Dutch Oven Focaccia Boule

Last week I braved a bit of a Dutch oven bread experiment.  Starting with my recipe for High Rise Focaccia posted here some time ago, I adapted it for baking as a boule in my dutch oven.  My plan was to let the very wet dough rise for two hours, then to shape it as a boule and let it rest for 20 minutes while preheating the oven to 450º with the 4-quart Dutch oven inside.

But I got diverted off-task by an impromptu invitation from my husband to go out for lunch, so the rise was actually between 3-4 hours.  As it turned out, that was terrific.  The longer rise helped the dough develop just the light, airy texture I wanted, so I’ll do it that way again.

Very pleased with the outcome – a light, crunchy crust and a soft, airy, chewy interior.

Like almost every bread I’ve baked this way, it was another simple way to produce superb bread in your own kitchen.  Haven’t purchased a store-bought loaf in over a year!

DUTCH OVEN ROSEMARY-ROMANO FOCACCIA BOULE

INGREDIENTS:

1-1/2 cups lukewarm water

7 grams SAF instant yeast (or 1 envelope other quick yeast)

3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour

1-1/2 tsp kosher salt

2-3 tbsp grated pecorino romano

2-3 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

 PREPARATION:

In large mixing bowl, stir yeast into the water to dissolve.  Add 2 cups of the flour, rosemary, cheese, and salt and stir briskly until smooth. Add remaining 1 cup flour and the olive oil, stir again until well incorporated and dough pulls away from sides of bowl.  Cover with plastic and let rise at least two hours, preferably 3-4.

Pour out dough onto lightly flour bread board and use a dough scraper to coax it into a boule shape.  The dough will be very soft and sticky, so sprinkle a bit more flour to help shape it but do not incorporate that into the dough.  Place the boule on a sheet of parchment and place that back in the cleaned bowl.  Cover with towel or plastic and let rest 15-20 minutes while you preheat a 4-6 quart Dutch oven in a 450º oven.

Make three slashes across the top of the boule and sprinkle with a bit more flour.  Take the hot Dutch oven out and very carefully place the boule in its parchment sling into it.  Baking it in the parchment will assure that nothing sticks.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove lid and bake for another 12 minutes.

Use oven mitts to take the bread out of the pot and let cool on a rack at least one hour.

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Braised Lamb Shanks Cleopatra with Beans

Those of you who have been following my posts know how huge a fan I am of lamb, the other red meat.  From ground lamb to a whole leg and everything in between, I gravitate to the richness of this meat, especially when prepared with a Middle Eastern or Moroccan flavor palate.

Today’s preparation of meaty Australian lamb shanks is my adaptation of a recipe from “Cooking with Daniel Boulud”, for his Leg of lamb Cleopatra.  I use most of his spices and aromatic vegetables, and added pre-soaked dried cannelini beans to the dish to soak up all that meaty flavor.

It’s key to lay your lamb shanks in one layer, and for this my 9-1/2 quart oval Dutch oven is perfect for four.  If you’re preparing more, bring out that large high-sided roasting pan you use for your turkey and keep it very tightly covered with heavy-duty aluminum foil once it goes into the oven.

BRAISED LAMB SHANKS CLEOPATRA WITH BEANS

INGREDIENTS:

4-6 lamb shanks, preferably Australian or New Zealand, weighing 12-16 ounces each

3/4 lb. dried cannelini beans (white kidney beans), soaked overnight in 6-7 cups water and 1 tbsp salt; rinse and drain before adding to your pot

Spice Paste Rub

1-1/2 T cumin

1 t cinnamon

½ t allspice

½ T coriander

¼ t nutmeg

½ T cardamom

½ t ground ginger

½ t ground anise

pinch of ground cloves

1 t black pepper

1 t kosher salt

1 small shallot minced

About 3 T extra virgin olive oil, enough to make a paste when combined with above spices, plus more for browning the lamb

Aromatic Vegetables – all coarsely chopped

2 medium sweet onions

1 very large shallot

3 large carrots

1 small head fennel

1 stalk celery

6 medium sized garlic cloves, or 3 very large

Braising Liquid

1 cup full-bodied red wine

6-7 cups beef broth

1 drained 14.5 ounce can diced or crushed Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, or 1 cup chunky marinara sauce

PREPARATION:

Combine spice paste ingredients in large bowl and add the lamb shanks, rubbing the paste all over.  Transfer to a large ziploc bag or other container and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350.  Heat about ¼ cup olive oil in very large Dutch oven or roasting pan, as described above, on medium high heat and brown the lamb shanks, in batches if necessary.  Remove to a plate.

Browned shanks

Lower the heat to medium and add all aromatic vegetables, sauteeing about 10 minutes.

Aromatics

Add the wine gradually to deglaze the brown bits from the pan.   Return the lamb shanks to the pot, laying them in one layer over the vegetables.

In the pot

Add the drained beans and cover all with the beef broth and tomatoes.

Covered with broth

Bring to a boil and bake tightly covered about 2-1/2 hours – lamb and beans should be very tender.

Remove all solids to a large bowl and reduce sauce over medium high heat to concentrate flavors.  Then return everything to the pot.  Serve immediately or refrigerate after cooling to serve the next day.

Finished dish transferred to roasting pan for serving – the shanks are smothered under the blanket of beans and aromatic vegetables.

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