Three Little Words

Now that I’ve got great bread down to four ingredients, flour, instant or bread machine yeast, salt, and water, I’m thinking about other ways to make my domestic life simpler yet richer. And three little words seem to be doing all the heavy lifting.  Which three words?  Read on.

In writing a story for Natural Awakenings Magazine on “Coming Home to Yourself” on creating a home that truly reflects who you are, I really thought about the advice of interior designer Alexandra Stoddard.

In her book Feeling at Home, Stoddard lists 15 elements that contribute to the emotional intelligence of a home:  light, a view outside, color, comfortable furniture, change (periodic rearrangement of elements), privacy, fresh air, nature, beauty, art, order, a working kitchen, a home library and favorite objects.

Order, Nature, Beauty. . . and Apples!
I can’t work on all 15 at once, but I can tackle three.  So my “three little words” for this month are order, nature, and beauty.  Preparing doughs for cooking classes means a constant mess in the kitchen—flour seems to go everywhere—so I need to keep things tidy.  In the fall, I’m reminded anew of the natural beauty here in the Midwest, so I’ll probably gather those beautiful lime green hedge apples or Osage oranges that look so fabulous massed in a bowl. They’re free for the taking.  Then, there are throw pillows and table skirts to switch out from summer to fall as the seasons turn yet again.

This fresh energy comes from a complete change of pace this weekend. A day out in the country always seems to clear the brain, as did today’s trek to Alldredge Orchards in Platte County, Missouri . The skies changed from tumultuous to sunny as I drove the winding country roads past gnarled vineyards, golden soybean fields, and green-leaved trees that are just beginning to sport their fall foliage.  My friend Tina, her husband Tim, and I trekked through the orchard and picked apples right off the tree to take home.

Now that I’ve got these apples, I want to do something simply delicious with them.  Eating them fresh is certainly the easiest, but I also love to grill apples with squash and pork tenderloin or chops for a great autumn meal. What’s really “alfresco” about this is that not only do you get to be outdoors in the fresh air, but you also cook everything outside, so  you keep the order in your kitchen (and if you’re really thinking, you send your significant other out to the grill). You picked the apples from nature, and the dish is a thing of beauty.  Three little words can take you far.

Grilled Pork Chops with Squash, Apples, and Cider-Bourbon Jus

The flavors in this dish go together so well that everyone at the table will belong to the Clean Plate Club. For easy grilling, microcook the squash until it’s almost done, then give it a little char on the grill to finish. Golden Delicious apples work great for quick grilling because they’re naturally sweeter with a softer texture than apples like Jonathan or Granny Smith.

Serves 4.
Cider-Bourbon Jus
1 cup cider or apple juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon bourbon or rum
Salt and white pepper to taste

4 Golden Delicious apples, tops & bottoms trimmed off
2 Acorn squash, halved horizontally, seeds removed, and microcooked on HIGH for 8 minutes
4 boneless pork loin chops, cut ¾-inch thick
Salt and white pepper to taste

1. To make the Cider-Bourbon Jus, bring the cider to a boil over high heat in a saucepan. Let it cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until it has reduced to ½ cup. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and bourbon. Season to taste. Transfer 1/3 cup to a small ramekin and set the remaining jus aside.

2. Prepare a hot fire in a grill. Oil a perforated grill rack and have it ready by the grill.

3. While the grill is heating, slice the partially cooked squash into ¾-inch rings and place on a baking sheet. Brush each ring with a little of the jus, season to taste with salt and white pepper, then rearrange into stacks. Slice each apple into 4 horizontal slices, then use a paring knife to remove the core in each slice. Place the apple rings on the baking sheet and brush each with a little of the jus. On a separate baking sheet, place the pork chops and brush both sides with the last of the jus in the ramekin. Sprinkle each chop with salt and white pepper to taste.

4. At the grill, place the apple rings on the prepared perforated grill rack. Place the grill rack on the grill, close the lid, and grill for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the apple slices with grill tongs, close the lid, and grill for 2 to 3 minutes more or until the apple rings are marked and they “give” when gently squeezed with the grill tongs. Transfer the apple rings to the baking sheet and place the squash rings on the grill rack. Close the lid and grill for 4 minutes, turn and grill for 3 to 4 minutes more or until the squash rings are marked and cooked through. Transfer to the baking sheet. Remove the perforated grill rack. Place the pork chops on the grill and grill for 7 ½ minutes, turning once.

To serve, arrange the squash and apple rings around the pork and drizzle everything with the reserved jus.


Bouled Over

I’m just catching up from a media trip to Toronto last week—a whirlwind of television, radio, internet, print media, and two events at First Canadian Place with packed houses both times. (See the video from LeGourmet TV below).

I’m a big fan of interior designer Sarah Richardson (Sarah’s House, Design Inc. on the Fine Living cable network), so I was delighted to spend a little time in her city. And also delighted to spy actor Sam Neill having dinner at Nota Bene, one table down from us.

Bright lights, big city—count me in!

Last time, we entered the world of no-knead, one bowl artisan bread with the basic recipe—just four ingredients. Now, that’s fresh idea. Keep it simple.

When you want to form a boule—a round loaf—just remove half of the dough from the bowl and pat it into a round. This dough does most of the work for you. Just remember to pinch any seams together so the dough has one smooth skin.

If you want to make a batard or a fatter baguette, and make one with a little drama, try this new recipe. Just because your cookbook has been published doesn’t mean you’re still not having fun coming up with new ideas. After all, that’s one of the premises of the book—use the recipes as blueprints to come up with your own signature breads.

