Monday, May 31, 2010

Copper Pots! And More!

It was a lovely day on Saturday, so besides strolling the farmer's market, I checked out a couple garage sales. I bought this really nice hammered copper bowl:

It's really pretty and in great shape. It's about 5 inches deep.
I've just learned that it's hard to take photos of something that's really shiny.
Oh well. Be assured that it's much prettier than this.
I tried looking up similar bowls online, but the only thing I found was a swanky auction site that was selling a hammered copper bowl made by some swanky culinary company. I don't really know if this has any culinary use. Copper bowls are used for beating eggwhites, but all the ones I see for sale now are smooth. So for now, this is decorative unless I find out more. It's a pretty heavy gauge copper, too.

I've since found out that hammered bowl are used for beating eggwhites. But they're getting rare. Most of them are made in France, and the smaller ones are hand-hammered.

But that bowl wasn't the best thing I found.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

BOTD: Burger Buns: Baked on the gas grill

Yeah, I'm on a burger bun kick. I made a pork roast and we've been eating it as sandwiches. Tonight it was mixed with barbecue sauce. We used up the last of the previous buns last night, so I whipped up a quick batch of no-frills buns, and used the food processor to speed up the knead.

Because these didn't have the potato flakes that I used for the previous batch, they weren't as fluffy. But that's fine. Sometimes you want a more substantial bun.

It may seem odd to bake bread in a gas grill, but really it's just an outdoor oven that opens up a different way. It's nice to be able to bake outside if it's too hot to fire up the oven indoors, and it's nice to use the grill when the oven's full of other things.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Freaky Good Apple Tart

Amy Finley won The Next Food Network Star contest in 2007 and got a show, but it had a pretty short run. During that time, she had a few recipes that I thought were worth trying. This was one of my favorites. The fact that she called it "freaky good" probably helped to sell it to me.

This recipe seems a bit complicated, but if you take it one step at a time, it's not too bad. You can break up the process over several days. In fact, since the crust and the cooked apples need to chill thoroughly, it makes some sense to tackle those steps one day and finish the process the next day.

If you take the time to arrange the apple slices decoratively, it makes a really good impression. I also used some of the leftover bits of pie crust to make a few more decorative pieces for the top.

Since this is baked in a tart pan rather than a pie pan, and it's easier to slice and serve pretty pieces.
What I really liked about this recipe was something that it left out: cinnamon. Now, I like cinnamon a whole lot, but it seems like every apple pie get has cinnamon in it. And that's what you taste. Might as well call it cinnamon pie with apples.

I was a bit skeptical at first, but the vanilla with the apples, and without the cinnamon, was the perfect touch. The apples were highlighted instead of being masked.

For the pie dough, I used a variation of the Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pie Dough. That's the one that uses vodka. Instead of plain vodka, I used a vanilla-infused vodka.

This recipe is a keeper.

Friday, May 28, 2010

BOTD: Burger Buns, Parts 2 & 3

You can see where this is going from the title, right?

So I baked the same recipe again, because I knew it was a good recipe. I use this sort of formula, more or less, when I make fluffy dinner rolls. It's foolproof. Usually.

The second time around, I skipped the refrigerator resting completely and just made the buns the same day.

Okay, so they rose better, but something was still off. They weren't pillowy. If I wanted Kaiser rolls, these would have been perfect. Ideal, even. But I wanted pillowy burger buns, and this recipe always worked before. Always.

Even if I didn't measure, and just threw it all together and went by feel to adjust everything, this group of ingredients never failed me before.

And the color of the crust was wrong. The buns were baked, but the crust was still too pale. And the texture was wrong. Don't get me wrong, they tasted fine. But they didn't come out like they were supposed to, and that was annoying and frustrating and maddening. Because I've baked this recipe a million times. I could do it in my sleep.

I went over everything...nothing had changed...or...wait! I bought a new brand of bread flour at the bulk store. Maybe it was the flour, But no, that couldn't be it. I've baked bread with every imaginable brand of bread flour, and I've subbed in all purpose flour and I've used white whole wheat and regular whole wheat and I still never had this sort of major difference from what I was expecting.

