Friday, February 26, 2010

Jim Lahey's No Knead Baguette Revisited (Wild Yeast Version)

If you've already tried making Jim Lahey's No Knead Baguette, and know how the dough should look during the different stages, you can easily make it with wild yeast.

If you keep your 'starter' in the refrigerator, chances are you take it out once a week and throw away half of it, and feed it 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup luke warm water.

Why not make Jim Lahey's No Knead Baguettes with that half you throw out?

This is what you need to do:

Step 1: Put the starter that you would normally throw away into a plastic or glass bowl during the day and feed it 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Cover it with a towel and let it get bubbly.

Step 2: Before you go to bed, add flour, sugar, salt and water just like in the recipe. The amount of flour and water you need will depend on the wetness of your starter and the absorbency of the flour. Add 1/2 cup at a time and try to achieve the same consistency you achieved before when you followed the recipe with measured ingredients. You should use the exact amounts stipulated in the recipe for sugar and salt. Basically, you want to add enough flour and water until you have got the same consistency as you did when you made it with the commercial yeast and followed it to a tee. Don't be too concerned about small details though of how many grams of flour you have got in there, because I have tried making it this a few times and the baguettes always seemed to turn out right.

Step 3: Leave it out overnight like the recipe says and in the morning you'll notice that the dough has bubbled up so that there is a flat plane of dough inside your bowl. Flour your counter very generously and fold it 3 times with a spatula (I use 2 spatulas) and put it into a lightly oiled (I use extra virgin olive oil) bowl. Brush the top with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle good quality salt over it. Cover it with a towel and leave it for 1-2 hours like the recipe says.

Step 4: Divide the dough up into 4, stretch it out just like the recipe says and embed them with goodies (cocktail tomatoes, garlic cloves, walnuts, Marcona almonds, olives, etc), brush them with more extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle them with Fleur de Sel.

Step 5: Bake them in a preheated oven at 500F (260C) or however high your oven will go. My oven's maximum temperature is 250C and they turn out fine. I baked mine for 20-25 minutes. Baking time will depend on your flour quality and oven, so watch them and bake them until they are at least a bit brown.

*This is my second entry to Yeast Spotting.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Spicy Black Bean & Sweet Potato Soup

It's a warm sunny day here on Costa del Sol after days and days of wet, dark, stormy days and floods. In fact, it's like Swedish summer. It's one of those breezy days filled with sunlight. There are yellow flowers blooming in the verdant fields and the sky above you is a perfect shade of blue. It's one of those nearly perfect days when you can simply enjoy the weather and be happy that you are in this place and have the time to take a walk.

It's perhaps not the ideal weather for a piping hot bowl of spicy soup, but since I already had some black beans soaking in some water in a bowl, I thought I'd go ahead and make soup anyway.

Some people like their soups devoid of texture or fiber and always use a blender and sieve, and although I do use the blender from time to time (depending on the soup), I prefer a chunky wholesome soup where the ingredients have managed to retain some semblance of their former glory.

If you're vegetarian or freaked out by bouillon cubes, just omit the beef bouillon and I'm sure it will still be fine. If you or someone in your family is freaked out by texture, you can also put the soup through the blender before serving it. Remember to remove the bay leaves and dried chilies if you're blending it, and if you are afraid that 2 chilies might be too much, use 1 chili. Well, you know the drill?

Spicy Black Bean & Sweet Potato Soup


2 Cups Black Beans (soaked overnight and cooked for 1 hour or until soft)

1 Large Sweet Potato (peeled and diced)

1 Medium Potato (peeled and diced)

4 Medium Tomatoes (diced)

1/4 Onion (chopped finely)

2 Cloves Garlic (chopped finely)

2 Bay Leaves

1 Tsp Cumin Seeds

1 Tsp Coriander Powder

Pinch Nutmeg

2 Whole Red Chilies (Dried or Fresh - Seeded)

1 Tsp Smoked Paprika Powder

2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Whipped Cream (1 spoonful on top of each serving)

Fresh Cilantro (chopped and sprinkled on top, a sprig for garnishing or none if you hate it!)

1 Beef Bouillon Cube*

Salt & Black Pepper (to taste)

Whipped Cream (unsweetened)

*Optional. I used half a cube.

