July 29, 2010

Traditional German Pumpernickel Bread

Ok. So. The River Street Cafe and Cheese Shop in Santa Cruz makes a loaf of traditional German style pumpernickel that retails $10 for a full loaf (maybe 3 lbs.), which you can find here. Now, when you see the recipe below you'll get why this thing is $10, it takes forever to make correctly. But oh man...is it good. This is my first attempt at this style of bread and I have to say that I really did like how it turned out. I think it would be better if I could get my hands on some real pumpernickel flour, but it's really hard to find (even here in SC) so I've done what I can with what I'm allowed. Take a peak:

Traditional-like German-inspired Pumpernickel-ish Bread:

2 Cups Organic Rye flour (Organic is more likely to have the natural yeasts used to raise the bread; ideally this should be pumpernickel flour, which is more coarsely ground)
1 Cup white all purpose or whole wheat flour (if you can find pumpernickel flour then use finely ground rye flour here instead of white or whole wheat)
2 Tbs. bulgur wheat (bulgur is par-boiled cracked wheat berries, you could use any par-boiled grain here -- oats, buckwheat, rye)
2 Tbs. sunflower seeds
2 Tbs. flax seeds
1 tsp. salt
1 3/4 Cup warm water
1 tsp. olive oil

Sift together the flours, bulgur or cracked rye berries, seeds, and salt. Add in the water and the oil and mix all this together. You'll end up with something that is very sticky, this is ok. Lay down some parchment paper in the bottom of a medium sized bread pan and oil the sides so things are a little easier to remove later.

Spoon the dough into the prepared bread pan and smooth the surface. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and put the whole thing in a relatively warm place in the kitchen.

Let it sit for 24 to 48 hours. In the summer months you may find that after 24 hours the bread starts to push very insistently against the plastic wrap. If this happens before your two days are up pop the pan in the fridge and let it chill out there for the next day.

When you're ready preheat the oven to 225 F (very low) and place a pan of boiling water on the bottom-most rack. Unwrap the bread pan, re-wrap the bread in tin foil, and place it on the upper-most rack. This needs to "steam" for four hours (I know!). Raise the oven temp to 325 F and bake for another 40 minutes to brown the surface and the sides of the bread.

Let the bread cool slightly in the pan before you remove it. Peel off the parchment on the bottom and wrap the bread in a tea towel to sit overnight. DO NOT CUT INTO THE BREAD RIGHT AWAY. You've waited this long, you can wait a little bit longer.

After it's completely cool and has sat some more...cut in, spread some cream cheese all over it, and enjoy.

July 23, 2010

Chinese 5 - Spice Powder


clove (dingxiang)
fennel (xiaohuixiang)
sichuan pepper (huajiao)
star ainse (dahuixiang)
cassia bark (rougui)

5 Spice powder is made from cassia bark (a variation of cinnamon), fennel, clove, Sichuan pepper, and star anise. Each of these spices are pictured above. Different books have different recipes, but from what I can tell you basically take equal amounts of each spice, grind them up, and mix them together. If you are using a mortar and pestle, as I do, sometimes it's useful to dry fry the spices until they become fragrant before grinding. This process removes any water from the spice and makes them easier to grind. This is especially relevant for the cassia, clove, and star anise.

Sichuan pepper (which is easily found in Chinatown markets, but not sure about where else), usually contains a seed which is very bitter and may effect your spice mix in an unpleasant way. My books recommend removing any seeds before grinding, which I can offer, is an annoying and slow process.

One thing I kind of messed up is that you're supposed to grind the whole star anise, not just the seed. I only ground the seed and then actually read my book where they say to grind the whole thing and that the pod is actually more aromatic. Interesting, huh?

July 20, 2010

Bechamel and some variations

Ah...Bechamel. I love this stuff. It can either take no time at all and just be creamy and buttery or you can spend a bit more time and turn it into creamy, buttery, savory deliciousness. It is a pretty standard roux based sauce and can be taken in many different directions.

A roux is flour cooked in fat until it is a certain color (from "blonde" to dark) and is used to thicken hot liquids. What makes this sauce a bechamel (as opposed to an Espagnole or Veloute sauce, which are also thickened with roux) is the addition of milk (instead of some kind of meat stock).

Herb infused Bechamel:

1 Cup Milk (non fat is fine)
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
sprig of rosemary, thyme, sage, etc...
1 bay leaf
Roux: (More roux will make a thicker sauce, less roux will make a thinner sauce)
1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. flour
Salt and Pepper to taste

First warm the milk in a medium saucepan until almost boiling. Toss in the onion, garlic, herbs, and the bay leaf and let all this steep in the hot milk for about 10 minutes.

In the mean time melt the butter in a separate pan until bubbly. Toss in the flour and whisk in to form a batter. This is your roux and forms the thickening agent for the sauce. Cook this however long you like while whisking nearly continuously. However, keep in mind that the darker the roux gets, the toastier your sauce will taste and the less efficient it will be at thickening your liquid. So, if you want a really dark roux, make a little bit more than you would otherwise so it thickens your sauce how you expect it to.

Pour in about half of the hot liquid while whisking (making sure to get into the corners of the pan). This will thicken very quickly; as it does add about another fourth of the milk. Do this one more time as the sauce thickens.

You're aiming for something like this. Season with salt and pepper and you're good to go.

Something I threw together:
This is a variation that I threw together for a crepe dinner I made Sarah for her birthday. Instead of using 100% milk as the liquid I combined 50% milk and 50% veggie stock. Before adding the flour to the butter I sauteed an extra clove of garlic and about 1 tsp. of red pepper flake. After the sauce had thickened I added an extra 2 Tbs. butter, about 2 Tbs. brandy, and 1/4 grated Romano cheese to finish it off. This went over a caramelized red onion, mushroom, and chard filled crepe. mmm.

Something Sarah threw together:
To go over some quick mushroom ravioli on one of our busier nights Sarah combined the leftover bechamel-y sauce from the crepe dinner with a few spoon fulls of our pizza sauce that we keep in the freezer. This was so much better than any marinara sauce we could have come up with.