Monday, August 31, 2009

The Nutella Challenge: Nana-Nutella Ice Cream

Well, technically not ice cream, but delicious nonetheless.

It all started with a re-tweet by princess_misia, one of the participants in The Nutella Challenge, hosted by Paula from bell'alimento. It stated: RT @thekitchn: How to make ice cream with only one ingredient (and no ice cream maker) -

Of course I was curious, so I clicked on the post. I wondered what the ingredient was. Yoghurt? Cream, as in Iced Cream?

No, nothing as simple as that. The secret ingredient? Bananas.

"Bananas?" you might be asking yourself. Well, yes it's true. Bananas. Frozen bananas to be precise. Now, you might think I froze some bananas in order to make the ice cream, but I actually had some on hand.

Er, eight, actually. I once heard that bananas, once they are over-ripe, are great in banana bread. And if you don't feel like making banana bread right there and then, you can just freeze them and thaw them when you need them for the bread. They are going to be mashed anyways, right?

Well, things never turn out that way. Of all the bananas I've ever frozen, I've probably used about six in Banana Bread. Most end up in milkshakes, or actually being thrown away whenever we need room in the freezer. So when I read this blog post, I thought, Oh I have to make this at some point.

It wasn't until Saturday, while worrying about my post for the Nutella Challenge did I put two and two together and decided to bring out the hand blender and the little jar of Nutella.

I did a test banana, just to make sure that it would actually work.

I really could not believe it! It was super sweet and even had the consistency of real ice cream.

Now, when I undertook the challenge I actually didn't realize that I pretty much only eat Nutella on bread. Exclusively on bread. I don't ever dip the spoon or poke my finger into the jar and just lick it. I'm more of a Nutella for breakfast on a great piece of bread kind of guy.

But here's the crazy thing, and the reason I mixed the Nutelly in. I love- absolutely love sliced bananas on my Nutella covered toast. My colleagues may think I am a bit nutty, particularly since I keep a small jar of Nutella on my desk at work, but I love the taste of the chocolate, nuts and the bananas. It's like a mini banana split. On bread.

So, I had no idea what to do. I figured I would just swirl it in and see what happened. I made up the proportion, 1 banana to 1 Tablespoon of Nutella. Or, for eight bananas, a half cup.

As the Nutella approached freezing temperature, it thickened and formed what I can only describe as a hazelnut chocolate fudge. It was thick and slightly chewy.

I put it back in the freezer for about two hours for the ice cream to become a bit more cold, as it was already starting to melt after being stirred for a bit.

This bowl, pictured above, is actually my second bowl of the ice cream. I sort of ate the first one. It was delicious, even though I'm not really an ice cream freak, and the nutella swirls had the consistency of fudge. Yummy!

The Recipe? Easy.

Nana-Nutella Ice Cream

2 frozen bananas, peeled
2 Tablespoons Nutella

Put the bananas in a hand blender safe cup and blitz until they are pureed. Believe me, this will go quick. Take your two tablespoons Nutella and swirl it in until the Nutella becomes bits within the ice cream. Either enjoy immediately or freeze for two hours and then serve. And then enjoy!

You can double or triple this recipe or even add more nutella to it. Either way, it combines my two loves, bananas and Nutella.

For more Nutella recipes, be sure to visit bell'alimento's Nutella Challenge page.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

France and BBA Challenge #14: French Bread

I have to confess that I was looking forward to this bread until we went to Paris.

And then we went to Paris.

While some of the bread was passable, other was heavenly, and the half loaf of Poilâne Miche we got was absolutely divine. I wanted to eat it by itself, but it also tasted so good with the cheese and the Eggplant Caviar. Here's a picture of the picnic we had on a well-worn bench.

We had Manchengo Cheese, Perrier, Blue Potato Chips, two small bottles of Champagne (the only cold ones in the store), a bottle of Lemonade, a bottle of Trappistes Rochefort 10, a salad, crudite, Eggplant Caviar, a half Poilâne Miche from the boulangerie on rue du Cherche Midi, new Sporks because we forgot to bring our old ones, plus this awesome disposable wooden silverware, strawberry yogurt, raspberries, a cheese plate, and a nice tube of Dijon mustard.

I particularly liked the eggplant caviar. I'd had eggplant pâté before, but this was even more spreadable and even more yummy. Atop cheese, on a slice of the miche. It was just heavenly.

Which prompted us to remember the German saying: "Heute essen wir wie Gott in Frankreich"- Today we eat like God in France. Which, if you are familiar at all with German cuisine, makes way too much sense. There's a great German-language blog written by a Frenchwoman in Germany that takes the name and turns it around: Wie Gott in Deutschland.

