Saturday, October 23, 2010

Macrina Bakery's Squash Harvest Loaf

Let me admit this up front: This was not my idea.

Squash Harvest Loaf

When it comes to dessert, things like lemon, raspberry, or chocolate attracts me. Not ... squash. Also, I would have been put off by the pumpkin seeds, not because I don't like them (I do), but because they're not something I'd find readily in my pantry.

Baking this loaf was all my cousin's idea, and she's the one I need to thank for introducing me to a hearty, tasty, and simply wonderful sweet bread.

It all started with a bitter butternut squash that she'd dry roasted. The kids didn't want to have anything to do with it unless it was generously doctored with butter and syrup (but really, few things aren't made better with those two things). That's when she decided she'd make this bread, which she had at Macrina and loved. But she also needed my stand mixer, 2 eggs, and another loaf pan. That's where I came in.

Squash Harvest Loaf

We used 2 cups of sugar instead of the 3 the recipe calls for, with no negative results to the texture (it was quite lovely and moist). It was also still plenty sweet; if we made it again we might try to cut down on the sugar even more. This recipe makes 2 loaves of bread, so it's great for a family or for pastry gifting, which is always appreciated!

Macrina Bakery Squash Harvest Loaf (from Leslie Mackie's Macrina Bakery Cookbook)

  • 2 cups roasted butternut squash purée (use a 1-1/2 lb medium-sized squash)
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk


Roasting the butternut squash
  1. Wash and cut the squash in two halves, remove the seeds and place the halves in a rimmed baking sheet, face up, with 1 cup of water in the pan. Cook in a preheated oven at 375°F for 1 hour minimum, until the flesh is fork tender.
  2. Remove and let cool down before scooping the squash out.
  3. Place in a food processor and mix smoothly.
  4. Let cool down and use 2 cups for 2 loaves. Keep the rest in the fridge for 3 days max, or freeze it for future use.
Making the loaves

  1. Place the nuts and seeds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 15 min. Remove from the oven and let cool down before grinding them to medium-sized pieces. Keep 1/4 cup on the side, for decoration.
  2. Turn the oven temperature down to 325°F.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl.
  4. Add the seeds, minus 1/4 cup. Mix with a wooden spoon.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the oil and two types of sugar and use the paddle attachment to mix on medium speed, for 4 min.
  6. Add the roasted butternut squash and continue to mix for 2 min.
  7. Add one egg at a time, mixing until fully incorporated.
  8. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and add the flour and the buttermilk alternatively, until the liquid is absorbed each time.
  9. Transfer the mixture into 2 oiled 9-in loaf pans, filling each about 2/3 to the top.
  10. Sprinkle with the reserved seeds.
  11. Bake in the oven for 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out dry when inserted into the loaf. Remove and let cool for 20 min before unmolding onto a cooling rack.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tomato Tart

This is one of my new favorite recipes. It's one of those recipes that leave you with little excuse as to why you need to order takeout for dinner. If you use Trader Joe's puff pastry, which contains limited ingredients and no preservatives, it's even sort of good for you.

Tomato Tart

The recipe comes from one of the Canal House Cooking volumes, which are full of serious food porn. They're full of recipes for high-cost ingredients (lobster, foie gras, saffron, and fresh truffles, to name a few), but they also have some great down-to-earth recipes as well. This is one of them.

Tomato Tart

Defrost 1 sheet of puff pastry (or you can be like me and defrost both because they're too stuck together :P). Score a border in the pastry with a sharp knife. Poke holes all over the area inside the border with a fork. Layer thin tomato slices on the pastry in a single layer. Sprinkle with fresh or dried thyme and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake in a 375°F oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the pastry is a deep brown. Season with sea salt.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Acme's Herb Slabs

While the word "slab" doesn't exactly make me think of fragrant, delicious bread, these slabs are exactly that. If this is any indication, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Acme Herb Slab

This is the only recipe I've ever made from instant yeast that yields results similar to artisan bread made from a sourdough starter. Usually, bread made from instant yeast is fairly flavorless, with a dense, closed-crumb texture. I thought it was impossible to create the wonderful flavor, texture, and complexity of artisan bread using instant yeast.

