Michy’s Bread Pudding

MIchy's Bread Pudding photo 2 (1) photo 3 (1)

I am not a huge fan of bread pudding.  I like it, I don’t LUUUURRRVE it.  So, why did I make bread pudding?  Well, two reasons.  1) My daughter begged me to make cheese fondue last week, and I seriously miscalculated the quantities of how much bread we could eat.  2) My good friend Michelle Bernstein (of Michy’s Restaurant in Miami) makes the best bread pudding, hands down.

I tried Michy’s bread pudding 3 years ago when she invited me to eat at her restaurant.  It’s the only dessert she has in her cookbook, “Cuisine a Latina” too.  It’s that good.  What I love about it, is that even though it is quite a rich and decadent dessert, it really doesn’t feel like it, and I think it has to be the addition of brandy, chocolate and the fact that it soaks up the custard for up to 48 hours.  Booze and Chocolate.  Two of my favorite things!  Mixed together, even more yum factor. So, as I generally do, I tweaked her recipe a bit, (But I will give you the original and you can do as you choose!) by using cranberries instead of raisins, and using all of the brandy used to soak the cranberries instead of just a tbsp!  I love the taste of a slightly boozy dessert, but if you prefer yours with a little less ripple, keep to the original recipe!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1/2 cup raisins (or any dried fruit you like)

Grated zest of 1 orange (I used lemon and it was equally scrumptious)

1 cup brandy or sherry (but go to town, I think rum would even be amazing in this)

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup half and half

6 large egg yolks, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

4 cups diced (1 inch) soft crustless challah, brioche, or white bread (I used crustful baguette)

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Vanilla Ice Cream for serving

Put raisins and orange zest in a small bowl, add the brandy, and let the raisins and zest soak, covered, in the refrigerator for 24 hours or up to 1 week.

Put the cream and half and half in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.  Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Whisk one-third of the warm cream into the egg mixture, a little at a time, to prevent scrambling the eggs, then whisk in the rest of the cream mixture.

Add the bread to the bowl and stir to soak it with the custard.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, or up to 48 hours.

Put a rack in the center of the oven to 325F (170C).  Butter six 4 to 6 ounce ramekins or baking dishes.  Drain the raisins, reserving the brandy.  Add the raisins and a tablespoon of the brandy to the bread mixture and mix well.  Spoon into the prepared ramekins or baking dish.  Sprinkle chocolate over the top of the bread puddings.  Put the ramekins in a roasting pan and fill the pan with enough warm water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake, uncovered, until the pudding is just set, about 25 minutes; when you shake the pan, the custard should wobble for just a moment.

Remove the pan from the oven and carefully place the ramekins on small serving dishes.  Serve the bread pudding hot, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream right on top.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

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Pane Siciliano – Sicilian Bread

Rustic Bread

There is something utterly rewarding about making bread at home.  Whenever I pass by a bread bakery, I swoon at the smells wafting from inside, just wanting to dive into the dough, and lie in a puddle of happiness.

Unfortunately, making good bread isn’t easy.  It is alchemy, turning base ingredients into something worth raving about.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like bread, but I completely understand that it isn’t something you want to tackle unless you have plenty of time and patience.  This recipe isn’t easy, but if you are up to the challenge, you will not be disappointed.

It is three days work, you can cheat a little bit by omitting one of the steps, yet you would be cheating yourself out of an opportunity to taste something utterly delicious.  I think the most important step is preparation, considering you have to bake the bread emulating a steam hearth.  So, I suggest you read through the recipe once or twice, and make sure you have all the tools necessary.  Don’t worry, they are not some confounding instruments you’ve never heard of, but it does make a difference to have everything on hand once you begin to cook.

bread

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Courtesy of “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”

Makes 3 loaves

3 cups pâté fermentee (recipe follows)

1 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour

1 3/4 cups semolina flour

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 1/4 tsp instant yeast

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp honey

1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups water, lukewarm

Natural brown or black sesame seeds for topping (optional)

1. Remove the pâté fermentee from the refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough to take off the chill.  Cut it into about 10 small pieces with a pastry scraper or serrated knife.  Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour to take off the chill.

