Friday, February 29, 2008

Daring Bakers February Challenge - French Bread

So, time to post about another Daring Bakers challenge. This month's challenge was hosted by Mary of The Sour Dough and Sara of I Like To Cook, and the recipe they chose was a recipe for French Bread from a book by Julia Child. Julia Child seems to be one of the most famous food personalities in the US, though the only reason I ever heard of her is that I once bought one of her books on a book sale. It seems as if two of her books were translated to Swedish, one of them the one the challenge recipe is from. Sadly enough, the translation seems to contain some mistakes (one that I'm sure is a mistake is that 70° Fahrenheit certainly doesn't translate to 18° Celsius? but rather about 21° I'd say). The book in question (not the one I bought a long time ago) is out of print, but I found it at the public library. (The title is "Det goda franska köket, del 2".)

The recipe can be found here, thanks to our hostesses (it's really long so I'm happy with linking and not putting it into my post). To Mary and Sara: Thank you for a great challenge!

Now to my bread making. I made this bread a couple of weeks ago. The recipe was really time consuming, and since I wanted to keep true to the recipe I didn't fiddle with the timing. I was really annoyed, and quite sleepy in the end. But I consider it a challenge in itself to keep to a recipe different to the ones I'm used to. At times, you can really learn new things that way...

So, as a personal challenge, I decided to knead by hand (stand mixers were allowed). I hardly ever knead by hand anymore, since it's just very convenient to let a machine do it. The mixing and kneading all went very well. The dough was somewhat sticky, and I guess I did add some extra flour by trying to keep the dough from sticking to the counter by dusting the counter with flour. But the hand-kneading went much better than I was afraid it would. I may have been helped by the fact that air is quite dry here (temperatures below freezing for extended periods of time tend to do that). The recipe makes not very much bread, so the whole dough wasn't that big. And the kitchen was nice and warm, actually so warm that some time into the first rise I decided to move the dough into the living room. D was making chili in the kitchen, and the thermometer started to be steadily above 71°F (I changed the thermometer to Fahrenheit rather than run into troubles with conversions... I have ways to measure almost everything in american units by now, cups, a scale that can do lb and ounces and thermometer... Still don't understand "stick of butter" though.) The living room was cooler, about 68°F so the dough took a little more than 3 hours to rise for the first time. Pictures show it after first (right) and second (left) rise, second time it rose slightly less than first. For shaping, I decided to experiment a little. The bâtard and the triangle shaped one turned out fine, but the supposedly daisy-like thing was to wide for my peel, and sunk to much... I used my usual setup with a baking stone in the oven and water sprayed onto the heated stone right before the bread goes in. I also determined the times with a thermometer, those different shapes required slightly different timing.
The taste was fine too, pretty mild and quite like the "French bread" you can buy (franskbröd). This is not my favourite type of bread, I'm from the north and I prefer the deeper, more subtle tastes achieved by preferments, coarser grinds or sourdoughs (or a combination). But the bread was nice and fluffy, and not at all hard to make except for the investment in time. If I ever make it again I would probably do one or both rises in the refrigerator, overnight and during a working day. But I would certainly recommend anyone who wants a rather cooperative dough that gives a fluffy and good result. And I'm very happy with my hand kneading experiment, which reminded me both of that it's perfectly possible to do it, and that I really enjoy the kneading experience. Thank you again to Sara and Mary who gave us this challenge!

(Now, D is making chocolate mousse... and wants me to help whipping up the meringue. So I'd better stop writing if I want dessert. :) )

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Baked stuff

Time to look back here and put something new up. I think I maybe should try to make some kind of posting schedule in order to post more regularly. I actually started this post right before dinner, but I ended up setting the table instead, and here I am with half a glass of wine left waiting for D to make a raspberry sauce for the dessert. (No, I didn't find any fresh raspberries, but our freezer is somehow magically refilled with berries every once in a while. People who pick berries and just give them away are wonderful.) So, what have I been up to lately?

Well, yesterday I had another go at making macarons. Still no perfect results, but it's getting better. You could even spot something almost like feet, at least on some of them. If you're looking closely. And they certainly taste good.

This morning I also made a kind of weird scone, but it was oh so tasty. Especially with the left over lemon curd from the macaron making...

