Tag Archive for yeast

Meyer Lemon and Sea Salt Focaccia

I love all things lemon. Obviously.

And I have a fascination with Meyer lemons.

So, when I spotted a rather large clamshell package of them at Costco, I just couldn’t resist.

Meyer Lemons

So bright, so tempting. So many options.

A long time ago, I bookmarked a recipe over on The Kitchn (which is a fabulous site and well worth checking out, if you have not already) for a lemon and sea salt focaccia. Bread? Lemon? Flaky salt? Yes, that sounds like perfection.

And it did indeed sound like perfection.

I’m just not sure I loved the reality.

I thought a mandolin would get the lemons thin enough to top the focaccia, but the blade wasn’t sharp enough, so, in the end, I just used my extremely sharp paring knife. But I don’t think I got them quite as thin as they needed to be because even after baking they were a bit overpowering. I like the acidic bite of a lemon — maybe more than the average person — but the bites of lemon, even with the bread, were pretty sour.

That said, I loved the actual focaccia part of it. So, I’m going to keep this recipe around because the dough is so great.

Meyer Lemon Focaccia Dough

Meyer Lemon Focaccia I

Meyer Lemon Focaccia II

Meyer Lemon Focaccia III

Meyer Lemon and Sea Salt Focaccia

Adapted slightly from The Kitchn.

For the Dough

  • 1 envelope (2-1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 6 tablespoons really good extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cups bread flour, plus more for kneading
  • 2 teaspoons salt

To Assemble

  • Really good extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Meyer lemons, washed and very thinly sliced into rounds
  • Flaked salt, like Maldon

For the dough, dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water in a the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in 1-1/4 cups water and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.

Add the flour and salt and, using the dough hook, mix until a ball of dough forms. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil into a large bowl. Roll dough around in bowl until coated with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm spot until it has doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Pour a thin film of oil into each of four 8-inch round cake pans. (Though I used a rimmed cookie sheet and spread the entire dough over it.) Quarter the dough and put one piece into each pan. Using your fingertips, spread dough out in each pan. The dough is elastic and will resist stretching. Let it relax for 5 minutes or so after you’ve stretched it as far as it will go. Eventually, it will cooperate and fill the pan.

Preheat the oven to 450°. Cover the pans with damp dishcloths and let the dough rest until it has swollen in the pans a bit, 30-60 minutes.

Uncover the pans. Sprinkle the dough with the rosemary (I didn’t have rosemary, so went without.) Using your fingertips, poke dimples into the dough in each pan, then liberally drizzle with oil so it pools in the hollows. Arrange just the thinnest rounds of lemon on top, drizzle with more oil, and sprinkle with sea salt. We like ours salty. Bake the focaccia until golden brown, 20-30 minutes. Drizzle with more oil when you pull the focaccia from the oven. Serve cut into wedges.

Cinnamon Rolls for Michelle

This has taken more than a year to write.

Because although I’ve composed this dozens of times in my head, when it came down to actually sitting at the laptop words have completely escaped me.

And, I guess, the timing just wasn’t right.

This is for my friend Michelle.

Me and Michelle

On Dec. 30, 2009, Michelle Lang was in a two-LAV convoy returning to the Canadian Forces base in Kandahar when they hit an IED. She and four soldiers — Garrett Chidley, George Miok, Zachery McCormack and Kirk Taylor — were killed in the blast. Five others were injured.

Three weeks earlier, we were out celebrating my birthday. It was her final weekend before she flew out to Afghanistan for what was expected to be a two-month stint reporting on the conflict in that country for Canwest News. Despite the fact she was less than 72 hours from taking off and had myriad errands to run and things to organize before leaving, she came out for dinner and then drinks, staying out well past bedtime. Friends always came first; that’s just the sort of girl she was.

And she was from the start.

