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

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.

We installed a thermometer in the grill so I can keep better track of the temperature, but I was baking bread in there - and on a charcoal grill - well before I had that thermometer.

It's easier if you know what temperature your grill is at, that's for sure. But if you know your grill and you watch the bread carefully to make sure it's not cooking too fast, you can still make it work.

Into a measuring cup went:
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar.

I mixed that up and waited for it to get foamy.

Into the food processor went:
2 1/2 cups bread flour (not weighed, but assume 4 1/2 ounces per cup)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

When the yeast mixture was foamy, I topped it off with cool water to reach 1 cup and made sure it was mixed well. I turned on the food processor and added the yeast mixture through the feed tube as fast as the flour would take it in, and then continued processing until it was a smooth, silky, stretchy ball of dough. I stopped the food processor a couple times to check progress and make sure the dough wasn't overheating.

When the dough was ready, I dribbled a little olive oil into a bowl, kneaded the dough briefly and formed it into a ball, and put the ball of dough into the bowl and turned it around so it was coated with the oil. I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside until it doubled. It didn't take long - under an hour, but I wasn't watching the clock.

Meanwhile, I cleaned off the gas grill, lit the burners, and put a baking stone in the center portion. For my grill, I know that for a good bread baking environment I should have the left and right burners between medium and low, and the center burner should be off. But, oops, I forgot to turn the center burner off after I got everything checked out and fired up. Oh well.

Meanwhile, I sprinkled cornmeal on the bottom of a baking sheet.

When the dough had doubled, I took it out of the bowl and gave it a little knead, then divided it into eight pieces. I rolled them all into balls, then flattened them into burger bun shapes. I covered the buns with plastic wrap and left them to rise. About a half hour.

When I brought the buns out to the grill, it was a little (okay a lot) hotter than I wanted. But opening a grill lets out a lot of heat, so it wasn't that much of a disaster. I turned off the center burner and turned the outer ones down to medium-low and put the baking sheet on top of the stone.

Buns were done in about twenty minutes. They were a tad, um, overcaramelized, on the bottom, but otherwise they were perfect. Needless to say, the stone was well heated.

Oh well, it's my first outdoor bread baking project of the summer, so we'll call it a success. Next time I'll remember to turn off that center burner.

Meanwhile, here's a gratuitous photo of a bun filled with the barbecue-simmered pork. Mmmmm...lunch!

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.

Amy's Freaky Good Apple Tart

Adapted from Amy Finley's recipe on the Food Network website

10 large apples (I used several varieties)
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lemon
Pie dough (single crust recipe)

Flour your work surface lightly and roll the pie dough to about an 11-inch circle. Transfer the dough to your tart pan, pressing the dough into the bottom and up the sides. Pinch away the excess dough at the top. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

Peel, halve, and core 6 of the apples. With a mandoline, vegetable slicer, or sharp knife, cut the apples into thin 1/4-inch thick slices.

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet. Add the apple slices to the pan, toss them to coat in the butter, then add the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Cook until the apples are soft and almost falling apart and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 15 to 25 minutes. Cool this mixture completely.

Peel, halve, and core the remaining 4 apples and, with a mandoline, vegetable slicer, or sharp knife, cut into very thin 1/8-inch thick slices lengthwise. Squeeze the lemon juice over the slices to prevent browning.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

When the dough and cooked apples are properly chilled, spread the filling over the bottom of the tart.

Starting at the outside edge of the tart, make a ring of tightly overlapping 1/8-inch thick apple slices on top of the filling, tucking the last slice under the first when finished to make an unbroken circle.

Make a second ring in the same manner, inside and slightly overlapping the first ring. There will be a tiny opening in the center: Arrange some apple slices to cover that gap.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and brush all over the top of the apples, being careful not to disturb the pattern. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar.

Bake at 375 degrees on the bottom rack of the oven for 50-60 minutes, until the crust and the tops of the apples are golden.

Remove from the oven and cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Soft and Fluffy Burger Buns

The final version.
I baked this recipe again, because I knew it was a good recipe, but wanted the buns to be slightly different.

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.

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.


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.

Soft and Fluffy Burger Buns

1 1/4 cups water
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon honey crystals (sugar is fine)
1/4 cup instant mashed potatoes
3 cups bread flour (13 1/2 oz.)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon olive oil

Put the water, yeast, honey crystals, and mashed potatoes into the bowl of your stand mixer, stir to combine, and let it sit until it gets foamy, about 15 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients, and knead with the dough hook until the dough is silky and elastic.

Form the dough into a ball, put it back into the bowl (or a clean bowl, if you prefer) drizzle with olive oil to coat, and let it rest until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and sprinkle some cornmeal on a baking sheet.

Flour your work surface, and knead the dough briefly. Divide it onto 12 roughly equal pieces. I know some people are perfectionists and weight the dough to portion it, but I don't mind that some are smaller buns. Some people have smaller appetites. Or larger.

Form each piece into a ball, then flatten each ball into a disk shape and place them on the cookie sheet. Twelve buns fit nicely in a 3x4 pattern. As they expand, some of them will touch each other, but that's not a big deal. Or at least it's not a big deal to me. Commercial buns look like that. But if it bothers you, use two baking sheets.

Cover the pan and let the buns rise for about 25 minutes. You should be able to poke one in the side and the indent will remain rather than bouncing back immediately.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, until the buns are a golden brown. For soft buns, move cover (or wrap) the buns in a clean kitchen towel while they cool. If you like crunchier buns, cool them uncovered on a rack. They'll still soften a bit, and will soften for sure if you store them in a plastic bag. If there are any left.

Speaking of having buns left, I've got a lot.

