Saturday, October 31, 2009

Focaccia with Figs and Walnuts

The talented Paoletta of Anice e Cannella challenged us again to join a fun Autumn game. In the Summer she gave us a recipe and we were challenged to copy or change it to our liking, this time we were given the ingredients and we had to come up with the recipe.

Since the ingredients are some of my favorites to work with, and I love baking bread, I decided to give this focaccia a twist by adding egg yolks, sugar, and increasing the amount of corn flour. I probably used the last figs of the season, but dry reconstituted figs could be used as well.

The result was so spectacular and really tasty.

Focaccia con fichi e noci

for the sponge:
1 cup warm water (225 ml)
1 tsp active yeast (4 gr.)
1 cup all/purpose flour (130 gr)

Add the yeast to the warm water and let it stand for 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix until incorporated. Let stand at room temperature until bubbly, or let stand overnight to develop more flavor.

for the dough
3/4 cup water (200 ml)
1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast (2 gr.)
1/3 cup olive oil (75 gr)
1 tsp kosher salt (40 gr)
1/4 cup cornmeal (40 gr)
2 yolks
4 tbs sugar (40 gr)
3 cups all purpose flour (375-400gr)
1 pint of fresh figs (10-12 figs), quartered
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
one egg for the egg wash

Add the rest of the ingredients to the sponge and mix for 5 minutes at low speed on an electric mixer fitted with the hook attachment. Adjust the amount of flour to have a sticky dough. Remove the dough, which should be sticky and tacky, onto a well floured counter top. Let rest for 5 minutes, then proceed with pulling and folding the dough like an envelope, which will develop the gluten. Let rest for 30 minutes and repeat the pulling and folding. Let double at room temperature, about 1 hour. Press the dough onto a well oiled baking pan. Brush the top with one egg, dd the quartered figs and the crushed walnuts and let rise at room temperature for another hour. Bake at 350F until nicely browned and the internal temperature reaches 200F.

Focaccia con fichi e noci

225 ml di acqua tiepida
4 gr. di lievito di birra secco
130 gr di farina

Sciogliere il lievito nell'acqua tiepida e lasciarlo riposare per 5 minuti. Incorporare la farina e lasciare lievitare a temperatura ambiente per una o due ore. Per sviluppare piu' sapore si puo' lasciar lievitare per tutta la notte.

Per la pasta:
200 ml di acqua tiepida
2 gr. di lievito di birra secco
75 gr olio d'oliva extravergine
4 gr di sale
40 gr farina di mais
2 tuorli
40 gr di zucchero
375-400 gr farina
10-12 fichi, tagliati in quattro
una manciata di noci spezzettate
1 uovo

Aggiungere il resto degli ingredienti meno l'uovo alla prefermentazione e mescolare per 5 minuti in un mixer, aggiungendo farina q.b. per fare una pasta morbida e appiccicosa. Versare la pasta su un ripiano infarinato e lasciare riposare per cinque minuti, poi procedete tirando e piegando la pasta come se fosse una busta, per sviluppare il glutine. Lasciare riposare la pasta per 30 minute e ripetere le pieghe una seconda volta. Lasciare lievitare a temperatura ambiente fino a raddoppiare il volume, circa 1 ora. Distribuire la pasta in una piastra da forno ben oliata. Spennellare la pasta con un uovo sbattuto, aggiungere i fichi e le noci e lasciare lievitare per un'ora. Cucinare in forno medio (175C) fino a che prenda colore e la temperatura interna raggiunga gli 80C gradi.

Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daring Bakers-French Macarons

I remembered the first time I tasted a French Macaron, it came all the way from Paris via a family friend, and it was from Pierre Hermé, of all places. It was a revelation, the flavors were amazing, so was the texture. After I switched my career to the Art of Pastry I decided I had to master these delicate morsels. The first recipe I tried was from the Chocolate Desserts book by Pierre Hermé, and obviously they were chocolate macarons. They were truly amazing, and for a while I was making them as part of the cookie platter at the restaurant where I worked. After a while I stopped making them, mostly because of laziness, and because I have a hard time not eating then non stop. But soon I discovered a sunflower seeds and ginseng recipe in the gorgeous book Wild Sweets and I was hooked again.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

For this challenge I had left over egg whites from all the challah bread I make for the farmers' market, so I had plenty to work with. To be daring, I wanted to compare recipes and try different flavors so I chose to make the sunflower seeds recipe, Fleming's recipe with the addition of cocoa powder, and Tartelette's recipe to which I substituted half pistachios and added a little cardamom. I also made some macha macarons using Helen's recipe, because I have been wanting to make those for ages, and I filled them with red bean paste butter cream, YUM!

For the complete recipe please check Ami's blog Baking without Fear here.

The daring kitchen has a forum for the Daring Bakers and I had read many posts complaining of the lack of feet using Fleming's recipe, which has less sugar than more traditional recipes, including Helen's of Tartelette. Helen was wonderful and helped by sharing her expertize with macarons, but still the recipe was at fault, I believe. After trying one batch using Fleming's recipe I have to agree with the other DBs, mine got no feet and they all cracked. Plus they were not soft, but quite hard.

