Friday, November 25, 2011

No-Knead Harvest Bread

One of the things I miss the most from France is bread. Good bread. Real bread. Artisan-style bread. Freshly-baked bread.

I never thought of baking my own until my expat friends started raving about the New York Times no-kneadbread recipe. What a revelation! Who knew you could get crusty, chewy, homemade bread with minimal efforts or skills! All you need is a little time and the right vessel to bake it in, it must have a lid and be heavy-duty, such as a Dutch oven or a clay crock.

I have made no-knead bread numerous times and have tweaked the recipe and technique over time. In this version, I added dried cranberries, golden raisins and walnuts for a fall loaf that works perfectly with leftover turkey, goat cheese, cranberry sauce and a few greens. It's also excellent in a brie-pear grilled panini... or by itself with a pat of butter or a schmear of cream cheese.

Makes one large loaf
  • 2 cups bread flour + more for dusting = 260 g de farine à pain + un peu plus pour saupoudrer
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour = 140 g de farine complète
  • ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast = ¼ cuillère à café (1.5 g) de levure de boulanger déshydratée
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt = 1 ¼ cuillère à café de sel
  • 1 5/8 cups (13 fl. oz.) water = 385 ml d'eau
  • Olive oil = huile d'olive
  • ½ cup dried cranberries = 75 g de cranberries
  • ½ cup golden raisins = 75 g de raisins secs
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts = 50 à 75 g de noix concassées

In a large bowl combine flours, yeast and salt. Add water and stir with a wooden spoon until blended. Dough will be shaggy and very sticky. Incorporate dried fruits and nuts into the dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let rest at least 12 hours, preferably 16 to 18 hours, at room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Dough is ready when its surface is beautifully dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it, sprinkle with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface and to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a large bowl with olive oil or baking spray, put dough seam side down in the bowl and dust with a little more flour. Cover with a cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. Don't necessarily expect the dough to double in size (especially if using whole-wheat flour) but it should definitely expand.

About 20 minutes before dough is ready, put an empty 4 to 6 quart covered pot (enameled cast-iron cookware, such as Le Creuset, work best) in oven. Preheat to 450ºF/230ºC.

When dough is ready, carefully remove hot pot from oven. Dump dough into pot, seam side up. Shake once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed but don't worry, it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake for 30-35 minutes, remove lid and bake another 10-20 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

Alternative method:
Some pots may crack as they sit empty in the hot oven. To prevent any issue, you can place the dough directly into the baking pot, before its last rise. Make sure you grease the pot with olive oil or cooking spray first. Let rise for 2 hours. When ready to bake, place in the cold oven and preheat to 450ºF, reduce total baking time by about 5 minutes.

I, personally, get a better crust and bread texture with the original method but I encourage you to experiment as every oven is different. You will also notice that bread containing whole-wheat flour will not rise as much and may require an additional 5 to 10 minutes to fully bake. Internal temperature in the center of a loaf should register between 190ºF (for white bread) to 205ºF (for denser bread such as whole-wheat or rye).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ginger Pear Sauce

I always make big batches of applesauce in the fall but this pear sauce is a nice alternative. Just as much as I love apple and cinnamon together, I think pear and ginger complement each other perfectly.

You can serve this as a side dish with pork or chicken. You can also use it in place of applesauce in any recipe you have. My son and I enjoy eating it by itself or swirled into Greek yogurt for a healthy dessert or snack.

Serves 4
  • 8 ripe pears, peeled, cored and diced = 6-8 poires, épluchées, épépinées et coupées en morceaux
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger = 1 cuillère à soupe de gingembre frais râpé
  • ½ cup water or juice (pear or white grape) = 120 ml d'eau ou de jus de poire ou de raisin blanc

Place pear chunks in a large pot. Add ginger and water or juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat and simmer covered until fruit is soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cool slightly and purée with an immersion blender. Serve at room temperature. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cranberry-Orange Sweet Bread

I will admit this yeast bread is somewhat time-consuming to make and the assembly is a little tricky. But it is well worth the efforts! If you don't have a ring pan, you can use a regular baking sheet and shape the bread into a circle, or even easier, keep the loaf in a rectangle shape. But make sure you cut the log horizontally and “braid” the two strands together.

There are a couple of “unusual” ingredients in this recipe and I highly encourage you to use them because they do make a big difference. Potato flour helps get a moist, tender loaf that holds together when you slice into it. It also adds shelf life to the finished product – not that you will have any issue eating this loaf up! Dry milk powder also works wonders on your bread's texture and makes the dough rise beautifully.

