Orange Pan di Ramerino for Twelve Loaves April

Head above water. That pretty much describes where I’m at these days. I’m about a month out from completing my first year as a full-time faculty member at my college: my first real professorship! This means my desk is somewhere underneath a pile of research proposals from one class, reading responses from two more, and the weight of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene providing a ballast (read: another thing I have to work through) in one corner. My world is scattered with attendance sheets, evaluation materials, paperclips, and an amazing image of the shield from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight that a student drew for me in February and I still haven’t gotten around to hanging on my wall.
Food Blog April 2014-3697This means that every week when it comes time to sit down and write a post, I scramble. At least it’s getting lighter outside every night, which means the moment when I can photograph the intricacies of one of our dinners – perhaps even on a week night – is coming. But for now it usually means making and photographing something on a Saturday, editing the photos (I do a little fiddling with white balance and noise reduction) and cobbling together a few things to say about it on Sunday, and scheduling it to go live as usual Monday morning.
Food Blog April 2014-3689It’s only a very few things, I find, that I have to say this time around. The Twelve Loaves challenge for April was oranges. Bake a bread, any bread, whether it be yeast, quick, muffins, biscuits, savory or sweet, and incorporate orange in some way. This one stumped me for a while until I read a post from my new blog obsession, Joe Pastry. Do you guys know Joe? He runs a delightful site in which he pulls inspiration for post topics from questions his readers ask, and along with some really interesting recipes, he explains the science behind baking.
Food Blog April 2014-3680Food Blog April 2014-3683Recently, Joe posted a procedure and recipe for Pan di Ramerino, a Tuscan take on the hot cross bun that incorporates rosemary and raisins. It’s a not-quite-savory-not-quite-sweet bun as welcome in a breakfast basket as on the dinner table. Joe provides a bit more history about it, but I’ll let him tell you that if you’re interested.
Food Blog April 2014-3686Food Blog April 2014-3691Remembering how much I like the combination of orange with rosemary from one of the first loaves I baked during my dough project, I decided to add a hefty scattering of orange zest to the dough, and replace the apricot glaze Joe advocates for an orange one instead to tie things together. Though I let mine rise a little too long (the room was quite warm and I was distracted by lesson planning) and thus the final product was a bit less puffy than I’d hoped, we scarfed our way through the first bun, and then bun-and-a-half, and then two, in little time. They are a soft, moist offering, not as eggy as challah but reminiscent of it in the sticky elasticity of the dough, with an intriguing herbal note that keeps them from turning resolutely into dessert.
Food Blog April 2014-3695Food Blog April 2014-3693The recipe to follow is adapted very slightly from Joe’s. I ended up with eleven buns, but that was just carelessness and poor counting on my part (thankfully I’m not a math professor…); you will easily be able to make twelve. Easter is over now, I know (head above water, people), but these are a lovely expression of spring for your kitchen, and would make really nice offerings for a bridal or a baby shower. Or, you know, roast a chicken stuffed with a sprig of rosemary and half an orange, and serve these up on the side.

Food Blog April 2014-3697

Orange Pan di Ramerino
Adapted from Joe Pastry
Makes 12
3 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
¾ cups warm or tepid water (at or just above body temperature)
¼ cup olive oil
3 sprigs rosemary (about 3 inches each) plus an optional extra 1 tablespoon, finely chopped
⅔ cup golden raisins
3 ¼ fluffy cups bread flour (that’s 17.5 ounces, if you’re being disciplined about it)
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons orange zest from one large orange
2 eggs
1 additional egg, for egg wash
Additional dribble of water, for egg wash
Orange glaze, recipe follows

 

