Saturday, December 29, 2012

Recipe: Ciabatta

Based on a recipe from March 2009 Cook's Illustrated.  Prepared for dinner on December 23, 2012. Makes 2 small loaves.


5 ounces (1 cup) bread flour
⅛ teaspoon rapid rise yeast
½ cup room temperature water
10 ounces (2 cups) bread flour
½ teaspoon rapid rise yeast
1½ teaspoons table salt
¾ cup room temperature water
¼ cup room temperature milk


  1. For the biga: in a medium bowl, stir together flour, yeast, and water.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and let it stand 8–24 hours at room temperature.
  3. Put the biga into the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough ingredients.
  4. Mix with the paddle attachment on low until well combined and a shaggy dough forms, about 1 minute.
  5. Mix on medium-low until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl and collects on the paddle, about 5 minutes.
  6. Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium until the dough is smooth and shiny, about 10 minutes. The dough will be sticky.
  7. Transfer the dough to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  8. Using a rubber spatula or bowl scraper that is coated with oil or cooking spray, gently fold half of the dough over itself.
  9. Turn the bowl 90° and fold again.
  10. Repeat the process six more times for a total of eight folds.
  11. Cover the bowl and let rise 30 minutes
  12. Repeat the folding process.
  13. Cover the bowl and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in volume.
  14. Place oven rack in middle position with a baking stone or baking sheet and heat to 450°.
  15. Gently transfer the dough, so that it does not deflate, to a generously floured work surface.
  16. Flour the top of the dough and gently cut it in half.
  17. With generously floured hands, turn each half cut-side up and dust with flour.
  18. Gently press each half into a 6- by 12-inch shape.
  19. Fold from the short sides towards the center, overlapping the folds, creating a rectangle approximately 4- by 7-inches.
  20. Place each onto a well-floured 12- by 6-inch sheet of parchment paper, flour the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  21. Transfer the parchment paper and risen loaves onto a pizza peel or inverted baking sheet.
  22. With floured fingertips, gently poke each loaf to form a 6- by 10-inch rectangle.
  23. Spray the dough lightly with water and transfer onto the preheated baking stone of baking sheet.
  24. Twice more during the first 5 minutes of baking, spray the loaves lightly with water.
  25. Bake until deep golden brown and an instant read thermometer reads 210° in the center of the loaf, 22–27 minutes.
  26. Cool on wire rack to room temperature.

Form biga from flour, yeast, and flour.

Let biga rise at room temperature 8-24 hours.

Mix biga with remaining ingredients.

Mix until the dough pulls away from the bowl.

Knead with dough hook until smooth and shiny.

Transfer to a large bowl and let rise until doubled in volume.

Fold 8 times, rise 30 minutes, then repeat.

Gently turn the sticky dough onto a well-floured surface.

Divide in two and press into 12- by 6-inch shape.

Fold into 4- by 7- inch rectangles.

Let rise 30 minutes.

Spray lightly with water and bake on baking stone until deep golden brown.

Cool to room temperature.

Recipe: Madelyn's "Spaghetti Genovese"

This is not the traditional pasta dish from Genoa, Italy, which includes spaghetti, potatoes, green beans, and pesto. Rather, it is a rich and hearty meat sauce, but I will the keep the name that was used when it was given to me, wrong though it may be. It is based on a recipe we received from Madelyn Yaeger who worked with Diane at House of Fabrics in Sunnyvale in the early 1980s. We got this recipe from her in April 2002 when she was 86 years old after our original copy became illegible from much use. Madelyn got this recipe "... from my son who got it from one of the engineers that worked with him at Seagate. I do not recall the man's name but I understand it was a family recipe." Prepared for dinner on December 23, 2012.


