Mixed Berry Cobbler

After my recent trip to the farmer’s market, I had to find something to do with this beauty (and a quart of its friends):

I recently purchased Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours, which I have been dying to try out, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. There is a recipe for mixed berry cobbler on pages 416-17. I’m a huge cobbler fan, so this sounded like just the ticket. I happened to have some blueberries in the fridge, which I thought would pair well with the blackberries.

As with most cobblers, this recipe came together quickly, I mixed the topping ingredients — flour, baking powder, sugar, salt. butter, and cream — then tossed together the filling. The recipe called for berries, sugar, cornstarch, zest of lemon or lime, and black pepper. I didn’t have any citrus on hand, so I substituted a few drops each of lemon and lime oil. I went heavy on the sugar, as the blackberries and blueberries were both a bit on the tart side.

I rolled the crust out to roughly the size of the pan, then put it on top of the fruit. I cut several slits in the dough, as well as a steam hole in the center.

I baked the cobbler at 375° F for about an hour. It looked and smelled amazing.

We waited to eat it until later in the evening, as we had company coming over. Everyone loved it, especially the citrus flavor. We all agreed that it had just the right balance of sweet and tart. This is definitely a recipe to repeat, and I think I’ll continue to substitute citrus oils for the zest.

Semi-Silent (and Succulent) Saturday — Farmer’s Market Bounty

Giant Blackberry!

 

Eggs, hen and duck

 

African (Garden Egg) Eggplant and Purple Peppers

 

Squash Season is Here!

Elegant Dinner Rolls {ModBak}

If you’re like me, you grew up thinking “dinner rolls” meant those half-baked brown-and-serve rolls we all ate at Thanksgiving and other holidays. And the closest they got to elegant was the rare occasion when mom would get them to the table without burning them.

So, I was excited to try the next recipe in the Modern Baker Challenge, Elegant Dinner Rolls. It’s not that I had never made homemade rolls before. It’s just that I never made any that were worth the time and effort, or worth repeating.

This recipe is similar to many of the other recipes in the Breads section of The Modern Baker in that the ingredients are mixed in the food processor. However, after my recent near disaster while making Instant Sandwich Bread, I have sworn off using the food processor to mix dough and have gone back to my traditional methods — the Kitchen Aid mixer, autolyse, and stretch-and-folds.

The dough came together nicely and wasn’t as slack as many of the doughs in this section.

After fermenting the dough, I divided it into 12 pieces.

The recipe offers three different shaping options — classic rolls, oblong rolls, and knots — so, of course, I had to try them all.

After proofing for an hour or so, the rolls were nicely risen and ready to bake.

I baked the rolls for 20 minutes at 400° F until they were golden brown and smelled delicious.

Perhaps the best thing about dinner rolls is that you aren’t expected to wait until they cool to eat them. In fact, they are meant to be enjoyed fresh from the oven. And enjoy them I did.

They were delicious. Light, airy, yeasty. All the things you look for in a dinner roll. They weren’t perfect: I overbaked them a bit, so they were a tad dry. But this is definitely a recipe worth repeating. And the resulting rolls are worth the time and effort.

Prosciutto/Lebanon Bologna Bread {ModBak}

The next recipe I tackled in the Breads section of the Modern Baker Challenge was Prosciutto Bread. I have committed myself to baking all the recipe in the book, so there was no escaping this one, but it did present a dilemma. I don’t eat pork products, so I was left with the choice between making a bread I couldn’t eat or finding a substitution for the prosciutto. Faced with a similar problem during the BBA Challenge when baking Casatiello, I used Lebanon bologna in place of salami with great results. So I decided to do the same thing here, substituting Seltzer’s Beef Lebanon Bologna for the prosciutto.

If you’ve never had Lebanon bologna, it is similar to trail bologna — smoky and slightly sweet. But unlike trail bologna, it is the size of regular bologna and is usually sliced thin for sandwiches. One of my family’s favorite ways to eat Lebanon bologna is to fry the slices briefly in a skillet then eat them on a sandwich.

Other than the addition of meat to the dough, this is a fairly straightforward enriched bread that consists of flour, salt, sugar, ground black pepper, yeast, water, and olive oil. I recalled that when Kayte baked this recipe, she observed that the bread was too salty. Lebanon bologna isn’t as heavily salted as prosciutto, but it is still fairly salty, so I cut the salt in the recipe back from 1 1/2 teaspoons to a scant teaspoon. The amount of pepper — 1 tablespoon — seemed like a lot to me, but I went with it, grinding pepper into a tablespoon measure before adding it to the rest of the dry ingredients.

