Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Brotform Bread

Bread Number Two for our Thanksgiving week of breads is a simple country loaf that gets gussied up by doing its rising in a brotform.  I got this one from my mother-in-law as a gift last Christmas, and I've been enjoying using it this year.

A brotform is simply a wooden bowl made of spiraled rattan that imprints a delightful pattern on the risen dough that remains after the bread bakes, making for a much more attractive loaf.  But there's more to it than that.  Raising your dough in a bowl helps a slack dough gain a better rise, and not spread out everywhere like a pizza pie crust.  You could do this in a regular bowl, of course, but it wouldn't look as pretty.  I also believe the spiral channels, which hold flour, help facilitate the dough releasing from the brotform.

So now that we know what it is, let's make some bread.

Brotform Country Loaf

10.5 Oz (2.5 Cups) Unbleached Bread Flour
2 Oz (1/2 Cup) Pumpernickel Flour
1.5 Teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
1.5 Teaspoons Salt
10 Oz (1 1/4 Cup) Lukewarm Water

Preheat Oven to 450F.  Add the bread flour to the mixing bowl.

Then the pumpernickel.

Then the yeast.

Add the salt and then give all these dry ingredients a stir to thoroughly mix them.

Add the water.

Then attached a dough hook to your stand mixer,

and mix/knead everything until all is incorporated in a nice dough ball.

Knead for an additional four minutes or so.

Dump dough in an oiled bowl (not the brotform yet), cover and let rise for 1.5 to 2 hours.

At this point, toss a heap of flour around in your brotform to get it well-floured so the bread will release later.  Be generous with the flour here.

Take your dough from the first bowl and place it, smooth side down, into the brotform.  Do not press the dough into the brotform, simply let gravity do its work.

Let rise for another 1.5 hours.

At this point, gently turn the dough out onto baking sheet, stone or floured peel.  If dough doesn't drop out, gently tap on the side of the brotform and it should release.

Cut a cross pattern of slits in the top of the loaf with a lame or sharp knife.

Bake in your 450 degree F oven for 40-45 minutes, until the crust is dark brown and makes a hollow sound when you thump it.

Remove from oven and let rest for a couple minutes.

Then slice it up and serve piping hot.

Until Next Time,

Here's hoping you get a rise out of this bread!



Monday, November 24, 2014

Cheddar Drop Biscuits

It's Thanksgiving week here at An Eat'n Man, so I've decided to post a trio of awesome bread recipes to supplement those ubiquitous Parker House rolls that always get served.  First up are some awesome cheddar drop biscuits.

These biscuits are reminiscent of those served at a certain seafood establishment named for a reddish crustacean, but I think this version is even better.  Fix ya up a mess of 'um, and see if I ain't right.

Cheddar Drop Biscuits

2 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
3 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Sugar
2 Teaspoons Salt
1 Cup Cold Buttermilk
1 Stick Unsalted Butter, Melted, Plus Additional for Brushing
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar

Preheat oven to 475F.  Grease a sheet pan.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt until thoroughly combined.  Add the cheddar and mix this in thoroughly as well.

In another bowl, combine the buttermilk with the melted butter and stir until clumps of butter start to form.

Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until just combined.

Use a greased tablespoon or 1/4 Cup measure to dole out the dough...

...and 'drop' it on the sheet pan.

Repeat until you've used all your dough.  Should make about 12 biscuits.

Brush with additional melted butter and then bake at 475F for 12-15 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown and gorgeous.

Serve immediately with some additional butter and your guests will be sufficiently wowed.

Until Next Time,

Drop ya some biscuits, y'all!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs always call to mind the 1970s.  They were a fad party dish back then, like Fondue for Shish Kabobs.  But don’t write ‘em off like you did your old bell bottom jeans or rhinestone disco jacket.  Swedish Meatballs are savory and delicious and a lot of fun to serve.  (so are fondue and shish kabobs, but those are for another time) 

Swedish Meatballs have a really unique flavor that’s worlds apart from your run-o-the-mill (or perhaps it’s run-o-the-meal) meatball that accompanies your spaghetti and depends on a fab sauce for its flavor.  Nutmeg and Allspice play a key role here in these little balls o flavor, and the sauce ain’t half bad either.  So put on some Bee Gees, or better yet, some ABBA, and get to cooking. 

Swedish Meatballs

1 Cup Breadcrumbs
2/3 Cup Milk
1 Large Onion, Finely Minced
4 Tablespoons Butter
2 Eggs
1 Lb Lean Ground Beef
1 Lb Ground Pork
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Allspice
1/4 Teaspoon Cardamom
2 Tablespoons Olive or Vegetable Oil
1/4 Cup Flour
16 Oz Beef or Veal Stock
1/2 Cup Sour Cream

Preheat oven to 375F

Add your bread crumbs to a small bowl.  

Add the milk and mix thoroughly.  

Set aside for 15 minutes or so until the bread crumbs absorb all the milk.  Melt one tablespoon of the butter in a skillet.  

While this is melting, mince your onion finely.  I like to halve it, then quarter the half onion, 

and then use this little device (a Slap Chop!)

to really mince the onion finely, almost making it a paste.  

Repeat with the other half of the onion and then sauté the onion paste for a few minutes to build flavor.  

Remove from heat and let cool. 

Add the cooled onions to a large mixing bowl, then add the eggs, ground beef, ground pork, salt, nutmeg, pepper, allspice and cardamom.  

