Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Buttermilk Bread

I recently discovered this book: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes. It's amazing. The recipes are super-easy and delicious. The main theme of the book is how to quickly and easily make that kind of bakery-style artisan bread with a shiny crackly crust. However, to make that kind of bread, they tell you to use a pizza stone (which I don't have) so I tried this recipe for a buttermilk loaf instead. It was heavenly, especially warm from the oven. It is soft and airy and really flavorful, and in the book they also recommend using the dough for cinnamon-raisin bread, which would be awesome too.
They say this recipe is enough for three 1 lb loaves, but I just halved it and made one larger loaf. The book also advocates making a huge batch of dough which sits in the fridge for a week or two developing flavor and waiting for you to hack off a chunk at a time whenever you want to bake. This would be very dangerous for me and my carb-hound kids, so I just make one loaf at a time.
Here is the recipe...I've included the halved amounts in parentheses, because they're kind of awkward:
2 cups lukewarm water (1 cup)
1 cup buttermilk (1/2 cup)
1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 1/2 T salt (2 1/4 tsp)
1 1/2 T sugar (2 1/4 tsp)
6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (3 1/4 cups)
butter or neutral-tasting oil for greasing the pan
* I recommend using room-temp buttermilk, and according to the authors, using unbleached flour is kind of important, since the bleaching process alters the proteins in some way.
1. Mix everything together without kneading. ( I just use a wooden spoon)
2. Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temp for about two hours
3. At this point you can refrigerate it for up to 7 days.
4. Lightly grease a loaf pan. Dust the dough with flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. ( they call this "gluten-cloaking" the loaf...fancy!) Elongate the ball into an oval and drop it in the pan.
* The dough is really wet and sticky so it is supposedly easier to work with when it has been refrigerated.
5. Allow the dough to rest for 40 minutes (or 1 hour and 40 minutes if the dough was refrigerated) Dust the top with flour and slash the top with a sharp knife. (they say to brush the top with melted butter, but I never did...)
6. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
7. I remove the loaf from the pan right away and cool it on a wire rack...until my family can't resist the temptation to cut into it any longer. Seriously, I finally put away the small piece that was leftover, and Kateri pushed a chair over to the counter and sneakily unwrapped it so she could keep eating's so good.
I've tried the 100% whole wheat loaf, too, which is good and I am going to try to make their master recipe in my dutch oven, since I don't have a pizza stone, but here is their website if you are interested. They have videos and tips and troubleshooting...enjoy!
**** Sorry everyone...I just made this recipe and realized I had written the half-recipe conversions wrong...I fixed it! *****

Monday, January 10, 2011

Beef Stew

It doesn't look like much, but trust me, it's darn tasty.

I had to post this recipe because it is one of my favorite winter meals (and I made it last night): hearty, hot, yummy, and easy! It's from my dear mother and it is delicious. I use a slow cooker, but I'm sure you could adjust it to use a dutch oven if you prefer that.

Here you go:
1 ½ to 2 lbs. boneless chuck beef – cut into 1” to 1 ½ “pieces (I've had great luck just using whatever kind of big chunk of beef is on sale at the grocery store)

4 medium sized red potatoes (I use whatever kind I have: russet, gold, etc..), peeled and cubed (12oz. small red potatoes, peeled & quartered, about 2 cups)

5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¾” pieces (2 ½ cups baby carrots cut in half)

2 yellow onions cut into chunks

5 celery stalks (2 cups approx.) Cut into ¾’ pieces

(If you have them, you can add Mushrooms, cut in half or quartered)

3 cans beef broth concentrate (Campbell’s 10 ½ oz, do not dilute)

Salt & Pepper (I like lots of pepper)

Put everything into slow cooker and cover: cook on low-heat setting 8 to 10 hours OR
high-heat setting 4 to 5 hours.

Just before serving…

Thicken stew with a roux made of …

½ cup butter
2/3 cup flour or less
3 ½ cup hot beef broth from the stew pot (if you are a little short on broth just add water
to the broth)
Kitchen Bouquet – browning & seasoning sauce
Salt & Pepper

In a 2 ½ quart sauce pan, melt butter and add flour. Cook and stir, mixing into a paste.
Slowly add hot beef stock. Stirring to mix well. Cook and stir until gravy comes to a
gentle boil. Add a little Kitchen bouquet for color. Salt & pepper to taste. Return gravy
to slow-cooker with the rest of the stew. Mix again.

Serve with crusty bread and a green tossed salad. Yum!