Maine Gourmet Food Cruises – Bread Baking

Fresh sourdough baguette straight from a wood fired oven?  Sure!  Off the coast of Maine on an historic sail boat?  Even better.

Gourmet cooking cruises, culinary travel, or Maine Food Cruises, no matter what you call them, they all have the same thing in common – local Maine food, grown sustainably, and served with care and attention on the deck of the Schooner J. & E. Riggin.  We serve what I call swanky comfort food all summer long, but our special Cooking with Annie trips have an additional element – a bit of education.

Kalamata Olive and Black Pepper Bread.  Yum.
Kalamata Olive and Black Pepper Bread. Yum.

We aren’t “in class” all day long, so if you have a spouse or friends that are just interested in eating well while you learn a few more tips and techniques to add to your culinary arsenal, this is perfectly planned.

That said, anyone who wants to spend all day in the galley with me, watching and learning, absolutely can.  From 6am to 7pm, I’m in the galley making breakfast, lunch and dinner, so there are plenty of chances to get your hands doughy or dirty, so to speak.

The first in the series of topics that we talk about during the trip is bread.

Breads – to knead or not to knead, sourdough or quick breads, baguette or stirata, the world of bread is big and the options are many.

Bread Tip:  Did you know that there are two ways to encourage the formation of gluten (what gives a loaf it’s loft and structure) in bread?  Kneading is one and more moisture is another.  So to achieve a similar result, you can either spend 5 to 10 minutes kneading your bread or you can add more liquid to your dough and let time do the work.

 

Annie
Gourmet cooking cruises?  Who doesn’t want to eat well on vacation?  July 6 to 9th is our next Maine Gourmet Food Cruise.

No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread – Easy Peasy

No-knead techniques have taken the baking world by storm, or really been rediscovered by storm, and are a wonderful addition to any bread baker’s arsenal.  Truly, there is nothing I love better than pulling several loaves of freshly baked bread from the oven, whether it’s on the boat or in our home.

For me, the connection of homemade bread to our roots, to our communities, to our families and to our personal nutrition is a tie that weaves beautifully through all of these multi-layered parts of our lives.  I know, I know, there are a number of us that can’t have gluten and even more who shun bread due to the carbohydrate thing, but truly, a kale smoothie just doesn’t make the same heart and soul connection for me.

This bread is wonderful with a bowl of soup on a chilly spring day or toasted for breakfast and slathered with some homemade jam.  It’s a staple on our Maine windjammer and one I make at home all the time too.

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No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread

1 tablespoon unsalted butter for greasing the pans
12 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
5 cups warm water (more or less)

Grease 3 loaf pans and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and mixing with one hand while turning the bowl with the other, add the water.  When the flour is fully incorporated into the dough, turn out onto a floured counter and cut into three equal pieces.  Press into rectangular shapes and roll the dough gently into a log.  Transfer to the prepared loaf pans, cover, and set aside for several hours until the loaves have doubled in size.   Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown on the outside and the loaves come out of the pans easily. Remove from pans and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 3 loaves

Annie
Happy baking to you and to me!

On a Boat, It’s Not Always Perfect, But It Is Just Right

I traded swanky, landscaped, plated meals for the pine-studded coast liberally sprinkled with lichen-covered granite and a sea that is ever changing from a smokey charcoal to deep forest green.  My kitchen (galley) is outside and instead of being enclosed by four greasy walls lined with pots, pans and stainless equipment, I have pine tables, a cast iron wood stove and the smell of wood smoke.  My skin has the kiss of the sun, rather than the pasty white of someone who works indoors, even in the summer.

However, as a chef, there are a few things that occasionally ding my pride.  I’m a big girl, also an enthusiastic, optimistic one, so the moment doesn’t last long.  But I cook  on a boat all summer long and there are a number of situations that take priority over the visual attractiveness of my culinary hard work.  Sometimes my food doesn’t look perfect and it bothers me.

For example, the reason this salad has so many apples on it is not that Cassie, my assistant cook, got crazy with the apples, although this is not out of the question.  No, the true reason is that salad greens unprotected, literally, blow away with the first step on deck.  We feed the fish, not our guests.IMG_7753-001a

I love the look of micro-greens.  Do I ever use these delicate beauties?  No.  I would be the only one to see them.  See the blowing away reference above.

