Sunday, March 25, 2012

Food Writing Lessons NOT Learned the Hard Way, Plus a Bockwurst Stew and Story to Savor

 
It’s humbling to admit that much of the food writing advice I dish out at Kitchenlane I learned the hard way  ( as mentioned here) just by bumbling along.  But occasionally, the wisdom has come without any pain and, halleluiah, this story is about one of those times.

Back in the late 1970s, when I was just beginning to move beyond assignments for my hometown paper and step up to publications like the Washington Post, my hubby came home with the news that he’d been offered an assignment in Germany for three years. How would I like to move there, he asked? My knee-jerk reaction:  Oh no, I’m only now making headway on my writing; it’s not a good time to move away.  My second thought: Too bad it’s GermanyFrance would be fab!

Both of these those reactions were supremely wrong-headed.  First, our years in central Europe turned out to be remarkably personally enriching—we visited many interesting, unforgettable places,  got to know some wonderful people,  broadened our cultural  horizons, and improved our foreign language skills. 

Professionally, the move to West Germany (the reunification was still over 10 years off though we could  just feel it was going to happen) opened doors that I could not in my most Pollyannaish dreams have imagined:  During our years there  my work was first published in both Bon Appetit and Gourmet, and  I also wrote a series of stories for the Washington  Post food section. I also landed a monthly column for a magazine published for overseas American military families. And I did research for The International Cookie Cookbook and The International Chocolate Cookbook, which I wrote after returning home.

If you're guessing that the Bockwurst stew recipe below fits in with this post, you're right.  Not long after we’d settled into our house on the Main River outside Frankfurt, I was drooling over a Bon Appetit story on some homey French regional stews, fleetingly wishing once more that I lived on the Seine instead of the Main (pronounced “mine”). Then it hit me: The story's well-known author was apparently already Bon Appetit’s go-to source on Mediterranean cooking. The editors would not likely want a feature on French food from lesser-credentialed me.
 
But nobody seemed to be "covering" central or eastern European cooking for Bon Appetit or its ilk. I immediately decided to learn everything I could about the food and wine in my area and hopefully turn myself into a resource American food editors actually might need. Eventually I pitched Bon Appetit a story on hearty, rustic Eintopfe, or “one-pots” that German home cooks liked to serve for simple family meals; the recipe here is good example. The editors not only bought the piece and ran it with nice visuals and play (as you can see below left), but assigned me a follow-up story on cooking with winter root vegetables and cabbage and various other “Kohls," which were the produce staples of the central Europe. That piece was ran as a cover story!

I later wrote for the Washington Post and several other publications about Rheingau (Rhine district) wine festivals, Christmas markets, holiday cookies, a potent after-dinner coffee made with a regionally famous brandy called Asbach Uralt, and the autumn custom of serving a thin, crusty, pizza-like onion dish called Zwiebelkuchen with Federweisser (a fresh, bubbly,  partly-fermented white wine grape beverage).  My forays to pick the wild blackberries along the banks of the Main led to a reminiscence piece on going berrying  that was published in Gourmet magazine.

The food writing lessons here are so obvious they hardly need noting. First, try to embrace change and go with even the unsettling or scary flow. It will afford astonishing, unexpected opportunities to grow and learn—and the more you know, the more you can write about.  At some point it dawned on me that everything I ever come upon—people, places, food and wine, agriculture, geography, cultural traditions, social history—is vital grist for my writing mill. The habit of being relentlessly inquisitive and acquisitive of information keeps you engaged, excited, and constantly primed with more fresh, new, interesting material  than you’ll  ever have time to cover.

The second lesson is to think outside the box about how to carve a niche and become a valuable resource. What do you know (or are you interested in learning about) that food editors might like to know and share with their readers? It could be as prosaic and, um, down to earth as how to cook with root vegetables!  And while building expertise, don’t forget that even the seemingly irrelevant details and arcane minutia contribute color, vivid sense of place, and  the air of authenticity and authority that make stories resonate with both editors and readers.
 
Finally, don’t make the mistake of thinking that unless you go live Europe (or somewhere else exotic), you’re out of luck. My most popular work to date has been The All-American Cookie Book—which I researched on American soil, mostly in the heritage cookbook collections in libraries and on-line databases, and by visiting home bakers and bakeries in towns and cities all over the U.S.  Countless other topics are equally accessible and there just waiting for you to see their potential and make them your own.