2. Stir together the bread flour, semolina flour, salt, and yeast in a 4 qt bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer).  Add the pâté fermentee pieces, the oil, the honey, and 1 1/4 cups water.  Stir with a large spoon until the dough forms a ball (or mix on medium-low speed with the paddle attachment).  If the dough seems too stiff, dribble in water 1 tsp at a time until all the flour is gathered and the dough feels soft and pliable.  If the dough seems sticky, don’t worry; you can adjust the flour while kneading or mixing.

3.  Sprinkle bread flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and knead (or mix on medium – low speed with the dough hook).  Add flour as needed, sprinkling in a small amount at a time to make a smooth dough that is tacky but not sticky and has the same pliability and suppleness as French bread dough.  Knead for about 10 minutes ( or for 6 to 8 minutes by machine).  The dough should pass the windowpane test.  (Grabbing a piece of the dough, stretch it out, and if it forms a “pane” and doesn’t break, that is slightly translucent, then it is done) It should register 77 – 81 degrees F.  Form the dough into a ball, lightly oil a large bowl, and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

4.  Ferment at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

5.  Gently divide the dough into 3 equal pieces.  Shape as for baguette into long cylinders, extending each piece to about 24 inches in length and taking care to degas the dough as little as possible.  Then, working from each end simultaneously, coil the dough toward the center, forming an S shape.  Line a sheet pan with baking parchment and sprinkle some semolina flour on the parchment.  Place each loaf on the pan, mist the loaves with water and sprinkle sesame seeds on the top of each loaf.  Then mist the tops with vegetable spray oil and place the pan in a food-grade plastic bag or loosely cover with plastic wrap.

6.  Place the pan in the refrigerator overnight. (This is a step you can omit, but don’t, it is totally worth it.  If you do, let rise for at least 2 hours before baking.)

7.  The next day, remove the pan from the refrigerator and determine whether the loaves have risen enough to bake or if they need additional proofing time.  Gently poke the dough.  If it springs back quickly, leave the pans out, still covered, for a couple of hours, or until it wakes up and rises more.  The dough should stay dimpled when poked, and the loaves should be nearly twice as large as when first baked.

8.  Prepare the oven for hearth baking, making sure to place an empty steam pan in place.  You do not need a baking stone.  Preheat the oven to 500F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

9.  Uncover the bread dough and place the pan in the oven.  Pour 1 cup hot water into the steam pan and close the door.  After 30 seconds, spray the oven walls using a plant mister with water and close the door.  Repeat twice more at 30 second intervals.  After the final spray, lower the oven setting to 450F and bake for about 15 minutes.  Rotate the pans 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for 10-15 minutes more, or until the loaves are a rich golden brown all over.  If there are still light or white segments of the dough extend the baking time for a few extra minutes to maximize color and flavor.  The internal temperature of the bread should register 200-205 F.

10.  Remove the pan from the oven and transfer loaves to a baking rack.  Cool for at least 45 minutes before serving.

Pate Fermentee Recipe

(enough for one batch of this bread)

1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/8 cups bread flour

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp instant yeast

3/4 cup to 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp water, at room temperature

1.  Stir together the flours, salt, and yeast in a 4 qt. bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer).  Add 3/4 cups water, stirring until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball (or mix on low-speed for 1 minute with the paddle attachment).  Adjust the flour or water, according to need, so that the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff.

2.  Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter.  Knead for 4 to 6 minutes ( or mix on medium speed with the dough hook for 4 minutes), or until the dough is soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky.

3.  Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 1 hour, or until it swells to about 1.5 times its size.

