The Mighty Loaf

Christmas was very laid back this year, but I did find one small gift under the old tree. I got this very interesting dough rising basket called a brotform from Germany. After the first rise or proof you punch down the dough and place the ball in this well floured brotform for the final proofing. The dough rises around the brotform canes giving your bread a really cool design similar to a floury crop circle.

Today's mighty loaf is courtesy of my little pet, my sourdough starter. It's not too much work to keep a starter going but it does need attention about once a week. I just add a cup of flour and half a cup of warm britta water. I stir it up and check for bubbling action to ensure it's still alive. Next to my kombucha and fermenting sauerkraut crocks the sourdough jar is the best smelling of the bunch.

The bread recipe I used is the most basic sourdough recipe available from King Arthur Flour.

1 1/2 c Lukewarm water
5 1/2 c (to 6 1/2 cups) King Arthur
1 tb Sugar
1 tb Salt
1 tb (or packet) active dry yeast
1 tb Vegetable oil
1 c Sourdough starter

Combine all of the ingredients, using only 5 cups of the flour. I used a kitchen aid mixer with the dough hook attachment to knead this into a nice soft dough. I placed the dough in a greased bowl to rise for one hour. After an hour passed I punched the dough down and moved it to the brotform to rise for one more hour. Preheat the oven to 450f and bake for 20 min or until golden brown on a pizza stone.

The loaf had a nice crust and a very soft interior crumb. Normally I prefer to use only sourdough starter instead of the dry yeast/starter combo. Sure, the rise will take much longer but it produces a much stronger sour fermented flavored loaf.

Can't complain, this is my best looking and tasting loaf to date. Maybe I can pass my bread off as an artisan loaf now.


A Fennel Crusted Christmas Eve

I was looking for a new pork recipe for my dad as he requested pork for Christmas eve this year. A friend of mine passed this recipe on to me courtesy of RealSimple.com.

In addition to their ingredients, I also shaved one fennel bulb to add to the mix. The pork cooked quickly and was quite moist upon peeking in the Le Creuset dutch oven. There was enough liquid on the bottom of the Creuset to make some really intense pear and fennel flavored gravy. The pork was topped with fennel frawns and a generous pinch of clementine zest.

Great anise & citrus flavors in this simple one pot dinner.


Garden Rocket Pesto x2

I remember watching Jamie Oliver years ago, always preparing salads and garnishing dishes with a magical green called rocket. It turns out, rocket is actually my favorite garden green. Otherwise known as arugula, this green packs in the most flavor per leaf in my opinion. It's not bitter like escarole or too bland like iceburg lettuce, instead it's rather peppery with a good bite. During the CSA days, I anticipated each bunch of arugula more than anything else.

Over the past weekend, I was assigned the job of cooking for a pack of 10 hungry friends (to keep them nourished before a big holiday party) and was lucky enough to have a cooking partner who also shares my love of rocket/arugula. Making pesto is extremely simple and quick if you have a food processor. I usually just eyeball my ingredients to taste and consistency as I've made pesto far too many times at this point.

As a rough guide...
  • 4 cups of packed arugula leaves
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup (packed) freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
Once your pesto has a smooth consistency, toss with your favorite cooked pasta. For added flavor and texture, we sauteed a pint of grape tomatoes and tossed them in as well. We served this with a side of focaccia and a small bonus portion of very tasty sage pumpkin pasta that was leftover from the night before.

It's quite safe to say that our plates were a smashing success as most people were looking for seconds and maybe even thirds. I think we provided enough energy to keep everyone going until 4 am so we could all sing in holiday cheer.

The next day: x2

So we had some left over arugula and made another batch the following night substituting toasted walnuts instead of pine nuts.

X2 was served with a Tuscan bread salad made with a nice crusty loaf of organic rustic Italian courtesy of Amy's in Chelsea Market. The main flavor component in this salad is the lemon garlic vinaigrette. We ran low on oil and the bread in the salad was slightly on the dry side but still tasty with tomatoes, onion and cucumber.

So much good food & good times.