Monday, July 4, 2011

BBA #13a: Poolish Focaccia, Pizza-Style

BBA Pizza-style focacciaThe leftover poolish from the poolish baguettes did end up in focaccia, pizza-style. I had enough poolish for a half-recipe of focaccia, which made 2 nice thick-crust (focaccia, after all) pizzas of about 9" diameter. The dough was mixed up yesterday (it took about 3 tablespoons of added flour to get the dough to clean the bowl), then came the stretch-and-fold, rise, stretch-and-fold bits before I split my dough in two, shaped the pieces into rounds, and put them in the fridge.

BBA Pizza-style focacciaToday the rounds came out of the fridge onto the counter, and got pulled into circles for pizza crusts. The directions say to do this with your fingertips, not your palm, and that's what I did, though I must say the result still looked pretty deflated. I spread a generaous tablespoon of herb oil (basil, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, and parsley, all from the garden) on top, then added walnuts and kalamata olives to one and jarred minced roasted garlic to both as "pre-proof" toppings. Let me interject that the garlic was a poor choice as pre-proof, as the little pieces stayed on the surface and burned in the oven. BBA Pizza-style focacciaBetter go for whole rasted cloves of garlic if you want to add 'em up front. After a couple of hours of rising I added feta with sundried tomatoes and basil to the walnut/olive pizza, and torn prosciutto to the other. They baked on parchment on a stone at 550 degrees, and were done in about 12 minutes. The prosciutto pizza got removed at the 6 minute mark and had a mix of grated asiago and parmesan added to it. I overdid the cheese a little, making it a little weighted down plus definitely beyond the "I don't like cheese" younger niece's tolerance level--but very much to the taste of the cheese-loving older niece. (Nephew is away at summer camp.) YOunger niece made do with the other pizza, after picking off all the identifiable chunks of feta.

BBA Pizza-style focacciaGood pizza, or rather a thin focaccia, and it had better texture than my first round of focaccia. Lots more open holes, good and chewy, etc. For true pizza I like a thin crust, generally, but as a pizza-alternative, this focaccia with extra toppings made a very nice meal.

A Tale of Two (or Three) Strawberry Cakes

For a number of years I made a strawberry cake collected off a flour ad--Martha White, according to my note, back when they were trying to market packages of 2 cups of flour (that being the most common amount needed for recipes, at least according to their market research). The recipe is an oil cake and calls for strawberry Jello and a bag of frozen strawberries, and came out lovely and moist and, pink. I used to think, very pink, until last week. <g>

Strawberry CakeSo, the birthday was coming up, and I had flashbacks to that strawberry cake, but wanted something different. I started out thinking "get away from the Jello" but somehow ended up with an even more artificial look: a strawberry cake I found on Lottie+Doof. It used strawberry jam in the batter, added enough red food coloring to be Red Velvet Cake, then made a cream cheese frosting with more red food coloring and artificial strawberry flavoring. I really don't know why this ended up intriguing me enough to tackle it for my birthday cake, but both the violent color and a desire to use up strawberry jam from my fridge played into it.

Strawberry CakeMy version of the cake was just as on Lottie+Doof, but the frosting called for cups of powdered sugar. I've gone off on that type of frosting, and used Rose's Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting instead, which is cream cheese, a little butter, a touch of sour cream, and melted white chocolate. I had very high cacao white chocolate from Trader Joe's, and used that. I couldn't find artificial strawberry flavoring and used natural. <g> And red food coloring. Lots of it.

Results: it's a good cake, moist like most oil cakes, but doesn't have much strawberry flavor. Same for the frosting, which of course I experimented with--could be both less punch from the natural flavoring, plus the white chocolate asserting itself in competition. The color was....striking, but all in all this one won't be repeated.

Strawberry Summer CakeI still had a strawberry cake fixation, though, and so turned to Smitten Kitchen's Strawberry Summer Cake. It's a simple butter cake batter that is poured into a pie or cake pan (I used a 9" cake pan: a pie plate would have been much easier to serve from), then the top is covered with halved strawberries, sprinkled with sugar, and baked. Simple, lots of strawberry flavor....decidedly not Pink. I did cut back the sugar to 7/8 cup in the batter as Deb mentioned. Strawberry Summer Cake Most of my strawberries sank, unlike Deb's, and I'm wondering if that's another advantage to the pie plate over the cake pan. It can't be called a pretty cake, but I served it with whipped cream with a little strawberry puree mixed in, and it was very good.

