Staff of Life {CtBF}

I love making bread.  Over the past few years, it has gradually become part of my weekly kitchen routine.  My bread strategy is firmly in the “no knead” territory, making it long on rising time but super short on effort.  Initially, I was hooked by the Jim Lahey recipe made popular by Mark Bittman. Last summer, on a trip to Vermont, I couldn’t resist a detour to the King Arthur Store, where I bought a sourdough starter.  That sparked a new avenue of bread experiments.

This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays is David Lebovitz’s Multigrain Bread, which resembles the loaves he buys in Paris.  This loaf is neither no-knead nor slow-rising, but I always like learning new things, so gave it a try.

This loaf has several good things going for it:

#1 It’s relatively fast. I mixed up the starter right before bedtime.  Initially it looked unpromising, but overnight the starter rose into a bubbly brew.

Before

After

#2 The combination of seeds mixed into the dough was delicious. Flaxseed, millet, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, and chopped pumpkin seeds.  Yum!

#3 As with my usual routine, this loaf is baked in a Dutch oven (I used a stoneware bread dome) which produces a perfect artisan-like crust.

#4 The technique for scoring the top of the loaf with a pair of scissors was easy, attractive, and effective. I’ll be reusing this new trick on future loaves.

On the other hand, I question the recipe’s name.  Multigrain?  It’s made with mostly bread flour with a small amount of whole wheat.  That’s two grains, but in my book, that’s hardly multigrain.  Maybe he meant to call it Multiseed Bread?

This plain bread dough was easy enough to knead because I let the stand mixer do the work.  After I added the seeds, the dough wasn’t quite sticky enough to absorb them.  I ended up adding a few tablespoons of water which helped.  I would recommend adding the seeds when the other ingredients are added to the starter and knead it all in one go.

I typically bake a loaf this size at 500F for one hour (in a preheated bread dome).  I questioned the directions for 30 minutes at 450F.  In previously recipes from My Paris Kitchen, I’ve noticed that extra baking time is often required.  My oven must run cooler than David’s.  I opted to set the oven temp to 500F.  After 30 minutes, it was not done.  I let it go another 15 minutes.  The internal temperature said it was done, though I might have liked a darker crust.

In the end, I liked this bread.  It had a nice crumb and toasts well.  Would I make it again?  Perhaps if I didn’t have the time to make my usual favorites.  I really enjoyed the seed mixture so I’ll try adding that combo to a no-knead or sourdough loaf in the future.  Lots of lessons learned with this recipe.

To see what other members of Cook the Book Fridays thought of this recipe, check out their links here.  You can find the recipe here at Fine Cooking or on page 241 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.

It’s All About the Garlic {CtBF}

Hearty salads for dinner are a house favorite.  I don’t usually follow a recipe, using the bits and pieces leftover in the refrigerator, but for this week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays, a French bistro classic, I followed the rules.

Salade Lyonnaise is bacon-and-eggs in salad form with a heavy dose of garlic thrown in.  There are many components, but many of them can be prepared ahead, making it easy to pull together for a weeknight meal.

The base of the salad is frisée, AKA curly endive.  At first I couldn’t find any, just green heads labelled “chicory” which resembled a coarser form of frisée.  Doing a Google search in the market, I learned that the chicory I found along with frisée and escarole are all in the same botanical genus, but curly endive and escarole are more closely related, being the same species, Cichorium endivia, with different leafing habits: one with lacy leaves and the other broad leaves.  I decided to go with the escarole, but then came across curly endive in another section of the store. In the end, I bought both and made the salad with a mix of the two.

My favorite part of the salad was the garlicky croutons.  A crushed clove of garlic is cooked in a generous amount of olive oil to flavor it.  Then the bread cubes are sautéed in the resulting garlic oil until they are golden brown and fragrant.  I often make croutons to have on hand for Caesar salads, but compared to these croutons, I’d have to dub my usual technique as spartan croutons because they are simply cubes of bread toasted in the oven with no oil or seasoning.

Boiled baby potatoes, bacon, and dressing round out the ingredients that can be prepared ahead.

When it’s time for dinner, the salad can be assembled: endive, sliced potatoes, bacon, croutons, and that garlicky dressing.  In the meantime, it’s time to poach the eggs.  At my house, that’s Howard’s job because he’s an expert, making dinner is a team effort.  I toss the salad and fill individual salad bowls so that they’re ready to be topped with the eggs after they are cooked and dried off.

We had it two nights in a row, adding some leftover grilled asparagus for the encore appearance.  The final verdict was two thumbs up.  We both really enjoyed this one.  You should try it too.

You can find the recipe on page 99 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  My friends from Cook the Book Fridays review the recipe here.

Enjoy!  Bon Appetit!