4 BBA: Ciabatta, Round 2

O.k. This is the BBA Challenge, and I'm working hard!
I tried the biga version of Peter Reinhart's ciabatta.

Caution: this is a very sticky dough. Not for the faint of heart!

This is what I did differently:

I used active dry yeast. Instant yeast worked way too quickly for me. It must be the high altitude.

After mixing the dough in my Kitchen Aid, I divided the dough first, prior to folding. I didn't want to chance deflating my dough after 2 rises to shape them into 2 piles.

I did the slap and fold method that I learned from King Arthur Flour to develop the gluten further and shape it for the first rise.

This photo is the final shape, and final raise.

I believe that stretching the dough deflated my previous batch, so I gently folded the dough instead. I would love to find a video of the stretching/folding process that Peter talks about.
I found a video. You can watch it here! Peter Reinhart's Stretch and Fold Technique

The stretching/folding process is what gives this bread the large airy holes. If the dough is not handled gently, the dough will deflate.

The final fold was put seam side down, which was a challenge.

The dough from the side looks pretty airy and light.

After steaming, baking, spritzing with water 3 times and baking 25 minutes, this is what I got!

But, I'm not done. Yet. Gotta see the inside, but I have to wait at least 45 minutes!

This is a slice from my first try at making ciabatta.

Internal temperature only registered 195 degrees.

It's kinda dense, but the flavor was good. Lacks many, large holes.

Let's compare it to the second batch.

There's a definite improvement, though the number of large airy holes that are so desirable in this type of bread are not as prevalent.

This bread registered at 200 degrees internal temperature. An ideal temperature is 205 degrees Fahrenheit.

This was a nice, chewy bread with a crispy crust and loads of flavor!

What have I learned?

This bread is definitely more challenging to make than the no knead bread, but the taste of this is much better.

Handling the dough takes patience and practice.

Spritz the oven, not the bread.

Wait at least 45 minutes before cutting into the bread.
Why? For optimal flavor. The moisture is still evaporating from the bread, and cutting into it early means a different texture and taste.

We can learn each time we bake and reap the rewards each time!


2 White Cheddar Smashed Potatoes

I fell in love with the white cheddar mashed potatoes at Ruby Tuesdays and had to make a home version.

I found a large bag of baby red potatoes at Costco and used some of the Kraft white cheddar blend that I had left from my White Cheddar Mac N Cheese.

My sis-in-law made a similar recipe and used her Kitchen Aid mixer. I was so excited to try and make this!

I think I heard the term 'Smashed' potatoes on America's test kitchen. This was the perfect accompaniment for my father-in-law on Father's Day served with my husband's smoked brisket.

It was so good! Creamy. Smooth. With a bite of white cheddar.

I will definitely make this again. And eat the entire batch.

Print Friendly and PDF White Cheddar Smashed Potatoes

2 pounds washed red potatoes, each potato cut in half
3/4 c. milk
3 T. butter or margarine
1 c. white cheddar cheese, grated 
1/4 t. onion powder
3/4 t. salt
1 t. dried parsley or 2 t. fresh, chopped parsley
White pepper to taste


In a saucepan, cover potatoes with water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce temperature to a simmer.  Simmer potatoes 15 minutes or until fork tender.
Drain potatoes and place in mixer with flat beater.

In a saucepan, combine milk and butter.  Heat over medium heat until butter is melted.

'Smash' potatoes in mixer until smooth.  Slowly add warmed milk mixture.  Add cheese.
Season with onion powder, salt, and parsley.  Add white pepper to taste.
Reserve some parsley for the top.


2 BBA Challenge: Ciabatta

When Pinch My Salt proposed baking all the breads in the book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, it got my attention. Shortly after I taught a Mom N Me bread class, one of the ladies there called me and said, "Have you ever heard of the Bread Baker's Apprentice? Would you like to borrow it?"
I was ecstatic!

The challenge was started almost two months ago and I decided to jump in, hoping to catch up to the other 8 or so breads that have been made so far.

Ciabatta is the challenge for this week. I have made ciabatta before, which is an extremely sticky dough.

I decided to add olive oil and some fresh rosemary from my garden.

I shaped 2/3 of the dough into square rolls for sandwiches.

This is my ciabatta loaf, which is supposed to resemble an Italian slipper....looks pretty and rustic, huh?

This is the challenge of bread makers everywhere....you can follow a recipe EXACTLY and something, somewhere, goes wrong.

Not horribly wrong. Just different.

When I cut into my bread, all the lovely holes that were supposed to be there, weren't.

Don't get me wrong. It still tasted great! It just wasn't what I expected.

I had a sleepless night that night.

Did the olive oil change it?
Did I do the stretch and folds correctly?
Should I have added more water?
Did I handle the dough too much?
Should I use active dry yeast next time?
Did the high altitude make a difference?

Calling all experienced bread makers.......help me solve my problem and I will have a good night's sleep tonight!


10 Pork Tamales! (Stove & Pressure Cooker)

Pork TamalesThese are the real deal. My friend from Comemos, Let's Eat, spent a few years living in Mexico and knows Mexican cooking.

The first time she asked me to try tamales, I was hesitant.
I have memories of my mom taking some tubular things out of a can and peeling wax paper off of them. I don't think I ever ate those.

I tell you, after one bite of her homemade tamales, I was in love. These were moist and tender and I gobbled them all up! I just HAD to have her recipe. She was more than happy to share her recipe, and advised me to watch and help her make the tamales first. I was glad I did! We made a boatload of tamales and froze them up. They freeze really well. You can easily take out two (or more) out of the freezer bag, cover with plastic wrap and zap them in the microwave for a couple of minutes.

As with some cooking, it is all about technique. I am happy to share with you her process of making tamales, which I hope inspires you to make some!

