Lovers’ Sweet Potato and Mushroom Ravioli

Lovers' Ravioli

We don’t tend to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  We’re totally broke, for one thing, and for another, we’d rather not have to spend a day doing obligatory and clichéed things to tell each other how we feel.  We do that on a daily basis anyway.

States of Gren

I am of course talking about our love for Gren.  Duh.  He’s so smooshy.  In the words of Cait, “I want to smoosh him.  With smooshes.”  We definitely smoosh him regularly.

States of Gren

In any case, because it’s expected of us (and because nobody ever wants to do anything with us on Valentine’s Day), we usually have a nice meal together and talk about how stupid this Hallmark holiday is.

If you are of the same bent, or if you love to do smooshy romantic things for your true love, why not make up some fresh pasta and go from there?

I figured I would give ravioli a try.  Why the heck not?

The ingredients for each component of this are so simple. The only one I really measured for was the pasta dough, because I’m not yet at the eyeballing stage for that.

For the ravioli filling:

Lovers' Ravioli

You will need sweet potatoes, dried shiitake mushrooms (you can use fresh ones but I like the chewy texture of the dried ones), and roasted garlic.

Plop a handful or two dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of warm water and leave them for 30-60 minutes, or until all tender.  I find that placing a small plate on top ensures they all get evenly exposed to water.

Lovers' Ravioli

While those are percolating, peel and cube a large sweet potato.  This one weighed in at 1 3/4lb.  Plop that in a pot full of water and boil until tender.

Lovers' Ravioli

Drain the sweet potatoes and mash ’em.

Lovers' Ravioli

Take your hydrated mushrooms out of the water, cut off the woody stems, and chop them finely.

Lovers' Ravioli

I found that after chopping, a quick sojourn in the food processor got them to the size I wanted them.

Lovers' Ravioli

Save the water from your mushrooms — it makes a great vegetable stock.

Lovers' Ravioli

I made this roasted garlic last week from three heads of garlic.  If you click on the link above you can see how I did it.  I’m going to use all three heads, because the Pie and I have been together for almost eight years, so it’s not going to matter how much garlic we consume.  Do exercise some caution if you’re new to the relationship and you’re still trying to impress … Though I suppose if you both consume the same amount of garlic it really doesn’t matter, does it?

Lovers' Ravioli

Anyway, I plopped that in the food processor as well (with a drop of olive oil) and came out with a lovely aromatic paste.

Lovers' Ravioli

In a bowl, combine your mashed sweet potato, the minced mushrooms, and the garlic paste and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Lovers' Ravioli

Stir that around and set it aside.

Lovers' Ravioli

For the ravioli pasta:

Lovers' Ravioli

For this you need durum semolina flour, salt, and eggs.  Semolina is perfect for making pasta because it has an extremely high gluten content, which means that your pasta will stay cohesive even when immersed in boiling water.  That is kind of important.

So take 3 eggs and whisk them together with a pinch of salt.  I like to add in a few drops of olive oil, as well, for smoothness.

Lovers' Ravioli

Pour 2 cups durum semolina flour on a clean work surface, make a well in the centre, and pour in the eggs.

Lovers' Ravioli

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  I wish I’d thought of it sooner so I could have made a better heart.

Lovers' Ravioli

Using a scraper and/or a fork, gradually incorporate the eggs into the flour until you have a coherent ball.

Lovers' Ravioli

I used some regular all-purpose flour at the end, just to reduce the tackiness of the dough a bit.  You will want to knead it for about 10 minutes, just to get all the gluten working for you.

Lovers' Ravioli

Wrap up your final ball and let it rest for about 20 minutes.

Lovers' Ravioli

Cut your dough into manageable sections.  I cut mine into four.  Flatten out your first section enough so it fits into your pasta machine.  If you are rolling it out by hand, have fun with that.

Lovers' Ravioli

I prefer my pasta maker.

