Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Olive & Sun-dried Tomato Fougasse

Olive & Sun-dried Tomato Fougasse
I love making bread.  I find it therapeutic – especially kneading the warm dough – as well as rewarding – the whole kitchen smells wonderful while baking (thank you, yeast!).  Additionally, the activity of kneading will give the baker a chance to work the upper body muscles, and gain some physical conditioning from the process as well!  OK - so there are a few more steps to making bread...but it really can be done!  So - give it a try.  It is worth it!!!

Pour 2/3 C warm water (105-115 degrees F) into a measuring cup, sprinkle 2 tsp instant yeast*, then 1 tsp sugar and stir.  Let stand until the yeast dissolves and mixture bubbles…about 10 minutes.  Add 1 C warm water and 4 Tb extra-virgin olive oil.
Bubbling yeast
Mix 4½ C Bread Flour** and 1½ tsp kosher salt in mixing bowl. Pour in yeast mixture.  If using a stand mixer, attach the dough hook; beat at med-low speed until flour is moistened but looks shaggy, about 4 minutes.  Increase speed to medium; beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and climbs the hook, for a minimum of 10 minutes. I usually use my mixer for 5-6 minutes of this time and do the rest by hand – I love the feel and texture of making bread. Sprinkle your work surface area with flour to knead. (It can be any smooth surface – but wood, marble or granite work best)
Dough hook and mixer with dough
Whether by machine or hand, kneading is one of the most important steps in bread making of any kind. This step more than any other will determine the outcome. It develops the flour’s gluten, or protein, into long, stretchy strings and traps the carbon dioxide bubbles released by the yeast as the dough rises. As the flour that makes up the dough is moistened and stirred, the gluten begins to form and also gains in strength as the dough is subjected to the kneading process. Gluten can be thought of as the binding agent within the dough, allowing the loaf to take on a cohesive texture that will allow the substance to not fall apart during baking. This also helps to make the bread fluffy. If you don’t knead enough then the bread will be too dense. If you knead too much then the gluten will get too tough which will make your bread tough.
Mix ½ C oil cured black olives (for example, kalamata olives), pitted and quartered, ½ C drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped, 2 tsp grated lemon peel and 1 Tb minced fresh rosemary in a medium bowl. Add to dough and mix for 1 min.  Then, mix again, but only by hand, until thoroughly mixed throughout dough.
Dough with olives and sun-dried tomatoes
Lightly oil a large bowl with olive oil, put dough inside, brush top with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with bread flour.  Brush plastic wrap with oil, cover bowl, oiled side down, and let dough rise in a warm draft free area until at least doubled in size. (1-2 hours)
Rising dough and oil brushed pan
Gently turn dough several times with a spatula to deflate. Re-cover the bowl with oiled plastic, chill overnight.  Alternatively, line a 17x12-inch sheet pan with parchment paper and brush with olive oil. When you turn dough out – form into a rectangular shape, spray with olive oil on top, add sprinkling of bread flour and cover with oil sprayed plastic wrap. It is often easier to store a sheet pan in the refrigerator than a large bowl.
The next day, remove from the refrigerator. Divide dough into two equal pieces. Place one piece on a floured work surface; sprinkle with flour. Roll out dough to 12x8 or 12x9-inch rectangle, sprinkling with flour to keep it from sticking. Transfer dough to a baking sheet, which has been brushed with olive oil. Repeat with other piece.  Allow dough to sit and rest in draft-free area for 2-3 hours.
Dough in pans
Using a very sharp knife cut four 2-inch-long diagonal slashes just to the right of center of rectangle and 4 more just to left of center to create a pattern resembling leaf veins.  Pull slashes apart with fingertips to make ¾ to 1-inch wide openings. Repeat with remaining dough.  Cover both with warm towel. Let them rest 30 min or more. Beat 2 tsp water and 1 Tb olive oil in a small bowl to blend to make the glaze.
Dough with knife cuts
 Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 450 degree F. Gently brush fougasse with glaze; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and pierce all over with a fork.
Bake fougasse 10 minutes. Can you smell it!!??  Reverse position of baking sheets and turn around.  Bake fougasses until golden, about 10 minutes more. Sprinkle with good quality finishing olive oil when it comes out of the oven.  Transfer to racks, cool 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.  It freezes beautifully if by some miracle it is not consumed immediately.

