Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day 153 - Oat Groats

Meager, I know. But I wanted to cook something from the book today, and what I had was oat groats. The real cooking excitement, though, was a recipe not from the book but from, which I'll write about after my thrilling oat groats installment.

Oat Groats (p. 413)

Yet another in the long line of semi-obscure grains in the book. We all know oats, but they're more popular in other forms: steel cut, rolled, instant. This grain in groat form more closely resembles spelt or farro or wheat berries than our beloved hot oat cereals. But you can taste a vague, familiar oaty flavor in there somewhere.

The boiling method is great because you pretty much can't mess it up. (I guess you could overcook them, but the worst thing that would happen is that they'd be a little mushy, unlike the tragedy of the crunchy bottom of a pot of overcooked rice.) Happily, my oat groats came out just right: tender, but a little chewy. And as with all chewy obscure grains, this one is surprisingly satisfying. That said, how often will I think to myself: "What this meal needs is a side of oat groats?" Probably not that often. Farro sounds sexier. Spelt sounds healthier. But as always, thanks, Martha, for the experience.

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Now here's the real excitement of the day!

Months and months ago, I was poking around, looking for a nice bread recipe, and I came across this one for Prosciutto Bread. It wasn't right for the meal I was planning at the time, so I didn't make it, but it started boring a hole in my consciousness. It calls for a kooky, star-shaped Italian bread mold, a pandoro mold, usually used for sweet Christmas breads, but here it's used for a bread that involves chunks of prosciutto and fontina cheese.

Well, I finally got the mold and made the bread.




It's unbelievable.

Now, I know this blog isn't meant to feature non-book recipes, but you have to indulge me. I need to discuss this one at some length.

I don't know much about baking. There's nary a bread recipe in Martha Stewart's Cooking School. (This is probably a good call - once you open that can of worms, you can't close it for a couple hundred pages.) But I definitely need some coaching in this department! I know there are things that happen during my baking experiences, easily fixable disasters, and if I had more savvy/guidance, I could quickly improve the quality of my home-baked goods.

Take this bread, for instance. There are very few ingredients involved here: sugar, water, yeast, flour, salt, pepper, ham, cheese, egg wash (which I forgot, by the way). You combine the sugar, water and yeast, wait for the foaming action, add the salt, pepper, and flour, and mix for five minutes. Now, here's where I get a little flummoxed - it's supposed to turn into a ball, and it didn't, really. It was super wet. Now, what do you do? Do you add more flour? It says in the recipe: "dough will be slightly sticky." Define sticky, please. I mean, the dough held together, but a ball? No. It clung to my fingers - in fact, it created webbing between all my fingers.

But I pressed on. In the past, I've added flour to get dough drier, but I think I've overdone it, and I definitely didn't want to end up with a dry, flavorless bread. So, no extra flour.

I pressed the chunks of prosciutto and cheese into the dough, let it rise, punched it down (I love that part), folded it again - fyi, it was still crazy wet and sticky, yet I somehow blobbed it into that kooky star mold, which has a strangely small opening. It was supposed to rise to the top of the mold in 30 minutes, but it took closer to an hour to get there.

Cut to the eating part. A-MA-ZING. Salty and cheesy and moist and crunchy and peppery and everything great in a cheese/meat bread. I served it to my college buddy, Miriam, whose mother was from Italy, and she claimed that it tasted just like Italy! And she would know!!

I guess the lesson is, just deal with the stickiness. But if I had added some extra flour, or mixed it longer, would it have been even better??

In any case, I'm now completely obsessed with this bread and I recommend that you get obsessed with it too.

Until we eat again....

Check out that crazy shape! How is one supposed to slice this??

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