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Friday, October 23, 2015

The Crust that Shatters


Every now and then, I discover something earth shattering totally by accident. And, I must say, what a wonderful bit of serendipity this discovery was! Over the years, I have made a lot of bread of many different types. I have posted about french baguettes and boules, and most recently about high-hydration artisan loaves. In all that time, I was rarely able to obtain the really shattering crust for which I was looking. Oh, sure, occasionally it happened (with my almost no knead recipe in particular- now I know why!), but it was never consistent. The crust mostly just came out... hard. It might be crisp, but it wasn't shattering.

If you don't know what I mean by shattering, then you are missing out on the best the bread world has to offer. It's a delicate crispness that only lasts while the loaf is fresh, but is one of the best reasons to ignore prudence and jump into that loaf before it's fully cooled. Shatter is truly the world for it because the second you start to bite down on it, the crust breaks into a million flavorful pieces in your mouth. It is divine. It was elusive.

I have been working on a rye boule recipe for some time now. It's just about ready to share with you, but it took a while because there were some issues that had to be dealt with. The biggest issue was that the finished loaf was often gummy. After quite a bit of research, I came to find out that is a particular issue with rye. Apparently, it has more of a certain enzyme that converts starch to sugar, leading to a gummy crumb. The cure? Acidity. And here's where the serendipity came in. The very first time I added citric acid to my loaf, the crust dramatically changed. Not only did that tiny amount of acid fix my gummy crumb, it improved my crust a hundred fold. It was absolutely magical. I have since tried adding a little acid to a variety of artisan type loaves with great success. For a 600 gram flour boule, I use a mere half teaspoon of powdered citric acid. This certainly explains why the almost no knead bread often had that crust - it has vinegar in it, providing some acidity. I suppose you could just add some vinegar to your water when making bread, but I think the consistency the powdered citric acid gives is very nice. In either case, the acid imparts no meaningful flavor to the final product, but, oh, what a difference it makes in the crust!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Lamb Meatballs with Mushroom Gravy


Sometimes I just like to come up with new ways to put fairly normal things together. Meatballs are one of my favorite foods. I've posted about my everyday meatballs, about the Afghani kofta challow I love so much (seasoned meatballs in sauce over rice), meatball soup, and chicken meatballs. Really, in my mind, there is no time when a meatball doesn't seem like a great idea. And, if you've spent any time visiting my blog, you know that I adore gravy, lamb, and spinach. Mushrooms, too. Truly, this recipe is a win-win-win in my book. The flavors go so well together. It's a great one course meal.

Lamb Meatballs with Mushroom Gravy
Serves 4

Meatballs:
1 pound ground ground lamb
1/3 cup dried bread crumbs
1 egg
2 TBS ketchup
1 TBS dried minced onion
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp dried parsley

Mix all ingredients together and form into balls using a 1/3 cup of mixture per meatball. Refrigerate meatballs for one hour before cooking. Cook in a non-stick saute pan with one teaspoon of oil until nicely browned on all sides and cooked through. Use a meat thermometer to be sure of your internal temperature. When the meatballs are only a few minutes away from being cooked through, turn on the spinach to cook. When the meatballs are done, set them in a heavy bowl and cover with foil while preparing the gravy.

Spinach:
16 oz fresh spinach
1/4 cup chicken or beef broth

Bring broth to a simmer in a large pot. Add the spinach, tossing regularly until it is all wilted through. Remove from the heat and set aside until ready to serve. Can be kept warm in a low oven if desired.

Mushroom Sauce:
1 pint button or cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 tsp minced garlic
3 TBS Madeira (a fortified wine available in many grocery stores)
3 TBS heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
salt and pepper to taste

Drain off all but one tablespoon of fat from the meatball pan. Return to heat and saute the mushrooms, shallots, and garlic until nicely browned and softened. Add the Madeira to deglaze the pan. Add the cream and milk, stirring thoroughly. Cook through, adding the salt and pepper to taste.

To put the dish together, place a nice helping of the wilted spinach in the bottom of a pasta bowl. Spoon a large spoonful of the gravy over the top and then serve out 2-4 meatballs, depending on the individual's appetite. Serve immediately and enjoy!





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