I was wrong. Maggie Glezer, author of Artisan Baking, has shown me the light. It is possible to make wonderful artisan bread with instant yeast -- but it's not magic. It takes time and effort, just as it does with wild yeast. To achieve the same results, long, slow fermentation is necessary with instant yeast, just as it is with wild. As Ed Wood, author of Classic Sourdoughs explains, "All bread was "sourdough" until bakers' yeast was developed to produce fast rising (short fermentation). With this fast rising yeast, the flavor of bread was essentially lost. Long fermentation is the secret to flavor in sourdough baking."

Acme Herb Slab

With Glezer's method, that long fermentation time is still there -- but using instant yeast, which saves the trouble of having to care for a living sourdough starter. Wild yeast takes a long time to do its work because there's fewer yeast cells by volume, whereas one little granule in a packet of instant yeast contains millions of yeast cells, which is why it works so quickly. BUT it's a long fermentation time that gives artisan bread its wonderful flavor -- good things do come to those who wait! The trick with using instant yeast, then, is to use very little and let what little you use have a good long time to do what those yeast cells were born to do (be fruitful and multiply).

We begin with a poolish (a spongy pre-ferment dough). This poolish is made from 1/16th of a teaspoon of instant yeast and takes 12 hours to mature. The total process to make the Acme herb slabs takes 23 hours, but only 40 minutes or so of active time (Maggie says 20, and maybe experienced bakers can do it in that time, but it took me closer to 40). Unfortunately, it's not like a slow cooker where you can set it and forget it. The active time is spread out in intervals, so you do have to plan to be around at certain points to do things. This makes it very difficult for those such as myself who work 9-5 hours at the office to make this bread on the weekdays, even with the long times between each rise.

Poolish for Acme Herb Slab

It helps to have breadmaking tools: a stand mixer, a baker's couche, a pizza stone. I don't think the first two are strictly necessary -- the dough can be mixed/kneaded in a food processor or by hand, and you can knock together a faux couche fairly easily. The pizza stone, however, may or may not be required. The crust of the bread may not turn out quite as nicely without one. There's also a spray bottle, which I find very useful to create steam, and which can be easily obtained for little investment. A thermometer is also helpful to measure the temperature of the water.

When I cut into the bread for the first time, I was delighted by the crisp crust. But I didn't want to get my hopes up too high, because I've been tricked before (an online recipe for "French bread" using instant yeast -- it was terrible, but had many rave reviews; I can only feel sorry for those who actually consider that to be good bread). I could feel my hopes rise when I saw the crumb -- a fairly open crumb (holey), resembling my favorite kinds of sourdough. I was still skeptical when I took my first bite, fearing that I would get that same bland, instant-yeast flavor from the bread. I was ecstatic that instead, I tasted nothing but wonderful, yeasty bread. I didn't use enough rosemary so that particular flavor was fairly subtle. I think these slabs can be made with or without the addition of herbs.

Acme Herb Slab

Given the time investment, I probably won't be able to make this bread very often, but store-bought bread just can't compare. It's worth the time though if you're going to be staying in anyway; there's nothing quite like fresh, home-baked bread. It's satisfying to make, and even more satisfying to eat. It's best about 10 minutes out of the oven, when the crust is crisp and the middle is warm and chewy. Once you store it, the crust will soften. Just stick it back in a toaster oven for a few minutes to crisp up the crust again before eating -- it makes a big difference. My two favorite ways of enjoying this bread -- first, by dipping it into a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and kalamata olives, and second, by placing thin slices of white Irish cheddar on top to make open-faced sandwiches. Few things in life taste as good.

Acme's Herb Slabs (from Artisan Baking by Maggie Glezer)

[My notes are in brackets, like this.]

Yield: 2 large flatbreads, just over 1 pound each
Time: About 23 hours, with 20 minutes of active work [It took me closer to 40 minutes.]

