Rye bread baked in cloche

Cloche, French for "bell," is an unglazed roasting container. It often refers to a hat. The roasting bells come with a loose fitting lid. I have two others purchased on eBay a different shape intended for roasting chicken. They have a chicken design molded into them. One of these days I will use it for that. The chicken cloches have ridges on the bottom portion to elevate the chicken somewhat from the bottom and I suppose keep it from sticking. I do not know. For bread, I use those chicken cloches upside down to avail the lid's smooth inner surface. They have no handle on the lid as this one does.  

A large clay pot upturned on a pizza stone will do the same thing.

The cloche is preheated to maximum hotness, as far as the oven will go. 

Now, this is living dangerously. There is too much room for self harm. Especially for a such a klutz as myself. I'm a bit terrorized each time I do this, and that terror that strikes my heart is what has kept me safe from being burned. 

So far. 

Because the cloche is so impossibly hot, it draws moisture out of the dough and that prevents the loaf from sticking inside. Counterintuitive, I know, but still, the loaves fall right out. Jump right out actually to get away from their hellish prison. 

It is an oven within an oven. The cloche allows the exceedingly wet dough to stay moist long enough to expand like a ballon, like thousands of tiny balloons, before the surface turns crisp.

This loaf is prepared the NYT no-knead method where scant commercial yeast 1/4 teaspoon is carelessly mixed with flour and water and salt and held overnight for eight to twelve hours. The conceit is that time is also a form of kneading. The technique is about extended time and that is why so little yeast is used. The yeast multiplies in there by itself given enough time, and it spreads around by itself asexually by budding extending into new areas of dough. When dumped out onto a work surface the wet dough is pulled and the stretched part folded over onto itself, all the corners are stretched this way redistributing the yeast inside. Left alone for another twenty minutes or so the freshly redistributed yeast goes crazy reproducing their secondary way, sexually and not merely by budding. It is quite astonishing how fast this happens. 

In the case of this dough, 1/3 rye flour, 2/3 all purpose flour, the dough did not rise so much as expected overnight. And the dough was also too stiff. Too dry. Insufficiently sticky. Not nearly wet enough for this technique. So tap water is added by stretching the dough and patting with wet hands, then folding, stretching, patting, folding, stretching, patting, folding, stretching, patting, folding, stretching, patting, folding, totally reworking the dough until the dough became a lot more wet, and all that is a form of kneading until the dough is floppy and wet and nearly unmanageable blob.

Now the watery work surface is towel dried and replaced with oil. The bench scraper dried and oiled. The dough blob stretched until it attains a decent shape. Covered and left alone for twenty minutes or so, and BLAM the dough is ready to go. 

I have a new way to place the dough into the fiery hot cloche. I roll it onto the edge of an oiled cutting board and use the board to tip the shaped blob into the cloche. This is one of my nicer looking loaves. Now would be the time to score the surface but I did not do that. My loaves usually come out a bit ugly. 

Amazon [clay cloche
Google Images [clay roasting cloche]

Iceberg wedge, homemade ranch dressing, light summer fruit and vegetables

Avocado drenched in lime juice to preserve its color for hours. Peppered heavily separately from everything else.

The dressing does not touch any of the other elements. That happens at the table by each individual diner. They control the mixing of dressing to element so they can enjoy pristine version of each fruit or vegetable unadulterated with dressing, then discover the fantastic combinations on their own. Besides the homemade dressing, this keeping things untouched is what makes this salad such fun. 

The dressing is 50% mayonnaise 50% sour cream. That is a whole lot of blandness that needs something to kick it up. Hard. Usually blu cheese will do that, but there is no blu cheese around here right now so the creamy substances, both with touches of acid already in them are loaded up heavily with fresh herbs.

Chile flakes are added for their capsaicin heat. That is unusual for ranch dressing. You do not see chile peppers in recipes for ranch dressing, but I like chile in everything. Chile peppers are like wine, they make everything better. But the cream completely overwhelms the capsaicin molecules, covers their jabbing points rendering them harmless. The molecules do not prick, they fail to lodge. So the amount or red flakes shown above is doubled. 

Even that can not be tasted nor felt, so two serrano chiles are diced and added. Now, altogether that is quite a lot of chile heat added to ranch dressing that usually does not have such heat, and they too are rendered powerless by the two heavy creamy substances. Such a disappointment. Their flavor is barely perceived and none of their heat.

