Masa monster no-knead bread

Well, what do you know? It works!
It works, even though everything went wrong. Let me tell you.
First, I intrigued to get my pal Guru on board. She is the recent posessor of a KitchenAid, a fact that makes my face blotchy green every time I think about it. I thought this sounded like a perfect recipe to try a deux, even if thousands of kilometers apart, as she is an expert bread baker -and in this instance I would have no spells of jealousy, as there´s no machinery involved.
We made our doughs, and compared notes the following day. Regrettably, instead of a substance recognizable as dough, we both had a gloopy mess that Guru lost no time in christening "la masa monster", which translates roughly as "the monstruo dough".
Still, we went ahead, because it had certainly risen in a very satisfactory manner, being full of bubbles and life, in the manner of a pestilent swamp.
Instead of the usual method of patting the dough into some sort of bun shape and making a round loaf, I splashed the creature into a piping hot Dutch oven, gave it twenty five minutes covered, and fifteen uncovered.
Amazingly, it turned out fine. Because my le creuset pan was very big, I had a very low, almost flat bread, but it was hollow and golden, wonderfully crisp outside, airy and chewy inside.
The flavour was so good that I didnt´bother with butter or oil, until the next day, when it had gone flabby (but not stale) and began to benefit from light toasting.
I made the dough on Friday, and baked it on Saturday, so I can´t vouch for the waiting time making it so much better. Yet.
I also tried adding more flour to the remainder, because it seems that flour isn´t quite te same over here on this side of the Atlantic.
That has been sitting there patiently for four days now, and it´s time to put it to the test.
Will it be as spongy? Will it be as good? You´ll know soon enough.


The bread mission

There´s a new bakery in our neighbourhood, Cosmen&Keiless. Brought to us by the self same Hespen&Suárez, it makes the fourth place within shopping-with-a-market-trolley distance where you can pay over 2€ for a loaf of excellent bread.

Now, I´m as snobby as anyone when it comes to bread, and I care enough about it to take the trouble to go and get it and pay through the nose for it, especially if it´s a main element in the meal I´m preparing.
But there are limits to my patience, and soon there will be limits to my pockets, at this rate.

As I was having my fresh bread and butter with Marmite and browsing a few blogs before beginning to work, this popped up on my bloglines. A sign! A few searches more in Food blog search and I was armed with a handful of recipes from the book that seems to have everyone raving.

All I need now is a jumbo bag of flour and some faith. I just can´t beleive it works, it sounds much too good to be true, but hey, so did the roast pork, and look how well that turned out.

I hope to report on my progress next week.


The best chicken sandwich?

Ok, here´s a confession : I´m a pathetic roaster of chickens.
There, it´s out, and I feel much easier.
I can roast a bird with enough decency that it´s edible, of course. I would even rate myself in the "not bad" bracket sometimes.
But that plump, juicy bird, tender and flavourful, burnished like blonde mahogany and oozing pints of gravy? Hardly.
I blame my oven, which is the easy way, and have learnt to live with chickens in which the breast is delicious and not dry at all, and some of the dark meat is still slightly underdone.
We eat one of the breasts, both legs, the crunchy skin and the roast onions. I save the carcass for stock, pick the pinky not-that-good-looking dark bits for later use in creamy sauces or risottos, and jealously guard the untouched breast and the leftover gravy.
Because if I make indifferent roast chickens, my chicken sandwich is second to none, I think, and it´s what keeps me coming back to the oven to roast birds. Rotisserie chickens taste great, but I shudder to think what dodgy farm they grew up in, and what exactly is in that sauce.
If the chicken I have to play with has been poached, not roasted, then I go for all the heavy artillery of bacon, avocados and tomatoes. If the bread is only so so, then I toast it.
But when I have proper bread, from La Tahona, then I just lay a crisp lettuce leaf on it, and top it with the chicken.
Which, if it´s good, just needs some mayonaise, Helman´s for choice, perked up with lemon juice and a bit of olive oil, and the essential touch for it to be really sublime: a couple of spoonfuls of jellified gravy.
That gravy is full of chicken flavour, and of oregano and lemon and garlic and pepper, too, and it´s the touch that elevates the sandwich. I beleive it to be the secret ingredient in the ones they make in La Marina, and so am always careful to save the last drop of sauce and juice, even if it means smacking J´s hand as he mops everything up enthusiastically.
Of course if your roast chicken is amazing, then maybe you won´t have enough leftover for sanwiches, and that´s something you´re going to have to live with.
Unless your oven fits two chickens.


Three epiphanies: café frappé, roast pork and lemon churros

Madrid is in the middle of a long long weekend. These are lazy times. If you stay in the city it takes at least a couple of days to wipe off the smug grin off your face when you hear the horror stories of people locked in nine-hour traffic jams on the way to the beach.
Turning on the computer is an act of sheer willpower. Particulary since to get to it I have to leap over a Scalextric set I´ve been lent (childhood dream), and a pile of rubbish J has promised to throw away after my crazy bout of clearing up yesterday.
So. This post is going to be a lazy, catch-all post, but it will be full of useful stuff. In the past weeks I´ve had no less than three epiphanies, but they are all such simple stuff that I can´t justify a whole post for each of them.

Number one falls under the category of the "how is it possible that it took me 32 years to do this". I can´t understand it, but there it is. A lifetime of sprinkling lemon juice and sugar over pancakes and crepes, and it never, ever, ocurred to me to do it on churros. A true eye-opener. Crunchy salty greasy churro and sweet sugar is a classic, but it can be a bit heavy. The lemon brings freshness and tang and danger: you end up eating quite a few more than you would otherwise.

Number two is, again, one of those duh moments. It took my cousin Pablo to mention the frappé method with Nescafé to send me hurtling to my cupboards to hunt down the cocktail shaker I received as a wedding present and never used (I´m a basic elemental gin and tonic girl, you see).
The pricey and not-really remotely good iced latte of Starbucks can be done at home with minumum fuss and maximum fun.
Just put 2 oz. milk, 3 oz. water (Euro meassures would be 50 ml and 75 ml), ice cubes, a spoonful of Nescafé and sugar as you like, inside a cocktail shaker or a glass jar with a trusty lid.
Shake the hell out of it, dancing to Carmen Miranda, or not, as you will, and pour the icy milky coffee with its creamy beige frothy head into a big glass.
This is a small quantity, but the shaking is such fun that I´d rather make two small ones than one big.

And finally, three. The Dutch oven method for pork shoulder. People. Seriously. What took me so long? I´ll tell you; it seemed too good to be true, that´s why. I just plain didn´t beleive it would taste better than an effortful way. Normally I slow roast my pork shoulders, basting from time to time, and it´s very good, juicy and flavourful. I´m not saying I´ll abandon that
method forever, because it´s hardly a big deal, but compared with the total ease of this other one, I´m not sure.
All I did last Wednesday was put the 1 kg hunk of meat with the ingredients of this marinade in the covered pot and leave it in a low oven for 3 and a half hours.
At the end, the meat really and truly fell apart. It was golden, and when brushed with the thick syrupy gravy, a thing of true beauty.
True, it becomes a shreddy, jellified mess at the slightest touch, but when has that ever been a problem?