Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sourdough with Wild Rice and Chives

I am a real dork about Thanksgiving. Seriously, the menu planning begins as early as September, with many revisions and trial balloons until I feel that it's just right. I love Thanksgiving and I guess maybe the planning helps me to extend the pleasure of the holiday.

I had been trying to decide what bread to make, possibly a repeat of the butternut squash brioche that I made last year? It was very wonderful. As I was flipping through this month's Bon Appetit, I saw it. Wild Rice Batards. They had me at hello. Well, maybe. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Bon Appetit that I won't bore you with, but figured I had better test-drive the recipe. Or just use the title as inspiration and do my own thing which is what usually happens..

So instead of the yeasted bread flavored with buttermilk, I used sourdough, which I have on hand. This bread is really delicious. Very savory, makes excellent toast. Would probably make a good stuffing, though this year I'll be serving it plain, with butter. I also fermented the dough overnight, which is now my habit, but is probably not as important in this bread as it is in others. Because this recipe is really a mashup, some of the ingredients are in grams, others are in cups. If you make this bread - and I hope you do - feel free to make your own adjustments as you see fit.

Sourdough with Wild Rice and Chives
adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman's Norwich Sourdough and from Bon Appetit magazine
yield 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves


450 g white flour
60 g whole rye flour
300 g water
180 g ripe 100% hydration sourdough starter
15 g salt
1 cup fully cooked wild rice (this takes about 1/3 cup raw rice + 2/3 cup water)
1/2 cup minced chives (you could substitute lightly sauteed minced onion if you prefer)


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flours, water, and starter on low speed until just combined, about one minute.
  2. Let the dough rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the salt, rice and chives and continue mixing on low or medium speed until the dough reaches a medium level of gluten development.
  4. Transfer the dough to an oiled container.
  5. Ferment at room temperature for 2.5 hours, with folds at 50 and 100 minutes. Or ferment an hour at room temperature, then put in the refrigerator overnight.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Divide it if making multiple loaves or rolls, then pre-shape. Let rest 15 min.
  7. Shape as desired and let proof 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until nearly doubled.
  8. Preheat the oven with a baking stone if you have one to 450 and prepare to steam. I put a cast iron skillet in the oven while its heating, and then boil 2 cups of water when the temperature gets close.
  9. Place the loaves on the stone, then pour 1 cup of the boiling water into the skillet and close the oven door as fast as you can.
  10. Bake for 15 min with steam, then another 15 min without.
  11. Let cool completely before slicing. 

Submitted for YeastSpotting. Check out the latest collection of lovely treats on Wild Yeast. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Salted Plum Dessert Wontons

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook. Part 2 of the challenge was to come up with some sort of fried wonton dessert, and Jaden provided a recipe for chocolate wontons as an example. The challenge was to pick a creative sweet filling and shape.

Our version the fried won ton dessert is a testament to the fact that sleepless nights sometimes do have their uses. We spent several days trying to come up with novel ideas for sweet won tons, and had some promising thoughts (pineapple was a recurring theme, with either mint or a little jalapeno pepper) – however, it didn’t quite have the novelty and Vietnamese influence that we were seeking. Then, at about 3am one morning, The Monkey remembered that when he eats at one of our favorite local Vietnamese places he often orders the plum soda: salted plums mashed up with a little sugar and topped with soda water. So, why not make some sweet and salty plum won tons?

We found some sugar plums at our local Farmers’ market – apparently the last week they would be available, so we were lucky with the timing of this challenge! Here is the recipe:

Sweet and Salty Plum Wontons

1 lb sugar plums (about 16)
1 tablespoons kosher salt
2 oz granulated sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice
¼ - ½ tsp Li hing powder* or other spice(s) (optional)
Thin, square won ton wrappers

*Li hing is a sweet-and-sour tasting powder flavored with plums; it’s used among other things for making salted plum candies (li hing mui) and is particularly popular in Hawaii. (We obtained ours from a local Hawaiian store; I expect it can also be mail ordered)

Wash and de-stone the plums, cutting them into quarters, and spread out in a non-reactive baking dish or tray. Mix together the salt and sugar, and sprinkle liberally over the plums, tossing to coat them. Roast the plums ar 325F for 45 minutes to 1 hour, shuffling occasionally; they should get soft but not brown or caramelized. Remove to a chopping board, add a squeeze of lemon juice and roughly chop until they form a chunky paste. At this stage you can add the optional li hing powder; I think other spices might be nice too, such as cinnamon, clove, star anise or five spice powder.

We chose to make them into candy roll shapes (caramella in Italian?). To assemble these, place the wonton wrapper on a clean surface and put about 1 tsp filling in the middle, in a roughly cylindrical blob with about ½” at either side. Roll the wonton so that it forms a cylinder; moistening the un-rolled edge before you complete the cylinder so that it sticks together. Crimp the ends with your fingers, twisting slightly to make a wrapped candy shape. You’ll probably end up with about 16-18 wontons, depending on how generous you are with the filling.