I pondered some more. The mashed potatoes should have added extra fluffiness, it even works flawlessly with instant mashed potatoes.

Uh oh. The potatoes! Usually the instant mashers I have in the freezer are pretty basic. Butter, salt, some dairy. Nothing extreme. But the ones in the freezer that I'd just used were holiday potatoes. We're talking about heavy cream and vats of butter and who knows what else I added. Probably some cheese, too. These were super-rich artery-clogging potatoes.

Aha.

So I made the same recipe again, but used the instant mashed potatoes instead of the frozen ones. Since I was adding a dry ingredient I added a bit more water and upped the amount of olive oil to make up for the fat in the potatoes. I didn't need more buns, but I was on a mission to see what I'd done wrong. It was either the new flour or the mashed potatoes. And the more I thought about it, the more I suspected the spuds. Or, more accurately, I suspected the myriad additions to the spuds that normally wouldn't have come along for the ride.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

BOTD: Burger Buns, Part 1


Two days ago, (two days ago as I'm writing this...not as I'm posting it) I decided that I was going to make sloppy joes, so that evening I started the dough so I could make buns the following day.

But the next day (which was yesterday), I needed to go out and I ended up getting home later than I planned. By then, it was a bit too late for bun baking, even though the dough was almost ready to go. So I postponed baking until today.

In other words, the dough spent two days in the fridge, rather than just an overnight rest.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sloppy Joes

When I was growing up, my mother made sandwiches she called "barbecue beef," but really they were what most people call sloppy joes.

Imagine my shock when I went to a restaurant and ordered a barbecue beef sandwich and it had sliced roast beef. I was horrified.

After I got over my shock, I grew to love barbecue beef sandwiches from that very same restaurant that disappointed me the first time, but I never outgrew my fondness for sloppy joes the way my mother made them.

I tweak the recipe now and then, but there's one secret ingredient that I never mess with. To me, sloppy joes just aren't right without that one ingredient: Open Pit Barbecue Sauce.

And it has to be the "Original" version.

Since we moved to Colorado, sightings of Open Pit are pretty rare. I guess it's a midwest thing. But I've got a few bottles squirreled away for the times when I need that taste of home. We've all got our vices, right?


Mom's Sloppy Joes

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Food on my clothes

Okay, it's not exactly entirely food related, but I have a fondness for tee shirts with food themes and this one amuses the heck out of me. The link will take you to the page where you can buy it.

But if you just want to look, here's what it looks like.


And here's a closeup.
The scene depicts the recipe, and the recipe is included in the small print that's hard to read in this image.
It's a tee shirt. It's vegetables in a bar fight. It's a recipe.
What's not to love?

BOTD: Malted Barley Dark Rye Sandwich Loaf

A brewing store opened up nearby, and I had to see if they had anything that might be useful in my kitchen. The grains were particularly interesting, and I picked up samples of several, including some dark roasted malted barleys that are used for brewing dark beers.

The nice fellow at the store offered to grind the grains for me, but when I got around to using them, I decided they were still a little coarser than I wanted, so I finished grinding them in my spice grinder. Probably not the best method if I was going to use a lot, but I was experimenting with small amounts, so the spice grinder worked just fine.

The first few loaves I made from the malted barleys were rustic loaves with a strong malty flavor and a little bit of bitterness from the malt. They would have paired well with strong flavored foods like sausages and sauerkraut, and they were great with just a smear of butter. But this time I decided to make a softer bread, in terms of both texture and flavor. And I decided to make the loaf in a  bread pan for easy sandwich-making.

The dark roasted malted barley still adds an interesting flavor component in this bread, but it's not so aggressive that you need to worry about it overwhelming the food. This is a pretty basic rye bread, but a little more interesting. And the color is different, too.

For this loaf, I used a pale chocolate malt. The grains smelled a bit like chocolate with a hint of coffee. Before this, I baked a loaf with a darker roasted malt called Pearl Black that smelled very much like roasted coffee. My previous loaf using Pale Chocolate Malt is here.