Bockwurst Stew
When I lived in Germany I made this homespun 30-minute stew with Bockwurst sausages. They were as widely available and popular there as hotdogs are in the U.S. Now, I tend to ready it with the more easily obtained kielbasa; you could certainly use plump, top-quality wieners instead.  I also like to throw in some chunks of sweet potato, though this vegetable was definitely not a staple called for in German cookery. 

4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon each dried thyme leaves and caraway seed
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, or to taste
6 to 8 cups mixed fresh vegetable chunks (1- to 1 1/4-inch pieces), such as boiling potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, turnips, green beans
12- to 16-ounces bockwurst, kielbasa or similar link sausage, cut on a diagonal into 1/4 inch slices
4 or 5 green cabbage wedges
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (coarse stems removed), optional

In a 4-quart or larger soup pot over medium-high heat, combine the broth, thyme, caraway, black pepper and mixed vegetables and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the mixture boils gently and cook, uncovered, until the carrots are almost tender when pierced with a fork, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Stir the bockwurst and half the parsley (if using) into the stew. Lay the cabbage wedges over the top.  Let return to a gentle boil. Cover and cook until the cabbage wedges are just tender when pierced with a fork, 3 or 4 minutes.  Taste and add  pepper and salt, if desired. Place the cabbage wedges in large soup plates. Spoon some meat, vegetables, and broth around them.  Garnish with more parsley. Serve piping hot.

Makes 1 1/2 to 2 quarts, 4 or 5 generous main-dish servings.

 For some food writing lessons that I did have to learn the HARD way, go here.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Secrets to Successful Food Blogging--"Will Write for Food" Host Dianne Jacob Shares Her Tips

In February I kicked off a series of interviews with food bloggers whose work I enjoy and feel you might find interesting and useful, too. Each post shares with you the blogger's secrets to success and practical advice, plus it lets you get to "know" the person behind the blog a bit.  (The getting-to-know part is what I like best.) The initial post here featured Jamie Schler, blogger of the well-known "Life’s a Feast
This month I'm delighted to spotlight my hard-working colleague and writer friend Dianne Jacob, whose blog Will Write for Food: Pithy Snippets about Food Writing is a truly unique resource for food writers or bloggers. I think of Dianne as providing a sort of food writers' help desk and information clearinghouse, in the process beautifully serving the needs of her well-defined and carefully-targeted audience. Her blog posts have been picked up by Publishers’ Weekly, Chow, Eater, BlogHer, and Food52 News

Will Write for Food--Buy It!
As Dianne herself says, you'll find "tons of free, helpful tips, how-tos and interviews," on her blog, as well as lots of input from her many loyal followers. Sometimes she also covers breaking culinary-related news. She encourages peeps to jump in, sound off, and contribute their expertise. Which they do--a lively conversation is always going on.

Dianne is the author of Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More, which won the Cordon D’Or International award for Best Literary Food Reference Book and a Gourmand World Cookbook Award. She is also co-author of the cookbook Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas, with chef Craig Priebe, and regularly edits cookbooks for national publishers. Previously a newspaper, magazine, and publishing company editor-in-chief, Dianne is now a full-time writing coach, author,  freelance editor, and, of course, blogger. 



Why did you start your blog? Has the experience been what you expected?
I wanted to include a big chapter on food blogging in the 2010 revision of  my book Will Write for Food, which first came out five years earlier. I thought I should start a blog to understand how blogging worked...

Boy, did I underestimate how much fun it is! The experience has been much more than I expected. I’ve developed relationships with readers from all over the world. I’ve learned so much from their comments. Plus, the blog has kept my book sales going, helped me sign up coaching clients, and leads to regular speaking gigs. Now I’m 2.5 years in and can’t imagine life without it.

What you think is most notable about your blog. What are the keys to its popularity?
I don’t think there are other blogs aimed exclusively at food writers, so my timing was good. It’s a niche market, but within that niche, the blog does well. It’s popular because I do my best to write about the issues that food writers and bloggers care about. I try not to be the last word. My blog is known for starting a conversation that commenters take up in the most surprising, thoughtful, and intelligent ways. Sometimes they even talk to each other and not to me, which is just fine.

