Thursday, February 20, 2020

Panini Press Bread and Vegan Panini

I’ve been a fan, and customer, of Easy Tiger since it opened in Austin in 2012. And, I couldn’t have been more delighted when a second location opened closer to where I live. I routinely buy the Easy Tiger breads sold at Whole Foods with the big, levain loaf being a personal favorite. Obviously, I was thrilled to learn of the new book by David Norman, head baker and co-founder of Easy Tiger, and to receive a review copy of Bread on the Table: Recipes for Making and Enjoying Europe's Most Beloved Breads. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting David, talking a bit about bread, and comparing notes on sourdough preferences. I enjoy making a sourdough baguette while he prefers the simplicity of a baguette’s flavor without sourdough. He puts a lot of thought into the flavor and texture of different types of bread and knows of what he speaks. Full disclosure: I volunteer on the board of the Slow Food Austin chapter, and Easy Tiger has generously donated to our events in the past. In fact, one of our events is even mentioned in the book. The book traces David Norman’s journey through bread appreciation with chapters for regions he’s learned from over the years. It all began with an introduction to Swedish breads when he was a foreign-exchange student. The dramatic difference between Scandinavian breads and American-style white bread was eye-opening. He later began an incredible career in baking that has taken him to bakeries all across the US before finding his way to Texas. Each chapter highlights a place in the world and its style of bread with sample recipes followed by dishes to make using those breads. The first chapter covers French-style breads made with and without starters made with yeast and two loaves naturally fermented with levain. The Croque Monsieur recipe will make you want to make a homemade pain de mie right away. There are also chapters for Scandinavian Bread, German Bread, Italian Bread, and Bread in Central Texas. I want to get a rye sourdough starter going so I can make the Danish Rugbrod for smorrebrod and Swedish Vortbrod made with wort or porter. Of course, I want to try making the pretzels even though I can, and do, drive a few blocks for them any time I get a craving. And, the Smoked Flour Fougasse recipe, complete with instructions for smoking the flour, has me very interested. The photo of the thin, delicious-looking panini in the Italian chapter, however, is what made me bake Panini Press Bread first. 

The recipe was inspired by bread David Norman saw being used for panini in Italy. The bread used was pale, flat, and round. The loaves are underbaked just a bit so they can become crisp when pressed and grilled. The panini as described are thin with a drizzle of olive oil on the inside of the sliced bread and just a couple of slices of filling. I couldn’t wait to try them. I’d also just recently visited our brand new, artisanal, plant-based cheese shop, Rebel Cheese. I was excited to use their all-plant smoked provolone, olive mozzarella, and plant pepperoni in the panini. The bread was started the night before by making the biga which sat for 12 to 16 hours. The next day, the dough was mixed with the firm biga being added in parts so it would become incorporated more easily. The process for making the dough is not a no-knead process, but it’s a minimal-knead one. The dough was stretched and folded a few times with 15-minute rest periods in between each turn. During the first turn of stretching and folding, I added some chopped rosemary just for fun. After the last stretching and folding, it was left to ferment for 30 minutes before shaping. After dividing and resting, the dough was shaped into 12-inch rounds and left to proof. Just before sliding each loaf into the hot oven, the tops were docked for steam to escape. For oven steaming, I stick to my old method of placing a cast iron skillet on the oven floor and adding some ice just before closing the oven door with the bread in it. Once the loaves were cool, I carefully sliced them horizontally and then quartered each loaf. I used some homemade carrot top pesto to brush on the inside of each piece before adding slices of cheese and pepperoni. 

I love learning new things about making dough for bread. The stretching and folding with periods of rest was a fun process for building the dough’s structure. And, the thin loaves were perfect for crisp, tender, grilled panini. The plant-based cheeses melted surprisingly well and delivered great flavor. I can’t wait to make panini again with grilled eggplant when it’s in season. Until then, I have more bread to bake. 

Panini Press Bread
Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from Bread on the Table: Recipes for Making and Enjoying Europe's Most Beloved Breads. 

