Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Recipe Notes: September 2016

10 September 2016

Almost No-Knead Sourdough Bread

Recipe from September 2016 Cook's Illustrated

I have my own variation of the Cook's Illustrated recipe for Almost No-Knead Bread to make a sourdough loaf. I replace some of the water with an equal volume of sourdough starter, but left the other ingredients the same including the yeast, beer, and vinegar. This month, Cook's Illustrated included a recipe for sourdough bread which excludes these additions: the only ingredients are flour, salt, water, and sourdough starter. 

The article also included instructions for making and maintaining starter. I already have starter, but I noticed their starter was much thicker. Rather than add ⅓ cup of water and ⅓ cup of flour when "feeding" the starter, as I have been doing, I now add ¼ cup of water and ⅓ cup of flour. I also switched to using bottled water rather than tap water. The Cook's Illustrated instructions also call for discarding most of the starter before feeding; I don't do that but just pour out an amount about equal to what I add.

Before making the bread, I left the starter at room temperature for a few days and fed it daily. Normally it sits in the refrigerator and is fed every other week. The dough was easy to make. Starter is not as active as commercial yeast so it takes longer to rise. The first rise took 2½ hours, the second 2¾ hours. The dough seemed dry to me but in the end it worked out well.

The resulting bread was very good. It rose nicely, had a nice crumb with some large holes, a crisp crust, and a nice tangy flavor. It was perhaps not as tangy as sourdough breads that we have purchased at the supermarket or bakery. 

I have some of "Carl Griffith's 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough" (see which you can get in dried form for free just by sending in a self-addressed, stamped envelope. I have never gotten around to creating a starter with it, so now I am thinking I will add it to my existing starter. Perhaps some new (old) strains of yeast will add some interesting flavor, if they can compete well with the strains in my established starter.

12 September 2016

Almond Biscotti

Recipe from The Cook's Illustrated Baking Book, 2013, p. 222

I had made this recipe once before and enjoyed the cookies, so was looking forward to having them again. These biscotti are not the tooth-shattering cookies that you feel you need to dunk before you eat them. They are still very crisp but are easy to eat and have a great almond flavor with both almond extract and ground up almonds contributing to the dough.

Most of the preparation happens in a food processor: grinding almonds, mixing dry ingredients, whipping eggs, mixing in sugar. The flour and wet ingredients are folded together in a bowl by hand until just combined. The resulting dough is shaped into two loaves that are baked. These are then cooled, sliced, and the resulting cookies baked again until crisp.

I took what I though was a generous amount of these to a meeting. They all were gone by the end of the meeting.

18 September 2016

Crisp Roasted Potatoes

Recipe from November 2009 Cook's Illustrated

This recipe promised potatoes with a crisp, craggy exterior and creamy interior. Moreover, they were prepared in the oven rather than fried which should make preparation and cleanup easier. Unfortunately, they did not live up to their promise. 

Yukon Gold potatoes were sliced then cooked in salted water until they were almost done. These were then tossed with olive oil and salt to produce a starchy paste on the exterior which would crisp in the oven. They were then roasted on a sheet pan which had been drizzled with olive oil until they were brown and crispy, needing to be flipped once during roasting. Total time was about 70 minutes.

Unfortunately, they did not come out as crispy as hoped. Perhaps I didn't cook them long enough before roasting so they didn't develop as much of a paste as they might have. We also found them to be overly salty. Salt was used in the cooking liquid and when roughing up the exteriors. While the quantities of salt for each step were modest, it seems to have added up. I probably will not be making these again.

19 September 2016

English Muffin Bread

Recipe from April 2012 Cook's Country

I enjoy having English Muffins for breakfast. They toast up to have a crispy exterior with a soft, chewy, and slightly sweet crumb that makes an excellent base for many different toppings (all starting with lots of butter): cinnamon sugar, jam, pb&j. Diane made an English muffin bread many years ago using the microwave which we enjoyed but never repeated for some reason. Real English Muffins, I believe, are not baked but rather cooked on a griddle, suggesting some extra labor to make them. So a recipe for a loaf of bread similar to English Muffins is appealing.

This bread was very easy to make, It has just 6 ingredients: bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, baking soda, and milk. There is no kneading: the dry ingredients are mixed together, warm milk is added, and the mixture is stirred. The sticky wet dough then rises before being portioned into two loaf pans for a second rise. It is then baked. Total time was only about two hours.

While the bread does not have all of the same qualities as store-bought English Muffins, it is good in its own right. It toasts up nice and crispy. The crumb is not quite as sweet and chewy as, say Thomas Brothers muffins, but it is still very good. While I will still probably buy English Muffins at the supermarket on occasion, I might do so less often due to this recipe.

25 September 2016

Chicken Enchiladas with Red Chile Sauce

Recipe from The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook, 2001-2011, p. 288

I've enjoyed enchiladas in Mexican restaurant many times without really knowing what it was. According to Wikipedia, an enchilada is "corn tortilla rolled around a filling and covered with a chili pepper sauce". It goes on to note that the word means to season with chili, which makes sense. The recipe that I tried, from a TV show that aired 10 years ago, was designed to be faster than traditional recipes for enchiladas, promising they could be made in 90 minutes. 

I followed the recipe closely, omitting only the pickled jalepeños. The 8-ounces of sharp cheddar cheese was a bag of shredded cheese from the supermarket. and the cheese topping was a triple cheddar blend, also pre-shredded from the supermarket. Chicken thighs were cut into strips which were mixed with an onion and herb blend that had been cooked to bloom the spices. Tomato sauce and water were added and this mixture simmered to produce the filling and sauce. The mixture was poured through a strainer (in batches because our strainer wasn't big enough for all of it) with the liquid portion becoming the sauce. The solids were cooled and mixed with cheese and cilantro to form the filling. The first step in the final assembly was to spray the tortillas with oil and cook them briefly in the oven so they are pliable. They are then rolled around the stuffing, placed in a backing dish with sauce and cheese, and then baked. My stuffing/rolling skills improved after the first few. And, lo and behold, dinner was served about 90 minutes after I started.

We enjoyed the enchiladas. They were garnished with shredded lettuce, sour cream, and avocado and served with refried beans and sangria. We learned that a serving of two enchiladas was too much for us, 1½ or 1 enchilada each would be better. The recipe made 10 (matching the number of tortillas in the package) enchiladas. The chili powder provided the dominant flavor and we were happy that the jalepeños were omitted. The enchiladas were good as a leftover too: the flavors were a little milder and better blended though the texture of the tortillas suffered some. This is a dish worth making again.