Friday, January 23, 2015

French-Style Country Bread

From my oven today: French-style country bread. I found this recipe on the King Arthur Flour website. They provided a detailed but quite lengthy recipe which seemed a little daunting at first. This recipe is  somewhat  time-consuming and requires a bit of extra attention (with a "starter" that has to be prepared a few hours in advance, and instructions such as spritzing the bread in the oven every few minutes for the first fifteen minutes of baking. ) But I was up to the challenge.  After all, I have found that few things are more comforting that freshly made bread. The results are well-worth the time and effort. 

French-Style Country Bread 

Sponge Starter 
1 cup cool to lukewarm water (90 to 100 °F)
1/2 tsp active dry or instant yeast 
1 1/4 cups unbleached bread flour 
1/4 cup whole wheat flour 

All of the sponge starter 
1 cup lukewarm water (100 to 115 °F
3/4 tsp active dry or 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp sugar 
1 cup whole wheat flour 
2 1/4 to 2 3/4 bread four
1 1/2  tsp salt

To make the starter: In a larger bowl, stir all of the ingredients together to make a thick paste. Cover with plastic wrap and set on the kitchen counter for about 4 hours or over night. 

To make the dough: Stir down the starter. Add the water, yeast, sugar, whole wheat flour, 2 1/4 cup bread flour (reserve half cup to use if the dough is too sticky), and the salt. Knead the dough for about 10 to 12 minutes to make a soft dough. (I found that this step is made easier by using a stand up mixture.) 

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and a damp towel. Let it rise until almost doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours. After this first rise, deflate the dough gently and form into a round ball. Place two cookie sheets atop one another and place a semolina or corn-meal dusted piece of parchment paper on top. Gently place the ball of dough on the cookie sheets, seam side down. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise a second time until it is puffy and about 40% to 50% larger, anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. Slash or cross-hash the bread with a sharp knife and dust with a little flour. 

Preheat the oven to 475 °F  Spritz water into the oven with a clean plant mister and place the bread in the oven. Reduce the heat to 425 °F and spritz with water every few minutes for the first 15 minutes of baking. Bake the bread for about 20 to 30 minutes or until done. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Green Goddess Dressing

This is the month of resolutions. Many of us have resolved to make changes in our lives, most of which involve some improvement to our health. Join a gym. Give up fast foods. Sign up for a weekly yoga class. Go vegan. Eat more salads. With regards to my own eating habits, my goal is to become a little more inventive, by trying new ingredients in (or new methods of making) some traditional dishes. Starting with this dressing - my version of green goddess. The dressing is, understandably, wonderful on salads but don't be surprised if you feel compelled to have it on...well things other than salads. Along with the creamiest of textures, it is both sweet and tangy and can be used as a sauce on pan-seared fish, a topping on tacos, and even as a dip for tortillas or pita chips. What's more, it's vegan! Here's to a happy,  healthy, and adventurous new year! 

Green Goddess Dressing

1 large, ripe avocado
juice of 1 lime
2 to 3 whole cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
4 scallions, roughly chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
salt, to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup water

Add all of the ingredients, except the water, to a blender, and blitz until smooth. With the blender running, slowly add the water, beginning with 1/4 cup, until you achieve your desired consistency. More water will produce a thinner dressing. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to two days.