Basic Country Bread and My New Bread Baking Obsession

Last year, I bought the Tartine Bread book.  There was a special on Amazon.  It was $2.99 on Kindle.  I couldn’t turn it down.

I remember I started reading it while on the plane to Philadelphia.  The photos are so amazing and the recipes so detailed that I knew I had to try it as soon as possible.   Weeks went by and I didn’t bake any bread.  The thought of making a starter was intimidating to say the least.  Then, on December 2nd (funny how I remember these dates), my friend brought me some of her starter.

bernard

Blog friends, meet Bernard.   Bernard is about 5 years old and comes from a culinary school in Michigan.  Now a part of him is with me, and through Foodologie with you too.  Here’s here to help us make bread.

I love that my friend named the starter.  It makes the process so much more fun.  Because after all, he needs to be taken care of and fed.  I feed Bernard on Monday nights and leave him in the fridge until I’m ready to bake some bread.

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Some of this glorious bread.  It’s nothing short of amazing.  It might take days to make, but it’s worth it.  And it all starts with Bernard.

The night before I want to make bread, I take a big spoonful of starter and mix it with pretty much equal parts flour and water (if we want to be specific 3/4 cup water + 3/4 cup Flour and about 1/4 cup starter will give you enough leaven, or fed starter, to make 2 loaves of bread).

starter

So I let that sit on the counter.  It gets all bubbly and smelly in the most endearing way possible.  Once it’s bubbly and ready to go (you’ll know it’s ready when you drop a bit of it in some water and it floats), I mix it with flour and water.  Once it’s all incorporated, I let it sit for about half an hour.  After half an hour, I add a bit of salt and some more water.  Then the first “bulk rise” begins.  This takes 3-4 hours.  You don’t have to do much, just turn it every so often.  That means dip your hand in water, then dip your hand in the dough and turn it a bit.  Pretty simple right?

After a few hours (assuming it’s in a fairly warm temperature, sometimes I’m too cheap to put on the heater and so I turn the oven on for a few minutes, turn it off, then put the bread in there to keep it warm), I turn it onto a well-floured surface and divide it in two.

This part is tricky.  The dough is sticky.  It sticks to everything. Your hands. The towel. The surface. Your hair.  Everything.  My first time around was rough.  I think I was a little shy with the flour, but after the next few times, I leaved that a lot of flour is necessary.  So you divide the dough into and fold it into two rounds mounds.  Then it sits for hours.    I know right? There’s a lot of sitting involved.

So those mounds sit for another 3-4 hours on the counter covered with a towel (flour that towel too, because seriously the dough will stick to it).  I’ve also tried leaving it in the fridge overnight.  That worked too.

After the dough has sat for a good while (either 3-4 hours or overnight in the fridge), you can start getting everything ready to bake.  I bake this bread in a dutch oven.  I think the dutch oven is my saving grace, because I’m pretty sure my oven is a bit messed up.  The dutch oven ensures an even bake, so you can’t argue with that.

So I turn the oven to 500F and put the dutch oven in there (empty that is, with the lid on), for about 20-30 minutes.  You want it to get piping hot.  This also gives you bread a little more time to rise (or to get to room temperature if it was sitting in the fridge).

Again, I reform the loafs into a round loaf then score to top.  Scoring apparently is important because it allows the bread to rise to it’s full potential.  I have a really hard time with the scoring.  In Tartine Bread, they suggest using a razor; I use a knife.  We made due with what we have, right?

Then the next tricky part, putting the dough in the dutch oven without burning your hands.  The dough isn’t the sturdiest.  The water content is pretty high so it’s a very sticky dough.  But it’s easy enough.  Drop it in, re-score if necessary and put in the oven with the lid on, reduce the temperature to 450F and bake for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove the dutch oven lid and continue to bake for another 25-30 minutes or until it reaches the level of brownness you like.

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Remove the bread from the dutch oven, allow to cool then serve.  You can repeat the baking process with your second loaf now.  The dutch oven doesn’t need to heat as long.  I usually just put it back in the oven for about 5-10 minutes then move on.

