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Posts Tagged ‘butter’

The Weekend Project: Bread & Butter

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

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A new year always heralds hope of new beginnings and personal improvement. We vow that this year, we’ll cook better: healthier and more often, tackling more projects and challenging ourselves in the kitchen.

Yet three weeks into January, we find ourselves losing resolve. Who has time to embark on ambitious cooking resolutions while juggling work, laundry, bills and the trials of everyday life?

Thankfully, the most impressive and satisfying kitchen creations are usually the most flexible. This month’s Weekend Project is simpler than it seems. Baking your own bread and even whipping your own butter requires just a few minutes of actual activity on your part. If you can stir ingredients together and exercise patience, you’ll have warm loaves of ciabatta and Kugelhopf (an eggy European loaf studded with bacon and onion) smeared with freshly whipped butter on the table by Sunday dinner.

Bread making, that ancient practice of bringing flour and salt to life with yeast and water, is such a basic task, but it is one that can produce great works of beauty and endless variations. Bread is also extremely forgiving. Don’t have the right type of flour? Use a different one. Don’t have exactly an hour to wait around for it to rise? No worries, just toss it in the refrigerator to rise slowly and return to it the next day.

Bottom line: No excuses, people! Here, four simple rules to ensure success with any yeast bread:

 

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Proof your yeast to determine if it’s alive. To do so, take a small amount of the liquid used in the bread recipe (usually water or milk) and warm it to 95 to 115 degrees. You want the liquid warm enough to activate the dormant yeast but not so hot that you kill it. Stir in the yeast granules, and if desired, add a tablespoon of flour, honey or sugar to feed further. Then, simply let the yeast wake up and get the bubbly party started!

After five to 10 minutes, the yeast should be foamy with bubbles and soft brown lumps on its surface. It may even produce a sweet fermented aroma. If nothing has happened after 10 minutes, throw the jar or packets out and buy a new jar, which will keep at least a year in the refrigerator or freezer.

(A quick note on yeast: For the following recipes, be sure to purchase yeast labeled “active dry yeast,” not the “rapid rise” or “bread machine type.”)

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Don’t panic if you can’t babysit your dough all afternoon. A longer rise simply allows the bread to take on a richer more complex set of flavors as the colonies of yeast continue to grow. If you decide to extend your rise, cover the dough with a greased piece of plastic wrap instead of a towel to prevent the top from drying out.

Dough can even be prepared the night before baking. Simply cover it with greased plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. This slows the yeast’s metabolism so it will rise more slowly. The next morning, let the dough return to room temperature about 30 minutes before you work with it.

Want to speed things up? Find a nice warm spot to let the dough rest, and it will double in size in just 30 to 45 minutes. And if you’re really rushed, yes, you can just bake the bread. You’ll be amazed at how much it rises simply from a trip to the oven.

 

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Salt is critical to great flavor; in fact, the dough should taste a bit salty before you bake it. Just be sure you don’t add the salt until the last addition of flour, as it will slow the yeast growth. You can even add salt while kneading the dough to give the yeast a headstart.

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Consider the recipe a guide to ingredient amounts, not dogma. After proofing the yeast and adding other enriching ingredients (eggs, flour, butter, etc.), add the flour one cup at a time, mixing continuously until you achieve lightly sticky consistence you can knead. Flour is sensitive to humidity, so the amount may change each time you bake. Use less flour for lighter, airier loaves; use generous amounts of heavier flours for denser, Eastern European-style bread.

 

The Game Plan
Day 1:
Make the compound butters. Make the starter (biga) for the ciabatta.
Day 2: Make the ciabatta. Make the Kugelhopf.

The Shopping List*
1 quart heavy cream
3 anchovies
3 cloves roasted garlic (DIY here)
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, rosemary, thyme)
½ tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 scant Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. active dry yeast
7 to 9 cups bread flour
8 slices bacon
1 onion
5 eggs

*This list assumes you have kosher salt, all-purpose flour, vegetable oil, olive oil, milk, butter and freshly ground black pepper. If not, you will need to purchase those items, too.

