October 29, 2010

No Knead Sourdough Bread

Start calling me Martha...because I just made my own bread! :D

Maybe it's because I've never ventured into the terrifying world of yeast before, or perhaps it's because I just love the idea of homemade bread (I mean really, how resourceful am I???), but this was by far the tastiest and most exciting "cooking experiment" I've ever done.

Like most Cooks Illustrated recipes, this one did not fail. Its author took the insanely popular NYTimes No-Knead Bread recipe (Jim Lahey) and further improved/expanded on it. Though the original NYTimes recipe spread like wildfire when first published, many critics complained that it lacked flavor. To address this, white vinegar and beer are added to the dough for a more tangy, yeasty flavor. The result? A delectably sour, chewy bread with great texture.

Here's the kicker -- the recipe itself only involves around 5 minutes of actual effort; time does all the rest of the work. And while that may sound glorious, it's also torture....especially towards the end, when the smell of freshly baked bread permeates throughout your house like a drug. The anticipation, however, is worth it. Nothing tastes as heavenly as a crusty, chewy loaf of bread straight out of the oven.

No longer will I need to run out to the store for a loaf of bread....20 hours and a little flour should now do the trick! ;)

No Knead Bread
Recipe from Cooks Illustrated, January 2008

3 cups (15 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1/4 tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 tsp table salt
3/4 cup + 2 Tbls water (7 oz) at room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 Tbls mild lager (3 oz) at room temperature
1 Tbls white vinegar

Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer, and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

Lay 12- by 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet/pan and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature. Best eaten right away.
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October 24, 2010

Boston Cream Pie

Some things just don't need an explanation.

Especially when there's cake and presents involved :)

Yup, it's birthday time...Round 2! 60 and fabulous -- that's my mom!! :)

Happy birthday, mother! Looking forward to celebrating many more birthdays with you in the years to come...
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October 18, 2010

Meatballs in Chipotle Sauce

It doesn't get much better than this. I'm talking warm SF indian summers, autumn vegetables and heirloom tomatoes, a slightly slower pace of life, and of course this unforgettably fiery, smoky, chipotle meatball sauce.

I say unforgettable for two reasons. When I first had this, I couldn't stop thinking about it and had to stalk my coworker for weeks upon weeks to get the recipe. And when I finally got around to making these meatballs a couple of years later for my (spice adverse) parents one hot summer evening, I accidentally added 2 or 3 too many chipotle chiles to the sauce. Oopsies. Although -- between excessive gulps of water and relentless beads of sweat dripping down their foreheads -- they kept gasping, "this is good steph, this is good", I can't imagine how their mouths must have felt if I even thought it was a bit spicy. LOL. I giggle every time I think of that incident :D

Anyway, I can assure you that I did not OD on the chipotle chiles this time around. Although, don't be fooled -- the smokiness from the chipotles is what really sets this sauce apart from anything else. The addition of cumin adds even more depth, and grated parmesan cheese offsets both savory flavors with a subtle saltiness. The meatballs are also worthy of mentioning. Rather than pan fried, they're cooked directly in the chipotle sauce which keeps them ultra moist and tender. Nothing about this resembles your typical flat, boring tomato sauce...which is fantastic, because AC doesn't like red sauces (see what I have to live with??).

Just be warned, this makes a lot. We've been swimming in meatballs for the past couple of days...which is actually a really good thing if it's not too hot outside and you have plenty of water to chug! ;)

Meatballs in Chipotle Sauce
Recipe adapted from Meg, an old coworker and friend

1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
1/2 tsp ground cumin
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 eggs
1/4 C bread crumbs
salt and pepper

4 canned chipotle chiles, in marinade
6 medium tomatoes, roasted and peeled
1 C chicken broth
6 garlic cloves
1 tsp cumin
1 T dried oregano
6 oz tomato paste
1/8 C grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Combine the pork, beef, ground cumin, garlic, eggs, bread crumbs, and salt & pepper to taste. Mix well. Shape the mixture into medium-sized meatballs. Cook the meatballs in the chipotle sauce for about 30 min.

To make the chipotle sauce, puree the chiles, tomatoes, broth, paste, garlic, cumin, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil.
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