Enyucado

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Today’s blog takes us on a culinary journey to the coastal region of Colombia, South America.  Enyucado is a dessert that is somewhat hard to describe.  A bite of this rich dessert leads to the flavors of coconut and anise while the texture resembles a cross between egg custard and bread pudding.

I stumbled across a great recipe for Enyucado while searching for Ecuadorian desserts.  My wife never heard of Enyucado but she was familiar with the ingredients.  As I found out, making Enyucado is a labor of love, but if you are a fan of anise, it is worth the effort.

Getting the ingredients for this dessert was not as easy as it might seem.  The coconut I picked up at the local supermarket looked fine on the outside but it was rotten on the inside.  Finding fresh yuca  is also not as easy as it seems.  Yuca is typically coated in wax, so it can look fresh on the outside but can have dark spots or streaks on the inside.  I have also found fresh yuca which is too old; it contains large fibrous strands that are inedible.  The trick is to break off a piece of the yuca and look for completely white flesh free of dark brown spots or streaks.  Luckily, there are at least two Latin produce markets within 8 miles of my house, so I was eventually able to find fresh yuca, a good coconut and some good queso blanco.

Making the Enyucado begins by cracking and grating some coconut.  Sure, you could use some bagged frozen grated coconut and possibly even the shelf stable grated coconut.  But why?  If you are taking the time to grate fresh yuca then take the time to grate fresh coconut too.  You’ll appreciate the difference in taste.  After cracking, separating out the shell and cleaning the coconut, it took me about half  of one coconut’s meat to produce ¾ cup of grated coconut.  I grated the coconut on the medium grating side of my KitchenAid box grater.

For the yuca, I peeled and grated it using the fine grating surface.  It took about 3 yuca roots to make the 3 cups of grated yuca.  You have to be sure to not grate the very center of the yuca too…it is tough and fibrous.

As an aside, it is probably a good time to discuss concerns about yuca.  You’ve no doubt heard that yuca in its raw form contains two cyanogenic glucosides, linamarin and lotaustralin.  Through the natural enzyme in yuca, these compounds are broken into hydrogen cyanide in your body, which can lead to acute cyanide poisoning.  Yes, you read right…cyanide….the stuff that has been used to kill condemned prisoners.  But don’t worry!  The dangerous toxins present in yuca dissipate when the yuca is cooked.  This will probably scare most people away from ever trying yuca, but all you need to do is properly cook it and don’t eat it raw.  Seriously, it is not a big deal!  This dessert cooks for almost 1 hour at 400F.  That is sufficient time for the latent toxins to dissipate.

Once the yuca and coconut are grated, grate the queso fresco.  Grate it on the medium side as well.  It takes about ¾ of a wheel of queso fresco to get 1 ½ cups of grated fresh queso fresco blanco.

The rest is easy – dump the grated stuff into a large bowl, add the sugar, melted butter, coconut milk and however much anise you like.  I personally like a hint of anise versus a heaping helping.  Then dump it in a buttered baking dish.   ow bake it all in a 400F oven for 50+ minutes or until it is nicely browned.

You end up with something like this…

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Pain Viennois

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My latest experiment involves making Pain Viennois, or “Vienna Bread.”  Typically referred to as a “French” type bread, Pain Viennois is actually an Austrian bread.  To make this bread, I used the French Culinary Institute recipe.

The FCI recipe makes 12 loaves, and the amount of flour is too much for the KitchenAid Artisan to handle.  So I began by dividing the recipe in half and preparing my work surface.  The only modification I had to make is to reduce the amount of “fresh yeast” from 20 grams to 6.75 grams because I am using Instant Dry Yeast (IDY).  This reduction is in accordance with the SAF IDY yeast packaging.

The recipe begins with dumping everything except the butter into the mixing bowl fitted with the hook attachment.  You then mix on low speed for 5 minutes.  This was slightly problematic for the 5-quart Artisan mixer because the dough is quite stiff and wants to shape itself into a log and come out the top of the bowl.  But stopping the mixer every minute or so to reposition the dough solves this issue.

After the initial 5-minute mix, a higher speed 12-minute mix occurs.  The 12-minute mix really taxed the Artisan, but it survived.  After the 12 minute mix, the butter is incorporated slowly into the dough.  I didn’t think the butter would ever incorporate but after 5 minutes of additional mixing it began to come together in a rather soft dough.

