Wednesday, June 10, 2009

That's cä-sŭ-TEE-lō in my version...

Pronounce the first "a" like in map and the second like the "u" in cup and you'll have a good idea of my version of Casatiello. Think a very American pronunciation of the word. I'm sure that some of you may think I should be ashamed of myself for transforming this beautiful bread from it's Italian origins into this bastardization I have conceived. But I assure you this bread is beautiful in its own right. So before I get into this, I have a confession to make. I love food. I think anyone who reads this does. I love quality food. I am a member of a local food co-op, I have a freezer full of meat and chickens from local farmers, I love getting my vegetables fresh and local and am ecstatic that it's time for the local farmer's markets to allow the farmers to share their bounty with me and my family. And yes, I love Spam! That's right Spam. It's not something eaten frequently in my home, but it really is my favorite meaty treat in a can (really my only one). I could argue however that I am eating locally since there is a Spam cannery less than an hour drive away, but in the infinite logic of our mass produced food culture I'm sure that can has to make its way to Texas or California somehow before it comes back to me. And so this weeks adventure began with Spam... mmmm.... I can't eat or cook with spam without thinking of Spam by the band Save Ferris.
Spam, it's pink and its oval,
Spam, I buy it at the Mobil,

Spam, it's made in Chernobyl,


And I love it anyway.

So after thinking long and hard about how I was going to prepare this I finally decided I was going to dice into a fairly large dice and roast in the oven @ 450 F until it was nicely browned and had rendered out a good amount of fat.

As usual I started with my mise and got the sponge going. Unlike the other formulas in the book, for this one I just followed it closely (other than the meat and cheese) and I was amazed by the amount of yeast. A whole tablespoon/.33 oz (and I also used ounces this time rather than the logically superior metrics I usually use) ?!?!?!?

My second biggest dilemma was deciding on what type of cheese to use. The obvious choice with Spam would have been Velveeta, but I couldn't go there. So I settled on that most American of cheeses Kraft Cracker Barrel white cheddar. Also, rather than grating it I went with a small dice to leave nice chunks of cheese in the crumb. I didn't want to turn the bread orange, and just because I used Spam doesn't mean it didn't deserve some respect. I let the sponge get nice and bubbly for an hour and then mixed up the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes. I then slowly mixed in the butter in four additions and mixed it for around the 12 minutes the book calls for and I was able to achieve a really nice windowpane.

Once I had my windowpane I tried mixing in the meat and then the cheese in the machine, but it just wasn't cooperating so I dumped it onto the counter and mixed by hand until I got a nice even distribution.
I greased the bowl and let it rise for about two hours (with a small interruption from the contractors I'm dealing with in the whole basement finishing we are in the middle of).
After it rose I measured the whole mass and determined I had about 1400 grams of dough so I measured two halves around 700 grams each and divided each into six pieces about 115 grams, give or take a few, and lined them up six each in a loaf pan as I had done for my brioche.

I let them proof in the pan for about an hour and a half (the temperature in my kitchen was PERFECT today) and I set the oven to 350F. I also baked some plain hamburger and hot dog buns today so my oven was already preheated. I baked them for 20 minutes and when I went to rotate them I baked them an additional 15. At that point they were perfectly browned and were right at 190 F.

I couldn't wait to cut into them and they cooled for maybe five minutes before I lost all willpower and made my first cut. Amazing! I may or may not do this bread again, but I have to say I loved it. I think I felt my heart stop for a minute after my third slice, but I made sure to take one of the loaves to my parents so I wouldn't gain everything back I've lost since the first of the year. The crumb on this bread was fantastic. I actually may make it again at Xmas time as my family is not really a raisin and dried fruit eating bunch, but it will definitely be a while. And for those of you who haven't made this one yet, I double dog dare you to try it with Spam! Or maybe chipped beef. S**t in a shingle!

Finally, Brioche!!!

The last few weeks of my life have been completely interrupting my life as an amateur baker. First we were gone for almost a week to Kansas City, which was fun, but since it was 90% about the kids we didn’t really get to eat as well as I would have liked. The one saving grace (as far as food because it really was a lot of fun) I had on the vacation was that I drove to Lawrence, KS the last morning we were there for some great bread from Wheatfields Bakery. Apparently Maggie Glezer once called their Kalamata Olive bread the best in the country. I have to say it was amazingly delicious.
Then when we returned from our vacation we began the process of finishing our basement. It has consumed my life for the past two weeks and as much as I can’t wait to get it finished, as I said it’s really disrupting my baking.
I actually took a day and made the brioche a while back, but I’ve been so busy I haven’t had the chance to update the blog.
To be honest, I really don’t normally care for brioche. The amount of butter is usually just too much for me. I prefer a good lean bread, but since I committed to this challenge so I will make everything. And even though my wife and I don’t care for raisins (I figure I’ll just donate the cinnamon raisin bread to my neighbors). Anyways, because of this I decided to make the middle class version of the brioche and scale it back so that I only had one small loaf.
For most of the recipes I’ve made so far in this book I use the baker’s percentages because I typically want either more or less of what the recipe calls for and I prefer using the much more logical metric system of measurement. Using the percentages and the metric system I decided I wanted a finished loaf that weighed 450 g because it’s approximately the same as a pound (actually I would have to say that it had 450 g of mass, not weighed 450 g, but I’m not a science or math teacher on this blog so whatever). My final measurements were

Bread Flour 27 g
Instant Yeast 3 g
Milk 48 g

Bread Flour 164 g
Eggs 98 g
Salt 4 g
Sugar 12 g
Butter 95 g

Total 450 g

So first I got my mise on...

Then I followed the instructions as per the book and mixed the sponge and let it hydrate.
I got the kids fed and started putting on the show.
I'm using the KA this time because it's such a small quantity of dough.
I got a nice smooth dough and since it was such a small amount I used a small Pyrex dish to rest and ferment it in.
I opted not to buy brioche pans since I'm not real crazy about the bread in the first place, and I like the look of the six small rolls.
The one mistake I made was that I forgot to put on the egg wash here, but it still looked pretty good.
And finally although it looked pretty, it wasn't quite as dark or as shiny as it should have been for a brioche,
but the crumb was amazing and my wife and girls loved it!
I'm still not really crazy about brioche, but since the rest of the family loved it I'll probably be making this recipe again.
And maybe it was the vacation, but this was the least angry I've gotten while baking in a while. The dough was incredibly cooperative and like I said it was a hit for the ladies in the house. Maybe it just sensed what would have been in store if there was no cooperation.

Next up is Casatiello, and I've got a big surprise in store for this one!