Do you have any secrets to success or advice you could share with other food bloggers?
Many food bloggers don’t post often enough, or they burn out and then post once a month or even less. I have a deadline of Tuesday. I post every week, which gives me enough time to write a draft, let it sit a while, and edit it a few times. I tried posting twice a week the first year, but that was a too much. I always have a running list of possible subjects going, and I try to keep a few drafts around for the times when I’m feeling stuck.

Any interesting insights to share about how you write, come up with ideas, etc.?
Having a schedule is important. Regarding ideas, sometimes news events trigger blog posts, or I meet someone who I think might make a good interview. But most of the time I try to focus on what my target reader would find useful, entertaining, and inspiring.

I try to draft in advance, but am not always successful. I also keep a few drafts around of posts I’ve started, just in case.... Sometimes I am struggling to come up with a topic on Monday, but I always manage. Some bloggers keep a calendar of what to post on every week, but I’m not that organized, even though when I was a magazine editor, I worked on several issues at once.

Rarely, a topic inspires me and the post comes easily. This was the case on a blog post I wrote on comparing ourselves to others, which came from reading another blogger’s post on a broader topic. It became one of my highest-read posts ever.

How does your background or experience influence your blog?
It helps a lot. As a journalism graduate and former newspaper reporter and editor, I respect deadlines. I also know how to write an intriguing title, what constitutes a lead, and how to finish a post concisely. Also, since I’ve spent most of my professional life as an editor, I know how to cut the fat from my writing.

I like to cover ethics. It’s a big issue for food bloggers, who are bombarded with free products and meals. Having cut my teeth in journalism school and newspapers, I have strong opinions about the effect of freebies, and I look for fresh angles on that subject. And I’m not afraid to be controversial sometimes.

What's the greatest satisfaction you get from hosting your blog?
I love it when I launch what turns out to be a good discussion about an issue we’re all trying to understand, like the ethical way to adapt a recipe, or how to find time to write a food-based blog. This is a big issue for hobbyists, most of whom have day jobs, especially if they write, test and photograph food.


Since Dianne loves readers to jump in and comment, please oblige her (and me) by doing so now.  If you enjoy her blog, take a little time to share what you like about it with others reading this post.

If you're just getting started at food blogging, you might also be interested in some basic tips in Culinary Blogging 101. 

Or for more food writing advice, check out my Three Steps to More Compelling Culinary Prose.

Or how about Five Things Never to Say to a Food Editor, in which several editors reveal what really irks them.


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Monday, March 12, 2012

Not My Mother's Irish Soda Bread (& Not Just for St. Patrick's Day)


Thank you, thank you to the enthusiastic Irish-Americans who decided to turn St. Patrick’s Day into such a huge annual food fest and bash. Yes, the custom of making a major deal of St. Paddy's Day originated in the U.S., though it's now caught on in Ireland as a fine way to promote tourism.

If the occasion were not noted right there on the calendar, I might not remember to make traditional Irish stew or colcannon, or to bake shamrock-shaped cookies for my grandchildren, or to mark the holiday by quaffing  my single yearly tankard of Guinness stout.  (Apparently, many other peeps also drink Guinness only on St. Paddy’s Day; the consumption jumps from the usual 5.5 million daily pints to a staggering 13 million!)

Most important, I might forget to make Irish Soda Bread, which would be a huge shame because it’s one of the absolutely easiest, tastiest, most economical breads for a home baker.  Whenever St. Patrick’s Day rolls around and I mix up a loaf, my hubby and I quickly devour it, lamenting as we munch that I don't make it more often.
  


The bread pictured is nearly all gone now.  We’ve polished off thick, butter-slathered wedges of it along with stew and as snacks. And, as the loaf began to dry out, I cut it crosswise into slices and toasted it—we both think it might be at its best that way.

This recipe, from Chef Lee Duberman, is a brand new version for me.  It’s called Limerick Irish Soda Bread and was served at Ariel’s, her jewel of a restaurant we visited in Brookfield, Vermont last fall. (I’ll be writing more about Ariel’s in another post, soon.)  The bread was tender, nubby-topped, exceptionally fragrant, and heavily studded with golden raisins and seeds, which I assumed were anise, but turned out to be fennel, a nice surprise.  Incidentally, we weren’t the only ones smitten with this bread: Some of my King Arthur Flour buddies who had recommended Ariel’s in the first place were there enjoying it mightily, too.

