Thursday, February 28, 2008

Daring Baker's February Challenge - Pain Francais

The Daring Baker's challenge for February was hosted by Breadchick Mary over at The Sour Dough and Sara over at I like to Cook. Drum roll please! It was Julia Child's Pain Francais. (click here to see more photos of this challenge)

When I first read the recipe given to us by Breadchick and Sara, I was scared, very scared, 15 pages of instructions! WOW, this was going to be the mother of all challenges for me thus far. I was sure I was going to use this as one of my two I could bail on. Then I stared reading other comments from fellow DBs and I became inspired, should we say very inspired or just DAMN INSPIRED! I could not wait!

There was only one weekend in the entire month that I could do this and we were kind of busy - friend in from Hawaii, errands, dinner with friends - but, I knew I could make it work. So, Saturday rolled around and I did errands, worked, picked up the house, blah blah blah and dinner time hit! "Damn, I forgot the bread and now I had plans on Sunday with the friend!!!" But, I was confident that I could make it work ......

I got up early Sunday, started the lengthly process. So, far very good! The first rising was perfect and right on my tight schedule! Got it all ready for the next round of keeping warm and headed out for lunch and shopping with friend. It was hard to cut it short and fast because of a loaf of bread, so it ran a little late. Got home, still perfect! All was working out so well. I was very confident and very happy. Proceeded with the remaining steps and then molded the dough with my new pastry canvas and tucked it all in next to a warm heater and headed out to dinner! We had a fantastic dinner with friends but once dessert ended I started watching the clock and thinking about my perfect little breads at home. Again, I did not want to bolt over a pan of bread, so I held out as long as I could and finally told L. we had to leave. Then they started talking about after dinner drinks - NO!!! Thank god the host decided to kick us out since it was a school night!

Got home and all still looked perfect! I could not believe I had done it and still had a day of fun without sitting at home waiting for all the rising to take place. Now was time to unmold the beauties and get them ready to bake! Only 30 minutes until I could call it a wrap and head to bed!

Well, let's just say - never be over confident when baking bread, especially this bread! They collapsed! They were flat baguettes! The color as beautiful! The texture was fantastic! The flavor was well, very french! But, something happened when I unmolded them - lost all their air, they were flat!

Moral to the story ..... Never be over confident until they come out of the oven! Was it a challenge - of course! Was it fun - definitely! Will, I make them again - on our next rainy weekend!!


We had some left over dough from a Jamie Oliver night - tossed it into the freezer, thawed today and then let it rise for a couple hours tonight, while we were at spin class. It came out wonderful! Topped it with some caramelized shallots and garlic which I added some crushed fennel seeds and chili peppers to while it cooked. I topped the crust with a very small amount of mozzarella and then tossed the shallot mixture and some arugula over the top. The finishing touch was some pancetta, crushed pepper, sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil!

Was fantastic!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Simple Salad

We are back on our spin schedule, which means we need to come up with a couple easy meals for Tuesday and Thursdays. Not only did we get home late but there is nothing really left in the fridge since we were playing in Yosemite last weekend instead of doing house stuff.

I was able to toss a a couple cutlets(who knew Lil's cutlets would go so far) into the freezer, from the other night; before, L. devoured them. At least we had some protein to work with. As well we had a half of a head of butter lettuce in the fridge and some frozen pizza dough left over from the HHDH #17 challenge. What did I come up with, you are asking yourself?

I rolled the dough out very thing, topped it with some fennel seeds, olive oil, sea salt and crushed pepper and baked it into a thick and crispy cracker. While the pizza was crisping away, I tossed in the chicken cutlets to warm them up. In the mean time, I tossed a salad together of lettuce, red onions, chick peas and made a light dressing of olive oil, red vinegar, and lemon juice. Once everything was cooked and warmed, I chopped up the chicken and tossed it into the salad. Simple and easy and ready in 30 minutes.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Gift from Austria

We received a very nice gift from a business colleague in Austria - two bottles of Klug-Voltl Gelber Muskateller Wine and a bottle of Kernöl Oil, otherwise known as pumpkin seed oil.

In keeping with the RSBC superfood challenge, we used the Kernol oil as our pumpkin - after all, it is made from pumpkin. Does this count? To start off our meal I tossed together a salad of red butter leaf lettuce, thinly sliced red onion, toasted hazelnuts and then I drizzled the Kernol oil over the top. The oil is rather rich in flavor and texture, instead of the usual balsamic vinegar, I squeezed some Meyer lemon over the top as the acid part of the dressing. Tossed it with some sea salt and crushed pepper. The oil is not only rich in flavor and texture but also very nutty, it definitely complimented everything in the salad. It was very good!

Not sure what to serve with the wine, so we opted to make some of Lil's chicken cutlets. This time I threw fresh rosemary, thyme, garlic and a chili pepper in the food processor with the bread crumbs and made a very fragrant breading. The flour mixture I added some smoky paprika, salt and pepper to it. The different layers of the wine (pear, melon, a little green apple as well as a bit of mineral) really complimented the cutlets. We really enjoyed this meal full of new and exciting flavors!

We thought the crispness of the wine would also be perfect for a summer picnic - guess what we will be doing with the next bottle! Thank you Rainer!

In keeping up with the RSBC Challenge, I ran 3xs and we both biked 15 miles.