One-Bowl, No-Knead Wild Rice Batard

Can you whip up a batch of brownies from a mix? Sure, you can. Well, those are the basic skills you need to make this savory, one-bowl, no-knead artisan bread, believe it or not. Follow 10 easy steps and you’re on your way—without expensive equipment, lots of time, or baker’s angst. Use instant or bread machine yeast, available in jars in the baking section, as it can just be stirred into the flour. More moisture in the dough takes the place of kneading. And you’ll know when your bread is done by taking its temperature (with an instant read thermometer). What’s even better, this dough follows your lead: You can bake right after the dough has risen or wait a couple of days. If only the rest of our lives worked like that. . .

Makes 1 loaf to serve 8 to 12
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 tbsp instant or bread machine yeast
3/4 tbsp fine table salt
1 ½ tsp ground white pepper
¾ cup cooked wild rice or shortgrain black pearl rice, patted dry with paper towels
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, about 100°F
2 tbsp honey
¼ cup cornmeal for sprinkling
2 cups hot water for broiler pan

1. Measure. Spoon the flours into a measuring cup, level with a knife or your finger, then dump the flour into a large mixing bowl.

2. Mix. Add the yeast, salt, ground white pepper, and cooked rice to the flours. Stir together with a wooden spoon. Stir the water and honey together, then pour into the dry ingredients. Stir together until just moistened. Beat 40 strokes, scraping the bottom and the sides of the bowl, until the dough forms a lumpy, sticky mass.

3. Rise. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature 72°F for 2 hours or until the dough has risen near the top of the bowl and has a sponge-like appearance.

4. Use Right Away or Refrigerate. Use that day or place the dough, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before baking.

5. Form. To form a batard, remove the dough with a dough scraper to a floured surface and dust very lightly with flour. Flour your hands. Working the dough as little as possible and adding flour as necessary, form the dough into a 14-inch cylinder. Smooth the dough with your hands to form a soft, non-sticky skin. Pinch any seams together to prevent “blow-outs” as the loaf bakes. Pinch each end into a point. Lightly flour any sticky places on the dough. The dough should feel soft and smooth all over, like a baby’s skin (but with lumps from the rice), not at all sticky.

6. Rest. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the dough on the baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and let rest at room temperature for 40 minutes.

7. Prepare Oven for Artisan Baking. About 30 minutes before baking, place a broiler pan on the lower shelf. Preheat to 450°F.

8. Slash Batard with Serrated Knife. When ready to bake, the dough will not have risen much, but will finish rising dramatically in the oven. Using a serrated knife, make five evenly spaced diagonal slashes across and down the length of the dough—about 1-inch deep—exposing the moist dough under the surface. The slashes help the batard bake more evenly and add an attractive pattern where the exposed moist dough “blows out.”

9. Slide Batard into Oven and Add Water to Broiler Pan. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven. Pull the lower rack out, pour the hot water into the broiler pan, and push the lower rack back in place.

10. Bake. Bake for 27 to 29 minutes or until the crust is a medium dark brown and an instant read thermometer inserted in the center of the loaf registers at least 190°F. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Fast and Easy Bread Video

Here's a spot I did with LeGourmet.TV. Click the link below to watch a brief introduction of bread baking and the simple tools needed.

Fast and Easy Bread Intro | WatchDoit

Shared via AddThis


Give Me the Simple Life

Are you a “Simplifier?” A person who is trying to whittle your life down to a more manageable size?

If so, we’re on the same wavelength.

During the past calendar year, I’ve worked on 5 cookbooks, so I put aside the blog until that work was done. Now, I’ve got lots of fresh ideas to share and time to blog. And the first “fresh” idea is utterly simple: fast, easy artisan bread. How can artisan bread be fast or easy, you might ask?

Well, first of all, you only need four ingredients: all-purpose or bread flour, instant or bread machine yeast, water, and salt. You stir the ingredients together in a bowl and let it rise on your kitchen counter for 2 hours.

That means one bowl, no kneading. Easy.

After that, you use the dough to bake that day or you cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to 9 days. You can bake all kinds of loaves, rolls, flatbreads, etc. whenever you have the time. Fast!
You know exactly what’s in the bread, you’re saving money, eating well, and feeling accomplished. Genius!

Here’s the basic recipe for you to try. Make up your dough, put it in the frig, and come back another day. We’ll make a stunningly easy Wild Rice Batard.

Master Recipe #1 Easy Artisan Dough
(from 200 Fast and Easy Artisan Breads: No Knead, One Bowl by Judith Fertig)

This first master recipe introduces you to the basics of the Easy Artisan bread method. As you begin to make bread, all of this will get even easier. Your artisan loaves will have a crisp, darkened crust, a tender and moist crumb, and a mellow, toasty flavor—all with this easy method. The dough will also make delicious rolls, pizza, or flat bread. Makes bread, rolls, pizza, or flatbread to serve 12 to 16.

Measuring cups and spoons
Instant read thermometer
16-cup (4 L) bowl
6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting 1.575 L
1 ½ tbsp instant or bread machine yeast 22 mL
1 ½ tbsp fine table or kosher salt 22 mL
3 cups lukewarm water, about 100°F (38 °C) 750 mL

1. Measure. Spoon the flour into a measuring cup, level with a knife or your finger, then dump the flour into a large mixing bowl.
2. Mix. Add the yeast and salt to the flour. Stir together with a wooden spoon or Danish dough whisk. Pour in the water and stir together until just moistened. Beat 40 strokes, scraping the bottom and the sides of the bowl, until the dough forms a lumpy, sticky mass.

3. Rise. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature 72°F (22 °C) for 2 hours or until the dough has risen near the top of the bowl and has a sponge-like appearance.

4. Use Right Away or Refrigerate. Use that day or place the dough, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 9 days before baking.