(Oh, sorry, I had to leave for a little while. Dessert was ready.)
So, anyway, today's breakfast was banana scones with lemon curd. I know, it doesn't sound like the healthiest breakfast, but common, it's Sunday. And it seems I'm only keeping D. here for a little more than another month, so I better spoil him. He's leaving for a post-doc beginning in April. Great news! (But I'll miss him.) On the other hand, I get to go visit. In France. Not far from Paris. Hmm.. I can certainly live with that. :)

So, to make not-so-healthy, but good for spoiling someone, scones I did something like this:

Mix 2.5 dl flour, a little oat bran (maybe 1/4 dl, just to add some crunch), a pinch of salt and 1/2-1 teaspoon baking powder together. Add 75 g of butter cut into little pieces. Cut into this until butter pieces are very small (as if making a pie crust or similar). Alternatively, put into food processor and pule until butter is in small pieces. Add 1/4 dl sugar, 1 egg and 1/2 dl milk. Mix together. Finally, add one banana cut into pieces, and knead into the mixture. If using food processor, take everything out and add the bananas by hand (beware of the knifes while getting it out of the bowl!) Bake in 175°C oven for about 15 minutes. Serve with lemon curd (or something else a little sweet, a little sour).

Monday, February 4, 2008

Swedish Mardi Gras Sweets - Semlor

So we are a day early, but we had the smell around all since we made the sweet bread for this yesterday. We just couldn't resist any longer...

Those are traditional Swedish Mardi Gras treats. It's really quite simple. A bun made from sweet bread dough (any recipe could be used, preferably a one that produces a light result.. many traditional recipes contain a leavener with ammonium bicarbonate in addition to yeast to achieve this). Some almond paste. A little cream and confectioner's sugar.

To put them together, cut a bun into two. Remove most of the interior of the bottom part with a spoon. Crumble this and mix with about an equal amount of almond paste. Add some cream or whole milk to get a mixture that holds together somewhat. Put back into the hollow bun. Spoon or pipe some cream, but the hat back on and sift on some confectioner's sugar.

Traditionalists eat it like D. did, in a bowl of hot milk. I prefer eating them as they are. Any way, this is how Tuesdays between now and Easter should be celebrated.

One more comment to add the day after (I just made a couple more for tonight which is, after all, the right day). The bread should of course contain cardamom. This is just the way sweet bread is to me, so I even forgot to mention it. The only time I ever make sweet bread without cardamom is when I make it with saffron, then I might choose not to have cardamom. (And that one time I tried to make cinnamon rolls in Prague, where I just couldn't find cardamom. The rolls didn't turn out as they should - no good idea.)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Can't Stop Munching - Roasted Chickpeas

This is again something I'm sure many people have done a million times or so. But I just did it for the first time ever, so I'm going to write about it. I really shouldn't be sitting here eating... I had a nice and filling dinner not so long ago, and I'm quite full. But while D. was washing the dishes and I was messing around with some bread that I'm making (my project with making enough dough for several loaves but leaving it in the fridge for baking one at a time is turning out great) I realised that we did have a small amount of chickpeas in the fridge that really needed to be eaten. So I decided to try something I had been thinking about for some time. It's quite easy. Turn on oven, rather hot (I used about 200°C). Heat some oil in a pan on the stove, mince a little garlic and pour into the heated pan together with leftover chickpeas and some dried chili. I used some of the chili that I tried to grow on the balcony this summer. (That didn't work, it's far to cold for chili to be out of doors up here, unless you have a nice southern wall or something. It got to grow in our bedroom window instead.) When everything is nicely coated with oil and garlic and chili (or use any kind of spice that goes well with chickpeas I think?) is well spread out, put into the oven for some 15 minutes. I've been eating they cooled down enough to not burn (to much).

Oh... I just emptied the camera to get the chickpea photo and found a few other ones that I took because I considered posting about it but forgot to write anything. Now I decided I'll just share the pictures here. Both are dinners from last week, two of those that turned out good. Onion tart with endive and Rochefort sallad, and a fish which I don't know the English name of (Röding anyone?) with a lemon pilaff, grated carrot and green beans. Yum. Now I almost got hungry again. Maybe some more chickpeas...
Argh.. Blogger's spell checking does not seem to work today. You'll have to do with a non-spell checked post. Hope it's not too bad