Thursday, April 19, 2012

bread baking day #49-grissini

it's spring, the weather is just warm enough and the garden is bursting with lettuce and greens.  for tonights dinner, i chose to make a salad using the different lettuces and spinach from my garden.  the best part of the dinner, the grissini, or bread sticks if you prefer, to go with the salad.  when i checked out the challenge for this month's bread baking day, i was thrilled to see that it was simply to bake a pizza or an italian bread.  so simple that it took me over a week to decide!

the challenge for april is being hosted by manuela of cravo e canela and there is still time to submit a bread if you want to participate.

when i would like to bake authentic italian style breads, there are only a couple of books i reach for.  while trying to find some inspiration, i pulled my copy of the modern baker by nick malgieri off the shelf and opened it to a random page.  it just so happens that the recipe i turned to was for grissini.  not just grissini but the easiest and most fool proof recipe for grissini i have ever tried.

the dough is mixed up in less than 5 minutes by using a food processor.  after letting it rise for an hour, the dough is deflated and allowed to rise again for as little as an hour or as long as 24 hours.  after sitting in the fridge for about 18 hours, i took it out and began the process of shaping the grissini.
first the dough is deflated and shaped into a square on a floured surface.  

 the dough is then cut into evenly sized pieces

 the sticks are shaped by rolling them with your palms as if you were making play-dough snakes.  so easy, too easy really, and fast.  with a recipe like this, you have no excuse not to make a batch.

sesame grissini
adapted from the modern baker by nick malgieri
makes about 24 (15") bread sticks

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water-110F
1/3 cup cold water
cornmeal for dusting

place the flour, salt, oil and sesame seeds in the bowl of a food processor.  pulse it to combine and distribute the oil evenly.

whisk the yeast into the warm water and add to the flour mix.  pulse it 2 to 3 times.  add the cold water and pulse the dough until it forms a ball.  continue pulsing for 10 seconds.  remove the dough and place it in an oiled bowl and cover it with plastic.  allow it to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

scrape the dough out of the bowl on to a floured surface and fold it over on itself a few times to deflate it.  once again, place it in an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic and place it in the fridge to rise for as little as 1 hour or as long as 24.  

preheat the oven to 325.  line two baking sheets with paper and dust with cornmeal.  place the dough on a lightly floured surface and flatten it into a square with an even thickness.  use a knife to cut the dough into quarters.  take each of the quarters and cut it into 6 pieces by first cutting it in half and then by cutting each half into thirds.  you should have 24 pieces in all.

place one piece of the dough on the table and using your palms, roll the dough back and forth to make a rope.  keep rolling it and using gentle pressure to make each one as long as the baking pan-about 15" in length.  carefully lift and place the stick on the pan.  

place the two pans in the oven and bake(no rising needed) for 10-12 minutes.  rotate the pans and continue baking the sticks until they are golden brown and crispy, about 10-15 minutes.  this took a little longer in my oven so keep a close eye on them to ensure that they are not over baked.  

this is a simple recipe that proves things do not need to be complicated to be tasty!  here's to you nick for a recipe well done!!!  be sure to try baking a bread or a pizza and joining us.  thanks to manuela for giving me an afternoon filled with yeasty goodness.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

twd: clementine loaf cake

and so comes along another baking with julia adventure!  today's challenge is hosted by truc of treats and michelle of the beauty of life.  this was by far one of the easiest cakes to make.  the headnote to the recipe states it can be made in 5 minutes, 5 football minutes perhaps, but from start to finish, it will take longer than just 5 minutes.  found on page 252 of the Baking with Julia book, the recipe calls for lemon zest and as a result, it is titled "Lemon Loaf Cake" but i had a bowl of clementines that needed a purpose in this life-they became the key ingredient for this cake.

 clementines are a favorite snack around here.  we have a holiday tradition of keeping a box of them for all of the kids to snack on and i have many memories of family members lingering at the breakfast table with coffee cups and pieces of the rind stacked in little piles.  long after the holidays are done, boxes of these tasty treats still find the way to my dining room to tempt me.

 zesting the little fruits is almost tedious but well worth the effort.

 eggs are whipped with sugar and salt until foamy and blended-a quick process

 zest is whisked in and dry ingredients are sifted over the batter and whisked in gently

 some heavy cream is whisked in

 followed by melted butter and that is it!

