Four freshmen Stage Rats came out today to help me process tomatoes and can pizza sauce. One or two had had some canning experience, so the whole project went smoothly from start to finish. If you are wondering about the sauce recipe I used, I've posted it HERE. It's the "Big Ol' Batch of Pizza Sauce" recipe from season two of Breaking Bread with Father Dominic, also found in my cookbook Thursday Night Pizza. The recipe starts with 25 pounds of tomatoes, and can be frozen in ziplock bags as well as canned.
I asked them if they wanted me to make a snack as a reward for their labors, and we settled on funnel cakes, an appropriate treat as we come to the end of the season of county fairs and food festivals. I was delighted to discover this summer that the funnel cakes served at Coors Field in Denver are made from scratch with real batter, not just reheated in oil like I had once at a minor league park---blech! That recipe is also a fave and can be found HERE. The Rats get them several times a year. I spoil them, I know---but they work hard for me all year. This crew will be at the top of the list of invitees to my next pizza party!
This beauty is a tomato galette, a simple form of tart originally made in France. A galette is also called a crostada if you're in Italy or a "flat pie" if you're on the Great Plains. The filling can be sweet or savory. In this case, it's a little of both, since the fresh heirloom tomatoes are so sweet, but the shallots, herbs and goat cheese make it more savory. The crust also has some cracked pepper in it, so it's got a little bite. The recipe is HERE.
Here's the one that I made today, which you can see looks quite different! The cheese got darker, in part because I used a mix of cream cheese and Parmesan instead of feta cheese, but my friend Jannelle used goat cheese and got the same result. I have a convection oven, so I didn't brush the crust with egg wash because I thought it might get too dark, but I think next time I may brush it on about halfway through the baking process.
The main reason I'm showing these two photos is so that Breadheads won't become discouraged when their loaves (or pies or rolls or whatever) don't look exactly like the picture in a cookbook or online. Sometimes cookbook photos have been doctored, or the food was not prepared exactly like the recipe describes, in order to get a better visual result. The size and type of your oven, the metal in your pans, the protein content of your flour, and yes, your level of expertise--these and many other factors can change the appearance of your loaves.
Ultimately, two things matter: the taste and texture of your breads, and the pleasure and satisfaction you get from making something with your own hands and sharing it with others. Glossy photos in cookbooks and Food Network shows with high production values may have improved the quality of our entertainment (and that's debatable!) but they can have the effect of lowering our confidence, in the same way that beauty magazines can make you feel ugly. My tomato galette smelled enticing, and the flavors were subtle and exquisite. No-one who had a slice had seen the Midwest Living photo, so they all remarked on how beautiful it looked, how flaky and tender the crust was, and how perfect the flavors went together. And sixteen minutes after it came out of the oven, there was nothing left but crumbs.
So, who cares how it was "supposed" to look?
It's the season of fresh garden tomatoes and aromatic herbs in the garden, so I thought I'd share some recipes to make use of all that bounty. My favorites: Four Cheese Tomato Top Pizza (pictured to the left), a bruschetta topping made with tomatoes, garlic, herbs and kalamata olives, panzanella (Tuscan tomato and bread salad) and Tomato Gallette (new for me this year, from Midwest Living). I'm going to be presenting a demo at my next herb guild meeting on this very topic, and I'll have some more photos for you then. But click HERE to get the recipes I'll be making.
While researching recipes, I came across a webpage from Southern Living with 31 recipes for fresh tomatoes and herbs, with lots of great ideas: find it HERE.
On a recent trip to St. Louis I stayed (as I usually do) with the Sisters of Loretto in Webster Groves. They have a small guest room just off the lobby, only a few steps away from the chapel. I celebrate Mass for them while I'm there, and generally I get a chance to bake a few treats for them as well. This trip their kitchen manager John Maggio asked for a bread lesson, specifically on how to shape coffee cakes and breakfast breads. I taught him the lattice braid, and we made one using strawberry filling and the other with peach.
I also made up a shape on the spot. I had intended to make a half-pipe twist (see below) but the dough was really soft and so I had to improvise. Instead, I developed a new way to shape the dough which I am now calling "The Loretto Swirl"! You start with about a pound and a half of soft roll dough.
Roll the dough out to about 16" x 20". If it is too elastic and keeps springing back, cover it with a dry towel for 10 or 15 minutes, to allow the gluten strands to relax, and it will be a lot more cooperative. We all feel better after a short nap!
Spread the filling by placing small dabs of it all over the dough as shown here. This method facilitates spreading the filling evenly---much easier than trying to spread a giant glob from the middle all the way to the edges. I used a single 12 oz. can of Solo Almond Cake and Pastry Filling. You can use other flavors of pastry filling or pie filling, sweetened cream cheese or just use a mixture of granulated sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Notice that I've left a slight border all the way around the dough. This makes it a bit easier to handle while rolling it up like a jelly roll. The almond filling acts like a glue to hold everything together, but if you use anything else, you may need to dampen the top edge so it will stick at the end---this is especially true with cinnamon sugar.
After you roll the rectangle up into a jellyroll, as you would for cinnamon rolls, place it on a cutting board and starting about 2" from the top, slice it lengthwise down the center. You have to have a really sharp knife for this, or a very large rotary pizza cutter. Leave the top two inches of roll uncut and still connected. Then turn the two halves cut side up. (Click on the images to see the whole picture.)
Coil each side into a spiral and form them into a double swirl, being sure to keep the cut side up the whole time. Don't be too fussy about them being even or perfect--the loaf will look beautiful nonetheless.
Cover with a clean, dry cloth and let rise for 30 minutes, then bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. When done, remove from oven allow to cool on the pan for about 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Drizzle with icing if desired (I used almond extract instead of the usual vanilla.)
You can also use a divided roll to make a half pipe twist. I recently saw this made with pesto for a savory bread.
I hope all these photos inspire you to try a new twist on yeasted coffee cakes. I'm sure your family will thank you. God bless and happy baking!
Fr. Dominic Garramone AKA