The end of the year, December is always about making sure we remember to celebrate our families and friendships. Parties, dinners, brunches, and celebrations in general give us the opportunity to share food with our loved ones.
Not only is it a good time to gift them with some of those pickles and tomatoes you canned in the nicer weather, there are still things you are able to preserve in December.
Like cabbage. It’s a great time for Kim Chi, which is nicely spicy and helps cut through the cold and drab days. Right now we have two recipes: Philly’s Easy Kim Chi is a traditional style, and Joel’s Smoked Mackerel Kim Chi is a bit of serendipitous fusion. There will be an accompanying recipe for Bulgoki Beef soon, I promise.
We also have a recipe for No Knead Sourdough, and will have more for you soon. Not only the usual how to plan a party and make food for holiday events, but also how to pack for your plane trip home. Who cares what kind of food the airlines are serving? You can have the best!
Potato Latkes are a great seasonal dish if you are cooking for Hanukah, or invited to a potluck. When fried in oil, they are excellent at room temperature.
We’ll be adding more to this soon, but wanted to make sure that it was begun.
As to the flour used, this is mainly a white bread recipe, but I often use a combination of 2cups white, 1cup whole wheat, and 1/2 cup flax meal.
Also, ideally one would use “Hard Wheat” flour, but All Purpose will work. For specialty flours, one can often find these in bulk food stores, especially the “health food store” variety, and also in gourmet shops.
The original instructions call for a dutch oven, but I currently don’t have one, so used a ceramic casserole dish. I also used a pyrex casserole, but it broke, so I don’t recommend them for this. The temperature shift between the hot casserole and the room temperature bread is almost certainly the culprit.
Trapping a wild yeast culture is the first step in making true sourdough bread and easy as could be.
Two cups of reconstituted skim milk
Two cups of flour
Container with a loose-fitting lid. This could easily be a canning jar, so long as you are careful never to tighten the lid too much. The yeast needs air to breathe.
Begin by putting the two cups of milk into the container with the cheesecloth secured to the top with a band. Keep on the counter in a spot where it can be undisturbed.
After two days, the milk will have soured perceptibly. At this point, you should add the 2 cups of flour, by putting it into a bowl and then adding the milk to it, slowly in order to create a relatively smooth paste.
Within the next couple of days (in my case, the signs showed within hours), your yeast culture should begin to grow.
The medium that you have placed to catch the yeast, will begin to have that “yeasty” smell, and the surface will begin to bubble and froth.
Over the next couple of days, “feed” the culture each day with a half cup of flour mixed with a half cup of reconstituted skim milk.
By day 5, your yeast should be fully formed.
At this point, stir it down, put the permanent loose cover on the jar, and store in your sourdough culture in the fridge.
If after 5 days the yeast has not begun to form, or if your mixture starts to mould, toss it out and begin again.
This culture will be able to raise your dough within the first week if properly cultivated, but will not actually be truly sour until a few weeks have passed. The longer it lives and is fed, the more sour it will become.
Yeast is a living being and needs to be fed regularly. If you regularly make something that requires a sourdough culture then you have the perfect opportunity. If you don’t use it weekly, you can either use this as an opportunity to grow a larger culture, or you can toss out or gift part of it to a friend.
Remove one cup of the starter for your recipe.
Replace it with one cup of skim milk and one cup of flour.
Since it’s all about souring, you can feed it with any milk or cream that you happen to have go sour in the fridge.
Cover with cheesecloth and keep it on the counter for a few hours, When it looks spongey again, cover loosely with a proper lid and refrigerate.
To increase the starter either because you want to give some away, or prepare for a larger recipe, simply follow the 2nd and 3rd steps of ongoing care without first removing any of the starter.
Do not make more than double each time you add to the starter.
Enoteca Sociale is one of my favourite restaurants. I’ve been there a handful of times…the food is invariably excellent, and the service is outstanding in an understated way. The first time there, I had a wonderful Boston Lettuce, Blood Orange, and Hazelnut Praline salad that was so good I can still taste it. My companion had ordered a pork dish that was beyond delicious and while firm and satisfying, was nevertheless so tender that it was truly possible to cut it with a fork.
It had been the recommended dish of the evening. While we were placing our orders and asking the server about dishes on the menu, she had offered the pork as her favourite on the then current menu, almost whispering to us that it was marinated in brine overnight, dropping her eyes just a bit and smiling like a lover, clearly remembering the taste like the memory of a kiss. It was merited.
Sadly, I had been accustomed to my companion’s usual restaurant suggestions being uninspired at best, so had not expected anything good, had eaten a bit before going, and had to restrict myself to the salad…which thankfully was a superstar and helped make up for some of my disappointment. It even led to my second visit to the restaurant, to revisit that dish and try others.