Lovers' Ravioli

I cut my strips in half, so that I could fold the second half over the top half like a mirror image.  Though it does help if your top half is slightly bigger than your bottom half.

Lovers' Ravioli

Put little dollops of your filling on your bottom sheet with enough space in between so you can cut them easily.

Lovers' Ravioli

Carefully line up the top half and lay it over the filling.

Lovers' Ravioli

Working from the inside out, gently stretch and press the top dough over the filling to form little pockets.

Lovers' Ravioli

When each pocket is sealed, use a knife or a ravioli cutter to separate them.

Lovers' Ravioli

For this first round, I went all the way up to the #7 setting on my pasta maker, which made the pasta sheets very thin — a little too thin.  You can see how they have torn and I had to patch them.

Lovers' Ravioli

The next round, I only went up to the #5 setting, which was much more manageable, and I prepared the ravioli on waxed paper, which made peeling them up much easier. I probably could have gone as high as #6, but I’m still new to this.

Lovers' Ravioli

I separated each round of pasta with waxed paper to prevent sticking.

Lovers' Ravioli

I had some leftover filling, which I froze.  I would gladly make this again.

Lovers' Ravioli

Now, set a pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt and a few drops of olive oil, and get started on your sauce.

For the sauce:

Lovers' Ravioli

You will need butter, sage, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese.

Slice 10-12 sage leaves finely to ensure all their lovely aromatic juices get released.

Lovers' Ravioli

To save time and my sanity (I really hate grating cheese), I cubed up about 1/3 cup of my extra-hard parmesan and gave it a go in the food processor.  Totally worth it.

Lovers' Ravioli

So for your mis en place you have your sage, chopped, your cheese, grated, about 1/2 cup lemon juice, and about 4-5 tablespoons butter.

Lovers' Ravioli

By now, your pasta water should be boiling, so carefully tip all your ravioli in and cook them for about 8 minutes.

Lovers' Ravioli

While that is going on, in a large, wide, deep frying pan on medium-high heat, melt your butter.

Lovers' Ravioli

Continue to cook the butter, scraping the bottom with a spatula to prevent burning, until it starts to foam up and the clear liquid turns a lovely light caramel brown colour.  Add in your sage leaves and remove the butter from the heat.

Lovers' Ravioli

See the brownness?

Lovers' Ravioli

Pour in your lemon juice and give that a stir. Oh man does that ever smell good. Like all the best parts of everything.

Lovers' Ravioli

Drain your pasta and plop them in the frying pan with the butter.  Pour in your cheese and toss the lot to coat.

Lovers' Ravioli

Lovers' Ravioli

Serve it up, with plenty of leftovers.

Lovers' Ravioli

Though  none for Gren.  Much to his disappointment.

Lovers' Ravioli

Artisanry: Lean Bread

This is the first recipe in Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day (page 46), and my first adventure in fancy bread.  Artisanal bread recipes are intensive, for sure, but the process is pretty simple.  There are many tiny instructions, but I think with practice all that stuff becomes second nature.  It’s more about timing, and having the patience to leave your dough overnight for fermenting purposes.  I plan to do this particular recipe a couple of times so that I can get it right before I move on to the next one.  This post is epically long, and for that I apologise.  But good bread comes out of it so it’s worth the time it takes to read.

DAY ONE:

Mixing Ingredients

Combine, in a mixing bowl or in the bowl of your mixer, 5 1/3 cups unbleached bread flour, 2 teaspoons table salt or 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 2 teaspoons instant yeast, and 2 1/4 cups lukewarm water.  Kosher salt doesn’t have any anti-clumping agents in it, so it is quite different in consistency and size from table salt or even sea salt.  Also, Mr. Reinhart recommends using instant yeast because then you get the fermenting action started right away.

Stir or mix on the lowest speed setting for 2 minutes or until well-blended.  I found that it all sort of clumped around my paddle and I had to remove it and start again before it took over the world. 