When I moved to Calgary I had arranged for a couple of places to stay in those first few weeks, but there was a four-day gap where I had no plan, hoping to depend on the kindness of another reporter with whom I had a mutual friend. Instead, Michelle stepped in, offering up her couch to me — a virtual stranger — for as much time as I needed. She apologized it wasn’t nicer.

I live in that apartment now. On the night before I was to move in, Michelle stayed up until the early morning to get it into tip-top shape for me because she knew I wasn’t happy about giving up my old place. That’s also the sort of girl she was.

She was a huge supporter of this blog, she wasn’t afraid to scold me over my ever-growing shoe collection or dish out the tough love when it was needed. She offered up praise for a good story or kitchen victory; she listened when things were going sideways; she was my sushi-and-Buffy buddy (take-out and DVDs for a mid-week pick-me-up).

On the day before she left, I called her quickly to say I was going to miss her, to have fun, tell good stories and that I would see her in January. And then I said I would bake whatever she wanted when she was back in Calgary.

“What’s your favourite thing?” I asked.

“Cinnamon rolls,” she replied.

And I promised they would be hers when she returned.

A few weeks after her death, after the repatriation ceremony at CFB Trenton, the funeral in Vancouver and memorial service in Calgary, after the media coverage quieted, I set out to make the cinnamon buns. The fog of grief was still thick and I wanted to do something, some tiny thing, some personal thing, to honour her and follow through on my promise.

I set out to make the cinnamon rolls.

They were a complete failure. As in, the dough didn’t rise at all. Frustrated and angry — at more than just a baking misstep — I threw the hard lump of dough away and broke down. I didn’t attempt them again.

(Yeast-based goods are a downfall for me anyway, hence my love of all things no-knead. Although I did make some no-knead pumpkin cinnamon rolls that were successful, for some reason I feel this neither fulfilled nor broke my promise to make some for Michelle. I guess I figured the fact they were pumpkin made them a different kind of cinnamon bun altogether.)

Leading up to the one-year anniversary of losing Michelle, I started thinking again about those cinnamon rolls and my promise. But I wasn’t ready.  I dug my heels in trying to fight against the approaching day — a futile task.

And when it passed I knew it was time.

Michelle, this one is for you.

Lone bun

xo

gwendolyn

(Immense gratitude for the Pioneer Woman who had a recipe that was easy to work with and delicious. Thank you, I needed that.)

The dough rises

Rolled up

Naked buns

Geometric buns

Geometric buns - close-up

Powdered sugar and lemon zest

Incidentally, these red bowls were a birthday present from Michelle a few years ago. Now, when I pull them out (which I do a lot, since they are awesome ones from Williams-Sonoma), I always think of her.

Glaze

Glazed and ready to go

Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls

I have halved this recipe, which still made an insane amount of rolls, as in two 9-inch cake pans’ worth and they were jammed full. This is as I made it, but you can easily double it if you want to feed an army. The glaze/frosting recipe is loosely based on hers, but I changed it quite a bit because I wanted something lemon-y.

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon, heaping, baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon, scant, baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for the pans
  • cinnamon

In a large pot, mix the milk, oil and sugar and heat until scalded, just before boiling. Remove from the heat and let it cool until lukewarm, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Sprinkle over yeast and let sit for a minute. Add in the 4 cups of flour and stir. Cover and let it rise for at least an hour until doubled (or more).

Add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir together. (I had to knead it a little bit to get all the remaining dry ingredients worked in.)

Sprinkle the area where you’re going to roll out the dough generously with flour. Divide the dough in half and roll it thin into a rough rectangle. Drizzle half the melted butter over the dough and then sprinkle half of the sugar and a generous dose of cinnamon. (I went too easy on it and wish I had used more. Don’t be afraid!) Roll the dough in a neat, tight line and then pinch the seam together to seal it. Slice the rolls into even pieces, about 1-inch wide. (Mine were probably closer to 1 1/2-inches.)

Spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter into a cake or pie pan (she calls for 7-inch pans; I used 9-inch ones) and lay in the rolled dough slices. Let them rise for 20 to 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375.