On Sunday, everything is supposed to be closed. In Berlin, there are very few places that are still open. Usually, if you want anything, you have to go to a Bahnhof and pay inflated prices for food. Our last day in Paris was on a Sunday, spent walking around Montmartre, so we encountered many closed places, particularly because it was the day after the Assumption. Thanks to Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris by the very talented Clotilde from Chocolate and Zucchini fame, we found a boulangerie in Montmarte that was open. And how!

This is the baguette I carried under my arm and in my hand for a few hours on the Metro and the bus before biting into it on the way back to the airport. We kept tearing off bits of it before stashing it in the carry-on bag just before boarding.

If you are even thinking about going to Paris, you must buy Clotilde's book. We kept referencing it in trying to find places to eat. This, cross-referenced with the little Paris Pratique mapbook, available at most newsstands, and you are all set for gastronomic adventures.

So, this is where we get back to Peter Reinhart's French Bread.

In short. I was spoiled.

So spoiled that I didn't want to make the bread. Nevertheless, the day after we came back, I took a look in the book. French Bread. Oh, god. The last time I made baguettes they were a huge fail.

But after reading many of the Baguette posts from others, I decided to do them anyways. No skipping of recipes, and do them all in order, right Nicole? Here's the pâté fermentée.

One of the things I looked for and actually found was grey sea salt from Brittany. I remembered it from the Miche section in the book. I later found out that I can easily get this in Berlin.

For absolutely no reason other than I thought it would be funny, I stretched out the pâté fermentée strands. Maybe I should have folded them over, but they went into the DLX almost immediately.

Because the DLX works through the magical power of friction, I got a big mess when I added the pre-ferment in with the water.

Thankfully, adding in the rest of the flour was able to bring it back into a sticky ball.

And then a doughy one.

European flours have no malt flour added to them, they're pure flour. Peter Reinhart suggests adding some diastatic malt powder to this recipe if using flour without the added barley flour. I'm a homebrewer, so I have tons malt extract, which is virtually the same thing, kicking around. This is three kilos of the stuff left over from the last brew day. I added it in at the end, but I have the feeling that it didn't get kneaded in all the way.

And like one of those television chefs that prepare a dish and bring out an already pre-made dish seconds later, here is the risen dough, turned over onto a floured board.

And here I am shaping mini-batards into baguettes. The recommendation is to use a light hand and a heavy hand at the same time. This makes me think of the Daniel Clowes' comic "Like a Velvet Glove Cast In Iron". In any case, handle the dough gently and delicately, but don't let it own you. You are the master of the baguette.

I found some kitchen towels in the pantry that were half linen and half cotton. My eyes grew wide when I saw them. I had been consciously avoiding using them because they looked so new. Well, not anymore. They made wonderful couches for the free form loaves.

Unfortunately, my oven stone is only 30cm by 30cm, and I didn't think I would be able to fit all the baguettes in at one time, so I sort of overproofed these, as you can tell by the scores. Maybe I was a bit too heavy-handed on this.

Still, they came out rather nice, even though I thought they were a bit dark.

Speaking of dark, these don't even hold a candle to the baguettes we had in Paris.

The two on the right were baked first, with uncertainty in the slashing, which is why they look so odd. The ones on the left were baked afterwards, so they were most definitely overproofed. The slashes ran deep into them when they came out of the oven, so there was hardly any oven spring on them, except to return to their original, unslashed, shape.

The crumb was pretty tight, but they were okay, much better than my first attempt last spring, but nowhere near as awesome as- ah, now I'm sounding like a broken record.

Maybe Mr. Reinhart should have put this recipe in the beginning under Baguettes, so that we would have had made them already, and I wouldn't be complaining. Still, I love this Challenge, so, as I type right now, I am making the French Bread again, hoping to improve on the ones above.

If you have a moment, check out some better looking French Bread from:

Mags from The Other Side of Fifty
Deb from Italian Food Forever
Kelly from Something Shiny
Chris from eating is the hard part
Frieda from Lovin' from the Oven

And of course, none of this goodness would have been possible without Nicole from Pinch My Salt.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

BBA Challenge #13 (and a 1/2): Foccacia

So I have to admit something. I am now spoiled on bread. I used to love the Kürbiskernbrot (Pumpkin Seed Bread) from the bakery across the street, and would buy it on an almost weekly basis. I still love their bread. In fact, I get a Rosinenbrötchen (Raisin Roll) there too many mornings than I care to count. Of course, this replaced my Nuss-Nougat Croissant habit. Think of a croissant full of Nutella that has thickened from baking. Plus, they make everything on site, unlike most other bakeries in Germany.