2 tablespoons olive oil
3 onions
1 head of garlic
1 bell pepper
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
1½ teaspoons dry oregano
1½–2 pounds ground beef
½ pound ground pork
½–1 pound Italian sausage
2 28-ounce cans tomato sauce
½ cup full-bodied red wine
2 bay leaves
1–4 cups sliced mushrooms
Salt and pepper


  1. Peel and dice the onions.
  2. Peel the garlic and crush it with a garlic press.
  3. Remove the stem, ribs, and seeds from the bell pepper and dice.
  4. Heat oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot (the taller the better) until shimmering. Add onions and bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent.
  5. Add the garlic, parsley, and oregano and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds.
  6. Remove the sausage from its casing and break into small pieces.
  7. Add meats and cook until medium rare, breaking them up with a spoon.
  8. Now for the secret! Add tomato sauce and cook on high, stirring constantly, until the sauce browns, about 10 minutes. This makes a mess; you might want to surround your pot with paper towels, being careful not to get them too close to the burner, to make clean up easier. Also, wear an old oven glove on your stirring hand to protect it from hot splatters.
  9. Turn heat to low; add wine, mushrooms, and bay leaves.
  10. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Simmer for 8 to 10 hours.
  12. Serve over spaghetti, topping with Parmesan or Romano cheese.
Assemble the ingredients, peel and slice the onions, dice the pepper, and crush the garlic.

Cook the onion and pepper in olive oil.

Add garlic, parsley, and oregano.

Add meat and cook until medium rare.

Add tomato sauce and boil for 10 minutes.

Add wine, mushrooms, and bay leaves.

Simmer 8-10 hours.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Recipe: Brioche

Adapted from a September 1995 Cook's Illustrated recipe for "Quick Brioche" and prepared for dinner on December 16, 2012.


2½ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 envelope)
½ cup whole milk
2¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs


  1. Cut the butter into 6 pieces.
  2. In a small bowl, warm the milk in the microwave to 110°.
  3. Whisk yeast into the warm milk, stir in 1 cup flour, cover, and set aside.
  4. Add butter, sugar, and salt to food processor and pulse until soft and smooth.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, processing each until fully incorporated. The mixture may look curdled.
  6. Add 1¼ cups flour and the yeast mixture and pulse to form a soft, smooth dough.
  7. Process the dough continuously for 15 seconds.
  8. Knead the dough on a generously floured work surface until smooth and elastic.
  9. Spray an 8½ x 4½ x 2½-inch loaf pan with vegetable spray, place a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan and spray it, too.
  10. Pat the dough into a 9x5-inch rectangle. Fold 1-inch of each long side towards the center and pinch the seam.
  11. Fold both short sides of the dough towards the center so they overlap and pinch the seam.
  12. Place the dough seam-side down in the loaf pan, pressing it down so it fills the pan.
  13. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until it is 1-inch above the top of the pan.
  14. Heat oven to 350°.
  15. Remove the plastic and make a slash lengthwise in the top of the loaf to within 1 inch of each end.
  16. Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes.
  17. Cool it in the pan for 5 minutes then turn it out on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
Mix warm milk, yeast, and flour ans set aside.
Pulse butter, sugar, and salt in a food processor until soft and smooth.

Add eggs, remaining flour, and yeast mixture, pulse to form a smooth dough then process for 15 seconds.

Knead dough until smooth and elastic.

Press into a 9x5 inch rectangle then fold as directed.

Gently press dough into a greased loaf pan and let rise until the dough extends 1 inch above the top of the pan.

Slash the top of the risen dough then place it into a pre-heated oven and bake until golden brown.

Cool to room temperature.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Recipe: Beef Stroganoff

Adapted from a March 2010 Cook's Illustrated recipe and prepared for dinner on December 2, 2012.

Serves 6. Sirloin steak tips are also called flap meat.


1¼ pounds sirloin steak tips
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 pound white mushrooms
2 teaspoons hot water
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
Black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion
Table salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon white wine
1½ cups beef broth
½ cup sour cream
Fresh parsley or dill


