Q: I bought a hunk of a delicious bread in an Italian deli. It was filled with a mixture of saute'ed onions and shreds of salami and other meats. What kind of dough would one make for this? Do you have a filling recipe?
A: You would want a dough made with bread flour, which contains malted barley flour and therefore browns well. It should contain some egg yolk, as this makes the bread lighter. And for best flavor, you would want to make a sponge the night before.
Italian deli breads are best served day-old with a nice salad (try arugula), a little goat's cheese and a glass of beaujolais. Here is a recipe for such a dough. It could also be used for pizza crusts. ITALIAN DOUGH (Makes enough bread for 6)
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/2 ( 1/4-ounce) envelope active-dry yeast (not the rapid-rise type)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 to 4 cups bread flour
1 cup cold water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 egg yolks
Mix lukewarm water, yeast and sugar together. When the yeast floats to the surface and begins to foam, add half the bread flour and the cold water. Stir until smooth (about 3 minutes). Cover bowl with a plate and set in a cool (60 to 70 degrees) area of the house. Allow to ferment 12 hours.
Add salt, olive oil, egg yolks and most of the remaining flour. Stir together and turn out onto a board covered with the rest of the flour. Knead for 15 minutes. When the dough sticks to the board, scrape it off and dust lightly again with flour. After 15 minutes of kneading, the dough should be soft, silky and smooth. Return to bowl, cover with plate and let ferment half an hour.
To make the deli bread, you might use this filling: STEPHANI'S DELI BREAD FILLING
1 medium onion, cut in half and sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup hard salami strips
1/2 cup pepperoni strips
1/2 cup mortadella (or prosciutto or ham) strips
2 tablespoons chopped pimiento
Several grindings ( 1/4 teaspoon) black pepper
Saute' onion strips in oil over low heat until barely soft. Add thyme or oregano, and the 1 1/2 cups of various sausage strips. Saute' another 2 minutes, add pimiento and pepper and cook another minute. Cool to room temperature.
To fill the bread, brush a 2-inch deep, 10-inch cake pan (or a glass pie dish) with lots of olive oil and spread just under half the dough on the bottom. Spread the cooled filling to within a 1/2-inch of the edge. Divide the remaining bread dough in half. Roll one half with a pin to the pan's diameter and place over filling. Press edges to seal. Form 8 to 10 small balls of dough from the remainder and arrange these around the sides of the pan. When risen, the balls will give the bread a crownlike appearance.
Brush the top with more olive oil and let rise until more than double in bulk. This takes a little over 2 hours (the yeast is a little sleepy after fermenting all night). Bake in a 450-degree oven for 25 minutes, then reduce to 375 and bake until top is golden and sounds hollow when rapped. This takes another 15 to 25 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Flip the bread out of its pan and turn right-side up onto a plate or serving platter.
Q: Why do potatoes acquire an old, off-flavor when reheated? This is particularly noticeable in boiled potatoes.
A: Potatoes are very low in fat -- about 0.1 percent by weight. The fat that they do contain is, however, very prone to oxidizing (reacting with oxygen). When you cook potatoes, their cells are disrupted and the fats exposed to enzymes, oxygen, iron and calcium (potatoes are moderately good sources of these two minerals). Iron and calcium act as catalysts -- hastening the oxidation reaction.
There is really no way to prevent the development of off-flavors other than to cool cooked potatoes quickly, to cover them tightly, to avoid long storage in the refrigerator and to use them in a recipe incorporating other, very flavorful materials, such as onion and garlic.
Sri Lankans prepare a tasty potato dish which would be appropriate for using old, cooked potatoes. They start by frying sliced onions in oil, and adding a masala (a spice paste resembling curry powder) and diced, cooked potatoes.