The first thing I did was make some Enchilada Sauce.

Cindi left a great comment about this sauce and how her family enjoyed it. I promised her that another recipe to use this sauce would be posted soon, so here it is Cindi!

You can make your own shredded pork by cooking 3 pounds of pork in a slow cooker for 4 hours on low/ 8 hours on high with your choice of beef broth, Coke, or water with onions, salt, pepper and garlic. A dash of liquid smoke won't hurt!

-or- You can use your pressure cooker to make the  pulled pork. You can also use the pressure cooker to cook your tamales! Instructions are listed below in the recipe.

You can use beef or chicken in this recipe if you'd like.

I had some leftover smoked pork, (which adds a whole 'nother dimension to this tamale!) and poured just enough enchilada sauce to the pork, coating every piece of meat without making it runny.

If your sauce is too runny, it will soak through the masa.

Set it aside.

You will need some corn husks for this recipe. I have found this particular brand at my local Harmon's to yield a wide corn husk that is suitable for making tamales.

If your husks are too narrow, you can always lay two husks side by side to your desired width. As you make your tamales, you will understand what I mean by this.

Take the husks out and put them in your sink with some hot water.

They will float. You want them to be submerged.

You will need some kind of weight to hold the husks under the water.

I found an old 9x13 pan that fits in my sink and a heavy glass measuring cup that works for me.

For the masa, or dough, I use Maseca corn masa.

This recipe calls for 2 cups masa, which I put in my mixing bowl.

Add 1 teaspoon baking powder

and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Use a mixer with a whisk. It fluffs up the masa beautifully.

Turn on the mixer and blend thoroughly.

I use 2 teaspoons of McCormicks chicken base and water to make 2 cups of chicken broth. You can use 2 cups of canned or fresh chicken broth.

I really like using this base. I makes a fresh tasting chicken broth.

Pour the broth in gradually while the mixer is blending

until it forms a soft dough.

Add 1/3 c. shortening

A reader informed me that the shortening is beaten first and then the masa mixture (Maseca, baking powder, salt and broth) is added to it. This is the correct way of doing it, although I didn't have a problem. My printable recipes have been corrected.

Thank you. I love it when readers give me feedback!

and mix until light and fluffy.

Next, prepare your tamale assembly line.
(1) drained husks
(2) Masa
(3) Pork with enchilada sauce
(4) clean surface or mat to prepare tamales on
(5) spoon for meat
(6) 4" wide plastic putty knife*
(7) tray to place finished tamales

Corn husks have a "smooth" side and a "ridged" side.

Open the husk with the smooth side facing you. If you put your masa on the ridged side, it will stick.

You want to have the narrow part of the husk at the top and the widest part at the bottom.

Place a small mound of masa on your prep surface.

Take your plastic putty knife and grab some masa.

Yep, you don't need a fancy spreader. Get this putty knife at your local hardware store. It's really cheap.

About this much. It's probably about 1/4 cup.

Starting at the top of the husk, press down, holding the putty knife at an angle and pull the knife towards you.

Keep the pressure even, making an even layer of masa on the husk.

This is what you want to see when you are finished.

It's o.k. if the masa tapers off at the end.

Place about 2 teaspoons of the filling down the middle of the spread masa.

Bring up the sides of the husk and look for the edges of the masa.

Match the edges. If you can't match the edges, you have too much filling. Take some filling out and try again.

After matching the edges of the masa,

pinch the seam closed.

Then take the raw edge (the husk that doesn't have the filling in it)

and fold it over the top of the tamale, patting it down.

Then take the narrow end of the tamale

and fold it over towards you.

This puts all the 'seams' of the tamale on one side.

Place folded side down onto a sheet to keep tamales from unraveling.

Prepare a steamer basket with an inch of boiling water at the bottom.

You don't want the water level to touch the tamales.

Place the tamales inside the steamer basket, folded side toward the outside of the basket and open end up. This keeps the tamales from unfolding.

Usually, I make enough tamales to loosely fill the entire basket.

Today, I have it only about 1/3 full, which leaves a space in the middle.

Not to worry!

I put a piece of crumpled foil in the cent to keep my tamales upright.

Steam the tamales for one hour or until the masa pulls away from the husk.

I check it with a fork because these are hot!

I check another one, just to make sure.

Yep, it looks done!

Remove the tamales that you want to eat right away from their husks and dig in...

I like these just as they are, although my husband likes chili or extra hot sauce on them.

After eating these, I guarantee you will never view tamales the same way again.

They're that good.

Print Friendly and PDF
2 c. Maseca corn masa
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

2 c. chicken broth
1/3 c. shortening

Shredded pork, beef or chicken
Enchilada Sauce

In separate mixing bowl, combine Maseca, baking powder, and salt in mixing bowl.  Mix briefly.
Add chicken broth slowly while mixing until thoroughly incorporated.
In an electric mixer with whisk attachment, beat shortening until light and fluffy.
Add masa mixture to shortening and mix until light and thoroughly incorporated.

Spread masa dough onto smooth side of damp corn husks.  Fold.  Put open end up into steamer.
Steam for one hour or until masa pulls from husk.
Eat and enjoy.

Cool and freeze in freezer safe bags.  Remove number of desired tamales onto microwave safe plate.
Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 2 minutes.

Put trivet or steamer basket inside pressure cooker.
Put 2 cups of water in the pressure cooker.
Place tamales, folded side down, open end up, inside the pressure cooker.
Tamales should not be packed tight, but enough to stand up on their own.
Close the pressure cooker, set to sealing, and use HIGH pressure for 15-18 minutes.
When done cooking, let the pressure cooker naturally release for 10 min.
After 10 minutes, open the pressure valve, or a quick release.


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