Many types of bread, from sliced sandwich breads to rolls, can be put in a panini grill to make a toasted sandwich. Ciabatta, though popular for panini in the United States, is not my first choice for grilled sandwiches. With its crisp crust and floury surface, it is better for cold sandwiches. In Italy, I remember seeing stacks of ready-to-grill sandwiches on pale, flat round loaves of bread. This is my approximation of that bread. With a little bit of olive oil in the dough, it stays soft and flavorful, and underbaking them a little means they crisp up nicely in the grill press as the cheese melts inside and the other ingredients warm up. To use these for a sandwich, split the rounds in half horizontally, lightly drizzle with olive oil, and line with a single layer of prosciutto or pancetta followed by thin slices of a complementary cheese like fontina or provolone. Cover with the top half of the bread and grill in a panini press until the bread is well marked and crisp and the cheese is melted. 

all-purpose flour - 90 grams or 3/4 cup 
instant yeast - 1/2 gram or pinch 
water - 45 grams or 3 tablespoons 

Put the flour and yeast in a large bowl and blend together with your fingers to evenly distribute them. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the water. 
Using your hand, draw the flour into the water, stirring and blending with your fingers. As it begins to come together, squeeze the dough with both hands to better incorporate the water into the flour. You can use a more traditional kneading action with the heel of your hand, as well, to push down and bring the biga together. This is a stiff dough, so it will take some time and a little more effort to incorporate all the flour. Add up to 15 grams (1 tablespoon) more water if you are really having trouble. 
Because this dough will ferment a long time, you do not need to develop the gluten much; just squeeze and work the dough until it is fully combined with no lumps. 
Form the dough into a ball the best you can. Return the ball to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap, or place it in a container with a lid. 
Let the biga sit at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours. 

all-purpose flour - 210 grams or 1 2/3 cups
salt - 6 grams or 1 teaspoon 
instant yeast - 2 grams or1/2 teaspoon 
biga - all from above 
water - 135 grams or 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon 
olive oil - 12 grams or 1 tablespoon 
rice flour - for dusting 

Mixing and Kneading 
Put the flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl and blend together with your fingers to evenly distribute them. Divide the biga into three pieces and scatter them on top of the flour. 
Make a well in the center of the flour and add the water and olive oil, holding back a small amount of the water (7 grams or 11⁄2 teaspoons) until you see if the flour needs it all. Make sure you have a plastic bowl scraper at hand, then start to blend the water and biga into the flour with your hands. As the flour begins to absorb the water and the mixture starts to thicken, plunge both hands in and squeeze the dough between your thumbs and fingers. Work from the side of the bowl closest to you across to the other side, squeezing with both hands. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn and squeeze your way through the dough again.
You will feel the dough starting to come together as a more cohesive mass, and the water and starter will become more fully incorporated. Use your bowl scraper from time to time to scrape the sticky dough from the sides of the bowl into the center. Keep rotating the bowl and squeezing the dough until everything is fully incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes. It will remain a shaggy and sticky mass. 

The dough should be medium-stiff, having some give like a rubber bouncy ball. Add the reserved water if the dough is not soft enough. Add the water a little at a time, squeezing it into the dough as you have been. You may even have to add more water to get the right consistency if it still feels too stiff. It is better to have a dough that is a little wet than one that is too dry. 
Turn out the dough onto an unfloured work surface, using the bowl scraper to get it all out of the bowl, and scraping as much off your hands as you can. Resist the urge to add flour to the work surface or the dough at this stage. Starting with the edge closest to you, grab the dough with both hands, palms down, and pull it gently toward you. Stretch it up and flip it over the top of the dough mass by 2 or 3 inches and press it into the surface. Grab the new edge closest to you and stretch it gently up and flip it over the top. Repeat this stretching and folding of the dough four or five times, working your way to the far side of the mass. The stretches should be gentle enough not to tear the dough apart. As you continue this process, the dough will hold together better and be easier to stretch. 
Scrape up the dough with a dough scraper, rotate it a quarter turn, and repeat the stretching and flipping through the dough mass four or five times, 3 to 5 minutes. With each stretch and flip through the dough, you will feel it developing, becoming more cohesive and less sticky. When most of the dough holds together and pulls off the work surface as you stretch it, slide the dough scraper under it and gather it into a ball. The dough will not be fully developed yet and will still be a little sticky. 
Cup your hands around the bottom of the far side of the ball and pull it gently toward you, allowing the dough to grip the work surface, then move your hands to the left, rotating the dough counterclockwise. Return your hands behind the dough and pull and rotate again one or two times. This will tighten the surface and help shape the dough into a smooth ball. Return the ball to the bowl with the smooth side up and let it rest for 1 minutes. 
Dust your work surface lightly with all-purpose flour and turn out the dough so that the smooth side is down. Gently press out the dough to flatten it into a round about 2 inches thick. Grab the edge closest to you and stretch it up and over the top of the dough, about two-thirds of the way to the opposite side, and press into the surface. Grab the edge opposite you and stretch and fold it toward you over the first fold, about two-thirds of the way to the closest edge, and press into the surface. 
Rotate the dough a quarter turn and repeat two more folds, one away from you and one toward you. Turn the dough over so the seam side is down. Form a ball by cupping your hands around the bottom of the far side of the dough and pulling toward you, rotating the dough counterclockwise. Repeat one or two times to form a ball. You will notice that the dough is more developed and will stretch tighter than before. Be careful not to stretch too tight; if the surface starts to tear, stop tightening. Return the ball to the bowl, smooth side up, and let rest for 15 minutes. 
Repeat this stretching and folding three times at 15-minute intervals for a total of four folds over an hour. This will develop into a smooth, elastic dough with a good gluten network. 

After the final fold, return the ball to the bowl, smooth side up, cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap, and let sit in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled in volume and feels airy when gently touched, about 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 475ºF with the baking stone and steaming pan in place. 
Dust the work surface lightly with all-purpose flour and turn out the dough so the smooth side is down. Divide the dough into two equal pieces with a bench knife or bowl scraper. Gently press one piece of the dough to flatten it into a round about 2 inches thick. Grab the edge opposite you and stretch it up and over the top of the dough, about two-thirds of the way toward you. Gently press into the surface with the heel of your hand. Rotate the dough a quarter turn and grab the edge opposite you, stretching and folding it over the first fold, about two-thirds of the way toward you, pressing it gently. Repeat two or three times until you have a loose ball shape, then turn the ball over so the seam side is down. 
Cup your hands behind the ball with your pinkie fingers and the sides of your hands on the table, then gently pull your hands toward you. At the same time as you are gently pulling, move your hands to the left, causing the ball to rotate counterclockwise about a quarter turn. The dough should grip the table and the surface will tighten. Move your hands behind the ball again, pulling gently and rotating the ball. Set aside and cover with a tea towel, repeating with the second piece of dough. Let the dough rest for 15 to 20 minutes so the gluten relaxes a bit. 
When the pieces have rested, dust a cutting board lightly with all-purpose flour or line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust it lightly with flour. 
Dust the work surface again with all-purpose flour. Flatten one ball on the work surface with your hand and use a rolling pin to roll into a 12-inch circle, always starting in the center and rolling outward in all directions. Bring the pin back to the center with each stroke and use plenty of all-purpose flour so the dough does not stick to the pin or work surface. Transfer the circle carefully to the floured board or parchment. Repeat with the second piece of dough. 

Cover the circles with tea towels and let rise in a warm, draft-free place, about 30 minutes. 

Dust the peel with rice flour (see page 17) and transfer one of the loaves onto the peel with the seam side down. 
Dock the surface of the dough with a roller docker if you have one or a notched rolling pin, or use the blunt end of a wooden skewer or even a chopstick to poke holes in the top to let out steam. 
Using a funnel, steam the oven with about 60 grams (1⁄4 cup) of water. 
Open the oven and place the tip of the peel on the center of the baking stone. Quickly pull the peel out from under the loaf, letting it gently drop onto the baking stone, leaving room for the second loaf if the stone is large enough; center the loaf if it is not. Close the oven door immediately. If your stone can fit two loaves at once, quickly dock the second loaf and slide it onto the stone. 
Using the funnel, add 60 grams (1⁄4 cup) more water to the steaming pan (less water than larger loaves). Close the door tightly as soon as the water hits the steaming pan. Lower the oven to 425ºF. 
After about 10 minutes, check the bread. The top should still be pale, while the bottom will just be starting to color and the crust will be set. 
Cool the bread on a wire cooling rack until completely cool.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Salad of Roasted Carrots, Apple, and Lentils with Chile and Preserved Lemon

I’m always excited to flip through the pages of interesting flavor combinations in a new Diana Henry book. Her latest is From the Oven to the Table, and I received a review copy. She writes: “If you’re a throw-it-in-the-oven kind of cook, whether by necessity or desire, then this book is for you.” With these recipes, the oven does most of the work for you. The stovetop gets used a bit here and there to start a dish or to prep components to go with what’s roasting, but the real stars are the lovely things coming out of the oven. There are options that include whole meals roasted together on a sheet pan, a chapter just for chicken thighs, others just for vegetables, recipes for special occasions, and desserts. I have little flags sticking out of several pages in the vegetables, grains, and legumes chapters. And, I haven’t even marked pages for summer vegetables yet. Let me give you some examples of the mix of flavors I enjoyed seeing. There’s a whole roasted cauliflower with pistachio and preserved lemon relish and tahini, baked sweet potatoes with avocado and chimichurri, and roasted Indian-spiced vegetables with lime-cilantro butter to name a few. I want to roast some plant-based sausages with lentils and make the herb relish to spoon on top, and I definitely want to try to the baked rice with green olives, orange, feta, and dill. I got inspired by the roasted squash and tofu with soy, honey, chile, and ginger recipe and made it with sweet potatoes instead of squash. In the head note, there’s a suggestion to serve this with a hot Asian dressing, a lot like nuoc cham, found later in the book, and I happily followed that advice. And, I can’t wait to bring home some blood oranges and try the pomegranate molasses-roasted beets with oranges, walnuts, dill, and labneh, and I keep turning back to the page with roasted cabbage wedges with XO crumbs that's topped with seasoned sourdough rye breadcrumbs. I need more flags. Every time I turn the pages, I’m tempted by another recipe. Baked potatoes with smoked trout, dilled beets, creme fraiche, and salmon roe needs a flag. Before I get any more distracted, I want to tell you about the roasted carrot salad. 

This dish does involve cooking lentils on the stovetop unless you happen to have some already cooked and ready to use. With lentils at the ready, it all comes together very quickly. The carrots were trimmed but left whole and unpeeled. They were tossed with olive and salt and pepper before being arranged on a baking sheet and popped into a 400 degree F oven. They roasted for about 30 minutes until tender and well-browned. A dressing was made with apple cider vinegar in my case but white balsamic is suggested, olive oil, garlic, and grated fresh ginger. The cooked lentils were placed in a bowl with some finely sliced red chile and finely chopped preserved lemon, and that mixture was tossed with some of the dressing. An apple was cut into matchsticks and tossed with lemon juice. The roasted carrots were added to the apple matchsticks along with more preserved lemon and chile, some mint and cilantro leaves, and the remaining dressing. The carrot mixture was placed on top of the lentils to serve. 

In the book, it’s noted that the real surprise here is how good the apples are with the other flavors. I have to agree, but I couldn’t pick a favorite part of the salad. It was all delicious, and all the parts worked together so well. The book is full of great ideas, and I’ll be pulling it off the shelf often for meal inspiration.

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