Tags: Bread, Chilied Mushroom and Cashew Pate, Ciabatta, Craig Ponsford, Daring Cooks, Pate, Tricolor Vegetable Pate
When I was a kid, I used to eat chopped liver like it was going out of style. It was a treat at every family gathering during holidays, whether it be Thanksgiving or Passover. I would sit within inches of the bowl and dip away (this was back in the Pre-Seinfeldian era,when double dipping wasn”t even a misdemeanor – so I double dipped my heart out..ICK, right?), cracker after cracker after cracker (or matzo cracker, after matzo cracker, after matzo cracker) – taking ownership of this bowl of brown stuff with chopped eggs in it.
One day, my grandmother informed me what chopped liver was made with. Yes, I knew what ‘liver’ was, but for some odd reason, I didn’t associate it with ‘liver’, just a yummy treat that happened to be called ‘liver’. Maybe I was subconsciously trying to separate the true meaning from this yummy spread – aka – it was so good, I didn’t want to know? In any event, I watched my grandmother make it from scratch before one holiday dinner, and lo and behold, as she explained, while pulling these blood clot looking lumps out of the wrapping from the butcher, these were ‘organs’ from chickadees. From that moment on, I never touched the stuff. Sad, but true. I tried, but suddenly I tasted liver! Damn! Why am I talking about liver? Well, when one thinks of pates, it’s usually liver that comes to mind – AND, two of my fav chicks are hosting this month’s Daring Cooks challenge, which happens to be well, pate..with homemade bread, which always excites me.
Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.
One of the keys to all those lovely holes is a wet dough and very little handling of the dough- -more folding with a bench scraper, in lieu of kneading.
As mentioned above, liver seems to be the norm when it comes to your basic pate, and if it isn’t all liver, it always seems to have some bit of liver in it. Of course, two out of the four recipes given to us are liver pates. Am I making those? NO. Am I making two yummy pates minus the liver? YES.
Inititially, I was going to go off the beaten path, but then decided to keep things simple, making the tricolor vegetable pate recipe provided, and this awesome pate by the Two Hot Tamales, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken (Remember them? From the days when the Food Network was mostly about real chefs and real cooking, not entertainment 24/7) called Killer Chilied Mushroom and Cashew Pate. The great thing is, neither of these pates are cooked (unless you count the sauteeed ‘shrooms, onions and garlic), and both are (would you believe it, on my blog?) vegetarian! Also, the mushroom-cashew pate looks like liver pate (translation – molded dog food), but it tastes so bleepin’ good, you must try it! (I say that a lot, don’t I?).
Regarding the bread, the really fun part for me, I made Craig Ponsford’s Ciabatta, which I covered back in 2008. In lieu of the traditional Ciabatta shape, I ended up forming all of the dough into one large, torpedo loaf, slashed down the middle prior to baking in my steam filled oven. It turned out lovely and delicious with a beautiful ‘holey’ crumb, but ginormous in comparison to my miniature pates. Well, that’s what bread knives are for, right? That said, they weren’t going to be pretty, perfect slices, like a baguette would have given me. Actually, who cares? Why do I get so anal over these things? Repeat, I am not a food stylist, I am not a food stylist.
With that said, I served the chilied mushroom-cashew pate with the bread and blue corn tortilla chips. The reason for the chips? So people would eat it! It’s weird, everyone loved the ingredients that went into these pates, but didn’t flip over the ingredients being ground into a paste like spread then molded. I don’t.get.it. The combined ingredients, pre- food processed/mashed/pulverized –whatever, they gladly would have eaten, but once molded into a smooth, pretty mini loaf, it suddenly wasn’t as appetizing. WTF? The tortilla chips provided a vessel which said “Dip me into this mushroomy-nutty MEXICAN DIP”, yep, that’s what it is..NOT PATE, a MEXICAN DIP! Once the tricolor veggie pate was spread on the bread..it was bread with spread, NOT PATE, just BREAD WITH SPREAD. Once again, I just don’t get it. I think it’s a texture thing and some see it as something akin to pureeing a steak in a blender when the golden years come knocking on our toothless mouths and sensitive stomachs.
Finally, when it came to the tricolor veggie pate, in viewing some of the Daring Cook’s results prior to posting day, I really felt the bean layer dominated the pate too much, hiding the lovely and flavorful red and green layers. I decided to half the recipe for the bean puree and use equal amounts in each mold so the lovely red-orange bell pepper-feta layer and green pesto-ricotta layer got equal billing. It also made for a prettier presentation, reminiscent of the Italian flag.
To get the recipes for the tricolor vegetable pate, a wonderful seafood pate and the ummm..two liver pates, click HERE. To see all the lovely and creative pates and breads, plus takes on the challenge pates and breads, click on the links at the Daring Cooks Blogroll. Also, I’m submitting the Ciabatta bread to Yeastspotting, a weekly bread baking event hosted by Susan at Wild Yeast. Au Revoir until next time!
Tags: Biga, Breads, Ciabatta, Craig Ponsford's Ciabatta, Italian Slipper Bread
After fiddling around with many a ciabatta recipe, and getting mediocre, or shall I say, less than impressive results, (the crumb was never good enough..too tight) I had finally resigned myself to the fact that I just lacked what it took to create that perfect, airy, chewy, Italian slipper bread riddled with holes. Well, after reading through some books on bread baking at my local bookstore, I came across a recipe for ciabatta by Craig Ponsford. This is BY FAR the best recipe for ciabatta out there. Now, this is not only because it worked for me, but after perusing through several bread forums, the consensus seems to be the same. His ciabatta is the best.