I may still pull out the "Simple Strawberry Cake" with Jello recipe and give it another try--I don't recall it being artificial-tasting, and it was certainly moist and good. Be interesting to see how it seems after the RHC bake-through and other incidents in the evolution of my tastebuds.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Lots-of-Ways Banana Cake

Lots of Ways Banana Cake (Made this a week or so ago and found the half-done blog post in my editing program...)

Bananas browning in the fridge (after aging on the counter first)...must be time to bake. I don't have a standard banana bread recipe and need to dig through my and my mother's recipe files in search of one, so for this occasion I went browsing in the cookbook collection. I ended up with Lots-of-Ways Banana Cake from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours, a banana cake with options for the liquid and the mix-ins. Mine ended up with dark rum, sour cream, and coconut, and I made a half recipe to get a 9" round snacking cake--no frosting or other embellishments. In fact, baked in a loaf pan, this could easily be "banana bread".

It's good, nice texture, moist, banana flavor present but not overwhelming. The coconut doesn't lend much flavor, and the shreds (I used the grocery standard Baker's Sweetened Flakes this time) are something of an aggravation as they pull when you try to slice the cake with a less-than-sharp knife. That little problem would be greatly improved by pre-toasting the coconut as the recipe suggests, but which I forgot to do. This isn't a cake where I want dried fruit, but I might try adding toasted pecans next time.

BBA #26: Poolish Baguettes

Poolish baguettesThe poolish baguettes are another of the several recipes for "French bread" variations, this one made with a poolish (another variation on a mix of flour, water, and yeast made ahead, to add flavor) and part whole wheat flour. I made all of the poolish amount, then noticed how little of it was needed for the baguette recipe. What to do? The only other thing in the book calling for a poolish is a variation on foccacia--perhaps I'll try a half recipe of it this weekend, as pizza. The tail end of the poolish is (hopefully) fermenting on the counter to become sourdough pancakes.

I debated making a half recipe of the baguettes. I probably should have not only for cutting down on the amount of carbs in the house, but also because my baking stone is small for three baguettes which have to be somewhat fat to fit on the short stone. But I went ahead with the full recipe and managed in one baking, though the longest baguette hung off the edge (but surprisingly didn't burn) .

Another interesting direction in this recipe is to sift the whole-wheat flour through a fine sieve to reduce the amount of bran. I got a good bit of bran from my whole-wheat flour (the bran went into the prospective pancake batter). This is about a half-whole-wheat recipe, all to the good for my family, as we tend to eat more whole wheat and multigrain than white breads.

That done, the recipe proceeded more or less as usual, mixing flour, salt, yeast, water and the poolish, and machine kneading. I added the full 10 ounces of water then a little more to get an almost-sticky dough as specified. The dough rose rapidly--the first "2-hour rise" took about an hour and a half, the second an hour and 15 minutes.

I cut the dough into thirds and proceeded to shaping. I'm still working on the baguette shaping technique--the video Chris found helped, though I only folded mine twice and didn't elongate the loaves much due to the short baking stone issue. The loaves baked up very prettily. They got a little curved in the rush to slide them onto the hot stone from awkward angles as the oven rack doesn't pull very far out of the oven, my peel is too short for baguettes, and of course I wanted to minimize the heat loss from the open oven. 'Sall right, the shape didn't hurt the taste.

Poolish baguettesWhat about that taste? Trust is more chewy than crackly--I think I'd like it crisper, and don't know if that is inherent to this recipe or if it is more an issue with the baking technique. Partly both, I suspect. The bread has a nice texture, but not many large holes, and a good flavor. The wholewheat definitely improves things in my book flavor-wise. We ate it with herbs and olive oil, making a great accompaniment to the dinner of grilled shrimp and sausages my sister-in-law fixed.

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