If you don't have dark malted barley, you could simply leave it out and use this recipe to make a standard rye. It will be a lot paler, and not as complex, but still a nice loaf of rye.

And of course you could make it as a free-form loaf rather than using a loaf pan.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Almond Puff Loaf

I found this recipe on the King Arthur Flour website and had to give it a try. I love almond flavoring, but even more important, I was intrigued by the combination of a bottom crust that was similar to pie crust, topped with a choux-type pastry.

According to the website, this recipe has been around for a long time, but I was pretty sure I'd never seen anything like it. I've seen all the parts of it; I just never saw them all combined like this.

I left the almonds off, but I can see how they'd add a nice crunch.

Since the dough isn't very sweet, you can easily control the sweetness by changing the toppings. Instead of a sweet jam, I think this would be great with something like an apple butter or even an almond paste. Lemon curd would be nice, but maybe replace the almond extract with vanilla. Pastry cream would be good, too, with or without the jam.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fire-Roasted Peppers

One of the things I was most excited about when I went from a glass-top electric range to a gas range was that I could fire-roast peppers on the burners.

It's simple. Just put the peppers on the burners.

Turn them as they begin to char.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saffron Rice with Peas

It doesn't get any easier than this.

Into the rice cooker:
Rice
Water
Saffron
Salt
Butter

Nothing was measured, except two rice-cooker cups of rice and water to the line in the cooker. Everything else was to taste.

When the rice was fully cooked, I added frozen petite peas to the hot rice. That's enough to heat them while keeping them bright green. Fluff and serve.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Product Review: Breville Keurig Single Cup Coffeemaker

As much as I like coffee, I don't need to drink a pot of it every morning. My old coffeemaker was on its last legs, and it was time to go shopping.

Things had changed in coffeemakers since the last time I looked. First, I considered machines with small pots, then I looked at those with thermal carafes. Last, I looked at single-cup models. At first, I was a bit skeptical about the k-cup brewers because I didn't want to be stuck buying the cups. What if they lost popularity? And seriously, I've got a nice burr grinder. I like grinding the beans fresh.

There are some aftermarket ways of refilling the old cups or making your own, but those looked fiddly and annoying to me. I'd probably have to deal with that sort of thing the night before, and that defeats the purpose of grinding the beans fresh.

Not to mention that there's a lot of waste with the plastic cups and disposable aftermarket filters.

But then I found out that the new pots include a little basket device and holder that you can fill with your own grounds. It's called a My K-Cup, and it's got a plastic filter that rinses clean. SOLD!

I ended up with the Breville Keurig 600XL. There's a newer model, but this one was a great deal, so I decided that the upgrades weren't worth it for me.

The newer one is allegedly quieter, which wasn't particularly important to me, since I'm not going to be brewing coffee in the middle of the night. And there's an extra size setting on the new one, so you can brew a tiny amount of strong tea to make iced tea. Again, not a big deal.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Back to My Roots

Once again, I went digging in the Left Hand Valley Courier archives to see what other food articles I've written. This one appeared in 2007, as part of my Vicinity and Beyond series that looks at interesting businesses outside the normal delivery zone of the newspaper.

I grew up in the Chicago area, where ethnic food was easy to find. Moving to Colorado was a bit of a culture shock. Not only were the regular grocery stores bereft of many items I considered normal fare, but there weren't ethnic neighborhoods or ethnic markets nearby.

It took me a while to venture far enough to find those sorts of places. Now, I know where to find more and more unusual ingredients. It's not a short jaunt as it was when I lived in Chicago, but it's a worthwhile trip when I'm craving the authentic ethnic foods that I haven't figured out how to make at home.

Vicinity And Beyond: Roots

When you think of ethnic food, what does it mean to you? Are you thinking of Indian or Chinese or Thai? Do you think about food that’s foreign to you? Or do you think about the food of your ancestors, whoever they may be?

