Alsatian Gugelhopf

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This recipe is another one that I copied from a cookbook checked out from our local library maybe 30 years ago, and pasted on an index card. I have no idea what its origin, but I know there are many similar variations of festive gugelhopf and kugelhopf from France and Germany, with many different spellings, and probably in many more countries. In fact, it’s not too different from Italy’s Panettone or Pandulce, as far as ingredients go.

This particular recipe is a moist yeasted sweet bread with dried fruits, topped with nuts. Obviously, there can be many variations. I made this one specifically for Christmas morning, so I used only dried tart cherries and pistachios.

Alsatian Gugelhopf

1 cup dried tart cherries, cut in half if they’re large, about 5 ounces
1/2 cup golden raisins, about 2 1/2 ounces
4 tablespoons Kirsch or ruby port
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons dry yeast
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon orange oil
3 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup tepid whole milk
3 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cup ground pistachios or almonds

Mix the dried fruits and the Kirsch in a medium bowl. Do not be tempted to add any more Kirsch; it could kill the yeast. Allow to sit for 15 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Combine 1/4 cup warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over; stir to dissolve. Let sit for 10 minutes or until yeast foams to top.

In large bowl beat 6 tablespoons of butter, 1 cup sugar, egg yolks, zest, vanilla, and salt until well blended. Add yeast mixture, milk, and 1 cup of flour. Beat until smooth.

Add in plumped fruits and gradually add remaining flour and beat until dough forms.

Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.

Butter a 10-cup Bundt pan with 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the nuts, tilting pan to coat bottom and sides.

Spoon dough into pan. Cover with plastic wrap and damp towel. Let dough rise in warm place for 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake about 35 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes.

Turn onto rack to cool.

If desired, make a glaze for the Gugelhopf by combining 1 cup powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of Kirsch and 1 tablespoon of cream. Whisk until smooth, then pour over the cake.

Personally, I don’t love powdered sugar glazes, and this bread is sweetened already, but I made a glaze for half the gugelhopf.

I love gugelhopf slightly toasted with butter.

Olive Bread

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My first experience with yeast was not using it, even though I was supposed to. I’d followed a recipe in the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls cookbook, except not really. It was my thing to do when I was 11-12 years old, to get up early on Sundays and bake some kind of coffee cake.

I chose a recipe for yeasted cinnamon buns that morning, but when it came time to the yeast, being that I didn’t know what is was, I ignored it. I also noticed this kneading thing, which seemed like it would take too long, so a win-win for me.

Until my mother came downstairs and I proudly announced that I’d made these buns, and would she do the honors of removing them from the oven. Well she almost dropped that baking dish. What should have been cinnamon buns were round, heavy bricks. And then I learned about yeast.

When I started teaching myself to cook, I learned how to bake bread by following recipes. When you do it on your own, there’s no fear, even though I have memories of my mother not even letting us walk through the kitchen if she had bread rising. Heck, we were hardly allowed to exhale.

But it seemed pretty easy to me, a few ingredients, some kneading, and I even walked around my kitchen while my breads rose. It’s just not hard to bake bread.

Then a cookbook entered my life called Supper Club chez Martha Rose, which was published in 1988. This book wasn’t extraordinary by any means, but it was a fun read, because it was Martha Rose Schulman’s actual experience with her supper club in Paris that she started in 1983 after she moved to France from Austin, Texas.

Her supper club menus are organized by months, which I love. Some menus reflect her love of Texas, but most all as a Francophile, and lover of Mediterranean flavors. But what got my attention was what she did with her yeasted breads. She added stuff to them!

I’d always made whole-grain bread, because I believe that bread should be nourishing, not just pretty, but when I first saw a pesto bread recipe in her cookbook, it was my Hallelujah moment! It was Martha Rose Schulman who changed my path to creative bread baking. And I’ve never looked back. (I’ve mentioned this cookbook before when I made her Sourdough Country Bread.)

So for all the years my husband required bread, for all of the years I catered and was a private chef, I put stuff into the breads I baked. It could be nuts, it could be grated zucchini, tomato paste, onions and cheese, or chili powder. It all works!

Ms. Schulman has a country bread with olives recipe in her cookbook; today I’m making my version of olive bread. Because, you really don’t need a recipe to bake yeasted breads.

Olive Bread

2 ounces warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
8 ounces whole milk, warmed
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
Extra white flour, for kneading
5 ounces mixed olives, drained

Place the water in a large, warmed bowl and add the yeast and sugar. After the yeast softens stir the liquid, then set aside.

After the yeast bubbles up, about 5 minutes, add the warm milk. Then add 1 cup of white flour and whisk well.

Cover the bowl and place in a warm place for one hour. Meanwhile, chop the olives coarsely and make sure they’re free of any liquid; set aside.

