Friday, July 27, 2012

July 2012 Daring Bakers' Challenge - Crackers

Blog-checking lines: Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

Recipe Source: A few recipes from the pile of books I own:
• Brown, Alton (2011). Good Eats 3:The Early Years, “Seedy Crisps”. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, New York, NY.
• The American Culinary Institute. (2008). Garde Manger: The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen (3rd ed.) “Pepper Jack and Oregano Crackers”. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Hoboken, NJ.
• The American Culinary Institute. (2008). Garde Manger: The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen (3rd ed.). “Cheddar and Walnut Icebox Crackers”. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Hoboken, NJ.
• Smith, Sandy (2000). Kootenay Country Kitchens Cookbook: A Collection of Kootenay Favourites. “Health Crackers” Kootenay Kitchens Publishing, Nakusp, BC.

See here for a PDF of the challenge recipes.

Rolled five grain rye crisp bread
I'm Finnish born so I grew up eating rye crisp bread even now it is my main source of whole grains in my diet I really adore crisp bread. I'm so happy that this month's challenge is crackers, it allows me to indulge in my favourite food, I will be making many different sorts of Finnish crisp breads during the month. My first offering is a rye crisp bread made with rye flour and five types of rolled grain (rice, barley, triticale, oat and rye) and ground oat bran and chia seeds topped with four types of flavoured-sesame seeds (wasabi (green), charred bamboo (light red), BBQ (beige), seaweed (black). These are so tasty and sweet tasting (rye flour naturally is sweeter than wheat flour) as a a friend mentioned you can feel the goodness with each bite. Easy and quick and so so tasty a wonderful challenge.

Rye crisp bread is actually bread made with yeast, water, rye flour with a touch of salt it is fermented so making the dough slightly sour and then it is rolled very thin and baked it will keep for many months in a dry cool place.

Rolled five grain rye crisp bread
1 cup (250 ml) warm water
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (5 gm) dried instant yeast
1 cup (140 gm/5 oz) whole meal rye flour
1 cup (85 gm) (3 oz) five mixed rolled grains (rice, barley, triticale, oat and rye)
2 tablespoons (25 gm) (1 oz) flax seeds, ground or cracked
1 tablespoon (15 gm) (1/2 oz) chia seeds, ground or cracked
1 tablespoon (15 gm) (1/2 oz) oat bran
4 tablespoons (50 gm) (2 oz) various flavoured sesame seeds, for topping
1 teaspoon (3 gm) coarse sea salt, optional, for topping
0. Preheat oven to hot 220C/425F/gas mark 7.
1. In a large bowl mix the yeast and the warm water, rest until it becomes foamy (about 5 mins). 
2. Mix the rest of the dough ingredients together and add to the water mixture.
3. Knead for two minutes then rest covered for a minimum of 30 minutes in a warm place, the longer you rest the dough the stronger the tangy sour taste will become (overnight is best, you can add some vinegar (1 teaspoon) if you wish to increase the tangy taste if you wish). The mixture will be very stiff and will not rise.
4. Divide the dough into two.
5. Place one piece of dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll until 2 mm thick try to keep the shape the same shape as your baking sheet.
6. Sprinkle half of the sesame seeds onto the rolled dough, roll gently to press the seeds into the dough.
7. Cut the dough into pieces using a sharp knife. I did nine pieces per baking sheet (about 3"x4" (7cmx10m)). (Do not separate the pieces.)
8. Bake in a hot oven for 10 mins, rotate and bake for another 10 mins. Check to make sure the crisp bread is not browning too much. Take out and cool, the bread will "crisp-up" more when cooled. Repeat for the other piece of dough. (If you have rolled the dough thickly about 4 mm then it will take about 20 mins each side to bake.)
9. If the bread is not crisp enough return to moderate 359F/180C/gas mark 4 oven until it is done, checking carefully to stop burning or over-browning.