Though I’ve been happily readying  my mother’s “seedless” soda bread for decades, I will now have difficulty deciding which recipe to prepare.  Lee’s definitely makes a superior breakfast toast.  Of course, there’s no rule saying that soda bread is only for St. Patrick’s Day.  Light blub clicks on: Maybe I’ll follow up by making my mother’s  version next week--brilliant idea! 

Ariel's Limerick Irish Soda Bread
Anise seeds turn up more often in breads than fennel seeds, which taste a little less sweet and slightly more herbal, but still deliver a slight licorice hit that's very good.  I'm sure that the anise could be substituted if that's what you have on hand or think you'd prefer. If seeded soda breads are just not your thing, my updated version of my mother's recipe may be more to your liking.

Tip: Check to see if the brand of buttermilk you’re using  contains salt, and if so, reduce the salt in the recipe by 1/4 teaspoon. No, I don't know why buttermilk would come salted, but one of the kinds I buy does.

2 cups commercial buttermilk
1 large egg
1 cup golden raisins or currants
1/4 cup whole fennel seeds (or substitute anise seeds, if preferred)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached white flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
Scant 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Scant 1 teaspoon salt

Place a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees F.  Evenly coat a 9 to 9 1/2 –inch round cake pan or similar baking pan with butter or nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, using a fork beat together the buttermilk and egg.  Stir in the raisins and seeds and let stand while the dry ingredients are readied.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until thoroughly blended.  Pour the buttermilk mixture over the dry mixture and stir just until the ingredients are blended; for tenderest  bread, don’t stir vigorously or over-mix. Immediately turn out the batter into the pan, spreading evenly to the edges. 

Bake on the middle oven rack for 50 to 55 minutes or until well browned on top and a toothpick inserted deep in the center comes out clean. Let the pan stand on a wire rack for 15 minutes. If necessary, run a table knife around the pan and under the loaf edge to loosen it. 

The loaf is best served fresh and slightly warm, or cooled and served as toast.  It may be kept airtight at room temperature for up to 3 days. Freeze, airtight, for longer storage; thaw before using. If desired, reheat the loaf (wrapped in foil) for about 15 minutes in a preheated 375-degree F oven; or warm individual slices wrapped in paper towels for 20 or 30 seconds in a microwave oven on low power. 





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Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Sneak-Peek at a Recipe from Simply Sensational Cookies—"Au Naturel" Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

Whew, let me take a deep breath. It’s finally time to unveil a sneak-peek recipe from my upcoming book, Simply Sensational Cookies. I’ve been working on the manuscript on and off for nearly six years!

I say on and off because after creating and testing cookie recipes for about 18 months, I put the project aside to write Kneadlessly Simple, which came out in 2009. The break was a good idea, not only because  the bread book has been well received, but because when  cookies were back on my plate again my focus was fresher and sharper.
 

For one thing, during the bread book hiatus, I was actually making a lot of cookies with my grandchildren in my free time.  In the same period I discovered that I’d developed an allergy to the red dyes in over-the-counter lipsticks; my lips burned and peeled whenever lipstick was applied.  After researching  cosmetic and food dye allergies fairly extensively, I concluded that many of the readily available FD & C (Food, Drug, and Cosmetic) approved synthetic dyes—like the ones in little 4-bottle sets  that  nearly everybody uses—are risky.  Maybe not risky enough to ban, but certainly troubling enough that I didn’t really want to be routinely adding these dyes to homemade cookie frostings, fillings, and other decorations that my family would be eating.

Rather than trying to keep the kids from snitching extra samples during our baking and decorating sessions (a hopeless task!), I decided to come up with an array of “au naturel” toppings that most or all of their color from the natural ingredients, like fruits, berries, and, occasionally, herbs and spices.  The raspberry buttercream frosting shown here is just one of a whole array of recipes that resulted from my efforts. (The homemade decorator sprinkles here are another “au naturel” recipe I devised.)