For the full recipe, check out this write up in the New York Times.  It has all the measurements and weights you need to get your bread making on.  I still can’t get mine to look exactly like their bread, but sooner or later, I’ll get there.  But even if it doesn’t look exactly like the Tartine loaves, it tastes amazing.

To say that I love this bread is underselling it.  I seriously love this bread.

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It’s great for sandwiches (ahem, grilled cheese anyone?).  Awesome toasted with butter.  Amazing if you spread it with jam.  The process might be time consuming.  Scratch that, it’s totally time consuming, but it’s worth it.

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So this is my newest obsession: bread.  I want to make it all the time and eat it all the time, but I probably shouldn’t, so gifting loaves of bread is becoming my new thing.

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Now that I’ve mastered the basic country bread.  I’m ready to move on to new varieties.  Of course, croissants and brioche are on my bucket list for the year, but I also want to start experimenting with different flours: whole wheat, rye, etc.

Let’s get our carbs on!

Are you a home bread baker or just an equal opportunity bread lover?  What’s your favorite kind to bake or eat?

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Cuban Roasted Pork and Cuban Sandwiches

If you watched the movie The Chef, you probably wanted to eat a Cuban sandwich the entire second half of the movie.  Maybe that’s just my inner fat kid talking but ever since watching that movie I’ve had a hankering for Cuban food.

My favorite spot, Versailles (both in Miami and in LA, different owners I believe), are a little out of reach. I decided to take matters into my own hands and roast a pork leg and make some damn sandwiches!  Isn’t that how all good stories start?

Let’s be honest. Sometimes we just need a good sandwich.

cubano

The ingredients are simple: roasted pork, ham, swiss cheese, mustard, pickles.  But simple is definitely not what I would call this sandwich.

All this started with roasted pork marinated overnight in orange, lemon and lime juice with lots of garlic, onion and oregano.  Then I roasted it on high heat to get it crispy then let it cook low and slow for about 4 hours.

I’m not sure how to make a hunk of meat look good, but here it is.

roasted pork

A hunk of meat that got lots of TLC.  Then I sliced it up thin as the base for my cuban sandwiches.  You should know they’re delicious because I’m eating one as I type this.  My keyboard is greasy and I’m ok with that.  So let’s get started.  You start with the pork….

Cuban-Style Roasted Pork

1 pork leg (mine was about 7lbs)
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup lime juice
20 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
handful of fresh oregano

Cuban Sandwiches

a few slices of cuban-style roasted pork, recipe follows
2 slices of ham
1 slice of swiss cheese
some pickles
some mustard
dang good bread*
a bit of butter (for grilling your sandwich)

In a blender, blend together juices, garlic, onion, salt, pepper and oregano.  Pierce pork as much as you can with a paring knife.  Pour juice mixture over pork leg and marinate overnight.

When ready to roast, preheat oven to 450F.  Transfer leg to a roasting dish and roast at 450F for 20 minutes, reserve the excess marinate.  After 20 minutes, turn down the heat to 300F and continue to cook 4-6 more hours.  If you want it falling off the bones tender, cook it longer.  If you want it sliceable, it should be ready around 4 hours.  If you slice it and it’s still bloody, throw it back in the oven.

While your leg is baking, transfer the excess marinade into a sauce pan and boil for about 5-10 minutes.  This will be the perfect side mojo sauce for dipping your pork in, also great with rice and yucca.

Once you remove the pork from the oven.  Let it chill on the counter for about 10 minutes on its own.  Then slice for sandwiches.  Now you’re ready to assemble your sandwiches.

*A note about “dang good bread.”  Cuban bread is delicious.  It’s soft and wonderful but not always easily accessible.  I used hoagie rolls I found at the grocery store.  It did the job.  Do with that what you will.

Spread your dang good bread with mustard (I like a good amount of mustard on there), then top with pickles, ham, roasted pork slices and swiss cheese.

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Put the sandwich together and grill it.  If you have a panini press, use that.  If you’re not fancy (like me), put it in a pan with a bit of butter then place another pan on top with a jar of something heavy to weigh it down.  And ta-da! Instant panini press on the cheap.

Allow to cook a few minutes (low and slow is the best way to go so the cheese melts), then flip and cook for a few more minutes until toasted and melty and delicious.