Also, the nature of my galley and the space available on any boat dictates that I serve family style.  I don’t have space to plate up 30 dinners in my galley.  Which means that sometimes my food is served in the pan in which it was cooked.  Again, there is a rustic simplicity, and dare I say beauty, to this look.  But no, beauty is not the word.  Practical, useful, convenient, expedient, safe, frugal.  These are the words I would use to describe my pans, but I tell you, a girl who wants to look pretty does NOT want to use these words and neither does the girl, who is the chef, who wants her food to look pretty.

The menu for lunch on the day these photos were taken was:

Local Porcini and Broccoli Leaf Mac n Cheese, Roasted Veggie and Local Italian Sausage Mac n Cheese, Garlic Knots, Apple, Walnut, Raisin Garden Greens Salad, Dijon and Champagne Vinaigrette and an Apricot Orange Pound Cake

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It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  And then I look at these photos and I’m sad that they don’t do it justice.  I remember this meal and I loved the Porcini and Broccoli Leaf Mac n Cheese… There was nothing left of this meal.  But the look of it?  The pans are …  Hmm.

Ah well, at heart I am both creative, practical, artistic, and frugal.  It turns out that my food on this beautiful boat we sail, meandering along the breathtaking Maine Coast, has the exact qualities of both me and of Maine.  I’d rather be right where I am – in my outdoor kitchen, creating honest food that fits it’s place perfectly.

Annie
Just accepting what is

Sun-dried Tomato, Artichoke and Spinach No Knead Bread

Let’s be honest, there is nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread in your own home to make you feel accomplished and cozy all at the same time.  This is a no knead version, so it’s super simple.  Mix, wait, shape, wait, bake, wait.  Eat.  With butter.  What could be better?

Sun-dried Tomato, Artichoke and Spinach No Knead Bread

5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon yeast
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
3/4 cup artichokes, drained and broken into pieces
1 cup lightly packed spinach, de-stemmed, washed and well-drained
1 to 2 cups of warm water

Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. With your hands, mix in the sourdough starter, sun-dried tomatoes and spinach. Begin to add water until the dough just barely forms a ball and there are no little dry bits hanging out in the bowl.

Cover the bowl with a layer of plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours or in the refrigerator overnight, until the surface of the dough has risen and is flat, not rounded. For those who have worked with traditional kneaded dough, this will look like a disaster. Just wait, it will be fine.Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato & Artichoke No Knead Bread 1

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a heavy (empty) pan or skillet in the bottom of the oven (you’ll use this when you put your bread in the oven to create steam). I use a cast iron skillet, filled with rocks I’ve picked from the garden and scrubbed clean, to create a sauna of sorts. It just stays in the oven all the time. The addition of moisture into the oven air helps the bread rise more and then creates a terrific crust.Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato & Artichoke No Knead Bread 2

Shape the dough into the loaves of your choice – 3 baguettes, 2 batons or 1 large boule. Do this by turning the dough onto a floured surface, cutting into the number of pieces you need and gently turning the edges under to form the desired shape. Sprinkle a baking sheet with corn meal or rice flour and place the loaf/loaves on the baking sheet.Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato & Artichoke No Knead Bread 3

Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato & Artichoke No Knead Bread 4

Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise again for another 20 to 45 minutes depending on the size and looseness of your loaf/loaves.

Slash the tops of the loaf/loaves with a sharp knife, transfer the baking sheet to the oven and immediately pour a cup of warm water into the pan on the bottom of the oven to create the aforementioned steam. Be extra careful with this step and quickly remove your arm from the oven once you’ve poured the water.

Bake until the exterior is golden brown and the bottom is firm, from 25 to 40 minutes depending on the size of your loaf/loaves.

Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato & Artichoke No Knead Bread 6
Happy that the house is warm and my belly is full
Annie

 

Asparagus and Tomato Gratin

Asparagus – classy, healthy and easy.  Three of my favorite things!  One incredibly simple way I like to do asparagus at home is to roast them in a bag with lemon and thyme.  The tang of the lemon combined with the herbal flavor of the thyme is a perfect combo for a light, healthy side to almost any protein.

Other asparagus recipes detailed in the latest Maine Ingredient column are:

Asparagus and Tomato Gratina
Red Rice and Asparagus Salad
Hake with Pork and Potatoes and Asparagus

Lemon and Thyme Bag-Roasted Asparagus
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bottoms off one or more bunches of asparagus.  Place asparagus onto a large paper bag, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add 1 lemon cut into 8 wedges and a generous sprig of thyme. Roll the bag closed and then place into a baking sheets with sides. Place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the asparagus is just done.

Caveat:  There are some that suggest that oiling the bag before putting it into the oven is a way to keep it from burning, however, that has never made much sense to me. I’ve also never had an oven fire while making this recipe, so there.

