Posts tagged bread

What a Difference a Year Makes: The Carroll Gardens Farmers’ Market

I know it might seem crazy to write about food with all this election madness going on, but I can’t help it. I just got back from voting, I’m too jittery to sit still, and I can’t bring myself to watch any election coverage just yet. So, in an effort to calm myself down while hoping for the best, I thought I’d write a post about a subject I’ve had on my mind for the past few months: my local farmers’ market.

As some of you already know, last year Carroll Gardens finally got its own farmers’ market. Starting in July 2007, a few tables of vegetables and fruit lined a short stretch of Carroll Street between Court and Smith Streets every Sunday through last November. While I lamented the lack of cheese, meat, and fish vendors, I remained optimistic for these changes in the future. I figured that once the market became more established, perhaps we would see more vendors on the block.

Well, it pays to think positively, because our little market has expanded quite a bit in just one year. Now when I make my weekly visit to Carroll Street, I bring two bags and indulge in a variety of local food products.

Similar to my shopping pattern from last year, I begin by stocking up on fruit from Fishkill Farms. While over the summer I focused on fresh plums and peaches, in October I scooped up apples and pears. My next move is usually towards the piles of fresh greens and other vegetables from Alex Farm as I supplement my CSA shipment with whatever other produce I might need for the week. Jim seems to prefer the vegetables from W. Rogowski Farm, so in the end we actually wind up supporting several stands at the market. I can’t forget my weekly chocolate croissant from Amy’s Bread, although sometimes I try to be healthy and buy a loaf of whole-grain bread as well.

But in addition to all of the wonderful produce and baked goods, we can now peruse products from various local meat, fish, dairy, and cheese vendors. About a month ago, Jim and I bought grass-fed, spicy Angus sausages from Grazin’ Angus Acres for the first time. We broiled them, sliced them up, and cooked them on top of one of our homemade pizzas. Raised without antibiotics or hormones, this beef was happily enjoyed with less guilt than usual. Grazin’ Acres’s sausages were so earthy and full-flavored that Jim and I went back for one of their grass-fed chickens a few weeks later.

I’ve yet to buy fish from Seatuck Fish Company, or pasture-raised eggs from Fishkill Farms, but both are on my list. Once in a while I’ll pick up some goat cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm, and a few weeks ago local honey was for sale. There are so many options, I find it’s impossible to try them all at once.

On another note, I’ve also enjoyed seeing how our farmers’ market has increased its role in the community. Every Sunday the lines seem to stretch longer and longer at each stand. A few months ago a chef from the soon-to-open restaurant Buttermilk Channel prepared a fresh vegetable pickle for the market’s shoppers. On this past Sunday, piles of mussels from Seatuck Fish Company were being prepared at one of the stands, encouraging people to linger and enjoy the day with each other.

So as you can see, our little farmers’ market has grown quite a bit in a year. I may not have tried the wares from every stand, but it’s not a problem; I have something new to look forward to every week. I just hope I can get through the rest of election day…

The Carroll Gardens Farmers Market, located on Carroll Street between Smith and Court. It runs on Sundays from July through November.

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Adventures in Focaccia and Parchment Paper

Luisa’s Focaccia di Patate

Sometimes I just have to learn things the hard way. Take, for example, my experience this week while making Luisa’s wonderful focaccia di patate.

While reading Luisa’s recipe I noted that she lined her baking pan with parchment paper, in order to keep the dough from sticking to the pan. I have to admit that I rarely use any sort of pan liner when I bake. That’s probably why a look at the top of my refrigerator, where my various boxes of sandwich bags, aluminum foil, and cereal reside, revealed wax paper but not parchment paper.

I stared at the roll as I asked, “Jim, is there a big difference between wax and parchment paper?”

“Yes, there is,” he called back from the living room. “You’re not supposed to bake with wax paper, just parchment paper.”