  • In a 2 cup glass measuring cup or a small bowl, combine the yeast, sugar, and ¾ cups warm water, and set aside to burble for 5-10 minutes.
  • While the yeast activates, heat the olive oil in a small pan over medium low heat. When it just shimmers, add the 3 sprigs of rosemary and sauté for 30 seconds. They will barely brown and the leaves will start to look a little weary. Remove and discard.
  • Add the raisins to the same olive oil and sauté them for 30 seconds. Remove and drain, reserving the oil. Let the raisins and the oil cool.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour and salt using the paddle attachment. Chop the remaining rosemary, if using, and zest the orange.
  • By this time your yeast mixture should be assertively bubbling and smell like fresh bread. Add the cooled oil and the two eggs to the yeast mixture and whisk lightly.
  • Add this collection of wet ingredients to the flour and salt and mix with the paddle attachment until most of the flour is moistened. Exchange the paddle attachment for the dough hook and knead at medium speed for 3-5 minutes. The dough will become lovely: supple and elastic.
  • Add the additional rosemary, if using, the orange zest, and the raisins to the dough, and knead again until these flavoring agents are incorporated. This will take a good minute or two, since the first inclination of the raisins will be to hang out stubbornly at the bottom of the bowl. You may have to stop the mixing and fold them into the dough by hand a few times to get them to behave.
  • Once things are nicely incorporated, the dough will be a bit on the sticky side, but that’s okay. Transfer it to a clean, oiled bowl, or just smear some olive oil around the sides of the bowl you’ve been using, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set it aside to rise until doubled. This could take as many as 90 minutes, or it could take more like 60. It depends on how warm your house is.
  • When the dough has doubled in volume, turn it out onto a floured board. You may find it is still a bit sticky, so you want to be sure you have enough flour down to prevent frustration.
  • Using a dough scraper, a pizza cutter, or a reasonably sharp knife, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. If you want to be precise about it, this should mean each chunk will be 2.75 ounces.
  • With the palm of your hand, gently roll each chunk into a soft round. Joe has an excellent method for this – take a peek at his instructions if you want a method to work with.
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and load them up, six buns on each. Lightly oil the tops of the buns, then cover with plastic wrap or a clean cloth and let them rise again for 45 minutes. At this point, you should also preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Once the buns have risen again and the oven is hot, brush the tops with egg wash, made by beating the remaining egg with a tiny dribble of water. Then, with a sharp serrated knife, cut a criss-cross pattern in the top of each. As Joe notes, this produces something less than aesthetically perfect, but it’s traditional.
  • Bake in the upper third of a 400F oven for twenty minutes. At this point the tops of the buns should be nicely bronzed. Take them out and let them cool for a bit before topping them with a light layer of orange glaze.

 

Orange glaze
Makes enough for at least 12 buns
Juice of one large orange
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon orange marmalade

 

  • Combine all ingredients in a small pot or saucepan and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, until slightly thickened. Cool slightly before brushing onto the warm pan di ramerino.

Project Sauce: Hollandaise

I’m reasonably certain that most people, when faced with the prospect of serving homemade hollandaise sauce, are immediately overcome with the desire to crawl underneath a table somewhere and stay there, quivering, until their guests agree to go out for brunch.
Food Blog April 2014-3593Hollandaise has a reputation for being fussy – a kind of yolk-based response to the temperamental touchiness a soufflé evokes for the whites crowd. Words like “break” and “emulsify” and “scramble” haunt your vision, and the pale lemon-yellow fluffiness cloaking a restaurant-made eggs benedict feels like an impossibility.
Food Blog April 2014-3584I started this project with flour-thickened sauces almost by accident. Wanting familiarity, I didn’t realize my first three sauces, the béchamel, the mornay, and the velouté, were fairly close cousins: fat, flour, liquid. No huge recipes for disaster there, aside from the possibility of clumping. But this second trimester, the egg exploration, is a little more complex. Fat comes from multiple sources now, and the egg yolks provide the protein and coagulation as well as some measure of fat. Balancing water, and acid, and dribbling in the butter just so, feels like a major project. But so long as you are in possession of arm muscles, just a little bit organized, and not in a huge rush, and, for all that is holy, not performing this for the first time in front of company, you are probably going to be okay.
Food Blog April 2014-3585I used an approximation of Ruhlman’s Ratio recipe for this. Almost more useful than the recipe, though, was his advice: “Do not be afraid of its breaking. Sauces can sense fear and will use it to their mischievous advantage. I have broken many sauces and am still a happy, productive member of society and an advocate of the emulsified butter sauces. If you make them, you can and will break them” (187-88).
Food Blog April 2014-3586An emulsified sauce, of which hollandaise is just one example, means a sauce that is thickened – held together, if you will – by a tenuous relationship. Think salad dressing. Remember those bottles from childhood, packed in on the door of the fridge? Remember how, during the week in between salad courses, they would slowly blurp into separate layers – oil on vinegar on water? An emulsion is when those disparate layers, unfriendly, incompatible, are coaxed together into a homogenous mix. Vinaigrette is an emulsion – perhaps one of the simplest. Fat, acid, harmonious.
Food Blog April 2014-3578Because emulsions can be unstable – leave that vinaigrette too long and you end up with a layer of oil and a layer of vinegar – they need to be treated with some care. A “broken” sauce is when the butter, added too quickly, upsets the mix and causes the fat and the water in the sauce to separate. This is the deep dread of homemade hollandaise. But I’m a survivor now. It can be done.
Food Blog April 2014-3577You would think, as would most reasonable people, that making hollandaise would be daunting enough, and I would choose some sensible preparation to share with you like… steamed asparagus.
Hah.
Hahahahahaha.
I went with eggs benedict.
I’ve never poached an egg before.
Food Blog April 2014-3580As it turns out, no single one of the components of eggs benedict is, so long as you are relaxed and paying attention, particularly tricky. The issue is having everything ready to put together all at once. Fortunately, poached eggs, once they are poached, are forgiving. Doubly fortunately, hollandaise is one of those blessed creations that actually tastes better warm than it does hot. This means, if you’re keeping score, that if it cools off a touch while you are applying that last toaster session to your English muffins, that all is not lost.
Food Blog April 2014-3592This recipe will make enough hollandaise for two plates of eggs benedict. Since I was only serving me (albeit an unreasonably greedy me), I draped it across two eggs and had enough for a dish of the aforementioned steamed asparagus as well. That afternoon was a blur of food coma, but let me tell you, I’d do it again.
Food Blog April 2014-3593Note: if you are making eggs benedict as your vehicle for this sauce, my recommendation is to poach the eggs first (Deb has a good step-by-step recipe which I used pretty much verbatim), then set them aside in a bowl while you make the hollandaise. When the hollandaise is ready and you’ve pulled it off of the pot of water, pop the English muffin into the toaster and slip the poached eggs into the pot of hot water you just vacated. While the muffin toasts, the eggs will heat up and the hollandaise will cool slightly. By the time you’ve draped some smoked salmon or Canadian bacon across your muffins (I’m partial to the salmon, though. It’s like velvet), the poached eggs should be warm enough to serve, and hey presto! Eggs benedict for brunch, just like that.

