Monday, April 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Lucy



Today it is my sister's dog Lucy's birthday.  I have been totally smitten with her ever since she was a puppy.  She went through kind of a hard time because she broke her leg when she was only about three months old.  Everyone in my family became super attached to her.


My sister threw her a little birthday party and she asked me to make a cake for the people.  It was a Funfetti cake with lemon curd filling and fluffy white buttercream frosting.  I was having difficulties with my cake baking this weekend, so I was lucky that I was able to get anything that even closely resembled a cake to the party.  Even then, the lemon curd filling make the top layer slide off the bottom once the cake was cut.  I use the Martha Stewart recipe for lemon curd, however, I am concerned that it does not set up properly for me and perhaps I should try a different recipe.  I have made that particular recipe several times and not had a lot of success with it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Variations on a familiar theme

When I was a little girl, the fifth grade was the year you could join the band.  The real band.  Not the plastic recorder band, the real band with real instruments.  There was a day when you go and try out all of the instruments and the band director sort of guides you as to what instrument you should play based on what instrument you can make a noise out of.  I became a flutist.  We each got little purple books with songs to practice each week after lessons.  One of the first songs that we learned was "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."  After that there were songs labeled "Variations on a Familiar Theme" which were just more complex versions of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."  Those versions had slightly more complicated tempo, maybe a few eighth notes mixed in with the quarters and half notes.  Enough variation to make you feel special, like you could play something more complex.

This bread is like that.  I took the wonderful white potato bread recipe I have made a hundred times and jazzed it up, just a little.  Enough to taste more complex than it is.  A little healthier, a little deeper in flavor, but just as wonderful as the original.  I love this bread because is utilizes leftovers, but is just as tasty if you only have instant mashed potatoes.  I made two variations, because I had a lot of leftover mashed potatoes from Easter.  Both have the same directions, the ingredients are just a bit different.

Original
1 cup mashed potatoes
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 eggs
2/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
4-6 cups all-purpose flour

Variation 1
1 cup mashed potatoes
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups water
2 eggs
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 cups all-purpose flour

This variation is very mild.  The only change was the addition of some whole wheat flour, which I always think adds a delicious flavor and a bit of healthiness without sacrificing softness.

Variation 2
1 cup mashed potatoes
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup honey
2/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups water
2 eggs
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

This was the second variation I made and I decided to increase the amount of whole wheat flour to see if the bread would still be as soft.  I also changed the white sugar to honey because I am experimenting with substituting honey for sugar where I can.  In certain things it just is not the same, but it seems to work well in bread.  In this variation, I seemed to need more flour.  I attribute it to the fact that the honey is liquid at room temperature where the sugar is a solid and thus the honey absorbs more flour.

Directions:
Mix ingredients together until all incorporated.  I used the paddle attachment of my KA mixer until it got too firm and then I switched to my dough hook.

Knead with dough hook or by hand until dough is a smooth ball.  I actually like to leave this dough a little sticky at this stage because I always end up incorporating more flour at the second kneading

Allow the dough to raise until double.  Put dough on floured bread board and shape as desired.  I always make this bread in loaf pans.  Its a loaf pan kind of bread.  Allow to raise until it just reaches the top of the pan.

Bake at 400 degrees until done.  This takes about 40-45 minutes with regular sized loaf pans.  I also like to use mini loaf pans which only take about 25 minutes to bake.

Allow to cool and enjoy with some butter or jam as desired.  This bread is quite sweet and I typically enjoy it for breakfast.  I suppose you could use it as a sandwich bread, but it does not hold up particularly well to a lot of weight.


Monday, April 5, 2010

No Knead Bread


I know, I know, everyone has posted about no knead bread.  Up to this point I have ignored all the hype about no knead bread.  To me, it felt like a cop out.  Like I wasn't putting enough effort into the bread by not kneading it, how could it possibly be as good?  But it is GOOD.  Really really good.  I was totally stunned.  This beautiful crusty loaf with a soft chewy middle actually required very little effort on my part.  Now, you do need to do a bit of planning because it is yeast bread and does have more than just one step.  However, your efforts will be rewarded.  This loaf tastes like something from a restaurant.  It is delicious on its own, but puts me over the moon when eaten with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic.

I got this recipe from the April issue of Martha Stewart Living. (Yes, I read the actual magazine...the photographs are just amazing!)  She was doing and interview with Jim Lahey, coauthor of My Bread.  This was the recipe he shared.

No Knead Bread-barely adapted from Martha Stewart Living
12 ounces bread flour
4.3 ounces whole wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 cups room temperature water

Stir ingredients together in a bowl.  Cover and leave at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours.  The next day, lightly knead the dough.  The dough will be stringy and sticky and so it is imperative to flour the bread board that you knead your bread on.  Shape into a boule and allow the dough to raise for another two hours.

Preheat your oven 475 degrees with the Dutch oven inside.  When the oven is sufficiently preheated then roll the dough into the hot Dutch oven.  Bake covered for 30 minutes and then uncovered for an additional 15 minutes.  The color of the crust is a nice dark brown.

Immediately remove the bread from the pan and allow to cool.

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