29 May 2010

Sweet dough (Brioche) (Brioix)

When I was a child, my grandfather used to pick me up at school and he used to bring me a brioche as an afternoon snack. He was a baker. I remember the shape of the brioche he used to to for his grandchildren. It was a snail. I have not been able to find it anywhere, so I decided to do it myself. 
I did not find the recipe, so I decide to check it and I find some information in "La cuina per llaminers" with a useful video of the chef Richard Bertinet (have a look at the video).
Instead of a cake, I decided to do different shapes (between 6-8), like my grandfather used to do for me.

The word brioche first appeared in writing in 1404, and this bread is believed to have sprung from a traditional Norman recipe. It is argued that brioche is probably of a Roman origin, but everybody agrees that French made this very popular. As you know Barcelona is close to the border with France (just less than 2 hours driving), so we have some fluent feedback from their excellent cuisine.
There is a famous sentence mis-attributed to Queen Marie-Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI, with regard to peasants who had no bread. When she was told about it, she pronounced "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche", commonly inaccurately translated as "Let them eat cake"...so it would be better translated as "So, eat brioche".

For this recipe I used fast action dried yeast (Tesco) instead of fresh yeast (bakery) that I have been used lately. This comes with a sachet of 7 gr. you can use fresh yeast anyway but you will have to use the double, so 14 gr instead  (have a look at the yeast post for more info). My English teacher got me these two yeasts from London. Thank you John!!

What we need (6-8 people)

255 g whole milk (or 220 g whole milk if you rehydrate the granulated yeast)
14 g fresh yeast (or 7 gr of granulated dry yeast)
500 g flour
57 g butter
50 g sugar
5 g  salt
2 eggs
1 egg for decoration
chocolate for decoration and to fill it inside the brioche.

Let´s start!
I used granulated dry yeast and I add some water (just 4 tablespoons). You have to take into account that if you add water here you have to reduce the amount of milk, so we want the same liquid at the end. 

First of all, heat the milk until it is around 37ºC (98,6 F). Don´t let it boil, we just want it warm.
In a large bowl, mix the flour and the yeast. With your fingertips rub the flour with yeast until it forms lumps.
Add the butter, sugar, salt, eggs and the warm milk.
With the help of a scraper, mix all ingredients until it forms an homogeneous mass (and very sticky).
Then start to work the dough on a surface without flour if possible.
Then we proceed to knead. Have a look at the video, but the idea is to catch the air while you are kneading.. Repeat with your hands the process for about 10-15 minutes until the dough does not stick to the table. (It can take more time, it is not easy)
When you have the sweet dough kneaded, keep it at room temperature inside a bowl with some flour and cover it with a damp dishtowel or tea towel.
When it reaches its double volume (about 1 hour and a half later), then you divide it into 6-8 equal portions. If you want to add a little chocolate in the middle, just flatten each portion of dough and place some pieces of chocolate and then close it and form the shape you feel like. In my case some snails, one heart and other shapes like a plait or a braid.
Let them stand in two trays (they will grow so let some space in-between) on a non sticky paper for the oven until they double in volume (at least half an hour more at room temperature)
Then paint them with a beaten egg.
Cook in the oven preheated at 180 ºC (350 º F) for approximately 25-30 minutes until it is blond.
You can put some melted chocolate at the surface for decoration too.
It is really worth it, it is delicious...and so soft!

Bon Profit, Enjoy!

24 May 2010

Spanish Omelet (Truita de patates)

That is also called Tortilla de patatas in Spanish or Tortilla española. Tortilla in Spain is different than tortilla in Mexico. So don´t get confused.
In Catalan we called it truita, but it is the same as in Spanish. The origins of this dish is not very well-known, but what is clear is that potatoes are originally from South America.
It can be made with potatoes or potatoes with onion. I like the latter the most.
There are a big tradition of omelets and you can find a lot of different ingredients in it. The most commons in Catalonia are, truita a la francesa (just egg), truita de patates (the one I will explain it now), truita de samfaina (with red pepper and aubergine or eggplant), truita de carbassó (zucchini or courgette, normally with onions) , truita d´espinacs (spinachs), truita de mongetes (beans), ...etc.. My favourites ones: truita de patates, truita de samfaina i truita de carbassó. Yummy!
I know this is a very basic cuisine...but it is very useful and it tastes so good!

