Friday, July 31, 2009
Baking bread always reminds me of my Grandma; she was a really wonderful baker and would always make beautiful Foccacia and Challah bread. When she was going through chemotherapy for Leukemia my brother and me spent a lot of time with her. She was too sick to do much besides lay on the couch and she didn’t have much of an appetite. She would always get a hankering for one thing at a time and we would do our best to make it or buy it for her.
For awhile she liked a cool glass of buttermilk, then she wanted fresh baked bread. For about a month we made bread all of the time using her Baking with Julia book.
The longer she was sick the more she missed cooking and baking for herself and others. Because Grandma was good at whatever she did, she of course became the world’s finest backseat baker. If I let my mind go back that far, I can still hear her feeble voice calling from the couch as she supervised the bread making:
“you’re kneading it too much, that’s enough.”
“Add more flour.”
“It needs more liquid.”
Baking bread always reminds me of those days and nights in my grandma’s house. They are bittersweet memories but the more time goes by the sweeter those memories become.
A lot of times Grandma wouldn't even eat the bread after it was made, but she liked to watch us make it. I think it made her proud that her Grandchildren were making bread and she was helping us even when she was sick. Before she became sick she loved to show us how to make different dishes in the kitchen. To grandma being a good cook was very important. She had a golden rule that she taught everyone, "never return a dish empty." and she always stuck to that.
I think if she had been born a little later and been a bit more tech savvy she would have been a food blogger. I know she'd be thrilled if she knew I was doing this blog and she'd probably have a bunch of recipes picked out for us to do for it.
In honor of Grandma I went hunting for a good French bread recipe about a month ago and found this recipe at La fuji mama’s blog here. I pretty much followed it exactly with a few, slight modifications: I oiled the bowl while waiting for the bread to rise, I didn’t stir while the dough was rising, and I also added the yeast before the flour on accident. It’s different than most bread recipes because their isn’t any kneading involved, I was a little hesitant but it turned out to be very tasty. It’s a really good bread recipe, soft and moist on the inside with a nice crust. I know my grandma would have approved.
The yeast, frothy and bubbly
I used 5.5 cups of flour and it made a very sticky dough, I would highly recommend greasing your bowl well because the dough will be very sticky. I set my dough outside because I live in the desert and dough rises really, really well in 110 degree heat. Also don't worry if you don't have a mixer, I don't. It takes a bit more elbow grease but that just means you get to eat a few more pieces of bread because you worked out. At least that's what I tell myself. I recommend using a non stick spatula like the pink one pictured below.
I apologize for the following pictures, I don't have any windows in my kitchen so these have bad lighting.
Look at this monster dough! The yeast is alive and doing well, it liked it's patio rising spot.
Enjoy your freshly baked bread!
From La Fuji Mama
1 1/2 Tbsp. or 2 packets (1/4 oz./7 g each) dry active yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
2 cups hot water
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 cup oil
5 - 6 cups all-purpose flour
1. Dissolve yeast, warm water, and 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar in a small bowl.
2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine hot water, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, salt, and oil. Add 3 cups of flour to the mixture in the large bowl/mixer and mix well. Stir in yeast mixture.
3. Add 2 - 3 cups more flour and mix until well blended. (At this point your dough will still be quite sticky) *. Leave in bowl and let rise for 1 hour, mixing a few strokes a couple of times during the hour.
4. Divide the dough into two or three equal portions and roll out. Then roll the dough up like a jelly roll and tuck the ends in.
5. Slice the dough across the tops diagonally a few times and then brush egg whites across the tops.
6. Let the dough rise for thirty minutes before putting it in the oven.
7. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes.
* I added approximately 2.5 cups and that worked well.
** Make sure to grease the bowl well or you'll have a sticky mess. I also didn't mix the dough at all while it was rising.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
For my first ever BeckysBaking blog post I decided to post a recipe near and dear to my heart. I grew up in Michigan outside of a city called Dearborn which has been affectionately nicknamed ‘Little Lebanon’. While dating my husband we ate at some of the best Arab restaurants in Dearborn and maybe in the entire United States.
One of my favorite things to order was Fattoush, it's traditionally made in the Middle East as a tasty way to use up stale pita bread. It’s healthy, refreshing and incredibly flavorful. My life was wonderful until I moved to Arizona and realized with horror that their was no decent Fattoush to be found in the entire state. I would be at home planning my next meal and nothing roused my appetite except the thought of Fattoush. Just contemplating the delicious crispness of the lettuce paired with the fried pita bread and the savory dressing would have me drooling uncontrollably.
