give me flour

Playing with flour

December 2nd, 2010

Compared to the first post, that’s not the best picture, I agree! But I kind of have feelings for it. As soon as I got to choose the name for the blog, I knew it should be the recipe to start with.  You know, “Give me flour”, “flour”, flour makes bread and so……. And that’s one of my favorite breads, a recipe I got in a gastronomic fair, probably ten years ago, from a reputed Brazilian pastry chef called Dario Viana. It wasn’t the first entrée but is now the beginning of the bread’s session.

The recipe is also published on the book Atelier Gourmand: 70 Chefs. That’s not a traditional focaccia you are used to. It’s a surprisingly sweet dough that, in contrast to a salty topping, delights and captivates the palate.

So, being aware of that, I grabbed the ingredients, the tools, set a temporary studio in my daughters’ bedroom, turned my camera on and started to shoot.  At first the lighting was good, but when the focaccia came out of the oven the luminosity was terrible.

Funny thing is, making bread is also playing with time, only in reverse. If shooting requires agility (at least when we are working with natural light), making bread requires patience!

Preparing the dough, letting it rest, watching it grow, the whole thing asks for time and patience. But I gotta tell you, there’s nothing more relaxing than playing with flour! Oh, and shooting, of course …. even if the first photo turns to be dark or the bread is not so soft.

The bread can be made by hand or in a mixer. First, combine the dried ingredients and the yeast.  Add 8 oz of milk, and then add the rest, little by little. For what I’ve done so far in the United States, the quality of flour found here is going to require more liquid than the flour I used to work in Brazil.  So, be aware you are going to use the whole amount of milk or even more, depending of the brand of flour or if you are doing it by hand. Mix until the dough is smooth and elastic. Keep kneading the dough and if gets too sticky don’t worry and don’t add more flour, just keep going!!!!!!

If you are using a mixer this will take about five minutes and probably twice as long if you’re mixing with your hands.

And then add the butter, solving the problem of stickiness! It’ll seem weird but you aren’t doing anything wrong. Keep on kneading until all the butter has been incorporated into the dough.

It’s the moment to give the dough some time to relax. And you can relax too because there’s no secret in this process. About 25 minutes should be enough and we are not talking about rising yet. Then keep the dough in a cool place and when it wakes up from the little “nap”, it’s going to be totally ready to get some shape.

Grease the pan or pans with olive oil. Be generous!!!! That’s important for the characteristic focaccia flavor. You can do like me, 2 circles of 9in each, or just a big oval and organic focaccia style, whatever you want. Be creative!! Brush more olive oil on top and FINALLY, let it rise.

Now we’re talking about a more relative step. The process of rising may take 1 to 2 hours depending on room temperature and type of yeast you are using. Just watch the picture, can you see the difference? The dough is inflated, kind of soft.

Now just follow the steps of the photos. They are kind of rules for a focaccia bread: topping: distribut the ingredients, add more olive oil, sprinkle coarse salt and pierce the dough with your fingers.

Heat the oven to 375F. You don’t have to do it earlier, it’s going to take about 15 minutes, just the right time the dough needs to rise a bit more after had been punched.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until deep in color. Enjoy it warm or after cooling on a rack.

THE TABLE

November 27th, 2010

Couldn’t write earlier. I was still digesting the Thanksgiving Dinner. Can you picture that? An American family hosting a Brazilian family and a Chinese friend; the menu, venison prepared as a (kind of) Japanese teriyaki and cranberry Mexican style salsa with tortilla chips as appetizer, followed, of course, by an amazing and traditional thanksgiving meal. A replete table, good, homemade and festive food:

And just one thing came to my mind, the words of the great Brazilian poet Drummond:

What a power has a festive table, the power to link not just the people in the house but the cultures and worlds we’ve known and experienced!!

Now it’s time to move forward, Christmas’ coming!

Thanksgiving is already memory….

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November 22nd, 2010

Do you know there’s a bunch of food blogs just waiting to be discovered, with amazing recipes and amazing photos, and amazing tips, and amazing techniques about almost everything?? I decided to join this and NOW, I’m part of it.

So, this is my recipe notebook, for my daughters, for my family, my friends and for myself to remember life can be tasty!!!

And before beginning, I just have to say one thing. I decided to make a bilingual blog, and it’s making me crazy!!! That’s because I realized it’s not only about literal translation but a lot of other obstacles and differences between cooking in Brazil and in the United States. So, I’m going to ask permission to do things in my way, adding explanations in English and omitting them in Portuguese or vice versa, whenever it is convenient.

Well let’s talk about what really matters: a recipe!!!

I thought a good place to start would be a Pumpkin Flan, just to celebrate a bit here the meeting of two worlds. We can say a Sunday Flan in Brazil (and in most of Latin America) is as important as a Pumpkin Pie on Thanksgiving. And if somebody is looking for a comfort flavor for his Thanksgiving table but with a new and impressive face, it would be this recipe.

Probably I’d have to convince Brazilians rather than Americans pumpkin can be a good flavor for flan. That’s because we are nothing creative when the subject is Pumpkin. First of all, we don’t have the same kind of pumpkin that North America has, although the “squash” we have could replace it beautifully.

We do have a few savory dishes using it and a few sweet treats that comes to my mind right now, specially my grandmother’s doce de abóbora, a pumpkin butterich that didn’t let me think in anything else ‘till I met the combination of perfumes and flavors used here.

Ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg combined together in uncountable ways, bringing up the flavors, gave me a whole new meaning to anything pumpkin flavored! That’s one of the reasons I should give “Thanks!”

And ok, I admit, the decoration can be a little challenge. But the flan is so easy that it doesn’t give you the right to skip any step!!!

*if you want to make your own puree, a small pumpkin should be enough for this recipe. Just cut it in quarters, place them in a sheet pan, sprinkle with sugar and nutmeg and bake for aprox. 30 min.

**Most of the recipes I’ve found for pumpkin spice call for one part of cinnamon/half of ginger and a quarter of cloves (or allspice) and nutmeg. I like cloves better than allspice and I do love ginger, so I’m going to suggest one combination here but you are allowed to change!!! And if you are an American, you know that better than me!!!


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******* just some examples of what you can do with this recipe

Ingredients

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 1/2 tbsp (1.5 oz.) light corn syrup

1/4 c. water

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and cook ‘till melted and golden in color.

Meanwhile, prepare a flat surface with a silicone non-stick matt such as Silpat or use a cookie sheet greased with butter.

If a tablespoon, pour the hot syrup in a prepared surface “drawing” arabesques. Let it cool completely and use just before serving.

Bom apetite!!!

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