Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tartine Bread Baked in an "Inverted" Dutch Oven

Walnut and Hazelnut Country Bread
Sesame Country Bread

Making bread in a cast-iron Dutch oven allows the home baker to replicate the burst-of-steam environment, similar to that available in a commercial deck oven. The extra moisture produces a crusty, not chewy, exterior of the country bread. I have made different varieties of Chad Robertson's Tartine country bread using this technique. They all turned out well, and wildly more successful than any techniques I have used previously. What I cannot describe fully in this space are the smell and the sound of the bread singing that crackling bubbly delights fresh out of the oven!

I have developed an even better and safer technique: the inverted Dutch oven, as described in the pictures below. The dough is loaded on the preheated lid which sits atop a ring mold in the oven. It is easier to load the dough this way because the lid is shallower, as compared to the pan. Cover the bread dough with the preheated inverted pan on the lid. This way, your figures are safely out of harm's way, not having to put the dough inside a hot 500°F pan.

Monday, August 11, 2014

What's better: eat the vegetables raw or bake them in a focaccia?

Roasted Vegetable Whole-Wheat Focaccia

What better way to showcase the techno-color and flavor of the season's freshest ingredients – an array of heirloom tomatoes and zucchinis – than to spread them on the blank canvas of a piece of dough?

(I am excited about my inaugural attempt at the Avid Baker’s Challenge (ABC). Read more about the monthly challenges at ABC. The August challenge is to make a roasted vegetable focaccia. I’ve made changes to the original King Arthur Flour's recipe. These changes are highlighted in red and green in the cheat sheet below, which summarizes my version of the recipe.)

The real challenge for me is to substitute whole-wheat for all-purpose–considering the health and wellness concerns of my family — and still achieve a light and airy character of a typical focaccia. Roasting zucchinis and tomatoes works well, giving them an unexpectedly sweet, rich and juicy texture. I get the crusty bottom I want by baking the focaccia on a preheated baking stone. The earthiness of fresh basil adds the perfect finishing taste. It is also a great way to take advantage of the healthy crop of basil from my herb garden at this time of the year.

The end result was a satisfying, stunning, celebratory dish for the summer's bounty. The vegetable focaccia coming out from the oven was simply too beautiful to eat! I paused and hesitated for a few seconds before I willed myself to slice it. But there were all smiles around the table. click here for the pictures.