Strictly defined, I suppose ethnic food would be anything eaten by people from a specific country or region. Sort of the opposite of the recent trend for “fusion” cuisine where you find chorizo-stuffed eggrolls and pizza topped with gyros meat and tzatziki sauce.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

BOTD: Malted Barley Rye Bread

Pale chocolate barley malt is something I picked up at a brewing store. There's no chocolate, and it's not something you drink. Instead, it's malted barley that's roasted until it's dark and chocolately. People who brew beer use this sort of malt to make dark beers. Or so I'm told. But if it's a grain, I'm going to try to bake it into a bread. And that's just what I did.

The barley made the rye a little darker than it would have been otherwise, and added an interesting flavor as well, complementing the rye nicely. I left this one seedless, but feel free to add caraway if you like.

The nice fellow at the brewing store ground the barley for me, but it was a little coarser than I wanted, so I whizzed up a tablespoon of it in my spice grinder, which is simply a coffee grinder that I use for spices.

If leaving a dairy product unrefrigerated overnight makes you nervous, you can refrigerate the mixture instead of leaving it on the counter. Let it come to room temperature the next day before you continue. Or use water instead of buttermilk.

This bread wasn't a fast riser, and the oven spring wasn't huge, either. But it's got a nice texture and good flavor. It would stand up nicely to big flavors - sauerkraut and sausages come to mind, but it's not so strong that you couldn't make a sandwich with it.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

BOTD: The Simplest White Bread Ever

You don't need fancy equipment or special ingredients to make a good loaf of bread. This recipe proves it. It's probably the simplest bread I've ever made, in terms of ingredients, equipment, and the amount of work required.

If you've never made a loaf of bread before, this could be the gateway bread to lead you into the wonderful world of yeasty things.

If you've made plenty of breads, this recipe could be the one you keep in the back of your mind for the times you want something that doesn't require a lot of thought and very little of your time.

I've seen this type of bread sold as a "Farmhouse Loaf," so if you want to name it when you serve it, that would be an appropriate. This bread is simple, unfussy, and rustic, but it's also very tasty. And it proves that bread doesn't have to be difficult or intimidating.

One key to making a good loaf of bread is developing the gluten which forms the network that holds in the lovely bubbles that allow the bread to rise. Gluten develops as you knead, but it also develops over time, which is why no-knead bread works.

This bread straddles those two worlds, with the gluten developing without much labor, but it also allows you to feel the dough and work with it a little bit, rather than emphasizing the hands-off philosophy of the no-knead method.

If you're enjoying the kneading process, you can knead a little longer. It's not going to hurt anything. If you're not that interested in kneading, you can do the minimum required to mix and shape and it will still work just fine.

While many bread recipes specify bread flour, this one asks for all purpose flour, because it's more likely to be in everyone's pantry. If you have bread flour, feel free to use it, if you prefer. If you don't have a loaf pan, this bread would bake nicely as a free-form loaf on a sheet pan as well. See? No fancy equipment required at all.

The Simplest White Bread Ever

2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 oz) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil

Add the sugar and yeast to the water in your measuring cup and stir to combine. If you're using anything except an instant yeast, let it sit for 5-10 minutes, or until the mixture is lively and bubbly. If it's instant yeast, you can continue without proofing, or let it proof to ease your mind that the yeast is alive - your choice.

Put the flour and salt into a medium bowl, and stir to distribute salt.

Add the water/yeast mixture to the the bowl with the flour, and stir to combine all the ingredients.

Sprinkle some flour on your countertop and dump the dough mixture onto the counter. Knead for a minute or two, adding flour as necessary to keep it from sticking. You don't need to knead until the dough is stretchy and elastic - just knead until it's a nice cohesive mixture and not a lumpy, sticky, blobby mess. Form it into a ball.

Drizzle the olive oil into a zip-top bag and plop the dough into the bag. Make sure the dough is completely coated with olive oil, zip the top, and stash it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, take the bag out of the fridge and massage it a bit, still in the bag, to mash out all the bubbles in the dough. You may need to open the bag to let the air out, but reseal it after.