I usually only make this bread once a year and serve it to special company. It is always a big hit! Try it for a holiday breakfast or brunch, you will not be disappointed.

Makes one large circular loaf (12 to 16 slices)

  • ¾ cup lukewarm water = 175 ml d'eau tiède
  • 2 teaspoons instant dry yeast = 2 cuillères à café de levure (de boulanger) déshydratée
  • 2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour = 300 g de farine
  • 3 tablespoons potato flour = 3 cuillères à soupe (30 g) de farine de pomme de terre
  • ¼ cup non-fat dry milk powder = 30 g lait en poudre écrémé (type Régilait)
  • 1 teaspoon salt = 1 cuillère à café de sel
  • 2 tablespoons sugar = 2 cuillères à soupe (25 g) de sucre
  • Zest of 1 orange = zeste d'une orange
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened = 55 g de beurre, ramolli
  • 1 large egg = 1 oeuf
Filling 1
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted = 40 g de beurre, fondu
  • 2 tablespoons sugar = 2 cuillères à soupe (25 g) de sucre
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract = 1 cuillère à café d'extrait de vanille
Filling 2
  • ½ cup dried cranberries = 75 g de cranberries
  • ½ cup chopped dried apricots = 75 g d'abricots secs, coupés en petits morceaux
  • 1 tablespoon water = 1 cuillères à soupe d'eau
  • ½ cup sliced almonds = 75 g d'amandes effilées
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour = 2 cuillères à soupe de farine
  • 1 tablespoons butter, melted = 15 g de beurre, fondu
  • 2 tablespoons milk = 2 cuillères à soupe de lait
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons fresh orange juice (from ½ an orange) = 3 ou 4 cuillères à soupe de jus d'orange pressée (environ ½ orange)
  • ¾ to 1 cup confectioners' sugar = 100 à 130 g de sucre glace

To make the dough:
Dissolve yeast into lukewarm water.
Combine all-purpose flour, milk powder, potato flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add orange zest, butter, egg and water/yeast mixture.
Mix and knead (by hand or with dough hook if using Kitchen Aid) to make a soft, smooth dough. Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rise for about 1 ½ hours, until it's almost double in bulk.

To make Filling 1:
Mix the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl. Set aside.

To make Filling 2:
Soak the dried cranberries and apricots in the water. Set aside.

To assemble and bake:
On a floured surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle (at least 12" x 25").
Brush all over with Filling 1, then sprinkle with Filling 2 (soaked fruits, almonds and flour).
Roll into a log, starting with a long end.
Slice the log horizontally. Gently twist one piece around the other, keeping the layers facing upward.

Grease a 10" ring pan, or a baking sheet.
Fit the dough into the ring mold or shape into a circle on the baking sheet. Pinch the ends together.
Cover with a cloth and let rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.

Bake for 30 minutes, until lightly browned at the edges. Remove from the oven and cool for at least 30 minutes glazing.

To make the glaze:
Combine butter and milk. Add orange juice and sugar and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over cooled loaf.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup with Maple Croutons

This is another soup that I make almost weekly in the fall. It is a little sweet and fantastic topped with maple croutons.

Serves 4
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil = 1 cuillère à soupe d'huile d'olive
  • 2 leeks, cleaned, trimmed and chopped = 2 poireau, néttoyés et coupé en morceaux
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed = une courge butternut, épluchée et coupée en cubes
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced = 2 carottes, épluchées et coupées en rondelles
  • Dash of cinnamon = une pincée de canelle en poudre
  • Dash of freshly grated nutmeg = une pincée de noix de muscade râpée ou en poudre
  • 3 to 4 cups vegetable broth = 700 à 950 ml de bouillon de légumes
  • Salt & pepper = sel & poivre
  • 4 slices of whole wheat bread = 4 tranches de pain complet
  • Maple syrup = sirop d'érable

Heat oil in a large pot. Add leeks and sauté for about 6-7 minutes. Add butternut squash and carrots. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg and cook for a couple more minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Use immersion blender or transfer to a regular blender in several batches. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the croutons: simply brush maple syrup on the slices of bread, pop in the toaster or broil in the oven for 2 minutes. Cut up into pieces.

Top each soup bowl with croutons and serve immediately. Enjoy!