Let´s talk about the Spanish Omelet:
*As there are different interesting options, I have write them down in italics and in orange. These are quite common options that can be very useful too.

What you need for 2 people:
4 eggs
3 potatoes
1 onion
olive oil

Amount of eggs or potatoes can vary a little bit. If you are cooking for more than 2 people, normally it is only 1 onion anyway.

Options: with garlic (fried), with parsley, with milk, with green pepper (fried), ..etc

There is people who also use garlic or green peppers in this recipe, and they fried them too,  and others use also some baking powder (one spoon) to get it spongier or some milk (half a glass) and they mix it with the eggs.

Let´s start. First peel the potatoes and cut it in slices. Do the same for the onion. 
Put the potatoes in some water for a while. Remove the water.
As potatoes and onion have different times of cooking, I do it separately (in different  frying pans). Normally I cooked the potatoes in a deep fryer and I fry the onion with oil in the frying pan I will use afterwards for making the omelet.
(If you prefer a very soft omelet, don´t let the potatoes get toasted and use a lot of oil. It is up to you. There is also people that smash the potatoes too.) (Some people add some salt when frying the potatoes, I do it with the eggs, but it is a good idea too)

While frying, break the eggs and whisk them gently. Add the salt.(Some people add here some milk too) (Other people first whisk the whites and then add the yolks)
Once the potatoes are done and you have drained the oil put them together with the onion (be sure don´t forget to dump the extra oil out!).
Mix the onions, the potatoes (drained and smashed if you want) and the eggs whisked in a bowl and then dump in altogether in the frying pan with some oil ( a little!).

Then you have to be careful because the omelet easily can get stuck on the frying pan. To avoid it, shake the frying pan once in while. Also it is important to lean the saucepan back and forward while you separate it from the border. Egg will reach homogeneously all the omelet if you do it this way. The picture can show you a little bit what am I talking about.

Once you think it is done (take less than 5 minutes), flip it, and shove it back in the frying pan in order to cook the other side.
And that is all. The most difficult part is flipping it, so for that be sure the frying pan is not very heavy and you have the right dish or lid and it is not slippery. I would recommend to check it beforehad. That is a clue step!

Just all very basic. I have also attached a video I found in internet that it is a good approach to see what kind of problems you can find when flipping the omelet. I told you it is the most difficult part, but with the right skills and right stuff it is a lot more easier than it looks like here! The video is worth it though.

With a mold you can get the shape you want. The sauce you see is with tomato, milk and just a little bit of flour.
Enjoy and Bon Profit!

Catalan Everyday food (El menjar de cada dia)

Catalan everyday food is mainly about fresh vegetables, a lot of fruit, some fish (sardines, cod, monkish, crayfish, shrimps..) (most of it is exported as there is not a lot of fish in the Mediterranean sea today) or meat (lamb, veal, pork, chicken, duck ..we also eat rabbit here..), and we only use olive oil for cooking.

And of course we like olives too (black and green, but we have a lot of varieties). We have also some other special dishes here like snails (Cargols)..we share that passion with the French (they called it escargots). I am not a fan of them..but I know they taste very good. I don´t think you will see a recipe here though...

We eat a lot of salads (everyday) mainly with olive oil and vinegar as a dressing , and quite a lot of bread...what we called "Pa amb tomàquet"...that is bread with tomato. We also use quite a lot garlic comparing to other cultures. We also eat pasta, mainly macaroni, cannelloni, spaghetti, and rice (the famous Paella).  I will talk about all of these things in the next posts.

