The Daring Bakers March Challenge - Dutch Crunch Bread Sandwiches

Sara and Erica of Baking JDs were our March 2012 Daring Baker hostesses! Sara & Erica challenged us to make Dutch Crunch bread, a delicious sandwich bread with a unique, crunchy topping. Sara and Erica also challenged us to create a one of a kind sandwich with our bread!

Sara grew up in the Bay Area, but was dismayed when she moved away for college that Dutch Crunch bread is not usually available outside of Northern California. For many folks from the Bay Area, a sandwich just isn’t complete without Dutch Crunch bread. Technically, Dutch Crunch doesn’t refer to the type of bread, but rather the topping that is spread over the bread before baking. In Dutch it’s called Tijgerbrood or “tiger bread” after the tiger-like shell on the bread when it comes out of the oven. The final product has a delightful sweet crunch to it that makes it perfect for a sandwich roll. It’s a common option at sandwich shops all over the Bay Area and is often one of the first breads to run out.

As I am in my 'bread-baking-mode' the last weeks, this was a great challenge for me. I used the opportunity and made a braided loaf with the dough - which you can't unfortunately see because of the topping (but it was a good exercise nevertheless). The bread was very versatile - I used it for sweet and savoury dishes and it stayed fresh for a very long time - even after 5 days it tasted like day one with the little help from a toaster. Just keep an eye on the topping when it's resting - because of the large amount of yeast it rises really quick and much, so you should use a large bowl to prevent dough disasters - just catched mine in time before it could ran over ...
The bigger slices were used to make the sanwiches and the smaller ones were used in a bread and butter pudding with raspberries like this one, I served it with vanilla sauce. Yummy! For the sandwich 'construction' I decided for warm ingredients. I love warm stuff for breakfast, especially fried eggs and goat cream cheese wrapped in bacon or ham. So why don't put that onto this crunchy bread? A fabulous treat I took to work for lunch (and which saved the day).

Sandwich of Dutch Crunch Bread with goat cream cheese in smoked ham, lamb's lettuce and blueberry-dressing
Sandwich of Dutch Crunch Bread with fried egg & shrimps, tomatoes and iceberg lettuce

The Daring Cooks March Challenge: Brave the Braising - Lamb Stew with baby vegetables

The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.

What is braising?
Traditional cooking methods may be classed as how heat is conducted through the food. First is moist heat (poaching, simmering, steaming or boiling) where heat is conducted through some sort of liquid; be it stock, sauces or steam. The second method is dry heat (roasting, baking, broiling, sautéing, pan frying) where heat is conducted by hot air, radiation or hot fat. Different methods are suited for different kinds of food. Braising, from the French “braiser”, offers us a combination cooking method – dry heat followed by moist heat. Typically, meat is seared in hot fat which helps to add flavor and aromas, improves color (browning), and texture (crust). It is then submerged in liquid and cooked slowly and gently at low heat. In a nut-shell that’s it! It should be noted that there are endless variations for braising including stove-top versus oven; partially submerged in liquid or completely submerged; or stews where there are many ingredients that are cut into smaller pieces.
Braising has several advantages over other cooking methods in that it provides for uniform cooking when done in an oven with heat coming from all sides instead of just the bottom of the pan as well it requires less attention as it’s cooked at a slow and steady temperature for longer periods. Other advantages are that it clears the stove top for other preparations, the dish may be prepared in advance and the flavor improves over time!

I love braising and have done it before - without knowing it that I was using this technique. My all-time-favourite Jamie Oliver provides a lot of braising-style recipes in his cooking books which I cooked a lot e.g. this one. I even made one with rabbit in a mustard and prune sauce wich was delicious (sorry, both posts are in German).
The recipes provided by Carol looked interesting, there was for example one for braised fennel (I love fennel and will try it someday). But I had something else in mind. I spotted a recipe for lamb stew when I visited my friends and run through the pages of a cooking book of theirs. They love French cuisine and had a cooking book with easy everyday-life recipes. I never made something with lamb before and I decided to cook this recipe for my birthday brunch and adapted it to become a little bit more braising-style (what means to just put it into the oven so I could prepare other dishes in the meantime). My guests at the brunch loved it, it was delicious for itself, with bread and with pasta.