Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Baking School Chronicles: Flake

People always ask me.
You have a job and two kids right?

How do you find time for all this baking.
The thing is...
I committed to doing this baking school thing, and there is homework.
So there is more baking than usual going on in the Keels/Becker house for the month of October. 
That being said. I enjoy it. It's relaxing. Sometimes the kids "help."
Day fifteen of baking school the lesson was about croissants.
Croissants however require a bigger commitment of time and planning ahead. All they require is flour, butter, yeast, milk, water and salt. The key is to start them on a day when I know I will have the time to let them rise, to let them chill and to be able to accomplish all of turns required for all of those buttery layers. It was smart of to choose croissants for day 15.

A Friday is the perfect day to start such a big project.
You insure that your weekend is full of crisp buttery goodness.
Final Turn
 This is the start of the 6:30am rise Saturday morning.

 This is a terrific way to start the weekend! One of the best things about croissants besides all the flaky buttery layers is the portability! Time for the Playground!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Baking School Chronicles: Bread Day

I have set a new goal for myself.
In an attempt to be more present among the blogosphere my goal is to blog three times a week. I set this goal last week, and have yet to post anything.
This month I committed to baking school. Daily assignments with a weekly theme. Week three (last week) was yeast. Now yeast and I are good friends. I make more of our bread we consume than buy it, so I'm using yeast on a regular basis. I took this week's theme as an opportunity to challenge myself with some different techniques. A post on site was for rustic country bread in a bread cloche.
What's that?
Turns out it can be anything that is going to keep the moisture in, in order to allow the bread to rise more, and to allow that hard crackly crust everyone loves on an artisan loaf.

Since I didn't have a bread cloche and wasn't particularly interested in trying to find space for another piece of equipment. I did some research on what else might work. Turns out a cast iron enamel dutch
 oven will do the trick nicely and I have one already. 

I have attached the recipe from website.
I did change the recipe slightly. I wouldn't be me, if I didn't put my own twist on it. I replaced a half cup AP flour for a half cup wheat flour.
We had it with Black Bean Soup and it was glorious!!

Rustic White Bread from a Bread Cloche

Recipe adapted from Emile Henry
Makes 1 large round loaf
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast or 2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 cups (12 fluid ounces) warm water, 90°F - 100°F 
4 1/2 cups (1 1/4 pounds) plus 1 teaspoon unbleached all-purpose flour, 
2 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the 4 1/2 cups flour, sea salt, olive oil and sugar. Stir until the flour is just moistened. Knead by hand or in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and silky, about 5 minutes.
Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover tightly and let the dough ferment and rise until doubled in bulk, from 1 1/2 to 3 hours, longer in very cold weather. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Form it into a tight ball by rolling it toward you on a floured surface or Silpat baking mat.
Lightly sprinkle the base (or the bottom of a 3 1/2 quart Dutch oven) with some flour. Place the dough in the center of the base. Cover with the cloche top and let the dough proof and rise until expanded 1 1/2 times in size, from 30 to 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, adjust your oven rack so that it is in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 450°F.
Sift more flour on the top of the dough if desired. Using a serrated knife, make three parallel cuts on the surface of the dough. Cover and bake until well risen and golden brown, approximately 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the cover and continue baking, if desired, until the loaf is well browned and the crust thickens.
Carefully remove the loaf from the cloche and set to cool on a wire rack.

Recipe Notes

• For a more uniform shape, allow the dough to rise in a cloth-lined bowl instead of on the base of the cloche: Line a medium-sized bowl with a clean dish towel. Sprinkle it with some flour then place the dough into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it proof as above. When fully proofed, lightly sprinkle the base with some flour. Place the dough in the center of the platter and proceed with baking.
• If you would like to bake several batches of bread in your cloche, mix the dough in stages staggered approximately 45 minutes apart. While one batch of dough is baking, proof the next loaf. You can proof the loaf in a lightly floured cloth-lined bowl or on a parchment-lined baking sheet. When it is time to bake, turn the dough out onto the heated base. Or slide the dough and parchment paper directly onto the platter when it becomes available. Trim the paper to fit under the cloche. If the cloche and base are still warm, your bread will bake more quickly. Just be careful when handling the cloche if it is very hot.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Whats the Story Morning Glory

