28 March 2011

Sunday Morning Tummyache

Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls

Did you know that there is a recipe for magic bread dough that allows you to store the dough in the fridge for up to two weeks, giving you the opportunity to bake fresh bread at a moment’s notice?
Did you also know that you don’t have to knead this bread dough?
And did you know that this morning I decided to stay home from work because I woke up with the the urge to eat sticky pecan caramel rolls as soon as possible?
And did you know that I spontaneously whipped up that pan of sticky pecan caramel rolls in twenty minutes (not counting rising time), because I already had some magic dough stored in my fridge?
If you already know all of the above facts, I imagine you must be magic yourself. And then you probably already know about the huge tummyache that I got from eating half of the pan.
But having a tummyache on a sunny Sunday morning at home is still better than being at work.

The same roll, upside down. Or is it right-side up? It doesn't matter, just eat it.

I should stop complaining about about my tummyache and start telling you about this magic recipe. It comes from the book ‘Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day’ by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François. The title is ALMOST true; it’s not really 5 minutes a day, because they are only counting the handling time, not the rising and baking time, but it’s close enough for me.

The premise of the book is that you can mix up a huge batch of bread dough with a spoon or a stand mixer (easy), put it in a container without kneading (easy), put it in your fridge (easy, as long as your fridge has room), and anytime during the next 14 days that you need a loaf of bread, you just saw off a hunk, shape it into a loaf (no kneading = easy), and bake it in the oven (easy). The authors demonstrate their technique in a short video, here.

The bread isn’t just easy. It’s good. Really good. Not as good as the bread at Medici, our neighborhood bakery, but better than the bread at our local hoity-toity grocery store, which claims to be ‘America’s Most European Grocery Supermarket.’ That’s a fine middle ground for me, considering I don’t really have room in my little Ikea kitchen for a huge brick oven that can reach 20,000 degrees.

There is a master bread recipe from which you can make several different shapes of loaves. Ahem, or sticky pecan caramel rolls. Yes. Please. But there are almost 100 other doughs to choose from as well. A few that I hope to bake soon are Roasted Garlic Potato Bread, Spinach Feta Bread, Vermont Cheddar Bread, Oatmeal Pumpkin Bread, and a traditional Challah. Oh man I can’t WAIT. I’m so excited that I have already started emptying my closet of all the clothes that won’t fit me anymore after I make a habit of eating this bread on a regular basis. But I won’t care because I’ll be shopping for a new wardrobe with one hand and shoving bread (or pecan rolls) in my mouth with the other hand. And if you follow my trail of crumbs and find me, I’ll tear off a chunk for you, too.

Get the book and start baking!

08 March 2011

Lidia Oh Lidia

"Oh no. OH no. Please don't squish me.
I do not want to be pasta today."

"Noooooooo! You can't make me do this!
I'm too young to go! It's not my time!
If you spare me just this once, I'll do your laundry for a year!"


No, I did not spare his life. Call me cruel, but I don’t see how a squished noodle without arms or legs could do my laundry. He put up a good fight, but in the end, his destiny was to be my dinner: lasagna with fresh spinach noodles and a Ragù alla Bolognese.
His was a noble cause. Who wouldn’t want to be flattened into a beautiful sheet of pasta, smothered with a four-hour meat sauce, sprinkled with mountains of various cheeses and baked in the oven until bubbly and crispy? You would.

That pasta, it sure was pretty. Smooth and silky, cool to the touch. A lovely pale green, flecked with tiny grains of spinach. And the smell...mmmmmm.....earthy and floury, with hints of egg and olive oil. I wanted to rub it all over my face. But I didn’t. Yes I did. No I didn’t.

After I got over the fact that I had made fresh spinach pasta with my own bare hands, and had called almost every single person I know to tell them the good news, I got to work making Lidia Bastianich's Pasticciata Bolognese, filling a baking dish with layers of pasta, Lidia’s Ragù, a besciamella (white cream sauce), and mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
My oh my oh my oh my oh my oh my oh my.
I'm thinking that maybe you should be nicer to me next time you see me so that I might someday invite you over to my house to eat this. Also, I wish that Lidia Bastianich was my third grandmother.

