adventures in baking.
Panis Focacius is a flatbread that harkens back to ancient Rome. It is baked on the floor of hearth ovens and is the foundation bread for Italian focaccia, Spanish hogaza, Portuguese fogaca, and Fougasse from the Provence region of France. Fougasse is a rustic bread that can be flavored any number of ways; it is a blank canvas bread that can be built to fit a meal or occasion. It makes quite an impression and it's fun to eat by breaking off pieces and dipping in an infused olive oil. This example uses the poolish technique and features semolina, toasted sesame seeds, and sea salt. Available by order and as a periodic featured Farmers Market bread.
It's a rather a slow procedure to make Danish. Anything that involves laminated dough isn't something you rush through. It's best to take your time and do the old "slow build" thing; if you do it correctly, it's a two-day process. Officiating the marriage of beurrage and detrempe, then turn and turn and turn. No shortcuts. Choose just the right fruit filling, give it a dab of cream cheese filling too, don't forget the streusel. Into the oven and wait while the pastry perfume fills the kitchen. Add the final touch of a drizzle of flat icing, then take the first flaky, buttery bite and know it was worth the wait. Are you going to share? Hell no, you're going to eat all of them and then complain about gaining weight.
I was paging through one of my pastry books and discovered Kouign Amann, a pastry that has its origins in Brittany, France, and has been popular since the 1860s. Its appellation translates to "butter" "cake" which is a pretty accurate description. This yummy concoction uses a laminated dough to hold a generous amount of sugar that combines with the butter during baking and caramelizes. The finished pastry ends up tasting like a sweet croissant with a nice crunchiness to the crust. C'est magnifique. It was a relaxing day of baking something non-holiday related
One of the treats I always looked forward to when I was little is Boston Brown Bread. It is one of those regional victuals that is often an accompaniment to baked beans but is good enough to stand on its own. It's an old thing, a steamed pudding full of molasses, and rye flour, and raisins and other tasty things. The recipe I used was adapted from M. Houghton Whitcomb's, 1892, "Souvenir Cook Book." Boston Brown Breads are often cooked in old tin cans when a mold isn't available. I used one of my antique pudding molds for this loaf. The old covered molds allow using a covered Dutch oven to steam the Brown Bread, and they really jazz up the finished product. The old tin can technique works fine though, you can't get much homier than that.
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup milk
1/3 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup raisins
1 Tbs. butter
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Use butter to grease the pudding mold or tin. Sift together the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, followed by the milk and molasses, then the raisins. Pour the batter into the greased mold or tin, cover the container with tin foil or the mold lid and tie with a string if necessary to make the mold watertight. Place the mold in a baking pan filled with boiling water enough to submerge about 1/2 of the mold. Steam for 2 hours in the oven making sure to maintain the water level. Check for doneness using a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread.
Not many people know that I am half Norwegian, it's something of which I'm proud. I come from hearty people with last names like Oppegard, (my mothers maiden name), and Haugan, and Uggen. Growing up my dad called me "Ole" more than he called me Mark, I liked it. Thanksgiving and Christmas was the time of year that our home was filled with the aroma of lefse, cardamom bread, and other Scandinavian treats.
Every Christmas I dig a little deeper into Scandinavian baking, I think it makes things feel more festive. I guess it's part of being a pastry nerd.While researching recipes, I ran across Skoleboller. Skoleboller is Norwegian for School Buns, a treat that mothers put in kids lunches. It's a light bread flavored with cardamom and crowned with vanilla custard, icing, and a generous sprinkle of coconut. Skoleboller is a school lunch treat that is so good you wouldn't mind going to summer school.
These are the first days of summer, and the strawberries are starting to ripen, and that means it's jam time. Of course, you can't make jam and not have fresh bread come to the party, so I took care of that little problem too. I think the bread and jam thing is something that has carried over from my mom. I still remember spending summer days playing outside and coming home to a kitchen filled with the aroma of fresh bread and strawberries. I was a little more svelte back then and could put away about three buns and jam with a cold glass of milk. If I tried that now, I'd have quite a collection of increasingly larger big boy pants.
"Strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries thrive here. From these they make a wonderful dish combined with syrup and sugar, which is called 'pai.' I can tell you that is something that glides easily down your throat; they also make the same sort of 'pai' out of apples or finely ground meat, with syrup added, and that is really the most superb."
From a letter written by a Norwegian immigrant to friends back in Norway (November 29, 1851)
Imagine the sense of anticipation experienced by the early settlers as they waited for the blueberries to "come in." A pail full of blueberries must have been equivalent to a Doctor's prescription of a remedy for the winter doldrums. A cache of little blue pills enveloped in a flaky pastry crust or made into jam. Canning jars full of the cure, put away to enjoy later, knowing that later would come sooner than you think. It's a part of the fruitful abundance of a Minnesota summer. Blueberries.
I have family visiting and made a Blueberry pie, it's almost required at this time of year. All that is left is an empty pan.
Christmas cookies during the 1800s were usually not the chocolate or glazed types we see nowadays. There were good spicy varieties full of raisins, nuts and other things as well as shortbread and gingerbread styles that would be cut into an endless variety of shapes using cutters. Pictured to the left are Rock Cookies, Sand Cookies, and Ginger Snaps.
It's always fun to try out new recipes and this one is no exception. This recipe for Graham Cake is from an 1884 cookbook and is written in the form of a poem. You can use whole wheat pastry flour if graham flour is not available.
Any reader of this book would like a graham cake,
I give you here a recipe which I quite often make.
First take one cup of sugar white, and butter one half cup,
Together mix, then add an egg, and lightly beat it up.
Then take one cup of pure sweet milk, and well dissolve therein
A teaspoon full of soda so its trace cannot be seen.
Then scatter in a little salt, and flavor it with spice,
A little nutmeg, if you please, or lemon peel is nice.
And then of flour you may put in three even teacups full,
And when you’ve stirred it well around, then quickly pour the whole.
Into your buttered pan, my dear, which ready stands the while,
Then, if you give it a good bake,‘twill be so nice you’ll smile.
Many people steer away from sourdough pancakes and who can blame them. Too often sourdough pancakes end up having the texture of a pair of old galoshes. Here is a recipe that makes a flavorful and tender pancake that everyone will enjoy. This recipe will make 8 -10 good sized cakes.
1 ½ cups sourdough starter
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 Tbs. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 large egg
Combine charged sourdough with the buttermilk and let it rest for an hour. Combine the sugar and salt and incorporate them with the wet ingredients. Separate the egg and beat the yolk then add the yolk to the mixture. Add the baking soda to the mixture and let the batter rest for a couple of minutes, you will see the batter start to bubble. Beat the egg white to a meringue like consistency and set aside while the baking soda is working. Gently add and mix in the flour, do not over mix, small lumps of flour in the batter are desired. Add the egg whites and gently fold them in. If done correctly, you will have a very light and airy pancake batter. Pour around ¼ onto a greased grill and cook until the edges of the pancake are dull and the top is bubbly. Flip the cake and cook until the bottom is golden brown.