Friday, July 22, 2011

Hamelman's Olive Levain as Fougasse (Mellow Baker's: July)

Usually after a day of baking our sandwich bread, I'm breaded out for a couple days and don't feel like baking the next day, but this week I found a little extra energy Wednesday night to mix up my liquid levain for the olive bread.  I wasn't so sure we'd like this bread because of all the olives, but I was excited to try shaping the bread as fougasse.  I figured I would be thrilled if I could accomplish that, and wouldn't be upset if I didn't like the taste of the olives.

After looking everywhere, I finally found a jar of the nicoise olives at a store here in town that carries alot of gourmet type specialty items.  I looked at the itsy bitsy olives in the jar and knew they probably contained pits, but I thought no problem, I'll just squeeze them one by one and the pit will just pop right out.  Wrong!!  I waited until the morning to open the jar of olives and pulled out the first one.  Well, I squeezed and squeezed and managed to squirt juice on myself, but no pit popped out.  So, at 7 am in the morning, I'm sitting in my PJ's at the kitchen table, using a small paring knife to carve the olive flesh away from the pits of these olives.  After pitting all the olives I dumped them into my bowl to weigh them and found I only had 2 1/2 oz and I needed 4.  Aaaargh!  So after some debate, I trudged off to the grocery store and scooped 8-10  olives out of the Mediterranean mix at the olive bar there.  I went home and pitted these and dumped them into my bowl and had exactly 4 oz.

I was really nervous about just using Lucky, my starter, to leaven this bread.  This was another reason I was anxious to try this bread.  I've not had much success using my sourdough starter in breads containing no commercial yeast.  I resisted the urge to add just a pinch of instant yeast, and hoped Lucky would work its magic. 

I let my liquid levain sit on the counter almost a full 16 hours, and during the bulk fermentation of 2 1/2 hours I folded the dough once.  It didn't rise a huge amount during the fermentation, but there was definitely alot of gas bubbles in the dough when I folded and shaped it.  After bulk fermentation, I shaped the dough into a rough round and covered it for 15 minutes.  Then, using the rolling pin, I flattened the round into an oblong shape.  I brushed it with a little olive oil, and covered it again for an hour. 

After the hour was up, I stretched the dough, shaped it into a triangle and used my pizza wheel to cut the slits into the dough.  (I put a piece of cardboard under the parchment while I was cutting my slits so as not to slit my mat or peel.)

To open up the slits, I stretched the dough from the sides a bit, and then stuck my fingers right into each slit and opened them up nice and big, so that when it baked the holes wouldn't close back up.

I slid the fougasse onto the baking stone and baked with steam at 450° for 20 minutes and took it out to cool.  I was so happy with the way it looked coming out of the oven.  I even thought for a moment about just hanging it on the wall in the kitchen as a decoration instead of eating it. 

Hubby and I were both a little apprehensive about this bread, not knowing what to expect flavor wise.  We've grown up on those squishy, kind of tasteless really, California black olives from the cans and not really experienced the taste of a good olive.  We have however tasted one other type of olive quite a bit and thats the kalamata, which we both rather detest, especially me.  Its just so bitter that I can't stand eating them on salads, etc. 

Surprisingly, the bread was good.  There were a lot of olives and you definitely did get a taste of them in every bite.  The olives were slightly bitter, but with a little butter smeared on, it was quite tasty.  It was chewy like sourdough, had good sourdough flavor and the crumb was way better than any of my past sourdough attempts.  I think this qualified as a sourdough success.  Yea :)

I've been reading everything I can stumble upon regarding fougasse lately, to get an idea of the different recipes out there.  I've seen some different slit patterns and I think I'd like to try one of the recipes with no olives, but with cheese and lots of herbs.  That seems to be a popular way to do fougasse, besides the olive and anchovie option.

I feel bad that this bread didn't turn out so well for some of the others, but maybe it's worth another try, and if you're not an olive fan, just substitute some dried herbs and sprinkle on your favorite cheese and definitely try shaping it into the classical 'leafy' looking fougasse.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Raspberry Almond Tartlets: Modern Baker Challenge

I was snooping around on the Modern Baker Challenge site a couple weeks ago, and I noticed that it looked like one of the tartlets from the Sweet Tarts and Pies section didn't get taken by anybody to make.  I thought it would be a shame if nobody made those wonderful sounding tartlets.  Actually I didn't have the book at the time (I later got it from the library), so I couldn't even look at the recipe, but how could something called raspberry almond tartlets not be scrumptious.  I timidly typed a message saying I would bake them if no one else had claimed them.  Yea!, Phyl responded and said he had assigned them to me.  I was so excited to be baking & posting about something other than bread.

It was the perfect tartlet recipe, as it called for almond paste, raspberries and sugar, several of my favorite ingredients.  As luck would have it, I had exactly 4 ounces of almond paste in the freezer in a glass jar that was left over from a previous baking project.  I used Smucker's Simply Fruit (Raspberry) for the seedless raspberry preserves called for in the recipe.

The crust for these tartlets was made from the Sweet Tart Dough recipe found on page 160 of Malgieri's book The Modern Baker.   I made the dough the day before the tarts, although I wondered how long the dough was required to be refrigerated before you could use it.  This was only the second time I had used my old Hamilton Beach food processor to make a dough.  I'm amazed at how easy it is to put dough together with a food processor.  It's not so fun to wash all the nooks and crannies of the processor bowl later, but I think it's worth it to save the time.  It only took maybe 10 mintues to put the dough together using the food processor. 

