Friday, December 23, 2011

BBA #39: Stollen

StollenI mostly worked half days this pre-holiday week, using up some of my excess annual leave. This let me tackle the relatively quick stollen during the week instead of waiting for a weekend opportunity. My stollen, like my panettone, has no candied fruit, though I did use some candied orange and lemon peel. (First time I'd ever tried the candied peels, and I won't repeat the experiment--they really are bitter despite being candied, and many times have an unpleasant texture.) My fruit mix was dried tart cherries, chopped dried apricots, and golden raisins. I decided not to add crystallized ginger, though maybe on some other occasion that would be interesting. All that plus another 1/2 cup of mixed fruit went into a plastic container with the brandy and orange extract 4 days before starting the bread. I shook the container regularly to re-distribute the liquid.

Not counting the fruit-soaking, stollen is a one-day bread. The process starts with a yeasty sponge with flour and whole milk, and that sits for an hour until very foamy. The main dough is more flour, a little sugar, cinnamon, salt, then the wet ingredients of butter, the sponge, and an egg. Or half an egg, in my case--I halved the recipe as usual. That dough is mixed, sits for 10 minutes, then the fruit is added. I added very little water to the dough process, maybe a half-ounce, but the fruit was very moist and tipped the balance the other way and I added more than a quarter cup more flour to get a dough that wasn't too sticky to handle. In the process (I machine-knead) the dough got worked enough for the fruits to color the dough.

StollenFirst rise was very slow--I can't see how I could have killed the yeast, so I attribute it to the heavy load of sweet fruit inhibiting the yeast activity. After 2 hours with only a little bit of puffy area showing, I gave up and formed the loaf. The instructions for folding the stollen were pretty baffling even with several photos to illustrate them, but I made some reasonable attempt at the double fold shown. As a lover of almond paste the option to include marzipan or almond paste instead of sliced almonds was the way to go, though that may have complicated my attempts to follow the shaping method--I was using the tube-form marzipan (Odense), that being what was on hand, so I cut the tube in half lengthwise, and rolled half out to the length of my dough. That got tucked into the first fold along with a little additional soaked fruit. For the second fold, I cut a strip off the remaining marzipan, again rolled it to flatten, and tucked it in. My loaf didn't have the fruit spilling out of the folds, but the thing was more or less shaped like the picture.

The second rise was again slow--I gave it an hour and a half, and saw very little increase in size. Finally with the hour getting late, I went ahead and baked it, and the results seem OK to me. The loaf is a little dense with the various fruits, and the marzipan didn't give me the effect I wanted--the larger piece folded as I shaped the loaf and is a thick C-shaped piece in each slice. What I wanted was for the marzipan to meld a little with the bread so I wouldn't get a separate "marzipan bite" in each slice. Maybe almond paste would be softer and integrate better, maybe a superior type of marzipan would, or maybe this just isn't the nature of the beast. If I repeat the stollen, I think I'll go with sliced almonds. <g> Actually, I'll probably go back to the panettone--I liked it better than what I got with the stollen recipe.

BBA #38: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo

Potato, cheddar, and chive torpedoMy other BBA bread from last weekend was the Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo from the Grace Note chapter at the back of the book, a recipe from Tim Decker,one of Reinhart's bread apprentices. The potato part of the name is from mashed potatoes and water from cooking the potatos in the dough, making it a very soft, tender bread. The chives also go in the dough, but the cheddar is sliced thinly and rolled up in the dough to get a spiral, and the loaf is slashed so that the cheese can also bubble out during baking.

A barm is used but there's added yeast as well, making the barm a flavoring agent. The most confusing part of the recipe was another of those "dough should be tacky but not sticky" instructions for the kneading process, this time saying "very tacky". I maintain that tacky means sticky in this context, so finding the line for these breads is tough. The other note on the recipe is that I don't see how the weight and volume measures for the chives can both be correct--for my half recipe I should have used 1/2 ounce or 2 tablespoons of chives per the directions. I started with the weight and realized I'd have well over 1/4 cup of chives if I included all I'd weighed out. I ended up putting in about 3 tablespoons or so.

Potato, cheddar, and chive torpedoThe dough rose enthusiastically on both rises--the barm plus the yeast gave it plenty of lift. I nearly burned the loaf--it got to nearly black on the first interval of the hearth baking, though the internal temp was still low. I covered it with foil to keep it from further darkening, and the finished bread was just very dark brown.

