Proofed.

There was a time when I made bread often. My daughter was a mere tot, and I found myself spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Initially, I’d started with simple doughs, such as pizza or focaccia, then graduated to more dense, hearty sandwich breads and rolls. My trusted Kitchen Aid mixer would start to fatigue from several minutes of hard labor, however I enjoyed its convenience and reduction of hands-on time. At some point, I transitioned to kneading by hand, and developed a love for the tactile communion with flour, yeast and water . I had a physical sense of when the dough was properly kneaded. I’d become lost in the activity as the minutes sped past with little awareness other than what I was feeling beneath and between my fingers.
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The elements of bread making are finding their way back into my life, and not without coincidence. Most mornings, I spend time reflecting and meditating to gain a bit of ground before getting captured by the day’s activities. There is a book I refer to frequently, Heal Thy Self: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine, by Saki Santorelli. A passage I read recently spoke to the Author’s love of baking, and how baking can be both humbling and liberating. It made me think of the contrasting simplicity and attention that bread making requires. He likens the bakery to a crucible, “hot, containing, pressurized outwardly; hot, containing, pressurized inwardly”. A timely piece, as I find myself moving with elements that are somewhat beyond my control. Shortly thereafter, I was sifting through the NYT and discovered Martha Rose Schulman’s recipe for a yeasted loaf with apples.
You can find the link, here.
Honeyed Pear and Walnut Bread

Evolution: Honeyed Pear and Walnut Bread

And so,I found myself with a yearning to make bread. The sweetness of whole grain loaf, heady, yeast-y and studded with apples was the catalyst, however I wanted to provide influence in my own creative way. I dreamt up crunchy bosc pears, contrasted with bitter walnut and sweet honey. I gave the dough plenty of time to develop flavor by starting with a pre-ferment, or sponge.
And I waited.
And I shaped.
And I coaxed.
And I waited a bit longer.
Until finally the dough emerged a golden crown of pure heaven.
Honeyed Pear and Walnut Bread
This bread is delicious simply toasted and spread with fresh cheese and honey. It can also pair nicely with prosciutto and fontina or gorgonzola.
Enjoy, and much love.
J
 
Honeyed Pear and Walnut Bread
Ingredients:
1 c rye four
1.5-2 c whole wheat flour
1.5 c white flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 c honey
1 1/4 c warm water
1 packet (2.5 tsp) yeast
2 tbsp butter; room temp
1 c walnuts
1 1/4-1/2 c bosc pear, chopped
Method:
  1. Make a sponge: combine water, yeast honey and white flour in a large bowl. stir to combine, then cover with a damp towel and let rest for ~1 hour or so.
  2. Add rye flour, walnuts, butter, salt and 1 cup of the whole wheat flour to sponge; stir and/or knead down, adding additional flour as necessary until the mixture is no longer sticky. Turn onto a flat surface and knead for several minutes, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
  3. Set in an oiled bowl, cover with damp towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise for about ~1-1.5 hours. I like to pop it in the oven with the pilot light; it sets a nice ambient temperature for coaxing the fermentation into gear.
  4. Deflate dough by punching down; fold in chopped pears. Knead into a round and then return to a neutral spot to rest again until doubled in size; ~2 hours.
  5. Deflate dough again and shape into a neat round and set on parchment or floured kitchen towel for another 1.5-2 hours until dough redoubles in size.
  6. As dough is entering the final rise, adjust oven rack and set a pizza stone or cast iron skillet in the center. Turn heat to 450 degrees and allow stone or skillet heat for ~40 minutes.
  7. Turn dough onto skillet/stone; slash decoratively, brush with milk and place in oven. Spritz oven with a bit of water to create a steam environment.
  8. In 15 minutes, spritz again and turn heat to 400 degrees.
  9. Bake for a further 25 minutes, until deep golden brown. Remove from oven and tap bottom of round; it’ll sound hollow if it is done.
  10. Wait (patiently!) for a good 30 minutes as dough cools on rack before slicing.
  11. Store, wrapped in cloth or a paper bag on counter for 1-2 days. To preserve some of the bread for later, simply bundle in layers of plastic wrap and store in the freezer.

Feed Me, Seymour!

After a weekend being in good company of friends, being nourished in both body and heart, I find myself in the kitchen today. It feels like I’m making up for lost time. The week has been bubbling over with activity, so cooking a meal has been little more than an afterthought.
So, gifted with an extra hour in my day, I found myself laying in bed dreaming up what I wanted to make.
Something hot and stew-y, for sure, something sweet, and something with raw elements.
Garbanzo Bean Stew with Preserved Lemon
I wanted to create an unctuous, meat-free stew and had been pouring over recipes that paired game-y meats with fruit. I’ve had this thing for Moroccan spices lately and was dying to test out my recent batch of preserved lemon. I use garbanzo beans frequently for hummus and in salads, however I rarely use them in soups, preferring the many varieties of lentils available. Garbanzo beans are firm, nutty and can hold their own in a soup with lots of competing elements. Adding a bit of harissa heightens the flavors and adds extra heat.
This stew is stellar, and can be served with couscous, bread or another grain. I served it over quinoa to give it a bit of a protein boost and keep it a bit lighter, as I always like to keep room for dessert!
Garbanzo Bean Stew with Preserved Lemon
2 onions, sliced thinly
1/4 cup olive oil
3 c cooked garbanzo beans
2 32-oz cans whole plum tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved
1 preserved lemon, insides removed, chopped
3/4 cup dried Turkish apricots, quartered
1 Tbsp harissa
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
2 cinnamon sticks
2 c. vegetable or chicken broth
1 bunch kale, chopped
Method
1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
2. Add onion and cook ~15 minutes, giving a stir every few minutes to evenly caramelize.
3. Turn the heat up to high, and add all remaining ingredients except kale.
4. Once boiling, turn heat down and simmer for ~40 minutes.
5. Toss in kale, allowing it to steam for ~5 minutes, then fold into the stew.
6. Serve over cooked quinoa or couscous; with cilantro and harissa as garnish.
pomegranate arils

pomegranate arils

I also had this pomegranate I’d been meaning to break into. As I was waiting for my press to steep my coffee, I spotted the pomegranate and popped myself up onto the counter, knife in hand. A colleague taught me a fancy technique for scoring pomegranate so as not to bruise the fruit. I peeled back the flesh to reveal the plump juicy jewels inside. After plucking away for about 10 minutes, I had a nice full bowl of seeds. I could have easily gone with a simple arugula salad with pomegranate and toasted pistachios, however I also wanted to do a bit of roasting and satisfy my squash addiction. What I ended up with was truly gorgeous and flavorful as well; kale marinated in a lovely vinaigrette and tossed with roasted delicata squash and pomegranate seeds.
Kale and Delicata Squash Salad with Pomegranate Seeds

Kale and Delicata Squash Salad with Pomegranate Arils

Kale Salad with Delicata Squash and Pomegranate Arils

2 delicata squash, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch crescents
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 large head lacinato (flat leaf) kale
Vinaigrette:
4 T olive oil
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 T lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tap salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Toss squash with a bit of olive oil (~2 tbsp), a generous pinch of salt and several grates of pepper. Roast for 40-45 minutes, giving a toss about halfway through so that the squash caramelizes evenly.
Wash kale and chop into ribbons. Set in a large bowl.
Combine vinaigrette; massage into kale. Add delicata and mix lightly. Fold in pomegranate seeds and garnish with pistachio seeds and chèvre.
Pear and Almond Cake

Pear and Almond Cake

Moving on to dessert. Initially, I’d planned to do something with pear and ginger, and then I recalled having a bit of almond flour in my larder. I discovered a recipe on food 52.com, which you can find the link here:
I made few deviations from the recipe, with exception of increasing the proportion of almond flour to baking flour and substituting olive oil for canola oil. This made for a dense, moist cake, which I served with some vanilla-scented creme fraiche. It was truly divine.
Much Love,
J