4.  Remove the dough from the bowl, knead it lightly to degas, and return it to the bowl, covering the bowl with plastic wrap.  Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight.  You can keep this in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze it in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Parmesan Zucchini Loaf

WARNING!!!!  THIS BREAD IS HIGHLY ADDICTIVE.  I hadn’t made this bread in years.  It’s a really old recipe a friend of my mother’s passed on to me, I remember way way way before I even thought of going to culinary school, I had tried this one Thanksgiving, and I became wholly enamoured with it.  So I picked up my very old and tattered recipe book and decided to make it again, to see if it still stood the test of time, you know, how sometimes you try something when you’re young and then you try it again and you think to yourself, what is the big deal?  Well, I made it the other day, because of my surplus of Zucchini’s, and it’s gone, daddy gone.

It’s such a simple recipe, fool-proof even.  Just the smell emanating from the oven will start to make your tummy rumble, my daughter even asked me if I was making pizza.  Then, you have to wait 10 torturous minutes before you cut into it……the agony!  But once you have one slice, you want another, and another and another.  This is a quick bread, and a very eggy loaf.  But the combination of the parmesan and the zucchini….wow.

So, here’s what you’re going to need:

2 small zucchini or 1 large, cubed

1 cup Bisquick or 1 cup regular flour + 2 tsp baking powder

5 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp garlic salt

In a large bowl mix the bisquick, eggs and oil.  Add the parmesan, zucchini and garlic salt.  Coat a bread tin with butter, and add the dough.  Bake in a 190 C oven for about 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and it’s golden on top.  Check it mid-way through the baking process though, remember my oven sucks.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

As a kid, I remember I would get so excited when my mom would bring home a loaf of Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon Raisin bread.  I remember smelling the slice before she put it in the toaster, how that cinnamon goodness would perfume the whole kitchen as I slowly waited those two minutes that felt like an eternity for the toast to spring up, and then another 30 seconds for her to smear some butter on it.

Last time I was in the States, I bought some, to relive my childhood memories, but I was very disappointed, quite frankly.  The bread was rather dry, and dull.   The smell was more enticing than the actual taste, and the raisins are almost miniscule!  It was a disaster.

As I have mentioned before, I have this amazing book called The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, which I turn to almost weekly to churn out an amazing recipe every time I use it.  This time was no different, when I decided to make this Cinnamon Raisin Walnut bread.   It is fairly easy, if you have a stand up mixer, and all you really need is time on your side.  So, it’s probably best if you tackle this recipe on a weekend, so that way you can have lots of options for breakfast.

I had these wonderful sultanas that I bought a while ago,

these aren’t your regular weeny raisins.  They are about an inch long, and super juicy and sweet.  If you can find some in your local grocery store, I highly recommend you make this bread with these.  My daughter, who isn’t a fan of raisins, or walnuts for that matter, asked for a piece of bread after it had come out of the oven.  I asked her to wait the requisite hour before slicing.  When she finally got her slice, she said to me “Mom, this is one of your recipes that should be illegal”.  She had about three more slices after that.

Need I say more?

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Makes 2 loaves

Adapted from The Bread Baker’s apprentice

3.5 cups unbleached bread flour

4 tsp granulated sugar

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp instant yeast

1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 large egg, slightly beaten

2 tbsp shortening, melted or at room temperature

1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature

3/4 cup water, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups raisins, rinsed and drained

1 cup walnuts, chopped

Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, yeast and cinnamon in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer).  Add the egg, shortening, buttermilk and water.  Stir together with a large spoon (or mix on low-speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients come together and form a ball.  Adjust with flour or water if the dough seems too sticky or too dry and stiff.

Sprinkle flour on a counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing on medium speed, switching to the dough hook).  The dough should be soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky.  Add flour as you knead (or mix), if necessary, to acheive this texture.  Knead by hand approximately 10 minutes (or by machine for 6 to 8 minutes).  Sprinkle in the raisins and walnuts during the final two minutes of kneading (or mixing) to distribute them evenly and to avoid crushing them too much.  (If you are mixing by machine, you may have to finish kneading by hand to distribute the raisins and walnuts evenly.)  Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and form them into loaves.

