Salad Niçoise {FFwD}

This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe was a perfectly simple, perfectly composed, and perfectly delicious salad.

Salad Nicoise

See, what did I tell you? Perfect.

This salad featured Bibb lettuce, parsley, boiled potatoes, hard-cooked eggs, steamed green beans, tuna, tomatoes, capers, Niçoise olives, homemade vinaigrette, and, the star of the show, anchovies. Although there were quite a few ingredients, and the potatoes, beans, and eggs had to be prepared ahead, the salad came together very quickly with minimal fuss and almost no clean up.

It might not surprise you to learn that we served this for lunch while the kids were away at school. We all really enjoyed this salad. It was pungent, salty, and quite filling, in that wonderful, salad-full sort of way.

Another keeper from Dorie to start out year four of French Fridays.

Asparagus Soup {FFwD}

Asparagus Soup

This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie just screams “Springtime!” It’s light, flavorful, and bursting with asparagus flavor.

The soup consists of asparagus (lots of it), onion, garlic, shallot, leeks, olive oil, butter, salt, and white pepper. I started by snapping the asparagus to remove the woody part at the base, then peeling the stalks (seriously, who does that?). I tied the peels and stems in a cheesecloth, then boiled the asparagus, stalks, and peels in boiling water. I removed the asparagus after about four minutes, reserving the water and discarding the stalks and peels.

Next, I heated olive oil in the pot. I was using a butter-infused olive oil, so I left out the butter called for in the recipe. I added the onion, garlic, shallot, and leeks, salted and peppered them, and cooked them low and slow until they were soft and glistening. I added back six cups of the asparagus water, simmered for a while, then dropped the asparagus back in.

After everything had cooked a bit more, I puréed the soup in two batches in my Vitamix. I thought the first batch looked a bit too watery, so I left most of the liquid out of the second batch. When I mixed it all together, it was a beautiful color and consistency.

The recipe says that the soup can be served hot or cold. I wanted to try it right away, so I served it hot with a dollop of sour cream and a drizzle of olive oil. I found it slightly bland, but a little sprinkle of cayenne pepper solved that problem.

I’m interested to try this soup cold, but I really enjoyed it hot. It was smooth, silky, and brimming with Springtime flavors.

Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin Loaf {TWD-BWJ}

I can’t tell you how excited I was about this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie – Baking with Julia recipe. After all, it features one of my favorite ingredients: pumpkin! To say I love pumpkin doesn’t really do justice to how I feel about this ingredient. Obsessed might be a better word.

Anyway, I was really looking forward to this bread. And it did not disappoint!

Now, this is not what you probably think of when you hear “pumpkin bread”. It’s a yeast bread, not a quick bread. And it’s not overly sweet. It’s more like raisin bread. Except with pumpkin. And walnuts. And whole cranberries.

Isn’t that beautiful? And you should have seen the bread!

Here are my observations:

  • As mentioned, this isn’t a sweet bread. It’s actually a bit on the savory side, with the tangy cranberries, walnuts, and even the pumpkin, which is, after all, a squash.
  • Speaking of the pumpkin, it adds a beautiful color to the dough, but not a distinct flavor. If you tasted it with your eyes closed, you probably wouldn’t guess that it had pumpkin in it.
  • As I often do with pumpkin-based recipes, I switched out the spices called for in the recipe with five-spice powder.
  • A number of bakers reported that their dough didn’t rise well. Mine rose fine, but when it came out of the fridge after an overnight rest, it was really sluggish. It’s a really rich dough, so I would probably recommend using SAF Gold yeast if you have any.
  • I baked my loaf in one pan, and it took significantly longer than the recipe called for. The finished loaf was moist, somewhat dense, and delicious.
  • This bread is great as toast with butter. But with Speculoos butter, it is sublime.
  • This would be the perfect bread for making toast on Thanksgiving morning. It wouldn’t be too filling, but it would wake your mouth up to the flavors to come later in the day.
  • I wonder how this bread would be as bread pudding? I don’t think the current loaf is going to last long enough to find out, but it would be worth making again for that purpose.

So, in summary, I loved this bread! And not just because it had pumpkin in it. Although, that certainly didn’t hurt.

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.

Popovers {TWD-BWJ}

Oh, beautiful, delicious, airy, fluffy popovers! Where have you been all my life?!?

Not only had I never made a popover, until this recipe came up for Tuesdays with Dorie, I had never even tried one before. I can’t believe I have lived for 40-some years and never had the joy of tearing into one of these beauties before dinner this evening! I can promise you, it won’t be 40 more years before I make them again. It probably won’t be 4 days.

I must have been planning on making these at some point, because I have a popover pan. I think I got it with points from my bank the same time I got Baking with Julia. So it’s only fitting that I used the pan for the first time with Marion Cunningham’s recipe from BWJ.

I preheated the oven to 400°F, as that’s what several recipes I saw using popover pans called for. Based on some of the comments on the P&Q for this recipe, I buttered the pans really well with melted butter. (As a side note, my Chicago Metallic popover pans are nonstick, and I’ve found their nonstick pans to work really well with a minimum of greasing.) I filled the cups about 1/3 full and baked them for exactly 35 minutes.

They looked absolutely perfect when they came out of the oven. Dinner was on the table, so the popovers went right from the pans to a basket and onto the table.

I tore into one and was surprised and delighted by how open and airy the center was. They weren’t doughy or custardy in the middle, just a little less done than the crispy exteriors. I slathered the insides with butter and drizzled on some honey. They were absolutely delicious! Soft and crisp at the same time. Puffy, buttery, dripping with honey. I could have made a meal of them.

I’m glad I tried this recipe. And I’m glad to have a popover pan, wherever it came from. I only wish I had two pans so I could make a dozen of these at a time.

Our hosts this week are Paula of Vintage Kitchen Notes and Amy of Bake with Amy. Cruise on over to their blogs for the recipe and to see what they thought of these yummy popovers.

Classic Génoise {ModBak}

The next cake in the line up for the Modern Baker Challenge is one I’ve only made one other time, with disastrous results.

Last June I made — or tried to make — a French Strawberry Cake for Tuesdays with Dorie. There was a lot of chatter on the TWD site at the time about Dorie’s recipe not being a true génoise because the eggs weren’t heated prior to being whipped. Having never made a génoise at the time, all the talk just struck me as people’s opinions about what a “real” génoise should be. I just followed Dorie’s recipe and trusted that everything would work out right.

It didn’t. You can check out the French Strawberry Cake post to see just how wrong things went. Suffice it to say, after that experience, I wasn’t looking forward to making another génoise anytime soon.

I needn’t have worried. Like nearly all of Nick’s recipes, this one is clear, precise, easy to follow, and foolproof.

I began by combining eggs, egg yolks (Nick uses extra yolks to add tenderness, moisture, and stability to the batter), vanilla, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl. I set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and heated it until the mixture was lukewarm.

I beat the egg and sugar mixture with the whisk attachment on my mixer for about five minutes, until it was light, fluffy, and had more than tripled in volume.

The recipe calls for a fairly small amount of flour, which is mixed with cornstarch, sifted over the egg foam, and then mixed in gently in three additions.

Unlike my previous experience, folding in the flour didn’t cause the foam to collapse, and I was able to get all the flour mixed in.

I scraped the mixture into a buttered 9-inch springform pan.

You’ll notice that there is batter around the edge of the pan. The instructions say to tip the pan and rotate it so that the batter runs to the top all the way around the inside of the pan. This is supposed to make the cake bake flat on the top, rather than doming in the center. Since my previous génoise baked up lopsided (before collapsing), I was hopeful that this trick would work.

I baked the cake at 350°F for about 30 minutes, until it was golden brown and firm in the center. It came out of the oven looking really nice, and I held my breath as I unmolded it. When it didn’t collapse, I put it on a rack to cool, anxious to see what I would end up with. Half an hour later, here’s what it looked like:

If you own a copy of The Modern Baker, turn to page 241 and note the similarity between this cake and the one pictured there. Mine came out almost exactly like the one in the book!

The layer was light but firm. And to my surprise and delight, it rose high enough to be cut into three layers.

Check out this post to see what I used the layers for, but suffice it to say, this cake was wonderful — light, delicate, and very flavorful.

Thanks to Nick I now not only know what a classic génoise is supposed to look and taste like, I also know how to make a perfect one!

Hazelnut Biscotti {TWD-BWJ}

The first July recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie — Baking with Julia is one of my favorites: biscotti. I’ve made, and eaten, a lot of biscotti. There’s just something about dunking a crunchy biscuit into a steaming cup of coffee.

I used to think biscotti must be difficult to make, but they are actually quite simple. You mix up a quick dough, press it into a log shape on a pan, bake it, slice it, and bake again to crisp them up.

Since I discovered how simple they are to make, I’ve made many different biscotti, including several original biscotti recipes. So, I was really happy about this month’s first recipe — Hazelnut Biscotti.

I decided to make the biscotti on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and I didn’t feel like running to the store. I didn’t have any hazelnuts, so I decided to use a snack mix from Trader Joe’s with macadamia nuts, almonds, dried cranberries, and candied ginger.

The first thing I noticed about this recipe was how wet the dough was. Biscotti dough is usually the consistency of biscuit or cookie dough — soft, but mailable, and easy to shape. The recipe said the dough would be stiff and sticky, but it was downright gloppy. I had a heck of a time shaping the dough into logs on the baking tray.

I knew it would bake up OK, but it was really an unpleasant dough to work with.

It wasn’t pretty after the first bake, but I knew it would slice up fine. I let the logs cool, then sliced them into individual biscotti.

I put the slices on a cooling rack, which I put in the oven to crisp up the biscotti. I liked the idea of baking the biscotti on a rack so the heat can circulate evenly around them to crisp them up.

The best part about these biscotti was the Trader Joe’s snack mix. The nuts, cranberries, and candied ginger gave the biscotti the only discernible flavor. Otherwise, they were quite bland.

Between the unworkably wet dough and the lack of flavor in the finished biscotti, this recipe is definetly not one that I will make again.

Our hosts this week are Jodi of Homemade and Wholesome and Katrina of Baking and Boys.

French Strawberry Cake {TWD-BWJ}

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If so, here are four thousand words about the disaster that was my Tuesdays with Dorie French Strawberry Cake:

My cake went from lopsided…

…to flat…

…to ugly…

…to rubbery.

My problems began with overmixing my genoise batter. I accidentally dumped 2/3 of the flour mixture into the batter at once, and it was impossible to get it all mixed in without deflating the batter. I probably should have stopped right there, but I foolishly pressed on, resulting in the hockey puck you see above.

My daughter and I ate the strawberries and whipped cream, then threw out the cake.

I probably would have been upset by this disaster if I hadn’t already found the perfect strawberry cake recipe. Check back tomorrow for the post.

In addition to Tuesdays with Dorie, this post participates in Strawberry Week here at Of Cabbages & King Cakes. Check out the other posts for the week (I promise, this is the only disaster).

Our hosts for this recipe are Allison and Sophia. Be sure to check out their posts.

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.

Persian Naan {BWJ}

The first June recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie is Oasis Naan. I was lucky enough to be picked to host this recipe, so I’ll be posting the full recipe with step-by-step photos and instructions next week.

The Oasis Naan begins with a batch of Persian Naan dough, and since I had to make the dough anyway, I decided to make some Persian and some Oasis Naan. Check out the Oasis Naan post for the recipe and instructions for making the dough.

After mixing the dough and letting it rise, I got my oven ready. Naan is traditionally baked in a clay oven called a “tandoor”. The best way to replicate this in a home oven is with a baking stone or clay tiles.

I picked up these unglazed clay tiles for about 50 cents each at a French bread baking class I took a few years ago. They are great for baking crusty artisan breads. And because they are individual tiles, they are easy to get in and out of the oven, store, and (if you buy extras like I did) replace if you break one. I set the oven to 500°F and let it preheat while I shaped the naan.

I deflated the dough and divided it into four pieces.

I preshaped each piece into an oval, then let them rest while the oven finished preheating. This allowed the gluten to relax and made them easier to shape.

In the meantime, I prepared a small bowl of water and got out some black sesame seeds.

Once the dough had relaxed a bit and the oven was good and hot, I began shaping the naan. I made one at a time. First, I pressed the dough out with wet fingertips. I dipped my hands in water every few seconds to get the dough good and wet.

Next, I gently lifted the dough over my hands and stretched it out. Finally, I sprinkled the naan liberally with black sesame seeds.

I lifted the naan off the work surface and gently moved it to the oven. It only took about five minutes to bake, since the oven and tiles were so hot.

As you can see, my naan came out kind of funny shaped. I had stretched it too long and had to make it fit on the tiles. Hence, the shmoo-shaped naan. This was fine, as naan is a rustic bread that is served by placing the whole piece in the center of the table and letting everyone tear off hunks to eat.

The naan was delicious. Light, crisp, and just a little bit yeasty. The thinner parts were almost like a cracker, while the thicker sections were soft and pillowy.

I served the Persian naan with butter chicken for a delicious and satisfying dinner.

This recipe was fun to make and wonderful to eat. Definitely a repeat.

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