A stylized version of focaccia, this rosemary-flecked bread has an unusual crust. Just before baking, it is stippled all over, then baked for five minutes on one side. It is then flipped over to finish baking on the other side. This keeps the bread very flat and squared off, like a stone tablet.

The dough is based on a poolish and undergoes a stately fermentation and proof, giving it a very rich flavor. It is uncomplicated to make, and if started the evening before, it can be ready for dinner the next day.



1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 cup water, 110° to 115°F
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably organic
1 1/2 cups water, lukewarm

Whisk the yeast into the 110° to 115°F water and let it stand for 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of the yeasted water to the flour (to measure 1/16 teaspoon yeast), then beat in the lukewarm water. This will be a very gloppy batter. Cover the poolish with plastic wrap and let it ferment overnight for 12 hours, or until its bubbles are popping and the top is just starting to wrinkle and foam.


3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably organic
1 tbsp plus 1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1/4 tsp instant yeast
3/4 cup water, lukewarm
2 tbsp olive oil
Fermented poolish

For the dough (by stand mixer): Combine the flour, salt, rosemary, and yeast in the mixing bowl. Add the water and oil to the poolish and stir to loosen. Pour the poolish into the flour mixture. Mix with dough hook on low speed until a rough dough forms. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 10 minutes. Mix the dough another five minutes, until very smooth.

For the dough (by hand):
By hand, combine the flour, salt, rosemary and yeast in a large bowl. Add the water and oil to the poolish, stir to loosen it, and pour it all into the flour mixture. Stir the mixture with your hand until it forms a rough dough. Turn it out onto your work surface and knead it briefly, without adding extra flour, until it is well combined. Cover the dough with a bowl and let it rest for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to rehydrate. Knead the dough, without adding extra flour, until it is very smooth, about 10 minutes.

For the dough (by food processor):
Combine the flour, salt, and yeast in the workbowl fitted with the steel blade. Add the water and oil to the poolish, stir to loosen it, and pour it all into the flour mixture. Process the dough just until it forms a ball, about 30 seconds. Remove the dough from the workbowl, set it on your work surface, cover it with a large bowl, and let it rest for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to rehydrate. Process the dough in four or five 30-second intervals, hand kneading it to cool it off between intervals. Remove the dough from the workbowl and knead in the rosemary by hand.

Fermenting and turning the dough:
Place the dough [it will be rather wet and sticky] in a container at least 3 times its size and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment until light and doubled in bulk, about 6 hours. Turn the dough [This means: take the dough out of the bowl and put it on a work surface dusted with flour. Sprinkle flour on top of the dough. Spread it into a rectangle. Fold the left side to the center, then the top, then the right, then the bottom, then flip it over so that the seam side is down, and place it back in the bowl.] 3 times in 20-minute intervals, that is, after 20, 40, and 60 minutes of fermenting, then leave the dough undisturbed for the remaining time. [Since the dough is so wet/sticky, be sure to be pretty generous with the extra flour when you're handling it.]

Shaping and proofing the dough:
Cut the dough in half. Round the pieces and let rest for about 20 minutes. Lightly press one piece of the dough into a rectangle. Loosely fold it into thirds like a business letter by folding the bottom short edge up and the top down. Place it seam side down on a couche [this is a sheet of linen that dough resists sticking to] and cover it with a flap of the couche. Repeat with the other piece. Let them proof for about 1 1/2 hours.