 

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Anchovy Garlic Butter
Makes 1 cup

2 cups heavy cream
1-2 cups ice water (with ice cubes)
1 Tbsp. plus ½ tsp. kosher salt
3 anchovies, finely minced
3 cloves roasted garlic, finely minced

Day 1: Pour the cream into a blender and whip on high speed until the fat solidifies into yellow butter and separates from the white liquid, 20 to 40 minutes, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed.
● Place a fine mesh sieve over a mixing bowl and line with cheesecloth or a clean linen towel. Pour the separated mixture through the sieve, collecting the buttermilk into the mixing bowl below. Gather the ends of the cheesecloth together and gently squeeze the butter to remove any additional liquid. Reserve the buttermilk for another use.
● Return the butter to the blender with the ice water. Wash the butter by blending 3 minutes, then pour the mixture through the strainer again, squeezing to remove any excess liquid. Discard the liquid.
● Place the butter into a mixing bowl and add the salt, anchovies and roasted garlic. Mix together until thoroughly combined. Store the butter, refrigerated, in an airtight jar up to 6 weeks or frozen 3 to 6 months.

 

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Herbed Butter
Makes 1 cup

2 cups heavy cream
1-2 cups ice water (with ice cubes)
1 Tbsp. plus ½ tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, rosemary, thyme)
½ tsp. finely minced fresh garlic
1 tsp. lemon zest

Day 1: Pour the cream into a blender and whip on high speed until the fat solidifies into yellow butter and separates from the white liquid, 20 to 40 minutes, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed.
● Place a fine mesh sieve over a mixing bowl and line with cheesecloth or a clean linen towel. Pour the separated mixture through the sieve, collecting the buttermilk into the mixing bowl below. Gather the ends of the cheesecloth together and gently squeeze the butter to remove any additional liquid. Reserve the buttermilk for another use.
● Return the butter to the blender with the ice water. Wash the butter by blending 3 minutes, then pour the mixture through the strainer again, squeezing to remove any excess liquid. Discard the liquid.
● Place the butter into a mixing bowl and add the salt, herbs and garlic. Mix together until thoroughly combined. Store the butter, refrigerated, in an airtight jar up to 6 weeks or frozen 3 to 6 months.

 

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Ciabatta
Makes 2 loaves

1 tsp. dry active yeast, divided
1¼ cup warm water (95 to 115 degrees), divided
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for greasing
2 cups bread flour
1½ tsp. kosher salt

Day 1: To make the biga, or starter, stir together ½ cup warm water and ½ teaspoon yeast in a small bowl and let sit 5 to 10 minutes until foamy. Add the all-purpose flour and mix thoroughly to create a small ball of dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 12 hours or overnight.
Day 2: Remove the biga from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
● Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, pour the remaining ¾ cup warm water and ½ teaspoon yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir together and let sit 5 to 10 minutes until foamy.
● Add the biga, 1 cup bread flour and the olive oil and mix thoroughly with a large wooden spoon. Add the remaining 1 cup bread flour and the salt and mix again for 3 to 4 minutes. The dough will appear soupy. Cover with a clean towel or oiled plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature 1½ hours.
● Wipe down a clean surface with a damp towel and cover with piece of plastic wrap so it sticks to the wet surface. Dust the plastic wrap with all-purpose flour and scrape the dough onto the floured surface. Use floured hands to divide the dough into 2 halves. Form the dough into 2 10-by-4-inch rectangles.
● Lightly grease a sheet tray with olive oil. Pick up the sides of the plastic wrap and flip the loaves over onto the tray. Sprinkle the dough with more flour, then cover with a clean, floured kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place 1½ hours.
● Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake the loaves 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust nut brown and the loaves sound hollow when knocked. Let cool on a breadboard or cooling rack.
● Serve with Herbed Butter or Anchovy Garlic Butter. Bread will keep, wrapped in plastic, 3 to 4 days or wrapped in paper, up to 1 week.

