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Archive for the ‘baking’ Category

During the summer I look forward to the weekend for a lot of reasons.  This weekend, in addition to my weekly visit to the local Farmers’ Market, I found time to do a little baking.

I’ve posted about baking biscotti here before, but today I am working on a new recipe, inspired by the incredible Amish Milk Polenta that Anthony and Carol Boutard produce at Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, OR.

This polenta is amazing cooked up and served under a topping of garlicky greens and caramelized onions, but it’s also incredible as the background crunch in toasty hazelnut biscotti.

These biscotti are a true celebration of local Oregon foods — I also used fresh eggs from Sweet Briar Farms,

and Ken & June’s Oregon Grown hazelnuts.

Here’s the recipe — modified from one I found in Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking: From my home to yours.

Hazelnut Polenta Biscotti

makes 35-40 cookies

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½  teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup white polenta

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1 cup turbinado sugar

2 large eggs

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

¾ cups finely chopped roasted hazelnuts

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.  Add the polenta and whisk again.  Set aside.

Place the butter and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Start the mixer very slowly and increase gradually to medium speed as the butter and sugar mix together.  Mix for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth.

Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the eggs.  Continue to beat at medium-high speed for another 2-3 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure everything is well-mixed.

Beat in the vanilla extract.

Reduce the mixer speed to slow and add the flour mixture, mixing only until just combined.

Turn off the mixer and use a sturdy spatula to fold in the hazelnuts, mixing just to blend.

Scrape the dough into two rough logs on the prepared baking sheet.  Smooth them with your fingers (I usually have to wash my hands a couple of times as I do this, the dough is very sticky).  The logs will be pretty flat on top, and uneven.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the cookie logs are golden but still springy to the touch.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place it on a cooling rack.  Cool the logs on the baking sheet for 30 minutes.

Carefully transfer the logs to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut them into ½ inch slices.  Return the slices to the baking rack, standing up, side by side.

Bake the biscotti for another 15 minutes (at 350 degrees), or until they are golden and firm.  Transfer them to the rack to cool.

These cookies keep well, even uncovered, for about a week.  I usually put them in an airtight container.

I have trouble keeping these around — it’s hard to eat just one — I think you could easily double the recipe if you want to make a bigger batch.

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It’s not on the James Beard Foundation website yet, but it’s official, Kim Boyce has won the JBF award for Best Baking and Dessert Cookbook with her wonderful 2010 book Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-grain Flours.

To celebrate that fact — and to express my delight that she has relocated to Portland — I decided to take some time this afternoon to bake something from the book.

One of the great things about Good to the Grain is that, in addition to the recipes, which range from sweet to savory and include things like pancakes, puddings and granola as well as breads, muffins and scones, Kim includes a lot of helpful information about each of the flours she uses.  So, if you are worried about baking with something like teff, you can count on Kim to allay your fears with the background information she provides.  When I first got the book, I was so inspired I immediately went out and bought a few whole-grain flours (in addition to the whole wheat all-purpose and bread flours I keep on hand anyway) so I knew I had graham, buckwheat and oat flours in my pantry.

Today I spent quite a bit of time flipping pages and reading about ingredients and techniques before settling on Oatmeal Sandwich Bread.  It’s probably not the most unusual recipe in the book (and not even one that requires any unusual flours, using only whole wheat flour, bread flour and rolled oats) but definitely the one that spoke to me this afternoon.

The recipe is straightforward and the instructions easy to follow.  I love the fact that Kim uses the autolyse method where you mix together all of the ingredients except the salt and let them rest together for 30 minutes before adding the salt and kneading the dough.  This allows the dough to begin to form gluten on it’s own (without kneading) and to more fully absorb the liquid.  All in all it creates moister dough, better texture and flavor in the finished bread, and also increases the life of the loaf.

The loaf that emerged from the oven smelled wonderful and tastes great.  The molasses and oatmeal both come through, as does the sweet, nutty flavor of the whole wheat flour.

So, congratulations Kim, on your well-deserved award!  And thanks for adding another recipe to my collection of favorite breads; I’ll be making this one again.

And congratulations also to my friend Betsy Amster, Kim’s literary agent and new Portland resident as well.

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Inspiration

My sister-in-law Karen is frequently the person who inspires me in the kitchen.  (She’s also the person who inspired me to start this blog.)  Her kitchen is a spacious, family-friendly spot and the food that she creates is always tasty, and even really good for you.  I’ve spent many happy hours there, watching her cook and also cooking side by side with her.

Unfortunately, that kitchen is more than a thousand miles away from my own.  When we are not together, I often take inspiration from her blog, FamilyStyle Food.  And that’s where the inspiration for this post came from.

Last spring when Karen and the rest of my family were visiting Portland (during the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual meeting) she brought home a recipe from Portland chef Greg Higgins for walnut taralli.  She said they reminded her of something she had eaten growing up in Providence.  I was tempted.

Then we all got the flu and the thought of those biscuits flew far from my mind.  Until a few weeks ago, when Karen posted about them on her blog.  The thought of making them was back with a vengance, and this afternoon, while S was out doing errands and I was listening to the local NPR fund drive (yes, really), I decided to give them a try.

One of the great things about these biscuits is that they are really easy to make.  You mix the dough, let it rise, roll out and shape the taralli,

and bake.

Voila, crunchy little nuggets that taste great with cheese, or a drizzle of olive oil and some salt,

or just plain.

Chef Higgins’ recipe can be found here.  I made Karen’s version, with fennel seeds and 1/2 whole wheat flour; here’s her recipe,

Toasted Walnut Taralli

  • 4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups stoneground whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup finely ground toasted walnuts* (grind in food processor)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing on taralli

Using the dough hook on your standing mixer, stir together the yeast, flours, walnuts, salt and fennel seeds.

Add 1 cup of the water and mix at medium-high speed until the dough starts to come together. Slowly add more water as necessary (turning down the mixer speed as you do so) until you have a smooth, moist dough. It shouldn’t be too wet or sticky, so keep your eyes peeled. Depending on the humidity and your flour, you might need a bit less water. (in Portland, today I needed only about 1 ½ cups of water)

Put the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover and let stand until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 3 or 4 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Punch the dough to deflate and turn it out onto a sparingly floured surface. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.

Working with one piece at a time, cut each into balls about the size of a walnut. Roll and stretch each ball using your palms into ropes about 6 ” long. Bring the ends of the rope together to make a ring, tucking one end inside the other and pinching together.

Arrange the rings on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between.

Brush the rings with oil and bake until golden and firm, about 30 minutes.

Remove to a rack and cool. The taralli will crisp up more as they cool.

*toast the walnuts for 5-7 minutes at 350 degrees.

Store at room temperature in covered container.

Makes about 5 dozen taralli.

I highly recommend that you give them a try.


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