Sunday, February 14, 2010

Feb 14: Daring Cooks - Mezze

The 2010 February Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

[My comments for this challenge will be in red.]

The challenge is to prepare a Mezze (pronounced “mez”) Table including, but not limited to, homemade Pita bread and Hummus. If you’re not familiar with mezze, it’s more of a style of eating than a specific recipe or recipes. Mezze is a bunch of small dishes served all at once—sort of like the Middle Eastern version of Spanish Tapas. It can be served as appetizers before a meal, or as the meal itself.

The MANDATORY recipes for this challenge are the Pita Bread and the Hummus.

[Alright now... The pita recipe looked pretty easy, but I had a heck of a time getting the recipe to work. I'm very familiar with bread baking so when I made the first batch very wet, soft and sticky I decided to try again.]

[However, I made the hummus first since the dip would benefit from resting to allow the flavors to meld]

* The recipe for the hummus was adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

Hummus – Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams) [I used a 14 oz can of chickpeas which weighted 8.7 ounces drained and rinsed.]
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml) [2 lemons gave about 7T of juice]
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
(1.5 ounces/45 grams) additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste [I stuck with the basic recipe and did not add extra flavors]

1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
Drained and rinsed canned chickpeas.

2. Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

[I've always wanted to use this stuff. The can always looked intriguing.]

[The oil has separated from the ground sesame seeds. Reminds me of old-fashioned peanut butter. It was actually a pain to mix the sesame and oil together. However, the flavor was quite delicious.]

[Letting the food processor do all the work - the finished hummus]

[When the hummus is plated, olive oil and parsley are used to garnish the hummus.]

* The recipe for the pita bread was adapted from the book Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

[As mentioned above, I had a difficult time with the pita bread. I made the recipe twice. The first time weighing ingredients and the second time using volume measures. My advice is to use volumetric measures. The weights are a bit off. Note: I stripped the weight measures from the recipe.]

Pita Bread – Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook

2 teaspoons regular dry yeast [I only had instant yeast so I halved the amount of yeast to 1 t.]
2.5 cups lukewarm water
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a combination of 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose, or a combination of alternative flours for gluten free pita) [6 C of AP flour did the job.]
1 tablespoon table salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.

[The consistency at this step is like a thick pancake batter.]

2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well.

Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

[My first batch was very soft and wet. The image below shows the second batch - soft, slightly sticky, but not as wet as the first batch.]

Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.

[Dough is properly raised when your finger leaves an indentation in the dough]

3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).

4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.

[Lesson learned after the first batch to minimize sticking- use a silicone pad to knead and work the dough. Use plastic wrap to roll the dough.]

5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up, don't worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

[Baked on a pizza stone... Of all the rounds I baked only 1 puffed up as expected. I had to take a picture of my only success! LOL! The rest of the rounds turned out like Naan, an Indian flatbread.]

The finished pita and hummus.

My plate showing the rest of the Mezze - Rice pilaf, mashed egg with sesame seed oil, Cucumber (Riatta?), Tomatoes and Avocado and an eggplant dish. Thank you Mabel for bringing over these dishes!

I enjoyed the hummus. It was very lemony (I like lemony) and the tahini added a nice flavor. Next time, I'd add some cumin for extra flavor.

The pita was okay. I don't think I'll try making it again. The main reason being fresh pitas can be purchased locally which makes it more convenient then making my own.


Audax said...

Lovely work as usual John and the step-by-step photos are always superb. And the pita look fabulous even if only puffed up LOL LOL LOL. And good to hear that you shared it with a friend, Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Anna said...

Love your photos (again ;)). I made my pita bread using recipe only as a quidance - I've added flour as I thought it should be and it worked great! I didn't realy stick to the recipe very carefuly. Great looking hummus :)
Cheers. Anula.

Monkeyshines in the Kitchen said...

Great job on the pitas - yours did come out beautifully!!

Simones Kitchen said...

I love your step by step photos so I can at least see if yours looks the same as mine. I did have a similar issue with the batch of dough for the pita's which was incredibly sticky and I had to add much more flour to be able to handle it at all.
Your dishes all look very tasty though!

Lauren said...

Your pitas! Such perfect balloons =D. I can only dream of that much rise!

Wic said...

your pitas look amazing, delicious looking food on your lovely step by step pictures.

Anonymous said...

Love the tahini box! It looks so cool. Also enjoyed your step-by-step pictures. Good job!

Jo said...

Great job on your challenge and your mezze turned out beautiful. Love the clicks. I also used canned chickpeas instead (I wanted a shortcut) and was surprised the hummus turned out great as I've heard it would taste different from using dried chickpeas.

Candice said...

That tahini looks really neat! And your photos are great, congrats on completing the challenge!

chef_d said...

Great looking mezze. I made the pita bread twice too and it came out fine the second time :)

Lisa said...

John, you really should keep making pitas because they turned out so perfect! I know..easily purchased fresh, but you got the knack, hon! Your mezze plate is so colorful and mouth watering..and damn, that's some of the creamiest hummus I've ever seen! Amazingly done every which way!

Angelica said...

wow, i love your hummus pictures... especially the one taken in your food processor, it looks so rich and creamy. The pita bread also puffed up great, congrats on the challenge!

cuppy said...

What a great mezze spread!

"[Dough is properly raised when your finger leaves an indentation in the dough]" I love this tip right here. I've pulled my dough twice now when it wasn't ready, and I've been very sorry for it. This is a great tip!

(I added twice the amount of garlic and lemon to my hummus! hahaha! ;) <3 the lemon, too.)

Michele said...

Thank you so much for cooking along with me this month. I think your food looks amazing and your pita is perfectly puffy.

Lovely photos!