A few years ago my sister Anna started having issues with gluten.
She wasn't allergic, but the doctors agreed there was some sort of intolerance. She cut it all out cold turkey, she was sick of feeling hungover after eating a piece of bread. Amazingly many skin issues, and joint issue she had had since adolescence started to clear up. The most difficult part of going gluten free was discovering how to recreate favorite baked goods which were not gluten full. She and I are firm believers that sometimes you need a trusty piece of cake in your purse. And who doesn't enjoy a nice muffin with coffee in the morning. 
Her husband Rod has been a rock star at embracing their gluten free life. 
So when Anna and I decided to do a simultaneous baking challenge in our respective kitchens Rod was more than ready to taste test.  We thought we would try one of my muffin recipes gluten free and gluten full. 
The results are pictured here. 
Rod had two. Anna had plenty for her purse this week. Noah who will only eating peanut butter and jelly these days had two mini's and Ella who has an eagle eye for pieces of nuts gobbled her's up. Michael and I had a few left to freeze for the week. 
Success all around.

Morning Glory Muffins
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup oats (quick or whole)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup nuts chopped and toasted (pecans, walnuts or almonds)
grate of nutmeg
2/3 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of milk (or unsweetened almond milk)
½ cup pumpkin puree or applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
½ cup oil, or butter melted
2 skinny carrots or 1 large carrot grated (or half a zucchini)
1 small apple or ½ large apple chopped
 sugar or demerara sugar for sprinkling on top

Optional: ½ raisins, or dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 400.
Combine dry ingredients including nuts and set aside. Combine wet ingredients including fruit and veg. Combine wet and dry until just incorporated. Bake in prepared (meaning they need to be buttered or sprayed with cooking spray) muffin tins for 17 min. If you are making mini muffins bake for approximately 12-13 min.
NOTE: Demerara sugar is a crunchy brown sugar that is wonderful for sprinkling on top of muffins, cookies etc. Takes muffins to another level.

Morning Glory Gluten Free Substitutions
In place of flours:
1 cup ground gluten free whole oats
1 cup King Arthur all purpose gluten free flour
½ tsp xantham gum

Everything else stays the same. Bake at 400 for 17-20 min. Sometimes GF takes a bit longer. Use your nose and a toothpick for ultimate doneness.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cooking With Carmen: Breakfast Cookies

I love cookies.
I love to eat them, bake them, give them away.
Recently I have been searching the blogosphere for a yummy breakfast cookie, because as a "mom on the go" I sometimes have to have something I can just grab. Or something I can shove at the kids to have on the Subway as a snack or whatever. They seem to be hungry all the time. Or hungry at the most inconvenient times. Am I right mom's out there!? As much as I feel doughnuts, cereal bars, and the ever present goldfish are "grab and go" foods.... I would like for what I shove in my mouth to occasionally have some nutritional value.
Well. Most of the time anyway. Some days only a doughnut will do.

Whatever it is that I'm eating it's gotta taste good. Not like a mouthful of sand. I'll warn you now. I am not taking the butter out of the recipe. #Ibelieveinbutter. With cookies it's very difficult to find a butter replacement, and after some research I have concluded that it's the best fat to use for the job.
Disclaimer. These cookies are not:
Gluten free. 
Egg free.
Sugar free, or
Oh Please Paleo. I'm not going to down to China Town to get crickets for m'cookies. 
I suppose you could try and make them any of those things above, but there are plenty of recipes on Pinterest to satisfy your (god forbid) paleo needs. What I found difficult to fufill was just a regular hearty breakfast type cookie. No tricks. Something that will stick with you through the morning.
Lower sugar is FINE. These don't have tons of sugar. You are welcome to try and cut it more, but be warned that sugar is important to the chemistry of a cookie.You have to be careful. Be wary of sugar free. It makes me skeptical of what actually is replacing the sugar. With these it's not really something to get hung up on however. I find with these I don't need a second breakfast when I get to work!!

Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup unbleached AP flour
3 cups whole oats (or quick oats)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ tablespoon flax meal
1 ½ tablespoon wheat germ
½ cup flaked coconut (I like sweetened, but you can use unsweetened)
½ cup chopped and toasted almonds
½ cup chopped and toasted pecans or walnuts
¾ cup chocolate chips (if you don’t need a cocoa kick in the morning leave them out)
½ cup plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
2 eggs
¼ honey or agave
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy.
Add eggs and sugars. Beat well.
Combine flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a separate bowl.
Add flours to mixing bowl. Mix well.
Add oats, nuts, and coconut mix well.
Add by hand chocolate chips or dried fruit.
Using a medium or large scoop drop dough and flatten slightly onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 12 to 15 min. till golden brown. Cool on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack to cool completely. Store tightly covered.
Optional: ½ cup raisins, dried cherries chopped, or dried cranberries in place of chocolate chips.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Wholesomely Retro

You can choose you're own terminology.
I like the retro term myself.
Wholesome Retro was how a friend described the environment Michael and I are raising our children in. I never thought about it that way, that we were somehow retro? I just know when I was a kid, my mom made cookies and bread on the regular, and we always had dinner together. My dad worked nights for most of my childhood, so usually it was just me, my mom, brother and sister at the table, but it was at a table and not in front of the TV.
And she cooked the dinner.
From scratch.
Those cookies and bread were from scratch too.
No Uncle Ben's (too expensive.)
No Pillsbury slice and bake (too expensive, and not really tasty.)
The only take out we had was an occasional bucket of chicken, and Rubino's pizza on Friday nights.
That's what I do too. Maybe more intensely than my mom, because I am me. But from scratch is my way to go. I have tricks and short cuts of course, and it's taken me years to figure out the best way to make a tiny New York kitchen work to my advantage. It was only a year ago that we renovated and made our kitchen the Shangri-La it is today. A dishwasher, a full sized stove, a big fridge with a bottom freezer, and CABINETS! My point is, is that it has always felt important to cook for myself, my husband and now my children. I figured out how to cook for one, then added on.

When I moved to New York it was out of necessity to figure out the mysteries of the kitchen once and for all, I was poor and it was cheeper and better for me than eating take out. I had spent years bopping around the country working at theaters, and not having my own kitchen, before that in an unhappy marriage where I was berated about my cooking because it wasn't as good as my mothers.

At least I tried. The only way to become good at something is to practice. So once I was in a place long enough to really really practice that's what I did. What I do.

A year ago I gave myself a cooking challenge. Maybe it was part of the nesting that occurs when you are waiting for the birth of a child. I decided a month before our son Noah was born that we were going to stop buying bread and I was going to bake bread for us. I wasn't sure how I was going to do it. We're busy. Sometimes we're really really busy.  What about the summer? When it's 90 degrees. What then.
Well. It's a little over a year later, and I did it.
There were a few times over the summer where we bought bakery bread, and we also buy the occasional hamburger potato bun. The toast and sandwiches we have consumed over the last year have primarily been bread that I have made. I have to thank the woman who writes the blog because that blog got me started. She had a recipe for a fast crusty loaf that helped me get over the hump, and the recipe through all of my revisions and add ons still is one that I use primarily.  I found the blog one night when Michael and I were having soup for dinner and craving some fresh bread. An hour later we had what we wanted.

Yesterday I used a new recipe. I happened to look at the back of the Gold Metal Flour bag and it had a recipe for honey whole wheat bread. That's basically what I make anyway, but this had a few extra steps, a longer rise and looked interesting. It was spectacular. The extra steps were worth it, and developed the gluten in a way that made a nice tall loaf that didn't collapse when I put it in the oven. I tweeted about it, and it tickled me that Gold Metal Flour retweeted my picture, and tweeted me back saying I was on the right track with my dough.

This year my next cooking adventure is launching Harlem Souper Heroes
But I'm going to continue to bake our bread. My experiment has become our life style and has changed us for the better.

Call me a throw back, call me retro, but the food revolution is just beginning, and it's bringing us back to a time where people knew where their food was grown, harvested, or cared for. For me food is about balance. If our diet is balanced we will maintain a healthy weight, and feel good. It's not about fat or skinny, it's about healthy and feeling good and what that means for you and your body. I want my children to grow up with a healthy relationship with food. I want them to enjoy what they eat, and know how to feed themselves what's good for them.
So we are a wholesomely retro household. Where there will be cookies in the cookie jar, pizza on Friday nights, and fresh bread every week.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Great Drama of the Kitchen