To fry the wontons, heat 1-2 inches of oil in a thick-bottomed pan until it reaches 350F. Lower the heat and test with a small piece of wonton wrapper; it should sizzle and stat to turn brown in 15-20 seconds. Carefully drop the prepared wontons in the hot oil in small batches (no more than 3 at a time) and flip them around occasionally so that they get evenly browned – this should take about 20 seconds. Remove to a plate covered in kitchen paper and drain off any excess oil.

In keeping with the Vietnamese theme, we served the wontons with some lemongrass-scented crème anglaise.

Lemongrass-scented Crème Anglaise
1 cup whole milk
1 egg yolk
4 oz granulated sugar
1 stalk lemongrass

Chop the lemongrass into small pieces, a bit larger than grains of couscous. Heat the milk in a saucepan until almost boiling, then remove from the heat and stir in the lemongrass. Leave to cool; it’s OK if it’s still a bit warm when you add it in the next step below. In a separate saucepan, cream together the egg yolk and sugar until pale and smooth-looking. Put the egg and sugar pan over low heat and gradually add the milk through a strainer (to remove the lemongrass), stirring well with a wooden spoon. Bring almost to the boil and keep stirring. Don’t panic! It will seem like it’s going to be way too runny, but after a few minutes the custard will thicken so that it forms a viscous coat on the back of your spoon.

Arrange the wontons around a little pool of the lemongrass-scented crème anglaise and sprinkle with a dusting of li hing powder (or one of the other spices suggested for the filling). Delicious, if we say so ourselves!

Daring Cooks do Pho

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook. We were delighted to learn that this month’s challenge was pho (even though we’ve been pronouncing it wrong all these years, turns out its 'fuh'. who knew?).

We made the Pho Ga essentially as described by Jaden.  A few suggestions – the recipe does not explicitly call for toasting the spices, so you’ll have to remember to do that before adding them to the broth. Also, if you put the spices in a sachet it’ll make it a lot easier to skim the broth – as we found out the hard way…

The broth was fantastic – fragrant and delicious without being overpowering - and the final assembled dish was very satisfying. In our customary pushing it just a little too far tradition, we also made some mini Imperial rolls to go with our chicken. (yum!!)  The Monkey even eschewed the Sriracha, which he usually adds liberally to his pho in restaurants!

Here are the flavorings, ready to go into the broth, and the broth being cooked:

Mise-en-place for the Imperial rolls, and the finished product:

Noodles, chicken and accompaniments, awaiting broth:

The finished dish:

Fried dessert wontons, a bonus challenge, to follow in a separate post…

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Granary Bread

Although I have been baking bread pretty much weekly for a year now, the monkey's requests for a simple granary bread like he could get growing up in the UK had gone unheeded. Partly (OK largely) because I couldn't find a recipe for it, partly because I'm just a sourdough gal, and also because there is a lot of yucky bread out there under the guise of wholemeal or granola or other crunchy-healthy sort of name.

A basic granary loaf has certain richness of flavor that is not generally found in a US whole wheat. It contains a blend of cereals and just the faintest sweet note. It makes terrific toast and sandwiches. It is dense, but doesn't weigh a ton, it never feels gummy, and it doesn't have what appear to be ground chair legs and other distracting bits in it. Just a nice, friendly basic bread. How hard could that be?

Finally I threw caution to the wind (such a daredevil!) and tried my hand at it. I used a 5-grain cereal from Bob's Red Mill for my grains. I am sure could make something similar from scratch, but I am never averse to taking shortcuts when I can....

Woo hoo! Success in one go! I can say definitively that this bread makes good toast, good sandwiches and even tastes good plain. So without further ado, I am pleased to be able to publish a recipe for British Granary Bread. I have no idea how the recipe itself compares to a real recipe, but it passed the monkey test. He's eaten half the loaf already.

One note: this is an overnight recipe, so start it a day ahead of when you want to bake.

Granary Bread
adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes

makes 1 large loaf

6.4 oz   5 Grain Cereal
8 oz   Bread Flour
6.4 oz   Whole Wheat Flour
1.6 oz Rye Flour
14.4 oz   Water
.4 oz Salt
1 Tbsp   Molasses
1 tsp   Active Dry Yeast

In a small bowl, mix the cereal with 8 oz. water and the salt. Cover and let soak for an hour or more.

Mix all the ingredients on first spped for about 3 minutes, then on second speed for another 4 minutes. The dough will probably still be somewhat shaggy. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container and fold once. Cover and ferment at room temperature for an hour, then fold again.

Place the dough in the refrigerator and continue to ferment overnight. (Mine fermented about 18 hours all told, as I made it mid-day, then baked the next morning). Fold two or three times during fermentation until the dough has firmed up and feels smooth. 

The next day, remove the dough from the refrigerator, shape as desired, cover, then proof for 1 - 1 1/2 hours.  

Bake at 450 degrees and with steam for 10 minutes, then without steam for another 25-30 min. Let cool thoroughly before slicing.

This bread has been submitted for inclusion in YeastSpotting on Wild Yeast Blog. Check out the other delicious and yeasty items featured there every week!