Cover a peel or rimless baking sheet with a large piece of parchment paper. Remove the dough from the couche and gently press each piece into a 12 x 6 inch rectangle with your hands (the workers in the bakery use a small wooden ruler to get the dimensions just so). Press your fingertips deeply into the dough to stipple it all over. [Since the dough is so wet and sticky, I found it MUCH easier to do this by putting some olive oil in my hand and rubbing it all over my fingers, so that I could sink my fingers in the dough w/o it sticking to me.] Move the rectangles of dough to the parchment paper and resquare them. Cover them with plastic wrap and let proof until very soft and well expanded, about 2 hours more. The total proof time is about 3 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven: About 45 minutes before the bread is fully proofed, arrange a rack on the ovens second-to-top shelf and place a baking stone on it. Clear away all racks above the one being used. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Poke the dough all over with a toothpick or a skewer, pushing all the way through. If desired, just before baking, fill the oven with steam. [I did this by spraying the oven with water every time I had to open the door. It's not a requirement but steam helps give the bread a crisp crust.] Slip the breads, still on the paper, onto the hot stone and bake for 5 minutes. Carefully flip the breads over onto the stone and remove the paper. Continue baking until they are well browned, about 20 minutes more, rotating them after 10 minutes. Let the breads cool on a rack.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Mak Kimchi (Homemade)

Making kimchi was something I never really thought I'd do, so I feel pretty accomplished now that I've done it, regardless of the fact that it was a lot easier than I'd been anticipating. I've always been intimidated by the idea of making kimchi, possibly because my only exposure to it was when I was watching this one Korean drama, and in it they made so much kimchi they used bathtubs and were dressed in like, riot gear.

It turns out that when you're not making enough kimchi to feed a family of four to last through the winter, it's actually quite manageable with two large bowls and a little patience. I made mine from one large napa cabbage just over four pounds, which resulted in about three quarts of kimchi. Start to finish, it took me about two and a half hours. Of course, there's still fermentation time, but that just happens magically on its own.

A lot of the work can be done concurrently, which is a circumstance I always welcome. I wish more dishes were the same way. Essentially, once you get your cabbage brining, you have a lot of wait time, which you can use to prepare everything else. No mise en place necessary when it comes to kimchi making!

I halved Maangchi's recipe for mak kimchi, in which the cabbage is pre-chopped rather than whole. All the other ingredients are the same. Maangchi says the flavor is the same. That being the case, it's a whole lot easier to stuff pre-chopped kimchi into jars than figure out how I'm going to store whole cabbages. She also uses fresh, salted raw squid in her recipe, which I was going to do also, except H-Mart was out of them today. Just as well, as the salting process would have delayed the kimchi making for another week. (Clean the squid, mix it with 1 1/2 tbsp salt per 1/3 pound of squid, then keep it in a clean jar for about a week. When ready to use, rinse well, then chop up and add to kimchi paste.)

And now, onward to the kimchi-at-home pictorial!

Salted Napa Cabbage

Start with fresh napa cabbage. This one was a little more yellow than I would have preferred, but there wasn't a whole lot of choice at the store today. Also it makes no difference whatsoever in the final product. Chop the cabbage into bite-sized pieces, soaking them in a bowl or sink full of water as you go. Soaking helps with the brining process. When all the cabbage has been chopped, start layering it in a large bowl, salting each layer as you go. (Use about 1/2 cup of salt per 5 pounds of cabbage.) Every 30 minutes, turn the cabbage so that the mixture gets salted evenly. Do this twice; the cabbage will brine for a total of 1 1/2 hours.

Sweet Rice Flour Paste

While the cabbage is brining, make the sweet rice flour paste, which basically serves as an adhesive for the seasoning to stick to the cabbage. In a small pot, combine water with sweet rice flour and mix well from the start. Learn from my mistake... I didn't mix it well from the beginning and let it get too hot too quickly, which resulted in lumps in my paste that I had to pick out. >< When the mixture has thickened, add sugar. Stir to combine, then cook a little while longer, until the mixture has the consistency of a very thick syrup. Cool the paste by either placing the pot in ice water, or sticking it in the fridge.

Fish Sauce Mixture

Next up, blend together some garlic, onion, ginger, and fish sauce. Blend for at least a minute, to ensure that there are no big lumps left.

Sweet Rice Flour Paste and Fish Sauce Mixture

When the sweet rice flour paste has cooled, stir it together with the fish sauce mixture.