22 May 2010

Artichoke's cream with chicken (Crema de carxofa amb pollastre)

Sometimes you should try one recipe twice or even more to find the exact taste you want. This is the case of this recipe. So after some tries, I think this is the definitive.
I was inspired by three other recipes (Jesús Querol, Mireia Carbó/Olleta de verdures, Sergi de Meià, the last one is a video). I have made a mix of them.
It is easy, I would say but for me the worst part is trimming the artichokes. So don´t plan to do it for 10 people because you will hate them (this is 30 artichokes!). Just for 2 or 4 people is fine. Believe me.
The rest of the preparation is just fry, boil and mix.

You will need for 2 people:

6 artichokes
1 lemon
1 potato (or 2 if they are very small)
500 ml water
500 ml chicken stock
2 tablespoons of butter
olive oil
2 onions
1 teaspoon of sugar
a bunch of peas (for given it a nicer green color, so if you don't have them, it is ok too)

For the decoration (you can decorate the way you want)
chicken (1 or 2 breasts)
some young garlic or spring garlic (optional)
1 teaspoon of paprika
1/4 glass of white wine
some pine nuts

How to clean and trim the artichokes? Have a look at it.
Important, because of the oxidation, you have to prepare a bowl with water and a lemon (squeeze it into the bowl and use half of it to rub it to the artichoke´s hearts.). Don´t put too much lemons (one is ok) because we don´t want to feel the lemon in the artichoke´s cream.
I keep the artichoke heart and half of the stem. Don´t worry too much about the hairy choke because we will use a food mill at the end and we will eliminate it.
Other people use ascorbic acid instead (Sergi de Meià) of the lemon ...it seems it is tasteless.

Let´s start....Put a casserole with the water and chicken stock, let them boil. Introduce the artichokes (with no extra water and no lemon) in it. Add the potato (peeled) and some salt.
While it is boiling, in a saucepan fry the onions with oil. Once they are done (just with some color) introduce the onions into the casserole with its oil.

Then for the decoration: cut the young garlic and fry it with a little bit of oil, then add the white wine and the paprika.

Once the potato and artichoke are done (just prick it with a fork, if it is soft enough and slips out of it, then it is ok), get the casserole out of the heat and add some butter, some salt and some sugar. Mix and blend them till it looks like a puree.

(If you want you can add some milk or cream, but be careful, with the texture and color of the cream! It is less healthy this way too).
Use a food mill to filter and devide the cream in different bowls or dishes.

Then add the chicken (the one you use for the chicken stock or just regular chicken fried beforehand) and the decoration (young garlic, pine nuts,  oregano and some drops of the oil with paprika)

Enjoy, Bon Profit!

Catalan Cooked Vegetables (Escalivada)

This is not difficult but it takes a while in the oven (1 hour or so). If you have a barbecue, it is even better, and it is closest to how the people used to do it some time ago. It is healthy and really good.
You can have a look at this video or this other video online. It is not me!.
But I have added some tips that will help you. This is the way my grandma does it and the traditional recipe.

You will need for 2-4 people:
3 red peppers
3 aubergine (eggplant)
2 onions (this is optional)
anchovies (this is optional)

First of all preheat the oven (bottom and top) (not grill) at 200ºC (400ºF). Be careful with the oven...you know!

Paint the aubergine and the peppers with oil (it will be easier to peel them afterwards) and put them in the oven in a tray. Add the onions (normally I peel them, because onions take a little bit longer, and like this it takes the same time as peppers and aubergine). Don´t cut them, you will do it after they are cooked.
After 40 minutes turn them upside down in order to cook them well (all sides).
I recommend removing the tray and doing it outside the oven with a tong.
Let this inside the oven for 30 more minutes.
Pepper should be kind of partially burnt.

Remove the tray from the oven and with a tong put the vegetables in the middle of some newspapers. Wrap them up and let this for 15 minutes. It will be easier to peel them (because of the vapor) and it will not be that hot!. Do it  with your fingers (I know, ...but it is the best way to do it!).
Cut the vegetables in slices.

