24 May 2010

But these are store-bought, aren't they?

Last Thursday, 'the boys' were coming over for a pen and paper rpg evening. Most unusually, I had a little surplus time on my hands and I was eager to bake something.

So I grabbed my old, trusty cheese cracker recipe, threw away all parts of the recipe that would have needed my attention and added some bacon. Everything gets better with bacon, I'm sure you can relate to that.
Basically, I mixed up the least fancy, swiftest breadsticks I have ever made, and had a historic succes with them. I am still a little stunned at how well received they were.

Take, for example, one of our friends. He tried one, and after having been a little dumbfounded at how much of our food we actually make ourselves he asked:

"But these are store-bought, aren't they?"

"Nope. Made them this afternoon."

"I feared as much. But they're so... regular, and so... damn tasty."

As you can imagine, we had a lively laugh. Though, maby not as lively as the following day, when my father-in-law got caught eating several of them at the same time, looking rather embarrassed, claiming I was trying to drug him.

I personally blame the bacon. This is a yeasted dough with a very high butter content, leading to a structure that is pretty much halfway between bread and shortbread cookies. Ununsual, but very, very good. Try them, they sure have the best effort to compliments ratio I can imagine.

Cheese and Bacon Breadsticks (dirt simple version)
(makes about two dozen sticks)

250g all-pupose wheat flour
100g whole-wheat flour (German type 1050)
125ml lukewarm water
125g butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 pinch of sugar

100g cheese, finely grated (I used aged Peccorino)
125g bacon

Take all the ingredients for the dough and mix until just combined. Leave to rest for about an hour.

In the meantime, chop the bacon as finely as you can be bothered to. Put into a small pot or non-stick pan and fry until just golden, not crisp. Leave to cool.

After the dough has rested, add the cheese and the bacon and knead one last time until all ingredients are well combined. Transfer to a large bowl and give a set of 'stretch and folds'.

Leave to rest for half an hour, then add another set of 'stretch and folds'.
Even despite the high fat contend, the dough should be elastic and nicely workable by now. If not, give another half hour of rest and one last set of 'stretch and folds'. 

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Leave to rest for one last half hour, then turn the dough onto a lightly floured working surface. Roll into a rectangle about half a centimetre thick. Cut into strips about one centimetre wide.
Of course, you could now roll them up or give them any number of fancy shapes, but there wasn't much time and I really wanted something as simple as I could get away with.

Transfer onto baking sheets lined with non-stick paper and leave to rest for a final, ten-minute proof.

Bake the bread-sticks with a little steam for about 15-20 minutes or until well browned.
This yields sticks that will be cripy in parts, chewy in others. For entirely crispy sticks reduce the temperature to 190°C and add 5 minutes. 

Leave to cool on a rack.

Goes well with beer and almost everything else, keeps nicely for a few days and can be crisped up again flawlessly in a hot oven.

P.S.: And once more, this post wil be sent to the YeastSpotting section of Susan's formidable blog Wild Yeast, a home baker's resource I can hardly recommend too much.

15 May 2010

on the way to moonshine

Baking bread has become a regular activity for me.

The freezer is stuffed to it's figurative gills and I am getting very comfortable with the whole subject.

Alright, I still haven't managed the perfect Naan, nor can I churn out croissants like a pro. But I'll get there, I'm pretty sure of that.

None the less, yesterday I kicked off a starter culture of a different kind, as you can see to the right.

My maternal grandfather was an avid wine-maker, one of my uncles even burned his own moonshine. (Yep, the one I got the poppy seed mill from.) So, there seems to be a certain family tradition to uphold, which at least in this case I am more than willing to oblige.

I've started a batch of cyser, a mix between a mead and a hard cider, as my first attempt. Given a bit of luck, it should be drinkable at this year's summer party.

This is a really exciting new experiment for me, and you can bet I'll keep you posted on the progress.