. After all, it’s a lot easier to do that with a butternut than with a pumpkin.
Hence why I use butternut.
Back to the pumpkin bread. The recipe is from my all-time favorite generalist baking book—The Fannie Farmer Baking Book. It’s got it all in there. I just randomly opened a page and found a Floreine Hudspeth’s Hoosier Cake. Who knew? Fannie knew. You want a fruitcake recipe, she has four. And her pumpkin pie? It has a shot of bourbon. That’s why I love Fannie.
And the pumpkin bread? Moist. Delicious. And very “pumpkiny.”
Fannie Farmer’s Pumpkin Bread
makes two 9x5x3 in loaves
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups mashed or pureed pumpkin (or butternut squash)
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 cup chopped walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease and generously flour the two loaf pans. Set aside.
2. Combine the dry ingredients (flour baking soda and powder, salt and spices) in a medium bowl and stir until evenly mixed. In a bowl of a mixer (or a large bowl) combine the shortening, squash puree, eggs, milk and walnuts. Add the bowl of dry ingredients slowly to the wet ingredients and mix (or stir with a big wooden spoon) until the batter is just blended together. Make sure there are not floury lumps! Bits of shortening are ok.
NOTE: Know how when you make quick breads like this and the nuts or raisins always kinda sink to the bottom part of the bread? Try coating the nuts or raisins with a bit of flour first. It helps them not sink so much. Give it a try and let me know if it works for you.
4. Divide batter equally between the two pans. Bake for about an hour, or until a wooden skewer or toothpick comes out clean after inserting into the center of the loaf. Let cool on a wire rack for 5 min. then turn out of pans.
This bread freezes well, so stick that second loaf in the deep freeze for later. Or use it as a hostess gift. And the butternut squash bit? They’ll never know.
Buttermilk-Caramelized Onion Pull-Apart Rolls
December 4, 2012 § Leave a comment
Since moving into our new house three months ago I have had a love-hate relationship with our oven. It’s a GE Profile Advantium—and it’s a convection oven. Not the typical convection, either. It’s one of those fancy convection ovens—the kind that can also be a microwave, a proofing space for dough, and a toaster. The interior is about the size of a toaster, too. I can list the issues I am having with it—such as the fact that the constantly turning carousel means I can’t use my half-sheet baking pans, or that the oven maxes out at 450F—but I’m going to stop there for now.
Let me hold off on the hate and talk about the love. The love part comes in the baking. The whole convection process, the constantly turning carousel—it makes for a nicely finished baked product. Pies, cookies, breads, rolls—they’ve never been better, quite honestly. And that’s why I haven’t thrown the oven out of our new triple-paned, German-engineered, energy-efficient windows.
My latest baking success is a recipe I spied in a Martha Stewart Living magazine about seven years ago—Buttermilk-Caramelized Onion Pull-Apart Rolls. I made them once, taped the recipe into my little book of “must keep these” recipes, and never made them again until last week. Oh boy, they’re good.
A few notes: There is yeast involved, but don’t let it scare you; you might want to cut down the amount of onions a bit.
11 tbs unsalted butter, softened, plus 3 tbs melted
1/4 oz. active dry yeast
1 tbs sugar
2 tbs warm water, about 105F
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
2 lbs (or slightly less) sweet onions, thinly sliced
1. Directions say to butter a 9-inch cake pan with about 1 tbs of the butter. I used a 9-inch pie plate – two, actually – but use anything you think will hold the rounds of dough. Also butter a large bowl and set that aside.
2. Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a small bowl and let it sit a bit while it becomes foamy, about 5 min. Give it a good stir to dissolve. Add in the buttermilk and egg.
3. While the yeast mixture is sitting, combine flour and 1 1/2 tsp salt in the bowl of an electric mixer using a dough hook. It’ll form a well naturally. Pour the buttermilk-yeast mixture into that well and mix to combine – you may need to stop it and scrape the sides down. Add in 6 tbs softened butter (I’ve added non-softened butter and it was fine). Mix on medium speed for 10 minutes. A soft, sticky dough will form.
4. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface, then sprinkle a bit more flour on top of the top and get a bunch on your hands, too. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes—gently. It’s gonna stick to your fingers if you knead too vigorously, so be gentle and flour your fingers often. The dough will begin to feel seductively soft and light—it’s the best part of the job. After 5 minutes, place the dough in the buttered bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until it’s roughly doubled in bulk. If it doesn’t exactly double, that’s ok.
