Hummus {FFwD}

Part of what I enjoy about French Fridays with Dorie is making something completely new and unfamiliar to me, like last week’s Endive, Apples, and Grapes. It’s fun exploring new flavors, trying new ingredients, and learning new techniques.

But there’s also something enjoyable about a trying a recipe that’s a new version of an old favorite. And that’s what this week’s offering was for me.

I love hummus, and I never go to a Middle Eastern restaurant without trying the house version. And I’ve made lots of hummus over the years. One of my favorite recipes is from the Moosewood Cookbook, but I’m always game to try a new one.

This was a good, solid hummus. Not remarkable in any way. But quite tasty. And it was especially good served on flatbread that I made with this recipe from King Arthur Flour.

I don’t know if I’ll make Dorie’s version of hummus again, but I’ll definitely make the KAF flatbread to use as a base for hummus and other dips and spreads.

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Whole Wheat Loaves {TWD-BWJ}

Many of the Tuesdays with Dorie recipes from Baking with Julia have been new to me, either in ingredients, technique, or finished product. Not so these hearty whole wheat loaves. I’ve been baking bread for over 30 years, so there was nothing new here. Classic ingredients, standard techniques, nothing fancy.

But don’t take that to mean this was a ho-hum recipe. Far from it. While everything about this recipe was comfortably familiar to me, the finished loaves were nothing like the dense, crumbly whole wheat loaves so many recipes produce. No, these were light, airy, slightly sweet loaves that rose well over the pan and far beyond my expectations.

The ingredients list for the loaves was simple: water, yeast, honey, bread and whole wheat flours, canola oil, malt extract, and salt. It’s the honey and malt that give these loaves their earthy sweetness. And the combination of flours resulted in a hearty, yet tender, crumb.

The dough was wonderful to work with: firm, tacky but not sticky, and quite supple.

Here it is before bulk fermenting:

And here’s what it looked like 1 1/2 hours later:

I divided the dough (not too evenly, as it turns out), shaped the loaves, and put them in pans to proof.

After an hour of proofing, the loaves were well-risen and ready to bake.

This, boys and girls, is why you should always scale your dough.

I baked the loaves, cooled them, then put one in the freezer and kept the other out to use for toast and sandwiches.

This is a delicious bread, and easy enough to make a bread baker out of anyone!

Our host for this week are Michele of Veggie Num Nums and Teresa of The Family That Bakes Together. Check out their posts for the recipe and to see what they thought of this bread.

Half Hour Hot Dog Buns {Recipe}

After yesterday’s success with half hour hamburger buns, I decided to try the recipe again, this time as hot dog buns. It’s the same basic recipe. I changed the shaping instructions and rewrote it to make by hand instead of with a mixer.

Half Hour Hot Dog Buns

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.
  2. Pour water into a large bowl. Add yeast and sugar, stir to dissolve, and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and mix with dough whisk or large spoon. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 3 to 5 minutes, adding flour as necessary so that dough it smooth and elastic, like French bread dough.
  4. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and preshape each piece into a ball. Working with one dough ball at a time, flatten into an oval. Fold top third of dough to the center, seal, then fold down again and seal into a torpedo shape. Using both palms, roll from the center to the ends to desired length.
  5. Place dough balls close together (about an inch or less apart) on prepared baking sheet. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. If desired, brush rolls with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds just before baking.
  6. Bake rolls for 8-10 minutes, until well-risen and browned. Cool on pan for a few minutes.

Makes 12 hot dog buns.

Half Hour Hamburger Buns {Recipe}

I don’t know about you, but Mondays and Fridays tend to be quick dinner nights around here. For whatever reason, at either end of the work week, I want something simple and fast to throw together. One of my almost instant dinners that my family really likes is Sloppy Joes.

So last night (Thursday), I got a pound of ground beef out of the freezer to make Sloppy Joes for dinner tonight. There weren’t any hamburger buns in the freezer, and the ones on top of the fridge were of questionable vintage. Rather than stop on the way home to pick up buns, I decided to try a recipe a number of my baking friends had been chatting about — Taste of Home’s 40-minute Hamburger Buns.

You might wonder (1) how you could possibly have homemade bread of any kind in about half an hour, and (2) whether it could possibly be any good. Let me tell you….