A few days later on Sunday afternoon I stood in the kitchen, surrounded by flour, yeast, a boiled potato, grape tomatoes, oregano, and salt. I had everything I needed except I had forgotten to purchase the parchment paper. Jim was away on a business trip, his cautionary words long forgotten. Should I walk the half block to the bodega for the parchment paper or just throw caution to the wind and use the wax paper? I decided to take a risk and forgo the stroll. Come on, what could go wrong?

After two hours of rising time for the dough and another forty minutes of baking time, the pan emerged from the oven at 8:30 pm. The browned bread, dotted with cheerful grape tomatoes and spirited flecks of green oregano, looked perfect, but then I tried to separate the bread from the paper.

The wax paper had melted into the bottom of the focaccia. Suddenly it all made sense. I mean, candles are made from wax. Candles melt at high heat. Nice one, Christina. Anyway, I couldn’t save the focaccia, no matter how carefully I tried. With one swift movement, it landed in the trash. 

But I couldn’t let this recipe meet such a sorry end. On Monday night I bought some parchment paper on the way home from the subway. After another three hours the bread was done, and this time it slid off the paper with ease when I transferred it to a plate.

As for the focaccia itself, its yeasty, chewy goodness will accompany me to work as lunch for the rest of the week. Many thanks to Luisa for a wonderful recipe, and for teaching me the difference between wax and parchment paper. It took six hours, two tries, and one waxy focaccia crust, but now I’ll never forget the lesson.

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Better Late Than Never: No-Knead Bread

Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread

Trends come and go, and I often find myself running far behind them, never able to keep up with newest gadget or fashion. BlackBerries? I’m afraid of them. Skinny jeans? I prefer the boot cut variety I’ve been wearing for the past seven years. But at least I’ve finally caught on to one of the most significant culinary revolutions of the past year and a half: Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread.

As soon as Mark Bittman published this recipe in his New York Times column back in November 2006, both experienced bread bakers and novices were amazed. The recipe proved itself time and time again: You too can make rustic, European-style bread in your home, and without a lot of work. Just combine some instant yeast, white flour, salt, and water, and let the mixture sit for a long time. I mean, a really long time, about 20 hours altogether. Time does all the work while your dough rises in the corner, out of sight and out of mind.

I read about this recipe everywhere, yet I didn’t consider trying it. I had never heard of instant yeast, and I didn’t own an enameled cast iron Dutch oven, which was recommended as the pot best suited for the recipe’s success. This bread wasn’t for me.

But this fall it re-entered my consciousness. Luisa of The Wednesday Chef (one of my favorite food blogs), tested a quicker variation of the recipe, also from the New York Times. After comparing the results, she still preferred the original No-Knead recipe. Suddenly I just had to make this bread. I started thinking about it all the time and even went on the prowl for instant yeast. I finally found some cellophane-wrapped packets high up on a shelf at the Red Hook Fairway, hidden among the birthday party supplies.

Next I resorted to begging, turning to Jim and my parents for a Le Creuset Dutch oven. Jim was reluctant, as our tiny kitchen was already overflowing with pots, pans, and appliances we barely used. But finally my parents gave me one for my birthday. I broke it in with those sausage sandwiches, but my second project was No-Knead Bread.

The recipe was just as easy as it sounded. I put the dough in to rise at around 12:30 pm on Saturday, ran some errands, went out to dinner, and finally, went to bed. I folded the dough a few times at 8 am on Sunday, let it sit a little longer, baked it at 10 am, and there it was: a beautiful, brown, crusty loaf of bread.

I dedicated that windy Sunday to Mark Bittman, making potato and leek soup from his new vegetarian cookbook. As soon as the creamy, soothing soup was ready, I took out my bread knife and cut into the rustic loaf. The crust crackled a bit, and then finally gave way to its soft, spongy interior.

Mark Bittman’s Potato and Leek Soup and a Slice of Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread

I’ve been eating it all week, bringing slices to work with the leftover soup. With my next try, I’m excited to mix some whole wheat flour into the dough recipe. This is one trend I can handle. For once it’s nice to follow the crowd, especially if the crowd is making bread.

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