On that second visit, I again had the salad, and a wonderful rack of lamb that was the special for the evening. The server was again, personable, but not omnipresent, tastefully offering suggestions and always tactful if it was necessary to interrupt to advance the meal. The salad was again wonderful, and I recall asking about the excellent bread, which I was told they make in house. I was on a bread fast at the time, which was happily broken that evening, as there was not a chance that I would pass up this sublime treat. We may have asked for more bread. *hangs head*
That salad reminded me of the opportunity to use juices as the acid component in a salad dressing, to use fruit juices more in general, and also (along with my discovery of Sweet Georgia Browns, more about that next month) inspired a spate of salted praline making. Among other dishes, it inspired my take on the salad.
Naturally, I’ve wanted to write about Enoteca Sociale for quite a while, but kept putting it off…then while looking at a blank screen, contemplating the month’s theme, got an email from their
publicist, asking if I wanted to publish their Rosemary Foccaccia recipe for Bread Day on November 17. In the end, the timing didn’t work out, but it led to the chosen theme of Bread and Soup for November, and for that inspiration, I am again thankful.
They make 8 loaves of bread a day, except on Saturday, when they make 16, and sell half to the first 8 lucky people to arrive…and there is always a lineup at noon, when the sale begins.
I arranged to interview Holger, the Bread Baker and Pasta Maker at Enoteca Sociale, during his morning baking time. It was intended to be a video interview,
unfortunately, the combination of borrowed equipment and the discovery that my extra data cards were with my lost camera and not the recording device scotched that, but happily, the photos came out well.
Informally trained, Holger has been cooking since childhood, and has been at Enoteca Sociale since the beginning. A lifelong baker, he proposed the bread program as one of the ways of
distinguishing the restaurant, and of supporting its slow food mandate. For Holger, making both bread and pasta are the epitome of food artistry, requiring a keen understanding of (in the case of bread) a living chemistry that must be carefully nurtured. This is especially true of their sourdough, which is a wild yeast that he trapped himself, and which assures the unique character and flavour of their bread.
He also uses the slow rising, no kneading method popularized by The New York Times food column recipe, but certainly used elsewhere, and which he points out was made truly possible by the invention of the electric refrigerator. Holger loves that it gives variable results, not completely predictable, and again, requires delicacy and finesse to truly master. I watch, and try not to interrupt his flow as he works with the bread and the gnocchi and speaks about his history with food.
These two processes are interleaved, and he moves from peeling baked potatoes, mashing them, adding flour and salt, to stirring the huge batches of dough with his hands. As with his bread, Holger likes a basic approach to gnocchi, eschewing other ingredients to lighten them, such as egg. “Flour, salt and potatoes are the only ingredients you should need. This is another area where expertise really shows.”
He moves quickly and gracefully, with
few wasted movements, measuring and mixing the ingredients with his hands, pulling out a piece of dough, rolling it with his hands into a long rope, then cutting this rope into equally sized pieces, quickly, quickly, then just as fast, taking a cooking sheet and rolling them onto this using the same dough cutter, all in one movement, making an evening’s worth of gnocchi while waiting for the bread to rise.
Then, he gives the bread one last turn with his hands, before moving it into the large pans that the focaccia is cooked in for the final resting before being baked.
As I re-read this, it sounds like this all happened at one time, in one go, butHolger has been in constant motion, moving one batch of dough upstairs, putting another into the oven, before going back to the prep kitchen in the basement to prepare the next batch, and to make his gnocchi. Normally a meditative time for him, before the rest of the prep staff arrive, he’s been doing all of this while also patiently answering my questions and offering explanations.
A gracious host, he makes me a cappuccino to enjoy while waiting for the next loaves to come out of the oven so that I can photograph them, and goes back downstairs to complete the next batch of something. I photograph the loaves when the time arrives, and make plans to be first in line one Saturday to buy a sourdough from them. I will absolutely savour the bread with greater gusto the next time I am there.
There is nothing better than a fresh slice of bread with butter melting into it.
I made my first pies at the age of 8 and my first bread at the age of 10. Supervised by adults at first, but fiercely independent, I would make them sit back and watch, and only allowed assistance for the purpose of instruction.
Quickly, I was making it regularly, entirely on my own, inspired by how much I loved Grandma Nelson’s home made bread. She never needed a recipe, just poured mountains of flour into a bowl, waved her hands over it and voila! Bread.
It may have involved more than that, but she wasn’t big on giving instructions, so I never did learn her secrets, even though I watched her every chance I had on visits. She made at least 8 loaves and a tray of bannock every week. I can still smell her kitchen when I think of fresh bread.
At one point, I bought a bread maker at a garage sale, and tried it out…it worked fine, but lacked the tactile sensations that are part of my love for bread making.
Normally, I prefer whole wheat bread, but this is the first recipe I ever used, and it is bullet-proof. It’s from the Purity Flour Cookbook, and the same recipe appears in most of the flour company cookbooks of that era that I have seen.
You’ll notice that this recipe calls for the addition of milk, as does the Sunflower Bread, in both cases, I regularly use milk to make ricotta, and then use the whey from the cheese making to make the bread. A litre of milk will usually produce about 600-700ml of whey.