Order from Amazon.com here
Yes, absolutely every bit of that glorious color of the frosting  shown here is from berries—in this case, mostly from freeze-dried raspberries, which you may not  noticed, but  are very likely to be in one of your markets.  Whole Foods and health food stores are a good starting point; they can also be ordered on-line.  The product that seems to turn up most often where I live is called “Just Raspberries,” though  other brands will do fine, too.  The beauty of the freeze-dried berries is that because their color and flavor are intense, pure, and concentrated, they can add a lot of pizzazz without making frostings  soft or soggy.

Raspberry Buttercream Frosting
The first step to preparing this luscious buttercream is to ready some freeze-dried raspberries by briefly  grinding up  freeze-dried raspberries, then sieving them.  This  will produce the 3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons of fine berry powder that’s needed for a smooth buttercream.  If you have more save it, airtight, for another purpose.

Incidentally, it is possible to buy the ready-to-use dried raspberry berry powder on-line, but for some reason it only comes in 12- to 16-ounce containers that cost $20 to $40 dollars each! Aside from the expense, the powder loses its oomph over time and unless you go into the raspberry buttercream-making business it will become faded  and stale long before you’ve used it up.

The following easy to work with buttercream can serve as decorative frosting or filling for butter cookies or French macarons, as well as for cupcakes.  The recipe may be doubled, if you wish. And it keeps well, so can be conveniently readied  ahead and refrigerated until you need it.  BTW, I first showed off this recipe in a demo for a Les Dames d'Escoffier; you can read about it and see a pic.

Tip: For a really bright hot pink frosting like that shown here, use the maximum amount of raspberry powder and the optional cranberry juice cocktail noted in the recipe. The  minimum amount of raspberry used alone with water will produce a very pretty medium pink shade. The color will also vary depending on the brand of freeze-dried raspberries; some are a bold red; others are slightly muted.

Raspberry Powder
Generous 1/2 to 2/3 cup freeze-dried raspberries
1 tablespoon powdered sugar, or more if needed
Frosting
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar, plus more if needed
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into chunks
3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons freeze-dried  raspberry powder,  to taste
11/2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons water, or cranberry juice cocktail, as needed
1 teaspoon raspberry extract 

For the raspberry powder:  Process the berries and 1 tablespoon powdered sugar in a food processor until the berries are chopped fine, but the seeds and some bits of pulp are still visible. If the berries have so much moisture that the mixture clumps, add more sugar and process until a "sieve-able" consistency is obtained. Stir the raspberry mixture through a very fine sieve into a small bowl to remove the seeds and any coarse bits of pulp; stop stirring before you force any coarse bits or seeds through. You should have enough sieved powder to yield 3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons.  

For the frosting: Beat the powdered sugar, butter, berry powder, 2  tablespoons water (or cranberry juice and the extract in a large mixer bowl on low speed until the mixture is completely blended. If very stiff, beat in a little more water. Beat on medium just until thoroughly blended, scraping down the sides as needed.  For a frosting with the most intense flavor and color don't over-beat. If necessary, gradually beat in a little water or more powdered sugar as needed for the desired spreading or piping consistency.  

The buttercream may be used immediately but the flavor and color will intensify if it is allowed to mellow a day or so covered airtight and stashed in the refrigerator.  Let it come to cool room temperature and stir well before using. (It can also be frozen, airtight, for up to 1 month.)

For decorating cookie tops: To spread, put little dollops of buttercream on cookie tops, then swirl it slightly with the tip of a knife. To pipe, spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a [1/2]-inch diameter open star tip. Pipe rosettes onto the cookie tops by holding the tip vertically and squeezing the bag and rotating the tip at the same time. For filling cookies: Spread a scant teaspoon of buttercream on the undersides of half the cookies (or use enough to create a 1/4- to 1/3-inch-thick layer). Pair the rounds with similar-size cookies, top side visible, gently pressing down until the filling spreads almost to the edges.  Let stand until the buttercream sets, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour, if desired.

Yield: Makes about 1 1/4 cups buttercream, enough for lightly topping about thirty 2 1/2-inch cookies.

Another au natural buttercream frosting you may like is here.
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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Predicting the Future of "Kneadless" Yeast Breads--A Home Baker Survey Reveals Some Clues

Do you think no-knead bread is a fad or here to stay? If you feel it's here for the long-term, do you think that everybody will switch to this method or that it will just be one of several methods home bread bakers will use.

