Monday, March 29, 2010

A Day With Lasagna

Spring is here and I'm so far behind in all the projects in my head!  I haven't posted in ages (notice I have caught up on my BBA challenges, though).  I haven't even been reading any of my favorite blogs.  Next week is SPRING BREAK!  I will replace all my snowy pictures with spring next week.  And Easter is coming so fast.  I've had a lot of fun activities to post about--just not the time.  One of those was a day in the kitchen learning to make lasagna the way my daughter-in-law learned to make it from a Greek friend. 

The lasagna was made up of many layers with homemade sauce full of herbs and flavor, sausage, mushrooms, cheeses, pasta and a couple secret ingredients, etc.  It was better than any lasagna I've ever made and now I need a real lasagna pan! 

I wrote down the recipe, but with all the tasting and adding and more adding, I don't think I'll ever be able to reproduce it exactly.  But I learned her technique.  Thanks, K!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

BBA Challenge - French Bread

This will be one of my favorites and most-often-baked breads.   I prepared the pate fermentee last weekend but didn't have time to make the bread then.  I put it in the freezer for a few days.  That didn't seem to hurt it at all.  This bread was actually fun to make.  I enjoy the softness of the dough--it requires such gentle handling to maintain the rise.  I used a couche for the proofing.  I had a dilemma at this stage.  There was a hot stone in the oven.  I had a peel dusted with semolina and I remembered I also had french bread pans that I had never used.  There were three soft, proofed baguettes waiting to be transferred somehow from the couche folds into the oven.  I decided to use my french bread pans.  I gently lifted one of the long loaves.  It immediately collapsed into a long shrunken loaf into a pan that was smaller in diameter than the loaf.  No good.  Forget the pan.  I couldn't imagine I'd be able to get those soft loaves onto a big wooden peel and then flipped onto a hot stone in the oven--but that was the only option now.  I managed to transfer one loaf onto the peel--looking good!  I opened the oven door and pulled out the rack with the stone and, with courage and confidence, gave a sliding flip and the loaf slid right off the semolina-dusted peel onto the stone!  The second one went just as easily.  That was an exciting moment.  I felt like a bread professional.  I wish I had a picture.  The loaves baked beautifully--but I did forget to slash the tops. 
Notice the nice holes!  This bread was really really good.

BBA Challenge - Focaccia

This was a good bread with so many possibilities for toppings!  I just added an Italian mix of herbs to olive oil to dribble over the top of the bread.
After it was baked, it was delicious dipped in just some salted olive oil.

Definitely have to try this with toppings like sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, cheeses, etc.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

BBA Challenge - English Muffins

These were actually made a couple weeks ago, but I'm somewhat behind in posting.  This was another one of those breads that made me say, "Next time, I will . . ."  When I shaped the dough into boules, I took very seriously the instruction to create surface tension to cause the bread to rise up, not just out.  That's just what they did.  They rose up, but didn't widen much.
I thought they might spread out a lot when they were placed in the pan, but they didn't.  I also didn't know how to judge the heat of my skillet and the doneness of the muffins, so, as you can see, I browned them too much.  They didn't have the big holes I wanted.  I'll work on that the next time I make them.

But with butter, cherry preserves and a hot cup of tea, they were still a treat!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cinnamon-Raisin Graham Bread

Graham Crackers.  That's all I knew about "graham"--until I got a bag of graham flour as part of a really creative, fun birthday present!  I researched it and found it's a whole-wheat flour that's milled very coarsely.
Lucky for me there was a recipe right on the bag that sounded good.  It's Cinnamon-Raisin Graham Bread.  The ingredients include cinnamon, ginger, molasses and a cup of raisins as well as the expected other bread ingredients.  I started up my Kitchen-Aid and  said, "Let's try this right now."  The bread was delicious!  It was moist and hearty.  I could have added even more raisins.  They add a nice sweetness along with the molasses.  If anyone out there wants to try the flour, I recommend the recipe on the bag.  Thanks C & K!!