Saturday, April 26, 2008
Who doesn’t love focaccia, and being so close to Italy (in Spain) yet still so far from Italian food, it was an obvious choice for me. You really can’t find many products that aren’t Spanish here. Same goes for Italian products outside of Italy. And I’m sure it’s similar for other countries here. They’re not like America where you have your pick of all kinds of products. They’re very proud of their local specialties and that’s the majority of what’s on the market. So it was time for focaccia.
Fanny at Foodbeam has been a good source for lots of recipes for me, namely the plaisir sucre and now her focaccia. I found another one I thought I liked, but they had me refrigerating the dough overnight, and you know what cold can do to yeast. The recipe I used was very detailed with lots of pictures, so I thought it was great. My Italian roommate even approved. He said it was like being in an Italian home (he also said that this morning when he smelled coffee). His one suggestion? Make more air bubbles in it, so I guess that would be a bit more kneading and folding, for next time. But there will definitely be a next time, as this was a keeper.
Oh and p.s. this was my first time to use fresh yeast, as in the States it’s much more common to find the dry stuff. It was a weird little sandy-colored chunky, moist substance. But it worked great. A good experiment would be to see how it would turn out with dry yeast.
Adapted from Foodbeam
200 g warm water
150 g bread flour
7 g fresh yeast, crumbled up
150 g warm water
15 ml olive oil (and lots extra for kneading and folding and sprinkling)
375 bread flour
10 g salt (plus some for sprinkling)
rosemary (fresh or dried, fresh is probably a stronger taste)
First mix the first three ingredients (the starter) together in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave at warm room temperature (or if you don’t have warm room temperature, heat the oven up just a tiny bit, then turn off and put your starter in there) for 2 hours, stirring the mixture after about an hour. The mixture should be a bit bubbly.
Now whisk in the water and oil, then the flour and salt until everything is roughly combined. Cover again and let rest for 10 minutes. Now is where it gets a little bit messy. Find a nice smooth table or something large where you can knead your dough, and cover it with oil, then put the dough on it, splash some oil on the dough and your hands. Now pull the dough with one hand while the other hand holds it in place, fold it back onto itself and turn (ya know, knead it…just pull it apart and put back together, turning every now and then). It’ll start sticking to the surface, so when it does, stop. You should only be kneading for less than a minute. Do this two more times at 10-minute intervals, covering with a cloth in between kneading. After the third time, cover with the cloth and leave for 40 minutes (make sure everything is well oiled, the surface and the dough, otherwise it will stick to everything). Now you stretch and fold the dough (this is apparently what makes the air bubbles in the final product). So pull it out into a big rectangle, it doesn’t have to be perfect, and fold into thirds, and then fold that new smaller rectangle into thirds also. You’ll do this two more times also, but at 40-minute intervals. And remember to splash on a bit of oil and cover with a cloth between stretching/folding. After the last time, you let it rest for 30 more minutes, and then you’re almost ready to bake. Put olive oil in the bottom and sides of a baking tray, then stretch the dough out into the shape of the tray so you get a rectangle, then using your fingers punch into it and pull apart, so you get those indents from your finger tips. Cover with a cloth (I know, again) and let rest for 20 minutes in a warm place (yes, last time). Now pull the corners of the dough to edges of the tray if they’ve pulled in a bit, and sprinkle some olive oil, a nice helping of salt, rosemary, and a tiny bit of water all over the top. Bake at 220 C for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200 C and cook 15 more minutes. Let cool a bit and enjoy. And remember, the leftovers are great the next day for a sandwich of prosciutto, sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, and basil or arugula.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
This is the major appeal in Dolso: even if the menú at this aesthetically pleasing dessert restaurant is bad, you know the dessert’s going to be good. And upon further investigation, the menú was found not to be bad. At all. It was found to be quite delicious. See pictures below, and descriptions if you need convincing. I took pictures at two different meals so you could get a real flavor of what it’s like. At Dolso, for the menú del día they offer two starters, two mains, and only one dessert. They also have a light menu, which includes juice of the day, a larger portion of the starter, and of course, dessert. I’ve only been able to give up a main once to get the light menu, but their salads are so dang good here, I don’t know, must be something in the dressing that’s addictive, that the light menu is pretty good too if you’re not feeling extremely hungry. Oh, and one of my favorite touches that comes on many plates is a fresh, green, herb oil (like a pesto) that perfectly dots the plate.