The main thing that distinguished this bread from Casatiello was that the Prosciutto Bread doesn’t have any cheese in it. I was a bit leery of this, as the gooey cheesiness was one of the things that made the Casatiello one of my favorite recipes in the BBA Challenge. But I wanted to stay as true to the recipe as I could, so I made it without cheese.

After mixing the dry ingredients, I combined the water, yeast, and oil in a measuring cup, then added them to the dry ingredients and mixed until the dough was evenly moistened. I then folded in the Lebanon bologna. After a brief autolyse, I folded the dough in the bowl with a bench scraper about 20 times. Then I put the dough in an oiled bowl to ferment.

The dough took about an hour and a half to double. The recipe suggests shaping the dough into batards but also gives the option of making braided loaves. I decided to do one of each. I shaped half the dough into a batard, then divided the remaining dough into two pieces and did a two-strand braid.

The dough proofed for almost two hours, until it doubled. Meanwhile, I preheated the oven to 400° F.

I baked the loaves for 30 minutes — the recipe says 40 — at which time the internal temperature was 195° F and the crust was golden brown. The bread smelled amazing while it baked: there is nothing like the smell of Lebanon bologna while it cooks. It reminded me of Casatiello, and I was really excited to try it.

I let the loaves cool for a few minutes before slicing into the braid. The crumb was soft and studded with bits of meat.

I eagerly grabbed a slice of bread, slathered it with lightly salted cultured butter, and took a bite. It was good. A bit too peppery, but otherwise really good. I ate about five slices for dinner and was perfectly satisfied.

But it did seem like there was something missing. Then it occurred to me — it needed a slice of cheese. So in the end, it was almost as good as Casatiello and might have been just as good if, like the BBA bread, it had cheese added to it.

Moral of the story:  if you’re going to add meat to bread, you might as well add cheese, too.

Pain de Seigle (French Rye Bread) {ModBak}

The 10th recipe in the Breads section of the Modern Baker Challenge, Pain de Seigle — or French Rye Bread — is the only bread in the book that calls for a preferment. The sponge, which consists of AP flour, yeast, and water, is mixed up at least a day before you plan to bake the bread. In my case, I made the sponge two days prior to baking. After fermenting it in a bowl on the counter for two hours, I covered the bowl and put it in the refrigerator.

Since I wasn’t going to use it for a few days, I stirred down the sponge a few times to keep it from overproofing. On baking day, I mixed the sponge with the yeast and warm water in the mixing bowl. The recipe says to mix it with a rubber spatula until smooth. I mixed it for a while, but the sponge never fully incorporated.

I switched to a dough whisk, which did a better job but still didn’t get the sponge mixed in all the way.

I continued to use the dough whisk to mix in the flours and salt, until I had a shaggy dough.

As with the other recipes in this section, Nick Malgieri utilizes brief periods of mixing and an autolyse. The dough is mixed for three minutes, rested for 10, and mixed again for another three minutes. Then I put the dough into an oiled bowl to ferment.

The recipe says to let the dough ferment until it doubles in volume, which can take anywhere from one to two hours. In my case, I fermented the dough for one hour and 20 minutes.

Most of the doughs in Nick’s book have been quite slack. I have gotten used to this and deal with it during shaping by generously flouring the work surface and top of the dough. This dough was no exception.

After dividing the dough, I pressed each half out into a square, then rolled it into a batard.

I then stretched each batard into a baguette. The recipe calls for each baguette to be about 12 inches in length; I stretched mine to the length of my baguette pan — about 18 inches.

I proofed the loaves for 45 minutes, until they were puffed but not necessarily doubled in bulk.

I baked the loaves on the baguette pan in a 375° oven for 30 minutes, until the crust was nicely browned and the internal temperature of the loaves reached 190°.

The bread looked and smelled great coming out of the oven. I reluctantly let the loaves cool before slicing into them.

The prefermented sponge and rye flour combined to give this bread a complex flavor that was still mild enough to be a hit with the whole family. I enjoyed this bread plain, and with cultured butter, regular butter, and honey. The kids kept coming back for more, and the first loaf was gone in no time.

I wasn’t sure if I would like this recipe, as rye breads tend to be hit-or-miss for me. But I really enjoyed this bread and will definitely put it on my repeat list.