  1. Trim the beef of excess fat and cut it, with the grain, into 4 equal pieces.
  2. Clean the mushrooms and cut them into quarters.
  3. Peel and finely chop the onion, you want to have about 1 cup of chopped onion.
  4. Chop the parsley or dill to make 1 tablespoon chopped herbs.
  5. Place the steak in a baking dish and poke each piece of steak with a fork 10 to 12 times. 
  6. Rub both sides of the steak with soy sauce and refrigerate for 15-60 minutes.
  7. Place the mushrooms in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for 4-5 minutes. The mushroom volume should decrease by half and produce about ¼ cup liquid.
  8. Drain the mushrooms, discarding the liquid.
  9. Stir water, dry mustard, sugar, and ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl forming a smooth paste.
  10. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season with freshly ground black pepper.
  11. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet (preferably not non-stick) over medium-high heat until just smoking then add the steak. Cook until browned on all sides to an internal temperature of 125°, 6-9 minutes.
  12. Remove steak from skillet to a large plate.
  13. Add mushrooms, onion, and ½ teaspoon salt to skillet and cook until vegetables start to brown, 6-8 minutes. Brown bits will form on the bottom of the pan.
  14. Add tomato paste and flour, cooking and stirring until the mushrooms and onions are evenly coated, 1 minute.
  15. Deglaze the pan with wine, beef broth, and mustard paste and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the sauce starts to thicken, 5 minutes.
  16. Slice steak pieces across the grain, ¼-inch thick.
  17. Add the meat and any juices to the sauce and cook until warmed through, 2 minutes.
  18. Remove pan from heat, cool until the bubbling stops, then stir in sour cream and 1 tablespoon white wine. Season to taste and garnish with parsley or dill.
  19. Serve over egg noodles.
Trim the meat and cut it with the grain into four pieces. Pierce these with a fork, rub all sides of the beef with soy sauce, and refrigerate.

Quarter the mushrooms and microwave in a covered bowl.

Make a paste from dry mustard, black pepper, sugar, and water.

Prepare mise en place for the sauce ingredients including beef broth, chopped onion,  white wine, mustard paste, flour,  and tomato paste.

Brown the meat in a skillet.

In the same skillet, cook the onions and mushrooms.

Add tomato paste and flour and mix to coat the vegetables.
Deglaze the pan with wine, broth, and mustard paste then slice the meat and add it to the sauce.

Reduce the sauce then finish it off heat with sour cream and herbs.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Recipe: Quick Tomato Sauce

Adapted from a May 2009 Cook's Illustrated recipe and prepared for dinner on, October 13, 2012


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Table salt
2 garlic cloves
1 28-ounce can high-quality crushed tomatoes
¼ teaspoon sugar
Fresh basil
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Peel the onion then grate it on the large holes of a box grater to prepare ¼ cup grated onion. 
  2. Peel and mince the garlic or put it through a garlic press.
  3. Coarsely chop enough basil to make 2 tablespoons.
  4. Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
  5. Add onion, oregano, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is gone and the onion is golden brown.
  6. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  7. Add tomatoes and sugar and bring to a simmer over high heat.
  8. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer about 10 minutes until slightly thickened.
  9. Remove from heat and stir in basil and olive oil.

    Oregano, grated onion, and sugar.

    The onions are cooked with oregano in butter, garlic is added, then the tomatoes and sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes then add basil and olive oil.

Recipe: Panzanella

Adapted from a July 2011 Cook's Illustrated recipe for Italian Bread Salad (Panzanella) and prepared for dinner on, October 13, 2012.  


1 loaf rustic Italian or French bread
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1½ pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cucumber
1 shallot
Fresh basil
Salt and pepper


  1. Heat the oven to 400° with a shelf in the middle position.
  2. Cut or tear the bread to make six cups of 1-inch cubes, this will use about half of a two-pound loaf of bread.
  3. Toss the bread with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt.
  4. Place the coated bread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, stirring as needed to evenly brown the bread, approximately 15 minutes. 
  5. Remove the toasted bread from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.
  6. Remove the core and seeds from the tomatoes and cut them into 1-inch pieces.
  7. Gently toss the tomatoes with ½ teaspoon salt then transfer them to a colander set over a large bowl. Allow them to drain for 15 minutes, gently stirring them every 5 minutes or so.
  8. Peel the cucumber, cut it in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, and cut it into thin slices.
  9. Peel the shallot and cut it into thin slices.
  10. Chop the basil making ¼ cup.
  11. Whisk the tomato juices with the remaining olive oil (6 tablespoons), vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
  12. Add the bread pieces and toss to coat. Let stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  13. Add the cucumber, shallots, and basil, toss to combine, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Start with garden-fresh tomatoes and fresh basil.

Cut bread into 1-inch pieces, coat with seasoned olive oil, and toast in a 400° oven.

Drain the tomatoes and make a vinaigrette incorporating the tomato juices. Toss the bread with this, let it sit a spell, then add the remaining ingredients.