Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Fougasse

sourdough fougasse pears bacon blue cheeseThis year we’ll be away for Christmas. As a result, the  house isn’t decorated for the holidays. No tree, no lights. These halls are not decked. Still, I hanker for the glitz of Christmas. So instead of traditionally shaping a batch of Pear – Blue Cheese – Bacon Sourdough Fougasse, I opted for Christmas trees and Snowflakes.

Hee Hee, spell check thinks I meant outgases instead of fougasse. Stupid spell check.

Of course, sourdough fougasse with pears, bacon and blue cheese would be a treat any time of year and in any shape, but they really feel perfect right now, as it’s lashing with rain outside. Just like real snowflakes, these are disappearing rapidly.

I used Point Reyes blue, which is quite creamy and mild. If you want something more assertive, a Danish blue or even gorgonzola would work well. So would cherries in place of the pears. The bacon is never optional..

 pears blue cheese

Fougasse with Pears, Bacon and Blue Cheese

makes about a dozen hand-sized breads

400 grams bread flour
75 grams rye flour
280 grams water
238 grams 100% hydration sourdough starter
12 grams salt
25 grams olive oil
117 grams blue cheese
125 grams bacon
60 grams dried pears (mine were very dry – use more if you have the thick, heavy type of dried fruit)


  1. Dice the pears into small bits and place in a small bowl. Measure out the water them pour some over the pears to just cover them. I put mine in the microwave for 30 seconds to facilitate rehydration. if you have the thick, moist kind of dried fruit, you can skip this step (aside from the dicing).
  2. Dice the bacon and gently sauté until it’s just barely cooked. Spoon onto a paper towel to drain the fat. bacon
  3. Crumble the cheese into chunks. I put mine in the freezer so that it wouldn’t disintegrate when I mixed it into the dough.
  4. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flours, remaining water, and starter and mix until it is just blended. Cover and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
  5. Add salt, olive oil to the dough. Drain the water from the pears and add that too. Mix on medium speed until the dough reaches medium gluten development. This took me about 5 minutes.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured board or counter and flatten. Spread the pears, bacon and cheese on top of the dough, then fold until the add-ins are evenly distributed throughout the dough.   sourdough fougasse pears bacon blue cheese
  7. Place the dough in a lightly oiled contained and let it ferment for 2 1/2 hours with a fold after the first hour.
  8. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, then shape each as desired. It does work best to chop straight down (like a guillotine) rather then trying to slice the dough with a knife. I used a bench scraper and the top of my cheese grater to make the cuts. A spatula might also work, though mine are all too big for this particular size of fougasse. shaping fougasse
  9. One the cuts are made, transfer the dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and stretch to open the cuts and form the final shape.
  10. Dust with flour, cover and proof for another 2 1/2 hours.
  11. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Spritz the fougasse with water to generate steam when baking. Place the baking sheets in the oven, reduce the heat to 450 and bake for 18 minutes or until lightly browned. I baked one batch of my fougasse on a baking stone and the others just on the sheet pans. To be honest, I didn’t notice any difference in the result, so use a stone of you have one, but don’t bother if you don’t.
  12. Let cool on a wire rack, then enjoy!

  sourdough fougasse pears bacon blue cheese

This recipe has been shared with Yeast Spotting on the Wild
Yeast blog.

Happy Holidays to everyone from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Poaching with the Daring Cooks

This month the Daring Cooks challenge focused on the technique of poaching. Specific recipes were provided to poach an egg, or alternatively to poach a home-made pine nut and sundried tomato sausage.

Because Mrs. Monkeyshines won’t eat eggs in their native form and was also concerned about the calories contained in the vegan sausage (there are 909 calories in 135 g of pine nuts!), we started looking elsewhere.

The first task, of course, was to determine exactly what poaching is – yes, even though we disregarded the main portion of the challenge, we still were eager to carry it out exactly. Such is life in the Monkeyshines household. According to

Poaching, simmering and boiling are really three different stages of the same cooking method. Each of these methods describes cooking food by submerging it in hot water (or another waterlike liquid like stock). What defines each one is an approximate range of temperatures, which can be identified by observing how the water (or other cooking liquid) behaves. Each one — boiling, simmering and poaching — has certain telltale characteristics:

Poaching refers to cooking food in liquid that has a temperature ranging from 140°F to 180°F. Poaching is typically reserved for cooking very delicate items like eggs and fish. At poaching temperatures, the liquid won't be bubbling at all, though small bubbles may form at the bottom of the pot.
Simmering is distinguished by cooking temperatures that are a bit hotter than with poaching — from 180°F to 205°F. Here we will see bubbles forming and gently rising to the surface of the water, but the water is not yet at a full rolling boil.
Because it surrounds the food in water that stays at a fairly constant temperature, food that is simmered cooks very evenly. It's the standard method for preparing stocks and soups, starchy items such as potatoes or pastas, and many others. One of the downsides to simmering is that vitamins and other nutrients can be leached out of the food and into the cooking liquid. (we’re not 100% convinced here, as we usually cook our pasta at a healthy rolling boil..)
Boiling is the hottest of these three stages, where the water reaches its highest possible temperature of 212°F. It's actually the method that is least likely to be used in cooking. That's because the violent agitation caused by churning bubbles characteristic of a rolling boil will often damage the food.

Braising, for the curious, is when you first brown the item (usually meat), then cook it with some water, but not submerging it.

Lately we’d observed several references to poaching in olive oil, so we turned to the internet and found a recipe for Olive oil poached shrimp that apparently came from the show Top Chef.

olive oil poached shrimp

Olive oil poached shrimp, cucumber and poblano pepper salad, avocado and risotto with chestnuts and bacon.