Bread derives its flavors in two basic ways. First, from time — the rising and fermenting processes allow the yeast in the dough to convert the starch in flour to sugar, thereby adding flavor. The other way to get flavorful bread is through the ingredients used to make it. For example, eggs, sugar, and oil are often added to bread to make an enriched dough that relies more on these ingredients than the fermentation process for its resulting flavor.

In the case of these burger buns, the flavor comes almost entirely from the ingredients, as the dough is not given a chance to rise. This recipe also relies on another principle of bread baking: if you add enough yeast to the dough, you can make bread that rises “instantly”.

I’ll admit to being a bit skeptical of these buns, as I tend to rely heavily on time to develop flavor in my breads. I can make amazing bread using nothing but flour, yeast, salt, and water (and in the case of sourdough bread, just flour, salt, and water). But I needed hamburger buns for dinner, and it seemed like a good time to see what all the fuss was about.

I was surprised at how good these burger buns tasted. I would still opt for a more traditional recipe when time permits. But for an almost instant bread, these were great. And they fit right into my quick Friday dinner plans. These were so good, I made them again as hot dog buns.

I made some changes to the recipe, and I found they were done in closer to half an hour than 40 minutes. Here’s my version.

Half Hour Hamburger Buns

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.
  2. Pour water into bowl of electric mixer. Add yeast and sugar, stir to dissolve, and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and mix with dough hook on medium-low speed for 3 to 5 minutes, adding flour as necessary so that dough clears sides and bottom of bowl.
  4. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Place dough balls 1 to 3 inches apart on prepared baking sheet and flatten slightly. (Placing dough balls closer together will cause them to bake together, creating pull-apart hamburger buns similar to those you get from the store.) Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. If desired, brush rolls with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Or for softer buns, brush with a little milk.
  5. Bake rolls for 8-10 minutes, until well-risen and browned. Cool on pan for a few minutes.

Makes 12 hamburger buns.

Oasis Naan {TWD-BWJ}

I am so pleased to be hosting this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie – Baking with Julia recipe! This was a particularly good pick for me, as I love naan but had never made it myself. I’ve had several recipes bookmarked to try at some point, but never quite got as far at making them. So hosting this week finally gave me the push I needed to try my hand at baking naan. And, boy, am I glad it did!

This recipe begins with a batch of Persian Naan dough (recipe below), which was a breeze to throw together. I began by measuring tepid water into my mixing bowl, then sprinkling yeast on top.

The recipe calls for active dry yeast. Since I always use instant yeast, I turned to my handy yeast conversion table and saw that I would need 0.75 teaspoon of instant yeast for every teaspoon of active dry yeast in the recipe. Since the recipe calls for 2 teaspoons active dry yeast, I used 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast. I stirred the yeast into the water, then added 3 cups of flour, one at a time, using my dough whisk.

At this point, I put the bowl on the stand mixer and began using the dough hook to mix in the salt and remaining flour.

After mixing in 6 cups of flour, the dough was still quite sticky, so I added more flour, a tablespoon at a time, until it stopped clinging to the sides of the bowl.

It took an additional 7 tablespoons of flour to get the dough to the point where it was tacky but not sticky. The recipe said to knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes. I mixed it on medium-low speed with my stand mixer for about 7 minutes.

I put the dough in a well-oiled bowl, turned it to coat both sides with oil, then set it aside to rise for 2 hours.

After 2 hours the dough had more than doubled in size, which I expected given the amount of yeast in the recipe.

About 15 minutes before the dough reached the 2 hour mark, I put my unglazed clay tiles on the oven rack and began preheating the oven to 500°F. It takes both the oven and the tiles longer than you might think to reach such a high temperature (don’t trust the “oven ready” beeper), and I wanted my tiles to be smoking hot by the time I was ready to begin baking.

While the oven was preheating and the dough finishing its rise, I chopped 2 scallions and got out some coarse sea salt and cumin seeds.

To shape the naan, I divide the dough into 8 pieces. Normally, I scale dough when dividing it. But naan is a rustic bread, so I didn’t really care if the pieces weren’t exactly the same size.

I preshaped each piece of dough into a ball and flattened slightly. Then, working with one dough ball at a time, I rolled the dough into a 6-inch circle, which I sprinkled with water and docked with a fork.

I moved the dough to a pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal, then rolled out a second dough ball. Once I had two naan on the peel, I sprinkled them with salt, green onion, and cumin seeds.