The dough should be, as Mr. Reinhart says, “very soft, sticky, coarse, and shaggy, but still doughlike.”  Whatever that means.

Use a wet spatula to scrape the dough into a clean, lightly oiled bowl.  Let it rest there for 5 minutes.  It should be soft enough to spread out over the bottom of the bowl.  Mine, of course, didn’t.  I think the wrangling with the paddle in the mixer made it a bit tougher.

Stretching and Folding Dough

Once the five minutes is up you get to do some more fun wrangling. Put your dough on a slightly oiled surface.  With wet or slightly oiled fingers, grab the front edge, stretch it out, and fold it over top of the rest of the dough.  Now grab the back edge and do the same, then again with both sides.  Finally, flip the dough over and bundle it into a ball.  Put it back in the lightly oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap for ten minutes.

Repeat this stretching step three more times, every ten minutes.  You should get all your stretching out within forty to forty-five minutes.

Using my tripod I’ve taken pictures of most of the whole process, just to show you the mechanics of the whole thing and also the changing texture of the dough as it gets stretched.  The way Mr. Reinhart puts it, it’s like you’re aligning the gluten molecules through stretching, in the same way that iron atoms align along their poles when a magnet is created.

Excuse my scary scarred and disfigured hands.  They’re really not that weird-looking in real life – my hands are just not very photogenic.  Also, that stuff?  On my pants?  It’s paint.  I swear.  Those are my painting pants.  What, it’s a Saturday.  I’m allowed to be lax in my dress.  You should be glad you didn’t see my bedhead.

Mouse over the photos to see where we are in the stretching process.  Below is the second round of stretching.

You can see that the dough is already smoother than it was to begin with.  On to the third stretching round.After the third rest you can see that it’s already significantly larger than it used to be.  I also felt some bubbles in the dough that indicated the fermentation process had already begun.  I hoped that popping them in the course of my machinations wasn’t to the bread’s detriment.

Fermenting Overnight

After the final stretch I tucked the dough into a ball and put it in a larger, lightly oiled bowl.

Immediately cover the bowl with plastic wrap (to keep in the moisture) and chuck it in the refrigerator to ferment overnight or up to 4 days.

If you are planning on making loaves over the course of many days, this would be the point at which you could separate your dough into separate bowls for separate fermentation.  I’m doing it all at once so it all goes in at once.

DAY TWO:

Take your dough out of the fridge at least two hours before you want to bake.  Holy smokes look how HUGE my ball is!  And check out that MASSIVE bubble on the top.

It was sad to pop it, but the most gorgeous yeasty smell came out when I did so it was totally worth it.

Shaping Bread

This recipe makes 2 large loaves, 4-6 smaller loaves, or 24 rolls.  I’ve decided to make two of the three, see what comes out the best.  Don’t want to get over-ambitious here.

So I divided my dough in half.  One half will become a round loaf called a boule (‘ball’).  The other half will become 2 baguette-style torpedoes (or bâtards, haha, bâtards).

I used a sharp serrated knife to divide the dough, but you can use a pastry scraper as well.  Make sure if you use a knife you let the serrated edges of the knife do all the work, and avoid pressing down into the dough.

The trick to getting a crusty loaf is in maintaining the surface tension, so you want to pinch the bubbles you see on the surface to pop them, and be gentle in your stretching.

To make the boule:

This is pretty easy, and it’s something you’ve done several times before when you were in the stretching process.

Prepare a bowl or proofing basket.  I don’t have the basket so I took a bowl and lined it with a linen couche or proofing cloth.  For me, this is an old linen tablecloth that became too stained for company, torn into sections.  Spray the cloth in the bowl with oil and dust it with flour.

Gently pat the dough into a rectangle.

Gather the corners underneath and pinch together, stretching out the surface of the boule.

Place the boule, seam-side-down, in your bowl, mist it with spray oil and cover with the edge of the couche.  You can see how my seam is already coming undone.  Tsk.