Add one cup of whole wheat flour to the slurry, and whisk or stir in well.

Place a generous amount of white flour where you’re going to knead, and remove the dough from the bowl. Begin kneading the bread, using only as much flour as needed. Knead for about 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth.

Grease the bottom of a large clean bowl, put the dough in it, then turn the dough over so the top is coated in the grease. Place this bowl, covered with a towel, in the warm place for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the chopped olives where you knead, then “pour” the dough over the top. Using only a little flour as necessary, gently force the olives into the dough until they’re evenly incorporated.

Form a ball with the dough and place it on a greased cookie sheet. Set it in a warm place for 15 minutes, then put it in the oven.

Bake the bread for at least 25 minutes. Times and ovens vary. If you want to check on the internal temperature using a thermometer it should be at 195 degrees F. Anything much less than that and the bread will be doughy on the inside.

Let the bread cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

I served the bread with a soft goat cheese; the slices can also be toasted.

If you love olives, this is a great bread. And it goes so well with cheeses and charcuterie.

This actually posted in October of 2018. For some reason, this and a few others showed up as scheduled to post in 2021. I have no idea how this happened, but sorry if you’ve already seen it!

Tartiflette

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Tartifllette

Years ago our family was travelling through Eastern France, and we stopped in the beautiful town of Annecy for lunch and a stroll. We were in Annecy-le-Vieux, the old part of town and we randomly chose a restaurant at which to have lunch. Our restaurant was one of the ones on the right side of the canal in the photo below. The canal encircles the ancient prison.

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We sat outside, the sun was out, it was about 70 degrees – we didn’t think it could get much better than this. But we were wrong.

My husband and I chose the local specialty Tartiflette for lunch. Tartiflette is a potato dish baked with a cheese called Reblochon, one of the cheeses of the Savoie province of France which we were in. The Tartiflette was extremely memorable, but Reblochon is now one of my favorite all-time stinky French cheeses.

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Reblochon is a cows’ milk cheese with a washed rind. It smells like, well, you’re in a cow paddy. But cheeses never taste as bad as they smell, do they?

Within the rind, Reblochon is a rich, velvet-like cheese that is perfect as is, served with my bread for cheese, or baked into tarts, or with potatoes, like this Tartiflette recipe.

When we got back to the states, I was so thrilled to discover that I could order Reblochon from fromages.com. Fromages.com has a recipe for Tartiflette, as well as an interesting history on Reblochon. (I learned that it’s actually made from a mix of milk from three different cow breeds!)

Then I happened upon a Tartiflette recipe in Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook. I have to quote him on what he states about Reblochon:

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Here’s more evidence that you can never have too much cheese, bacon, or starch.”

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So here’s the recipe from Mr. Bourdain’s cookbook:

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Tartiflette

INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled (I use russet)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pound slab bacon, cut into small dice
3/4 cup white wine
salt and pepper
1 pound Reblochon cheese

EQUIPMENT
large pot
paring knife
strainer
large sauté pan
wooden spoon
round, ovenproof dish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the potatoes in the large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are easily pierced with the paring knife. Remove from the heat, drain, and let sit until they are cool enough to handle. Cut the potatoes into a small dice and set aside.

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In the large sauté pan, heat the oil over high heat and add the onion. Cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, until golden brown, then add the bacon and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the potatoes and wine and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

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Remove the mixture from the heat and place half of it in the round, ovenproof dish. Spread half the Reblochon atop the potato mixture.

Cover this with the other half of the potato mixture. Top with the remainder of the cheese.

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Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling. Serve hot.

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As you can tell, I used four ramekins for the tartiflette.

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You can prepare the tartiflette as one large casserole, like this one I made last year, but I wouldn’t make it in a deep dish pan because the cheese to potato ratio is critical!

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Also, when searching online for how tartiflette is presented, because I find it challenging to photograph, I came across other ways to prepare tartiflette. You can place the whole wheel of cheese over the potatoes, or slice it horizontally first.

note: You can make Tartiflette with a different cheese, but please don’t. You’re missing the whole point. This dish really requires this stinky cheese, and you’ll be amazed at how smooth and mild Reblochon is with the potatoes. I personally love the rind, but my husband doesn’t, so I trimmed it.

photo from Annecy

Ghent Cheesecake

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We have a friend named Ghent. His mama chose the name because she wanted her son to grow up and be a gentleman. Which he is, by the way. She thought the name was unique, but she’d never heard of the city in Belgium, although it’s pronounced with a hard “g.”

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I’ve only been to Belgium once, back when I was 18, which is where I memorably ate mussels for the first time. This was in Brussels. From what I have seen, I need return to explore Belgium and more of its foods.

Recently I came across a Ghent Cheesecake recipe that I’ve saved for years, or Plattekaastarte, which I have no idea how to pronounce. The Flemish language is beautiful, a mixture of French and Dutch. Not enough French to help me out, though!