Slice in half and serve.  Repeat with however many sandwiches you’d like to make.

cubansandwich

A whole pork leg will yield a lot of meat, and I understand that this is definitely a process, but trust me, it’s worth it.

So invite your friends over, roast a pork leg and make some sandwiches, then go for a walk because you’ll probably need to walk this off.

What’s your favorite type of sandwich?   This is a tough one for me. This Cuban sandwich was amazing but I also love Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches.  Maybe that should be my next sandwich attempt!  But first… I’m running my first half marathon next Sunday, wish me luck!

Soft Pretzels

I’m more sore than I can possibly explain.  Like so sore I can’t sleep.

Don’t worry, I’m not going crazy with resolutions.  I’ve been going to crossfit 3-4 times per week for the past few months.  This week I’ve gone twice, and my shoulders and back are killing me.  But enough about soreness, because aside from my aching shoulders something else is bothering me this time of year: diet-palooza.

I love all the salad recipes floating around, and I’m all for people getting healthy.  I wish it would happen year round, not just the first 3 weeks of January.

But can we call agree to stop calling lighter versions of fatty foods “skinny”?  You know what I’m talking about.

Skinny Vanilla Latte=  Latte with Low-Fat Milk and Sugar Free Syrup
Skinny Nacho Dip= Some sort of cheesy dip probably made with non-fat greek yogurt
Skinny Onion Rings= No, they’re not just cut thin. They’re probably FAT pieces of onion rolled in whole wheat bread crumbs and baked.

I absolutely hate the word “skinny” when it comes to people and food.  I’m going to avoid “skinny” and talk about something that will get you nowhere toward achieving the goal of “skinny”… Soft Pretzels

Carb-y. Delicious.  Thigh-gap’s worst nightmare.

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Soft Pretzel

from Chow

1 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)    
1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)    
Canola oil spray (like Pam or whatever)    
2 3/4 cups bread flour    
1 tablespoon sugar    
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling    
6 cups water    
1/4 cup baking soda

Place warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer.  I don’t measure the temperature, I just turn the water on hot from the sink and that’s usually the right temperature.  Add yeast and allow to sit for 5 minutes, until foamy.  If your yeast/water combo isn’t bubbley, throw it out.  It’s no good!

In another bowl, whisk together bread flour, sugar and salt.  Attach the dough hook to your stand mixer.  Add flour to yeast mixture and turn your mixer on low.  Mix for 10 minutes.   Transfer dough to a greased bowl.  Cover with a towel and place in a warm spot to rise for half an hour.

Prep your baking sheets by lining two baking sheets with parchment paper and spraying with cooking spray.  Once your dough has risen, punch down and knead by hand for another minute.  Divide dough into 16 small balls.  Take each ball and roll into a long string, then twist into pretzel shape.  For photos on how to do this, check out Chow.

Place prepared pretzels on baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise for 10 minutes.  In the meantime, preheat your oven to 425F and boil 6 cups of water.  Once water has boiled, add baking soda.  Add pretzels (depending on the size of your pot, you might be able to fit 4-5 pretzels at a time).  Boil one minute per side.  Then transfer to baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt.

Once you’ve boiled them all.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until dark brown.  Allow to cool and serve!

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If you’re still feeling the resolutions, feel free to have this with some skinny cheese-beer dip.  I’m sure you can find that recipe somewhere on Pinterest.  Just kidding.

But for real.  These pretzels are awesome and surprisingly easier to make than I would have expected!

How are your New Year’s Resolutions coming along?

I’m slowly on my way to being able to do a pullup.  I did one with the thinnest red band this week! Woo!

Technical Difficulties and My Baking Wish List

Hi All.  I have so many things to tell you about… OC Restaurant Week (that’s happening now!), my first attempt at mac and cheese, gnocchi making.  So many things!

But sadly, I’m having technical difficulties with some photos and my internet just plain sucking most days.  So while I get that sorted out, let’s talk about things I’ve been dying to make lately, but haven’t had a chance to…

(Image from Martha Stewart)

Crepe Cake.  I don’t even really like crepes.  I just want to make tons of crepes, and layer them with some amazingly delicious fillings.  I have so many ideas for a wonderful crepe cake.  I hope it happens soon.  If you’ve made one tell me if it’s amazing or not.