Several years ago
Fleischmann's Yeast tried out some of my recipes in their test kitchen, and liked them so much they then got some customers to try them too. Then Fleischmann's surveyed those bakers to get their reaction. The results suggest that no-knead, at least Kneadlessly Simple no-knead breads, are going to stay around. People liked the recipes even more than they expected too, and over 95 % said they would make them again. Here are some of the survey questions and results:


Compared to your expectations how would you rate the recipes?
1.1% Significantly worse than I expected.
5.3% Somewhat worse than I expected.
25.0% What I expected.
36.0% Somewhat better than expected.
32.6% Significantly better than expected.
How Did You Like the Recipes?
2.4% Very Dissatisfied/Dissatisfied
8.6% Neutral
37.8% Satisfied
51.2% Very Satisfied
*97.9 % Said They Would Use Them Again
Impact of Ease/Convenience on Your Baking Habits
16.4% No-knead will not affect my amount of baking.
18.9% No-knead will increase my amount of baking by 10%.
26.4% No-knead will increase my amount of baking by 25%.
38.8% No-knead will increase my amount of baking 50% or more.
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New No-Knead Multigrain Harvest Bread, Plus Reader Feedback

Lots of folks seem to be cranking up their ovens and making homemade bread now.  Probably it's because this is a fine way to warm up the winter kitchen and provide the matchless taste and aroma of a fresh yeast bread loaf at the same time.

Just in the last two months I’ve heard from a number of people who’ve been baking from Kneadlessly Simple. Some had questions; others had  comments or results they wanted to share.  One person  wanted to thank me for providing her such an easy method and for turning her into an almost daily yeast bread baker. That was fantastic to hear!

Sarah e-mailed to ask if it is okay to substitute kosher salt for the table salt I call for.  It is, just use a teensy bit more of the kosher salt.  Also, to ensure its coarser grains dissolve, mix it into a  little warm water and stir thoroughly, then add it into the water rather than into the dry ingredients as is normally done.

Kneadlessly Simple--Available here.
Ralph wanted me to describe the “ideal” consistency of my kneadless  doughs when the ingredients are first mixed together.  In case you wonder, too: For a dough without seeds, raisins, etc., the consistency should be wet enough to just stir everything together until smooth; the mixture should hold its shape at first, then over a few minutes spread out in the bowl. It should be hard to stir.  Doughs with add-ins like seeds that will draw up moisture during the long, slow rise need to be softer and slightly wetter; they will spread out in the bowl right away, but become firmer as the additions hydrate.

My Italian cookbook author colleague and friend, Domenica Marchetti made my day with the following rave review: “The focaccia recipe in Kneadlessly Simple is brilliant. It is the by far the best focaccia I have ever made. The texture is sublime--certainly as good as I've had in the best restaurants. But even beyond texture, the flavor is so rich…” Thank you, thank you! is all I can say. (And that whenever I make it my hubby and I immediately eat half the batch!)

I was likewise thrilled to hear from Seattle Seedling blogger, Stacy Brewer, who says she uses Kneadlessly Simple “religiously,” and wanted to know if it was okay to do a blog  post about her favorite from the book, the French Walnut Bread. (The answer was yes, just clearly and completely credit the book as the publisher requires.) She mentioned that she was a newbie yeast baker when she began using the book, but now bakes all the time.

She has since posted wonderfully informative step-by-step pics and details of her walnut bread making endeavor, including some images that show exactly what the consistency of  the dough should be when ingredients are mixed together.  (Those, like Ralph, who are uncertain about this should definitely take a look!)  And she provides a timeline so you'll readily see when the dough needs a few minutes of your attention and when you are free to go off and sleep, work, or play while it bubbles, ferments and kneads itself. Stacy has also, with permission,  posted the Kneadlessly Simple French Walnut Bread recipe here, ( and shown above right), so you can try it if you like.

Additionally, I’m happy to tell you that the folks at Fleischmann’s Yeast have been very supportive and enthusiastic about my “kneadnessly simple” method (scroll down the page here), and asked me if I would create a recipe exclusively for them.  I did, and they have given me permission to share it with you here. 