Hapanleipä - Finnish Sour Rye Crisp Bread
For my second offering on the theme of Finnish crisp breads is hapanleipä a fermented rye crisp bread in the traditional wheel shape. The ring form was once quite functional: in western Finland, crisp bread was baked only twice a year, and families strung hundreds of loaves on poles suspended from their rafters. It is still common practice in Finland to give a small hapanleipä on a stick (usually with a small bag of salt) as a present when you move into a new home. The hapanleipä will last for many years in a cool dry place, I still have some rings left which I eat from 2002 when my mum made 1200 for a wedding. These crisp cracker-like breads are; hard, have a tangy fermented faintly buttery mildly sweet taste, they are often slathered in butter and garnished with salt, or eaten with meats, cheeses or herring the stronger the taste of the garnish the better. These crisp breads have a strong robust flavour that can stand up to the strongest smelling cheeses or the most pungent gravlax (ferment fish) etc.

Hapanleipä - Finnish Sour Rye Crisp Bread
makes 4 large crisp bread wheels about 8" (20 cm) across
2 cups dark rye flour
1 cup barley or rye or oat bran (OR 1 cup barley or spelt or oat flour) See note
2 tablespoon butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar or 1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed (optional)
2 teaspoons dried yeast
1/2 cup plus 2 - 3 tablespoons warm water 
0. Preheat oven to hot 450F/230C/ gas mark 8.
1. In a small bowl dissolve the yeast into the warm water rest until it becomes foamy about 5 minutes.
2. Place the rye flour, sugar and salt in a bowl, mix together and add the butter.
3. Rub the butter into the flour with your hands until it is fully integrated it should appear sandy and clump together when it's done.
4. Add the yeast to the rye flour and mix it together with your hands or a wooden spoon.
5. Add the bran (or the additional flour or the caraway seeds if using) and knead for about 5 minutes until it is well mixed. It will be a firm dough.
6. Set the dough aside in a sealed bag or covered for a minimum of 8 hours or up to 3 days in a warm place. When opened the dough should have a tangy sourish smell.
7. Separate the dough into roughly 115 g balls (or just divide in 4). Take one and cover the rest again.
8. Roll the ball between two sheets of parchment paper into a circular shape about 8" (20 cm) across. It should be about 1/5" (5mm) thick don't roll it too thinly.
9. Take a small cutter or use a knife to cut out a hole directly in the middle. then take a fork and prick ("dock") the dough all over to prevent it from warping while baking. Save the holes and bake them also.
10. Bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes rotating half way through baking time. Let them cool a bit before moving or they will crack. Repeat for the other balls.
Note: If you want your crisp bread to be sweeter use oat flour or oat bran it is naturally sweeter than rye. Oat flour/bran is best when you are pairing the crisp bread with blue cheese or soured herring where a touch of sweetness goes down well.

The dough after kneading notice how stiff it is

The dough rolled shaped and the centre cut out ready to be "docked" with a fork and baked

The baked crisp breads

I'm extremely pleased with the results, they exactly like I remember them from my childhood, I will be making these a lot more. 

Brown rice and seaweed crackers
These crackers are made with finely ground microwave brown rice, I had a packet of microwave brown rice in the cupboard for ages not doing anything so I decided to use it to make some crispy crackers. I ground the rice in my coffee grinder until it was very very fine making sure to cool the rice flour down between grounding (coffee grinders can heat up the material being ground up to very high temperatures) added some baking soda and baking powder and some finely shredded seaweed and just enough water to hold the dough together. Then it is baked in a slow oven until the crackers are dry and crispy. Incredibly crisp and light crackers with a hint of umami "savoury" taste from the seaweed. I used my new cracker stamp to cut out the crackers worked like a charm.
Brown rice and seaweed crackers
1 cup (140 gm/5 oz) finely ground microwave brown rice
6 tablespoons (90 ml) water, approximately
1 tablespoon of soy sauce, optional, (reduced water by 1 tablespoon if using)
1 tablespoon shredded seaweed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Coarse sea salt for topping, optional, don't add if using soy sauce
0. Preheat oven to slow 150C/300F/gas mark 2.
1. Just combine all the cracker ingredients in a medium bowl, adding most of the water all at once, do not over-mix or the crackers will be chewy instead of crispy.
2. Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment as thinly as possible about 1 or 2 mm thick. Best to roll out the dough on the baking sheet to ensure that it is the same size as the baking sheet.
3. Cut with a knife or stamp out using a cutter individual pieces (do not separate).
4. Bake in a slow oven 150C/300F/gas mark 2 for 40 minutes until dry and crisp.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