Semolina Sesame Braid {ModBak}

My most recent foray into the Modern Baker Challenge was the Semolina Sesame Braid featured on page 82 of The Modern Baker. I approached this recipe with a bit of trepidation. I’m not a huge fan of using semolina flour in bread. It’s great for pasta, which is what it is generally used for. But I find it too gritty for baking. And several of the bakers who have made this recipe (including Sara, the official blogger for this bread) have reported that the dough is too wet to work with, especially when it comes to braiding. But I have vowed to make every recipe in the book, so I forged ahead.

I began by mixing the ingredients — AP and semolina flours, salt, yeast, and water — in my Kitchen Aid mixer.

As with the other breads in this section of the book, this recipe utilizes minimal mixing and autolyse to develop the dough.

As you can see, this dough was really slack. In fact, based on the weight of the AP and semolina flours, I calculated the hydration of this dough at 95% — way too wet to shape, let alone braid. When I reread Sara’s post, I realized that she added extra flour, a lot of extra flour. Unfortunately, by the time I read this, I had already mixed the dough.

I set the dough aside to ferment and decided to develop it by doing a few stretch-and-folds at 20-minute intervals. During the first one, I worked a bit of additional flour into the dough. This helped a bit, as did the extra stretch-and-folds, but the dough was still very slack.

At this point, I didn’t want to try to work any more flour into the dough, but I did liberally flour both the work surface and the top of the dough. This enabled me to divide the dough into three pieces, stretch them out, and braid them.

I sprayed the top of the dough with water, sprinkled it with sesame seeds, and set it aside to proof for an hour.

I baked the loaf for about 35 minutes in a 400-degree oven, until it was golden brown and firm to the touch.

After the bread cooled, I sliced it and ate it with some homemade butter.

Final verdict: it was better than I expected, and the sesame seeds gave it a nice, nutty flavor. It’s still not one of my favorite breads; and I doubt I will make it again. But then, I have yet to find a semolina bread that’s worth repeating.

Seven Grain & Seed Bread {ModBak}

I’ve been fascinated with multigrain bread since I read Peter Reinhart’s Bread Upon the Waters, in which he analogizes the bread baking process to his spiritual journey, and carries that metaphor through the book using his recipe for struan. Whether it’s called grain and seed bread, multigrain bread, or struan, this is one of my favorite breads to bake and eat.

In fact, Peter’s Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire was one of my favorite recipes in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and I went on to create my own sourdough grain and seed bread recipe. So it should come as no surprise that of the recipes in the Breads section of The Modern Baker, this is the one I was most excited to try.

Because this recipe has a lot of ingredients, I felt it was important to use mise en place. This was all the more true since I upped the ante by making this an 11 grain and seed bread. Nick suggests adding black sesame seeds and brown rice to the recipe, which I decided to do. And since I keep two-ounce packages of mixed red, brown, and black rice in the freezer for making struan, I ended up adding four additional ingredients.

I began by making a soaker with the oats and rice, which I mixed with boiling water.

While many recipes require an overnight soaker, Nick’s recipe calls for using the soaker as soon as it cools. Although he doesn’t say what temperature to cool it to, I figured I would bring it to around 110° F, the same temperature as the water called for in the recipe.

After the soaker had cooled, I measured the water. The recipe said to add the yeast to the water, but I accidentally put it into the soaker.

Oh, well. No harm done, since both the soaker and the water were added to the mixed flours.

The ingredients were mixed briefly, then allowed to autolyse for 20 minutes.

After four more minutes of mixing, I put the dough in an oiled bowl to ferment.

The dough doubled in just over an hour.

After the bulk ferment, I pressed the dough out into a rough rectangle, which I then divided into two pieces. As has been the case with most of the recipes in this section, this dough was quite slack, so shaping was a challenge. And it didn’t help that I found the shaping instructions in the book a bit confusing. The results of my first attempt (on the left) weren’t pretty. I caught on by the second loaf, which came out looking a little better.

I allowed the dough to proof for about an hour, by which time it had crested well above the tops of the pans.

I baked the loaves for about 30 minutes, until they were golden brown and reached an internal temperature of 185° F.

So, did these loaves live up to my expectations? In a word, yes. The crust and crumb were soft and chewy, the texture of a good sandwich bread. And the taste was amazing — complex, nutty, slightly sweet. It was great plain, with cultured butter, and as a base for sandwiches.

This is definitely my favorite bread in this section of the book (so far) and one that I will make again.

