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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Peasant Loaf

The sad news is that we have been "moved in" for over a month and I still am not done putting everything away. This is the slowest unpack job I have ever completed. Usually, I am done in less than a week. Granted, there are a few extenuating circumstances this time... like the fact that this townhouse has almost no storage (where am I going to put everything?), and that we just got word that we will be moving again next summer (hard to get motivated to unpack at that rate), and, lastly, because I'm becoming a little rotund (makes bending over and hauling boxes challenging). That's right, I'm in the family way. This is our first - and I tell you - it's been a whole new world, especially for a girl who's used to doing everything herself.

But I have made time to play in the kitchen. Unfortunately, most of what I've been working on takes a few tries before I feel confident enough in the recipe to share it with you. Take this bread, for instance. Today was probably the fifth or sixth time I've made it in the last month and a half and I only now feel good enough about the recipe to post it. Now that the trial and error is over, it's time to enjoy! This bread is simple; there are only four ingredients. The crust is crispy, the crumb is moderately soft, and the flavor is perfect. It requires overnight fermenting, but it's very worth it.

The first step is to prepare the pre-ferment. Do this in the evening the day before you want to make bread. Alternately, if you want to have this bread fresh from the oven for dinner, you might be able to start the pre-ferement early in the morning and have enough flavor development. In this case, the fermenting step is almost entirely about flavor development; if you have to proceed before 10-14 hours have passed, so be it. This is what it will look like after you mix the first batch of ingredients. It is fairly easy to mix. It takes me four minutes to put together before I go to bed. Be sure to cover it and leave it out on the counter to work its magic overnight.


The next morning, it will be much bigger and full of bubbles. It will also have a distinctly ferment-y smell with a definite alcohol aroma. If you can't make the bread before lunch, then place the pre-ferment in the refrigerator until you are ready later in the day.


To finish the dough, add the remaining ingredients (except the salt) and mix with a paddle until it comes together, then switch to the dough hook. Knead on speed 2 (KitchenAid) for five minutes. Turn off the mixer and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let it sit for 15-20 minutes. After this rest period, start the mixer back up and slowly add the salt so that it mixes in well. Continue kneading until the dough passes the windowpane test. This can take a while... much longer than you might think, in fact. If you or your machine needs to rest during the kneading period, no problem, cover and let it sit. Fortunately, this rest period helps to develop the dough as well. To get a good windowpane could take anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes after you add the salt. I know, I know. That's a lot of kneading! But it is very worth it. After the dough is ready, place it in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about an hour.


After the dough has risen, dump it on the counter and press it flat to get most of the air bubbles out. This can be a very gassy dough, so be prepared. If you handle it too much, the gluten can get a bit grumpy; if this happens, simply let the bread sit ten minutes before you try and shape it. Once you get this initial shape, roll it up and pinch the seams together to form a fat log (batard) shape.


Place the batard on a sheet pan lined with parchment. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise again. This time, let it get really puffy... almost tripled in volume. It took mine only a little over an hour this morning. I tell you, my dough was hopping!


When the dough is almost tripled, begin preheating the oven to 450 F with a terra cotta saucer on the bottom rack. This saucer is our steaming mechanism. When the oven is ready, heat 1/3 cup of water to a boil and then slice the top of the loaf. In my post on baguettes, I talked about slicing loaves using a razor. I have since found the light. Why didn't anyone tell me the true trick is to use a serrated knife? What a difference! You still want to make sure your knife is wet so that it doesn't drag through the dough too badly, but it makes gorgeous slices this way. Cut three deep parallel slices into the loaf. Cut at a slight angle from the long axis. Spray the sliced loaf with cold water and place in the oven. Immediately add the 1/3 cup of hot water to the terra cotta saucer. The water will finish evaporating about the time you no longer want steam in the oven, so it's very convenient.


Bake at 450 F for 25-30 minutes, or until the inside of the loaf reaches between 200 and 205 degrees F. I use a thermometer to be sure. Remove from the oven and let cool before slicing. Look at how much additional oven spring this loaf had!