*Instant yeast = I prefer instant yeast as it is more concentrated than fresh or active dry yeast, and has a longer shelf life.  It can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for months or in the freezer for a year.
** Flour = Flour is the core of the bread – the body containing its heart and spirit. Wheat is the grain of choice, from which flour is milled. This is because wheat contains more gluten than other grains. In the US, cake flour has 6-7% gluten, pastry flour has 8-9% gluten, all-purpose flour has 10-11.5 % and bread flour has 11.5 – 13.5% gluten. Gluten is what determines the texture and taste of the bread. For those of you thinking about gluten free diets, please note that the illness caused by immune responses to gluten (celiac disease) is INCREDIBLY rare! Don’t worry about gluten unless your doctor tells you to avoid it.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Zucchini Patties with Feta

Zucchini patties with feta

A simple and tasty Mediterranean vegetarian entrée, side dish or appetizer can be assembled in less than an hour and cooked in 10 minutes.  Who wouldn’t love it?  Even those who are iffy with zucchini will find this flavor combination delectable.  I love to serve it with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt – so creamy and healthy to boot. Tzatziki, sour cream or crème fraiche would also work. You can adjust the size of the pattie and it becomes an entrée or a bite sized appetizer.  So versatile!
Cut off the two ends of 3-4 medium sized green zucchinis. Using a simple box grater, large hole side, coarsely grate the zucchinis. Toss with about 1 tsp of salt and let it rest in a colander in your sink or over a bowl.  Probably the most important part of this recipe is to get all the ingredients as dry as you can so it will quickly fry later (and not boil instead !) Let the grated zucchini stand in colander for at least 15 min – 30 is better.  Press out excess liquid.  I roll it up in a kitchen towel – which, of course, will need to be washed after but it sure gets that last bit of moisture out.
Grated zucchinis
 Place zucchini in a dry bowl, gently mix in 1 large whole egg, 1  large egg yolk, ½ C (or more) of fine bread crumbs or panko, ½ C crumbled feta cheese, 1 C chopped parsley, ½ C finely chopped green onions, and 1½ Tb chopped fresh dill. Other optional additions (which I love to add) are 2-3 minced garlic cloves, 2 -3 Tb chopped sundried tomatoes, and/or toasted pine nuts. If the batter is very wet, add more breadcrumbs or panko.
It is often useful to fry up a small amount at this time to test seasoning. Feta cheese is highly variable on its saltiness and you may need to add additional salt to the mixture before the final frying. (See below for discussion of the various feta cheeses)
Heat 2 Tb olive oil and 2 Tb corn oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, drop the batter by rounded tablespoons into skillet. Hint: Use a small ice cream scoop to get even measured spoonfuls. Fry the patties until golden, about 5 minutes per side, adding more olive oil and corn oil as needed.  Transfer to paper towels.  Keep it in a warm oven until served. Serve with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, Tzatziki, sour crème or crème fraiche.
Frying the patties to a golden brown
 This can be made one day ahead. Once fried, place on a baking sheet, cover and chill. Rewarm uncovered in a 350-degree oven for 12 – 15 minutes.
This would be excellent served with a Sauvignon Blanc or a dry Rose – or best yet, Champagne Rose!!!  But, then, everything goes with Champagne.
Regarding Feta: We have access to a wide variety of feta cheeses. Feta is salted and cured in a brine solution for several months.  When removed from the brine, it dries out rapidly.  The degree of saltiness relates to its preparation as well as source. It was initially made with goat or sheep’s milk. However in the US, much is often produced commercially with pasteurized cow’s milk.  Look carefully at the label and taste the feta so you will know its saltiness.
Greek Feta would be most authentic here.  To be Greek, is must be made from at least 70% sheep’s milk, often with a little goats milk blended in. It is often the saltiest as well as tangy, rich and creamy.  My favorite is French feta which is usually made with sheep’s milk – is less salty, mild and creamy.  My least favorite, American feta, can be made with sheep, goat or even cow’s milk – often tangy but usually less creamy and more crumbly.  (usually promoted as a salad addition)