Into the fridge the disk of dough went until the next day....

Before working with the dough, I read very carefully page 162 in his book re: rolling tartlet crusts, because I knew this dough could be hard to work with if I didn't do it correctly.

They should mention in this section, I think, that when you go to knead the cold dough that it will break and crumble a bit at first, before you're actually able to knead it.  But it did soften in my warmish hands, and after it did, I flattened it and used my pastry scraper to divide it into 3 pieces. 

Rolling out the dough and cutting the 24 circles was the most time-consuming part of the whole recipe, taking me maybe 45 minutes to do.  I put the tartlet pan full of dough circles back into the fridge for 45 minutes to chill before finishing.
The almond filling for the tartlets was very simple to mix up, using the food processor again.  I bought a package of Driscoll organic raspberries that contained HUGE berries.  The berries were so large that I laid them on their sides inside the little crustlets and squished them down slightly.  Just for fun, to see if they would be any different, I put a frozen raspberry into four of the tartlet crusts.  However, when I took all of the tartlets out of the pan to arrange on a rack to cool, I forgot which ones had the frozen berries.  Ooops, oh well, they've all tasted wonderful so far so I don't see why you couldn't use frozen berries in the winter.

There was plenty of the almond filling so I put more than 1 scant teaspoon into each crust.  It was probably closer to 2 teaspoons into each tartlet.  I was running low on sliced almonds, and that's why each tartlet isn't completely covered in almond slices, but I think they were just so delicious it didn't matter.

I'm glad it was nearing the end of the day, because I could have kept eating and eating these little things.  So very good with tea or coffee!  I think these would be a great hit at any family gathering, or baby shower or bridal shower.  They do take a bit of time, but are worth it for the raspberry & almond lovers out there.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Potato Bread with Roasted Onions (Mellow Bakers: July)

I was really happy when I saw that for July we would be making a bread that revisited the roasted potato theme, one that I missed before I joined the group.  I figure I don't even have to go back and try the Roasted Potato Bread recipe, because this one is much better with roasted onions included.

I used the recommended Yukon gold potatoes for my potato and for the onion I chose to use a Vidalia.  I've been buying these at the farmer's market the past few weeks even though they are not grown local.  I figure they've got to be slightly fresher than the Vidalia's at the supermarket.  In case anyone's not familiar with these, they are a variety of sweet onion that is grown in a certain geographical production area defined by law in the state of Georgia.  Supposedly it is an unusually sweet variety of onion due to the low sulfur content of the soil in which it is grown in that part of Georgia.  Anyway they are super onions grilled, roasted whatever. 

I roasted my onions and potato the day before, as suggested.  I diced the potato up into maybe a half inch dice to roast and I sliced my onion thin to roast it.  After roasting they went into their own tupperware containers and sat in the fridge overnight and my pate fermentee sat on the counter overnight.

I was a little concerned about the water content of the onions the next morning, so I was skimpy on the water when adding it to the other ingredients, maybe leaving out a tablespoon or two.  The dough was stiff before adding the onions so I wasn't too worried at that point.  I think, on looking back now, that I should have put the onion on paper towels or something to try to absorb some of the excess moisture before putting them into the mixer bowl.  I did my kneading of all the other ingredients, and then put in the onions at the end to just incorporate.  Well, after adding the onion, the dough became a sloppy mess.  It wouldn't incorporate in the mixer even with adding a bit of flour.  I dumped the whole thing onto my silicone mat and painstakingly worked much more flour into the wet dough.  Ughh, it was a pain trying to work with the dough.  I finally quit adding more flour, because it seemed like a lot that I was adding.  I was hoping after fermentation that the dough would slurp up some of the excess moisture. 

After the 1 1/2 hours of bulk fermentation the dough seemed pretty slack and wasn't rising a whole lot so I folded it a second time and let it ferment an additional 30 minutes.

The dough was still pretty sticky, but I managed to shape it into a 1.5 lb boule and a mini-baguette.  I hadn't done the baguette shape in awhile and figured I better get some more practice.  The baguette shape sounds so simple and I can follow the pictures in the book, but it is so awkward to do when you actually go to do it yourself. 

Luckily, both the boule and baguette fit on my stone together.  I didn't get much oven spring from either loaf, but they looked pretty.  I took the baguette out of the oven after about 25 minutes and the boule after about 30 minutes.

The bread smelled up the house so wonderfully as it baked, especially the sweet onion scent.   Hubby was home early since they lost power at work and everyone was sent home.  After sitting upstairs the whole time it baked and smelling it, he began begging for some the minute I showed him the finished loaves.  I told him it must cool, and so he patiently waited a short time and then begged again.  I gave in and we tried a slice or two before dinner.  I quickly forgot my kneading/shaping frustrations, when I tried this bread.  It was soft, with a slightly chewy crust, and the sweetness from the onion permeated every bite.  It didn't even need butter; I just ate it plain.

We polished off the rest of the baguette for dinner with the Southwestern Chicken Black Bean Soup I made, and the leftover roasted potato got tossed into the soup, which made it even better.

We couldn't really see any of the onion or potato in the slices of the bread, maybe because I diced up the onion in small pieces before adding it to the dough, I'm not sure, but believe me you could taste the onion!
 This is such a wonderful bread that I know will get made again, especially during winter soup weather.  I am anxious to see how everyone else baking along with mellow bakers, does with this bread in July.