So here goes the first meal. The starters were a salad with fresh cheese and corn, with their secret, wonder of a dressing and a squash soup. Both of the great quality that we expect from Dolso, a perfectly crisp an balanced salad and creamy, hearty soup.
Mains were entrecote with fries, pretty standard but good, and dorada with quinoa and a tiny salad, and you’ll notice a hefty portion of pesto oil, which never hurts. These were both also very good and up to our Dolso standards.Dessert was a brownie with a banana cream, which doesn’t normally sound great to me (something about the banana cream), but ended up pretty good. My constant lunch partner loves the desserts because there’s usually a sprinkling of crunchy, salty cookie like crumbs, or perhaps brownie crumbs thrown over the top that bring a nice bit of salt to the creamy desserts.
The next meal didn’t have a soup for a starter, which was irregular. There’s normally a soup and a salad and I’m just fine with the consistency because they do it well. The starters at this meal were a ham tart with tomato marmalade and a salad that was supposed to have white asparagus, but they ran out, so it only had tomatoes and sunflower seeds. These were ok, but I went for the tart, which was more eggy than anything else, and the salad was lacking a bit, as they ran out of one of the main ingredients. The mains were confit of duck with ratatouille and potatoes dauphine, and a crusted grouper, which we didn’t get so I didn’t know how it was, but the duck was a big hit. The first time I came to Dolso I had duck, which I don’t normally eat, or order out, but was amazed, it was so tender and perfectly cooked, moist, and all that other good stuff. Finally, the dessert was another sort of cream/mousse, that was ok, but one thing I’ve noticed since we started going: the desserts on the menú del día are getting smaller. They still have that glass display case of pyramids and semi-circles of impressive desserts, but those have never been included in the menu, and the ones that are served as part are shrinking. Other than the duck, I was a little disappointed with the tart, it was nothing special. Third Meal (I actually had this all written up with only the first two meals, but decided I needed a third one to post also, so I took one for the team and went to Dolso again last week…)
Starters were a leek tart (I do love how their tarts are always accompanied by a little salad) and a salad with apples and walnuts, but I hate to say that the salad was a let down, I’m convinced it didn’t have that dressing I love so much. The mains were emperador (which I didn’t discover until much after the fact meant swordfish) with carrot puree, quinoa, and cauliflower. I went for this one, and it was good, they tend to use quinoa a lot and I have become a huge fan, and the presentation is always great, but the swordfish was a bit overcooked in my opinion. I was actually much more taken with the other option, the burger. I know, a burger. Not a greasy American burger with cheese slathered between two buns (I might not be opposed to that, how I miss those…), but a patty of ground beef, cooked perfectly and served over a bed of spelt or faro, or some grain not identified, but like little bits of pasta, and all drizzled with that great basil oil/pesto sauce I was talking about. This was really great and it sounds so humble as a burger. The dessert was better than the last one we had had, it was a brownie with some lemon cream and couple little fruits. I’m always in the mood for a brownie. I’m not done yet though, you didn’t think I’d tell you all about a dessert restaurant and not get to the heart of it? There have been a few exceptional ‘take-outs’ from Dolso, and they come from the famed glass case. There’s one thing I discovered upon eating them that you don’t get from just viewing them. They have this insane texture, I don’t know how they do it, it’s like an extremely light cake, that’s a bit spongy, but also fluffy, and seems to have the texture of a cloud (what I think of as a cloud). It’s not springy like elastic, but you can punch it in, and it’s so light and sort of melts in your mouth. I don’t know how else to describe it, or what exactly it is, but good. At first it was confusing and I wasn’t sure, but now I look forward to it. Here are some of the actual desserts (that Dolso is better known for). One is a fig based dessert, and the other, a more citrusy one, though I can’t remember exactly. I'm sorry there's no cross section of these...I might just have to stroll down to Dolso and get myself a cake strictly for foodblogging purposes. Next is another dessert, but not one of their intriguing cakes, this is like a chocolate and hazelnut (my two best friends) mousse and cream combination. Obviously very happy with this one. And it came topped with a brownie and some candied hazelnuts. So, for the most part people (I might be the leader of this group) think that Spain does not have good desserts. In this case, I would show them the way to Dolso, and get them lunch while at it.
C/ Valencia 227
Friday, April 18, 2008
Now to my yellow food. I didn’t make this with the intention of entering it into a Taste of Yellow, but the deadline’s approaching and I looked through pictures of food I’ve made recently that still haven’t posted about, and there it was. It’s another cheesecake. One that I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and I thought I was kind of clever with the idea, but apparently it’s been done before. Anyways, it’s a crème brulee cheesecake. I do loooove crème brulee, and it’s very easy, just a baked and burnt custard, so I thought why not incorporate some cream cheese in there and put it on a cookie crust. Great. And I had access to a blow torch, which I don’t normally have, so all the more reason for me to burn things. I was very happy with the results, it was rich and creamy and a perfect texture. The only thing is I got so caught up in the cream brulee part of the recipe, that I only put in 300 g of cream cheese, which is about half what I normally do, so it was a very thin layered cheese cake, but still great.
I also experimented with a water bath. Lots of cheesecake recipes, and crème brulee for that matter, call for water baths. They say it makes it bake evenly so it will come out without cracking. I always ignore that, and am happy with my results, because even if they do crack or puff up or whatever, they always seem to sink back down and work just fine. But I thought double whammy, as my two desserts that I’m mixing both call for water baths (looking back, I don’t know why I bothered, as I was just going to pour sugar on and burn the top anyway). So I wrapped my springform in foil before starting and got my water bath ready with warm water, and you know what, the stupid thing leaked. I ended up with soggy crust. I decided I do not like the water bath. It is bad, and I have reverted back to my usual method. Other than that little glitch, I definitely would make this again, it was twice as good because it’s composed of two delicious desserts.
Crème Brulee Cheesecake
125 g Maria cookies/graham crackers
75 g butter
300 g cream cheese (if you want thin layer, otherwise 600 g)
5 egg yolks
3 egg whites
2 vanilla beans
250 ml cream
½ - 1 c sugar (sorry, I didn’t measure this part…I just pour in a bit, and then add if I need to)
brown sugar for sprinkling
You know the routine now (mush up cookies, melt butter, press in springform, bake for 10 minutes) but if not, look here.
Now it’s the crème brulee part. Pour the cream into a pot and cut the vanilla beans in half, scraping the seeds out into the pan, and then put the beans into the cream too. Over medium high heat, bring the cream to a simmer, almost boil, then turn heat off. I put a lid on it and let it infuse while I get the other stuff ready. With a whisk, beat the egg yolks and sugar for a minute or two, until well mixed and a bit lighter in color. Take a fine mesh sieve and pour the vanilla cream through it into the egg yolks, whisking as you do this. In another bowl, beat the cream cheese a bit, just to loosen it up (this can be done with the same whisk). Then add the egg yolk mixture and whisk everything together again. Unless you’re afraid of raw egg yolks (which I am not) then stick your finger in and taste a bit to see if you need something more, a bit of sugar, pinch of salt, etc. Finally, add the egg whites. I know crème brulee doesn’t call for whites, but cheesecake does, and mine was seriously lacking in volume, so I added them and like I said already, I was totally satisfied with the flavor and texture of the cheesecake.
So this is the part where I put it in a water bath, although I wouldn’t suggest that, especially if you’re just going to destroy the top anyways. Bake at 170 C or 350 F until a toothpick comes out almost clean (could be anywhere from 20 min-1 hour). Chill overnight in the fridge.
Now, if I was having a party or something, I might pour brown sugar over the whole cake and torch the whole thing, because I think that would look very cool, but it’s not very practical, as when you try and cut into burnt sugar it doesn’t always break where you want it to, so pieces would end up in strange shapes. So, cut each piece individualy first and put a good layer of brown sugar over the top, and then torch it, and you’ll see the sugar bubbling and melting together. It’s great. If you don’t have a blow torch, a broiler in the oven works too, that’s what I normally use at home. Now feel free to shatter burnt sugar. Shatter away. It’s fun.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
The first meal in Rome was dinner at a restaurant somewhere near the Trevi Fountain and some piazza, it felt like there were piazzas at the end of every street we walked on in the center, and I can’t remember the name of the restaurant. I think ‘crudo’ and ‘cotto’ (raw and cooked) were in the name and we were on our way to a famous restaurant that’s in the guide books, called Da Sergio in the Campo de’ Fiori area, and got there to see the long line and turned around. We went back the slightly fancy looking restaurant we passed just down the road and decided to try it. My pasta was absolutely wonderful, and before going to Rome I researched a bit and discovered some of the local dishes, so I knew what I was ordering. It’s called paccheri alla gricia.
The disappointing thing about Rome was that I didn’t find any gelato that even looked like it came anywhere near to Florence’s. I tried one place very close to the Trevi Fountain that was supposed to be good, actually great, called San Crispino and after the first bite I was like ‘meh.’ Not convinced. I looked in at other gelateria’s but they all looked the same, done up for tourists and I couldn’t bring myself to risk another likely disappointment.
I don’t want to end on a bad note, so I will mention a shiny, friendly little bar just off of Via Marmorata, the main street in Testaccio, we stepped into on a Saturday night in Testaccio. We sat down and were brought a little napkin with a few tiny pastries on it and we talked to the young guy, apparently the owner, who told us it was his opening night. I’m sure there’s lots more to explore in Testaccio, we didn’t even make it to the market when it was open, but it’s got lots of restaurants, bars, and even a pizzeria or two that we popped our heads into, but too late, as we had already eaten and they were closed on Sundays. Next time, next time.
Via Giovanni Branca 98
Trattoria Da Oio o Casa Mia
Via Galvani 43-45
Via Marmorata 47
A good bar that we went to but I didn’t mention or take pictures of is
L’oasi di Birra
Piazza Testaccio 38-41
If you’re in the neighborhood, it’s a really nice, relaxed bar with an incredible list of beers and wine from all over the world, at times, a bit too extensive, as they had Xibeca from Spain which is like going to a brewery and ordering Miller Lite, but they did have some impressive choices, as well as a good-looking menu
Saturday, April 12, 2008
The semifreddo was really good actually, rich and similar to ice cream, but there were a couple main differences I noticed. First of all, it didn’t seem as cold as ice cream. I know that sounds weird, because you keep it in the freezer and it’s basically a frozen mousse, but it just didn’t have that extremely cold feeling when it hit your tongue. Another thing is that it seemed to more than melt, just disintegrate into your mouth. This might be connected to the not feeling so cold, as it melts a lot faster once on your tongue than ice cream, so the cold doesn’t seem to stay. Other that that, I thought it was pretty similar to ice cream. It’s best if you let it sit out for about 20 minutes before you serve it so it can soften a bit and be easily scooped out.
I actually got an ice cream maker a couple years ago, but it was one of those $50 freeze-the-removable-bowl one and I did not like the results. My ice cream came out with ice crystals, like it had melted and then been frozen again. So until I can get one of those high-tech, expensive ones, I shall make semifreddo, especially now that summer is approaching. Next on the menu, hazelnut.
Oh, and one last note: not only did I add candied Clementine peel, but also a couple drops of orange oil. And I’m putting up a picture of these oils because if you haven’t noticed, I tend to use them a lot in desserts, like in margarita cheesecake, or cookies, or anything, they’re great, and I’ve decided they’re almost necessary to have around the house. And they’re extremely potent, so you only need a bit.
Chocolate Orange Semifreddo
adapted from Milk and Cookies
200 g dark chocolate (70%)
½ c sugar
1 ¾ c cream
drop or two of orange oil
candied orange/Clementine peel (recipe follows)
Melt the chocolate, but don’t overheat it. Set aside when it is melted. Put the eggs, yolks, and sugar in double boiler and whisk for 4-5 minutes until it’s pale and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and beat with an electric mixer (or really good with a whisk) for 5-6 minutes until the mixture cools to room temperature. Now, fold in the chocolate into the egg mixture until all the same color. Now beat your cream in a separate bowl until soft peaks form. Now fold the cream mixture with the other mixture, once again until everything is incorporated and the same color, adding a few drops of orange oil and the candied Clementine peel. Pour into a metal bowl (I actually used a pot) and cover and put in the fridge, for at least 6 hours or overnight. Wake up the next morning and eat it!
Candied Clementine Peel
First, using a knife, rather than peeling the Clementine, run it from top to bottom and take off the thinnest layer of peel you possibly can. This might take a bit to get used to, but just remember to graze over the surface and try not to get too much white on it. While your doing this, heat up water and sugar (more sugar than water, but it doesn’t have to be exact) and a dash of salt in a pot over medium heat, stirring every now and then. When it begins to get slightly thicker and all the sugar is dissolved, add the peel and turn the heat down to low and let cook as long as you want. This means you can take it out after 15-20 minutes or leave it in for as long as an hour. When you think they’re good and ready, remove the peels and place, not touching, on parchment paper to dry. When they have hardened, break or cut them into little bits and they’re ready to mix into the semifreddo.