Asparagus Tomato Gratin
Asparagus Tomato Gratin (see link above for recipe)

Annie
Sad that the asparagus will go away soon, but happy to start seeing peas and strawberries

Fish Stew with Porcini Mushrooms with a Quick Buttermilk Bread

It’s only a few days until daylight savings time, however, until the snow melts from the ground and the temperature rises above 35 degrees most days, comfort food will remain a staple in our house.  I just can’t bring myself to keep the stove off!  Scarves, many layers, turtlenecks and fingerless mittens are also a constant.  It’s just how it is some years in Maine.

I find myself looking for those things I love because complaining about weather, over which I have zero control, is not my cup of tea (or bowl of stew)…  Could this be the last snow fall of the season?  How lovely that a new coat of snow has freshened up the roadsides and our yard.  Are those cardinals at the bird feeder?  The seeds are on their way.  The green is on its way.  The warmth is on its way….

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And for now I’ll delight in the cozy meals that still sound just as delicious now as they did in October when I began to crave them.  Fish Stew with Porcini Mushrooms is the recipe that ran in the Portland Press Herald today.  Of course Quick Buttermilk Bread goes super well with the stew.  Check it out.

Annie
Turning my attention to things I like

Super Big Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli

These ravioli are ravioli for grownups.  They are huge and one, maybe two, per plate are all that are needed for a grownup-sized serving.  The wonton wrappers make it actually a pretty easy process and the end result is super elegant.  We had them for a weeknight meal and felt like royalty.  I’d serve these to guests any time.

 Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli 5

 Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli 3

 Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli 4

 Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli 2
Super Big Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli with Spinach Tomato and Brandy Cream Sauce
Ravioli:
4 portabella mushrooms
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch scallions, ends removed
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
4 ounces cheddar, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic; about 1 clove
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Zest from one lemon
2 eggs
1 to 2 tablespoons flour, just enough to dust the counter
1 package egg roll wrappers; at least 20 wrappers
Water
Extra virgin olive oil if needed

Sauce:
1 1/2 cups diced onion; about 1 medium onion
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brandy
2 dashes Worcestershire
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
4 cups lightly packed spinach, de-stemmed, washed and drained

Ravioli:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Rub the portabella mushrooms with the olive oil on a large baking sheet and roast for 30 to 40 minutes until the mushrooms are dark and the edges are really brown.

Combine all ingredients except the flour, wrappers and water in a food processor and pulse until fully combined.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Meanwhile, very lightly dust a work surface with flour and lay out 4 wrappers.  With a large spoon or number 12 scoop, place mushroom mixture in the center of the wrapper.  With a pastry brush, wipe water all around the mushroom mound.  Lay a second wrapper over top of the first and line the top edges and corners up.  With your palm and the edge of your hand, press the two sheets together around the mushroom mix, pushing any air bubbles out passed the edges.  Dust a baking sheet with a little flour and transfer to the baking sheet.  Repeat.

When the water is boiling gently transfer all raviolis to the pot.  If the pot looks like it will become crowded, work in two batches.  Cook the ravioli for 3 to 4 minutes or until they are floating on the surface and the pasta is a uniform color.

Remove to a platter with a slotted spoon or basket strainer.  Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and repeat if needed.  Serve immediately with the sauce.

Makes 10, serves 5 to 10

Sauce:
Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Melt the butter and add the onions.  Sauté until the onions begin to brown and caramelize, about 15 minutes.  Add the brandy and reduce by half.  Add the chicken stock and cream and reduce again.  Remove from heat and add the tomatoes and spinach.  Turn with tongs until the spinach is wilted, but still bright green.

Makes 3 cups

Annie
Lovin’ my pasta

Breads – To Knead or Not to Knead

Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato & Artichoke No Knead Bread 5

I’m a fan of them all, kneaded and no-knead breads.  They are all my children and I love them, different though they be.  This week’s column is on ways to use sourdough starter in breads for flavor rather than as a leavener.  I know, I know, sourdough IS a leavener, but not for someone who has limited space and time, say someone who cooks out of a boat galley.  Therefore, because sourdough isn’t a fail proof method for me on the boat, I’ve developed my own ways of using it that don’t require so much tending.

There are also a number of other sourdough breads that I’ve posted in the past should you get super excited and find yourself on a bread roll….  Ha!

Annie
Still ‘Ha!’