5. The recipe says to caramelize onions in 4 tbs butter, but I use olive oil to do the job. Heat the oil or butter in a large pan over medium-high. Add the onions, sprinkle in a bit of salt (I would add 1 tsp) and stir to coat—grabbing the onions with tongs and flipping them over as you would a steak on the grill is the best way I have found to do this. Do this intermittently for 5 minutes, until the onions start to look translucent, then turn heat way down to medium low, and let them cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20-30 minutes until they are golden brown. Take off heat. If I were you, I would put them in a sieve over a bowl and let the onions drip off their liquid.
5. Meanwhile, the dough…punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface again—make sure you have plenty of room. Use a rolling pin to form a dough rectangle about 17 in x 10 in. NOTE: the important thing here isn’t the dimensions, it’s keeping the dough relatively of even thickness throughout. Brush the rectangle with 3 tbs melted butter and spread those caramelized onions evenly over the surface. Starting from the long side, roll the dough into a log and press the seam to seal it.
6. Next, cut the log into about 12 even segments. It’s harder than you think, because you’ll squish the roll into ovals—kinda scary. And then the onions pop out of the ends a bit. Don’t worry about it – it’s gonna happen. Just slice and don’t worry. Put these slices cut-size up in the buttered pan. Directions say to brush with another 2 tbs of melted butter, but really, there’s no need for that unless you want them to look browned. Cover the slices with plastic wrap and let them rise in a warm space for about 50 minutes.
7. Preheat oven to 375F. Bake the rolls for until they are golden. 35 minutes is perfect. Invert the pan onto a cooling rack and unmold the rolls. Serve warm.
I made these to serve with a bean stew, and pulling apart the rolls and dunking bits into the stew was awesome. The onions make the roll moist, which is super. I’ve since made these rolls and spread the dough not with onions but with roasted garlic and rosemary. These weren’t as moist but just as tasty, and you could really get a sense of the roll’s airy texture. This recipe is certainly not disappearing for another seven years.
Biga-Based Pizza Dough
June 1, 2011 § 5 Comments
Pizza is one of our fallback meals in the Dainty domicile. And it’s not delivery; not even DiGiorno. It’s made with good ol’ homemade, hand-thrown dough. With a special addition. Let’s call it Dainty Dough.
There are two things that make the Dainty Dough a bit different. First, it’s made with biga, one of many types of dough starters. It’s a yeast-based starter, not a natural sourdough starter—meaning it contains commercial yeast and not yeast found naturally in the environment (have I lost you yet? Hang on for a minute.). The biga ferments—i.e. sits on your counter bubbling away—for 8 to 24 hours or so, all the while developing a richer, chewier flavor. Pizza crust with flavor, not just used as a platform for toppings, imagine that.
The second thing I do is add a dollop or two of my Sourdough Starter, aka Milo the Baby Dough, during the dough-making process. A few months back you may recall I was experimenting with natural yeast and tried creating a real sourdough. Well, after a month or so, Milo is alive and well. I feel like I created a golem, it’s so incredibly cool. It’s totally not necessary to add this sourdough starter, but I’ll explain in a minute why I do it.
Dainty Dough: Step 1
Biga Recipe (from my Basic Baking class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts)
- 1/4 oz. yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water (warm=dip in a finger and it should feel the same temp as your body)
- pinch of sugar
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 3 3/4 cups flour (I suggest all-purpose flour here. If you want wheat dough you can add wheat flour later)
-Add yeast and 1/4 cup warm water with sugar in a bowl and stir together. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Add remaining water and the flour and mix thoroughly. You’ll end up with a creamy mixture. Cover and either let sit on the counter 8 hours or place in the fridge for 24 hours. It will become creamy and bubbly. The biga will remain
-At this point you can proceed with the next step and make the pizza dough. Or, I suggest weighing out your biga into 4 oz. pieces, reserving one piece for your current pizza and placing the remaining into individual freezer baggies and popping them in the freezer. Label and date your baggies! Otherwise a year from now you’ll excavate your freezer and wonder what the heck that thing is. From this one batch of biga you will get up to 8 4 oz. pieces. And each 4 oz. biga gives you four pizza stone-sized pizzas. Do the math—that’s a lot of pizza!
Dainty Dough: Step 2
Pizza Dough Recipe
- 4 oz. biga
- 1/4 tsp. salt (kosher preferred)
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- A dollop or two of Milo the Baby Dough sourdough starter (optional)
- 4 1/2 cup flour (for wheat dough use 2 1/2 cups all-purpose and 2 cups whole wheat)
- 1 1/2 cup water
-Add biga, salt, oil, sourdough starter and flour to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Turn on slow speed, let it mix together for up to a minute then add water slowly. Because I’ve added a bit of the sourdough starter, there is more moisture in the dough and depending on your weather conditions, you may not need all of that water. Yes, baking depends on weather conditions, believe it or not.