Once you´ve peeled them, just add some salt and olive oil.
You can serve it with some anchovies or just with some bread, or as an starter.
Bon Profit, Enjoy!

21 May 2010

Catalan Baker's flatbread (Coca de forner)

Finally high temperatures are here again. I was missing it. Today I felt like starting this traditional Catalan flatbread, coca in Catalan. There are two types, crispy one or soft one. This is the crispy one.
It is similar to make bread, that is why it is called Baker´s flatbread.

I took the recipe from Xavier Barriga (have a look at the video) and I modify it a little bit. There are other recipes on the web. I don´t have a kneader but I did it manually. I takes longer but it is a lot of fun.

You will need for the dough:

500 gr flour
10 gr salt
280 ml water
25 ml oil
25 gr fresh yeast

For the surface you will need::
pine nuts
anisette (or other sweet liqueur)

You can do it in just one day if you make it this way:

If you use fresh yeast, mix it with some water and let it stand for 10 minutes (the same I did for the ciabatta).
Knead the bread with the flour, salt, flour, oil, and some water. Add the yeast with the water. Knead it slowly ( if you use a kneader it will take 12 minutes or so, if you do it manually it will take around 30 minutes). Add more water or flour at anytime if the dough needs it. It should look like this:

Put it in a bowl with some flour in the bottom with a damp dishtowel or teatowel and cover the dough.
You can let this at room temperature for about one hour and a half. (or in the fridge but it will take 24 hours. We did that with the ciabatta because we want to mix all the flavors of the filling)  You will see that it doubles the volume. Room temperature today was around 23 ºC (73 F), so if it is colder, you will need probably 2 hours.
Then cut it in two pieces and do this shape (video will be useful here):

Let it at room temperature for about the same time as before 1 1/2- 2 hours, till you see it is much bigger

Then you smooth it down and stretch it. Use your fingers. Then paint the surface with olive oil to soften it.
And add the pine nuts.

Then let this at room temperature for 45 minutes more. If you want it thin and crispy it is not necessary.

After this time add the sugar around all the surface. Add quite a lot (be generous) because the dough has no sugar at all.

Preheat the oven.
Then put it in the oven for about 35 minutes (top and bottom) at 175ºC (350 F).

Just after you get the tray out of the oven, just add the anisette. When it is a little bit less warmer add a little bit more to all the surface.

Enjoy! Bon Profit!

19 May 2010

Small Ciabatta with walnuts, raisins and olives (Xapatina de fruits secs amb panses, nous i olives)

I am happy. My first bread and it tastes delicious!!. Fluffy inside, toasted outside. This recipe is originally from Xavier Barriga, with small changes. Have a look at the video, it will help you.
You can use other stuff for filling the bread, or nothing. You can use other nuts, or bacon, whatever you want.
Ciabatta was originated in Italy, but it is now a tradition here too as you can find it in any bakery.

You need (for 12 small ciabattas):

For the dough:
500 gr flour
2 teaspoons of salt
25 gr of fresh yeast (have a look at the yeast explanation)
280 ml water (tepid)
4 tablespoons of olive oil

For the filling:
100 gr raisins
10 walnuts (cut each one in 2 or 4 pieces)
2 teaspoons of black olive pastry (made with oil, and black olives), or just use sliced olives (black or whites)

1 Egg
herbs (from Provence, for example)

1st day

If you use fresh yeast, mix it with some water and let it stand for 10 minutes.
Knead the bread with the flour, salt, flour, oil, and some water. Add the yeast with the water. Knead it slowly ( if you use a kneader it will take 12 minutes or so). Add more water or flour at anytime if the dough needs it. And then add the filling and continue kneading till you see that it is well mixed. A couple of more minutes.

