September 29, 2003

Baking the Bread

As planned, I spent Sunday making bread. I used the recipe for "Acme's Rustic Baugettes." I'm actually a bit puzzled by the name because they certainly are shaped in the standard way. Perhaps "Rustic" refers to the fact that they make less use of commercial yeast -- the majority of baugettes in France are currently made in a fairly "dull" manner.

The recipe makes use of two pre-ferments prepared the day before. First off is about a cup of "leftover dough" which in this case is made the day before (in a Bakery you just literally use something leftover). The second is a "poolish" which is a very battery dough left for about 12 hours.

The original recipe called for All Purpose flour, but I used bread flour. It also had a rather silly sub-dividing of yeasted water between the dough and poolish. I instead just use a small amount of dough as the yeast injection for the poolish. Only a total of 1/2 tsp of yeast is used for 4 baugettes. This is probably about 1/4 of the amount you would normally see in a normal cookbook. Fermentation and rise times were longer as a result, but not a huge amount.

I did an OK job at forming the baugettes, but a lousy job of transfering them to the baking stone. This resulted in only one of the four being straight. They tasted great, however, and the interior came out just about how I like to see it.

I think I might start a multi-day sourdough project for baking this weekend.

Posted by dowdy at 10:49 AM

September 27, 2003

50 (thousand) pounds of flour

I've been organizing the pantry, and one of the side effects of that was to get lots of bins and containers and so forth. One of the bins has been labelled (with my new snazy label maker) "Bread Flour" and so it was that a 50 pound bag of organic bread flour was purchased.

Even I, who normally buy my All Purpose flour in 25 pound bags wasn't quite prepared for just how much flour that is. And so, tomorrow will be bread baking day. I'm going to start a pre-ferment this afternoon, so hopefully I can end up with some pretty decent loaves. I've been doing way less bread baking over the past year than I'd prefer and want to get back into it.

I picked up a really good book Artisan Baking Across America that covers lots of info about Baker's Percentage style bread baking. It's probably not a book for the feint of heart with recipes clocking in at 30 hours or more. Also, for those of us living in the Bay Area, you have to be really serious about bread making to bother with it yourself -- there are just far too many great bakeries out here.

Actually, tomorrow is going to be a cooking all day fun-fest. I'm also BBQing a brisket and doing various chores around the house. This may not sound like fun -- but I've been spending 16 hours a day at work for the past 3 weeks and the idea of being "homemaker" for an entire day appeals.

Posted by dowdy at 08:33 AM

September 23, 2003

How not to cook green beans

Made dinner this weekend and part of it were some nice tiny French Beans that I'd gotten. I was going to cook them in my normal method, but that involves getting the kitchen way too hot -- and the weather here has decided to move back into summer for some reason.

Instead, I wrapped the beans in a foil packet with some chopped tomatoes from the garden, salt, pepper, and a dash of olive oil. Cooked it on the grill along side the steaks. This method insures high acid content during the cooking, an inabilty to check when they are done, and thus a nice brown/gray color to the beans -- violating every one of the green vegetable cooking rules.

Which are as follows:
- green vegetables should be cooked in a low acid environment (ie, large pot of boiling water)
- since vegetables themselves have acid in them, you need to cook them in something that allows that acid to move away (ie, an open container)
- adding additional acid (ie, tomatoes) is a bad idea
- adding a buffer agent (ie, salt) is a good one
- vegetables need to be cooked until they no longer have a raw taste, but need not be cooked any longer

Here's my normal method:
- blanch beans in a large pot (around 4 quarts) of boiling water, which has been heavily salted
- cook until they taste cooked, or just under that point
- shock in ice bath until completely cool, then drain very well right away
- at this point, they can sit until you are ready to plate and finish your dish
- sautee in butter, salt and pepper just to re-heat
- a dash of minced shallots can also be added at this stage

Posted by dowdy at 04:45 AM

September 09, 2003

Winter Menu

Sandwiched in-between two weeks of hot weather (in the 90s, which it was last week and which it promises to be again by the end of this one) we had a chilly (sort of) weekend. Chilly enough that I didn't want the grill, didn't want the BBQ.

So I made Zinfandel Braised Short Ribs over a bed of Saffron Risotto. I reduced the cooking liquid from the braise into a syrup and spooned it over the ribs, which I placed one each on top of a mound of the risotto in a pair of huge bowls. One tiny spring of lemon thyme on top. Carol wasn't cold anymore.

Risotto isn't hard to make and too many people get too bent out of shape over it. Here's my master plan:
1) Melt some butter in a heavy saucepan. If you have onion, shallots, garlic or other flavorings that need cooking before hand, cook them in the butter

2) Add arborio rice. Stir to coat.

3) Add stock to rice, just to cover. Ideally you'll end up needing twice as much stock by volume as rice.

4) Reduce to simmer. Keep at a low simmer, add stock as needed to just barely keep the rice covered.

5) Rice takes twenty minutes to cook. Set a timer. You can start checking at 15 minutes, and the cooking time can vary anyplace from 15-25 minutes.

6) Add stock as needed, stir frequently. Ran out of stock? Use water.

7) When done add cheese and/or butter to finish the dish. If after the addition it is not runny to your liking, add additional stock or water to adjust it.

8) Serve and eat right away. The risotto should be the last thing you make before service.

Posted by dowdy at 06:57 AM

September 04, 2003

Strange orders

I've order some sausage making supplies, and the invoices sure look odd.

- Natural Sheep Casings - home pack
- Natural Hog Casings - home pack
- Fibrous Casings - 1 ea. 2.5x20 - Mahogany
- 16 oz Gelatin, Un-Flavored
- 16 oz Citric Acid, Crystals
- 32 oz Fermento
- 32 oz Dextrose

I'm getting ready to make some more cured sausages. I've only done it once, which was a 5 pound summer sausage that turned out quite well. It's pretty involved time-wise because you have to smoke the sausages at a fairly low and constant temperature. I told myself that next time I'd make more than one of them given the effort.

I can recommend Allied Kenco and The Ingredient Store if you are looking for online sources of sausage making or curing ingredients.

Posted by dowdy at 09:49 AM

September 02, 2003

Dilly Bread

As a kid growing up, this was my favorite bread. It still has very positive taste/smell memory for me, so I made some on Saturday.

This is from a class of breads known as "batter breads" that are somewhere between true breads and quick breads. They also are a bit more foolproof or forgiving as a result. This particular bread won a Pilsbury bake-off in the 50s or 60s and has appeared in a bunch of church and PTA published recipe collections. I've made it so many times, I've drifted away from the original due to making it from memory.

- 1/2 C warm water
- 2 pkg yeast
- 2 C small curd cottage cheese (1 sm container)
- 1/4 C melted butter
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp dill seed
- 3 T dried onion flakes
- 1 T salt
- 4-5 C flour

1) proof yeast in water, 5 minutes
2) blend or mix well remaining ingredients except flour (easiest if you allow cottage cheese to warm up, You can use a blender or a stand mixer).
3) combine wet ingredients with yeast
4) Add flour, mix well. Dough will be sticky
5) Cover and allow to rise until doubled
6) Divide into two, place into greased loaf pans.
7) Cover and rise again until doubled
8) Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes or until browned
9) Remove from pans. Coat top with butter and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Posted by dowdy at 11:16 AM