After the butter is mixed in, it is time to rest the dough for one hour.  After an hour, the dough had not risen much but it was puffy and fragrant.  At this stage, the dough is portioned into six 150g pieces, shaped into a bâtard and set to bench rest for 15m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the bench rest, the bâtard is shaped into a six mini-baguettes.

The shaped loaves are now brushed with egg wash and rested for 2 hours.  At the end of the 2 hour wait, the loaves are again brushed with egg wash and scored along the top to make the signature Pain Viennois marks.  After a ~30m bake in a 425F oven, the loaves look something like this:

Pain Viennois is a rich, buttery bread with a fabulous taste.  The small loaves are very versatile and can be used to make sandwiches, to eat as-is, to accompany dinner, or for a tasty breakfast.  These loaves were a winner in my house and my wife now wants me to make 6 more tonight.  They take a total of about 4 to 4.5 hours to make.  And that highlights one of the main problems with baking bread – the timing.  If you want these for dinner, you ideally need to start them at 2PM (which is very hard if you are working).

Lessons Learned:

The dough is stiff and hard on the Artisan mixer.  I would love to make a larger quantity of these in a more powerful mixer.  Otherwise there really are no pitfalls with this bread.  The ingredients are simple and the work is mostly done in the mixer.

Where’s the bread?

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I haven’t posted many bread baking blogs lately…I’ve just been too busy!  But here’s what I am working on:  I recently started cultivating a classic sourdough starter.  It has been bubbling away for about 3 weeks now, and I plan to make some sourdough breads with it soon.  I also just started making a rye-wheat based levain, or pre-ferment.  A rye levain is an essential ingredient in many French and European breads.  In case you’re wondering, rye flour has a higher proportion of wild yeast spores, and preparing a levain creates an ecosystem containing active yeast cultures, such as L. sanfranciscensis

Levain and sourdough are considered cousins.  Sourdough uses all-purpose flour, and maintains a pure white color.  Rye levain is darker in color, and the amount used in recipes doesn’t necessarily give bread that “sourdough” taste, but it does provide leavening power.  About 40% of the recipes in the FCI book use a rye levain.

I’ll post several blogs here in the upcoming weeks once I am able to experiment with the sourdough and levain preparations.  And don’t worry – casual home bakers don’t typically need to start their own pre-ferments to enjoy baking bread.  You normally just need some instant dry yeast.  I just want to try some breads that have been previously off-limits for the home baker.

 

Macaron Madness!

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You’ve seen them.  Those crunchy yet puffy sandwich cookies prevalent in so many French cities.  Macarons, no to be confused with Macaroons (which are typically coconut) are sweet meringue based cookies made with ground almonds, sugar and little else.  Macarons are characterized by their smooth domed top and their frilly foot.  They come in dozens of colors and can feature many different types of fillings.  The good news is…you don’t have to fly to Paris and pay 2 euros each to enjoy them!

My introduction to baking Macarons at home came when I got this little book from the bargain bin of a bookstore.  The technique in this book is really quite simple.  You only need a few ingredients and some basic equipment to make some truly unique cookies.

Nearly all Macaron recipes call for ground almonds.  I found some at my local Publix but they were $11.59 for a 1.5 lb. bag!  The solution: grind your own!  Just get a bag of slivered blanched almonds.  Make sure you don’t get the sliced almonds which have the brown edges.  Get the blanched slivered almonds.  Next, dump the slivered almonds into a food processor and blend them into a slightly damp powder.  That’s all you need to do!

You will also need some confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar), some superfine caster sugar and some food coloring.  Don’t have caster sugar (which is available at Whole Foods or online)?  Just put some regular granulated sugar in the food processor and pulse it a few times.

Depending on what flavor you want to make, you may need special ingredients.  For the raspberry macarons, I needed some seedless raspberry jam and some heavy cream.

Mixing the batter is easy.  You just whip 2 egg whites until soft peaks form, then gradually dump in 1/4 cup of superfine sugar.  Continue whipping them to stiff peaks.  Regular granulated sugar wouldn’t work here because the crystals are too coarse.

Next, you mix 1 cup of the powdered sugar with 3/4 cup of the ground almonds and put it back in the food processor again.  Process for 15 seconds to further refine the almonds and to bind them with the powdered sugar.  Now you just fold in the almond mixture one-third at a time into the meringue.  Toward the end, you add whatever food coloring you want and continue folding the meringue until a think, ribbon-like batter is formed.

