Friday, October 30, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
At its best, a warm loaf of challah, or egg bread, is tender, moist and waits patiently for butter or slathers of delicious jam. However, unless you are lucky enough to live right near a bakery, you either need to buy it frozen or make your own. Until recently, my oldest son couldn't eat eggs. Yet, this year, our allergist gave us great news-he could eat baked goods with eggs! I don't understand the science, but I do know the joy of watching him create "snails" (round challah) and "snakes" (braided challah.)
Although there are many recipes for challah, this is one of my favorites. First, it is very easy and surprisingly quick as the bread only needs one rise. This semi-sweet, eggy version is best right out of the oven. By the next day, or even later the same day, it is very dense. However, it is fantastic for grilled cheese, french toast or for almond butter sandwiches. I suspect that you could also freeze the dough once it has risen and bake it on a future occasion. The bakery that created it is long closed, so if you want to try it-you will need to make it yourself!
When I make this with my son, I help him create mini-challahs (using 12 inch "snakes") .
Adapted from Tuler’s Bakery Challah (Egg Bread) and published in the Boston Globe
Makes 4 loaves of Challah
2 level tablespoons yeast
¾ cup sugar (I often use less)
2 cups lukewarm water
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil
10 cups flour plus some for rolling the dough
1 ½ tablespoons salt (preferably kosher or coarse)
Optional Glaze: 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together the yeast, 2 tablespoons of the sugar and 1 cup of the water. Let stand for 10 minutes or until beginning to foam.
Stir in the remaining sugar, water, the 5 eggs, and the oil. Add 7 cups of the flour and the salt and stir well. Change to the dough hook, add 2 more cups of flour and continue to knead for 5 to 10 minutes, adding the remaining cup of flour as the dough becomes sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a well flowered board and continue to knead for 1 to 2 minutes. This is a sticky dough. You don’t want to add too much flour or it will become dry. Divide the dough into 4 pieces.
Using your hands and a lightly floured board and working one piece at a time, roll the dough into a rope about 18 inches long, making sure one end is fatter than the other. Beginning with the fat end, wind the dough into a coil, tucking the thinner end under when the dough is in a tight spiral shape. Pinch the end into the dough. Repeat the process with the remaining ropes.
Sprinkle 2 large baking sheets with cornmeal and place the 4 loaves on the sheets. Cover with a towel and set in a draft-free place until double in bulk, around 1 ½ hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg and 1 tablespoon water with a fork. Lightly brush the bread with egg glaze and bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes, switching the sheets midway through baking, or until the bread is deep golden and hollow to the touch when tapped in the center.
Remove the bread from the oven and set them to cool on a rack until they cool to room temperature. If you are going to use the breads the same day, wrap them well in plastic wrap and foil and freeze until ready to use.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Stir-Stir wears two hats (and is pictured above). In the evenings, Stir is the host kitchen for cooking demonstrations (and meals) by Barbara Lynch's chefs. What wasn’t clear to me, though, until I walked in, was how unbelievably intimate this space is. So often cooking classes take place at a distance. However, it was clear to me that taking a class here would be a true learning experience. I would visit Stir everyday if I lived any closer, as Stir is also an amazing library of over 300 books (cookbooks, travel books and books about wine and spirits.) It also has a cozy window seat. You can come in to browse, or become a member and borrow up to 3 books a month.
Plum Produce-In this postage stamp of a store, manager Victoria Kelly was just setting up as I arrived. Plum Produce gets farm fresh produce each day from Verrill and Siena Farms in Concord. They also offer pastas and other assorted items.
The Butcher Shop-You can sit down for lunch or dinner at the Butcher Shop, buy prepared foods, such as sauces or purchase meats ranging from homemade pates to sausages. I didn’t get a chance to stop at B & G Oysters (also in the South End) and haven’t yet found a night special enough to fully enjoy Number 9 Park (in Beacon Hill), though like many of us, I hope to try both places.
Instead I headed over to Sportello, located in the Fort Point area to eat a meal before interviewing Chef Lynch. Sportello is located about a block away from the Children’s Museum. Sportello was bustling on the day I was there, with a range of people perched on counter seats. I enjoyed the open kitchen and the opportunity to watch lunch being prepared. One of my favorite elements of the meal, came first-homemade fresh fig jam sitting on top of whipped ricotta and sitting in a pool of olive oil. Honestly, I may return for this alone and may have to hunt down some fresh figs to try and recreate it. I also enjoyed my salad. It was listed as a “Beet Salad. Pistachio. Feta Cheese.” What actually arrived was a gorgeous plate of fresh greens intertwined with fresh herbs from Verrill Farm. The striped beets were a lovely pink and were delicious with the French feta. The salad was perfectly dressed with a pistachio vinaigrette. This alone could have been a meal when combined with the bread, cheese and fig starter.
Chef Colin Lynch treated me to a taste of the Cacciucco. I expected a bouillabaisse style soup, but what arrived was much more flavorful. Floating in the broth were perfectly cooked shrimp, mussels, clams and calamari against a piece of grilled bread. The broth was clearly a labor of love and tasted of the essence of the sea.I also tried a half order of the Ricotta Ravioli with Duck Polpetti (meatballs of sorts), radicchio and pecorino. This rich dish would be perfect in the fall. I am not sure I could have identified the sauce and meatballs as made from duck, but they were very good, though a tad salty and strong for my palate. I did like the delicate ravioli.
However, I really enjoyed the “Farfalle with Clams, Mussels and Radish.” Again, this was a dish whose name didn’t do justice to how good and complex it was. The homemade and toothsome farfelle were served with perfectly cubed potatoes, slivers of radish and garlic, and plump mussels and clams. It was topped with simple olive oil and butter sauce. This was comfort food at its best. I could eat this every day.
Sportello also has a bakery and café area where you can take sweets or savory items to go. Although I thought the toasted marshmallow top cupcakes looked great, I couldn’t resist buying a chocolate-olive tart. Honestly, it may be an acquired taste! My favorite of the treats we bought was the hazelnut macaroon filled with a dark chocolate filling. They also have pizzas on brioche dough. You can buy ones that are sweet (e.g. with pistachios and ricotta) or savory. Note, too, that the recipe for both of these treats are in Barbara Lynch's new cookbook, Stir, which will be published in November. Also, f.y.i. she will speaking at the Wellesley Booksmith on November 17th at 7:00. Call to reserve a spot.
No. 9 Park, 9 Park St., Boston 617-742-9991
B&G Oysters, 550 Tremont St. Boston 617-423-0550
The Butcher Shop, 552 Tremont St. Boston 617-423-4800
Sportello, 348 Congress St., Boston 617-737-1234
Plum Produce, 106 Waltham St, 617-423-PLUM
Stir, 102 Waltham St, 617-423-STIR
9 at Home (Catering)
Drink, 348 Congress St, 617-695-1806
Stir, the Cookbook, will be published by Houghton Mifflin on November 2nd.