It's All About The Starter
|As promised.. the rest of the story about my weekend with a Tartelette and a Breadchick!|
Many months ago, I was talking to Mary in e-mails.. well, okay, I wasn't talking - I was bitching. Anyhoo, I was whining about not having any Panera Asiago Cheese bread in the house and how it's the only thing I crave when I'm sick - well, other than sweet potatoes. Yeah, I know I'm weird. :P But there just doesn't seem to be anything more comforting when I've got the sniffles than a couple thin slices of Panera's Asiago bread toasted and slathered with butter. Even when I have a sore throat - go figure!
So Mary said, "Wouldn't it be nice to be able to recreate it at home so you'd never have to be without?" Of course I readily agreed and promptly did some research hoping to find the recipe out on the internets somewhere. Well I never did find it.. although I did find a recipe for their olive bread and their 4 cheese bread. I also found out that most of their breads start with a sour dough starter - one made from grapes.
I sent this info to Mary and asked her (as she IS the Queen of Sourdough) if I could make this starter and if she'd mind walking me through it. Well not only did she agree to that, but she ran out, bought herself a loaf of Panera's Asiago bread and then replicated it in her own kitchen - in half the time that Panera's recipes called for!!
She sent me the recipe and as per usual, I was excited to have it but never baked it as the sponge (too close to a starter for my tastes!) scared the bejesus outta me and I didn't want to chance having something with yeast explode in my kitchen. And believe you me, if ANYONE can find success in exploding yeast - that'd be me.
So fast forward to about a month before the gals were due to arrive.. Mary wrote to inform me that we were going to not only make a sourdough starter, but we were also going to make the Asiago bread!! WOOOOOO FAKKIN HOOOOO!!! I was all over that, especially if there was going to be someone who knows what the fakk they are doing close by me. *grin*
We started the sourdough starter on Friday night and she taught me how to feed it every 12 hours. My starter went off like gangbusters.. apparently I've got a good house for keeping yeasties happy. Who woulda thunk it? By the time Mary left on Monday, I was confident that I could keep my starter thriving. My only fear was pre-heating my oven and forgetting my lil starter was in there. Yep, that's where he lived, inside my oven with the light on. Helene suggested I stick a post-it on the oven to remind me to take him out before I bake anything, which was a fantastic idea.
Next thing up was the bread. I'm still not sure how she managed to figure out another way to make this bread that wouldn't take 24 hours, like Panera's recipes stated, but she did. We started early Sunday morning (at least I think we did - there was vodka involved one of those nights) boiling potatoes and smashing them then squeezing out all their starchy water.
There was a lot of waiting involved, which kinda killed me as my house was smellin' so damn good. But I was patient (shoosh Mary!) and waited until the goldeny heavenly scented deliciousness came outta the oven approximately 7 hours later.
Fanfarkintabulous, my friends! The crumb wasn't exactly like Panera's - but the taste was spot on. Cheese-y with a bit of a tang. Fabulous - just fabulous! =)
I WILL make this bread again - as well as many others, now that I've got a bit more confidence in working with the yeasties. Next time though, I think that I'll try to free form this bread instead of using the loaf pans. I can't wait!
Saturday it was all about submersing ourselves into the Slavic and Polish community of Cleveland. What a treat.. I've been through these neighborhoods often, but never stopped to explore them. This was also Mary's idea. Growing up, her parents had some friends (still do!) that were originally from the Slavic village of Cleveland and when they came to visit, they always brought Mary a bag of smokies as well as sausages and pastries, so she really wanted to go to these places.
We started off going to Hubbs' favorite Sausage Shoppe for smokies, Raddell's Sausage Shoppe in East Cleveland. After everyone bought their smokies and sausages, we headed to Gertrude's Bakery for some authentic Slovenian and Polish pastries. Next on the list was R & L's Sausage to pick up the smokies that Mary grew up on. And finally - my favorite new restaurant - The Seven Roses Polish Deli. Oh. My. God. As soon as you walk into this place you know the food is going to be good. And you know it's going to be made from recipes from someone's grandmother who still lives in Poland. Polish is the main language spoke (and written on some items) here, but the lovely gals running the place were very helpful in translating for us.
First we browsed the huge library-like shelves, complete with rolling ladder, which were housing 100's of different Polish foods. From candy to pickled cabbage, you could find anything your heart desired. As soon as the smells from the kitchen became too much, we sat down for lunch. A very sweet girl, with a thick accent, came to us with menus and a lovely smile. The menu featured a few different "sample" platters, so we went with a different one each so we could try everything. I ordered the cabbage roll platter that also had potato pancakes (the best potato pancakes I've ever had), and a cucumber salad in a vinegar dressing (again, the best I'd ever had). Hubbs ordered a Polish Keilbasa platter that also had meatloaf (made with sauerkraut - FABULOUS), potato pancakes and sauerkraut. Mary ordered the meatloaf platter, I believe, and I think it also had potato pancakes and cucumber salad. Helene ordered.. *gulp* an authentic polish soup that featured tripe. Me no likey the innards of a cow, but I dunked my bread (some Polish potato roll that was fab) in it and the taste was amazing. Helene said it was the best soup she'd ever had.
Starting at the top: potato pancake, homemade pierogies, a small piece of Slovenian sausage, a link of Polish Keilbasa, cucumber salad, sauerkraut, and in the middle part of a lil meatloaf.
After we were done, we pretty much needed to be rolled out the door, but that didn't stop us from buying Keilbasa, sauerkraut, potato pancakes, meatloaf, and some sweet rolls to go with the Irish butter I had purchased at the West Side Market the previous day.
Check out the Kerrygold butter.. so far in my butter tasting experience, this tops everything I've tried. But I still have Presidente and Plugra to go! :D
And yeah, we ate it all again for dinner Saturday night. heeee!
Just writing this up makes me want to head to the Slavic village again this afternoon.. ohhh if I didn't have so many chores to get done before heading back to the dungeon on Monday. My vacation is officially over. :(
There is just one more thing!!
I feel the need to share with ya'll what happened to me Thursday night. Remember that post-it that Helene suggested I put up on my stove?
Yeah.. I kind of didn't get that up there soon enough. I wanted asparagus "fries" for dinner, which meant I had to pre-heat the oven to 425º F. And uhmm.. well.. let's just say that I can now add to my resume of kitchen disasters, "Starter Murderer" *sob* And I was doing so well!!! Just two more days and I could have named him! UGH.
Holy crap! I can't forget the sweets!! As if. Highly unlikely that we didn't OD on sugar, butter and flour now is it? :D
Helene made this gorgeous German Chocolate Cake - just as tasty as it is pretty!
AND Helene found a recipe for Benne Wafers - lil sesame seed cookies are all that I ever want her to bring me from the Olde Colony Bakery in Charleston. I am addicted to them, thanks to her sending them to me in my YUMMY Christmas treats box last year. Now I can make them whenever I want - and these were 100 times better than the bakery's! I was shocked and very, very, very happily surprised! heeee!