Food Blog April 2014-3599

Hollandaise for 1 or 2
1 teaspoon cider vinegar (regular white vinegar or white wine vinegar would be fine too)
2 teaspoons water
Pinch of salt
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
3 ounces butter (6 tablespoons), melted
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice, to taste
Black or cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Heat water in a medium pot to a bare simmer. It does not need to be boiling.
  • While the water heats, combine vinegar, water, and salt in a glass bowl. Stir or swish to dissolve the salt.
  • Add the yolk and whisk up a bit.
  • Place the bowl over a pot of hot water, but don’t let it touch the water. Keep the water at a low simmer; we are not looking for a rolling boil, or even a boil at all. This should be a gradual cooking process, so the yolk doesn’t scramble.
  • Bring the water to a simmer, whisking the mixture constantly. First there will be small, fizzy bubbles, but as you keep whisking the yolk will get very pale in color and start to gain volume. It becomes quite fluffy and starts to look like, well, like hollandaise sauce. This may take 3 or 4 minutes, or it may take more like 7 or 8. It depends on the speed and ferocity with which you whisk it.
  • When the sauce volume has at least doubled, turn off the heat and start drizzling in the melted butter, slowly, whisking CONSTANTLY. The sauce will get thick and creamy. If it suddenly looks really shiny or like it’s going to separate, whisk hard, lay off on the butter for a few seconds, and add another teaspoon of water.
  • After you’ve added all the butter, and the sauce is thick, creamy, and rich looking, add the lemon juice and pepper, if using. Season to taste with salt, if needed. To prevent overcooking and unattractive clumpiness, remove it from the pot of water until ready to serve.
  • Serve over poached eggs or steamed asparagus, warm but not piping hot – the flavor intensifies as it cools a bit.

Photo Friday

I’m now feeling secure enough about myself, almost a month later, to share a few shots from my strawberries-and-goat-cheese biscuit disaster… They were pretty, and I love how ethereal the kitchen lighting is, but they were just so. damn. flat. Lesson learned. Jamming a full pint of strawberries into an innocent batch of dough does not fluffy biscuits make.