 

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Kugelhopf (Bacon and Onion Bread)
Makes 1 loaf

2 tsp. vegetable oil
2 scant Tbsp. dry active yeast
1¼ cups warm milk (95 to 115 degrees)
8 slices bacon, cut into ¼-inch lardons
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 cups bread flour
2/3 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
5 eggs
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper, ground

Day 2: Generously coat a large mixing bowl and a bundt pan with 1 teaspoon each vegetable oil and set aside.
● In a large bowl, stir the yeast into the warm milk and let rest until bubble and foaming, 5 to 10 minutes.
● In a large steel or cast-iron skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp and brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook until it is soft and translucent, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan while sauteing. Remove from heat and scrape the bacon, onions and rendered fat into a bowl to cool. Set aside.
● Add 1 cup flour to the proofed yeast and milk and mix thoroughly using a large wooden spoon about 1 minute. Add another 2 cups flour 1 cup at a time, stirring thoroughly between each addition.
● In small bowl, beat the eggs, then add them and the butter to the dough. Mix thoroughly, then add the salt and pepper and mix again. Add the remaining 3 cups flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring thoroughly between each addition. Stir in the cooled bacon, onions and grease into the dough until incorporated.
● Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead 3 to 5 minutes until all the ingredients are evenly distributed and the dough has a smooth, elastic surface. Place the dough in the mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place 45 to 60 minutes.
● Punch down the dough and move it to the bundt pan. Cover with the plastic wrap and let rise again until dough reaches the top of the pan, 45 to 60 minutes.
● Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the bread 40 to 45 minutes until the loaf is brown on the bottom and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes, then turn the bread out onto a breadboard or cooling rack to continue cooling.
● Serve with Herbed Butter or Anchovy Garlic Butter. Bread will keep, wrapped in plastic, 3 to 4 days or wrapped in paper, up to 1 week.

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky

Meatless Monday: Cheese Tortellini with Broccoli and Pine Nuts

Monday, January 12th, 2015

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Take your Monday night meal from standard to stellar with a secret ingredient: browned butter. A few extra minutes of gentle swirling turns melted butter into a nutty unctuous sauce. Add toasted pine nuts to simple cheese tortellini and plenty of fresh broccoli to up the health factor. Then toss it all in that golden brown butter that will have everyone licking their plates clean. Get the recipe here.

Just Five: Pecan-Crusted Chicken Stuffed with Bleu Cheese and Bacon

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

This recipe is a homage to my inner 1996 cook. Nut crusting, compound butters, chives, bacon! It takes me back to when garlic mashed potatoes were found only in high-end restaurants, when Caesar salads and iceberg wedge salads were the only vegetables on the menu. Sometimes I need to relive those final days of hedonism, before everything was locally sourced, small batch, organic and so darn healthy.

A chicken breast stuffed with bacon and bleu cheese compound butter is in no way good for you. But it is wickedly delicious. So crank up The Cranberries, Red Hot Chili Peppers or Smashing Pumpkins (even the music was food-centric) and serve this with a lightly dressed arugula salad.

Just Five: Pecan-Crusted Chicken Stuffed with Bleu Cheese and Bacon
Serves 2

3 slices bacon
1 stick unsalted butter
3 oz. bleu cheese
3 Tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
½ cup raw pecans

• Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels.
• Mix butter, bleu cheese, crumbled bacon, chives and pepper in a small bowl.
• Place the pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the skillet to cool.
• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
• Carefully loosen the skin from the chicken breasts with your fingers. Stuff about 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture under the skin of each breast and press the skin to evenly distribute the butter. Place the breasts on a foil-lined baking sheet. Spread 1 tablespoon of the compound butter on the top of each chicken breast.
• Grind the pecans in a food processor (or smash into a coarse powder with a rolling pin). Sprinkle half of the ground pecans over each breast.
• Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Leftover compound butter can be mixed into mashed potatoes or served with biscuits.

 

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