Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

Lets talk about bread!  Warm, slightly sour, chewy, bread. MMMmm.  Yes, that’s pate on the plate too and it was the highlight of the challenge, but things got a little weird there so first lets talk about bread.

The thing about bread is, its not hard to make, and it doesn’t take that much time (if you only count the minutes you’re actually in the kitchen) but it kind of needs a babysitter. Maybe more like a pet-sitter, but it’s a very needy pet. Most of the day it’s fine on its own, but frequently it requires food and attention.

A bowl of dough is afterall, essentially a living creature.  It’s filled with millions of little yeastie-beasties working for you, turning flour into fluffy flavorful bread.  So before you begin making bread just remember, you have to take care of your pet.  Love it, feed it, and keep it warm.  And of course, just like the goldfish you had as a kid, despite your best intentions sometimes it just dies and no one really knows why.

Now I know you’re all about to run away since I’ve got you thinking…”Ugh, a pet bread loaf? I don’t even have time for my real pets!” But let me share with you yeast’s little secret.  When you put it in the fridge it slllllllloooooooooooooooowwws doooowwwwwn. It still eats, poops and multiplies, yes I said poop…where do you think the flavor comes from? But, it’s life cycle is so slowed by the cold it will need less food, less attention which means you can make bread at YOUR convenience. Let those yeast know they work for you!

Last month, when I was getting home at 7 and my roommate was going to bed at 9 and I was pulling my hair out thinking, “how am I ever going to bake bread for the challenge on this schedule?” I adapted this bread recipe to work for those of us who only have, or want, a small window in the evening in which the kitchen is available for use.  It takes 3 days total, but its only a few steps each night and its totally worth it.  It’s by far the best bread I’ve ever made, and might just be the best bread I’ve ever had.  Well, next to Panera’s sourdough bread bowl. Sorry, guilty pleasures.

You can find the original recipe here but honestly, I didn’t change anything except the timing. I left the original recipe below with my edits in italics

French Bread

Makes three 16″ baguettes (or 3 fat loaves)

1/2 cup / 120 ml cool water
1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup / 240 ml flour

1 tsp / 5 ml active dry yeast
1 cup to 1 1/4 cups / 240 ml to 300 ml lukewarm water*
all of the starter
3 1/2 cups / 840 ml flour
1 1/2 tsp / 7 ml salt

*Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.

Day 1 sometime in the evening: Make the starter by mixing the yeast with the water, then mixing in the flour to make a soft dough. Cover and let rest at room temperature until the next evening. The starter should have risen and become bubbly.

Day 2 sometime in the evening: Mix active dry yeast with the water and then combine with the starter, flour, and salt. Mix and knead everything together—by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle—till you’ve made a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface may still be a bit rough. Knead for about 5 minutes on speed 2 of a stand mixer. I always knead by hand, it’s fun, and a fantastic arm work out. Once you’ve stirred the ingredients into a sticky mess, turn it onto a floured surface and keep kneading it 5-10 minutes until the texture changes from lumpy to a slightly smoother softer dough. Sticking to your hands is normal, so don’t add too much flour, just do the best you can and wash them later.

Place the dough in a lightly greased medium-size bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour, and then again after 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface. Divide it into three equal pieces. Shape each piece into a rough, slightly flattened oval, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let them rest for 15 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel of your hand. Flatten it slightly, and fold and seal again. With the seam-side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a 15″ log. Place the logs seam-side down onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined sheet pan or pans.

Cover them with a cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge overnight.

Day 3 sometime in the evening: Pull the dough out of the fridge and let it warm up for 1-2 hours. Towards the end of the warming up time, preheat your oven to 450ºF (240ºC) Using a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three 8″ vertical slashes in each baguette. Spritz the baguettes heavily with warm water; this will help them develop a crackly-crisp crust. If you have a pizza stone, preheat this as well. Also, maybe it’s the humidity here, but I find spritzing with water makes the crust too crisp.

Bake the baguettes until they’re a very deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them, mine only took 15 minutes. If you want to know whether they are done, carefully, turn them over with an oven mitt and knock on them, if they sound hollow they’re done. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack. Or, for the very crispiest baguettes, turn off the oven, crack it open about 2″, and allow the baguettes to cool in the oven.

Oh that is darn good bread. I suppose we have to get back to those pates though.

The truth is, they were way sub par and it was probably a mix of my fault and my taste buds. In anycase, I’m sure it’s not the recipes, so if they sound good to you, go do it! You will probably love it. I think I just picked two with ingredients I just plain don’t like and then also substituted poorly for some ingredients I didn’t have or an allergic to (cream). You can find the recipes here again, but I’ll just give you a little run down about how I made them.

Shrimp and Trout Pate

First I have to say the flambe’d shrimp was amazing! I used Tuaqa for the liquor that someone left in our house a couple months ago, heard of it? I hadn’t, and I’ve yet to take a sip of it, but it keeps yielding unbelievably delicious results when I use it in food.  I ended up having to flambe more shrimp because I kept picking them out of the pan while waiting for the pate to cook.

So far so good with the shrimp, then in with the trout, sub coconut milk for cream (dairy allergy thing) bake, and ICK! TOO creamy and it turns out, I don’t like trout. I tolerate it when it’s blackened and heavily seasoned, but in here with all the cream from the coconut it just kind of made me sick. Maybe next time salmon? Or just all shrimp?

Moving on.

Chicken Liver Pate

This one was such a mess. Basically I couldn’t find duck fat, I forgot bacon, and the line for the butcher was really long so I just picked up a pack of ground pork instead of getting the blade as well. So you see? Probably all my fault.

So that’s that then. Thanks for a great challenge. Definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone! And the bread, I will be making this again and again and again.