Bake rolls until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.

Lemon Glaze

  • 1/2 bag powdered (icing) sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • pinch or two of salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Mix all the ingredients together. Add more milk if the mixture is too thick or more sugar if it is too runny.

Pour over the rolls when they are still slightly warm.

Potato Pizza with Rosemary

I love the French word for potato: pomme de terre.

Apple of the earth.

It’s so evocative. It speaks of wholesomeness and simplicity. The dusty rows in farmer’s fields, the pockmarked tubers hidden under clumps of dirt and the round potatoes that tumble out when finally unearthed.
Also, it’s a damn tasty vegetable.

Potato Pizza with Rosemary I

My love of potatoes goes back to childhood. At one time I even had a potato scrapbook. I’m not kidding.

In the ’80s, the potato farmers in the U.S. had a big ad campaign to try to convince Americans that potatoes were vegetables. One was a photo of a big baker potato with a big daub of green paint on it, next to a jar of paint and dripping brush. Underneath was a caption that read something like, “What do we have to do to show it’s a vegetable?”

And, while the scrapbook has disappeared from my life, my love of potatoes remains.

I was so excited a couple of weeks ago to spy a massive (read: too big for a single person) bag of multi-coloured baby potatoes at Costco. I rooted through to find one that had a high proportion of purple potatoes. These things rock. I love their vibrant colour! Am tempted to boil and squash up the next batch for a little violet-coloured mash….

Purple Potato

So, I knew they would be perfect for this potato pizza. This recipe would have Atkins rolling over in his grave. A carb base, topped with carbs. Mmmm!

But, damn it, sometimes a girl just needs her potatoes.

Pizza dough rising

Sliced potatoes

Pizza for the oven

Potato Pizza with Rosemary II

Potato Pizza with Rosemary III

I apologize. I have no idea where this recipe came from originally. Something I found years ago, cut and paste into a plain document and then printed…. Even then, it’s been slightly adapted, of course.

Potato Pizza with Rosemary

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant dry yeast
  • Olive oil for bowl and pan
  • thinly sliced potatoes (2 or 3 large potatoes, 10 or more baby potatoes)
  • 1/4 onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • sea salt for sprinkling

Combine flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a bowl, then slowly add water. Mix with spoon until ingredients start to come together, then using dough hook on a mixer, knead/mix for another 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place in oiled bowl and let rise for two or more hours. (Note: mine didn’t rise quite as much. Unsure why, but ended up with pretty thin crust as a result.)

Using a mandoline or a knife, thinly slice potatoes. (The recipe then calls for the potatoes to be soaked in several changes of water. I didn’t do this because I was worried what would happen to the purple potatoes. Still tasted fine to me, so….?) Combine potatoes with pinch or two of salt, rosemary and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 425. Spread thin layer of olive oil on rimmed baking sheet. Stretch dough out on pan until it reaches the edges. Evenly layer potatoes over dough, then drizzle on three tablespoons olive oil, along with sea salt and chopped rosemary.

Bake about 20 minutes until bottom is golden. Let cool slightly before cutting, then serve. Also good at room temperature.

In pursuit of focaccia perfection

There is a restaurant in Victoria that I am almost incapable of avoiding during any visit to that lovely little city. Pagliacci’s was the scene of more than a few fun nights out with friends while we procrastinated on assignments from UVic and has subsequently become a place that speaks to me of good memories along with good food. I am positively addicted to their dish called the Prawn Broker (spinach pasta, prawns and cashews in a coconut-curry sauce) and will admit with no hesitation that I always order the full size — which is far too big for one sitting — so that I can enjoy just a little bit more later. (Side note: Every few weeks I search the Internet in the apparently feeble hope that the recipe will magically appear. Future blogging may include attempts to recreate the thing myself. Success is not guaranteed.)