As for storage, if the loaf will not be finished the first day, wrap it in a flour sack towel to keep it fresh overnight. This keeps the bread from drying out too much without redistributing the moisture from the crumb to the crust. Wrapped in a towel, you will still have a decent crust on your loaf the following day. If it will take you longer than that to eat it, you'll want to store it in an airtight bag or container.


Peasant Loaf
Yield: one large (1 1/2 to 2 lb) loaf

For the pre-ferment:
2 cups bread flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 cup warm water

Mix these three ingredients together in a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter overnight (or at least 10 hours).

For the dough:
all of the pre-ferment
1 1/2 cup bread flour
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients except for the salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with a paddle attachment until the dough comes together and then switch to a dough hook. Knead on low speed (KitchenAid speed 2)  for five minutes. Turn off the mixer, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel, and let sit for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Uncover the bowl and begin kneading again. Slowly add the salt so that it incorporates evenly. Continue kneading until the dough passes the windowpane test. This can take quite a while, anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes. If you or the mixer needs a break, simply cover the dough and let it sit 5-10 minutes before proceeding.

When the dough is ready, place it in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise at room temperature until doubled (about an hour). Dump the dough out onto the counter and press it flat into a rectangle. Knock out the gas and then roll up into a batard shape. Pinch the seams together. Place seam side down on a parchment lined sheet pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until nearly tripled (about another hour or so).

When the dough is almost ready, preheat the oven to 450 F with a terra cotta saucer on the bottom rack and heat up 1/3 cup of water. When the oven is preheated, make three parallel slices deep (3/4" to 1" deep) into the bread with a wetted serrated knife. Spray the loaf with cold water. Place the bread in the oven and pour the heated water into the saucer. Close the oven door and let bake undisturbed fr 25-30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 200-205 F. A thermometer is the most accurate way to check. Remove from the oven and let cool completely,

NOTE: If you just can't handle kneading the dough as long as it might take to pass the windowpane test, it's not the end of the world. The texture of the finished loaf will not quite be the same and the loaf may not get as large, but it will still be very tasty!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Strawberry Margarita Jelly


It's getting to be that time of year again. That time when I start to cook, and bake, and stockpile all sorts of assorted yummies to give as gifts. Some gifts need to be made right before they are given, but jams and jellies are wonderful in that you can make them in advance and pull them out of the pantry at the last moment.

I made this jelly before as a plain margarita jelly, and while it turned out well, I prefer to drink strawberry margaritas, so I wondered how a jelly would turn out. Oh my! It's beautiful and so reminiscent of a strawberry margarita. It's got a hint of the strawberry with a tart lime back. You can taste the tequila, but it's not overwhelming and the booziness has burned off. The other nice thing about this jelly is that you can basically make it year round. You just need a couple of clam shells of strawberries, limes, a little booze, and a packet of liquid pectin.

The first thing to do is prepare the strawberry juice. The recipe calls for one cup of clear strawberry juice and one cup of lime juice. If you want your jelly flavored more with strawberries and less with lime, you can adjust the proportions by up to half (i.e. max of 1 1/2 cup strawberry juice to 1/2 cup lime).

To prepare the strawberries, wash and hull them. Then cut them into small pieces. Measure out the sugar into a bowl and then use some of it, maybe 1/2 cup, to help get the strawberries juices flowing. In this bowl, the strawberries have only been macerating for a couple of minutes and look at all the juice that has formed already!


Once they get a good start, you can pour the strawberries into a cheesecloth lined colander over a measuring cup. Let the strawberries drip until you reach the correct amount of juice. Try not to press the fruit too much or you'll end up with jelly that is a little cloudy. For the best juice clarity, let it drip slowly through a muslin bag or a coffee filter.


When you have the correct amount of strawberry juice, it's time to juice the limes. Lime juice becomes bitter on standing, so you'll want to juice them right before you are ready to make the jelly. These were pretty good sized limes and they each gave about 1/4 cup of juice, so I used four. Strain the lime juice like you did the strawberry. The good news is that I found the juice you use does not have to be perfectly clear to end up with a beautifully clear jelly. Just do the best you can and call it good.


