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.

What Should We Name Her?

Stove Cleaned Up and in the Barn4
Our new wood stove, assembled, cleaned up, and ready to go into the galley.

Last fall, the wood stove that we inherited when we bought the Riggin 18 years ago, died.  Admittedly, it was a slow death, complete with many repairs and upgrades, but once the stove was out of position, like a soldier out of step with the rest of his/her unit, the flaws became more evident.  The first one being, no one should be able to look from the outside wall of the fire box and see through a crack to the grate inside.  No one.  Ever.

My Galley without the stove1
The baking space, water tank, and stove space all waiting for Lucy.

But before we were able to get a good look at the stove from all angles, we had to get it out of the space it had occupied for almost 40 years.  (Remember that we inherited the stove with the Riggin.  The original installation would have been some time in 1977.)  To get the stove out required a feat of engineering, as with most anything involving schooners where everything is heavy and nothing is square.  The trick to getting the stove out had to include no one getting hurt, so just getting a bunch of crew muckled onto the thing and muscling it out of the space wasn’t going to work.  We’ve tried to fit more than three people in my galley space and trust me, there’s no room to maneuver a single thing, much less a several-hundred pound stove.

This would require the largest muscle of all – the brain.  Often in the schooner world, heavy objects are moved by rolling them over logs or poles rather than sheer brute strength.  This concept applied to the stove worked brilliantly.  Several oblong fenders were placed on the sole in front of the stove where I usually stand.  The stove was then carefully tilted on end to rest on top of the fenders and then rolled out of the galley space to in front of the stairs.  Then fenders were placed on the backside of the stairs and with a pulley system rigged to the boom, rolled up and out of the galley.  From there, the boom was able to swing the stove off the deck and onto the dock.

Once the stove was in the back of the truck, Cap. took it to be repaired at Bryant Stove Works, a well-known stove repair company in our area.  The sad news came when the owner of the store suggested that she had cooked her last meal and the best use for her was a 21-gun salute.  Good bye, old friend.

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Justin making it pretty.

Stove Installed1

Lucy installed in her new home!

Hello, new friend, with your shiny chrome, your curlicues and your warming shelves.  Welcome to my galley.  I’m thinking her name should be Lucy.  It’s an old-fashioned name and a wood stove on a 1927-built schooner should have an old-fashioned name.  Plus, if some goes wrong I’ll be able to say, “Luuucy, you’ve got some ‘splaining to do.”  I hope we will become fast friends, Lucy.

Annie
Making new friends

Easter Celebration – Complete with Bunny Cake

Every celebration comes with traditions that we build around food.  In our extended family here in Maine, where very few of us are actually related, but most of us celebrate our holidays together, we have several traditions.  The first of which is that the Finger/Mahle house hosts the Easter meal.

Followed by… there are little girls running around collecting Easter eggs in the yard – usually hundreds of them – hundreds of what seems like little girls and, in fact, hundreds of eggs.  Before the actual hunt there is the boiling, dying, painting, and coloring of eggs in preparation for the hunt – an afternoon of spring color applied to eggs in all manner of ways.

But wait a minute.  This year, for the first time, we don’t have little ones running around at our knees (ours or anyone else’s) and our girls are old enough that dying eggs doesn’t hold the magic that it used to.  Neither does the hunting of them.  Our girls are firmly in teenager-land and while they weren’t quite ready to give up on the gift of candy, they were ready to let go of the traditional Easter Egg Hunt.  I, on the other hand, might have had to rally a bit to the new order of things and, in secret, wistfully respected the wishes and interests of the budding adults in our household.

Another tradition that we moms pensively released was the annual Easter Cake.  Long celebrated in our household with the usual argument of how the cake is actually constructed, neither the cake, nor the argument would be produced this year.  Until… Maggie, our newest crew member, walked in with a Bunny Cake – decorated in nearly the same way as the Easter Egg cake and a perfect serendipitous addition to our Easter table.