Multigrain Harvest Bread
Fragrant, homespun, and boasting a gentle grain taste and amber-brown crust, this loaf is great for toast, for snacking, or serving in thick slices along with a hearty soup or stew. The tawny, nubby top comes from the addition of finely crushed cornflakes, which along with wheat flour and oats give the bread its unique celebration-of-the-harvest appeal. Although unbleached all-purpose white flour can be used, bread flour will produce a lighter, higher-rising loaf.


Tip: For more whole grain goodness, replace 1 cup of the white bread flour with 1 cup of regular or white whole wheat flour. (White whole wheat flour is a whole grain flour made from a strain of wheat that has a lighter color and flavor than the traditional variety. The King Arthur brand is fairly widely available.)


Tip: To quickly crush the cornflakes, seal them in a sturdy baggie, then press down all over until crumbled into very fine bits. Measure out the 1/2 cup after crushing.

Ingredients


  •     3 2/3 cups (18.5 ounces) unbleached bread flour or all-purpose white flour, plus more as needed

  •     1/2 cup crushed cornflakes (measure after crushing), divided

  •     1/2 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats (not instant)

  •     Generous 1 1/2 teaspoons plain table salt

  •     1 1/4 teaspoons Rapidrise, bread machine or instant yeast

  •     1 3/4 cup ice water (stir cold water with a heaping cup of ice cubes, then remove cubes before measuring), plus more ice water if needed

  •     1/4 cup honey stirred together with 1 tablespoon water

  •     1/3 cup corn oil or other flavorless vegetable oil

Directions


               
  1. First Rise: In a 4-quart or larger bowl thoroughly stir together the white flour, half the crushed cornflakes, the oats, salt, and yeast. (Reserve the remaining cornflakes for garnish.) In a  large measuring cup, stir together the water, honey and water and oil until well blended. Vigorously stir the liquid into the dry ingredients until thoroughly blended. The dough should be stiff enough to hold its shape but should not look dry; if necessary, stir in a little more flour or water if needed. Lightly brush or spray the dough top with oil.
                               
  2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. For fullest flavor or convenience, refrigerate the dough for up to 8 hours; this is optional. Set it out at cool room temperature (about 70 degrees F) to rise for 11 to 18 hours; this is required.                  
  3.        
  4. Second Rise: Vigorously stir the dough, scraping down the bowl sides. If it is at all soft, vigorously stir in enough more flour to yield a stiff dough that holds its shape. Generously oil a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle a scant half of the remaining crushed cornflakes into the pan, tipping it back and forth to coat the surface with the flakes. Turn out, then press the dough evenly into the pan.                    
  5.        
  6. Smooth out the dough surface with well oiled fingertips or a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the remaining cornflakes over the loaf top, pressing down very firmly all over to imbed. With oiled kitchen shears or a sharp oiled knife, cut three or four evenly spaced 1/4-inch deep slashes diagonally along the loaf top. Cover the pan with oiled or nonstick spray-coated plastic wrap.
           
  7. Let rise using any of these methods: for a 1 1/4 to 2 1/2 hour regular rise, let stand at warm room temperature; for a 1 hour to 1 1/2 hour accelerated rise, let stand in a turned-off microwave along with 1 cup of boiling hot water; or for an extended rise, refrigerate, covered, up to 48 hours, then set out at room temperature. If the dough nears the plastic wrap remove it, then continue the rise until the dough is 1/2 inch above the pan rim.       
  8.        
  9. Baking Preliminaries: Fifteen minutes before baking time, place a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 375 degrees F.     
  10.        
  11. Baking: Bake (middle rack) for 25 to 30 minutes until the top is nicely browned. Cover with foil and continue baking about 25 to 30 minutes longer, until a skewer inserted in the thickest part comes out with just a few particles clinging to the bottom. Bake 5 minutes more (or to 206-209 degrees F) on an instant read thermometer) to be sure the center is done.       
  12.        
  13. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack until cooled to warm. Completely cool the loaf on a rack before packing for storage.       
  14.        
  15. Serving and Storing:  Serve warm, toasted, or at room temperature. Store airtight in plastic at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, or freeze, airtight, for up to 1 month.
     
     
  16. Yield: Makes 1 large loaf, about 16 slices.

If no-knead strikes your fancy but a plain white boule is more your speed, check out my "kneadless" crusty white loaf here.


Or perhaps you'd like the Cheddar & Chiles loaf here.



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