Monday, February 25, 2013

Making Bread Using a POOLISH

 My white bread loaf using a poolish. The rise

was incredible.

I probably make a loaf of bread at least every other week (my recipe is here: Kitchen Bounty: Daily Bread). Quick-rising yeast makes it quite easy. If I start in the a.m., it's done by noon. But one thing I don't like about quick-rise yeast is its insipid or "un-yeasty" taste. I want more. To make it stronger and more pronounced, I allow an extra rise of the dough before shaping it into a loaf.  This allows time for the yeast to do its thing.

I've considered sourdough recipes, but I really don't want to mess with starters--all that feeding, etc. I'm a procrastinator by nature. That's when I began to read about making a poolish (poo-leesh). It solved the taste problem I wanted.

Simply put, a poolish is a combination of bread flour, water and yeast. It's mixed the night before and covered. In the morning, it's all bubbly and elastic.

From that, you form your bread dough. It has a great aroma with just a hint of sourness that is not overbearing.

Because I use my bread primarily for morning toast and sandwiches, I do not free-form my dough. I put it in a loaf pan. I have beautiful black metal pans just for bread, but I find myself using my glass Pyrex loaf pan more and more. It allows the sides to bake into a light golden color without being overly crisp. For the loaf pictured, I placed a pan of hot water in the bottom of the oven, but it made the top too crisp for me.

Prepare the night before: 
  • 10 oz. water (about 1 cup, + 3 tablespoons)
  • 10 oz. bread flour (2 cups)
  • 1-2 tablespoons liquid fat (melted butter, shortening, lard; I used olive oil)
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar (I always use honey but you can use white or brown sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon quick rise yeast. Save the rest of the packet. 

Using a whisk, blend all ingredients in a heavy bowl until smooth. Cover with cling film. Poke a hole in the center using your finger (so the yeast can breathe) and place in a warm area. I place on the top of my refrigerator.

In the morning, you should have a wonderful bubbling mass. If you put your ear to it, you'll actually hear it.

At this stage, some recipes call for adding more water which will give you more "holes" in your bread. I'm not interested in bread that won't hold jam, so I skip 
this stage.

  • To the poolish add one beaten egg yolk. This is entirely optional. The yolk will give a tender crumb. Sprinkle the rest of the packaged quick-rise yeast over it and gently stir.

  • Remove the mass to a floured surface and begin kneading in 2 more cups of bread flour and 1-2 teaspoons of salt until an elastic bread ball forms and no longer sticks to the surface.

Place in a greased bowl and allow to double. Gently deflate (do not punch) and give a second rise.

Grease your bread pan. Form into a loaf and allow to rise to the top. Slash with a razor blade or very sharp knife and bake in a 350 F oven for 30-40 minutes or until it registers 200F on a quick-read thermometer. 

My favorite breakfast, especially with homemade jams.

Notes: olive oil will produce a softer dough than shortening.  Bread slices best the following day and allows thinner slices. Never cut bread just out of the oven. Allow it to cool or the steam will escape producing a dry texture. Also, never cut off both ends or "heels"; it makes cutting the rest of the loaf difficult.

A note on yeast: I use Fleishman's Quick Rise. In the North, yeast is always found in the refrigerated dairy section. Where I'm at in the South it isn't so I always double-check the expiration date and I store unused yeast in the freezer. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Chicken Legs with Dry Spices and Lard

This is the perfect kind of recipe you want when you don't have much time in the kitchen, but you want something warm and satisfying. Most likely, you already have the spices in your kitchen.

Everyone should keep some lard. It keeps for quite a long time in the refrigerator and, in many ways, is better than butter or margarine.

This package of five chicken legs was less than three dollars. But I can't figure out why they are not packaged six. I like to think two legs per chicken and that no one's leg travelled afar . . .

  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay's
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, lightly crushed
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lard
  • Kosher salt

Mix the dry ingredients together. You should have about one tablespoon. Lightly rub into room-temperature chicken legs to cover. Lightly drizzle with olive oil. I'd say no more than 1-2 tablespoons. You are not making a marinade, you just want to wet the dried spices to activate them. If possible, allow to sit, covered, for an hour or so.

Add two tablespoons of lard to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. When shimmering, add the legs. Be careful, they will sputter as they cook and release their juices.

Chicken legs really have four sides. Cook for about 15-20 minutes over medium-high heat just until they are golden brown.

Place in a pre-heated 375 F oven and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, turning once or twice, until golden brown and crusty. Remove pan from oven. Remove legs from pan and place on paper towel then on a rack or plate to cool a bit. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and enjoy! 

You could easily make a pan gravy from the drippings. Or, if you're bad like me, use them to dip in chunks of crusty bread. I served with this cole slaw--the kind you buy in the grocery store already shredded and with it's own pack of dressing. Doesn't get much easier than that!