Challah

Bake Bread.  I haven’t made bread in a really long time.  In fact, I think the last bread I made was the Challah in the photo above.  I’d love to make a good, hearty wheat bread, or maybe some pretzel rolls.

Along those lines… bread pudding.  I made some not too long ago, but I didn’t try it and I hated my photos.  That probably means I need to remake it.   Sometimes I still reminisce about this Bourbon Bread Pudding I made a long time ago…

breadpudding3

Memories.

I’m also really curious to experiment with new flours and healthier baking options.  I remember I made that Bourbon Bread Pudding because I made some wheat berry bread that didn’t taste very good.  Back then I used to experiment.  What happened to that?

Well I’m off to take my Dad to the airport.  Hope you’re having a fantastic weekend and making (and eating) lots of tasty things!

What’s on your list of things to make?

Crazy Good Biscuits

My boyfriend confessed to me that one time, I ate his biscuit.

That sounds totally gross.  Let me back up.  Once night, we had a crazy hankering for KFC.  So like any normal couple, we satiated the craving with a bucket, 4 biscuits and 2 sides.  Apparently, after dinner, I wrapped up the leftovers and told him to take them.  When he went home, he forgot them.

The next day, lunch rolled around and I ate the last biscuit, but left Jesse the remaining chicken and sides.  At least that’s how I remember it.

Yesterday, he confessed.  I ate the last biscuit and he was silently sad about that for a while.

Naturally, I laughed and apologized profusely.  Then, of course, made some biscuits to make amends for my biscuit-devouring habit.

crazygoodbiscuits

Crazy Good Biscuits

adapted from Epicurious

2 cups flour (plus extra for rolling out)
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
5 tbsp butter, cold
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1-2 tbsp melted butter (for brushing)

Preheat oven to 425F.  Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add butter and using your fingers work the butter into the flour until you get coarse crumbs.  Next, add yogurt, cream and milk and stir with a spoon until combined.  Turn onto a floured surface and knead 2 or 3 times, then form into a disk shape.  Pat it down with your hand until it’s about 1 inch thick.  Using a biscuit cutter or the bottom of a cup (I used the bottom of a mason jar I use to make pies in jars, so mine were small biscuits), cut out biscuits and place onto a parchment paper lined baking pan.  Repeat until all dough is used up.  Brush with melted butter and bake 10-15 minutes (this will vary depending on the size of your biscuits) until golden brown.   This will make about 2 dozen biscuits (depending on size).

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Serve with whatever you like.  We like to keep it Latin so we ate them with carne asada, grilled corn and squash.

Tasty.

Some Meal Inspiration… or What You Should Be Making ASAP

Hi Guys.  I’m moving again.

So while I try to eat the entire contents of my shelf in the fridge and cupboard, I need to live vicariously through you.

I just ate celery and a hunk of cheese for dinner.  I’m considering supplementing it with some tortillas and… peanut butter.  Hmm maybe not the best combo.

Really, I’d like to be eating this Zucchini Goat Cheese Omelet.

Breakfast is totally appropriate at all times of the day.  Make it.  Tell me how it is.

Oh wait, I know how it is.  Absolutely delicious.  Just make it.  I’m already jealous.

Oh yeah, and I’d serve it with a slice of this Challah the side.

Don’t be shy.  It’s less complicated than it seems but just as tasty as it looks.

If I were in my new place, I’m make Bananas Foster Creme Brulee for dessert.

Wouldn’t you?  Yeah, you should probably head to the kitchen now.  I know I would if I could.

Be back soon with more new recipes from my own kitchen!

Croissants

Buttery.  Flaky.  Delicious.

That’s all I can say.  I only ate half of one, but it was more than enough.

Croissants are one of those things I was dying to make.  But seriously.  So. Much. Butter.  I felt like a combination of Paula Deen

and Ina Garten

So croissants happened, and I don’t think I want to do it again any time soon.  Not because it was time consuming but maybe more butter than I can handle (and I can handle butter).

But I must say they were oh so good!  Fun project for when you have a lot of time on your hands.

Have a great day!