Once you have the strawberry and lime juice prepared, mix it with the tequila and Triple Sec and heat it over medium heat. Once it is warm, add the sugar and stir until it is completely dissolved. Add the butter and then increase the heat to medium-high. Stir constantly until it reaches a full rolling boil. Add the pectin, return to a full boil, and boil for one minute while stirring. Remove from the heat and immediately ladle into waiting canning jars. Leave 1/4 inch head space and process for 10 minutes (for half-pint jars). Look at that beautiful color!


Strawberry Margarita Jelly
Yield: 5 half-pint jars for canning, plus a little extra
Adapted from Blue Ribbon Preserves by Linda J. Amendt

1 cup of filtered, fresh strawberry juice (from 2 quarts berries)
1 cup of filtered, fresh squeezed lime juice (4 large limes)
1/2 cup tequila
1/4 cup Triple Sec
4 1/2 cups sugar (divided)
1/4 tsp butter
1 (3 ounce) pouch liquid pectin

Wash and hull the strawberries. Chop into small pieces. Stir in 1/2 cup of the sugar and let macerate, stirring occasionally. Once there is a fair bit of juice, dump the strawberries into a cheesecloth lined colander to collect the juice. Filter the juice through a coffee filter or a piece of muslin.

Because lime juice becomes bitter over time, juice the limes right before using. Filter the lime juice through a coffee filter or muslin as well. Mix the juices, tequila, and Triple Sec and heat over medium. Once the liquid is warm, add the rest of the sugar and stir until it is all dissolved. Add the butter.

Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a full, rolling boil. Add the pectin, return to a boil, and stir for one minute. Remove from the heat and skim any foam that formed. Ladle immediately into clean, half-pint jars. Leave 1/4 inch headspace, wipe the rims clean, and put on the lids and bands. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the water for five minutes before removing to cool on a towel lined counter. Letting the jars sit in the water for five minutes makes sure that the jars do not bubble over upon removal from the water. Let jars sit on the counter for 24 hours before removing bands and wiping the jars clean before storing.

NOTE: If you would prefer to make a traditional margarita jelly, simply substitute water for the strawberry juice. For a nice color, mix one drop of green food coloring with 2 TBS of water and add a little at a time until you get a hue you like. Color is best added after dissolving the sugar and before ramping the heat up.



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Corej Chicken Marinade

I am so excited to share this recipe with you. I originally had it at a friend's cookout and immediately had to ask for the recipe (thus, I have no idea from where it originally came). I then decided to use it to make grilled chicken skewers for that large party I catered a few months back. While I think this dish has the best flavor when cooked over a grill, it's pretty darn good when broiled in the oven too, which is what I did last night. The other trick about this dish is that I think it's absolutely imperative that you use chicken thighs and not breasts. I once used this marinade to make grilled chicken breasts and it just wasn't the same. Don't get me wrong, it was tasty, but after having enjoyed it on the fattier, more flavorful thighs, it was a distinct letdown. 

This marinade will easily cover two to three pounds of meat. It's best if you can let the meat soak for at least 3-4 hours, but it's still delicious when you only have time to give it an hour. The combination of flavors is superb. What's more, I am not a fan of mustard (that's an understatement, mustard is one of three flavors in the world that I simply cannot abide), but I love its addition in this marinade. Not only does it boost the flavor but it helps to emulsify the marinade so that all the flavors meld together. Look at that rich, dark color! Yum!


Corej Chicken Marinade
Yield: enough to marinate 2-3 pounds of meat

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 TBS Dijon style mustard
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1-3 pounds of deboned, skinless chicken thighs

Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together. Trim the meat as desired (either keep in whole pieces or cut into pieces to skewer for satay style) and place in the marinade. Let soak in the marinade, ideally, for 3-4 hours in the refrigerator. 

When ready to cook, prepare the grill or turn on the broiler. Grill over medium high heat or broil 5-6 inches from the element, flipping once. Use a thermometer to be sure the meat is cooked to approximately 160 degrees. 

The Corejs just told me they believe I've adapted the California Marinade recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Barbeque Book, circa 1965. You've gotta love a classic!
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