Red Rice and Asparagus Salad

Easter weekend for us is always comprised of orphaned families, including ours, converging on our house for a large meal.  By ‘orphaned families’ I mean those families who don’t live near extended family and can’t always celebrate every holiday together.   Most of us don’t travel for this holiday, but instead, gather every year to create our own traditions here in Maine.   Some years we spend it outside on the deck and on blankets basking in the warmth of the sun.  Other years, we enjoy the chilly spring weather from indoors looking out over the still dormant garden.  Such was the case this year.

As always, the table groans from the abundance of delicious.  One of my favorites was a boneless lamb leg  stuffed and  rolled with a parsley walnut pesto combined with the following red rice salad.

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Red Rice and Asparagus Salad
1 bunch asparagus, stem ends removed and cut into 1-inch lengths
2 cups red Bhutanese rice
3 cups water
1 cup minced scallions
2 blood oranges
1 tablespoon Fiore’s blood orange olive oil (or unflavored extra virgin olive oil)
Pinch of salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
1 cup coarsely chopped almonds
2 tablespoons lemon juice

In a medium-sized stock pot bring salted water to a boil and add the asparagus.  Blanch for 2 to 3 minutes and remove with a strainer.  Cool immediately with very cold water.  Add the red rice to the pot of boiling water.  Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 to 50 minutes (depending on the brand of rice used).  If the rice is tender, but water still remains in the bottom of the pan, drain in a strainer.

Zest the oranges and set the zest aside in a small bowl.  Remove the now white peel from the orange flesh with a sharp knife.  With the same sharp knife, remove the membrane from between the orange sections.  Squeeze any juice from the remaining membrane into the small bowl containing the zest.  Add the olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice and combine.

When the rice is cooked, transfer to a strainer to cool slightly.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients including the zest mixture. Taste for salt and pepper and serve immediately or chill.

Serves 6 to 8

No-Knead Bread 101 – Artisinal Roasted Garlic and Black Olive Bread

Bread is not easy.  Anytime we deal with a living organism, there is unpredictability.  Live things just don’t always do what we wish, or it takes longer, or it happens faster.  In any event, it’s not always on our exacting timetable.  But it doesn’t have to be so maddening.

Roasted Garlic & Olive No Knead Bread Recipe by Annie Mahle

A number of people have said to me recently that they’ve tried and failed to make their own bread.  We’re going to work on that, because once you get it, there is nothing more satisfying in the cooking world than pulling a beautiful loaf of bread out of your own oven.  Even after 25 years of cooking and making bread on a daily basis on the boat, I still love it.

We’ll begin with a step by step of the guideline/recipe in Sugar and Salt:  Book One and move on to adding grains and different ingredients.  I’ll be posting once a month or so and then take a break over the summer.  We’ll come back to it in the fall, just in time for the first chilly snap of frost that makes us think of heating the house and warming our bellies.

This recipe requires a Dutch oven.  This covered pot creates a convective space for moist air, which allows the bread to rise beautifully, and then, once the moisture has dissipated, creates a terrific crust.  I use this method at home frequently.  However, on the Riggin I need to make 4 loaves at a time – but I don’t have the space for 4 Dutch ovens.  So I choose the other, more traditional method that is in Sugar & Salt:  Book One.

Basic No-Knead Recipe
5 cups flour (or flours) of your choice
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon salt
1 to 2 cups water

Roasted Garlic and Black Olive Bread
to the basic recipe add:
1 cup pitted black olives
1/3 cup peeled roasted garlic cloves; about 1 head roasted garlic

Combine all ingredients except water in a large bowl.   Add water and mix with one hand, adding water until the dough just barely forms a ball and there are no little dry bits hanging out in the bowl. Depending on how moist the olives and garlic are, the amount of water can vary from 1 cup to 2 cups.   This dough should feel too wet to knead and like biscuit dough in moisture content.

Cover the bowl with a layer of plastic wrap; and let the dough rise at room temperature overnight, until the surface of the dough has risen and is flat, not rounded.  For those who have worked with traditional kneaded dough, this will look like a disaster.  Just wait, it will be fine.

Place a Dutch oven (an oven proof pan with a lid) into the oven.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Shape the dough into a round boule by tucking the dough loosely under itself; place the loaf in a bowl lined with parchment paper.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise again until doubled, another 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Slash the tops of the loaf with a sharp knife and transfer the parchment paper and dough to the hot Dutch oven and cover with the hot lid.

Bake until the exterior is golden brown and the bottom is firm; about 50 to 70 minutes (no peeking for at least the first half hour).  Remove from both the oven and the Dutch oven and let cool before slicing.