Well, actually, that's not fair. Almost every bakery makes everything on site. But a lot of it is from a mix. Just add water and butter. A colleague of mine once asked why a Maltobrötchen was called that, and what whas in it. The woman behing the counter said she didn't know, and did she want the Brötchen or not?

This is actually not leading up to my love of Foccacia. On the contrary, I'm more of a Bruschetta guy myself. But, rather, it's leading up to this:

I began making the Focaccia about a week and a half ago, on a sunday in which I knew we would have visitors coming over. It was quite early, and we had been to the Berlin Festival the night before. We saw Deichkind, which is a German- er- hip-hop band, and their stage act, which was obscenely weird, but not obscene. Well, not really.

Unfortunately, there is a gap of seven photographs in my camera count, and I can only make the excuse that these seven photographs would have been crucial in showing you what I did to make the Foccacia. Instead, here's a picture the Berlin Wall Memorial where I took my guests. This is all that is left of what the wall really looked like when it was still up. It's missing a strip of barbed wire in there as well.

Sorry to put a damper on things, but this is what happened on the day I had the first attempt at the Foccacia.

I got as far as the second fold before I was called away, so I just put it in a bowl and stuck it in the fridge. That was Sunday.

On Monday, I took the bowl out for about half an hour before I realized I had no time to make it. Same thing on Tuesday. On Wednesday I had given up and had to work late as it was the last work day before my vacation. Four days in Paris and an additional week off. I left it in there until Monday.

Of course, it's pretty difficult to get motivated when you've just pulled this from your carry-on bag. I'll give you a clue. It's from Paris.

Originally, I had used only Type 550 flour, as it is the closest thing to All-Purpose Flour that we have. Because I had to make it a second time, and because I normally like darker breads, for the new Foccacia I had to use a mix of 550 and 1050, as I had run out of 812. I'll write up a post on German Flours in the near future, and something more comprehensive once the Challenge is over. By the way, the flour here is pure flour. That is, there is no barley in it at all.

The mise en place for this one was very simple. I poured in the oil with the water, so that bowl of what looks like olive oil is only a thin layer, not the whole bowl.

I know how much everyone loves seeing photos of the DLX in action.

Depending on the flour, and the circumstances, I sometimes have to scrape down the bowl.

Here's the plopping down of the dough onto a quarter cup of oil. Then a half cup of herb oil on top.

I was freaking out when dimpling the dough. The oil was pooling and I wasn't sure if it was supposed to do that, but I had read an early post by someone in the challenge that the dough had absorbed all the oil, so I decided to just let it go.

I had made the herb oil on the same day I made the first bread attempt, and had run out of rosemary, and had no fresh basil. The herb oil was heavy on the oregano and the garlic.

I had to clear a shelf in the fridge. And then clear off the shelf above because the sheet pan sized to perfectly fit in the oven with no circulation space was too wide and bumped up against a shelf.

And the first attempt? I just shaped the dough into two batard-ish shapes and let them proof for a bit before baking.

This is what the bottom looked like. There were two loaves and both were given away.

I managed to get a picture of the crumb. Beautiful. And very tasty. But felt odd about giving away a partially cut loaf. However, it's too much bread. And I had started the pate fermentee for the French Bread as well as the Biga for the Italian bread, so I knew we would be rolling in bread.

There were pools of oil even on the corners of the pan.

And even the uncooked crust looked promising.

I realized at this point that I hadn't carefully read through the recipe and fished around for something that I could add to the Focaccia to jazz it up a bit. I added the Parmesan in the last five minutes of baking.

I over-browned it, but it still looked nice. When I took it off the sheet pan, it came off like a huge flatbread. It was so odd.

I didn't take any pics of the whole thing as it was pretty big and weird looking.

There were nice big holes in the crumb, though.

What disappointed me about the Foccacia was that it wasn't soft, like I'm used to. It was soft in the inside, and a bit tough and dry on the outside. I might have left it in too long.

It wasn't until reading everyone else's posts that I realized I could have topped it with loads of veggies. Oh, well. Until next time.

If you haven't had enough of bread, check out these other Foccacias:
Paul at Yumarama
Cheryl is A Tiger in The Kitchen
Kelly, distracted by Something Shiny
Mags from The Other Side of Fifty
Jeff makes Culinary Disasters

Oh, and by the way, that mystery loaf of bread from the beginning? It's 600g of a Poilâne Miche, left over from our Paris Picnic.

Once again, this bread post could not have been possible without Nicole of Pinch My Salt for hosting the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge.

