Sunday, January 7, 2018


I made bread fairly regularly, but I don't know that I'm any good at it. I can tell you that when I used a modified version of the below to make my very first fougasse, it was the best loaf of bread I'd made in my life.

The part that I modified was baking one half of the dough on the same day as making the dough. Peter Reinhart is an advocate for cold and slow fermentation -- of assembling the dough and putting it in the fridge, where you then take a chunk off on the day you want to bake. And I often use one of his dough recipes in this very format.

But this time, I was hungry for bread that day, and baked a loaf the same day. Again, best crust I've ever manufactured, and a nice taste to the bread. In fact, it was a far superior loaf to the other half, which I baked a few days later.

Pain a l'Ancienne Rustic Bread (modified)
from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day

4 1/2 c unbleached bread flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
2 c chilled water

Combine flour, yeast, salt and water in a mxing bowl. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low for 1 minute. Dough should be coarse and sticky. Let dough rest for 5 minutes to fully hydrate the flour.

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled work surface. With wet hands, knead dough a few times until the dough is significantly firmer, though still soft and fragile. Place dough back in the bowl, cover, and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Repeat this kneading process three more times, completing all repetitions within 40 minutes.

After the final stretch and fold, divide the dough into half. Place one half in an oiled, but covered, bowl that you place in the fridge; will keep for future baking up to 4 days.

For the other loaf, shape gently into a log and, using scissors, snip two holes into the bed -- these holes should go all the way through. Using your fingers, make the holes big enough that they will remain holes even as the dough rises.

(If using the picture above, follow the example of the middle and bottom holes. Not the top hole, which I made sideways.)

Cover with a light towel or plastic wrap and let rest until doubled in size -- I waited about 2 hours.

About 45 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 550, or as high as it will go. (Mine will only go to 500.) Make sure your baking stone is already in there.

(Traditional fougasse is unflavored. But I topped mine with a mix of poppy seeds and sesame seeds. It was delicious.)

When dough is done rising, slide dough onto the stone. Pour 1 c of hot water into a disponsible bread tin and place in oven, next to dough. Lower oven to 450.

Bake 12 minutes, rotate stone, and bake 15-20 minutes, until bread sounds hollow and crust is a rich brown. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Hearty Five-Grain Porridge

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times - there isn't a great way to take a photograph of porridge. But, I would like to share this recipe with you. I have been making it for 5 years and I still find it tasty and filling -- far more filling than standard oatmeal.

Note - this freezes very well. Make according to the instructions below, then let cool to room temperature. Spray muffin tins with Pam, and then fill each muffin tin to be level with the surface. Pop in the freezer for an hour or so, until firm. Turn frozen "muffins" out and pop into a Ziploc bag for storage. Repeat as necessary. To re-heat, pop 1-2 per serving into a microwave-able dish and reheat.

Hearty Five-Grain Porridge
From 3 Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery

3/4 c bulgur wheat
1/2 c brown rice
1/2 c millet
1/3 c barley
1/2 c oats
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

The night before you plan to serve, bring 6 1/2 c water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add bulgur, brown rice, millet, and barley. Return to a boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand, covered, overnight. (The original recipe says you can leave this at room temperature overnight, but I place it in the fridge.)

In the morning, whisk 3 1/2 c boiling water into the grain mixture. Stir in the oats and salt. Cover and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent things from sticking.

Reduce heat to very low and simmer until porridge thickens and grains are tender, 15-20 minutes. Stir in vanilla and serve hot. Top with maple syrup, honey, milk, yogurt, cinnamon, raisins, or other toppings.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Tortilla Bread

I once had the pleasure of sitting next to Terry Thompson-Anderson at a group dinner and found her charmingly open to questions and input from those of us who are far less knowledgeable about cooking and baking.

That dinner led me to explore her own published recipes, the vast majority of which have been home-runs for me.

I was curious about this tortilla bread, which she described in the recipe as having the heft and texture of bread, but the flavor of a tortilla.

The flavor does complement any Southwestern-themed dinner, but I'm still working on the texture - it felt more like a quick bread than a proper yeasted bake with bread flour.

Next time I make these, I might consider turning them into yeasted rolls, either freestanding or in muffin tins.

