Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Daring to do it: Dutch Crunch Bread

Sara and Erica of Baking JDs were our March 2012 Daring Baker hostesses! Sara & Erica challenged us to make Dutch Crunch bread, a delicious sandwich bread with a unique, crunchy topping. Sara and Erica also challenged us to create a one of a kind sandwich with our bread!

I love bread. And sandwiches are a pretty regular meal in our house - egg salad, grilled cheese, veggie burgers... Lots of sandwiches. So when I saw this challenge I was kind of excited. Add to that the fact that Dutch Crunch bread seems to be a regional delicacy - that region being northern California. As in San Francisco. Where Hubby and I had our honeymoon. Where one of my closest friends from college lives. Where my Sparkling new work opportunity is based... A place, as you can see, that is near and dear to my heart...!
The recipe for this challenge is really the topping. We were free to use any bread recipe we wanted. I decided to make this recipe for hoagie rolls and to make Hubby's birthday dinner extra special.
Here is the topping, before mixing and rising - yes, the topping rises - there is a lot of yeast in there!Here are the rolls, ready to be topped:

And here is the topping, rested, risen, and ready to go:And then my camera battery died. But if it hadn't, there would have been a picture here of the rolls slathered with a very thick layer of the yeasty, rice-y topping.

One of the concerns expressed my some of my fellow Daring Bakers was that their crunch topping was not getting the golden color they had hoped for. So I cheated. Sort of. For the last couple of minutes of baking time, I turned on the broiler. So the rolls took on a beautiful color and crumble.

The second part of this challenge was to make a sandwich with out cracked and crunched breads. As I mentioned earlier, I was making this bread for Hubby's birthday. He had requested that I make chik'n cheese steaks as his birthday dinner. (Yes, vegetarian - fake chicken strips work wonders here...!) But remember also that I said my camera battery had died? Well, yeah. So no pictures of the sandwiches. Except for this one:

The last bite...

While the sandwiches were yummy, and the bread beautiful, I wasn't 100% sold on the taste. Don't get me wrong, it definitely added something, I just wasn't sure it was something I would seek out again. That being said, I think I might give this one more chance, just to see if maybe I did something "wrong." Also, I would like to try the "real deal" Dutch Crunch bread next time I am in San Francisco. Which will be....? Not soon enough...!

Thank you, Sara and Erica, for introducing me to something new. I love learning about new foods, new cultures (even within the US) and new flavors in life! Check out what the rest of the Daring Bakers created with their beautiful breads!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Surprise! Doughnuts

So, do you remember Eve, my sourdough starter from the December Daring Bakers' challenge? I have been having a lot of fun playing with "her" and seeing what we can make together. Well, it turns out I am not the only one! A few of us, including my sister at C Mom Cook and Jenni from The Gingered Whisk, decided that it would be more fun to play together. Introducing: Sourdough Surprises! If you love sourdough, or if you want to love sourdough, come and bake with us! Every month we will bake something together using our sourdough starters, learning more and basically just having fun!
This month, for the inaugural surprise, we made sourdough doughnuts based on this recipe. The recipe itself looked great. I just am not a huge fan of deep fried anything. I mean, the taste is yummy, but it is just a lot of oil, and mess, and... yeah. So I decided to bake my doughnuts.
I started by mixing my dough together:
Then it was time to cut the doughnuts, Not having a doughnut cutter, I had to improvise...
Once baked, there was nothing left but to break on in!

I would like to try these again, since the taste was very good. I think I need to try a shallow frying method, though, since I didn't get the lift I would have hoped for. These were definitely worth it, though...!

If you want to play with us, please do!! Check us out at Sourdough Surprises, and bake along!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Daring to do it: Braising

The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.

When this month's challenge was announced, I have to admit that I wasn't overjoyed. Braising? True, it is a technique I didn't really know too well, but it was, according to my limited understanding, a cooking method which really works best for meats. Sure, Carol provided a recipe for braised fennel, which sounded interesting, but I am not a big fennel fan. I half-heartedly looked for recipes for braised tofu, braised veggies, or any other vegetarian braise I could think of. But nothing grabbed me. Then. Then we went to Florida to visit my parents. My parents have a Kosher kitchen. My vegetarian hubby was in another part of the state for a while. Opportunity seemed on my side, and I decided to finally go for it and do a meat braise!
One dish which my mother, daughter and I (yes, the 2 1/2 year old!) all wanted to try making while we were together was honey chicken. Little Girl loves to read, and in one of the books we have, the family eats honey chicken for Shabbat. Well, we all thought that sounded good, so we wanted to try it. So I did some searching for a honey braised chicken recipe. And in my search I found this: http://projects.washingtonpost.com/recipes/2010/10/20/honey-braised-chicken-thighs-with-apple/ (sorry, blogger seems to be having issues letting me link. Still. Anyone know how to help?) While I can't say I followed the recipe exactly, I think the changes I made were minimal. (I didn't use chicken thighs, but two wings and two breasts - bone in; I didn't make the thickener, we just used the sauce as it was; I used apple juice instead of cider, since that was what we had...)
In pictures:
The ingredients:
The seared chicken:The sauteed apples and onions:
Everything together, ready to simmer in the oven:
The plated masterpiece:We were all very happy with how this chicken turned out! In my opinion, the amount of liquid was great because it allowed the tops to stay crispy which letting the rest soak. It I make this again (which I hope to, either with my parents again or using tofu) I will make sure to use skinless chicken, since I think the spice rub couldn't be fully appreciated by those of us who don't eat the skin, and I will let it simmer just a bit longer, to get even that much more tender.
Thank you, Carol, for making sure that I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried something new! This was a great learning experience for me, and it was amazing to see all of the creative braises our fellow Daring Cooks came up with. And, I think I will have to give the fennel recipe a try after the great reviews it has gotten!!
Do yourself two favors here - first, check out Carol's informative challenge write up so you can learn all about braising and see the yummy recipes she provided:
Second, check out the beautiful braising my fellow Daring Cooks created!