At this point, you dump the sticky mess into a pastry bag (not easy) and pipe out 16 small circles of batter onto 2 parchment paper lined baking sheets (also not easy).  Tapping the baking sheets on the counter flattens the batter into a round shape and removes cumbersome air bubbles.  You can swirl some raspberry into the top of them with a toothpick at this point, or leave them plain.

After letting them sit for 30m, put them in a 325F oven for 10-12 minutes.  When they are ready they will have a hard top and a frilly bottom.  Let them cool for 10m, then remove them from the pans and let them totally cool.

The filling is easy.  2/3 cup heavy cream and a dash of vanilla extract go into the mixer bowl.  Beat at highest speed until the cream thickens.  To assemble the cookies, spread some vanilla cream on one cookie, then some raspberry jam on the other.  Press them together…and you have Raspberry Macarons!

 

 

 

 

 

 

While you enjoy eating your Macarons, you can practice trying to pronounce their name in your best French accent.  Hint: arguments about pronunciation can be decided by looking at YouTube videos featuring French chefs making Macarons for their confection shops.  Bon appétit!  <— the extent of my French vocabulary…

 

Duplicating the Cheesecake Factory Brown Bread

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I am a big fan of the Cheesecake Factory brown and sourdough breads they bring to the table.  My wife and I both favor the deep brown bread they serve, which is similar to the bread served at Outback restaurants.  Last time we were there, she said “I bet you can’t duplicate this bread at home!”  An interesting challenge.

The bread is a deep brown color and the top is loosely peppered with oats.  The flavor is rich and robust, and there is no detectable amount of rye in the bread.

My first inclination was to see if the Cheesecake Factory published this bread recipe on the Internet.  It is not, but I did find out some interesting information.  The breads served in Cheesecake Factory come from the Maple Leaf Bakery, and this particular bread is called the Sweet Wheat and Oat Demi Baguette.  Their description states “Brown sugar and molasses give this soft-textured demi baguette an irresistible, unique flavor.”  Indeed.

After looking through a number of “copycat” recipes, I decided to give King Arthur Flour’s “honey wheat black bread” recipe a try.  However, to adapt this recipe to preparation in a stand mixer, I made some slight modifications:

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. warm water, 105F
  • 1 oz. butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup honey (I used clover)
  • 2-3 cups bread flour
  • 1 2/3 cups wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ tsp. malt powder
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons IDY yeast

To prepare the bread, I added the warm water, melted butter, honey, wheat flour, cocoa, granulated sugar, instant coffee and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  After thoroughly blending, add the yeast, malt and ½ cup of the bread flour.  The mixture will be soupy.  Add the remaining flour, ¼ cup at a time on low until enough flour has been incorporated that the mixture just begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Continue mixing for 7 minutes on medium.

Remove the bowl and dump the dough onto a floured board.  Bench rest for 5 minutes.  Knead with floured hands until there is sufficient gluten development.  When the dough is slightly springy, transfer to an oiled rising bucket and rise until doubled, 1 to 1.5 hours.

When the dough has doubled in volume, pour it onto a floured surface.  Divide the dough into four equal portions.  Make three baguettes suitable for placing in a 3-loaf baguette pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  The remaining piece can be divided in half  and shaped into mini baguettes or rolls.  Let the baguettes rise until almost doubled, or until pressing the dough lightly with a finger causes the dough to fill back in in several seconds.  Just before baking, score the tops with your favorite pattern.

Bake the loaves in an oven that has been preheated to 350F.  Bake for 22 minutes or until done.

 

  

 

Impressions:  My family was impressed with how soft the loaves were coming from the oven.  They also put off an incredible aroma while baking.  The crumb is identical to the Cheesecake Factory bread, but the color is too light.  We all agreed that the loaves need to be 3 shades darker.  The taste is very similar, but has deeper notes of chocolate and coffee.  Note that I omitted the oats because my stepdaughter is allergic to oats.

So here is what I would do if I were to try this again…following the same instructions above, I would alter the recipe as such:

  • 12 oz. warm water, 105F
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup molasses (or organic barley malt syrup)
  • 2-3 cups bread flour
  • 1 2/3 cups wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ tsp. diastatic malt powder
  • 1 tbsp. caramel color
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons IDY yeast (1 pkg.)