The other macarons all had feet and looked like they are supposed to look. The eggs whites were the same, aged the same, the only difference, beside the cocoa powder, was the ratio of almonds and sugar. I will stick with the other recipe from now on since it worked for me.

Thanks Ami for challenging us with this recipe and to all the other daring bakers for their talent and inspiration. Check their work here.

Sunflower Ginseng Macarons

225 gr icing sugar (sifted)
50 gr sunflower seeds
75 gr almonds
1 tsp ginseng powder
100 gr whites
25 granulated sugar

Grind the sunflower seeds with a little bit of powder sugar in a coffee grinder. For the method, follow Tartelette's recipe.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Birth of a Butterfly

I wanted to make bread today for world bread day but life took over, the life of a monarch butterfly to be precise. Three falls ago I planted three milk weed plants to attract monarch butterflies to lay eggs on the leaves and observe the caterpillars. Within days there were dozens of green eggs that hatched into tiny caterpillars that devoured the plants. One day they all disappeared to form their chrysalis so I never saw the full cycle of this beautiful organism. Last fall there were not butterflies, but this year they came back and we were lucky to observe 6 juicy caterpillars fattening up in front of our eyes. When they started moving away I decided to trap one in a vase so we could see the miracle of the birth of the butterfly. It took three weeks for the chrysalis to fully mature, probably because it got really cold for a while. Today I was able to observe the miracle of the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis and take these pictures. Just breath taking.

Remember this fella?

Three weeks ago


Early this morning

Emerging from the chrysalis

Wings are growing fast

Ten minutes later

Trying to get out

It's a boy!

Warming up for the big migration to Mexico. I hope he makes it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Concord Grape Sorbet for Pink October

Why the pink? October is breast cancer awareness month and for the past three years Matthew Oliphant has organized this wonderful event, turning pink one blog at the time. There are many reasons I joined this event besides having breasts, mostly because I know many women who had breast cancer, including few who lost their battle to cancer. I also live in a county that has one of the highest breast cancer incidences in the USA, and nobody knows why. Recently two breast cancer walks passed through my town, with all the participants wearing pink, including a Harley Davidson leathered driver that had draped a very pink bra on the front of his bike. What a sight!

I have meant to make this sorbet since tasting it at the restaurant Chez Panisse, and when I saw some concord grapes at my local grocery store I knew I couldn't wait any longer. Concord grapes are native of North America, the result of a cross between European and Native American varieties. They have very thick skin, lots of seeds and are rich in tannins, which makes eating them an interesting experience. The deep purple skins turned this sorbet a beautiful hue, not quite pink, but still very feminine. It was better than expected and so simple to make.

Concord Grape Sorbet

3 pounds concord grapes
1 1/8 cup of sugar
1 TBS lemon juice

Remove the grapes from the stems, add 1/8 cup of water and cook until all the grapes have popped and are very soft. Add the sugar, pass through a sieve and chill overnight. Freeze according to your ice cream maker.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Daring Bakers-Vols-au-vent, Two Ways

It seems that I am not learning from past DB challenges. I won't bore with the details of my busy life, but just know that I am not even working full time, only 2 days at the farmers' market and I can't seem to get organized. Time is flying under my eyes, and I find myself in disbelief every month, with another challenge I haven't even put into my brain for a second. Why do I always find myself at the last minute? Why am I so disorganized? I ended up making the puff pastry on Tuesday but it wasn't until today that I managed to put together the dessert and take pictures. Lesson learned? Maybe..., only time will tell.

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' Challenge has been chosen by Steph of a whisk and a spoon. Steph chose Vols-au-Vent, which we are pretty sure in French means, “After one bite we could die and go to heaven!”

For the complete recipe and a wonderful slide show of all the other wonderful creations please visit the Daring Kitchen site.

I had made puff pastry before so I wanted to try something different for this challenge. Since I always wanted to try from Sherry Yard's pistachio recipe from The Secrets of Baking, I decided to give it a try for this challenge. Sherry's recipe is slightly different than the one for the challenge, but the butter amount is the same so I added the 3 ounces of pistachio paste the recipe calls for to the 1 pound of butter. The puff pastry acquired a very pale green color so I didn't bother taking a picture of the dough. The resulting baked vols-au-vent were slightly darker than the ones without the pistachio paste, and to my disappointment they didn't really have a marked pistachio flavor.

I have wanted to make and write about a baked peach dessert for a long time but never managed before until now. So when I went to the market I was really shocked to realize that Fall has arrived and not many stone fruits were left but I found some good looking white peaches. My readers will have to wait until next year to try this, unless they are in the Southern Hemisphere. I used to make a variation of this dessert in the last restaurant where I worked, and it sold really well. The peaches were baked at 375-400F in a sweet dessert wine. Then I made a zabaglione with the same wine, which is lightened with some whipped cream to cut the sweetness. I used to serve the peaches cold with the same pistachio streusel I wrote about here and here. I love this recipe for its versatility, and the crunchiness it adds to desserts.

I also made some pizzette, Venetian style, with mozzarella, tomatoes and anchovies. They turned out pretty close to what you may find in many osterie in Venice, really tasty.

Thanks Steph for choosing this recipe and to Lisa of Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice for creating this wonderful group and bringing all these wonderful challenges, month after month.


Related Posts with Thumbnails