Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Creme Brulee-Tuesdays with Dorie

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It's time for Tuesdays with Dorie again! Gosh,it seems like Tuesday was just yesterday. The weekend was a blur and here I am on a Monday afternoon frantically trying to get the photos of the Creme Brulee so I can write the post for tomorrow. Mari of Mevrouw Cupcake chose a classic dessert, Creme Brulee which is de rigueur on dessert menus in many upscale restaurants.

I have made some version of the Creme Brulee many times, but have almost always used the water bath method of baking the creamy concoction. Dorie doesn't use the water bath method in her Creme Brulee recipe and also bakes the creme brulee at a lower temperature, 200°F. I made two batches once in a standard ramekins, plus two espresso cups and another time in a shallow pan as the recipe instructions suggested. Despite the difference in the size and depth of each baking pan, the baking times were way over 60 minutes, 90 minutes or more. The individual ramekins were cooled and chilled in the refrigerator, but with the one shallow dish, I set it over a pan of ice and chilled it. It firmed up very nice. In essence, I'm not sure it matters what dish you bake the Creme Brulee in, it will turn out the same.

Not having a torch to caramelize the sugar topping, I set the chilled ramekins and the espresso cups on a bed of ice and ran them under the broiler until lightly browned. The added sugar really enhanced the Creme Brulees and cracking through the caramelized sugar topping was quite a thrill. I will make these again, but will use the water bath method and increase the heat to 275°. Old habits are hard to break when it comes to cooking.

As you can see, I wasted no time eating the creme brulees. Visit MevrouwCupcake for the recipe and the TWD blogroll for other cracking good (no pun intended) Creme Brulees.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Grilled Bread with Mediterranean Chopped Salad

Print Friendly and PDF “If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.”
Robert Browning (1812-1889) English poet

Grilled Bread with Mediterranean Chopped Salad
This is my entry in the Click photography contest whose theme for September is "Crusts". If you haven't heard of "Click", visit Bee and Jai's blog, Jugalbandi. A great read and a great theme based photography contest.

Flatbreads were probably one of the first breads to be cooked on earth and had no leavening agents such as yeast or other ingredients that would encourage the bread dough to expand. Wild yeast spores were probably a happy surprise later on in the evolution of flatbreads from flat, nearly tasteless to enriched, flavorful bread beautifully puffed from the wild yeast. Thousands of years ago, grains were the predominate crop and ancient man learned to harvest these grains, grind them into flour and mix with water to make a dough. The dough was then spread out and cooked on a flat hot rock. The flatbread we are most familiar with is the pizza, but every culture has it's own unique version of a flatbread. In Mexico, there's the tortilla, Navajo fry bread in the American Southwest, and pita or pocket bread in the countries of the Middle East and the Mediterranean. These are just a few, there are many more variations. In other words, flatbreads are worldwide, leavened or unleavened, baked, stuffed, fried or grilled.

Inspiration for the Grilled Bread with Mediterranean Chopped Salad came from Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid's recipe for Silk Road Non featured in their book "Home Baking, The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition Around the World" and a recipe for Chopped Mediterranean Salad on Grill Bread from Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby's new book, "Barbecue".

Not being able to resist playing around with the Silk Road Non recipe, I substituted some semolina for part of the flour, baked half according to directions, but saved the remaining dough to cook on the Weber gas grill. I added some oregano and a small diced hot pepper to the Chopped Mediterranean Salad,
Below is a photo of the baked Silk Road Non served with a vibrant Tomato Chutney.
Baked Silk Road Non with Tomato Chutney

Grilled Bread with Mediterranean Chopped Salad

Silk Road Non

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 cups warm water
7-9 cups all-purpose flour, or 2 cups whole wheat flour, plus 4-6 cups all-purpose. (I used 1 cup semolina and the rest all-purpose, but next time will use more semolina)
1 tablespoon salt
4 tablespoons butter

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the 3 cups water. Add 2 cups flour and 1 cup semolina or the whole wheat flour, if using. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer and on low speed, combine ingredients until a smooth batter is formed. Cover bowl and let sit 30 minutes or up to 3 hours.

Stir in the 1 tablespoon salt. Add 3 tablespoons of the melted butter and fold in. Continue to add remaining flour, one cup at a time until dough is too stiff to mix.

Switch to kneading paddle and knead for 8-10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. You may need to add some additional flour if dough is sticky, but just a little at a time.