Driven by desperation I attempted to recreate the salad I loved. My first two attempts at formulating a recipe for Fattoush were not satisfactory but the third time was the charm and my tastebuds rejoiced. It’s about as close to the real thing that you can find outside of an authentic, high quality Arabic restaurant and it’s incredibly delicious. I don’t even really like salad especially not enough to crave it, yet I adore this. So come on give it a try! I promise it won’t disappoint you.
What you need:
Sumac is a seasoning made from ground up sumac berries used in Middle Eastern cooking (no it’s not poisonous, I swear!). It has a really odd bitter, salty taste which I love. In my opinion Sumac is pretty darn essential to a good Fattoush. If you can’t find it the salad will still be very tasty but it won’t be an authentic Fattoush. You can find a decent sized bag for cheap at most Middle Eastern grocers. To find a Middle Eastern grocer near you go to www.zabihah.com
Combine all of the ingredients in the second picture and pulse in the food processor until it’s well combined. To be honest the dressing isn’t going to be pretty and it doesn’t even taste that great on its own. I am just forewarning you all before you stop at this step and pitch the dressing because it tastes funny. As wrong as this sounds it's going to taste odd and that's okay. I pinky swear it is. The smell though will be vibrant and garlicky so give it a taste, if it’s too sour add a bit more sugar or if you want a more intense flavor add more garlic, salt or mint. The dressing needs to sit and let all of the components meld and dance together for a few hours in the fridge. Once it’s drizzled on the salad and combined with the fried pita bread it will become an amazingly delicious metamorphosis. Trust me on this.
I like to use the combo of veggies above but you can do anything that will make your heart happy. The only essentials are the tomatoes, parsley, cucumbers and romaine so go ahead and be creative. Now chop up your choice of veggies, combine them well and put the salad bowl in the fridge to get nice and chilly. The only thing worse than bad Fattoush is good Fattoush that is served lukewarm.
Finally you are going to fry up some pita bread. If you have the ability, try to buy Arabic Pita bread. It’s called Khobs or Aish in Arabic and it’s thinner and larger than the typical pocket pita bread you find in the U.S. supermarkets. If you can’t find it pita pockets will work fine, just pull the layers apart before frying. You can try and bake the bread in the oven to be more healthy but it’s just not the same. I swear it’s not and trust me you want the full, delicious, crunchy experience.
I don’t have a deep fryer so I just take a pan and fill it up with vegetable or canola oil and tear the bread into 1” pieces and fry them in the oil until they are golden. Pat the oil off of the pitas with a paper towel and let them cool completely. The awesome thing about these little chips is that they will keep for a very long time. I can make them up and store them in a Ziploc baggie in the fridge for around a month and they remain crisp and tasty.
Once your salad and dressing are cold combine the dressing, pita chips and salad then serve immediately. You’ll also want to sprinkle some sumac over the top as a garnish.
I make up the Fattoush in single servings when I want to eat so that I don’t waste any of this lovely creation. The fried bread, like all good things has a short life once it gets drenched in the delicious dressing. I recommend the single serving method but if you are having company it’s a really pretty and impressive salad to serve up in a big, fancy bowl with the beautiful red Sumac sprinkled over the top.
2 bunches of Romaine lettuce
2 salad cucumbers
2 green peppers
1/4 of a Sweet yellow onion
1 bunch parsley
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice about 3-4 lemons
2 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tsp. dried mint
2 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
10 twists of a pepper shaker (about 1/4 tsp.) fresh ground black pepper
1 heaping tsp. Sumac
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley (just grab a handful, don't worry about only getting the leaves. Some stems are fine because they'll be chopped up super tiny in the food processor)
2 cups canola oil
2 large Arabic pitas torn into 1" pieces
Chop up the salad fixings and combine well, put in the refrigerator to get cold. Take the dressing ingredients and place them all in a food processor. Process until the ingredients are well combined and their are no large pieces. Place into a container and let sit in the refrigerator for two hours. Heat the canola oil in a pan until the oil is rippling, place the pitas into the hot oil and fry them until they are a golden brown. Let them drain on a paper towel. When they are cool place them in a ziploc bag and store them in the refrigerator.
To prepare the salad, toss the dressing with the salad mixture and then top with a generous helping of the fried pita chips. Sprinkle sumac generously over the top. Enjoy!