Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Favorite Addiction...BREAD!

It’s all about BREAD this week and here are some thoughts on my favorite addiction...

It All Starts With GREAT Bread!
I must have been Italian in my past life because when I was on the fast track diet, the only things I missed was bread.

I could cut out wine (well, maybe not that Italian), sugar and desserts and never blink an eye but a day without bread was downright painful. In fact, it wasn’t until the last few days of the diet that I got over bread…but not for long. I resumed eating it the minute the diet was over. I don’t think that is what Dr. Ann Louise planned for me but I couldn’t help myself.
True Confession: I'm am a bit of a carb addict. OK, I’m a major carb addict.

I am convinced that there is nothing better than the smell of bread baking in the oven. Just the sniff of it makes me absolutely ravenous.
Homemade bread is so good I can eat it without butter. The big problem is I can polish off an entire loaf in one sitting.

Like so many others out there, I have become somewhat of a bread expert over the years. Mind you, I don’t bake it all that much but I’ve certainly eaten more than my fair share.
Recently, I took a trip back to the Eastern Breadstone Bakey ( See Post) which I wrote up last year and who makes some of the best bread on the planet.

The journey back reminded me that all fantastic sandwiches start with great bread. Just ask Bill Kim of Belly Shack and Urban Belly, who orders’ Eddie’s Samoons fresh every day for his restaurants.
I don’t know why it surprised me that everything about the place was still the same… and covered in flour – even the cash register. The layer was so thick in fact, I resisted the temptation to take out a kleenex and dust it off. At that point, I had already decided that it added a certain conventional charm to the place.

The bakers were busy taking bread and pulling it out of the wood burning ovens with their long wooden paddles. Yes, they were also covered in flour from head to toe and seemed to enjoy it. In fact, one of them stood there and beamed at me until I walked out the door. I was slightly amused and grinned back as I left. The only communication between proprietor and customer but it worked. I loved the bread and he was certain I would be back.
Speaking of back…was I back in Iran in the 1960’s? Eddie Abada learned the skill from his mother and continues the tradition today.

I like variation but in this case I was totally content with the fact that nothing had changed. It’s as if I expected it not to. I would have been disappointed if it had because this place had the smell of tradition that you just wanted to stay timeless.

The bread making operation is time-honored and the samoons fresh out of the oven? Well, one of these days I will talk owner Eddie Abada into letting me roll up my sleeves and try a hand at his craft. In the mean time, I’ll just have to be satisfied with my addiction to his astonishing breads.
Back in my kitchen, I stuffed his samoons with all the leftovers I could find in my refrigerator and discovered that his flat bread and little pizzas covered with an ever-so-thin layer of cheese are a story all their own.

Bon Appetit!
The Best Bread I’ve Ever Baked… 

In case you missed it, here is the recipe for the best bread I’ve ever baked and cooking it in a dutch oven is the key to its crunchy crust.
There is a lot of wait time between preparing and cooking. The simple trick is to start the bread the day before.
Bon Appetit!
3 cups bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
1 3/4 Cups water

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt.

Add water unless you dilute the yeast - then you can skip ¼ cup. Stir until blended. Dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest about 18 hours at warm room temperature.

Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot in oven as it heats.

When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.

Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Mine was perfect in 15.

Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.
Salvadoran Quesadillas
In El Salvador they eat rich, buttery quesadillas in the AM along with a big cup of coffee. Wow -my kind of breakfast because I regularly ate quesadillas at any meal when I lived in Mexico.
In fact, my philosophy on breakfast is that anything can be consumed as long as you like it. Ice Cream – no problem. Cold Pizza – bring it on!
No wonder breakfast is my favorite meal of the day because I’ve already talked myself into eating almost everything…and I do.
You’ll love the crunch of the sesame seeds in this recipe along with the sweet and salty cake. I made just a half a recipe and wished I had more more. Honestly, it tastes just like a cheesy pound cake.
1 cup rice flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated hard cheese such as cojita or parmesan
Sesame seeds, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350F. Ask a question about this step.

Meanwhile, whisk together the rice flour, baking powder, and salt. Then, in the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter with sugar. Drop in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides as needed.
Next beat in the sour cream, cheese, and rice flour mixture until a smooth batter forms.

Spoon into greased muffin tins, filling each one 4/5th of the way up (this batter does not rise much). Sprinkle on the sesame seeds, to taste.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.