Leave the bag on the countertop until the dough has come to room temperature, about an hour. It will rise and expand a bit during that time.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle some cornmeal on the bottom of a loaf pan.

Sprinkle some flour on your countertop, and dump the dough onto the counter. You don't need to squeeze every bit of olive oil out of the bag, but don't try to hold it back, either.

Knead and fold it a bit to incorporate the olive oil into the dough, then form the dough into a log that will fit into your loaf pan.


Put the loaf into the pan, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and let it rise until it has at least doubled in size. I used an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 pan and let it rise until it was slightly higher than the pan.



Remove the plastic wrap and slash the top.



Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Let it rest in the pan for about 5 minutes, then place it on a rack to cool completely before slicing.

It's pretty up-close, isn't it?

Yummmmmmm....

This recipe also appeared on Serious Eats.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cheesecake from "A Well-Seasoned Kitchen"

I'm a sucker for cheesecake. If a restaurant has an interesting cheesecake on the menu, there's a good chance it will be mine.

But I don't make cheesecakes at home very often. Most recipes make big cheesecakes, and they're so rich that a little slice is more than enough for a serving. They end up being way too much dessert to have on hand for just two people.

But this recipe could change all that. It makes two cheesecakes, they're relatively thin, and freezing is part of the recipe. So this is something that can be made in advance and portioned as needed while the rest is kept frozen. No need to worry about finishing off a whole cheesecake in a short time.

The recipe is from A Well-Seasoned Kitchen, by Sally Clayton and Lee Clayton Roper. Lee Clayton Roper wanted to preserve her mother's recipes, and this cookbook was born of that idea. Sally Clayton participated in the project as much as she could, but passed away before the project was completed. Lee Clayton Roper as pledged that a part of the proceeds from the book will go to the Alzheimer's Association in honor of her mother.

The cheesecake is very smooth and creamy and almost custardy compared to other cheesecakes that are more heavy, dense and grainy. The sweetness of the sour cream was balanced by the fact that the cream cheese portion had so little sugar, so it worked out well. The flavor reminded me of the old Sara Lee cheesecakes, but in a good way.

Next time I make this (and yes, I will), I will probably let the cheese layer bake just a little bit longer. While sunken sour cream wasn't a problem, I think it might have been nicer if there were two distinct layers rather than a swirly combination.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Banana Smoothies, with variations

The simplest recipes can be the most satisfying. I never thought that my smoothies would be anything more than a small sample beverage at a charity event I was working at, but a whole lot of people commented about it, so maybe it's worth sharing after all.

The recipe I handed out listed a whole lot of optional ingredients, but the smoothies I served were incredibly simple.

The ingredients were:

Banana
Milk
Vanilla Extract
Strawberry (optional)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

BOTD: Nice Buns

Got leftover mashed potatoes? They're great in bread. When I don't have leftover real mashed potatoes, I use dried, but I prefer the real thing. So when I make mashed potatoes, I make extra and I freeze the leftovers.

I use a 1/4-cup scoop and put the scoops onto a small sheet pan. That goes into my freezer until the scoops are solid, and then the scoops go into a freezer bag for easy measuring when I need them.

When I add instant mashed potatoes, I add them dry, but obviously my leftover mashed potatoes add some moisture. Another difference is that the leftover mashers have, at the very least, salt, butter and some sort of milk product, all of which adds extra flavor to the bread.

Most people strive to make buns all the same time. That's fine if you're doing production work in a bakery. But I'm usually feeding a few guests and planning for leftovers. I'll usually make some smaller buns that will be perfect for dinner and maybe a few larger ones that would work for a small sandwich for my lunch. I put the smaller ones in the center of my baking sheet and the larger around the outside where they'll cook faster.

In this recipe, I used all purpose flour instead of bread flour. It takes a little longer for the gluten to develop, but with a stand mixer doing the work, it's not significant. I use whey because I have it left over from other projects, but water is fine. Use sugar or any other sweetener you prefer if you don't have honey crystals.


Friday, May 14, 2010

The Chicago Connection

Neon green relish - a Chicago staple.
This was originally published in the Left Hand Valley Courier as part of my Vicinity and Beyond series.

The Chicago Connection

As a Chicago native, I’m a sucker for any business – and particularly any food business – that claims a Chicago connection. When I spotted a restaurant named “Chicago’s Best” in Longmont, I had to try it.

On the first visit to Chicago’s Best, my dining companion and I snarfled down Italian beef sandwiches with a side order of a Chicago-style hot dog and some fries.

For those who have never experienced an Italian beef sandwich in Chicago, let me explain that it is probably not first-date food, because there’s no polite way to eat it. You could ask for a fork and knife, but you’d just get laughed at.

The beef is sliced thin and piled high, the juice is abundant so the bread becomes quite soggy. Topped with sweet peppers, hot peppers, or both, it takes two hands to eat the sandwich, and possibly a shower afterward to hose off the juice that drips down your arms.

I’ve been to places that claim to serve a Chicago-style Italian beef, but they all have some fatal flaw – either the beef is sliced too thick, there’s not enough juice, it’s not properly seasoned (it’s not a French dip) or the offered peppers aren’t done right. And the bread has to be right. If it’s on a bun, it’s not Chicago-style.

Chicago’s Best scored high for having plentiful, thin-sliced beef, the right kind of bread and peppers, and plentiful juice. The only flaw was that the bread was grilled, or maybe toasted, so it was a bit crisper inside than a typical sandwich. It’s not a fatal flaw, since the fix is as simple as asking for the bread not to be toasted.

A Chicago-style hot dog has a few variations, but typically you’ll find Vienna hot dogs, a poppy seed bun, and a choice of toppings including mustard, onion, neon-green relish, tomato, pickle, and maybe celery salt.

Since neon-green relish doesn’t taste different than the regular variety, I can live with either. Toppings are a personal preference. But finding a Vienna hot dog nestled in a poppy seed bun in Colorado makes me smile.

Chicago’s Best scored high in the hot dog category, with added points for authentic neon-green relish.

Too stuffed to continue down the menu, we ogled the gyro rotisserie, and vowed to come back for a taste of that. And we did. A second visit scored a pizza and a gyros sandwich.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bake Sale, the Final Results

On May 8, Cayenne Kitchen in Longmont raised more than the hoped-for $750 during the Great American Bake Sale event benefitting Share Our Strength.

The grand total, including online pledges, sales, and auctioned items was $1185.15.

Here, Cayenne Kitchen's owners, Bill and Terry Nichols, take a moment out of the busy day to pose for a picture taken by Curtis Jones. amateur photographer and owner of Botanical Interests seed company.

Personally, I was quite pleased that my fortune cookies, each one hand-made and stuffed with a fortune and winning number, sold out.

All of the prizes were donated, with prizes ranging from cookbooks to kitchen gadgets to cake truffles.

There also were gift certificates for 18" pizzas from Abbondanza, massages from Murphy's Wellness Center, photo sessions from Debbie Adams Photography, pies from Loaf 'n Ladle, accupuncture from Find Your Balance, ice cream cake from Dairy Queen, consultations from Mary Kay consultant Leah Kennedy, discount coupons from Madifine Mercantile, and baking mix from Bella Gluten Free. Some of Cayenne Kitchen's vendors donated gifts, and Cayenne included a bunch of $5 gift cards. Not a bad deal, considering the cookies were only $3 each, or a better bargain for $5 for two cookies.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

BOTD: Bread Flower

Just for the fun of it, I decided to do a little bread decorating.

I laid the design on the bottom of a bread pan. Silly me, I was fiddling with my camera and it rose a bit before I could get the photo.

The white stuff is white rice flour. I used that liberally so the dough would come out of the pan. The rest of the dough went on top of the design and it rose in the pan.

I flipped it out onto a baking sheet

The design was a little smashed, but I was pleased to see that it hadn't all melted together.


After baking, the design was even more prominent.

Next time, I'll be a bit more artistic, now that I know it works this well.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

BOTD: Mega-Multigrain Bread

After making a few too many plain loaves of bread, I decided to go wild with grains and seeds. The resulting bread is a symphony of textures, with a nice crisp crust and bits of interesting things inside.