I intend to try these changes and report back here in the near future.  I believe the substitution of molasses for honey and brown sugar for granulated sugar will more closely replicate the flavor of the Cheesecake Factory bread.  The addition of the diastatic malt powder and the caramel color will darken the crumb and the crust.

Pretzels

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After planning it for quite some time, I finally decided to try making pretzels.  I love freshly baked pretzels – what a perfect afternoon snack!  I frequently get them in the mall kiosks (Auntie Anne’s is the store of choice for me).

About 2 years ago, I received an Auntie Anne’s pretzel making kit and I made some fresh pretzels at home.  They were good, and the Auntie Anne’s pretzel making process was well-defined.  As it turns out, making them from scratch is relatively easy as long as you have some specialty ingredients on hand.

For my pretzels, I used the FCI recipe (demonstration) found in their book.  To make pretzels at home (according to the FCI recipe), you will need some high gluten flour.  I used “Sir Lancelot” from King Arthur Flour.  You will also need some malt syrup.  I used King Arthur’s Organic Barley Malt Syrup.  The other ingredients are fairly standard.

The FCI recipe is too large / stiff for the KitchenAid Artisan tilt-head stand mixer.  You will have to divide the recipe in half if you want to prevent overloading your machine.  Mixing is really straightforward.

After diving the dough into equal portions and letting it bench rest, the dough is rolled into a long, thin baguette and shaped into the classic pretzel shape.  After sufficiently rising, the shaped pretzels are given a quick bath in boiling water that has been augmented with baking soda.  This promotes a deep brown crust on the pretzels.

 

For toppings, I opted to take 6 of the pretzels and use coarse Himalayan sea salt.  For the other 6, I buttered them, and then I mixed caster sugar with cinnamon powder and topped them with a sweet topping.

As soon as these fragrant pretzels emerged from the oven, the doorbell rang.  What timing! All of the pretzels were consumed in record time.

Lessons learned:

The crumb was appropriate but the pretzels (alone with no toppings) seemed to lack depth of flavor.  This bears further investigation.  Most sources recommend using a caustic lye solution as opposed to a quick-boil in a baking soda solution.  The Auntie Anne kit used a different method – dip the pretzels in a cold solution of water and baking soda.

My pretzels got a lot puffier than I think they should be.  This is mostly likely because they slightly overproofed.  They also didn’t get that deep, dark pretzel brown.  I would love to hear from other people who have used the FCI recipe or others who have a different pretzel recipe.

For cinnamon-sugar pretzels, I will probably opt to use the Auntie Anne’s pretzel kit next time.  For making pretzel rolls, pretzel breadsticks or other things, the FCI formula would be ideal.

A nicely browned crust

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My latest task has been to determine why I am failing to get a deep brown crust on my loaves.  The hallmark of breads that come out of professional bakeries is often their intensely browned crust.  Is it possible to get such a crust at home?  For one, bakeries use commercial equipment – rack ovens, proofing chambers, etc.  Then there is the usage of various additives which are often not available or hard-to-get for the home baker.  Bakeries definitely have the advantage.  But again, is it possible to duplicate a great crust at home?  I was beginning to think it was impossible.

At first I chalked it up to the electric oven…but then I started talking to some bakers, and I even emailed the Bakers at KAF for some guidance.  Here is a summary of the things that can cause that pale, sickly looking crust:

  • Overproofing the dough.  If you overproof, the yeast will consume the sugars needed to undergo the Maillard reaction.  In other words, your crust won’t be as brown as it could be if you tend to overproof your dough.  Several bakers have told me that I should slightly underproof.   This is not as easy as it seems, but it is simplified by understanding how the bread reacts when you gently press a finger onto the surface of the dough.
  • For baguettes baked in a standard 3-loaf baguette pan, KAF said to remove the stone from the oven when using the baguette pan.  This is something I did not do…I was keeping the stone in while using the baguette pan.
  • Bake longer.  I admittedly have a fear of overbaking.  But sometimes…keeping the loaves in 5 minutes longer might mean the difference between that pale crust and a dark, inviting crust.
  • Oversteaming – it is possible to oversteam, even in an electric oven.  The steam is only needed during the first few moments of baking.  You should not strive for a continuous presence of steam in the oven.  I was doing this at one point by adding several cups of ice cubes to the steam pan…the water was never boiling away and just sat there simmering the whole time.
  • KAF sells some products that assist in achieving a darker crust in the home kitchen.

I am totally open to any comments and suggestions.  I am learning as I go, and any thoughts can only help!