Heavy cream is added to thin the dressing so that it pours instead of clumps, but the acids contained within both mayonnaise and sour cream turn heavy cream thick in an instant. It does nothing to thin the mixture although it dilutes it and extends it, so plain milk is added and now the mixture is doubled in bulk. Herbal, and harmlessly not at all hot as intended.

Not shown: seedless cucumber cut into rectangle shapes. Although seedless they still do have incipient nascent seeds held in a watery core. That is the substance in cucumbers that makes people burp, so the cucumbers are cored. Rather, the dense portion is cut away from the  core lengthwise then chopped into large pieces.

Not shown: Mango. The seed of a mango is a large flat disc. The mango held upright and cut vertically the knife sliding down each side of the seed. A very small portion of fruit can be recovered from two uncut sides of the seed, but not much. The two large lens-shaped fruit portions are sliced into three long pieces making the removal of peel much easier to manage. Then the six wedges are cut into vague cubes.

Pecans are toasted to near extinction so that they veritably dissolve in your mouth. 

Croutons are not my favorite thing to toast, but they are one of my favorite things to eat. This salad would be much less interesting without them. They contribute textural variation. These croutons are made of my own rye bread. The bread is 50% rye flour 50% all purpose flour, plus the fortification found in brioche, eggs, milk, and butter.  Its flavor is excellent but the loaves do not rise very tall. It is dense somewhat crumbly bread. It makes outstanding heavy and satisfying sandwiches although rather small. The only way to get the loaves taller is include higher proportion of all purpose or bread flour and I am unwilling to sacrifice flavor. 

I love this salad. It is a 100% win. There is no doubt in my mind why it is an award-winning combination. The award being $100.00 gift certificate to Whole Foods from an appreciative guest from this small dinner of twelve people, short version here, extended version here and here.

Red beet salad, sweet/sour cucumber and onion, beans

Red beets roasted and sliced. Cucumber and onion soaked in water with cider vinegar and sugar. Fresh green beans and sugar peas microwaved two minutes and doused in chilled water.Terrace parsley and cilantro. Vinaigrette with honey and mustard powder.

Brussels sprouts cole slaw, pork stir fry

Dressing for cole slaw coats but not drowns Brussels sprouts that changes their taste to something different entirely. Sweetness of carrots and currants and cut grapes and generous honey with mustard overtakes the cabbagy bitter flavor of shredded leaves. This cole slaw is delightful. Raw peanuts pan heated and flipped continuously until toasted when added they sizzle the wet mixture. 

Pork, sugar peas, regular peas, and mushrooms with onion and garlic are sautéed then doused with liquid containing Asian elements, water, cornstarch, Hoisin sauce, ginger, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil and dry red Thai chile broken into flakes. These are fried quickly in a hot pan, then off the heat and served within two minutes. 

This meal is like a party. Chopped like this there is very little chewing and no cutting at the table, just shoveling it in. The stir fry is hot and the cole slaw is cold.

The thing about this meal is that it fills you up and five minutes later, hungry or not, you are yearning for more. Good thing is, you can have it.

Pork chops, Brussels sprouts, green beans, corn, hot chile peppers

The vegetables are cooked in a sauce of butter and a lime's grated peel and juice similar to salad dressing. The vegetables are a combination of sweet (corn) bitter, tart and capsaicin heat. They are a far cry from boring old vegetables. Retaining their crunchy texture, they are a flavor explosion in your mouth.

Rye bread crostini

It is not really crostini because the bread is not toasted. Actually, the bread is right out of the oven. The bread is dense, heavy, exceedingly flavorful with additional caraway seed mixed into it. 

But not so dense as it could be.

Rye flour and water with powdered milk, butter and egg, yeast, and salt are processed to a very wet batter longer than possible with all purpose wheat flour. Rye does have a little gluten but not nearly as much as wheat flour. It takes longer to develop. If all purpose flour is processed as long as this  then all purpose would be overprocessed and the gluten would be busted and unable to adhere to itself. After a few minutes in the Cuisinart when rye shows threadiness then all purpose flour is added in tablespoon increments and processed briefly until a very thick batter is formed, sticky and unmanageable, but not actual dough.

The batter rises once in the smallest pan and holds, its appearance much as if chemical leaven is used. It doubles in height. Its baked flavor is deep and wonderful, its crumb even, but because of the whole wheat flour included for its gluten, its rye flavor is a shadow of real 100% rye bread such as popular in Northern European countries and its density lighter. 

Even with caraway seed inside, onion, bright tomato, mineral sea salt and cilantro, it is the rye bread flavor that lingers, diluted as it is with all purpose flour. 

Asparagus, bacon, scallion, pine nuts

Recipe for Absurdly Addictive Asparagus seen here on Food 52.

This version uses bacon in place of pancetta, scallion in place of leeks, because that is what I have on hand. My version also has vermouth because I put that in everything. I forgot about lemon and orange zest, and come to think of it, they sound very nice. Butter would be better than bacon grease. 

This is excellent. I ate the whole pile for lunch, and it went down very fast. Their version would be even better. And this shows I should not rely on memory.

That's okay. I still have asparagus left. I'll do it again. 

And when I run out of asparagus, I'll do the same thing with Brussels sprouts.

Mortadella sandwich

Fried egg, salsa cruda, whole wheat English muffin, bacon breakfast, at Things Wot I Made Then Ate

The English muffins have rye flour, mostly whole wheat flour, and a/p flour, double the usual amount of commercial yeast, half the liquid is scalded milk, plus a teaspoon of sugar. They rose much more quickly than usual, then when salt was added along with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, then they ceased to rise much at all. They would have been much more airy had I not added baking soda. I added baking soda to make the dough more malleable, but I will not do that again. The rye is too insignificant to come through strongly. You might not even know it is there.

The jalapeños this time are large and disappointingly mild. I do not like that. They are flavorful, almost sweet, and I do like their flavor so I won't complain, but for capsaicin heat another chile must be included to compensate. I wanted it hot and did not get it, rather, I got something that children would like and I suppose that is okay, but not what I wanted.

This is a beautiful and satisfying breakfast. 

Bacon lettuce and tomato with cheese sandwich on homemade bread

Homemade bread made rapidly somewhat carelessly but no less expertly. It contains a bit of rosemary picked from a bush on the terrace.

I notice this thin bacon cooks crispier, crunchier, more easily and much faster.

Penne and cheese with panko

Mac and cheese except penne pasta instead of macaroni. The sauce is roux with vermouth and milk, chile flakes, chile powder, oregano, milk and egg tempered in, then four types of cheese that I have on hand, three of them pre-sliced sandwich-type cheese, munster with chiles, cheddar, and American along with grated Swiss. 

The panko I made myself by baking plain white bread, drying, breaking into large pieces and drying thoroughly by baking on low. There is no need to butter the panko and toast it, there is enough of that already. It's included for texture variation.

Shrimp scampi on hand-rolled semolina egg noodles

Noodle dough is made with one jumbo egg and enough semolina flour to produce a stiff ball. I have no idea how much, it is added in increments, stirring it into the egg is part of the kneading process, I'd say, about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup but not more than 1 cup. There is no salt, no olive oil, no water.

This is as thin as I can roll the dough by hand. Still, it results in thick sturdy substantial noodles, much more so than fresh noodles purchased from the grocery store. The Atlas machine that mangles dough and cuts it can produce thinner slabs than this but I did not feel like dragging it out and clamping it onto the work surface. If I had more noodles to make then I certainly would consider the Atlas. And if there were a lot of noodles to make then I'd attach the motor as well. All of that is fun. But I don't care for fetching it and rummaging through its attachments. The machine is not a permanent fixture.

The noodles swell when cooked.

Frozen shrimp. It's the best we can do this far inland. Brined as it thaws.

I did not want a lot of garlic this time, so I used scant garlic and grated a portion of onion instead. The sauce is butter with olive oil and vermouth. That is all. Water reserved from straining the pasta is included to extend as necessary. The starch in the water sloughed from the noodles as they cooked slightly thickens the sauce. There is no cheese.

With a beer this is a wonderful meal. I forgot that  I pulled out frozen peas to thaw. They are added on to the plate. The whole thing, so simple, is splendid and so filling and utterly satisfying. Casual, beautiful, elegant. I would be pleased to serve this to anybody anytime for any occasion casual or formal. 

The term shrimp scampi is a bit redundant, 'scampi' refers to a specific type of lobster-like langoustine, shrimp or prawn. The terms are all conflated country to country, derived from Greek meaning 'bending'. The dish scampi implies such a creature cooked in generous butter and garlic without necessarily pasta. In the United States on menus it means shrimp in garlic butter with pasta, and that is what I am doing here.

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