Tortilla Bread
From Texas Food & Wine Gourmet, Terry Thompson-Anderson

1 1/3 c warm water
1 T sugar
1 T instand yeast
3/4 c Maseca masa flour
3 c bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 T canola oil
1 T jalapenos, seeded and minced
1/4 c cilantro, minced

Combine sugar, yeast and warm water. Stir quickly to mix and then let sit for 5 minutes, to let yeast proof.

In bowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade, combine all remaining ingredients. Pulse on/off 3-4 times to blend. Add proofed yeast all at once and process until dough comes together, about 15 seconds.

Stop machine and check consistency of dough - it should be fairly dry and non-sticky. Correct as needed by adding water or bread flour. Process for 20 seconds to knead the dough, then turn out on a surface and knead by hand vigorously 5-6 times. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Punch dough down and divided in half. Form each half into an oval loaf. Place loaves on parchment-lined baking sheets and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Set aside until doubled again in bulk, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400. Remove plastic from loaves and bake for about 20 minutes, or until loaves sound hollow when tapped on bottom. Cool on wire racks before slicing.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Individual Chicken Pot Pies for the Freezer

Like everyone, my schedule can get a bit busy. And I find myself in that all-too-familiar situation of being tired from work, uninspired to cook anything, but too hungry to wait for food to be delivered.

This is the time to remember that I have individual meals waiting for me in the freezer. And, one of the best ones -- especially in wintertime -- are these individual chicken pot pies.

While I am lucky enough to have individual casseroles by Staub that makes these dishes both convenient and cute, you can make the same in any small casserole, or, by using those smaller loaf tins (disposible or not), you'll have enough for 2-3 servings in each pot pie.

Also, since these are going into the freezer, I tend to cheat and just use boxed pie dough as my crust. Homemade crust is obviously better, but it does lose some of its charm from having been in the freezer.

While this recipe comes from Cook's Country, I have often found that it produces a watery roux that I'm not pleased with. So, use some common sense when assembling this and add flour as necessary to get a thick enough consistency; basically, you are aiming for the consistency you would want if you were eating it -- the consistency won't change much from stovetop to placemat, so aim for what it is you'd want to be enjoying.

Freezer Chicken Pot Pies
From Cook's Country

1 1/2 lb chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
2 T vegetable oil
5 1/2 c stock
2 T unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped (original recipe calls for 1 stalk, but I really like celery and tend to use a whole bunch)
1/2 c flour (as mentioned above, be prepared to use more)
1/4 c milk
2 tsp thyme, fresh, minced
1 1/2 c peas, frozen
2 15-oz boxes Pillsbury Pie Crust

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 T oil in a large pot over high until smoking. Cook chicken until well browned, about 2 1/2 minutes per side. Add stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low until cooked through, 6-12 minutes, depending on thickness. Use a thermometer to ensure that the thickest part gets to 165 degrees.

Transfer chicken to a large plate and let cool. Leave stock on burner over low.

Melt butter with remaining 1 T oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook onion, carrots, celery, and 1/4 tsp salt until lightly browned and softened, 8-10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add flour and cook 1 minute.

Sieve the broth from the first pot into the new pot, separating out and discarding the solids.

Add milk and thyme. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. (Again, feel free to add some more flour if necesasry - I usually add about 1/4 c more.)

Meanwhile, cube chicken into small bite-sized pieces. Add chicken and frozen peas. Season all with salt and pepper.

Let cool until just warm.

Unwrap and unroll the prepared pie dough. Invert your freezer containers on top of the dough and cut out pieces that are about 1/2" wider than the dish itself. The scraps can be wadded together and re-rolled once to make another piece, if necessary.

Prepare your freezer tins with cooking spray (only necessary if using pans without a nonstick surface).

Spoon cooled pot pie filling into the containers. Layer dough on top, and crimp to seal. Poke holes on top to let steam out when they are eventually baked.

Tightly wrap each pan with two layers of plastic wrap, and one layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 2 months.

To serve, preheat oven to 400. Unwrap pie and place on a baking sheet. I place mine on a cast iron skillet. Cover top with foil and bake 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 35 minutes, until crusts are golden brown. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.