I loaded the dough into the oven and began preparing the next two dough balls. I baked the naan for about 8 minutes, until they were well puffed and the scallions began to take on some color.

The naan baked up puffier than what I’m used to getting at an Indian restaurant. But it was delicious — better than any restaurant or store-bought naan I’ve ever tried. The bread was soft and chewy, and the cumin and scallions gave it a deep, subtle flavor that definitely reminded me of the best Indian dishes I’ve had.

And speaking of Indian food, I served the naan with homemade butter chicken — a perfect pairing.

If you love naan but have never made it yourself, give this recipe a try. It’s easy, quick, and delicious. You may never buy naan again.

Persian Naan Dough (from Baking with Julia; recipe by Jeffery Alford & Naomi Duguid). Reprinted by permission.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups tepid water (80°F to 90°F)
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast [or 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast]
  • 5 to 6 cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon [Kosher] salt

Directions

  1. Put the water and yeast in a large bowl and stir to blend. Add 3 cups of the flour, about a cup at a time, stirring in one direction with a wooden spoon [or dough whisk]. Beat for 1 minute, or about 100 strokes, to develop the gluten.
  2. Sprinkle the salt over the mixture and start adding the remaining flour, again about a cup at a time, stirring after each addition and then stirring until the dough is too stiff for you to work. You may not need to use it all.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it vigorously, adding more flour as necessary, until it is smooth and easy to handle, about 10 minutes. [Or mix with stand mixer on medium-low speed with dough hook for about 7 minutes, adding flour as necessary until dough does not cling to sides or bottom of bowl.]
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning to cover the entire surface with oil, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest at room temperature until it has more than doubled in bulk, about 2 hours. Don’t worry if it goes longer — it will be just fine. If it’s more convenient, you can put the bowl in the refrigerator and let the dough rise overnight; bring the dough to room temperature before continuing.

Oasis Naan (from Baking with Julia; recipe by Jeffery Alford & Naomi Duguid). Reprinted by permission.

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe Persian Naan dough, fully risen
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and chopped (white and tender green parts only)
  • 1 teaspoon (approximately) cumin or caraway seeds

Directions

  1. Center a rack in the oven and line with quarry tiles or a baking stone, leaving a 1-inch air space all around. (If you do not have tiles or a stone, place an inverted baking sheet on the oven rack.) Preheat the oven to 500°F. Set aside a baker’s peel or dust a baking sheet with flour.
  2. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball; flatten each ball with lightly floured palms. Roll out the dough into circles about 1/4 inch thick and 5 to 6 inches across and sprinkle with water.
  3. Each circle needs to be well pricked all over, with the exception of a 1- to 2-inch border. Traditionally, this is done with a dough stamp, a round utensil with concentric circles of thin spikes. Alternatively, you can use a roller pricker (also known as a pastry docker), the tines of a fork, or the pointy metal loop at the bottom of a whisk. Whatever you choose, you want to prick the dough with determination, flattening the center of each circle.
  4. Sprinkle each center with coarse salt, chopped scallions, and a pinch of cumin or caraway seeds.
  5. Slide the breads onto the hot quarry tiles using the baker’s peel (or slide onto the baking sheet), and bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the tops start to color.
  6. Remove the breads and cool on a rack for about 5 minutes before wrapping them in a cotton towel. These are best served warm.
  7. The breads are best eaten shortly after they’re baked, but they’ll keep, wrapped in a towel, for a day. For longer storage, wrap the [fully cooled] breads airtight and freeze for up to a month. Keep the breads in their wrappers while they thaw at room temperature, and then warm them for a few minutes in a 400°F oven before serving.

The Modern Baker, by Nick Malgieri {Review}

“If you have an oven, you need The Modern Baker.”  ~ Maida Heatter

First published in 2008, Nick Malgieri‘s cookbook, The Modern Baker: Time-saving Techniques for Breads, Tarts, Pies, Cakes, and Cookies, has just been reissued in paperback.

Like most home cooks, I own a lot of cookbooks. Some I turn to all the time; others I rarely touch. The Modern Baker never leaves my kitchen.

This book contains over 150 recipes, both sweet and savory, with everything from quick breads to savory tarts to cookies, cakes, and pies. I have been baking from it for about a year and a half, and even started the Modern Baker Challenge to encourage others to bake with me. In that time, I’ve made — and blogged about — almost 100 recipes. (If you want to read any of the blog posts, use the search box on this page to search for {ModBak}, the tag I use in all my Modern Baker posts.)