Food Blog Photo Friday 2014-3371 Food Blog Photo Friday 2014-3375 Food Blog Photo Friday 2014-3424 Food Blog Photo Friday 2014-3429

Lambikopita Burgers

Food Blog April 2014-3562My bachelor habits are unusual. I typically don’t, when I’m making dinner just for my lonesome, go for what’s quick and easy. In fact, I use the rare occasions when I’m dining solo to catch up on cooking and consuming foods N. is not fond of. So when he was out of town last week visiting his parents, I took advantage of the evening alone to rendezvous with one of his major food rivals: lamb.
Food Blog April 2014-3574Most of the time (at least lately) I try to shy away from cute titles – I want to make sure you know what you’re getting – but this one was too clever not to use. This is a riff on a dish my sister made for us for Christmas (hi, R!), a version of spanikopita with crumbles of ground lamb and gooey shreds of mozzarella mixed in. Since my first thought upon tasting it was “more,” and then “more, more,” I thought a burger might be the answer. More of everything!
Food Blog April 2014-3544Food Blog April 2014-3548Food Blog April 2014-3551The delightful thing about spanikopita, to me, is the burst of briny saltiness from the hunks of cheese that muddle reluctantly into softness amid the spinach. I love the dill, and I love the earthy hit of nutmeg. Lately I’ve been adding lemon zest to the mix as well, for sour brightness to contrast the salty tang of the cheese.
Food Blog April 2014-3549Food Blog April 2014-3550All this, then, would have to go into my lamb burger. I’m not a big fan of massive additions to burgers. They seem, too often, fussy and unnecessary. That’s what toppings are for. But here, I think the incorporation works incredibly well for several reasons. First, lamb has a bit of a gamey flavor. Some of us like that, but for those who don’t, the additions of extra ingredients mean it’s a mild gaminess, not overwhelming. Second, it’s very easy for ground lamb to dry out. Here, where I’ve incorporated not just cheese but a sodden handful of sautéed fresh spinach, producing a dry product becomes a challenge. Third, but no less important, the addition of these extra ingredients bulks up the burgers, making the lamb – not nearly as cheap as everyday ground beef – stretch a bit further. This isn’t like a crab cake stretch, though, where your product is so drenched in seasoned bread crumbs you forget what kind of meat is supposed to be in there. All of these flavors dance well with the lamb, enhancing rather than masking it.
Food Blog April 2014-3554Food Blog April 2014-3558Food Blog April 2014-3556Because you’re cooking with a heady amount of cheese in the mix, these burgers will get crusty and deeply bronzed as the cheese seeps down onto the hot pan to toast. Don’t be alarmed. Settled on a bun with some fresh spinach leaves, to contrast the cooked tumble in the burger itself, this is nearly perfect. Slathered with some Greek yogurt whipped with lemon juice and fresh raw garlic, it turns into lamb burger nirvana.
Food Blog April 2014-3560Just because this isn’t, perhaps, a typical bachelor meal, what with the longish ingredient list and the time taken to prepare it from scratch, doesn’t mean I treated it as fancy. There’s no need for ceremony here; it’s too good. Hasty bites. No napkin. Straight over the sink. I don’t mind telling you, just between us, that I didn’t even bother with a plate.

Food Blog April 2014-3570

Lambikopita burgers
Makes 2
⅓ pound ground lamb
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 green onions, finely sliced
2 teaspoons finely chopped dill
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup shredded or cubed mozzarella
½ cup fresh spinach leaves, plus more, to serve
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated, if possible
Salt and pepper to taste (I suggest ¼ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

 

  • In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the ½ cup spinach leaves and sauté gently until they are wilted: 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the lamb, garlic, onions, dill, lemon zest, and cheeses. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper. The best way to do this is to get in there and use your hands, gently kneading with your fingertips to mix thoroughly.
  • When the spinach is cool, transfer it to a cutting board and chop finely. Don’t squeeze it out – we want that wetness to keep the burgers moist.
  • Add the chopped spinach to the lamb mixture and mix again to integrate it.
  • Divide the mixture in two and form patties of your desired diameter. Mine were probably 3 inches around. Keep in mind that the thicker your patties are, the longer they will take to cook.
  • In the same skillet you used for the spinach, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat. When it shimmers, add the lamb burgers, clamp on a lid, and turn the heat down to medium.
  • Cook for 4-5 minutes undisturbed, then cautiously lift with a spatula to check the bottom. When they are deeply bronzed and have a dark crust from the melting and toasting cheese, flip, recover, and cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until your desired doneness is reached.
  • Remove from heat, transfer to a bun of your choice dressed with condiments to your liking (I recommend the Greek yogurt spread below), top with fresh spinach, and serve.
Greek yogurt spread
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, chopped fine and pasted with salt

 

  • Combine ingredients in a small bowl, mix with a fork, spoon, or small whisk.