Julienned Vegetables for Kimchi

While waiting for the cabbage to brine and/or waiting for the sweet rice flour paste to cool, chop your vegetables. The carrot and Korean radish should be julienned, while the scallions and leek should be finely chopped.

Korean Red Pepper Flakes (Gochugaru)

Now, take a cup or two of gochugaru -- Korean red pepper flakes (also labeled as coarse red pepper powder). One cup for mild, two cups for spicy. I used 1 1/2 cups, cuz that's how I roll.

Kimchi Paste

Add the gochugaru to the fish sauce/sweet rice flour mixture. Blend well, and you'll end up with a lovely bright red paste.

Kimchi Paste

Now add the vegetables you chopped to the kimchi paste and mix well.

Homemade Kimchi

All that's left to do is combine the kimchi paste with the cabbage! But wait! There's one last thing you need to do. You have to drain the cabbage of all the salty water it's now accumulated, then wash it three times. No, that's not some kimchi superstition. You just want to clean the cabbage well of any extra salt so that it's not too overwhelming, which would ruin the kimchi.

Homemade Kimchi

Okay, NOW you can start combining. Maangchi and the people I saw in the K-drama I mentioned earlier use thick dishwashing gloves to do this; since I don't plan to make kimchi often enough to set aside a pair of gloves just for this purpose, I used a spatula. It's probably more satisfying to get your hands all in it, though. :D

Homemade Kimchi

Once it's well mixed, it'll look something like this. Look, real kimchi!

Homemade Kimchi

Now, pack tightly into jars. I prefer to use glass -- one's an old pickle jar while the other is a glass cannister. If you have one really big container, feel free to use that. It'll ferment more slowly due to volume, while smaller containers will ferment faster. I actually prefer less-sour kimchi, but I alas, don't have any giant containers. Keep your kimchi in the refrigerator. After a day or two, you may see bubbles and liquid appearing, and the kimchi may start to smell sour. The longer it's kept, the more it will continue to ferment. Kimchi should last for months in your fridge!

Homemade Kimchi

Some people love strongly fermented kimchi and find fresh kimchi uninteresting. I, on the other hand, love fresh kimchi, so I ate some as part of my dinner right away. And by the way? My kitchen smells awesome now.

Mak Kimchi (recipe adapted from Maangchi)

  • 4-5lbs napa cabbage
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup sweet rice flour (chapssal garu)
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup whole garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2-inch piece ginger, chopped
  • 1-2 cups red pepper flakes, aka coarse powder (gochugaru)
  • 1 cup Korean radish, julienned
  • 1 cup leek, chopped
  • 5-8 scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup carrot, julienned
  • 1/3 fresh, raw salted squid (optional)
  1. Clean and trim the cabbage.  Slice it in half, then in quarters, then in eighths if necessary.  Slice into bite-sized pieces, placing them into water to soak while you're slicing the rest of the cabbage.  When all the cabbage has been sliced, drain the water.  Layer the cabbage into a large bowl, salting each layer.  Let it sit for 30 minutes, then turn/mix the cabbage.  Repeat.  Let the cabbage brine for 1 1/2 hours, with two turns.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the sweet rice flour with the water, mixing well and stirring constantly.  When the mixture has thickened, add the sugar.  Stir and cook for a few minutes longer, until the mixture has the consistency of a very thick syrup.  Remove from heat and cool with an ice bath or in the fridge.
  3. In a blender, combine the fish sauce, garlic, onion, and ginger.  Blend for at least a minute, until all the pieces have been pureed to a smooth consistency.
  4. When the sweet rice flour mixture has cooled, combine with the fish sauce mixture in a large bowl.
  5. Add the red pepper flakes (amount is to your preference) and stir until the mixture is well blended.
  6. Stir in the Korean radish, leek, scallions, and carrot.  If you are using the squid, add it at this stage as well.
  7. Drain the salty water from the cabbage.  Wash the cabbage with fresh water, three times.  Drain again.
  8. Add the cabbage to the kimchi paste and mix until all the ingredients are well combined.
  9. Pack the kimchi into jars and seal.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.