October 2013 Cookbooks of the Month, THE FOOD OF PORTUGAL and THE NEW PORTUGUESE TABLE: Breads; Sweets; Sweets and Liqueurs
Please use this thread to report on the following chapters from the October Cookbooks of the Month:
Breads (The Food of Portugal), pages 223 – 248
Sweets (The Food of Portugal), pages 249 - 288
Breads (The New Portuguese Table), pages 187 – 202
Sweets and Liqueurs (The New Portuguese Table), pages 203 - 230
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Presunto and Cheese Loaves, p. 194, The New Portuguese Table
These delicious and attractive little loaves are easy to make and fun to eat. The recipe makes four 6 - 7 inch golden brown loaves that were studded in my case with savory little cubes of prosciutto, chorizo, and shredded manchego cheese. The dough is a simple yeast-raised bread, made from all-purpose white flour and olive-oil, given more flavor, color, and texture by the addition of two whisked eggs.
I found the instructions particularly easy to follow. I appreciated the clear and detailed descriptions of how the dough should look and feel at various stages of kneading and filling with the diced ingredients. Even a beginner to bread-making can easily follow the recipe.
Everything worked as it should, and the result was a very nice dinner bread, savory but not overpoweringly so. I served it with the Sea Bass (I used cod) with Fennel and Orange on p. 80 of this book, and it was a happy accompaniment. The texture, while full of delicious little bits of smoked meat and flavorful cheese, is still somewhat delicate. Not that it falls apart or anything, but this has a finer texture than a typical really "chewy" peasant-style bread.
David Leite is correct in that this bread is best served the day it is made, but I can attest that slices toasted the next day make great sandwiches.
My grandson said he really liked "the meat bread"!
Here are some photos of the various stages: first, the dough about to be kneaded with the other ingredients; then about to be proofed; and then about to be eaten!!
I wanted to add to my review that I did freeze two of the Presunto and Cheese Loaves for 10 days, and they held up just fine. Served 'em at a Portuguese-themed dinner party last night, in fact. My guests really liked them.
The loaves become slightly more dense after they are thawed before reheating in the oven--I guess because the meats and cheese exude a bit of moisture upon standing. But sliced and then warmed in aluminum foil in the oven, they are savory and smell so appetizing that people reach for a slice.
Rice Pudding - The Food of Portugal, p. 252
Jean Anderson explains that Portuguese rice pudding is made somewhat like risotto, with hot milk gradually added to short-grain white rice to release the starch and give a creamy texture, and that it's flavored with lemon and cinnamon, not vanilla.
The recipe starts with simmering strips of lemon zest in salted water for 10 minutes, after which the zest is removed and the water brought to a boil. The rice (I used arborio) is added and simmered uncovered until the water's absorbed. Scalded milk is then added a bit at a time and the rice cooks, covered but with occasional stirring, until each addition is absorbed. With the final addition of milk, egg yolks, sugar, and cinnamon are added (I mixed these together and tempered with the milk before adding), and it's cooked the same way (covered, occasional stirring) until there's no raw egg taste and it's very creamy, then turned into a dish and chilled. (She says the top is traditionally decorated with a pattern of cinnamon, but I skipped that.)
When this had finished cooking, it was indeed nice and creamy, as well as rather loose, but it thickened up a great deal upon cooling, and had what I'd describe as a seized texture once chilled (much like risotto!). Now, I admit I did use 1% milk, so it obviously wasn't going to be as rich as if I'd used whole and that very well could have been the issue, but as I said, it was quite creamy after cooking. The flavor was good and the rice tender, but the texture stodgy and not so pleasing (especially given the amount of babysitting involved). You can see pretty well in the second photo, the one with the fruit (home-canned plums in port ginger syrup). At least I only made a half recipe.
Madeiran Griddle Bread, The New Portuguese Table; p.190.
I made these little breads to accompany the book's Grilled Beef Kebabs, and also made the Roasted Garlic Butter with Madeira to serve with them.
To begin, a small sweet potato is cooked and 1/2 cup is set aside to cool. In the meantime, a generous amount of yeast (1T) is proofed with sugar & warm water. The cooled potato is then pulverized in a food processor with flour, butter, sugar, salt, the yeast mixture, and additional warm water. I did need to add additional flour to get the dough to form a ball, probably a good 1/3 cup. It was still sticky, probably from the potato, but I was hesitant to add more (although I now think I could have with no negative effects).