THE DARING COOKS’ JULY, 2012 CHALLENGE: Cooking "En Papillote"

Blog-checking lines: Our July 2012 Daring Cooks’ host was Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie! Sarah challenges us to learn a new cooking technique called “Cooking En Papillote” which is French and translates to “cooking in parchment”.
Recipe Source:
• Becky Luigart-Stayner
• The Envelope Please: Cooking en Papillote by Amanda Hesser, Published May 19, 1999
• Laura Martin, Cooking Light APRIL 2007
• Martha Stewart Living, May 1995
• Jonathan Waxman, Colina
• As found in the New York Times by Melissa Clark, April 21, 2010
• “The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook”
• Paula Wolfert
• Gourmet Magazine

What a wonderful challenge I love technique challenge where we learn a new technique and have to apply it, this method of cooking I have not done very often so it's good to experiment for the challenge. After some thought and having a look in my freezer I decided on some seafood .

Peppered chilli clams with sweet garlic greens en papillote

I really haven't done this type of cooking before, so I was excited to experiment with some ideas I had while I was reading the challenge write-up. For my first effort I remember a long while ago I had a marvellous dish at a dinner party so I tried to replicate it for this posting.

The basic dish is sweet clams with spicy peppery greens, chilli, red onions and garlic. It is most important that the vegetables and clams are just cooked that is delicate, soft, tender and aromatic with bright vibrant colours and flavours. And that the flavours are well balanced with a combination of spicy, sour, salty and sweet, the sauce is a mixture of clam juice (released during cooking), extra virgin olive oil, balsamic glaze.

Some ingredients for the dish (shown chopped watercress & spinach, thinly sliced red onions, balsamic glaze, garlic; not-shown clams, olive oil, chilli and whole peppercorns.)  

How to layer the ingredients. Place the greens first then the onions, garlic and chilli and lastly the clams then fold the ingredients over themselves making sure the clams are in the middle of the fold this ensures the seafood is not overcooked

The parchment paper parcel all tied-up with twine this is a photo after the cooking process notice the browned paper and the amount of liquid given off by the clams and vegetables.

The just-opened parcel notice the vibrant colours of the greens and onions

The finished dish

Peppered chilli clams with sweet garlic greens en papillote
Serves four
1/2 kg clams (I used half-thawed frozen clams)
1 bunch spinach, finely chopped, reserve eight large leaves to line the parcels
1 small bunch watercress, finely chopped
2 red hot chillies, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 red onion, finely sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon whole red and black peppercorns, cracked
1. Preheat oven to hot 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7.
2. Cut four 8"x8" (20cmx20cm) parchment paper squares.
3. Combine the oil and the vinegar together in a small bowl.
4. Line each parchment square with large spinach leaves leaving a boarder of about 2" (5cm) all around the paper.
5. Add a quarter of the chopped greens, chilli, onions then the clams to each parcel, splash a quarter of the oil/vinegar mixture, lemon juice and the peppercorns onto the filling then fold the ingredients over themselves so the clams are in the centre of the parcel.
6. Tie up the parcel as a purse using twine.
7. Place the parcels into the hot oven for about 15-20 minutes, check at 10 minutes if you are using fresh clams. You should be able to see through the paper to notice the liquid given off.
8. When the parcel feels hot and the paper is browned it should be ready.
9. Carefully open the parcel so the steam escapes away from you and add a quarter of the balsamic glaze.
10. Enjoy!

Verdict - I'm really happy with this recipe I loved how bright and flavoursome the dish was especially the onions, spinach and clams. I think I did a better job on this than the original dish that I remember. Using a lot of watercress really helped emphasize the peppery/chilli flavour profile of the final dish. This method of cooking makes for a very sweet seafood and vegetable dish, the onions, clams and spinach were really sweet and soft.

Thank you so much Sarah for a most intriguing challenge.