Finally add the milk and breadcrumb mixture to this, then using your hands, knead and mix the whole affair until the spices and other ingredients are thoroughly incorporated into the meats. 

Next, begin forming your meatballs!  Grab a palm-full of the meat mixture and form it into a nice ball.  

We’re making these a little larger than what we would for meatballs destined for spaghetti—make them about two inches across for more-than-a-mouthful greatness.  Pack the balls as tightly as possible so that they will stay together for the next step.

Make as many meatballs as you have mixture.  This recipe should make about 16-20 meatballs.

Heat your oil in a skillet and then sauté the meatballs 

in batches, turning them all around....   

...until they are well browned on all sides.

Transfer them to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Since the meatballs are so thick, we are going to roast them to finish cooking the meat on the inside.  Place in the 375F oven and roast for 20 minutes or so, or until a meat thermometer reads 150F in the center of a meatball.    

While the meatballs are cooking in the oven, make your gravy.  Add the other three tablespoons of butter to skillet 

and when it has melted, sift in the flour.  

Let this cook a moment or two, then stir it a bit, then slowly add the beef stock.  (if you have access to veal stock, use that for even better flavor)  Let this mixture simmer for a bit to thicken, and adjust flavor with salt and pepper if necessary. 

When the meatballs are done, 

platter then up and cover them with the sauce.  Serve immediately. 

We like to serve them simply, on top of some nice butter noodles.  

Until Next Time,


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Boston Baked Beans

To tell the truth, I’ve never been a big fan of baked beans.  Here in the South, people make them too damn sweet.  Cloyingly sweet.  Sickeningly sweet.  Sometimes it tastes as if people just pour a big bottle of Karo Syrup over their beans and serve ‘em up.  Hmm, maybe they do. 

Store-bought beans are no better.  I’ve tried pretty much every brand and it’s pretty much the same thing:  Sugar city.

It’s not that I don’t want to like such an old time, down home, ubiquitous dish.  I do, I really do.  But nothing I had ever been served could satisfy me. 

Until Boston.  

Yes, recently we had a day in Boston on our way to Maine, and we supped at the venerable Union Oyster House, 

where I ordered some of the local Skrod fish, which came out battered up and fried.  It also came out with a side of Boston Baked Beans. 

I was credulous, but I tried them.  Wow, just a hint of sweetness, but otherwise some nice savory complexity going on here.  I was hooked.  Boston baked beans seemed to be an different animal than the super sugar beans I’d been getting back home.  I had to make these babies for myself. 

So I did a little research, and it turns out the sweetener in Boston baked beans is molasses, for which the town has a historical association.  Molasses has some sweetness to it (I used to make a brown ale with it in my beer brewing days), but it’s also got some almost coffee-like roasted complexity and bitterness and add a unique flavor to the beans.  Salt pork or bacon is also a usual guest at this party, adding a savory, smoky flavor to the mix. 

I did my usual tricks.  Tried several different recipes, added, subtracted and combined until this is what I came up with below.  It was pretty damn close to the Union Oyster House, and so, I hope it is a good rendition of the dish. 

Boston Baked Beans

1.5 pounds dried white beans
3 Tablespoons Butter
1 onion, chopped
3/4 Cup Molasses
1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Tomato Paste
1/4 Cup Brown Mustard
1 8 oz smoked ham steak, cubed and pureed (optional)
1/4 lb salt pork or bacon, diced
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch Smoked Paprika
5 Cups water

So basically, making baked beans is sort of like smoking a brisket in that you’re going to do it low and slow.  Adding sugar and calcium (in the form of the molasses) to beans tends to toughen them, so it takes a longer cooking time to make them nicely soft.  The advantage to this arrangement is that during that long, slow cooking time the other ingredients you have put in meld to create an amazingly flavorful and rich sauce for the beans, and the beans absorb a bit of that flavor as well.  It’s all good. 

Most of the recipes I found called for just adding most of your ingredients to the pot with the beans and cooking away, low and slow.  I thought we could develop a bit more flavor if we sautéed the onions and the bacon first, so that’s what we’re gonna do. 

First, the night before, soak your beans in enough water to cover them by a couple of inches.  Next morning, drain the beans and discard this water.  Set beans aside. 

Preheat oven to 300F.

Melt the butter in your bean pot or Dutch oven and add the chopped onions.  

Sauté the onions for 8-10 minutes until they turn clear and start to brown.  Dice your bacon or salt pork...

And add it to the onions, stir, and sauté this mixture for five minutes more or so. 

While this is going on, make your molasses infusion.  To a mixing bowl, add the molasses, 

the brown sugar, 

tomato paste, 


Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, cloves and paprika.  Add a cup of water to this and whisk it up well and set aside. 

If you’re using the ham steak, 

dice it 

and puree it 

and add it to the onion bacon mixture.  This is my little twist/secret ingredient to boost the savory, smoky flavor of the beans.  It’s not trad, dad, but since you’re pureeing it, no one will notice anything but the boosted, amped up flavor, which they should love. 

Next, add the beans to the pot, then top up with four cups water.  

Finally, add your molasses mixture.  

Do not stir the beans at this point.  We want everything layered for the initial cooking stage so that he sugars don’t sink to the bottom and potentially burn. 

Cover the pot with its lid 

and place in the oven.  Bake for eight hours or more, checking the pot every couple of hours to add a bit of water if it gets below the level of the top of the beans.  After four hours you can stir your beans.  After eight to ten they will be ready to serve.  They should look like this:

Serve ‘em up and enjoy!

Until Next Time,

Bake ya some beans,