Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Sourdough Cinnamon Raisin Bread with Walnuts

This is not your old school, sweet and soft-textured raisin bread. As a kid I loved an occasional raisin bread treat, a toasted thin slice swirled with barely a hint of sweet cinnamon and raisins. That loaf was fluffy, a close cousin to Wonder bread in taste and texture, and rare enough in our household to be a special treat. This sourdough version isn't even remotely relately to that insipid bread of my childhood. Ahhhh, this raisin bread from Emilie Raffa's book Artisan Sourdough Made Simple offers texture and crunch along with a distinct cinnamon flavor in every bite.

Raisin bread is not a new idea, 
Wikipedia notes "there have been published recipes for bread with raisins since 1671. Since the 15th century, breads made with raisins were made in Europe. In Germany stollen was a Christmas bread. Kulich was an Easter bread made in Russia and panettone was made in Italy. The earliest citation for "raisin bread" in the Oxford English Dictionary is dated to an 1845 article in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine."
Raffa's sourdough version changed my view of what raisin bread could be. I took a few liberties with her recipe on my first attempt and still ended up with good results. We are already anticipating the next loaves for breakfast slices and snacks.

Results from the first bake:

Crust: I'll admit that first crunchy bite was a bit of a shock when my food memory anticipated the squishy-soft bread of childhood. RL and I quickly adjusted our expectations and reveled in this altogether new slice. Yes, the crust was crackling hard on day one, but thin enough so no tooth was endangered. After overnighting in a plastic bag, the crust softened somewhat, but remained fairly firm on day two. There was no bread left for further comment, we ate it all quite happily.

Crumb: the interior was soft but not sandwich-bread soft. My first loaves were not as airy as those pictured in Raffa's photo; an issue for this cook to work on. Now that my sourdough Old Faithful is back in active form any missteps are definitely mine.

Filling: the ratio of cinnamon mix, raisins and walnuts was ample, providing a treat to savor in each bite.   

Taste: cool or toasted and spread with just a slather of butter, the bread seemed undersalted. A sprinkle of sea salt on top made a difference. Spread with cream cheese or berry preserves, salt was not an issue. 

Baker's Notes
  • I do not own the long rectangular proofing basket or baking pot specified so formed two smaller loaves instead. One loaf baked in a round cast-iron dutch oven with lid, preheated at 400 F, and the second loaf baked uncovered in a glass loaf pan that was not preheated. The results were remarkably similar.
  • When/if the cinnamon and sugar mix leaks out it will caramelize in spots on the bottom crust to form a rock-hard lava-like blob. Cut that mess away and toss - burnt sugar adds nothing to the bread experience!
  • Soaking the raisins and walnuts did not keep the exposed bits from scorching on my loaves. Next time I will carefully poke them back in before baking. This round I just popped those few bits off before slicing.
With only two of us to indulge in a freshly baked loaf I'll put off a second round of baking for another week or two, but there will be more sourdough cinnamon raisin bread with walnuts in my kitchen soon. Sooner if I decide to share more loaves - anyone nearby want to share?

 Sourdough Cinnamon Raisin Bread with Walnuts

slightly adapted from Emilie Raffa's Artisan Sourdough Made Simple.

makes 2 standard loaves

1/4 cup active sourdough starter
1/4 tsp rapid rise yeast (optional, added for insurance only)
generous 12 oz warm water
rounded 4+ 1/4 cups bread flour (Raffa used bread flour & whole wheat flour)
1+ 1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1/3 cup raisins, soaked to plump
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped large & soaked to soften

1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 rounded tsp cinnamon

Day 1:
Whisk the starter and water together in a large bowl. Add the flour and salt; stir to incorporate. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and rest for an hour. While the dough is resting soak the raisins and walnuts in warm water. Note: drain well before using!

Add drained raisins and nuts to the rested dough; knead briefly & gently to incorporate. Add a sprinkle or two of flour to adjust the consistency, as needed. Note: avoid adding too much flour.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and let rise overnight until doubled in size (or 8 to 10 hours).

Day 2:
Place the dough on a lightly floured board & let rest for 15 minutes or more. Line proofing vessels with flour-dusted towels or sprayed parchment paper. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl & set aside.