But, while the Prawn Broker is my main dish of choice, I could very easily live on the baskets of focaccia set on the table shortly after ordering. Chewy, thickly crusted, salty. I have no idea what magic lies in that recipe which leads to such bready perfection. I can only presume part of the reason is a thick dousing of olive oil. But there are no apparent herbs or crystals of salt to hint at what else goes into this recipe.

My pursuit of focaccia perfection began about a year ago when I bought (finally!) a handheld mixer. (Friends were unsurprisingly baffled when I made cookies without a mixer, using my own arm strength to cream butter and sugar together.) To my delight, it came with two dough hooks, which opened up the world of bread baking. Okay, so, it’s a pretty limited world at this point, but nevertheless. Since then, I’ve tried to make focaccia a few times, but found it lacking. Where i wanted dense and chewy, these attempts were light and, at one point, crumbly (don’t try to make bread with all-purpose flour, apparently). The top was delicious, owing mostly to a liberal sprinkling of flaky Maldon salt, chopped rosemary and a few generous glugs of olive oil that filled in the divots I had dimpled across the surface of the pale dough. But it wasn’t the best ever.

Baking bread, I fear, is one of those arts that is being lost in my generation. The reason I never made bread before was that, frankly, kneading baffles me. I never seem to get the dough to come together and never seem to have the patience to keep going. Growing up, my mum often made homemade bread and I would “help” but eventually she would take over the kneading. (This is why the dough hooks were such a welcome addition to my mixer.) But also lost is the knowledge on how to affect the outcome of recipes.

I was sharing the focaccia dilemma with my friend Shelley one afternoon when she asked me a few questions about the recipe and I mentioned that it called for the dough to rise three times. Well, she said, that explained why it was so light. Fewer chances to rise = denser dough. Of course, now that she has said that, it makes perfect sense. But since I didn’t know much about baking bread, it didn’t occur to me to play around with the recipe. Of course, now that i *do* know, I’m making it a mission to make the best focaccia possible.

This time I tried a different recipe, but modified it slightly by not letting it rise a second time in the hope it would produce a chewier end result. It definitely did. But it’s still not as good as the bread from Pagliacci’s and I felt the focaccia overall could have used some more flavour. The top was pretty good, though, owing I’m sure to the generous amount of salt, olive oil and chopped rosemary.

And so, the pursuit continues.

Yeast, water, sugar and olive oil

Just mixed dough

Rising dough

Ready for the oven

Fresh from the oven

Here is the latest attempt. It comes from the fabulous Rebar Modern Food Cookbook, which, as previously mentioned, I bought only for a salad dressing recipe. In this case, however, I didn’t let it rise a second time and I didn’t bother with the garlic, as I find it very hard to keep it from burning. There are few tastes worse than burnt garlic. This is the recipe as printed.

Rosemary Garlic Foccacia

  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 1 tbsp. traditional baking yeast
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cups unbleached flour

Topping

  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 2 tbsp. chopped rosemary
  • cracked black pepper

In a large mixing bowl, combine the warm water, yeast and sugar. Let the mixture sit until it foams. Stir in salt and olive oil, then start adding flour, one cup at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon. (Yeah, I used my mixer here.) When you can no longer stir, turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead in the remaining flour. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, sprinkling just enough flour on the counter to prevent sticking.

Form the dough into a ball and place a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean, damp cloth and set the bowl in a warm, draft-free spot. Let rise until doubled in bulk (1 – 1 1/2 hours). Punch the dough down and let it rise again until doubled.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Place the dough on a well-oiled 12″x16″ baking sheet with 1/2″ sides. Gently stretch the dough to roughly fit the dimensions of the pan. Drizzle the surface with olive oil and spread the minced garlic over the entire area. Sprinkle chopped rosemary evenly on top, followed by coarse salt. Finish with cracked pepper. Using your fingertips, gently poke indentations over the entire surface. It should appear dimpled and rustic-looking. Let rise again for about 15 minutes, or just until it puffs up slightly.

Place the loaf in the center rack of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The garlic should be lightly golden. Be careful not to over bake. Serve warm.