-If you’ve added all the water and the dough seems wet and watery, add a tablespoon of all-purpose flour and let it mix in. Keep adding flour one tablespoon at a time until the dough is no longer wet but not bone dry! You’ll likely need no more than four or five tablespoons of flour.
-Keep mixing on medium speed for about five minutes. The dough has a tendency to ride up the dough hook. Stop the mixer when the dough makes it above the hook’s collar and push the dough back down into the bowl. Keep mixing until the dough feels smooth and it’s started to relax a bit; i.e., it shouldn’t feel like a hard tight wad of flour.
-Oil a medium bowl. Roll the dough around in the oil so it’s slightly oily all over. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for an hour. The dough won’t have risen all that much—it’s not rising like bread, we just want it to become elastic.
-Cut the dough into four equally sized pieces—they’ll likely have a triangular shape. Want an oddly shaped pizza? Then place these dough pieces as they are on a baking sheet or on the counter and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Want a perfectly round pizza? Then do this: Holding the dough piece in your hands, pull all the dough from around the piece into a central point. Go around the outside a couple times pulling it all into the center. Now, do your best to pinch that central point closed, then place the dough with that point facing downward. What you will have is a little ball with a perfectly round top, no seams showing anywhere except on the bottom. Cover these with oiled plastic wrap and let sit for about 20 minutes.
So, about adding that dollop or two of sourdough starter to the dough … here’s why I did it. I did, in fact, excavate my freezer recently and found two baggies of 13 month-old biga. Doing a little research I found that the recommended time for biga in the freezer is a max of four months. Oops. I added the sourdough starter as a way to give the dough a kick of fresh yeast. I think it worked. Plus, I noticed the crust did have telltale sourdough bread-like air bubbles. Tasty!
Hmm … turns out I have absolutely no photos of any of this. Bummer. Guess I’ll have to make some biga and dough later today.
By the way, biga can be used for more than just pizza dough. So instead of making 4 oz. balls of biga for the freezer, you can use what you have left for bread baking.
Wait, what? Am I leaving you without actually making a pizza? You bet. That’s for another day, when Jennifer can chime in on her favorite toppings. I make the dough, but she’s the pizza master.
Five Random Thoughts
May 4, 2011 § 3 Comments
A recent visit to the family homestead has wiped me out. Psychologically, that is. Physically, too, as the trip was mainly to help my parents with some of their spring gardening. But my parents, especially my Mom, are difficult and heavy on the soul. It takes a few days to rebound.
So, while I’m rebounding, I think I’ll share a few random thoughts with y’all.
1. I had the good fortune this week to go to both Symphony Hall (my first time, can you believe it?) and Fenway Park. Both buildings are about 100 years old. Has anyone noticed how much wider the seats are at Symphony Hall? I mean, substantially wider. You need a shoe horn to squeeze most Sox fans into the old grandstand seats. And the reasoning has always been, “Oh, people were smaller back then.” Then why the ample room for the music lovers?
2. Speaking of Fenway, I had a Fenway Martini last night. As good as ever. We introduced the guy next to us to the fabled drink. He got to the end of it, ate a peanut, shell and all as is the custom, then complained that the shells were too crunchy. Here’s the thing: He drank his beer too fast. The shells need to soak a bit. Drink slower, dude.
3. I’ve been making rye salt starter and liquid levain to make a tangy sourdough. The recipes are from the Amy’s Bread book. It kills me when it says to let the starter rise at room temperature – 75F-80F – for X number of hours. 75F-80F? Come on now, that’s not room temp – that’s a bakery’s room temp.
4. I haven’t been doing much gardening yet this spring. My mother’s gardening, yes. A garden project I’m working on for a local human services agency, yes, putting a lot of brain power into that one. But our own garden, not so much. I’ve planted a bunch of seeds, indoors and out. Some are up, some aren’t. Nothing seems to be growing in my “carrot bed” and I can’t figure out why. I hope my luck turns around.
5. Who are you, Tracey Hawkins? You took the time to hunt down my professional email address and write, “Are you the Ellen of the Dainty Dot? Kind regards, Tracey Hawkins.” And then nothing. Did you have a question? Can I help you with something? I’ve come up with lots of scenarios of who you are and why you wanted to contact me. You are a hipster and you love my recipe for trout. You’re a scout for Martha and want Dainty to be a regular on the show. You’re a book agent and think I have a compelling style and are going to offer me a contract. You’re an attorney and want to sue me for … I dunno, something. You rep a line of cookware and want to offer me some products to test. You, Tracey, are many people. Let me know which one I’m addressing.
