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Posts Tagged ‘bread’

For dinner tonight, I knew we had fresh, local, delicious burrata, mozzarella, and ricotta, plus local tomatoes. Since there was no time to start bread yesterday, something had to be done today to round out the meal of cheese + tomatoes. Biscuits immediately came to mind because they are quick, easy, and most importantly we have buttermilk in the fridge. I don’t have a “go-to” buttermilk biscuit recipe, so I Googled it and came up with Alton Brown’s. In my experience, there isn’t too much innovation or variety in the buttermilk biscuit arena, so I wasn’t particularly concerned with choosing the perfect recipe. There was, however, a jar of homemade pesto in the fridge that B made from the acres (ok, maybe 12 plants, but they were huge and not being eaten) of basil in the garden of our house-sitting house – lightbulb! What goes with tomatoes and mozzarella better than basil? Nothing really, except balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. So instead of just fresh from the oven buttermilk biscuits to go with dinner, why not pesto buttermilk biscuits!? I’m the dinner hero tonight, which is usually B, so I’m claiming my moment of glory with a somewhat inspired biscuit recipe.

Hypothesis:

Pesto makes everything better.

Recipe adapted from Alton Brown.
Yield: 13 2-inch biscuits

Materials:

  • 2 cups AP Flour
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 heaping Tbsp pesto

Tools:

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Mixing bowl
  • Pastry cutter
  • 2 inch biscuit cutter
  • Cookie sheet

Method:

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Cut butter into chunks, add to bowl, and incorporate into the flour with a pastry cutter (or 2 knifes, or your fingers).

Add buttermilk, and mix until almost completely incorporated. I added the pesto at this point, but in hindsight I might have pre-mixed it with the buttermilk or added it with the butter. The secret to flakey tender biscuits is to not over-mix the dough! By adding the pesto after mixing in the buttermilk, I probably made my dough a bit tougher, plus it was harder to evenly distribute the pesto after the dough was already formed. Next time I’ll do things in a different order. After mixing everything together, scoop dough onto a floured surface, dust with flour, and kneed 5 times.

Pat dough until it is an inch high, which is always higher than I think, so use a ruler if need be. Cut into 2-inch biscuits with cutter, placing on a cookie sheet (I used my Silpat but it’s not necessary).

Bake biscuits for about 15 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.

Observations:

  • Use shortening like Alton does if you have it/would like to – I don’t have any so I just used butter.
  • If your oven is not up to temperature when you put your biscuits in, they will “melt” and fall over like mine!
  • You can cut your biscuits to any size you like, or even just drop them onto the cookie sheet.

Conclusions:

Success! Maybe next time I’ll even add some parmesan cheese if we have any….

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“Naan”

Bienvenue!

I think it’s appropriate that I begin this new experiment by making something that I’ve only eaten a handful of times and don’t know much about. I’m talking about naan, and though I’ve loved eating it from Indian restaurants, I’d never thought about making it myself. I had a hankering to do something with lentils, which turned into daal, which I thought would benefit from some naan on the side. Considering I’ve been a bit obsessed with making my own bread these days, there was no way I was going to buy naan. Mayhaps I should have, or at least done some more research. Read on and I’ll explain!

I picked the first naan recipe I found, which was from Jenna at Eat, Live, Run. Comments range from, “This is amazing!” to, “This is not at all naan, how dare you.” I know practically nothing about Indian food, but the recipe looked easy and I’ve made things from Jenna before that turned out great so I forged ahead. The few things that I changed about her recipe are: I doubled the recipe, used 1/3 whole wheat flour, and omitted the garlic butter.

Hypothesis:

This will probably make delicious flat bread type creations, but maybe not authentic naan.

Materials:

  • 3 cups warm water
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 cups AP flour
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • Cookie sheets
  • Silpat and/or parchment
  • Kitchen Aid
  • Rolling pin
  • Plastic spatula
  • Large and small bowl
  • Oil spray
  • Measuring cups and spoons

Method:

Put warm water from the tap in a small glass bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top of water, then add sugar and stir with small plastic spatula. While letting this sit until the yeast foams, add whole wheat flour and 1c AP flour to the bowl of the Kitchen Aid. Put the paddle on and add yeasty water to the bowl after its foamed. Mix this soupy mess for about 1 minute on low speed. Stop mixing and add another 3 cups AP flour and the salt. This was the last point during this process that I was sure of what I was doing.

At this point Jenna says to mix on high for 6 minutes. Does high mean level 10? If it does, my mixer would have blown up or broken my table. Maybe it’s because I had 6 cups of flour, but I wasn’t about to mix this on high. I mixed on speed 4 for a few minutes, then switched back to low for another few minutes. My dough also seemed impossibly wet and wasn’t pulling away from the sides of the bowl, so I added another ½ cup of AP flour. From my failed attempts at airy baguettes I know I have a tendency to add too much flour, so I was keeping this in mind as well. The dough was becoming more elastic, which is a good sign, so I kept mixing on low speed. I ended up adding a few tablespoonfuls more flour, and thinking that the dough was still too wet. At this point I would not have been able to make the nice ball she shows before putting in the oiled bowl. I stopped mixing anyway and transferred the dough to my biggest bowl that I had sprayed with PAM olive oil spray (oil sprayer still on my wish list). I put the bowl into a plastic bag and left it on the counter away from the open window to rise for 2 hours.

I checked the dough after an hour and it was in fact rising, which was a relief. After the second hour I heavily floured my work area and poured the dough out. I needed to use a lot of flour to prevent disastrous sticking, but I was able to manipulate the dough easily with enough flour. I should have pre-heated the oven before this, but I forgot and had the oven tuned on now. I divided my dough into 8 pieces by tearing it – I didn’t think a knife would be good because of how wet the dough was. After making 8 pieces that weighed roughly the same, I started shaping the dough into naan. Jenna says to sprinkle water on the dough and use your fingers to create dimples. I tried this on one piece but immediately regretted my decision because it just made my dough incredibly sticky and I couldn’t work with it anymore. I’m not sure why the water is needed except to help the salt stick, but I didn’t use it.

I pulled and pressed and stretched each piece into a rough circle, using my fingers to create dimples as best I could.

I sprinkled each with kosher salt, then had to let them rest for about 10 minutes while the oven finished heated up. I ended up with 3 pans of dough, so I baked 2 and then the 3rd by itself. The first 2 pans didn’t look done after 10 minutes so I rotated them top to bottom and put them back in for 3 more minutes. I think they could have used even more time, but it was late and we were really hungry so I took them out. The dough puffs up nicely in the oven, deflating slightly after being removed. They didn’t brown at all, but that might have been the whole wheat flour or the fact that I didn’t put them under the broiler. B covered two naans with butter (because he’s French and therefore covers everything he can in butter) and we proceeded to eat them with daal.

And then we each ate another, because they were that good.

Observations and Notes:

  • The dough was much wetter than any I’d ever worked with, but everything worked out in the end.
  • After eating dinner we Googled how to make naan, and I’m realizing that if I rolled the dough out much thinner it might have turned out more like naan.
  • I stored the cooled bread wrapped in a dish towel on the counter.
  • The leftovers were eaten after being toasted and tasted just as good as the first day.

Conclusions:

While I’m certainly no naan expert, these did not taste nor look like any naan I’ve eaten before. They were, however, amazingly delicious, but more of a thick chewy pita than naan bread. In fact they reminded me of the frozen soft pretzels we had sometimes as kids that you put water and then sea salt on before baking. I will be making these again, because they are really nice and much faster than baguettes, because homemade bread beats store-bought any day, even when it doesn’t end up as expected!

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