Friday, March 22, 2013

Day 125 - Sourdough Success in a Jiffy

My first loaves of Sourdough Bread with the new Starter turned out perfectly, just as the ones made for years in Alaska.  But I've past the age or enjoying endless time in the kitchen and have dedicated myself, instead, to figuring as many ways as possible to get out of there as quickly as I can.
Perfect Texture (but cutting should wait until cool)
To that end, I've adjusted my favorite Rustic Bread recipe to accommodate the sourdough.  This is the result and I couldn't be more pleased.  The aroma is incredible, the texture perfect and the best part is that there was no "punching down", no kneading, no second rising; in fact, my kitchen time was reduced to about 5 minutes - the night before and again the morning after.
(Link for making sourdough 'starter' and sourdough 'batter')
Into a very large glass or plastic container, (pre-warmed with HOT water)...
2 cups Warm Water, 1 pkg Dry Yeast (= 2 Tbsp) and 1 Tbsp Sugar.  
Wait 2 minutes for yeast to "bloom".  
Stir in 1 heaping Tbsp Salt and 1 1/2 cups Sourdough "BATTER".  ADD 6 cups All Purpose Unbleached Flour ALL AT ONCE.
After mixing, this rose almost to the top before beginning to collapse.  Photo shows "morning after" and ready for making loaves.
MIX WELL - Use your hands, if needed, to incorporate dry with wet.
COVER - Use loose fitting lid or plate so dough can "breathe".
LET STAND - At room temperature for 2 to 5 hours until dough has risen and begins to collapse.
REFRIGERATE - Overnight or at least 3 hours.
Cornmeal on baking sheet.
1-  Liberally sprinkle Corn Meal over baking stone, iron skillet or baking sheet.
2-  Turn refrigerated dough onto floured surface.  Divide in half using serrated knife.
3-  With floured hands, form each half into a ball and "cloak" the dough (Cloaking is gently stretching the top surface of the dough around to the bottom, tucking it under and turning it 1/4 turn as you go.  The correctly shaped final product should be smooth and cohesive.  This process should take only 30 to 60 seconds.)
NEXT:  Set the shaped loaves on the cornmeal-prepared surface and let "rest" for 40 minutes.  
Place empty broiler pan on the oven rack just below the center rack and preheat to oven to 450 degrees.
When loaves have rested and risen, dust the surfaces lightly with flour and slash 1/4" deep with a serrated knife.  
Loaves set to rise for 40 minutes.
Move loaves to center rack of oven and add 10-12 oz. of water to heated broiler pan.  Close door immediately to trap steam.  Bake 30 minutes.  Cool on wire rack.
To easily gather excess flour from surface, use a paper plate - cut in half.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Simple Stuffed Mushrooms

I've always said I'd rather have the appetizer than the meal.
Today, I couldn't think of a single thing that sounded good for lunch.  Sandwiches seemed too heavy with the bread and I'd overdone on soup during the past couple weeks.  A salad sounded healthy and even met some of my flavor needs but it's cold outside and a cold salad just didn't hit the mark.  But when I thought of salad ingredients and remembered I had fresh mushrooms, something clicked.
These are the ingredients I gathered for my hot stuffed mushrooms:  10 Mushrooms, 10 Crackers, 3 Tbsp Parmesan Cheese, 2 Tbsp Mayonnaise.  At the last minute, I tossed in a good sprinkling of Parsley.

Mince the Mushroom Stems and mix everything together.  Stuff.  Pile on top and bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes.  Warm and satisfying.  Add a can of tiny shrimp or some precooked sausage and increase the quantity and having appetizers for a crowd is just as easy.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Garlic Shrimp & Sugar Snap Peas in 5 Minutes

Today we discovered that someone had stolen our little "pond" boat and dealing with photographs and the Sheriff ran me right past dinnertime.  Fortunately my freezer generally holds things that are quick to fix.  
Tonight I put some frozen shrimp in a bowl of water to thaw while I thawed 2 frozen servings of rice in the microwave and buttered some French bread for the broiler.  Putting it all together is so simple.  Butter in a skillet with some garlic.  When it's good and hot, the drained, and patted dry shrimp was added.  I put the thawed rice in a bowl with some chopped green onions (also frozen) and put the bowl, covered, in the microwave for 1 minute.  Added 1/2 cup white wine to the shrimp skillet and when it began to boil, removed the shrimp and left the wine, butter and garlic mixture to reduce.  Toasted the bread.  Served the rice.  Added a couple handfuls of sugar snap peas to the reduction and returned the shrimp to the skillet just before serving.  5 minutes - beginning to end and it was delicious!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Scratch Biscuits without the Bother

If you're like me and dread the task of homemade biscuits because of cutting-in the shortening and flour, try this.  
With a fork, mix together: 3 1/2 cups Flour, 1 tsp Salt, and 2 Tbsp Baking Powder.  Add 1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream and mix together until just moistened.  Turn out on lightly floured surface and knead 10 times.  Roll to 3/4" thick.  Cut into biscuits and place on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake in 450 degree oven for 12 minutes or until golden.  
It's almost as easy as opening a package.
With raw, wild honey, yummy!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Warm, Sticky Cinnamon Buns - Yum

...or not.  Not all of my endeavors are successful.  This was one of them.
Remembering the huge, light cinnamon buns that I used to crank out almost every morning when we lived 10,500 feet up a Colorado mountain might have triggered my impulse to get creative with the new Sour Dough starter resting in the refrigerator but sea level adjustments never crossed my mind.
These buns look delicious and they they do taste great but the dough is dense and chewy and a huge disappointment.  Still, the technique is quite simple and worth passing along. 
With a 'proper' (sea level appropriate) dough, sufficiently risen, the rest is easy.  
Just 4 ingredients and that we probably have on hand.
Roll the dough into a rectangle about 8" or 9" wide, and as long as you are able, to a thickness of 1/2".  Spread the surface liberally with softened, room temperature butter.  Top the butter with a substantial layer of Brown Sugar.  Sprinkle the sugar with Ground Cinnamon.  Add a liberal sprinkling of chopped Pecans or Walnuts.
With all of these things piling up on the dough, be sure to leave an inch or so without butter or toppings, at one long edge.
Carefully lift and roll and tuck, beginning at the long edge that does have the toppings.  When the roll reaches the long edge that has been left bare, pinch the edge onto the dough roll to seal it.
Cut the roll into separate buns of about 1 1/2" thickness using scissors.  Place rolls about an inch apart in a pan that has been prepared with 1/4 stick melted butter in the bottom and sprinkled lightly with brown sugar.  Cover with a dish cloth and allow dough to rise until double or about 1 1/2 hours.
Risen and ready to bake.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until sugar is bubbly and dough is slightly browned.
When done, remove from oven and immediately and turn upside down to release the buns.  Do NOT cool in pan.   The sugar and butter in the bottom of the pan will have caramelized and make the most wonderful, gooey topping for the upside-down buns.
Homemade cinnamon buns top anything a store has to offer so I hope you'll find a dough recipe that works for you and give it a try.  Sourdough is not necessary.  I just liked the thought but need to work on the recipe.