That’s it, my five random thoughts. Please feel free to share your random thoughts, too. Especially you, Tracey.
Bread Cracking in the Oven—Solved!
March 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
Last summer I discovered the joys of bread baking. I guess you’d call it my hobby now. And I say hobby because … well, unlike putting a Pop Tart in the toaster and waiting for the ding, there are levels of complexity at every step. There’s practice and skill and problem-solving and continual learning from mistakes. Described that way, it seems more like a sport. And, considering I currently have three different sourdough ferments tucked snuggly in the warm and draft-free microwave, perhaps I’m also a collector.
Yesterday, I had one of those “Aha!” learning experiences. I made a batch of Country Sourdough from the Amy’s Bread cookbook. It was my first time making this recipe and considering my firm levain wasn’t so firm and I substituted in my sourdough starter, I wasn’t so sure the recipe would work properly.
I made the dough, let it autolyze, formed it into a ball, let it rise, punched it down, let it rise again, separated into two doughs, formed boules and let them rise again – seam side down – in floured baskets. The dough looked and felt great. So far, so good.
Now, in Amy’s instructions, typically once you get to this point in the recipe it’s almost as if they copied and pasted the remainder of the instructions for each and every recipe. At least for the handful of recipes I’ve tackled so far. BUT, this time she had a slightly different twist in the instructions. She said to tip the boule out of the basket onto the prepared parchment paper so the seam was now on top. Hmmm … I had not encountered that in previous recipes. All others were seam side down. Why would you put the seam up?
I had two boules – I thought, “Let’s try one seam side up, one seam side down, and see what happens. I scored both loaves on top, put them in the oven, and let them go.
Here’s what came out of the oven. Can you guess which one was which?
The one on the right was the seam-side down. Even though I scored the top, the steam escaping the loaf escaped through the seam on the bottom, causing it to tear.
For the boule on the left, the scores through the seam on top let the steam escape. Not having a weak spot—a seam on the bottom—prevented the bottom from bursting.
I tried to seal that seam as tightly as possible, but apparently not enough. This doesn’t happen with all of the breads I’ve made, but I have had this happen before. And now I know why. Problem solved.
Croutons Are Always an Option
January 12, 2011 § 3 Comments
They are facts of life: milk goes sour, lettuce wilts, and bread gets stale.
There’s only so much you can do with sour milk and wilted lettuce. Actually, the only thing I can think of is to pitch them. Stale bread, on the other hand, has more options. You can take your stale bread to the park and feed the pigeons, I suppose. You can save up a bunch of it and make a stuffing.
Or, my fave—make croutons. In fact, sometimes I make bread just for the crouton possibilities.
That oh-so-yummy loaf of whole wheat bread I baked up yesterday will get a bit dense in a couple of days, I know that. I could exclusively eat sandwiches or snack on toast spread with peanut butter for the next 48 hours to make sure the cursed touch of Stale never approaches. I also don’t want to spend all my time on the treadmill burning off the extra.
Instead, I’m perfectly fine with letting the bread take its natural course to staleness. Croutons are always an option.
Croutons are super simple. Give cubed bread a little oil, add salt and pepper to taste, and toast. All that does is give your salad or soup a bit of crunch – maybe not so much flavor.
Guy Fieri’s recipe for croutons gives the toasted bread a flavorful kick. It calls for (word for word):
* 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling
* 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
* 1/2 teaspoon paprika
* 2 teaspoons dried parsley
* 1 teaspoon dried basil
* 2 teaspoons garlic paste, (2 cloves garlic smashed with the flat side of a knife and a sprinkle of salt, to make paste)
* 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 4 cups cubed stale Italian bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Mixed the oil and herbs together. Add bread and toss, put on baking sheet. Toast at 325F for 20-ish minutes. Toss to expose other sides half way through.
Now, that’s all very fine and good. I riff on this recipe quite a bit. We never seem to have dried basil and parsley – only fresh during the gardening season, or only frozen parsley and pesto at other times. I’ll sub in a generous shake of Italian seasoning if I need to.
Plus, I proportion this down to maybe two cups of stale bread—after all, I’m eating as much of that loaf as possible before it gets stale. Watch the oil amounts—you really don’t need that much.
And, when you’re dealing with smaller amounts of croutons, there’s no reason to heat up an entire oven. Toaster ovens are perfect for this. BUT, since the mini oven heats up so much faster, 20 minutes will get you dark brown nuggets instead of flavorful toasties. DO set the toaster oven to 325F, but DON’T step away from it for too long. After 5 minutes, give ’em a look-see and a quick shake. At 10 minutes, consider taking them out to coast in and cool.
Hmm … I should have a photo. Let me get through this loaf of bread first.