In any case, this recipe is quite unique, with a yeasted dough for a crust, topped with a layer of applesauce, and then a filling of macaroons and cottage cheese! It’s pictured below from the recipe page.

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I contacted my Dutch blogger friend Stefan, from Stefan Gourmet, to help me figure out what kind of macaroons the recipe listed. He recommended Italian amaretti cookies – for both the texture and almond flavor.

Although I should have listened to Stefan, when I was at recently at a Trader Joe’s I found these cookies, which are from Belgium. They’re spiced a little differently, but because I’ll never know what the cheesecake is really supposed to taste like, without the real macaroons, I figured it couldn’t hurt. But I decided to also use some almond extract for a more almond flavor.

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I ground up the cookies using a food processor. They’re quite pretty cookies.

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So here’s the recipe:

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Ghent  Cheesecake

Crust:
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup warm milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup or 2 ounces butter, melted, cooled
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups flour
5 tablespoons applesauce

Filling:
2 eggs, separated
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup crushed macaroons, about 2 1/4 ounces
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup ground almonds, about 1 ounce
1/4 cup vanilla sugar or 1/4 sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make crust, in a large bowl, stir yeast and sugar into water until dissolved. Stir in milk, egg, salt, and butter.

Beat in 1 cup flour until smooth. Cover and let stand 10 minutes.

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Stir in enough remaining flour to make a medium-stiff dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Butter a 9-inch springform pan; set aside.

Roll out dough to a 14-inch circle. Fit into buttered pan. Spread applesauce over bottom. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

To make filling, beat egg whites until stiff; set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat together egg yolks and cottage cheese; beat in macaroons, 2/3 cup sugar, almonds and vanilla sugar. (I used almond extract and vanilla extract.)

Fold in beaten egg whites. Spread mixture over applesauce. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until golden.

Makes 1 (9-inch) cake.

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I served fruit with it.

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The cheesecake filling is fantastic – you can taste the cookies, the cinnamon and almond flavors, plus it has a meringue-like texture.

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The crust isn’t my favorite part, however. It’s really like a pizza crust, even with the butter and milk.

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Perhaps there could have been some sugar and vanilla in the dough.

But it was fun to finally make this cheesecake. I’m now going to share with Ghent! (And his lovely wife!)

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Canapé Bread

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Many years ago in the United States, there was a cooking company that was built on having a hostess sponsor a party in her home, and a representative of the company would demonstrate all of its kitchen gadgets. It was one of those parties that you felt obligated to go to, and also buy something, because your friend was having the party. Even if you’d just been to one the week before!

So for the few years that this company was popular, I collected quite a few gadgets. (I don’t remember the name of this company, and I don’t know if they’re still around.)

Something I did purchase were canapé molds. I thought they were pretty cool. I purchased 2 flower-shaped molds, 2 star-shaped, and 2 heart-shaped. I used the star breads for a New Year’s party once and they were so pretty!

Here are the flower molds I’m using today:

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Essentially, you bake a yeasted dough inside these molds, and slice the breads to use for canapés.

Recently I was asked to be part of a special event, and I wanted my contribution to be unique. So I decided to practice with these molds since it had been such a long time since I’d used them for caterin. Fortunately, after a little digging, I discovered the recipe that was created for these molds, although the recipe is for 3 and I only had two of the same flower-shape.

I wanted to use the recipe because I remember once I made my own bread dough and filled the molds up too much, and there was a lot of bread overflow in the oven. I think I even remember some flames.

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Here is the recipe:

Canapé Bread

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So here’s what I did. If you need a more involved tutorial on baking bread, there is a recipe with many more photos here.

Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the warm water. I keep my yeast in the freezer, and it lasts for years.

Once the yeast has dissolved, give the mixture a stir, then let the bowl sit in a warm place for about 5 minutes. The yeast will cause the mixture to rise and bubble.

Heat the milk and butter together until the butter has melted and the mixture is warm. Pour it in to the yeast mixture.

Begin adding flour 2 cups of flour. I typically keep the dough moist for the first rise. Cover the bowl, and after 1 1/2 hours, the dough will look like the second photo.

Add a generous amount of flour to your work surface and remove the dough from the bowl. It will be very soft. Carefully work flour in to the dough as you’re kneading it.

After about 5 minutes of kneading, the dough will be nice and smooth.

Add a little oil to a clean bowl, place the dough in the bowl top-first, then turn over. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise for about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in to 3 parts, and gently roll each part lengthwise.

Place the dough into a greased mold. Place the lid on the molds and place them horizontally in a warm place for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees meanwhile. Then bake the molds for 10 minutes, and lower the heat to 375 degrees. Continue baking for about 25 minutes, then remove the molds from the oven.