As usual, I’ll run you through what got me to such a beautiful, perfectly crumbed ‘slipper bread’ – (which is called that, because the finished loaf usually looks similar to a slipper) — complete with my inability to take a decent picture with my awful digital camera!
Ciabatta starts with a biga (A more liquid version is called a poolish). What’s a biga? To make it simple and eliminate the need to type it out, I’m using Wikipedia’s definition.
Biga is a type of pre-fermentation used in Italian baking. Many popular Italian breads, including ciabatta, are made using a biga. Using a biga adds complexity to the bread’s flavor and is often used in breads that need a light, open texture with holes. Apart from adding to flavor and texture, a biga also helps to preserve bread by making it less perishable.
Ponsford’s Biga uses a combination of AP, Whole Wheat, Rye and Bread Flours. However, this is the kicker..it calls for 1/384 tsp of yeast. How do you get 1/384 tsp of yeast? Well, he makes it easy. In the recipe.. you take 1/2 tsp yeast and dissolve it in 1 cup of water. You then use only 1/2 tsp of the yeasted water in the biga. I’m amazed at how much the biga rose, considering it was such a teeny amount of yeast to about 3 or so cups of a mix of AP, Bread, Whole Wheat and Rye flours.
This biga needed to ferment for 18-24 hours. I started with a fist size lump of dough and I honestly didn’t think it would work with such a small amount of diluted yeast, but lo and behold..we’ve got bubbles and a doubling in size after 12 hours. Unfortunately, I never got to see the full rise, since I slept, but when I woke up, it was at the stage it was supposed to be..lumpy, slightly less bubbly, oatmeal ‘like’.
This is the biga after 12 hours. By the way..the yellow liquid is not alcohol. It’s the tiny bit of canola oil I used to grease the container. It somehow doubled itself during the first fermentation. Love how the biga steered clear of it, though.
Next on the agenda was mixing the dough. First the Biga goes into the mixer bowl. Notice the bubbles and elasticity? Good sign.
Next comes, in order, the flour and salt, yeast, then water.
Let this come together using a dough hook (hand kneading would be impossible at this point, since it’s such a wet dough, and the addition of flour to make it manageable would result in a ciabatta with a tight crumb, which defeats the purpose), and let it run for about 5 minutes, until you get what you see in the photo below. See how wet this dough is? Almost like a thick pancake batter. This is the starting point to a light, airy ciabatta with lots of holes. Hydration is SO key here.
Now it’s time to let it ferment for a while, so pour it into a lightly greased container to let it work it’s magic.
You’d never think this dough will actually come together, enough so that it’s more manageable to work with..but it does, with proper stretchings, folds and turns, which you will see below. After an initial 20 minute ferment, the dough is poured onto a lightly floured bench, where it’s gently folded letter style, then put back into the container to ferment for another 20 minutes. This is done at 20, 40, 60 and 80 minutes. The photo below is ready for it’s fourth turn, and you can see how much it has changed. Although still extremely soft (which is how you want it to remain), it’s easier to work with now.
Last fold, bringing in all 4 sides, then put back into the container to rise for 70 to 100 minutes.
I forgot to take a photo of the next rise. However, trust me when I say it doubled in size. Now we can finally prepare and shape the loaves for their final rise. I’ll show you one loaf here. Very gently scrape the dough onto the bench, then fold it again like a letter, but only two sides. As with sourdough, you don’t want to lose any of those bubbles, not to mention this dough is a lot more delicate than sourdough. When folded, lightly seal, pinching the seams closed, gently.
The shaped dough is placed on a floured linen towel or couche (a heavier canvas cloth used to hold the shape of the bread), seam side up. Cover lightly with the floured towel, and let rise for about 45 minutes. During this time, place or move your **baking stone to the middle rack and preheat the oven to 450 F. Ponsford prefers baking his ciabatta on the middle rack, as opposed to other artisan breads, which are usually baked on the bottom rack since that’s where it’s the hottest. Below is the risen loaf.
Now comes the tricky part. You need to flip the dough, seam side down, onto the peel. In the case of a dough this delicate, you need to use parchment paper on the peel since you don’t want to add anymore flour or cornmeal or semolina (whichever you use to keep the dough from sticking)..not to mention (as I’ve already mentioned 20 times already), it’s such a soft, delicate dough..so it’s much easier to slide onto the stone with the parchment. The ‘flip’ has to be quick, so you don’t degas the dough too much.
Now, the next step kind contradicts everything I mentioned above about handling the dough as to not lose the bubbles and airy texture, but this actually helps the bread’s texture. You’re going to give it a bunch of quick. deep dimples, with floured fingers, all over the loaf. It doesn’t deflate it that much, and oven spring will pop it right back up. The dimpling actually GIVES you more chewy, airy holes in your final loaf. Dimple to the bottom as much as you can, trying to keep the surrounding dough ‘poofy’.
Into the oven, along with a few ice cubes or water tossed into a preheated pan I always keep on the bottom of my oven when bread baking. This adds steam, which you want, for a crispy, final crust. A few sprays of the walls of the oven with a water bottle, every few minutes for the first 10 minutes, is something you can do too, just to keep that steam going. The below is an awful photo, but if you’ve read my ‘About’ page, you know I’m on a mission to purchase a much better camera.
After about 40 minutes, it’s ‘photo gallery’ time.
** If you don’t own a baking stone, get one. If you don’t want to get one, pick up some tiles at your local hardware store and use those. If you don’t want to either of the aforementioned; place the shaped bread seam side down on a lightly greased sheet pan, or one covered with parchment paper or a silpat. Cover and let rise, dimple, and bake as above on the sheet pan. No flipping onto the peel required, though it’s much better when baked on a stone or tiles. Update 2010 – I baked the below ciabatta for this challenge. Much better photo this time!