Instant Sandwich Bread {ModBak}

The sixth recipe in the Breads section of the Modern Baker Challenge is Instant Sandwich Bread. Although I have to say it was unlike any sandwich bread I’ve ever made. It’s baked in a sheet pan, so you don’t slice it like a loaf of bread. Rather, you cut squares like you would a sheet cake, then split the squares laterally to use for sandwiches.

This is another bread recipe that is mixed in a food processor. I have a Cuisinart 11-cup food processor, which I believe is standard size for most home kitchens. There is a 14-cup model, but I don’t know anyone who has one in their kitchen. Except, apparently, Nick Malgieri.

As I began to mix the ingredients in the food processor, it seemed too full to me. But I pressed on. The dry ingredients were OK.

But when I added the water and yeast, and then turned on the machine, my problems began.

The liquid came shooting out of the top and bottom of the machine. But at this point, I was committed (or should have been), so I kept processing until the dough seemed well mixed. Moral of the story: unless you have a 14-cup food processor, I would recommend mixing this dough in your Kitchen Aid or by hand.

The dough didn’t seem to have suffered too much for the loss of water, so I turned it out into a bowl and let it rest for about 30 minutes. Then I pressed the dough into the pan, where it proofed for an hour.

I baked the bread for about 25 minutes, until it was puffy and golden brown.

My daughter loved this bread. She didn’t use it for sandwiches; she just cut chunks and ate them. I made one sandwich (pictured at the top of the page). It was good, and I can see how this loaf might work well for making party sandwiches. But to be honest, it didn’t rank among my favorite sandwich loaves, and I doubt if I will make this recipe again.

Crisp Cornmeal Flatbread {ModBak}

The fifth recipe in the Breads section of The Modern Baker, and the last in a series of flatbreads, is Crisp Cornmeal Flatbread. This bread is actually what I would consider a cracker rather than a flatbread. When I think of flatbread, I think of pita bread, naan, tortillas, and the like. But that was OK with me, because I was a little flatbreaded out at this point.

I was looking forward to these crackers, as they had some interesting ingredients that I thought would lead to great flavor. One of the ingredients was cornmeal. As it happened, I had just visited the farmer’s market and picked up some red cornmeal, so I decided to use it in this recipe.

The other ingredient that we haven’t seen thus far in the book was cayenne pepper. And even though the recipe only called for 1/4 teaspoon, I knew a little would go a long way, especially in crackers.

I began by mixing the ingredients in the food processor, then setting the dough aside to rise.

After the dough had risen, I divided it into two piece, which I then rolled out to make the crackers. The directions say to roll the dough to the size of the pan on the work surface, then transfer it to the pan. I decided to bake my crackers on Silpat, so I rolled each half on the Silpat, then lifted it onto the pan.

I rolled the dough out to the edges of the Silpat, then trimmed the overlapping bits.

I was left with a very thin dough that almost completely covered the baking surface.

I baked the flatbreads in a 350° F oven for about 20 minutes, until they were golden brown and crisp.

They came out beautifully. The cornmeal gave a nice color and nutty flavor, and the crackers were crunchy with just a bit of heat from the cayenne. And talk about flat….

I broke the bread into irregular pieces and put them in a bowl. It looked great; unfortunately, we ate them all before I had a chance to take a picture.

This recipe is right up there with the pita bread as my favorite of the flatbreads. Definitely one to make again.

Fougasse {ModBak}

The fourth recipe in the Breads section of the Modern Baker Challenge is Fougasse, or pierced French flatbread. As with the other flatbreads in this section, this recipe contains yeast; so even though it is a flatbread, it still rises fairly well. This bread is shaped into a triangle, or leaf shape, and slashed through in several places. This has the effect of increasing the amount of crust, making this a great bread to serve with a stew or other saucy meal.

Like most of the other flatbreads in this section, the ingredients list for Fougasse is fairly short — flour, salt, yeast, water, and olive oil. The ingredients are mixed briefly, allowed to rest, then folded a few times, before being set aside to ferment for an hour or two.

After the bulk ferment, the dough is divided, and each piece is shaped into a triangle. The recipe says to shape the dough on your work surface, then move it to the pan. I shaped mine directly on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

After shaping the dough, I slit it with a pizza wheel.

I let the dough rest for 10 minutes, then stretched it a few inches in each direction to elongate the slits.

I then oiled the dough and set it aside to proof for an hour.

While the dough was proofing, I preheated the oven to 450° F. The Fougasse only took about 20 minutes to bake and came out puffy and golden.

This bread was crusty and delicious, and, contrary to what Nick says, wonderful with a smear of butter.

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