While our family traditions are changing, what matters the most – that we gather together to eat and laugh – will firmly and forever be a part of how we celebrate together – teenagers or not, Easter Egg Hunt or not, Easter Cake or not.

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Annie
Adjusting to change and grateful for the people around our table

Canning Pear Nectar

This fall, I was the surprised recipient of a beautiful bushel of pears from what we think is a Seckle Pear tree. That gift, however, did not come co-bundled with an abundance of time. I was determined that this gift would not sit too long while I put it off until the pears were passed perfectly ripe and had moved into “uh oh.”

HomegrownPears1

To hustle along, I decided to not can them as whole pears, but as nectar. Making nectar is a much easier process than canning whole fruit, as it does not require peeling. It begins with making a loose pear sauce much the same way one would apple sauce by bringing to a simmer pear quarters and water and cooking until the pears are either tender or falling apart. Pear varieties will differ in whether they stay together once they are fully cooked or fall apart – just like apples.

With the addition of lemon juice and sugar plus a hot pack canning process, pear nectar emerges. I’ll use it all winter long in smoothies instead of honey, as a juice for brunch, a foundation for mixed drinks, combined with ginger ale for a special drink for the girls and, well, I let you know what else I come up with!

Annie
Thank you, friend Glen. I’m glad we are both good at sharing.

All Hail Kale – Kale is King!

Maybe it’s because outside it’s white and windy.  The grey and brown skeletons of the trees rise up against clouds filled with coming snow.  The only green to be seen in our landscape is from the frost-tipped branches of evergreens.  Perhaps this is why this season brings such a strong craving for greens.  If it’s not in our landscape, we want it on our plates?

Potato, Cheddar & Kale Souffle

I don’t know.  What I do know is that I need to honor the instincts of my body and have created a number of recipes for cooking winter greens, this time for kale.  Potato, Cheddar and Kale Souffle; Thai Peanut Shrimp with Kale; and Tuscan Kale, Chickpeas and Olives are all in the Maine Ingredient column this week.

Annie
Kale is King

Thyme and Lime Potato-Crusted Salmon with Greens

Extra greens this time of year seems to be what I crave over and over again.  More kale, more spinach, more Swiss chard.  I’ve even begun eating kale for breakfast with my eggs instead of having toast.  It’s delicious and gives me one more serving of what’s good for me anyway.

This column for the Maine Ingredient, created with holiday entertaining in mind, could easily become a weekend dinner with friends.  The recipes – Thyme and Lime Potato-Crusted Salmon, Brown Butter Kale with Toasted Almonds, and Spinach Salad with Pomegranate Seeds, Cranberries and Preserved Grapefruit – are all healthy, with a large dash of elegance.

Spinach Salad with Pomegranate Cranberry Preserved Grapefruit

Annie
Eating my greens

Lemon Curd Cheesecake – A Bake Ahead Holiday Dessert

The tricks to making a successful cheesecake are simple.  They also make sense when you understand the reason behind them.

Lemon Curd Cheesecakes

Eggs, a major component of cheesecakes, don’t like to be heated quickly or subject to high heat.  Instead they like to be handled gently and with a little tender loving care.  They freak out when the heat is too fast or too high, curdling or puffing up, both of which we don’t want in a cheesecake.  This is why having all ingredients at room temperature to begin with helps.  Another trick is some sort of water – either in the form of steam or a water bath, to mitigate the formation of a crust and to gentle the heat.  Lastly, letting the cheesecake cool down in the oven helps gentle the change in heat and prevents those craters we don’t want to see in our cheesecakes.

Lemon Curd Cheesecake

The recipes that ran in the Portland Press Herald today, Vanilla Cheesecake and Lemon Curd Cheesecake, are both favorites in our family.  There I also write about how to freeze and thaw cheesecakes, making them a perfect make-ahead dessert.  The Lemon Curd Cheesecake has been a holiday dessert for years, appeasing those who are done with the chocolate overload.

Annie
Happy baking!

Blood Orange Marmalade – It’s not too late!