Taste results: it's a bread with that ultra soft potato-bread texture, not a favorite of mine. It had nice crumb, and a very crisp crust from the hearth baking--almost too much with the very soft interior.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

BBA #37: Swedish Rye (Limpa)

Swedish Rye (Limpia)Last weekend was my first back from my vacation (I came home the previous Sunday night, so no weekend at home), and I spent it in my classic nesting activity: cooking. Three different breads, two soups, and other stuff. Oh, and prep for the stollen I plan to bake this week. First bread up, after the weekly challah, was this last rye bread from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, the aniseed-, fennel seed, orange-, and cardamon-flavored Swedish rye. When a search of my many herb and spice bottles failed to find aniseed, I substituted star anise--it was difficult to get it ground with my old blade coffee grinder, but any larger fibrous bits weren't noticeable in the finished bread.

I made my usual half recipe, and went with a loaf pan instead of a free-standing loaf. The bread starts out with a sponge, and an odd-looking one--the flavorings are brought to a boil with molasses and water, that gets cooled, then added to a barm (rye, in my case) and additional rye flour. The molasses/spice mixture looked evil (dark brown liquid with...stuff floating in it) but smelled great. The sponge sits out for 4 hours or until foamy, then is refrigerated overnight to build flavor. The next day the rye sponge gets additions of bread flour, yeast, salt, brown sugar, and a little melted shortening to complete the dough.

Swedish Rye (Limpia)The dough was slow to rise for both first and second rises, even when I gave up on "room temperature" and moved it to the warming drawer on 'proof'. I gave up on the second rise after 2-1/2 hours when it had crested the pan at 1/2 inch (not the called-for 1 inch). As a result, the loaf was a little short.

Tasting report: a lovely light rye, not overwhelmed by the spices but nicely flavored by them. Texture was great, with a nice 'chew' and even holes. Should I want to bake rye bread, this recipe will be a top candidate.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Turkey Chowder

IMG_0311 I thought for sure I had posted this recipe somewhere, but haven't turned it up searching here, my LJ (where food posts went pre-Blogspot), or various email list archives. Time to fix that.

This soup was a Thanksgiving staple of my mother's--she was a soup-maker par excellence, usually without recipes, and I don't know if she evolved this one on her own or if it started with a clipping way back when. By the time I remember her making it there was no recipe around. I (being a recipe-reliant type even when doing my own variations) worked out this set of proportions that make a reasonable facsimile of Mother's turkey chowder.

Turkey Chowder

1-2 T. olive oil or butter or turkey fat skimmed from the stock*
2 small onions, chopped
2 stalks of celery, trimmed and chopped
1 c. raw rice (Mother used white, brown is fine but adjust the cooking time)
2 qts. hot turkey stock*
2-3 cups 2% or skim milk
1 cup chopped turkey meat (optional)
1-1/2 tsp salt or to taste
8-10 grinds of pepper or to taste

Saute onions and celery in the oil until onions are translucent. Add the raw rice and stir to coat with the oil. Add the hot turkey broth, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer about 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. Add milk and chopped turkey, if using, and season to taste. Bring back to serving temperature over low heat.

Notes: I generally have skim milk on hand, and like the consistency I get with about 3 cups of milk. If I have whole or 2%, I use less milk--I don't like this as a very rich soup. If you like a richer soup, go for the whole milk and more of it.
I like my turkey chowder peppery, so that 8-10 grinds is just a starting point.

*Turkey stock

The way the Thanksgiving ritual went, at least in years featuring roast turkey, was that my father dissected the bird in the kitchen with a serving platter on one side to receive the sliced meat, and a crockpot on the other where all the bones, skin, fat, and other scraps, including any aromatics from the turkey roasting, went. When the turkey was completely dissembled, generally the crockpot was full. Mother would add water almost to the top, turn it on, and let it cook overnight. (Wonderful smell in the house the next morning...) Then the stock was drained from the skin and bones (which was all discarded--any meat in there would be tasteless after 14+ hours of cooking) and strained into a container to go into the fridge to cool. That afternoon or the next day the stock would have solidified, and the fat layer on top, also solidified, could be easily removed to leave an almost completely fat-free and very flavorful stock. Smoked turkey? Even better.