Step 1: Heat up the oil in your soup pot and when the oil is hot enough throw in the cumin seeds and let them pop a bit before putting in the garlic and onion. Sautee a bit and then add the rest of the spices to help them release their aroma.

Step 2: Put in the rest of the ingredients and blend them with the oil and spice mixture well first, and then add the tomatoes.

Step 3: Add enough water to cover the ingredients and lower the heat to simmer it for 1 hour. Add the bay leaves and beef bouillon if you wish.

Step 4: After around 60 minutes taste the soup and add salt & black pepper to taste.

Step 5: Serve with a dollop of whipped unsweetened cream on top and enjoy!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Badam Burfi (Almond Candy) from Manjula's Kitchen

I have memories of eating this sweet in our neighbor's home or at least something like it and this is the first time I've ever attempted making it myself. Not sure if the Burfi I ate was made from almonds or some other nut like cashew nuts, but I do believe it was called Burfi, and to me it was this special sweet that I rarely ever got to eat. When I was given a piece, it was like magic!

Although you can get good Marcona almonds in Spain, I used almond flour because I happened to have some on hand. I mixed the flour with sugar and milk and let it sit for 15 minutes and followed Manjula's recipe for Badam Burfi.

Badam Burfi from Manjula's Kitchen

1 Cup Almond Powder

1 Cup Sugar

1/3 Cup Whole Milk

2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter or Ghee

Pinch Cardamom Powder

Step 1: Blend all the ingredients except the cardamom powder and unsalted butter or Ghee, and let it sit for 10 - 15 minutes.

Step 2: Over a medium heat, melt the butter and then put the almond paste mixture into the pan and keep stirring until it pulls away from the pan. Manjula has a video that will show you what she means by 'pulls away from the pan' if you are in doubt. It will take about 10 minutes for this to happen.

Step 3: Once the mixture starts doing this, take it off the heat, put in that pinch of cardamom powder and keep stirring for another 2 minutes.

Step 4: Pat it out flat onto a buttered dish and embed whole almonds into it if you wish like I did. Then let it rest for 20 minutes. Cut it up into pieces and enjoy with cup of steaming hot tea with lots of milk and sugar in it preferably!

*I guess this is kind of gluten-free?

NOTE: Ramya is right about the sweetness. The original recipe says 1 Cup whole almonds. This means that if you use 1 Cup powdered almonds the proportion of almonds to sugar was more and hence it was not as sweet as a normal Burfi should have been. In short, I'd say reduce the amount of powdered almonds or increase the amount of sugar if you want a more authentic tasting Burfi, but if you prefer less sweetened confections, these proportions will suit you just fine.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Buttermilk Dinner Rolls

I have really been slacking off here. This is mainly due to financial constraints. It's kind of difficult to experiment with interesting ingredients when your household budget says: -3000 euros for January. Never mind 'interesting'. Even buying a few extra chocolate bars makes me cringe, so basically it's just been too restrictive to bake or cook anything that would be good enough for posting. Anyhow, now you know why I've been kind of quiet.

Well, today I was browsing through my Facebook page when I saw David Lebovitz post a link to a recipe for Buttermilk Dinner Rolls by Michael Ruhlman. I decided to give it a go even though I didn't have buttermilk and had to substitute it with a mixture of milk and yogurt. Packets of yeast are 5.5 grams, not 7 grams here and I used 1 packet. I didn't have a thermometer either, so I had use my baking instincts to know when it was ready. I baked mine for 40 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven. Other than this, I pretty much followed the recipe to a tee.

Anyway, here it is. I measured all my ingredients on the scale as stipulated in the recipe, but there is more flour in this as I kneaded the dough on a counter with flour on it. I don't have mechanical kitchen aids so I really do have to do everything with my own two hands. If I make this again I'm going to withhold putting in flour during the first stage and try to use the leftover stuff to knead the dough on the counter.

Taste wise I can't complain. I thought there was a lot of flavor. There was just the right hint of sweet and salty and the texture was a bit doughy, but I won't really count that as a negative. Some people like their bread better if it's a bit doughy, like my sister for instance. Poppy seeds complimented the rolls perfectly. I supposed white sesame seeds or nigella seeds would work, but I really loved it with poppy seeds.

In other words, I have to say that this recipe works out fine.

By the way, my electricity bill for December/January was horrendous. It has been a cold winter, but I probably have been baking way too much!