A few years ago I took a pastry class.
Not like pie crust.
Like Pastry Pastry.
Chou, Puffed, and Croissant. 
I even blogged about it. 
I had always planned to try out what I learned that day, but until the other day never had the courage. I was filled with excuses as to why I didn't.
Our apartment was too hot to make the dough.
I would never have the time.
I thought it would take at least two days to complete all of the turns and keep everything chilled.
We would have to open windows in the winter. 
Our crazy chaotic hole of a kitchen.
That was all SO 2012.
We've since renovated the hole.
And after my year long bread project I feel more comfortable with yeast.
So. Instead of unearthing my photo copies of recipes from the Sur La Table cooking class. I turned to my old reliable cookbook for all things bread.
The Joy of Cooking.
I used to use my mothers edition which was given to my parents as a wedding gift in 1970.
Then Michael bought me my own. I have notes in the margins.We use it for muffins, pancakes, biscuits, scones, cornbread, duch babies, the list goes on.
Last night I decided after reading through the entire bread section that I would make danishes for breakfast. Somehow looking at the croissant recipe made me quake in my slippers. As it turns out, the danish recipe is almost identical, the shapes are different, croissant dough has a extra stick of butter, and more flour, and a bit less sugar, but the process is the same.

 After incorporating my butter square and doing at least four turns. I rolled out half of the dough and decided that strawberry filled pinwheels would be what I would try first. I cut and pinched and left them in the fridge over night.
Noah woke up at 5:30am and I pulled them out of the fridge and set them out on the counter to proof.
At 7am I ran out to the corner deli for a box of eggs for the egg wash.We ran out last night.
Argh it's cold. Thank goodness for Bodegas.

At 7:30 they were ready to go into the oven.
So far everything looked right...Sort of. I wasn't sure if I would get the flaky layers, maybe I pressed to hard with the rolling pin, and maybe I didn't do enough turns. It was late last night, and I forgot to keep track.
Twenty minutes I pulled them out of the oven, and eureka! I had done it. It worked! They had the layers, I realized I had pinched the pinwheels backwards, but who cares about that. The LAYERS WERE THERE!!!!

I was so excited that something that scared me to do on my own for so long really was a success.
This year of making bread every week has really make me understand the dramatics of it all. That's how the Joy of Cooking describes yeast bread.
The great drama of the kitchen.
Irma Rombauer talks about bread being one of the oldest and most fundamental foods. She says the satisfaction of transforming flour water into bread is like shaking hands with our history. But as every baker discovers, a return to real flavor, a fulfilling joy. Amazing words from a Missouri house wife. Her cookbook is in millions of households, and probably just as many commercial kitchens. Calling yeast bread the great drama of the kitchen is so spot on and eloquently said.
How can such a simple few ingredients inspire so much fear!?Yeast (it's alive! yikes!)
Water or milk (must be warm but not too warm and not always)
Eggs (Maybe)
Salt, and sugar
So simple yet so many possibilities. I'd better get back in the kitchen and finish up the other half. I'm thinking.... Apple cinnamon filling.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cooking with Carmen: White Bean and Bacon Soup and

 A few things were tweeked for the article. Here is the link.
I would serve this soup with a lovely corn bread. The Joy of Cooking recipe is our go too.
Check out the link!

 White Bean and Bacon Soup

1 lb bag dried white beans (Navy or Great Northern)
1 ham hock
2 cartons of low sodium chicken stock or broth
1 medium onion small dice
3 or 4 cloves of garlic minced or crushed
1 red pepper small dice
2 carrots small dice
2 ribs of celery small dice
¼ cup thick cut maple bacon small dice and rendered (about 4 or 5 slices)
¼ cup ham small dice
4 or 5 stems fresh thyme
½ lemon (zest)
½ lemon (juice)
olive oil
Fresh parsley chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven soak beans just covered in water over night. Drain the water; add ham bone, and two cartons of chicken stock. Cook over medium to low heat until tender. While the beans cook render bacon. Drain fat and set aside. Sauté aromatics and in olive oil (adding garlic towards end to prevent burning.) Add aromatics to soup pot. Add thyme. Dice ham, and add ham and rendered bacon to soup pot.  Remove two cups of tender beans and mash beans with a potato masher and add them back to the pot. They will make the soup feel creamy and thick without cream or butter!

If you have time to cook this all day, do so, or make it in your crock-pot over 8 hours or so. It gets better over time. The next day it’s even tastier. At the end of cooking add Lemon zest, juice, and parsley. Of course season with salt and pepper as you go, with the amount of ham it can get salty, so be careful not to over salt.

This recipe can be made with canned beans, and without the ham bone (but it wont be as tasty.) Make sure you don’t skimp on the bacon, and really it’s worth the extra trip to the butcher though for that bone. The lemon juice, zest and parsley are not to be missed they give the soup wonderful brightness.