 into the pan and into the oven-it's so easy!!!

the fininshed cake, looks like a pound cake doesn't it?  the comment i heard the most-it's so light and delicate.  personally, i thought it could have had a little more heft to it, a little more fat since it seemed a tiny bit dry to me.  anyway, it didn't last long around here.  a big round of applause goes out to truc and michelle for a job well done!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

maple-walnut upside down persimmon cake

on a recent trip out to the garden, this cake accompanied me and was shared among my fellow gardeners.  it is a simple cake that can be made with sweet potato or pumpkin puree if you do not have access to persimmons.  for those of you that have persimmon trees in your yards, be sure to wait until that first frost of fall to gather the fruits.  then after washing them, run them through a food mill to extract the seeds and freeze the puree in sandwich sized zipper bags to make it easy to use in recipes.

the maple syrup is heated with the butter and brown sugar.  when the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, allow it to boil a bit and then pour it into a greased cake pan.

top the glaze mixture with the walnuts, try not to go all the way to the edge of the pan to keep the nuts on the top of the cake-i didn't do a very good job of that!

persimmon puree looks a lot like sweet potatoes or pumpkin and if you can't find persimmons, both make a suitable substitute.

using the typical creaming method, this batter mixes up quickly.  after creaming the butter and sugar, the eggs are added.  once the eggs are in, sift the dry ingredients over the batter.  fold it a few times and then sprinkle the buttermilk all over the top and fold it completely until no streaks remain:
so easy!!!

the tough part-spreading the batter over the nuts without moving them.  be sure to allow the cake to sit for about 5-10 minutes before turning it out otherwise, the glaze and the nuts will not coat the top of the cake evenly.

maple-walnut upside down persimmon cake
1 (8") cake serving 6-8

2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup-preferably grade b
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
preheat the oven to 350.  grease an 8" cake pan and set it aside.  place the butter in a small sauté pan over low heat and melt.  add the maple syrup, light brown sugar and the cinnamon and stir until the brown sugar is dissolved.  raise the heat to medium and bring to a boil.  allow the mixture to boil for a minute and then pour into the prepared cake pan

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 egg
1/3 cup persimmon puree
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup buttermilk
in a mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar with the vanilla and salt.  when light and fluffy, add the egg and combine completely.  add the persimmon puree and mix in making sure to scrape the bowl well as you go.  sift the flour and baking powder over the batter and fold it in a few times.  sprinkle the buttermilk over the batter and fold it together until smooth.  spread it evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan.  bake until a tester inserted comes out clean,  about 35-40 minutes.  cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes and then place a serving dish that is larger than the cake pan over the top and invert the cake onto the plate-this will catch any drips.  allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.  and for the particularly evil-serve it with some ice cream!  buttermilk ice cream comes to mind...

bake on friends and may the force be with you.

Monday, April 9, 2012

apple-walnut bundt cake

whenever i go out to the demonstration and research garden (demo garden, as we call it) to work with my fellow master gardeners, i always bring something freshly baked.  most of the time, it is a bundt cake.  every now and then, it is a loaf cake, a batch of muffins or scones or some sort of homemade bread.  this cake is a quick and easy recipe to follow that makes a tasty cake.  it can be made with apples or pears and either way will be equally decadent.
in my collection of bundt pans are a few that came to me from my aunt; they belonged to my late uncle who was a serious bundt cake fan.  this cathedral pan is one of my favorites for large recipes-it is at least 12 cups and makes a huge cake.  beware of a pan that size; the bigger they are, the longer the cake will bake if the pan is full of batter!

apple-walnut bundt cake
serves 12-16

3/4 cup walnut pieces
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 1/2 cup canola oil
2 large granny smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour the cake pan and set aside.  place the walnuts on a baking pan and toast in the oven until slightly fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.  allow the nuts to cool.

in a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the brown sugar and canola oil until smooth.  add the walnuts and apples and stir to combine.  place the flour, spices and baking soda into a sifter and sift over the batter.  fold the flour into the batter and mix until incorporated.  scrape the batter into the pan and bake until a tester inserted comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

allow the cake to cool for at least 20 minutes in the pan.  carefully turn the cake out onto a rack and allow it to cool completely.  to serve, cut with a serrated knife.  

and as always my friends, if you bake it, show it off and send me a photo!