Place dough in a large clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume, at least 2 hours, or in cool place for 8 hours, or overnight.

Arrange rack in upper third of the oven and place a large baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles. If you don't have the stone or tiles, use a baking sheet. Preheat oven to 500° F.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Cut in half and set one half aside, covered with a cloth or plastic wrap. Cut remaining dough into 6 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball, then flatten with palm. With a rolling pin, roll each piece into 8 inch diameter rounds. It helps to quarter turn each piece to assure roundness. You can roll two pieces at a time, giving one time to relax while you roll the other. After rolling each piece, set aside on a floured surface and cover with a towel. Continue with second piece of dough if you don't plan to grill the remaining half. Let rest 15 minutes before baking.

To prepare the breads for baking, warm remaining tablespoon of butter until liquid. Lightly dust a peel with flour or semolina. Place a dough round on the peel, prick the centers with a fork leaving about 1 inch around the rim of the dough. Brush with small amount of butter.Sprinkle with a small amount of kosher salt and or a small amount of crushed red pepper. Don't overdo either.

Open oven door and slide the first bread onto the stone. Bake 5 1/2-7 minutes until "well-flecked with gold". Using a long-handled spatula, lift bread off of stone and place on rack to cool for 5 minutes or so. Place in a cloth until ready to serve. If you have a large stone, you can cook two at a time. Continue baking remaining breads in the same manner.

To grill the bread rounds

Prepare dough in the same manner as above. Omit butter for brushing, but have nearby 3 tablespoons olive oil. Preheat a gas grill on medium or light briquets for a charcoal grill. You can also use a heavy ridged pan and grill these on the stove top. If you are using the stove top, preheat pan for 5 minutes. Make sure your grill racks are perfectly clean before grilling breads.

When ready to grill, brush each round on both sides with a small amount of olive oil and place on grill rack. Watch carefully, you may need to adjust the heat. Place rounds on grill rack and cook until nice and toasted on one side, about 4 minutes. Flip and grill on the other side until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes more. Repeat with each round.

Mediterranean Chopped Salad

2 medium large tomatoes, cored, seeds removed and diced small
1 large cucumber, halved, seeds removed and diced small
6 ounces kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and coarsely diced
1/2 small hot green or red pepper, seeded, ribs removed and diced small
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumber, olives, hot pepper, parsley, and oregano. In a separate bowl, whisk together olive oil and red wine vinegar. Add just enough of the dressing to the chopped salad, tossing lightly until evenly mixed.. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve. Fold the crumbled feta cheese into the chopped salad. Place a grilled bread round on each plate and top with a portion of the salad. Serve immediately. Serves 4-8.

Grilled Bread with Mediterranean Chopped Salad

See Grilled Bread with Mediterranean Chopped Salad on Key Ingredient.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lavash with Creamy Avocado Chipotle Dip-A Daring Baker Challenge For September

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Gosh, I almost forgot about this month's Daring Baker challenge! I've just now recovered from my ten day trip to visit friends in England so began seriously deciding what I would cook for the Fall which, by the way, is my favorite time of the year. Somehow I thought that this Daring Baker challenge was a week away instead of a day away. Baking bread really gets me excited and I couldn't miss the chance to make Lavash.

I was going to Savannah for the weekend so hopped out of bed early Friday morning to make the dough for the cracker-type flatbread known by many different names in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine, but shares the basic premise in that the dough is flattened out before baking. Flatbreads were on my mind. This past week, I made a flatbread from one of my favorite cookbooks by the brilliant team of Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, so I was in the bread making zone.

The Lavash recipe that Shelly of Veganfish and Natalie of Glutenagogo, hosts for the September challenge, chose for us was a simple, no frills dough with flour, yeast, salt, sugar, a little oil and water. A gluten-free choice was given and a dip of our choice for the crackers as long as the ingredients were vegan. Perfectly ripe avocados were waiting to be transformed into some sort of dip, but I had to make sure that the ingredients follow the vegan rules. Looking at recipes on the Internet, I found a vegan sour cream using silken tofu as a substitute for sour cream. I had found my dip so got to work making the vegan sour cream to blend with the avocados. Red onion and chipotles en adobo added extra flavor and some heat to the dip. Toasted cumin seeds were used to top the crackers before baking.

A great challenge! Lavash will be an important bread in my baking repertoire.


Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.


2. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.


4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Creamy Avocado Chipotle Dip
Ripe avocados bought in a grocery store sometimes have bruises and bad spots on them which is why I buy my avocados rock hard about a week before I plan to make guacamole. They ripen much better without being tossed about and dropped in the produce section. Once they ripen, if I'm not using them immediately, I'll store them uncovered in the refrigerator for a few days. When in a pinch and you have to buy your avocados the day you plan to make the guacamole, be sure to check for bruises and give them a sniff to make sure they don't smell sour.


2 ripe avocados, cut in half, seed removed and flesh coarsely chopped
2 tablespoon freshly squeeze lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped chipotles en adobo
1/2 cup vegan sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, process avocados, lime juice, vegan sour cream and chopped onion until smooth. Add chopped chipotles en adobo and salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 1 1/2 cups dip.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dimply Plum Cake-Tuesdays with Dorie

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Michelle over at Bake-en chose the Dimply Plum Cake, a great dessert to kick off Fall. I love all the variations of color in the different varieties of the plum family. My grocery store had pluots, called dinosaur plums, which are a cross between an apricot and a plum, black plums, a variety of red plum and prune plums. While the large plums looked very nice nestled in the cake, I chose the prune plum for it's small size and black, purple color. The prune plums were quite easy to pit by cutting through the seam to halve them and rotating the plum slightly enabled the pit to be easily removed.

When selecting plums, look for good color, no bruises or spots with a slight firmness when lightly pressed. Avoid over ripe plums as well as plums that are too hard. Store plums at room temperature until they are ripe, then store ripened plums in the refrigerator until ready to use.

As Dorie suggested, you can use many different stone fruits to make this simple cake. The cake is quite dense and should be eaten the day it is made as it tends to dry out quickly. An apple glaze brushed on top of the cooled cake gave it a nice sheen and added a little more sweetness to the cake. The whipped topping is a combination of sweetened whipped cream and sour cream, similar to a creme fraiche. The topping has more depth than just plain whipped cream and I use it frequently to top fruit desserts. Be sure to check out all the lovely Dimply Plum Cakes on the TWD site. Michelle will have the full recipe on her blog, Bake-En. Or you can buy the book, "Baking From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops -Tuesdays with Dorie

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As you read this, we will be battling jet lag driving to Southern England, Wimborne area, to stay with our dear British friends. We plan on doing lots of day trips, going to antique stores to find some cool props for my food photography, having pub lunches and taking lots of photos. If I could, I would have take these Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops with me, that is, if there had been any left. They went as fast as the Chunky Peanut Butter Oatmeal and Chocolate Chip ones from last Tuesday's post. Rachel of Tangerine Tart chose this triple chocolate cookie loaded with chopped malted milk balls. Another great cookie from Dorie's book, "Baking From My Home to Yours."

After gathering all of my ingredients, the cookie dough came together in minutes. One of the secrets about baking these cookies is the rotation of the two pans from top to bottom and from back to front after half the baking time. By doing this, you are assured that the cookies bake evenly. The cookies freeze well if you have any left, but also keep 3 or 4 days in a tightly covered container.

Check out all the TWD posts on this little gem of a cookie. Rachel has the recipe on her blog.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters-Tuesdays with Dorie

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With the Labor Day weekend being our last big holiday of the summer, the Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters that Stefany over at Proceed With Caution selected for her Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was a perfect cookie for our boating picnic on Saturday. I made and photographed mine before going to visit our daughter and family near Chattanooga, Tennessee. The cookies were nearly gone before we left for the hour trip to Center Hill Lake where the water is deep, cool, crystal clear and the trees and craggy mountain tops rise to the sky.

I didn't play around much with this recipe, but did add unsalted peanuts to enhance the chunky peanut butter taste. I was pleased with the extra crunch the peanuts gave to the cookie. If you are looking for cookie that most everyone would like, these cookies will fill the bill. Just put them in a cookie jar as Dorie suggests and they will disappear very quickly. You can get the recipe from Stefany's blog or better still, buy Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking From My Home to Yours". It's an overall great book with recipes that will be classics in your family.

A short post this Tuesday as I am off to Savannah to "batten down the hatches" at our weekend home in preparation for Hurricane Hanna and very much hoping that she will pass us by and not jeopardize our trip to Southern England this coming Monday.
Gadget by The Blog Doctor.