Let them sit for 10 minutes, then remove the lids. The photo on the right shows what the bread looked like after I removed it from the oven, the photo on the left shows the bread with the “heel” sliced.

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Remove the breads from the molds and let them cool. Then slice and serve.

I served them with my faux Boursin spread.

Alternative, you can place the sliced breads on a cookie sheet, brush them with oil, and toast them in the oven first before serving. This makes them firmer and easier to spread.

Either way, they add something special to a party spread.

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Now, it does take a little effort to make these, especially for me because I only have 2 matching molds, but I think it’s worth it. If you don’t own molds like these, you can always use cookie cutters and cut shapes out of sliced bread.

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Chili Pecan Buns

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Back when I was a personal cook for a family, I made bread at least every few days. And I never made the same bread twice. It was perfect for me, because it’s just the kind of thing I like to do in the kitchen – mix it up! And bread is so versatile, with various grains and flours from which to choose. Not to mention the liquids as well as the different seasonings you can use in your bread to really enhance a meal.

I always made bread for my family as well, but a certain family member has recently eschewed the merits of whole-grain carbs. I know. Boo. But to be fair, he has a specific wheat allergy, so of course, I will occasionally “force” home-made gluten-free bread on him. In spite of his carb issues, the bread always disappears quickly.

But occasionally I like to made bread the old-fashioned way with wheat. And today I wanted a rich spicy bread to go with a very mild bean and green chile, if you will. So since I was thinking Southwestern flavors, I came up with using chili powder and pecans. It turned out fabulous, I must say.

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I’ve included photos representing all of the steps, just in case you’re not familiar with the bread-making process. Relax, it’s easy. So here’s my recipe:

Chili Pecan Buns

1/2 cup warmish-hottish water
2 teaspoons yeast
Sprinkling of sugar
1 1/2 cups milk*, warmed
2 – 3 tablespoons chili powder (I used 3)
2 tablespoons plain oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup pecan halves, toasted, ground up
2 cups unbleached bread flour
plus a little more for kneading

Place the warmish-hottish water in a large bowl. You should be able to hold your finger in the water and it not burn. If it’s too hot or cold, adjust accordingly. If you’re a perfectionist, the water should be 110 – 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Also make sure the bowl doesn’t cool down the water.

Sprinkle on the yeast and sugar. Wait about 5 minutes.

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Then whisk the mixture together and let it sit another 5 minutes or so.

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This is called proofing, and the mixture will look all bubbly and doubled in volume. If none of this happened, your water was too cold or hot, or your yeast isn’t working. But I doubt the yeast, because I’m still using at least ten-year old yeast that I bought in bulk and store in my freezer. It always works.

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At this point, add the warmed up milk, oil, salt, and chili powder.

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Add the whole wheat flour and whisk the mixture together until very smooth. It will look like this:

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Cover the bowl and place it in a warm place for about an hour. It will double in volume. Remove it from your warm place and whisk the mixture again. Now is when you add your ground pecans.

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Stir the pecans into the batter, and then add one cup of flour and stir until well combined. Add the second cup of flour and stir as well as you can to incorporate it. At some point, when the dough isn’t too sticky, you need to remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a well-floured surface. You have to use your instinct for this – sticky dough can be dealt with by patiently using floured hands. If you prefer your dough less sticky, incorporate more flour into it before attempting the kneading process.

Knead the dough and incorporate flour as needed for about 5 minutes. What that means is, if the dough is sticking to your work surface, add a sprinkling of flour. If your hands begin to stick, add a sprinkling of flour. In my experience, it is best to use as little flour as possible, while still managing to knead your dough properly.

Leave the dough on your work surface and cover with a damp towel for at least an hour. After it has risen, remove the towel.

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Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Knead the dough a little bit, and then cut into half. Since I made buns, I wanted them to all be about the same size for baking purposes, so I used a scale to weigh out the halves. My dough ended up in eight pieces, at about 5 1/2 ounces each. They ended up the size of hamburger buns, so if you want them smaller, cut your dough into 16 pieces.

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Make nice round buns by rolling the dough in between your hands, them place them on a greased cookie sheet. Continue with the remaining buns. Then let them rise in a warm place until they double in size once again.

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Bake the buns for about 20 minutes. Again, if you’re a perfectionist, test a bun with a thermometer – it should read 195 degrees Farenheit.

Remove the buns from the oven and let cool slightly. They are best served warm, but they reheat really well.

* Just for fun, I did not use a dairy milk for this recipe. I’ve always loved showing people how easy it to substitute ingredients in cooking – especially in simple, every day kind of cooking. So, surprise! I used coconut milk in this recipe!!!

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note: If you don’t want pecans or other nuts in this bread you could always add about 8 ounces of grated cheddar to make a Chili Cheese Bread!!!