I have really come to appreciate the clarity with which the recipes are written, how easy they are to follow, and the consistent results I get when making them. But what really sets this book apart from other cookbooks is the way Nick takes the mystery and intimidation out of baking. Through his helpful, step-by-step instructions and photos, he shows how to make perfect pie crusts, “instant” puff pastry, bakery-quality cakes and pies, and company-worth tarts.

I originally picked up The Modern Baker in hopes that I could finally overcome my mental block when it comes to pie crusts. As comfortable as I am in the kitchen, both with cooking and baking, I had never been able to make a decent pastry crust. It wasn’t that I didn’t try; I just could never seem to get it right. My dough would be gooey or too dry, and when I baked it, it would turn out tough or dry and crumbly. So I was delighted when I made Nick’s quick pastry crust and it turned out perfect the first time. And the second. And the third. And every time since.

The puff pastry is another breakthrough in this book. It mixes up in minutes and doesn’t require rolling in butter in “turns” as in most puff pastry recipes. After mixing the ingredients in the food processor, you pat it out, fold it over itself envelope style, roll it up, and pop it in the fridge. And the resulting puff pastry surpasses anything you can buy. Since I discovered Nick’s technique, I always have homemade puff pastry in the freezer. And the book has taught me countless ways to use it.

If you fancy yourself a cook, but have always been intimidated by baking, you need to own this book. And if you are a seasoned baker and want to find some new, streamlined techniques for the recipes you love to make, you’ll find them here. Even if you’ve never tried your hand at homemade bread or layer cakes, you will feel like a real baker after trying just a few recipes.

In fact, whatever your level of baking experience, you will learn amazing tips, techniques, and tricks from Nick Malgieri and The Modern Baker.

Pissaladière {FFwD}

I almost skipped this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, as I knew no one else in the house would eat it. But it sounded good to me, so I decided to make a mini version for myself.

Although this recipe comes from the Nice region of France, it’s very similar to Focaccia alla Barese, an Apulian specialty from Southern Italy. Both feature onions, anchovies, and olives baked on a yeast-risen dough. I’ll let the French and Italians fight over who first came up with this recipe. What I can tell you is that I enjoyed them both.

The recipe features caramelized onions. This must be the week for it, since I made a Caramelized Onion and Gorgonzola Tart for Modern Baker Mondays, too. Unlike the Modern Baker version, which “enhances” the onions with sugar and balsamic vinegar, the pissaladière recipe calls for caramelizing the onions the old-fashioned way — with nothing but olive oil, salt, a few herbs, and lots and lots of time.

After almost an hour over low heat, the onions were beautifully caramelized. I stirred in anchovy paste (the recipe called for anchovies, but all I had was paste; more on that later) and freshly ground black pepper. I tasted the onions and decided they didn’t need any additional salt, as the anchovy paste was plenty salty.

I set the onions aside to cool while I prepared the crust. The recipe has instructions for making a yeast-risen dough, but Dorie also notes that it can be made with puff pastry. Since I had some puff pastry in the refrigerator, I decided to use it. I rolled it out nice and thin, trying to get it into a roughly rectangular shape but not worrying too much about perfection in that regard.

I spread the dough with the onion mixture, then slid it into the oven, which I had preheated to 425˚F.

I baked the pissaladière for 20 minutes, then took it out of the oven and added black olives and sundried tomato strips (in place of the anchovies called for in the recipe). I returned the pissaladière to the oven for about 5 minutes, just to warm the new toppings.

It has been almost a year since I made Focaccia alla Barese, but the pissaladière tasted just as I remembered the focaccia tasting, which is to say, delicious. The focaccia had a much thicker crust, but otherwise the two were very similar. The sweet tang of the onions played nicely off the saltiness of the anchovies and slight bite of the olives.

This is not a dish that I will make often around here, as I’m the only anchovy eater in the house. But I could see making it as an appetizer for a dinner party, or even a light lunch for my fish-loving friends.

Filled Ham & Cheese Focaccia {ModBak}

The final recipe in the Yeast-Risen Specialties section of the Modern Baker Challenge is another focaccia. What differentiates this recipe from the other focaccia recipes in this section (besides a distinct lack of anchovies) is that this focaccia is filled, rather than topped.