The dough goes into an oiled bowl and set aside to rise. The recipe estimates a 1 1/2 hour rising time to double but it only took my dough one hour (maybe even less). The dough is then placed on a floured work surface, divided into six pieces, flattened a bit and covered again to let rise ("puff") for about 30-45 minutes (again, my rolls puffed in less than 30 minutes; maybe as little as twenty).
The next step is browning the breads on both sides in a non-stick skillet, then popping them into the oven for 15 minutes to finish baking. Because of the stickiness of my dough I had a hard time lifting the breads from the floured surface and onto the skillet, and they even deflated a bit in the process, but they did puff up again while being browned, and maintained their shape on the baking sheet while I finished the rest.
I wasn't sure what to expect, but the breads had a moist, fluffy interior and a slightly chewy crust (they reminded me of a large English muffin but with a softer crumb). I also could detect a bit of sweetness from the potato. They were quite wonderful spread with the garlic butter and served with the kebabs, but I now wish I would have saved one to toast for breakfast the next morning!
Fried Cornmeal, The New Portuguese Table; p. 193
Delicious, comfort food here - it was hard for me to refrain from cutting out "just one more slice" to sear and eat!
Instant polenta, (which is what I used, vs. fine cornmeal) is cooked with chicken stock, cream, butter, and water. Ricotta and sliced wilted greens (I used kale) are stirred in, and the mixture is then spread into a baking pan to set up. The recipe specifies an 8"x 8" pan but 9"x 9" would be fine.
When the mixture is firm, slices are cut, brushed with a bit of olive oil and fried. There was a bit of spattering going on so I would advise using a spatter screen, and I did need to increase the heat a bit to get a nice sear, but I was impressed that the pieces maintained their shape after being turned several times.
I used a commercial, low-sodium chicken broth, and a store-brand "part-skim" ricotta and the pieces were still so tasty - a creamy, rich interior with a golden crunchy crust. The cakes were served with my dinner of Grilled Beef Kebabs and Madeiran Griddle Bread, also from TNPT..
Portuguese Orange Olive Oil Cake (Bolo de Laranja)
From,The New Portuguese Table.
This cake is WONDERFUL,it comes together very easily but, has very complex, deep flavors. David Leite says to let the cake age and, as difficult as this was,it improved daily,until the very end.
As for the book itself,I love the photography and, I love the thoughtful journey that Mr. Leite shares with us. Delightful.
Portuguese Orange Cake, The New Portuguese Table; p.220
The book's photo of this cake, as well as Chowyunfood's above have been on my mind for days, and after finally making this I agree that it is fabulous. It's richer and more moist than a regular pound cake, with a wonderful citrus flavor, and is not as sweet as it may seem given the amount of sugar. It makes a very tall cake; in fact, as I was filling my Bundt I grabbed my cupcake pan and filled six liners, with enough batter still remaining to turn out a beautiful cake.
Portuguese Country Bread (Pao) p. 224 from The Food of Portugal
This recipe also starts with a sponge of yeast, water and flour. Additional flour, water and salt is added to make a dough that is kneaded and proofed twice, knead again, shape and put in a cake pan. Bake until done. This made a loaf with a tight crumb, but less dense than the broa. The flavor was fine, but not amazing. Even though, it requires more effort, the flavor of the country bread from My Calabria is more to my liking. Nonetheless, the bread tasted much better when I used it to sop up the juices in the clam soup.
Very nice of you to say. I think my husband's photography skills have been improving. Have you received your book yet? I'm curious to get your take. At first blush, many of the recipes remind me of some Spanish recipes I am familiar with, but the use of cilantro and hot peppers (piri-piri), definitely make it distinct from Spanish cuisine.
Leite's book just came in over the weekend, and the library called me to say the Anderson was in last night, so I should be good to go soon. But I've had them each out before, the Leite book recently, and I agree it is interesting how the recipes are similar to Spanish, but decidedly not the same.
I grew up in eastern MA where there are substantial Portuguese/Azorean/Cape Verdean-American communities, and lots of this food seems very familiar from menus in Portuguese restaurants, or in the case of your breads, they really do look like the bread from a Portuguese bakery (of which there are quite a few around here).
Yeast-Raised Corn Bread (Broa) p. 239 from The Food of Portugal
This recipe begins with a sponge of yeast, corn meal and water. Milk, water, corn oil, salt, flour and more corn meal is added to the sponge. Knead and proof twice, knead again, shape and put in a cake pan. Bake until done. This made for a very hearty and dense loaf of bread. It is not something I would eat by itself, but it was the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of caldo verde.