Citrus season is almost over, but as I write, the last (or I’m hoping the last!) big winter storm is raging outside and any sort of canning seems like just the thing to keep the house toasty warm.  I know when summer rolls around I’ll be so happy to have these gem-like jars of coral-colored goodness for our guests to slather on biscuits or muffins in the morning or for an afternoon snack.

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This recipe for blood orange marmalade is a combination of Alton Brown’s and Margaret Yardley Potter’s and is as easy as pie.  The initial inspiration came when cozied up last night with At Home on the Range a cookbook presented by Elizabeth Gilbert and written by her great-grandmother Margaret Yardley Potter.

At Home on the Range

I’m in love with this no-nonsense woman who is far before her time when it comes to honoring ingredients and the flavor of the food she creates.  The recipes are more of a guide and written as my grandmother wrote her recipes rather than the exacting format more popular today.  It’s how I cook and it’s a book that I’m loving spending time with.  (Buy your local copy here at Hello, Hello Books!)

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And for the more exacting formula:

Blood Orange Marmalade
1 3/4 pound blood oranges; about 5 medium oranges
1 lemon, zested and juiced
6 cups water
3 pounds pounds plus 12 ounces sugar
10, 8-ounce canning jars with lids

Wash thoroughly and slice the oranges into very thin slivers with either a sharp knife or a mandoline removing the seeds along the way.  Quarter the slices and transfer to a large stock pot.   Add the lemon zest, juice and water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a strong simmer and cook for about 40 minutes or until the fruit is very soft.  Stop here and refrigerate the oranges and continue the next day OR continue on with the rest of the recipe right off.

Place a small plate into the freezer.

While the oranges are cooking, prepare a large water bath with either a canning basket or a cake rack on the bottom.  Add the jars and lids to the water and make sure they are covered with at least 1 inch of water.  Cover with a lid.  Bring the pot to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat, and let sit until you are ready to fill the jars.

When the oranges are soft, add the sugar and return to a full boil for 15 to 20 minutes or until a candy thermometer reads 222 to 223 degrees.  To make sure, place 1 teaspoon of marmalade on the plate in the freezer and wait 30 seconds.  If the marmalade still runs when you tip the plate sideways, it’s not done.

Remove the jars and lids carefully from the water bath and set upright on a towel.  Place a funnel over the jars and ladle marmalade filling the jars with 1/2-inch clearance at the top.  Wipe any remaining marmalade off the edge, cover with lid to just hand tight and return to the water bath in either the canning basket or on top of the cake rack.  Boil for 10 minutes and remove from water onto a towel.

Now comes the fun part.  Wait for each lid to pop.  This is your reward for a job well done.  (Well, and eating the goodness you just created.)

Annie
Orange you glad I shared this recipe?

Chicken and Red Kidney Bean Chili

It’s not always practical to follow a recipe, although it may be easier on some fronts.  Certainly, knowing that someone else has tested a recipe increases the chances of success.  On the other hand, when those moments arrive when ‘there’s nothing in the fridge to eat’ but still no space for more food, it’s time to get creative.   Typically, following a recipe is not going to use up the eclectic mix of ingredients found collected in your home and refrigerator.

In these moments, soup is one among many meals that work well for using up odds and ends of things.  However, this needs to be done in a somewhat thoughtful fashion, else the soup becomes a muddy, unappetizing mess – everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sort of mess.  The ingredients should somehow relate to one another.  What I found yesterday in the house were the following… all needing to find a home in a meal.

Red Bean Chicken Chili

Chicken and Red Kidney Bean Chili
olive oil
chicken breast
diced onion
diced green pepper
minced garlic
partial packet of taco seasoning from a taco kit
plus some extra cumin
salt and pepper
salsa
cooked red kidney beans
chicken broth

Heat the oil in a medium stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and peppers and saute until translucent.  Add the garlic, chicken, spices, salt and pepper and saute until the chicken is cooked through.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 30 minutes and either serve or let sit refrigerated for a day to absorb the flavors of the spices.

Annie
Waiting one more day before I go to the grocery store

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

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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.

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Happy that the house is warm and my belly is full
Annie