This is also a very customizable bread. If you don't have one of the grains or seeds I used, substitute something similar. I specified red quinoa because the color is nice in the bread, but white would be fine. Sunflower seeds would be great instead of the pumpkin, but walnuts would work well, too.

Since the amount of water in the cooked grains is going to vary, and since all the other grains are going to absorb varying amounts of liquid depending on brand and source, there's no sense in fussing over exact weights of everything. When it's all assembled, you need to go by feel to adjust the final amount of bread flour.

The dough will still be sticky when you're done kneading, but it will firm up during the long rest as the grains soak up more of the moisture. If it's still too wet to work with the next day, add more flour as you knead.

When I baked this loaf, the oven spring was impressive, and the center slash widened dramatically, but it didn't gain a lot of height, probably due to the high percentage of alternative ingredients.

If you want a tall loaf for sandwiches, consider baking in a pan rather than as a completely free-form loaf.


Monday, May 10, 2010

BOTD: Cheese-Egg-Jalepeno Bread

This bread was inspired by several things, and the idea changed multiple times before I got around to making it. Up until the day I was baking, I was planning on just one cheese - the mozzarella - but then I decided to add the cojack thoughout the dough. Cheddar, colby, Monterray Jack or any other similar cheese would be fine.

I toyed with different hot sauce ideas and settled on the pepperspread because it has a nice body and it's not watery or or overly vinegary. And it's plenty spicy. If you can't find Pepperspread, then giardinera peppers or pickled jalepenos, finely minced and drained of excess juice would be a good option.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Fortune Cookies

These giant fortune cookies are easy to make if you've got a krumkake iron. I have an electric model made by Chef's Choice, but stovetop units or any other brand should be fine, too.

A pizzelle maker would probably work as well, although most of them make smaller diameter cookies, so your fortune cookies would also be smaller.

The recipe I use is based on one of the recipes that came with the krumkake maker, but if you've got a favorite krumkake recipe, give it a try.
 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

BOTD: White Whole Wheat Batter Bread

I decided to make another version of batter bread, this time with white whole wheat flour.

You've probably read instructions that warn not to overbeat a cake batter. You've probably headed that warning, but have you ever been curious about what happens and how long it takes before the batter is over-beaten?

Making this bread is an excellent opportunity to see what happens as the gluten develops, and in this case you want that gluten to be well developed.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Restaurant Review: Two Dog Diner

This article first appeared in the Left Hand Valley Courier as part of my Vicinity And Beyond series.

Woof! Woof!

At the corner of Tenacity and Ionosphere sits Two Dog Diner…

The sentence above could be equally at home in a sci-fi novel or in an article about a dining establishment in Prospect. Since this is a newspaper and not a pulp novel, I’ll put away the fiction-writer’s hat and tell you about the food.

If you think a diner is synonymous with a “greasy spoon” restaurant with a neon sign that simply says, “EAT,” think again. This is Prospect, where everything is exactly the way you expect it to be – in that alternate universe you keep hearing about.

Two Dog Diner has the expected long countertop and strong coffee, along with some retro-looking sugar dispensers and baked goods on display under glass.

You’ll find Formica and stainless steel and all the noisy bustling sounds you’d expect. The waitstaff is in jeans and black shirts, a uniform of sorts, but in a casual way. The menu features comfort foods.

It all seems so familiar at first, but then the alternate universe steps in and switches a few details. Yes, the sugar dispensers are old-fashioned but the sugar isn’t white. I’d guess it’s raw cane sugar.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sorta-Sous-Vide Chicken

If you've been on a distant planet lately, you might not be familiar with sous-vide cooking. The definition of sous-vide is "I've seen it on Iron Chef and they do it in fancy restaurants with expensive equipment, but I bet I could do it at home with a bunch of stuff I can MacGuyver together."