To make the bâtard:

Prepare a pan by lining it with parchment paper and dusting it with corn meal or semolina.

Pat the dough into a rectangle, popping the bubbles as you go.

Using the edge of your hand, press a little furrow into the middle of the dough, running along its length.

Roll the front end of the dough over the top of itself until it’s all rolled up.

Pinch the seam shut.

Rock the dough back and forth, seam-side-down, until the dough has reached a desired length, probably between 6 and 12 inches.

Set the dough, seam-side-down, on your prepared pan.  Mist them with spray oil and cover with a couche

I need some serious practice.  Look how lumpy and deformed they are.  Tsk again.

Proofing

Proofing is a rest period in the fermentation process.  Once the bread is shaped, you let it sit, covered, at room temperature for an hour.

Uncover it and let it proof for a further hour.  Uncovering it will let the top of the dough dry out a bit and firm up.

Setting up the Oven

The Pie and I received a pizza stone as an engagement present (thanks KB!) in the summer of 2008 (holy smokes has it really been that long?), and we had yet to use it.  While the round shape of the pizza stone is not ideal for baking bread (Mr. Reinhart recommends an oblong shape), it’s the same consistency and will do the same job, which is giving a consistent heat without over-drying the bread.  It’s like bread magic.  You can of course do this with a sheet pan or cookie sheet instead, lined with parchment paper or sprinkled with semolina or corn meal.  I already own the stone, so I might as well use it.

About 45 minutes before you start to bake, you want to prepare your oven for hearth baking.  If you’re using a stone, place it on the centre rack and preheat the oven to 550°F or as hot as you can get it without turning on the broiler element.

The key to that lovely crackly crust is steam, believe it or not.  On the rack under the heating stone place a pan, like a rimmed cookie sheet, to be filled with water when everything gets hot.

Scoring

Just before baking, take your boule out of the proofing bowl and lay it on a clean surface, seam-side down.

Using a razor blade, score a cross-wise slash into the dough, which will allow some of the moisture to escape while baking and maintain surface tension.

On your bâtards, cut diagonal slashes the length of the bread.Baking

Ease your loaves onto your hot baking stone (use a peel if you’ve got one).  If you aren’t using a baking stone, put your prepared pan straight in the oven. I am pretty certain I overloaded my baking stone here, but I am not a patient enough person to wait and do it in two batches.  It’ll just bake all stuck together and I’m cool with that.

Very carefully pour one cup of water into the steam pan.  Use long gloves and wear long sleeves as you do this to prevent injury.  The Pie took this photo as I had my face averted and my whole body as far away from the heat as possible. 

Reduce oven temperature to 450°F.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for a further 10-12 minutes.  I found it easier to just rotate the bread, and I took the opportunity to break apart my breads, which were, in fact baking into one large lump as predicted.  I think I saved them from looking too demented.

You can get a crispier crust by turning off the oven and leaving your bread in for another 5-10 minutes.  Smaller bread shapes will take less time, of course.

Storing Dough

Cool your bread on a rack for at least an hour before cutting and eating.  It’s a hardship, I know, after all that time you’ve waited.  But it gets the crust all good.  I promise.  Or you could break the rules and eat some while it’s still warm.  We did.  Mmmmmm.

Wrap any uneaten baked bread tightly in plastic wrap and it will keep for a couple days.

I found myself constantly comparing it to the knowledge I had of French bread, and so I had to constantly remind myself that this isn’t French bread.  The dough is much wetter and the bubbles are much smaller.

When the Pie took his first bite and looked at me I knew he loved me a little bit more, the bread was that good.

Mr. Reinhart says that the unbaked dough will keep in the fridge for up to a week, but that the flavour of the dough deteriorates after four days.  He suggests that if you want to keep some dough for later you can seal it in a lightly oiled freezer bag and freeze it after the initial overnight fermentation.  Thaw it in the refrigerator the day before you need it so it can thaw slowly without over-fermenting.  He also says that the dough makes excellent pizza dough.

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