Put it in a bowl with some flour in the bottom with a damp dishtowel or teatowel and cover the dough.
Put it in the fridge and let this stand for 24 hours.

2nd day

You will see that the volume of the dough is bigger now
Cut it in 12 small pieces of the same size. Let them stand for 30 more minutes at room temperature.
Before introducing it in the oven, paint the surface with an egg.

Preheat the oven and put a bowl with some water inside at the bottom of the oven, so there will be some vapour.

Put the tray with the pieces to the oven for 25 minutes (just the bottom of the oven) and 2 more minutes (bottom and top). 175ºC (350ºF)

Get the tray out of the oven and paint it with some oil mixed with herbs when it is still hot.

Enjoy! Bon Profit!

18 May 2010

Skimmed Stuffed Egg (Ou escumat farcit)

Well, this is very healthy and I have watched it in a cuisine program recently. The video is in catalan, but you can have a look (it is another recipe, but at the minute 3 you can see how you do the skimmed egg). I don´t know how to translate it, so skimmed can be a word.

You need:

an egg
some olive oil

For stuffing the egg:
something like cold meat, ham or similar and some pine nuts or other nuts and some raisins

Some salad, for example?  (in this case, tomatoes, olive pastry,  beetroot, oregano)

How to do it:

In a bowl put a small plastic bag or plastic, some oil at the bottom, the egg, the stuffing, some salt and pepper.

Seal it somehow and avoid the air inside. 

Put it in a saucepan with hot water and be careful not to boil it!!. Just about 6 minutes.

Once it is done, remove it from the water. And decorate!.

Enjoy, Bon Profit!

Yeast (Llevat)

My grandfather used to be a baker. But he died before I became interested in baking. I wish he was here to teach me!.I am completely new on that, but I want to be able to bake bread. So I have started today.
The first to learn about baking is the Yeast.
I did not expected that yeast was that tricky...

I learnt about yeast when I was studying my degree in Biology. Yeasts are unicellular microorganisms and what they do is converting fermentable sugars into carbon dioxide and ethanol. Saccharomyces cerevisae is the yeast used for baking and it is the same species commonly (but not the only one) used for doing alcoholic fermentation too (that is why the name cerevisae, beer in latin).

There are different types of yeast for baking:

-Baking powder or chemical yeast- is a dry chemical raising agent used mainly for sweet cakes (muffins, cakes..). Most commercially-available baking powders are made up of an alkaline component (typically baking soda), one or more acid salts, and an inert starch. You need the oven (temperature) for the increase of the volume. It lasts around a year or more. 20 gr/ 1kg flour (like Royal for example)

-Fresh Yeast or compressed yeast (also Paris Yeast): Normally it is the one you can get in the bakery. But now you can also find them in the supermarkets. It lasts some days. It needs time and room temperature to grow, so don´t´put it in the oven straight to the oven like the baking powder!. It needs flour (flour contain fermentable sugars) and water to react with and grow. I recommend add some water and leave it for 10 minutes before you start baking the bread. Mainly used for bread. 20 gr (for regular bread)-40 gr (sweet bread) /1 kg flour. (Like Fleischmann’s Yeast or Levital, for example).

-Active dry yeast is the form of yeast most commonly available to noncommercial bakers in the United States.Under most conditions, active dry yeast must first be proofed or rehydrated. It can be stored at room temperature for a year.

-Instant yeast: appears similar to active dry yeast, but has smaller granules with substantially higher percentages of live cells per comparable unit volumes.It is more perishable than active dry yeast, but also does not require rehydration, and can usually be added directly to all but the driest doughs. (LeSaffre's "SAF Instant Gold" for example). 1gr of instant yeast equals 3 gr of fresh yeast, so use less. 8 gr /1kg flour


-Home-made Yeast (Wild Yeast)
-Cream yeast: Its primary use is in industrial bakeries with special high-volume dispensing and mixing equipment, and it is not readily available to small bakeries or home cooks.

If you have any comments or suggestions please let me know!