Okay, maybe that's not exactly it, but it sure seems that way. According to Wikipedia, sous-vide means "under vacuum" and it's a method of cooking foods for a long time at controlled low temperatures with the food vacuum-sealed in a plastic bag. And the bag of food is usually in a waterbath, which keeps the temperature stable and constant.

The plastic bag technology is easy. I've got a vacuum sealer, but a zipper plastic bag with the air squeezed out is also an option. The controlled low temperature is usually the sticking point for people. The immersion circulators that the pros use are big and expensive, but the water temperature is tightly controlled, and the water is constantly moving so there are no hot spots.

Recently, there have been a number of posts on Serious Eats about differenet methods for creating a sous-vide environment, including one article about doing the cooking in a beer cooler. Since the cooler is insulated, it keeps the heat in long enough for food to finish cooking before the water temperature drops significantly. For longer cooking you can add hot water as needed to keep the temperature up.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Great American Bake Sale: Coming Soon to Longmont

If you live in the Longmont area, please stop buy during the Neighborhood Bake Sale on May 8 at Cayenne Kitchen and pick up some tasty treats. There will be plenty of small items priced at just a dollar or two, so you won't feel like you have to walk out with a whole cake or pie. But if you need to feed a crowd, you can do that too. 

If you don't live nearby, you can get involved with a bake sale in your area, or by donate directly on the Share Our Strength website.

Every cent collected at the bake sale at Cayenne goes directly to Share Our Strength, so your $1 purchase means a lot. All of the bakers are donating their time and ingredients, and we're all hoping that our baked goods sell out before the end of the day. And yes, I will be baking my famous Danish Braids for the auction. I haven't decided on filling flavors yet, but they're all good.

As an added incentive to stop by, there will be yummy fortune cookies (I know they're yummy, because I'll be hand-making each and every one) for sale that are stuffed with secret numbers that correspond to a multitude of donated prizes including cookbooks, gadgets, massages, gift certificates from local businesses, and more.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

BOTD: Semolina Braid

Of all the crazy and random additions I've made to bread doughs, semolina flour is the one that has become a regular component in my breads. It makes the bread a very pale yellow color and gives it a richer flavor. The first time I used it, it reminded me of a bread my mother used to buy from a local bakery when I was a kid, and that I hadn't tasted since.


Semolina is a course-ground flour made from durum wheat. I've also tried durum flour, which is ground finer, but honestly I didn't notice enough of a difference to prefer one over the other. Right now, semolina is easy to find, but I can only get durum by mail order. If both are available in your area, try both and see which you prefer, or just buy the one that's least expensive.

The honey crystals that I used in this bread are something I found at an Asian store. They're tiny dry spheres that taste like honey, but the ingredient list includes cane sugar as well. Since it's a dry ingredient, it lets me get the flavor of honey without messing with the moisture content in a recipe that calls for sugar. If you don't have honey crystals, sugar is just fine.

I particularly like this bread with sesame seeds, but they're completely optional. If you don't want the seeds, then you can skip the eggwash, too.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Wheat-Free Gourmet

This article first appeared in the Left Hand Valley Courier as part of my Vicinity and Beyond series. This was the very first time I wrote about Mary Capone, who later wrote the The Gluten-Free Italian Cookbook and just recently launched the Bella Gluten-Free line of mixes.

Obviously, she has moved far beyond what was written in this article, but I thought it would be interesting to republish it, just as a look back at where she started.

Wheat-Free Is Taste-Tee!

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a wheat-eater, maybe even a wheat-a-holic. So when I heard about the Wheat-Free Gourmet, of course I had to look into it. Who could be a more unbiased judge?

Wheat-Free Gourmet is Mary Capone’s brainchild, and what she calls a celebration of “life after wheat.” Like many people, Capone is intolerant of wheat and gluten, which limits her choices when it comes to many commercial goods.

Capone challenged that limitation, looking for alternatives for making baked goodies. What she came up with aren’t substitutes for “real” confections, but tasty treats that even wheat-eaters would enjoy. And rather than seeing her dietary restriction as a problem, she said that she preferred to “spin it and make it fun,” and thus began years of experimenting with desserts and doughs.

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