The poached shrimp were a revelation. It seemed impossible that cooking them in the oil that was just warm could possibly work, but it did. in just 7 minutes we had perfectly cooked shrimp that tasted exactly like, well, shrimp. When we’ve sautéed them in the past it seems that shrimp always develop little hard bits or slightly off flavor. We’ll absolutely use this technique in the future when cooking shrimp.

However, the recipe as a whole was a serious pain in the *ahem* – and was frightfully expensive as it called for an entire bottle of oil to poach 8 shrimp. (we poached 12 shrimp in about 2/3 of our bottle of oil and it was fine, but still.. )  The cucumber and poblano pepper salad was surprisingly tasty, but could have been made much more simply. Also, we infused the oil with crushed red peppers and coriander seeds, but did not detect any of their flavors in the shrimp (though that was really just fine, flavorwise).

Buoyed by our success at poaching, and having quite a bit of olive oil leftover, we tried another recipe – this time poaching artichokes that were miraculously still appearing at the farmer’s market, despite it being the dead of winter here. Again, the poached items were perfectly tender and flavorful and on the whole this recipe was much more successful (meaning worth the effort), so we’ll share it with you.

poached artichokes

Herb and Lemon Poached Baby Artichokes

adapted from Food and Wine

12 baby artichokes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 cup olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 thyme sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
2 sage leaves
4 bay leaves, preferably fresh
Lemon Zest for garnish (optional)


  1. Pour the olive oil and the white wine, onion, coriander seeds, peppercorns, thyme, rosemary, sage and bay leaves into a deep non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a simmer over moderately high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Try to maintain a steady temperature of 140-160 degrees F.
  2. While the oil is heating, prepare the artichokes by slicing off the top half of the leaves, trimming off the stem, and paring off all outer, tough leaves. As you finish each one, place it in the oil. While this means that some are cooked longer than others, it works out OK in the end since you’re cooking at such a low temperature.
  3. Cover and cook until the artichokes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Let the artichokes cool in the cooking liquid for 30 minutes. artichokes poached in olive oil and wine

    Poaching the Artichokes

  4. Transfer the artichokes to a work surface; discard the cooking liquid. Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise and arrange them on a platter. Garnish with long strips of lemon zest if desired (we really liked this addition to the recipe and used a zester to produce the strips) and serve warm or at room temperature.

Now for the poaching experiment that didn't go to plan... We recently obtained a beautiful white truffle and wanted to make a dish that would showcase its unique flavor, so we kept it simple - homemade pasta tossed in a little butter with shaved truffle and parmesan cheese. During a trip to Piemonte (Italy) a few years ago, I learned that truffles and eggs are a mysteriously magical combination so I decided to add a poached egg to my dish. (Mrs. Monkeyshines still won’t try even a truffled egg, so just a single poached egg was involved). But what an egg! - this egg had been sitting in the same box as the truffle and was just bursting with truffle aroma.

white truffleI followed the challenge recipe - water temperature no higher than 180F, cook for 3 1/2 minutes - and all looked good until I came to remove the egg from the water. I scooped it up with a slotted spoon, only to find that the white drained away through the slots...

Here is all that was left of my beautiful truffle-infused egg. Not quite sure what went wrong, except maybe it wasn't cooked enough?

 poach 014

I made the best of the situation and at least had the remains of the egg with my truffled pasta, which was still very tasty:

pasta with truffle

Blog checking line: Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

Check out the many marvelous creations that the other daring cooks created this month too.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dungeness Crab Tortelloni

crab ravioli or tortellini

It’s crab season here in San Francisco and this year we’re determined to make the most of it. Last night, instead of our usual crab cakes (which will get a post of their own one of these days) we decided to try our hand at a pasta dish.

Searching the farmer’s market for inspiration, we found a gorgeous bunch of leeks simply begging us to take them home and turn them into crab and leek ravioli. Well, tortelloni, actually, as they’re vastly easier to make as well as less likely to fall apart when cooking.

Can we toot our own horns here? These were simply divine. We kept it really simple and the crab was sweet and perfect. We sauced it with leeks braised with just a touch of wine and butter.

Crab and Leek Tortelloni

serves 2

1 recipe pasta


8 oz crab meat, cleaned
1 small leek
1 Tbsp cilantro
zest of 1 Meyer lemon


2 Tbsp butter
4 small leeks
2 Tbsp butter
Ground Pepper to taste


Finely chop the leek and gently sauté it until it’s wilted but not browned. Let cool. Mince the cilantro. Mix the crab, lemon zest, cilantro and leeks. We didn’t try to break it up too much, just combined the ingredients.

crab and leek pasta filling

Roll out the pasta and cut into approx 2 1/4 inch circles. Working one at a time, spoon a dollop of filling onto each round then fold into a tortelloni. Detailed steps and a video are available here. If the filling is too wet (you’ll know if it starts to interfere with your sealing the parcels), squeeze out any excess water. Place the tortelloni on a board that is generously floured and let rest while you make the sauce.

Slice the leeks and gently sauté in butter. Add about 2 oz of water and the wine and simmer until the leeks are soft. Grind in pepper as desired.

Bring a pot of water to a full boil. Slide the tortelloni into the water and boil about 3 minutes or until they’re all floating consistently. Drain the pasta and serve, topped with sauce. Do not grate cheese on this one as it will make the crab taste fishy! I know i find it nearly impossible to not put cheese on, well, anything, but this is the one exception.