So yeah, I made a fancy lasagna, basically. A heaven-sent fancy lasagna that was a LOT of work but a lot of fun and a LOT of tasty. But you could do anything with this spinach pasta. I'm thinking next time, if I don't have the time to make the accompanying four-hour meat sauce that accompanies this recipe, I'll just cut the pasta into noodles and serve it with sun-dried tomatoes, crispily browned garlic slices, and maybe feta cheese. Won't that be purty?
Any other suggestions?
Besides clothing your baby in it?

Spinach Pasta Dough
~ adapted from Lidia’s Family Table by Lidia Maticchio Bastianich

One 10 ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and rolling
2 large whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Squeeze the spinach by handfuls to press out as much liquid as possible. When you think you’ve squeezed it enough, squeeze it again, by handfuls, using all your might. The drier the spinach, the better the pasta.

Crumble the spinach into the food processor bowl and purée it thoroughly, scraping it off the sides. With the spinach and the blade in place, add the flour and pulse to blend with the spinach, scraping as necessary.

Whisk together the whole eggs, yolks and oil in a bowl. With the food processor running, pour in the liquid ingredients on top of the green flour. Process for about 30 seconds, scrape down the work bowl, and scrape in all the egg residue too. Process another 20 to 30 seconds, until the dough has started to come together and a a ball on the blade.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly, until it’s smooth. Wrap well in plastic wrap, and let rest at 30 minutes at room temperature before rolling. Store for 2 days in the refrigerator, or for 3 months in the freezer.

Remove googly eyes before cooking.

Makes enough for one delicious pan of Lidia Bastianich’s Pasticciata Bolognese

02 March 2011

Panade Me?

How dare you turn up your nose at this dinner that I so lovingly created for our family?

Oh, I get it. You’re mad at me because when you asked for a snack today, I tossed some stale bread cubes at you and told you to go play in your room so I could concentrate on my iphone Words with Friends game.

Oblivious to your silent sobs, so wrapped up in figuring out how to get more points from a J, a Q, and 5 I’s, I barely noticed how you gathered up the scattered cubes in your chubby little hands and attempted to gnaw on them. I barely noticed how you walked over to the computer, typed in a search for ‘day old bread dinner’ and printed out a brilliant recipe by the Wednesday Chef. Not until I heard a little sniffle and was waving away the tear-stained printout that was blocking the view of my beloved electronic gadget did I hear you patiently saying, “Mom. Instead of ignoring your children and immersing yourself in a silly online game that you think increases your verbal intelligence but really is just a big timesuck, why don’t you turn these nasty hard bread cubes into something more palatable that the whole family can enjoy?”

Panade: Crusty bread cubes splendidly saturated with chicken stock and layered with chard, onions, and Gruyère.

OK none of the above is true. Because you are three years old and you don’t know what ‘palatable’ means. And while I do occasionally neglect you give you some alone time so that I can immerse myself in the glorious land of the Internet, it’s usually not for more than 3.5 minutes at one time. And I don’t feed you stale bread, UNLESS I have baked it myself AND it’s been soaking in homemade chicken stock AND layered with almost-caramelized onions, some sautéed chard, and a few handfuls of Gruyère. AND baked for 2+ hours in Le Creuset bakeware until it becomes a savory party in your mouth. It is called a panade. Just so you know. So stick your tongue back in your mouth, kiddo, and show me how delighted you are really are for this truly lovely dinner.

Thats’ better.

Readers, please see what Luisa, the Wednesday Chef, has to say about Zuni Cafe's chard and onion panade. She is more eloquent than I am, so I will not even attempt to describe the taste or the texture of this divine food. I'll leave it to her. So. Read her post, make the panade, and see for yourself!