Archive for breads

Homemade Baguette–Easier Than You Think

 

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Here in Philly, where artisanal bread of every ilk is readily available, it’s arguably unnecessary to bake your own.  But a recent dinner at uber-authentically French Bibou, during which our conversation turned to homemade French baguette, inspired me to give it a shot.  As it happened, the following Sunday arrived with torrential rains, so baking bread seemed like a good idea.   Here’s my conclusion:  homemade, hot from the oven bread is absolute heaven and completely worth the time and effort involved.    But you have to eat it all.   Because unfortunately, the heavenliness doesn’t last; I froze one loaf and reheated it a few days later and it was still good, but no comparison to the fresh loaf of Sunday evening.

I used this recipe. (Thank you, Food.com)

First it had to rise for a couple of hours:

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Then I divided the dough and rolled it out, into thin logs:baguettedoughflat

Next, I sliced it across the top and let it rise again:

baguettesovenready

And finally, I baked it.

Conclusion:  Yes, I would do it again, but only for a crowd where the results would be enjoyed immediately, at their optimal deliciousness.  One added bonus:  the house smelled absolutely wonderful while the bread baked, which was a lovely thing on a rainy Sunday when we were all stuck at home.

Southern Corn Bread with Jalapenos and Cheddar Cheese

My husband is a pretty open minded chap in many ways.  But his southern roots run deep and they most certainly extend to his views on corn bread. He derisively refers to any corn bread with a hint of sweetness as “Yankee Corn Bread” and deems it “cake”, which, he asserts. has no business near chili, pulled pork, short ribs, scrambled eggs, or any other place a southerner would place his corn bread.   Me, I like a little sweetness, but then again, I grew up in New Jersey.

Strict traditionalists would eschew any ingredients beyond the basic batter; Matt’s not that hidebound.  He”ll add select savory items to his batter, as he did last Sunday…..

Matt’s Sunday Corn Bread

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup corn meal

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 Tbsp butter, softened

1 1/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

2-4 jalapeno peppers, chopped and seeded

Heat Oven to 375.  Grease an 8 inch square pan.  Combine all ingredients in medium bowl.  Mix well, and pour into prepared pan.  Bake 25 minutes until lightly browned.

We enjoyed this warm, cut in squares and served along side chili-braised short ribs for Sunday dinner. The leftovers were great toasted for breakfast Monday morning.

How to Make Biscuits (After 20 years of trying)

Biscuits were a seemingly simple food that I never managed to make well.   Having married a southerner, this was particularly problematic.  He was raised on light, fluffy, perfect biscuits and my hockey pucks were a source of dread to us both.   In his defense, he, too, tried to duplicate the heavenly orbs of his youth without success, so he sympathized with me and recognized that biscuits were complicated.

This problem came to a bit of a head recently; husband invited a group of colleagues for a real southern meal (he’s frying chicken–stay tuned for future post on that).  To round out the meal with full authenticity, biscuits were required.   We considered ordering a tray from Jack McDavid of the Down Home Diner (whose biscuits are stellar),  but it just felt wrong.  I agreed to make that our plan B, but was determined to produce a bona fide biscuit in a dry-run batch the week before the party.

I searched several of my go-to sources for this type of cooking and found solid advice from Lauren Chattman’s Mom’s Big Book of Baking and Betty Crocker’s Cookbook.

I learned the following strategies:

1.  Use 1/2 cake flour and 1/2 all-purpose flour for lighter biscuits.
2.  Use buttermilk instead of milk for best flavor.
3.  For Drop Biscuits (I abhor rolling dough) increase the buttermilk or milk in recipe by 25%.
4.  Cut butter into dry ingredients quickly, either with a mixer, pastry cutter, or 2 knives–do not over work.  Dough should be crumbly chunks about the size of lentils, not a smooth gooey mass.
5.  When adding milk, stir in by hand.  After mixing, dough will have a more formed texture but will still be lumpy and a bit crumbly.
6.  Bake biscuits when butter is still in small, cold bits; this produces air pockets and makes for lightness and fluffiness.

I integrated several different recipes, followed that six pack of tips and came up with the following formula–which, I am delighted to say, was a success!

Finally Successful Drop Biscuits

6 TBS chilled butter cut in pieces
1 c all purpose flour
1 c cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup buttermilk

Heat oven to 425.  Line cookie sheet w/ parchment.  Mix everything but buttermilk til small crumbs form.  Mix in buttermilk with spoon.  Drop by large spoonfuls on cookie sheet; each biscuit should contain about 1/3 cup dough.   Bake about 18 minutes til they are just beginning to brown.