Flour your hands and stretch half of the dough into a long rectangle. Brush the surface with water & sprinkle the sugar/cinnamon mix evenly over the top. Leave a clean border around the rim for a better seal after rolling. Begin with a short side and roll the dough into a log. Pinch the ends to seal. Move to the proofing vessel with seam side up. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Cover the dough logs and let them rest and rise again, 30 to 60 minutes. They will not double in size. Preheat the oven to 425 while the dough rests. Cut parchment paper to generously fit the baking pots if you used proofing baskets. Put the paper over the baskets, invert and remove baskets. Otherwise gently roll your loaves over, seam side down on their parchment bases. Gently poke any exposed nuts and raisins back under the surface to prevent scorching.

Dust the surface with flour; make 2 or 3 shallow diagonal slashes (shallow to avoid exposing the filling). Use the paper & lift the loaves into their baking pots.

Bake covered 20 minutes on the center oven rack. Remove lid and bake uncovered for an additional 30 to 40 minutes (aim for 190 to 200 degrees F at the center). Remove to a wire baking rack and cool for at least one hour before slicing.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Pressure Cooker Pork Chili Verde

My pressure cooker is seriously underutilized, a handy, timesaving device that stores out of sight and evidently out of mind. It proved its usefulness again recently when I wanted a quick, tasty bowl of chili in under an hour, not several hours from now. Too many of my chili recipes call for browning the meat, then cooking slowly for 2 to 3 hours on the stovetop (or 6 to 8 hours in a slow cooker). Not so this pressure cooker version; after browning the meat, it took just 20 minutes under high pressure to develop both taste and texture. 

RL noted the chili heat needed taming on day one, and unusual response from him, but the bite had mellowed significantly by day two. It took a few tablespoons of sour cream to tame the chile bite for me on both days, but I am an admitted chili heat wimp.

A recipe for Abilene Beef and Bean Chili from a Rick Rodgers cookbook, Pressure Cooking for Everyone, provided guidance as I changed up the ingredients. I substituted pork shoulder for the specified beef bottom round, used 2 Hatch chiles instead of 1 jalapeno and a single tablespoon of Penzeys' awesome Chili 3000 blend rather than 2 tablespoons of anyone else's chili powder, then added tomatillos and fresh orange quarters for a hint more flavor.

The results? Mmmm, that was some tasty peppy chili. The Rogers cookbook is noted for requiring multiple steps, pre-browning or adding ingredients requiring additional after-pressure cooking, but if this chili is any guide then a few extra steps are worth it. Now it's time to try a few more quick pressure cooker recipes. 


Pressure Cooker Peppy Pork Chili Verde

Adapted from Pressure Cooking for Everyone by Rick Rodgers

2 TBS olive oil, divided (more as needed)
2 LBS pork shoulder, cut into 2” chunks
3 cups yellow onion, chopped (roughly 1 large yellow onion)
1 cup sweet bell peppers (not green), seeded & chopped
6 large tomatillos, quartered
2 Hatch chiles, roasted, skinned, deseeded, chopped (or 1 jalapeno)
1 TBS minced garlic
1 TBS Penzeys 3000 chili mix (or ½ TBS ancho chili powder plus 1 tsp each cumin, smoky paprika, dried Mexican oregano, cilantro and lemon peel)
½ tsp salt, more according to taste
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 orange, unpeeled and quartered (or 4 mini oranges, halved)
¼ cup masa or yellow cornmeal
2 cans (15-oz each) black beans, rinsed & drained

Suggested optional toppings: fresh tomatilla salsa, sour cream, lime wedges, tortilla chips, fresh cilantro, crumbled queso fresco, red onion, avocado…

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat and brown the pork chunks in several batches. Don’t crowd the meat or it will stew instead of searing. Remove to a plate and set aside. Add more oil as needed for subsequent batches.

Discard the excess fat, but leave the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Heat the remaining tablespoon oil and add the onion, peppers, tomatillos, chiles, and garlic. Cook to soften, stirring often.

Return the pork to the pot along with any juices that accumulated on the plate. Sprinkle with the spices and salt; stir and toss to mix well. Add in the stock; stir and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom. Add the oranges.

Cover, lock the lid in place and bring to high pressure over high heat. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain high pressure and cook for 20 minutes (I used a flame tamer under the pot on my electric element). Do a quick-release, open the lid and let stand for 5 minutes. Remove and discard the orange halves; skim excess fat.

Note: I often use some bone-in pieces and pull the meat out at this point to debone, defat and shred.

Use a small bowl and make a masa slurry, whisking the masa into a generous cup of the cooking liquid. Stir this slurry into the pot and add the beans. Cook over medium heat until the juices thicken a bit; stir frequently to prevent scorching the bottom of the pot. Return the meat chunks or shreds to the cooker; taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve in bowls with optional toppings alongside, or use to fill tortillas.

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