Place each loaf in a lightly oiled 8.5 inch by 4.5 inch pan, mist the tops with spray oil, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lips of the pans and is nearly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) with the oven rack on the middle shelf.  Place the loaf pans on a sheet pan, making sure they are not touching each other.

Bake the loaves for 20 minutes.  Rotate 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking another 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven.  The finished breads should be golden brown on top and lightly golden on the sides and bottom.  They should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.

Immediately remove the breads from their pans and cool on a rack for at least an hour, preferably 2 hours, before slicing or serving.

*Note:  To add flavor brush the tops of the baked loaves with melted butter as soon as they come out of the bread pans, and then roll them in cinnamon sugar.  When the bread cools, the top will have an additional sweet and crunchy flavor burst!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming! Yorkshire Pudding

This week I have decided to do British Week.  I absolutely love all British food.  And my love affair began when I was 8 years old.

When I was 8, we moved to the Bahamas.  I was suddenly surrounded by many different foods and customs, especially British ones.  Considering that the Island is part of the Commonwealth, there were and still are many, many British Expats.

The first time I tried Yorkshire Pudding we were having a dinner at my headmaster’s house.  He did a typical Sunday Roast, which generally consists of either Roast Beef or Roast Chicken, vegetables, potatoes and yorkshire pudding.

I had no idea what it was, the name is obviously misleading because to me, a pudding was something sweet that you made out of a box labeled Jell-O.  Then out came the yorkshire pudding.  HOLY SWEET MOTHER OF GOD.  I couldn’t believe my taste buds!!!  What is this?  Bread?  No, it’s lighter and tastier than bread.  Baked pudding?  No, it’s more consistent than that.  I couldn’t make heads or tails of it, but I just knew I had to have more.  Unfortunately, I didn’t for many, many years, since my parents are about as British as I am feline.  So when I started cooking, I set out to find the recipe for Yorkshire Pudding.  But you see, back then there was no internet, and finding a recipe for something so authentically British in Latin America heavy Miami was quite difficult.  A couple of years later I made some friends from London, and they came to Miami to stay with me for a week.  Wooooo hooooo!  I pried every recipe that I could remember from my days in the Bahamas.  Yorkshire Pudding?  Check.  Bread and Butter Pudding?  Check.  Bubble and Squeak?  Check.  Toad in a Hole?  Check.  They were a veritable Encyclopaedia of Brit Food knowledge!  And I was so happy and satisfied.

I couldn’t believe how easy the recipe for Yorkshire Pudding was, but it does take a bit of trial and error to perfect it.  If you can, always make it from the pan drippings of your roast.  This will make it so much tastier, and since most times you take out your roast to let it rest, you just pour the pan juices back into another baking dish, or a muffin tin ( I prefer the individual ones, which Americans call popovers) and then raise the heat of your oven so your oil gets really hot, almost to the point of smoking and then add the batter directly to the hot oil.

Then you will get those glorious, puffed up morsels of heaven.  And mine last all of 10 minutes.  They are the first things to go at the dinner table, and it was no different yesterday, when my guests who had never tried them, finished them almost before we had finished the chicken.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Makes 12 individual or one large pan:
1/2 cup drippings from your roast

140g Flour

4 eggs

200 ml of milk

salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 230 C (425 F).  Divide your drippings in your muffin tin, and place in the oven and heat up until to the point of almost smoking.

In the meantime, mix the flour, eggs, milk and salt and pepper until you have a smooth batter.  When the oil is really hot, add spoonfuls of the batter to the hot oil.  Don’t worry if it spatters and bubbles, that’s what you want to happen.

Bake for another 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and risen over the tops, hence the name “popovers”.

Serve and enjoy with lots of gravy! Or with your roast.  Or alone hidden in a closet so no one else can get any.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla