IMG_7662

Despite all the gluten-bashing and the recent glamorization of gluten intolerance, bread is still a big part of my life. I understand, of course, that all bodies are different and that not every food is good for every body. But because I have never found myself crumpled in a corner, stomach in knots, distended and gassy after eating a biscuit or a slice of toast, I obviously don’t have any plans of cutting bread out of my diet. On the contrary, I find myself adding to the list even more delicious reasons not to give up gluten: like this brioche.IMG_7667

This recipe comes from Chad Robertson’s Tartine, the one book that revolutionized the way I bake, eat, and think about bread. Three years ago when I purchased the book, I did not expect that the recipes and the techniques within it would plant the seed of one day opening my own bakery. The preparations were by no means simple or at all quickly executed. In fact, they required I begin the night before, mixing up the starter just before bed, so that I could rise early to mix the dough. But the results were always forgiving: on my worst days, I would still open up the oven to find something chewy and warm that could be served alongside just about anything. My hope is that, in my frankness about just how difficult and time-consuming this is, you might still find the courage inside yourself to set aside some Saturday soon. Other than a few eggs, butter, milk, sugar, and flour, (all of which will cost you no more than about $5) what have you got to lose?

IMG_7588

 

To make this brioche, you’re gonna need bread ‘starter’. Before you could every buy a jar of active yeast, there was starter: an equal mix of water and a 50/50 white-wheat flour blend. As the flour and water sit at room temperature, the fermentation process begins. Here’s how to cultivate your own starter:

wheat flour,50 grams

white flour, 50 grams

lukewarm water, 100 grams

Mix together the flour and water in a small bowl, cover with a clean towel, and let sit at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. After 2 to 3 days, check to see if any bubbles have formed around the sides of the bowl. The mixture may have formed a dark crust and it might smell highly acidic. These are all signs that fermentation has begun. You’re now ready to feed your starter.

To feed your starter, discard about 80 percent of it. Replace this with equal amounts of water and the 50/50 flour blend and mix well. To keep your starter active and alive, feed it every 24 hours, always remembering to discard 80 percent and replenish with the flour blend and water.

IMG_7625

Brioche Buns (Recipe from Tartine), Makes 4 to 6 Brioche loaves, or a ton of buns

Poolish:

200 g, ap flour

200 g, water (75 degrees)

3 g, active dry yeast

 

Leaven:

1 tbsp, mature starter

220 g, ap flour

220 g, water (80 degrees)

 

Ingredients:

Bread Flour, 1,000 g

Salt, 25 g

Sugar, 120 g

Active Dry Yeast, 10 g

Large Eggs, 500 g

Whole Milk, 240 g

Leaven, 300 g

Poolish, 400 g

Unsalted Butter, 450

 

To make the poolish, in a bowl, mix the flour, water, and yeast. Let stand overnight in the refrigerator. To make the leaven, place the mature starter in a bowl. Feed with the flour and water, cover with a dish towel, and let sit overnight.

The poolish and the leaven are ready when they pass the float test. Drop a small amount of the poolish and the leaven into water. If either sinks, it is not ready to use and needs more time to ferment.

About 30 minutes before you’re ready to mix the brioche dough, remove the butter from the refrigerator and let soften at room temperature until it is pliable but still cool. TO mix the brioche dough, attach the dough hook to a stand mixer. Place the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in the mixing bowl. Add the eggs, milk, leaven, and poolish and mix on low speed until combined 3 to 5 minutes; stop the mixer halfway through and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Let the dough rest in the bowl for 15 to 20 minutes.

After the dough has rested, mix it on medium to high speed until it releases from the sides of the bowl, 6 to 8 minutes. This indicates that the dough is sufficiently developed to begin incorporating the butter. Make sure the butter is soft and pliable but still cool and not melted.

Cut the butter into 1/2-inch pieces. With the mixer on medium speed, add the pieces of butter one at a time to the middle of the bowl where the dough hook meets the dough. Though Tartine doesn’t mention it, you might have some trouble placing the cubes of dough in the center of the bowl as the dough hook spins vigorously. Many of the cubes might be thrown toward the outside of the bowl, by way of the wonders of physics. If this is the case, no worries. Simply turn off the machine and place the cubes of butter where the dough meets the hook. Continue until the butter is incorporated. The dough will be silky smooth and homogenous, with not visible bits of butter.

Transfer the dough to a bowl and set in a cool place (around 70 degrees) for 2 hours for the bulk fermentation. During the first hour, give the dough two turns. In the last hour, give it one turn. To turn the dough, pull one quarter of the dough upward and fold this quarter onto the rest of the dough. Complete by doing the same with the three remaining quarters.

When you’re ready to shape the dough, use a dough spatula to cut it into pieces about the size of a medicine ball. The dough will be incredibly sticky, but do your best to form it into something mildly spherical. Place the formed dough onto a few parchment-lined sheet pans, making sure to space them at least 3 inches apart. You will likely have more dough than what would ever fit on the sheet pans. Here, you have a choice. You can freeze the dough and use it when you’re ready. Or, you could place it into a couple loaf pans, heavily greased with melted butter or olive oil (to prevent sticking) and bake it up for a friend (or just eat all of it on your own). Once shaped, let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

To make the egg wash, in a small bowl, stir together two egg yolks and a teaspoon of heavy cream or milk. Brush the top of the buns with the egg wash. Bake the buns for 15 minutes. Bake the loaves for 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

IMG_7548We have a tradition in the Koontz-Bostow family: on the first day of fall, regardless of the temperature or the day of the week, we roast a pumpkin for pie and wash it down with cool pumpkin beer. There’s something special about this season, some secret hold it has always had on my heart. Sure, every season brings the promise of renewal or change. But Fall seems, somehow, more familiar. Even if you can’t identify with this deeper connection, I’m sure you can understand the more obvious perks: Like sweater weather. Or big warm bowls of stew. Or the fact that you can now justify listening to Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas album with a little less shame than when you were blaring “What Child is This” in mid-June. My gratuitous use of the second-person is serving as a means to distribute the shame, which is unfair. Unless, of course, you too have been marking off the days in Autumnal anticipation. I know we have.IMG_7517

To give you an even better sense of just how giddy we were about it, I can tell you that after reading dissenting reports on the actual “first day of fall,” we sided with the one article that declared it to be Monday September 22nd, even though there was a wealth of information which suggested otherwise. This would not be the first time I’ve used shoddy information to support my own selfish aims. Like the time I approved of the daily consumption of Nutella because the label claimed “as much calcium as a glass of milk.” Whether we celebrated the season a day early or not, it certainly felt right.

IMG_5409In the late afternoon, I made a run to Midtown Wine & Spirits, a liquor store whose vast bourbon collection always astounds me. Though I am wont to stake out in the bourbon section for a half hour, I was there for something else entirely: Pumpkin beer. In the picture above, though the sun shines bright on the Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale, my taste buds favor the Schlafly. It’s complex and robust with just the right amount of spice and balanced sweetness. Once back home, the beer went for a chill while I carved and roasted the pumpkin. By the time the pumpkin had softened, Raquelle had made it back home to put the finishing touches on the pie. As it went into the oven, we sat down to the table for dinner. We filled our glasses with the cool, deep amber ale and toasted to the new season. We toasted to all the seasons we’ve spent together. We toasted to the unbelievable realization that this Thursday, September 25th marks 9 whole years of loving and learning another.  And with the pie out of the oven, we found ourselves impatient again. Sure, it needed time to cool, time to set, time to meld. But with the kitchen door ajar and a brisk breeze rolling through the room, this tiny bit of warmth was just what we needed. It seemed all of the night was a smile, and all of the season was a song.

IMG_7524

Roasted Pumpkin Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream

Ingredients

For the filling(from 101 cookbooks):

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice blend(predominantly cinnamon, with clove, nutmeg, and allspice)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cups of roasted pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup full-fat coconut milk(the kind you get from a can)

For the crust(from the Les Halles cookbook):

9 oz AP flour
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup butter, well chilled and cut into small cubes
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 tbsp cold water

For the bourbon whipped cream:

2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar
2 tbsp bourbon whisky
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Note: If you’d like to make your pie with real roasted pumpkin, you’ll need a 4 pound pie pumpkin. Chop it into the quarters, clean out the seeds and other junk, and roast it on a well-oiled pan for 1 hour in a 400 degree oven. When soft, scoop out the tender flesh and puree it with a hand mixer or a food processor.

Let’s get started by making the pie crust. In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and salt. When the butter is well-chilled, add it to the flour mixture. You can incorporate it using a pastry cutter. Or, you can use your hands. Whatever the case, be sure to work quickly. The butter must stay cold to preserve the flaky quality of the crust. When the flour-butter mixture is about the consistency of very coarse meal, add the beaten egg and water. Stir to bring together. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic, and let chill for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To make the pumpkin pie filling, whisk together the brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice blend, salt, and cornstarch. Stir in the pumpkin puree, and vanilla. Now stir in the eggs and coconut milk until just combined. Set aside.

On a well-floured surface, roll out the chilled dough. Flour as needed. Be sure to roll it out so that it will be large enough for the crust to come all the way up the sides of your pan. The easiest way to move the dough round into the pan is to fold it into a half moon and to lay this half-moon into the pan. You can then gently unfold it and press it gently into the pan. Then, use a fork to prick the pie dough a few times to prevent air bubbles. Fill the pie crust with the filling and bake for about 50 minutes – the center of the pie should just barely jiggle when you move the pie – the edges should be set.

Let the pie cool in order to set. Meanwhile, with a handmixer or a whisk and some determination, agitate the heavy whipping cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the sugar, whisky, salt, and vanilla. Stir to mix. When the pie has cooled, serve it with a dollop of the bourbon whipped cream.

Enjoy!

IMG_7476

Hello, world! It’s good to be back. For the past week, my computer has been undergoing some repairs. Just two weeks ago, I tried turning it on without success. There was the familiar boot-up chime and the soft clicking communication with my external hard drive, but the screen stayed dark. My initial worry was that all of my data had been lost: all the pictures, the music, the writing, the entire Bread+Bourbon website. In saying this, I am of course revealing to you just how irresponsible and lazy I am. Aside from a few songs and a hundred or so pictures, nothing was backed up. A quick check-up revealed a faulty video card, a $180 fix for parts and labor. This was a relief, as I worried that the monitor had gone kaput and that I’d be down $700.Just to be clear: I’m not under the illusion that you find my technological woes at all interesting. After all, that’s not why you’ve come to visit Bread+Bourbon. My techno-lament was simply a necessary prelude to pasta. But how? you ask. Is there some connection I have missed? you wonder. No. I don’t expect for you to know that when I find myself worried that I immediately turn to the joys of food. But after dropping off the computer for repair, I came home and pulled up a recipe for fresh pasta. If you’re a human being, you understand well the warmth and simple comfort of a bowl of buttered noodles. With no more than a few eggs and some flour, the pasta came together beautifully.

IMG_7467

For the uninitiated, fresh pasta might seem like an ordeal, a labor that yields something no better than what you’d find in a box. And sure, when cooked and dressed correctly, boxed pasta is delicious. But fresh pasta, made with good local orange-yolked eggs, is something altogether different. The flavor is richer, the texture is at once springy and tender, and the starchiness makes for a more luxuriously creamy sauce. If the benefits in flavor and texture aren’t convincing enough, fresh pasta also allows for infinite variations. With little practice, you can experiment with different blends of flour, you can flavor your pasta dough with fresh herbs, you can shape it any way you like. In no time, you’ll be making your own whole-wheat ravioli with sage-brown butter, roasted pumpkin, and fresh goat cheese. Your significant other will love you more, your close friends will hold you in higher esteem, you might even become a local hero.

IMG_7471

Fresh Pasta

Ingredients:

400 grams flour(or 14 oz)

4 eggs, room temperature

If you have a stand mixer, pour the flour into the bowl and, using the paddle attachment, pour in one egg at a time while the machine is on low. Let the machine run just until the dough comes together. Otherwise, measure the flour and pour it onto a clean surface. In the center of the flour, make a well. Beat all four eggs and pour them into the center of the well. Little by little, use your hands to incorporate the flour into the eggs. The dough will be very shaggy and may not want to come together. Despite this, do your best to work in all of the flour.

Once the dough has come together, knead the dough with the heel of your hands for minutes. As you continue to knead, the dough will become smoother and more elastic. If the dough does not come together,wet your hands and continue working it for another minute.

After kneading, place the dough in plastic and let it sit at room temperature for one hour. This wait time is essential. The dough continues to hydrate and it eventually relaxes. Without this, it would be impossible to roll it out.

At this point, you’re ready to shape the pasta however you desire. All you need to know is that fresh pasta (more than boxed) swells dramatically. That means that whether you use a pasta machine or simply roll it by hand, you must try to roll it out as thinly as possible. If you’re using a pasta maker, consider yourself far more privileged than I. As a means to express my jealousy, I’ll allow you to look up how to use it on your own. But if you’re like me, your “pasta machine” is one part rolling pin/one part brute strength.

Place the dough on a lightly-floured work surface. Roll it out little by little, bearing down with your full weight. This could also double as a workout, and if you’re so inclined, you can place a large cutting board on the ground and go into a plank pose while holding the rolling pin in your hand. When the dough is very thin, you can cut and shape it as you please. When you’re ready to boil it, remember that fresh pasta takes just about  3minutes in boiling water.

The bowl of pasta you see above couldn’t have been easier. Once cooked, I threw it together with peas blanched in the pasta water, torn basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese, and some hot chilies.

Enjoy!