Five-Grain Walnut Bread

Italian Five-Grain Walnut Bread Sliced

This five-grain walnut bread marks a year of bread baking with others equally passionate about the craft. Who knew that people actually took time to master a recipe, take photos, and share knowledge with like-minded folks? I’m now convinced that you can find anything on the interwebs.

What started off as an occasional substitution for rice has turned into a full-blown obsession. A quick review reveals that about one-third of my short history of blathering is bread-related. I learn something new with each post and yet I still don’t know how to pronounce Sûkerbôlle. Help?

As Tanna pointed out, this five-grain walnut bread is technically a four-grain. All-purpose flour and whole wheat flour, both milled from the same grain, somehow clocked in for two. The other flours are oat, rye, and brown rice. I replaced the oat flour with cornmeal for additional crunch here and there.

Slicing the freshly baked loaf releases a heady scent of toasted walnuts and grains. Even without additional fat or sugar, the bread seemed moist (probably because of the rye flour) and a bit sweet (probably from the brown rice).

View Italian Five-Grain Walnut Bread Recipe »

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Tarte Tatin in Vol-au-Vents

Tarte Tatin in Vol-au-Vents

Preparing a Tarte Tatin in this way guarantees a crisp and flaky crust. Unlike traditional Tarte Tatin recipes, the puff pastry crust is baked separately from the caramelized apples. The basket-shaped puff pastry crust is made ahead of time and filled right before serving.

In addition to looking spiffier than the typical brown disk, I think this method is also easier and more foolproof. Unmolding a traditional Tarte Tatin can end in disaster if it decides to remain glued to the skillet. Still delicious, but not pretty.

A vol-au-vent is a hollow puff pastry shell meant to contain a sweet or savory filling. Vol-au-vents tend to be more diminutive in scale than this 8-inch tart and are usually served in appetizer or hors d’oeuvre form. French for “flight of the wind,” the puff pastry crust lives up to its name as a light and airy nest for the golden brown apples and buttery caramel.

View Tarte Tatin in Vol-au-Vents Recipe »

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Pain à l’ancienne Baguettes

Pain à l'ancienne French Baguettes

The dark blistered crust pockmarked with fissures gives pain à l’ancienne a look some might call rustic, a polite way of describing misshapen food. Crudely shaped through stretching, these baguettes have thicker ends and seem unrefined at first glance.

What pain à l’ancienne lacks in looks, it more than makes up for in taste. If you consider only “lean” doughs, those made with the bare essentials of flour, water, salt and yeast, then this is as good as homemade bread gets.

The dough is developed using a long autolyse (pronounced auto-lees, as in, “You ought to lease an apartment instead because the economy sucks.”). Flour and water are mixed a day in advance without salt and yeast. This technique does a few things to the dough:

  • The flour thoroughly absorbs the water, strengthening the gluten and improving gas retention. More water will be added with the salt and yeast on baking day. If all of the water is added at once, the dough will be weaker and more difficult to handle.
  • During the long resting time, the water breaks the flour down into simple sugars, giving the bread a sweeter taste. My go-to Neapolitan-style pizza dough recipe uses a very similar method.

The result is a sweet and nutty bread with a deeply caramelized reddish-brown crust courtesy of the natural sugars unlocked from the flour. This recipe makes the most complex-tasting baguettes I’ve ever baked.

View Pain à l'ancienne French Baguette Recipe »

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Chocolate Rose Water Ganache Tart

Chocolate Rose Water Ganache Tart

Flavors don’t have to be big and bold all the time. Subtlety has its merits but when using rose essence, a light hand is very necessary. It can easily turn the simplest desserts into a mouthful of potpourri — you don’t want to end up with food more appropriate in the bathroom than on a dinner table.

Rose water is available in Indian and Middle Eastern grocery stores. I found a French version (photo below) in a local gourmet shop for a reasonable price. It is primarily used in desserts and sweet cold drinks.

Rose water accentuates. Its barely-there presence perfumes crave-worthy treats such as gulab jamun and Turkish Delight. You may also find it as an optional ingredient in madeleines and marzipan.

View Chocolate Rose Water Tart Recipe »

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Afelia – Pork Braised with Red Wine and Coriander Seeds

Afelia - Pork braised with red wine and coriander plate

Afelia is a classic Cypriot dish of pork marinated and braised in red wine and coriander seeds. With the short ingredient list (the only other items are olive oil, salt, and pepper), it’s as easy as braising gets.

The coriander seed is a mild spice that adds a sweet citrus note. It is used extensively in traditional Cypriot and Greek fare. Any dish prepared à la grecque (in the greek style) is almost guaranteed to have some.

The braising liquid of red wine and crushed coriander seeds gives the pork a subtle sweetness and sourness. Most afelia recipes call for coarsely ground coriander seeds and no straining. The grittiness may seem distracting at first, but I find that it contrasts nicely against the tenderness of slowly cooked pork.

View Afelia Recipe - Pork Braised with Red Wine and Coriander Seeds »

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