Monday, August 17, 2009

BBA Challenge #12: English Muffins (aka Toasties)

Although I made these English Muffins quite a while ago, I am only now getting to them. Forgive me, dearest Readers, as I meant to do a short write-up about them before our visitors came, but I just ran out of time. Once they left, however, we were preparing for Paris, and the English Muffins were pushed to the wayside. So much for me keeping up with the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, eh?

I always thought that English Muffins were something that could only be machine made. This of course, coming from someone who makes bread and has even had a go at making fresh tortillas. Don't worry, I've already earmarked it for a post, though I might have to write it in German, to keep my language skills fresh.

However, these English Muffins were so easy that I could not believe there wasn't some trick to them. It all started so innocently...

Here I have, for your aesthetic enjoyment, a mise en place that even Peter Reinhart would be proud of. However, I had to use iodized salt as I had run out of sea salt. Note that the salt is in what has now become my default salt bowl, in the upper right corner. I'm thinking of getting another one in red for the yeast, as the yeast amounts are just as small.

The DLX laughed at this dough. In went the wet ingredients, in went the dry ingredients. After a few minutes, the dough came toghether and formed the nicest smoothest dough I have ever worked with.

I went with the time tested tried and true method of letting the dough rise in a plastic bowl. On the bottom are my finger indentations, as I just loved the texture of the dough.

Here you can see where the dough has adapted to the finger indentations. It almost looks like the man on the moon.

The dough was cut into six equal pieces. I did weigh them and all, and even had a small 10g piece to snack on. Of course raw dough is never great, but, again, I loved the texture, and just had to taste it. The dough was amazing the first moment on the tongue, but then it just sort of became- well, shall I say it, or is it too obvious? It became doughy.

The pieces were formed into mini boules. I actually have some practice with this, as this is my preferred bread-shaping method, so I can truthfully say that I have been doing this for years. Of course, I have been doing little else with my bread for years, but at least I have this one down.

The boules are then allowed to rise on a baking sheet on oiled parchment. It seemed odd, since they would cook in a pan and then in the oven, never returning to the parchment.

This is the most expensive pan I have ever bought. Okay, I've only bought like six in my lifetime because I choose wisely and take very good care of them. I only use wooden utensils on non-stick and try to cook as much as I can with cast iron. This one was bought at Coledampf's CulturCentrum on Uhlandstrasse for an ungodly sum that made me gasp when the saleslady answered my question on the price.

This cast iron pan is about 30cm across and comes from Ronneby Bruk in Sweden. When I lived in Brooklyn, I had a set of three lodge pans as well as an amazing Dutch Oven that my roommate had given me as a gift. There was no way I was going to go through the expense of shipping them over, so when I moved I decided to get one here. Iron must be scarce in Germany, because the only cast iron pans you can get come from either France or Sweden. Plus they are wickedly expensive.

But they are quite amazing. I cannot imagine cooking without one for any extended period of time. I found it the natural choice for the English Muffins.

They were griddle baked in batches of three, seeing as there were six, and I had room enough for three per batch. Despite my worries, they did not burn at five minutes when I flipped them over.

By the by, the cast iron pan has a wooden handle, which I don't mind, since the pan itself would barely fit in my oven. I do have two small ones that we got second-hand in Belgium, which I have used in the oven before, though.

Despite this beautiful photo, I did manage to burn one side of three of the muffins. This happened because we were getting ready for a party and I had miscalculated the time. I had a timer on them, and was good about getting them into the oven, but alas, the timer is about four years old with a defective bell. So you have to listen carefully. Which is terrible if you're running about trying to pull clothes onto yourself.

Nevertheless, they did come out great. They tasted a little like white bread, and were more moist than what I am used to. Here, they are called Toasties, which is infinitely puzzling, but makes just as much sense as having a name called Kicker, which is known in the States as Foosball, and whose name probably comes from the German word for Football: Fussball.

Maybe they are called Toasties because Germans rarely toast their bread, thus giving them an indication of how they are supposed to eat the bread. Untoasted Toasties aren't that delicious, after all.

Here's a picture of the crust. Fork-split, just like in the advertisements. However, a bit devoid of the famous nooks and crannies. Of course, I really didn't mind, as I have always thought that was a bunch of hogwash anyhow.

Untoasted, these were really good. Toasted, however, they were fabulous. Lovely crumb texture, in keeping with the dough. I had one with Nutella, as well as one with Sirop de Liège.

Next up is Foccacia, which is chilling in the fridge, awaiting its big day to-morrow. However, I may try to squeeze in some posts about Paris, as I have the urge to write volumes about it. Soon.

Paris is amazing, but so is the comfort of being able to relax at home.