Friday, October 28, 2011

Dutch Oven Bread by Izzy.... (w/my help)

I was contacted via email by someone named Izzy Woods. She offered to write a post on my behalf, regarding my cooking/baking favorites, and I welcomed her to do so.

If you'd like to talk to her about a "guest post" on your blog, let me know, and I'll put you in touch with her.

I suggested Dutch Oven Bread, because of it's unique effect on baked breads, and she did a wonderful job.

She obviously studied it, and enhanced my post on the same subject: Merlin Menu Dutch Oven Bread

By the way, she did this for free, she only asked she get to display a furniture link, so if you're looking for some furniture, give it a click.


Bread with a Difference
Home-made bread: there really is nothing quite like it. The smell of it wafting out the kitchen can make even the dullest rented flat feel like home. There is something earthy about baking bread, something that appeals to the simplest of instincts: those of home, family and food. Many home bakers constantly experiment in search of the perfect bread recipe, experimenting with different grains, seeds and flours, often with impressive results. Unfortunately, the cooking stage can sometimes let down the perfect bread recipe. Modern domestic ovens just aren’t made for bread-baking, as moisture is vented out of them, producing a dry heat which tends to lead to dry bread. A wetter, steamier oven will produce moist, soft loaves with deliciously crusty outsides: the holy grail of bread-making.

Traditionally, bread was baked in wood-fired ovens very similar to the pizza ovens seen in most modern Italian restaurants. However, it’s not easy to build this kind of oven in the average domestic kitchen! The solution is to use a Dutch oven: a large cast iron cooking pot. Dutch ovens retain moisture, so the steam stays in the pot while the bread is cooking. A Dutch oven is a cheap, easy way to transform your bread baking.

Dutch ovens cook bread in a very similar way to professional baking ovens used by commercial bakers. Those ovens use steam injection to keep the bread moist as it cooks. A Dutch oven does the same thing, without the need for expensive equipment. It gets and stays very hot: cast iron is a great heat absorber. The tight-fitting lid keeps steam in the pot, preventing drying, with fantastic results.

Making bread in a Dutch oven is very easy, not just because of the cooking method, but the recipe needed. Dough for bread that is to be cooked in a Dutch oven doesn’t need to be kneaded. It can simply be left to rise, shaped, and cooked. This makes Dutch oven baking perfect for beginner bakers: if you’ve been scared off in the past by the seemingly complicated bread-making process, use a Dutch oven.

Cooking bread in a Dutch oven seems to bring bread-making back to its origins. Many of us are reluctant to try making bread, believing it to be a complicated process, almost akin to alchemy. It really isn’t, but it’s not hard to see why so many have that view. Look at a bread recipe, and it will often appear long and difficult. However, people have been baking bread all over the world for thousands of years. It is a fundamental part of our culture, referenced in religion and common phraseology. The concept of ‘breaking bread’ is a highly powerful one. The breaking of the loaf and sharing of it at the table is a representation of community and family. ‘Bread’ in slang can mean, simply, ‘food’. The loaf of bread in the kitchen is almost part of the furniture, central to how and what we eat.

When you think of bread in these kinds of terms, what do you think of? It’s probably not a sliced supermarket loaf. It’s more likely to be exactly the kind of bread you can make in a Dutch oven, with very little effort. Dutch oven loaves both look and taste wonderful. The inside (or ‘crumb’) is soft, melting in the mouth. The crust is thick, crispy and full of flavour. Think about that dipped in some warming soup, matched with tangy cheese, or simply slathered in creamy butter. These are simple pleasures indeed; but very tasty ones. This is the kind of food that we dream of when we dream of home.

Perhaps you’ve struggled for months trying to make the perfect loaf, or perhaps you’ve thought it wasn’t worth trying. Dutch oven baking is the answer. It does not have to stop at basic bread either. You could try flavouring with herbs and seeds, for example, or making rolls rather than loaves. You can also try other kinds of baking in a Dutch oven, including biscuits and pastries. The Dutch oven is one of those most rare and useful kitchen utensils: something that is both highly versatile and very  easy to use. So what are you waiting for? Get baking!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fage Greek Yogurt Pound Cake

I'm affiliated with an organization called Food Buzz as you can tell from the left side of my blog. They occasionally have food related giveaways, product samplings, and contests. A week ago they asked if I would like to participate in an offer from Fage, the greek yogurt company.

I had NO hesitation is saying yes as I've already been eating and baking with this delicious yogurt for two years now.

Here's a couple links to recipes I've already posted regarding FAGE yogurt.

The Merlin Menu Tikka Masala

The Merlin Menu Chocolate Yogurt Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Honey Buttermilk Panna Cotta

In fact, if you read the Honey Buttermilk post you will see that Fage's Honey Yogurt was the inspiration of my recipe. That being said, given that they are having a contest, in a few days I think I will make Panna Cotta again, but this time, instead of Buttermilk, I will use Fage Yogurt and combine it with a layer of honey. We'll see how it turns out.

A variation on pound cake recipe using Greek Yogurt. Rich, and dense, and moist and absolutely delicious. Can be served topped by fruit, caramel, dulce de leche, whipped cream or anything else you may think of. 

Here's a different serving idea for your dessert, especially if you're Barbequeing. Slice the pound cake and place slices directly onto the grill. Only a few minutes each side until they get grill marks. Remove, place on plates and cover with sugared raspberries or strawberries and some whipped cream. Delicious and different!

Ingredients and Method:

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 7 oz. container Fage Greek Yogurt
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted before measuring
6 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (Yes, in addition to the vanilla bean)

Preparation:In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar and split the vanilla bean and scrape seeds into mixture. With mixer on medium speed, gradually beat in the yogurt. Add flour, alternating with the eggs, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in vanilla. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan or Bundt cake pan.

Bake at 325° for about 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes, until a wooden pick comes out clean when inserted in the center. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

A note about the cooking time. This is a very thick batter so it will probably take ALL of the baking times listed if not a little bit longer. Do check the cake often with the wooden pick technique as you don't want it not quite baked in the very middle. By the same token, it can start to burn pretty quickly, so watch it carefully towards the end of the cycle. When you do check with the wooden pick push it in as deeply as you can as this batter can get done on top and still not be quite done in the middle.

I made this recipe for this post in a oblong baking dish, but I really would recommend a tube pan or a Bundt cake pan.

As part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program, I have been entered for the chance to win a trip to Greece courtesy of FAGE. You too can enter to win one of three trips to Greece by entering the FAGE Plain Extraordinary Greek Getaway here: