November 20, 2013 · 10:45 am
For some now forgotten reason I decided that I wanted to make croque monsieur and croque madame sandwiches. I realized that I didn’t have the right bread. American white sandwich bread is such a lump of dough that it wouldn’t hold up to the other ingredients. Artisanal breads also didn’t sound right. The only thing that would really work is French sandwich bread – pain de mie (“soft-in-the middle bread”). It also goes by the name of a Pullman loaf in the USA. I grabbed onto that idea, because my pain de mie pan, complete with lid, had been gathering dust. There really is no bread that will substitute for pain de mie: if has a fine crumb, the crust is soft and brown, it cuts so easily that you can turn it into thin Melba toasts, it toasts beautifully, and it has a delicious flavor not remotely the same as American sandwich bread.
Besides all that, it is a kitchen gadgeteer’s dream because of the special bread pan with a lid. Of course, if you don’t have such an implement, you can fashion your own with a regular bread pan and some sort of lid – a tile or small metal pan that can serve as a lid. You will also need a weight. I used a piece of flagstone from our yard.
If you want to make the investment in the pan, you may have a hard time finding it at your local kitchen store. Fortunately the pans are readily available by mail order or on the internet. I bought mine from King Arthur Flour . They sell two sizes of the pain de mie pans complete with lids. The smaller size measures 9 x 4 x 4 inches and sells for $29.95. The larger pan measures 13 x 4 x 4 inches and sells for $34.95. This recipe is designed for the larger sized pan.
The crumb of this bread is amazingly soft. At the same time, the crust is brown and, well, crusty. All of this is due to the ingredients::
You should use a flour with lower protein content. Don’t use bread flour. All-purpose flour will work, but Southern lower-protein flours like White Lily, Martha White or Gladiola, are even better.
Potato flour, made from ground dried potatoes and also called potato starch, adds moisture.
Powdered milk also adds moisture along with a little sweetness, but it may prevent the dough from rising as fully.
Butter should be unsalted, and it should be softened to room temperature so that it can be readily incorporated into the dough.
Be sure to pre-heat the weight so that baking of the bread is even.
Classic pain de mie pan complete with lid
Improvised pain de mie pan with aluminum-foil-wrapped oven-proof ceramic tile for a lid
Softened unsalted butter
Potato flour for moistness
Incorporating flour into the wet ingredients
Dough kneaded and ready for the first rise
Dough deflated, patted out and ready for the bread pan
Dough in the well-greased pan, ready for the final rise
Lid opened just enough so that you can observe the bread rising
Ready for the oven
Bread in the oven complete with the weight
Remove the lid and finish the baking
The finished loaf cooling on a rack
Pain de Mie
- 2/3 cup milk (110° F, 43°C)
- 1 cup water (110° F, 43°C)
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened at room temperature
- 2¼ teaspoons salt
- 1½ tablespoons sugar
- ¼ cup dry milk
- 2 tablespoons potato flour
- 1 package instant dry yeast
- 4¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- In a large bowl, combine the milk, water, butter, salt, and sugar. Then add the dry milk, potato flour, and yeast, stirring with a whisk until well mixed. Add 4 cups of the flour, one cup at a time, stirring until the flour is completely incorporated and the batter pulls away from the side of the bowl.
- Turn the dough onto a clean work surface dusted with the remaining ¾ cup of flour. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Then place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1½ to 2 hours.
- After it has risen, turn the dough onto a lightly oiled surface, deflating it gently. Let rest for 10 minutes. With the palm of your hand, flatten the dough into a rectangle that is the length of the pan and about twice as wide. Fold in half lengthwise, and pinch the seam closed tightly. Place the dough, seam side down, in the well-greased pan. Also, make sure the under-surface of the lid is well-greased. The dough should come up to no more than 1/3 of the height of the pan. Place the lid on the pan, leaving it open several inches. Cover the opening with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for the second time until the dough comes to about ¼ inch below the lip of the pan, about 1½ hours.
- In the meantime, pre-heat the oven and the lid weight to 375°F
- Remove the plastic wrap, carefully close the lid, and let rest for another 10 minutes. Be very careful not to deflate the dough with the lid.
- Bake for 30 minutes in the middle of the oven at 375°F with the weight placed on the lid. After 30 minutes, remove the weight and lid, and bake for an additional 15 minutes. The loaf should register 190°F with an instant read thermometer. Remove from the oven, let rest for 10 minutes, and then turn onto a cooling rack. Cover with a clean cloth and let cool completely.
Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes
Tagged as butter, croque madame, croque monsieur, Gladiola, Martha White, pain de ie, potato flour, potato starch, Pullman loaf, sandwich bread, White Lily, yeast
November 13, 2013 · 11:23 am
In my last post, I mentioned that I had been charged with salad for a dinner party. The main course was going to be barbecued ribs. Potato salad seemed out as too heavy. Besides I wasn’t sure if someone else would bring that. It’s also no longer the season for pasta salad, so I thought about one of my old favorites, three-bean salad. Someone reminded me that it seemed sort of old-fashioned, but it still sounded good to me. Then I thought about quinoa. Light, refreshing, and a little bit unusual. I usually make it with gandules or pigeon peas, but they were nowhere to be found in the local markets, so I reconsidered the three-bean salad and decided to combine my two top options.
If you have never cooked with quinoa, you will find it to be an amazing ingredient. It is a seed that comes from plants originally grown in South America but now cultivated throughout the world. It is used like a grain, but it is not a grain so it does not have the gluten that so many people worry about these days. It is rich in protein and reportedly has all of the essential amino acids, so it certainly sounds healthy. You do need to be aware that it is also loaded with saponins. These are naturally occurring detergents that make the quinoa taste soapy if you don’t wash them off. Many pre-packaged quinoa products have had the saponin removed, but the detergent may still be present in bulk quinoa. In either case, it is probably a good idea to rinse the quinoa before you cook it. You can do this easily by placing the amount you plan to use in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it under a spray of cold water until all of the foam subsides – maybe a minute or so. Drain it well and get ready to cook it. Besides being tasty, cooked quinoa is also beautiful. The seeds burst open and reveal a delicate little curl. My wife, the botanist, is not sure but thinks the curl is probably the endosperm.
Except for cooking the quinoa and preparing pickled mushrooms (as I described in my last post) this is pretty much a chop and dump recipe, so it is very easy to prepare.
Black, white, and red beans
Beans mixed with quinoa
Green, red, orange, and yellow bell peppers
Diced bell peppers
Mixed diced bell peppers
Cherry tomato halves
Quinoa, Mushroom, Corn and Three-Bean Salad
- 1 cup washed quinoa
- 2 cups water
- salt and white pepper
- 1 batch pickled mushrooms (see recipe in previous post)
- ½ red onion, diced
- ¼ cup each, green, red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, diced
- ½ cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen, cooked and drained
- 14.5 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 14.5 ounce can red or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 14.5 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- vinaigrette (recipe below)
- In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil and stir in the quinoa. Return to the boil, cover, and reduce heat to the simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes. The seeds should have absorbed all of the water, burst open, and tender. If they are not cooked, remove the lid and boil gently until all of the water is absorbed. Season with salt and white pepper, drain, cool, and place in a large bowl.
- Stir in the mushrooms, red onion, diced bell peppers, canned beans, corn, and cherry tomatoes.
- Dress the salad to taste with 4 to 6 tablespoons of vinaigrette. Chill until ready to serve.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, garlic powder, and salt and pepper
- Very slowly, a few drops at a time, whisk in the olive oil to form an emulsion.
- If the sauce separates, whisk it together again before dressing the salad.
Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes
Tagged as bell peppers, black beans, cannellini bean, cherry tomatoes, corn, pickled mushrooms, quinoa, red beans, vinaigrette
November 8, 2013 · 8:31 pm
For a recent dinner we shared with friends, I was tasked with the salad. I decided to make a quinoa and three-bean salad. One of the ingredients was these pickled mushrooms. I was concerned that a single post with all of the food and preparation would be too much, so here is the mushroom recipe. The quinoa and three-bean salad will follow shortly.
This is a very old recipe that is based on one I got from the wife of an office colleague nearly forty years ago. It is – for sure – straight out of the 70s. On the other hand some things that are old never lose their luster if they are good to begin with. I think this recipe qualifies.
Originally, the mushrooms served as a bite to go along with cocktails. You can use them that way if you like, but you can also put them in salads or as a garnish for vegetables and side dishes.
One of the most important tricks of the dish is to buy the smallest mushrooms you can find. Even though they shrink when you boil them, you don’t want a giant mushroom hanging off the end of a cocktail pick. If you can’t find small mushrooms, halve or quarter the ones you do find.
- 2 quarts water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 pound button mushrooms, trimmed and cleaned
- 1 cup wine vinegar
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1½ teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon pickling spices
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons minced chives
- 2 teaspoons minced parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- In a large pot, bring the water to the boil, add the lemon juice and then add the mushrooms. Return to the boil and boil for 3 minutes. Drain, cool, and set aside.
- Meanwhile, prepare the pickling mixture by combining all of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.
- Stir the mushrooms into the pickling mixture. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight, stirring from time to time.
- Drain. Rinse off the pickling spices with a brief spray of water.
- Serve as an appetizer or use in another recipe.
November 6, 2013 · 9:15 am
Snow is on our local mountains, so winter is not far away. The farmers market has all but closed except for apples and a bounty of winter squashes – pumpkins, acorn, and butternut squashes. That means lots of soup, pies, and acorn squash roasted with maple syrup or brown sugar. My favorite squash is spaghetti squash, because it is so versatile, and the strands hold their crispness even with cooking. We usually eat it with just butter, salt, and pepper. Of course, you can substitute it for spaghetti with marinara. I decided to do a riff on a pasta dish that Jacques Pépin demonstrated years ago on his television show. That recipe has become a favorite, especially when we are in a hurry for lunch or a light dinner. This time I just substituted spaghetti squash.
Spaghetti Squash with Parmesan and Poached Eggs
- medium spaghetti squash
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup finely minced parsley
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- poached eggs
- Pierce the squash several times with a metal skewer, going all the way to the center. This is important. Otherwise you will have an explosion and mess in your oven
- Bake the squash in the middle of the oven pre-heated to 350°F (190°C) for 1 hour. Test for doneness by piercing with a sharp fork. The squash should be tender.
- Remove the squash from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes until you can handle it comfortably. With a large, sharp knife, cut the squash in half lengthwise.
- Scrape out the seeds. Then, with a fork, scrap out the flesh into a bowl. The squash will form spaghetti-like strands.
- Stir in the butter, olive oil, Parmesan, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Place individual servings in pasta bowls and top each with two poached eggs.
- You should be able to make four servings.