As with the other focaccia and pizza recipes, this one starts with Dough for Thick-Crusted Pizza and Focaccia. However, rather than pressing the dough into the pan after it ferments, you dump the dough out onto a floured board and press it into a rectangle. Ham and cheese are then layered on half the dough. The recipe calls for prosciutto, but I had deli sliced ham on hand, so that’s what I used, along with Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano. I sprinkled on a little black pepper, then folded the dough over the topping and pressed to seal it.

I gently lifted the dough onto the pan, then pressed it out to fill the pan. I covered the pan and allowed the dough to rise for an hour. Then I uncovered the dough and dimpled it with the tips of my fingers. I drizzled a little olive oil on the top of the dough, then sprinkled on a little fleur de sel to finish it off.

I baked the focaccia in a 400°F oven for about 30 minutes, until the dough was dry and beginning to brown. I cooled the focaccia on the pan for about 10 minutes, then removed it to a cutting board. I cut and served it directly from the board, which gave it a nice, rustic appearance.

You may have noticed a lack of pictures on this post, as well as the absence of a description of the flavor of the finished product. I made this focaccia on the day of my daughter’s birthday party, while I was preparing half-a-dozen other dishes, so the thought of snapping photos never even crossed my mind.

As for not describing the taste, that’s because I didn’t try it. Not that it didn’t look and smell delicious. It’s just that I don’t eat pork. But everyone else enjoyed it and compared it to a really good hot ham and cheese sandwich. When it came time to pack up the leftovers (and there were plenty), there was no focaccia to be found. But I was asked to bring it to our next family gathering.

Nonna’s Pizza {ModBak}

Here’s another recipe from The Modern Baker that starts with Nick Malgieri’s recipe for Focaccia and Thick-Crusted Pizza Dough. This is a simple and delicious pizza that will please just about everyone.

While the crust was on its final rise, I prepared the toppings. The recipe calls for fresh or canned whole tomatoes. All I had on hand was Red Pack chopped tomatoes, so I drained them well and used them. I dimpled the top of the dough with my fingers and spread on the tomatoes. Then I added mozzarella and Pecorino Romano cheeses, sliced garlic, and fresh oregano. Finally, I drizzled a little olive oil on the top.

I baked the pizza at 425°F for about 30 minutes, until the cheese was melted and the topping had begun to brown.

This pizza was delicious — very flavorful, not too spicy. It’s not as cheesy as American pizza, which allows the other flavors to come through.

This is another versatile recipe. Once you learn how to make the dough for the crust, the topping possibilities are endless. And once you taste it, you’ll want to try them all.

Focaccia alla Barese: Apulian Onion, Anchovy, & Olive Focaccia {ModBak}

Now that I’ve found an easy, tasty, and reliable focaccia dough, I have enjoyed trying new focaccia and pizza recipes, like this recipe from The Modern Baker. Like the Sfincione that I made recently, the Focaccia alla Barese is part of the Yeast-Risen Specialties section of the Modern Baker Challenge. And like the Sfincione, this recipe featured anchovies, so I knew I would be eating it alone.

After making the dough, and while it was on its final rise, I made the topping. I began by sautéing onion in olive oil, then adding chopped anchovies. I seasoned with pepper (no salt, as the anchovies were salty enough on their own).

I stirred in the olives, then put the topping in the fridge to chill for a few minutes. While the onion mixture was cooling, I prepared the crust by dimpling the top with my fingers. Then I spread the topping on the crust, dusted the focaccia with the barest sprinkling of sea salt, and drizzled it with olive oil.

I baked the focaccia at 425°F for 30 minutes, until the dough was well-risen and the topping had begun to dry.

I let the focaccia cool for a few minutes on the pan, then moved it to a cutting board to finish cooling. I cut the focaccia into squares to serve.

The Focaccia alla Barese was savory and delicious. The anchovies and olives blended well and gave it a salty, yet slightly sweet flavor.

Although I enjoyed this focaccia immensely, I have to take exception with something Nick Malgieri says about it in the side note to the recipe. Nick states that the anchovies “melt into the topping and add a pleasant note of saltiness, but no stong fishy taste.” While I wouldn’t call this focaccia overly fishy tasting, you can definitely tell it has anchovies on it. And if you’re not an anchovy lover, this isn’t the dish to make a convert out of you.

But if you like anchovies, you will love this focaccia.

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