Good thing that buns freeze well. Here's the whole lineup of verions one, two and three:

This post has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Burger Buns with a Crisp Crust

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.

The first mix was:

1 cup water
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon honey crystals
2 cups bread flour (9 oz.)

I mixed that up in the bowl of my stand mixer, then decided that I wanted to add some mashed potatoes to the mix, so I plopped a frozen 1/4 scoop of leftover mashed potatoes on top of the the dough:

This is what it looked like when I pulled it out after its two-day rest:

I added:

1 cup bread flour (4 1/2 oz.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

And I kneaded it with the bread hook on the stand mixer until it was glossy and elastic. I figured that it had already fermented long enough, so I let it rest for just ten minutes while I attended to other things.

I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and sprinkled cornmeal on 2 baking sheets.

I floured the countertop, divided the dough into 12 pieces, and rolled them into balls, just like I would for dinner rolls.

After I had 12 nice round balls, I started flattening them in the center and outward, but didn't mash down the edges. When they were all disk-shaped, I flattened again, just like before, making them a bit larger and flatter.

Six buns went onto each baking sheet.

I let them rise for about a half hour. The dimpling from the flattening was gone and they were starting to look puffy.

I baked them for about 30 minutes. When I removed them from the oven, I covered them with a clean kitchen towel so they'd have a softer crust.

They didn't have a lot of oven spring, and they were a little crisper than I like for burger buns.

Good news was that were were having sloppy joes, and these worked well for that task since the crust held up well to the wet filling.

Tomorrow, I'm going to bake the same recipe again, but without any refrigerator time. Stay tuned.

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

1 medium onion, diced
1 green pepper, fire roasted, peeled, seeded, diced
1 pound ground beef

approximately equal amounts (or to taste) of:
Open Pit barbecue sauce

And then a little bit of:
Oil, for cooking the onions

Sweat the onions in a little bit of oil until they're soft. Add the green pepper and ground beef, stirring to break up the beef.

Okay, here's the deal. I know the whole theory of not crowding the pan and browning the ground beef...and it's a nice theory, but it's not how mom made it. She tossed it together and stirred, and if any browning happened, it was probably an accident.

When the beef is just about cooked through, add ketchup and Open Pit. I don't measure, I just squirt until it looks sloppy enough. You need enough sauce so that it's a little loose and soupy.

Simmer the mixture for at least 15 minutes; longer is better. You want the meat to absorb the sauce and take on that dark red color, and you want the meat to soften.

Or, okay, maybe that's not what you want, but that's how mom made it. If you like your meat with a little chew, take it off the heat whenever you think it's ready. Otherwise, cook until the meat is soft. Mom's sloppy joe meat was soft like a stew, not browned like taco meat.

You might need to add more ketchup and/or Open Pit as the meat cooks. It should be a loose mixture, but not a soup.

If you can't find Open Pit, I don't know what you can substitute. All I can suggest is that you use a barbecue sauce that you like.

I've tried other barbecue sauces, and I haven't found any that are similar in taste to Open Pit. It's tangy with a little kick; it's not sweet, and there's no smoke. It sounds simple, but I've tried making my own version and I just can't get it right. I've resorted to stocking up when I see it anywhere, usually about once every year or so. I only use it for two recipes - neither of them ribs - so it lasts quite a while.

Oh, and yes those are homemade buns. Recipes will be coming along soon.

This page has been submitted to Yeastspotting

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?

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.

Malted Barley Dark Rye Sandwich Loaf

1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon pale chocolate barley malt
1/2 cup dark rye flour
1/2 cup rye flakes
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine water, yeast, barley malt, rye flour, rye flakes, and sugar. Whisk to combine it all, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside for a hour. It will be bubbling vigorously and look like something that dinosaurs used to fall into.

Add the bread flour, salt, yogurt, and olive oil. Knead with the dough hook until the dough gathers around the dough hook, cleans the sides of the bowl, and becomes elastic. It will still be sticky.

Drizzle with a little more olive oil to cover all sides of the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap again, and set aside until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and sprinkle cornmeal on the bottom of a 9 x 5 loaf pan.

Sprinkle flour on your work surface and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead the dough by hand a bit, then form into a log that will fit the length of the loaf pan, and place it in the pan.

Cover the loaf pan with plastic wrap and set aside until it has risen to just above the top of the pan, about 30 minutes.

When the loaf has fully risen (if you poke the side of the dough gently with a fingertip, the indent will stay rather than bouncing back), slash the top of the loaf as desired and bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes, until nicely browned and the loaf sound hollow when tapped.

Remove the loaf from the pan and cool completely on a rack before slicing.

This recipe also appeared on Serious Eats and has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

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.

Almond Puff Loaf
Adapted from a recipe on the King Arthur Flour website

First Layer
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into pats or cubes
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt (only if you're using unsalted butter)

Second Layer
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup all purpose flour
3 large eggs, at room temp
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt (only if you're using unsalted butter)

jam or preserves, about 1/3 cup per pastry
1/2 to 2/3 cup sliced almonds (I didn't use any. It's your call)

1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 teaspoons water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

First layer
Combine the butter, flour, and salt, working the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture is crumbly. Stir stir in the water. The dough will become cohesive, but not smooth.

Divide the dough in half. Shape each piece of the dough into a rough log. Pat the logs (I used a small pastry roller) into 11 x 3 rectangles on the baking sheet, leaving at least 4 inches between them, and 2 inches on each side.

Note: 11 inches seemed a bit long since I placed them vertically on the sheet, so mine were about 10 inches long and a bit wider than 3 inches. I should have put them horizonally, and I could have made them longer and thinner. Oh well.

Second layer
In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Stir until the butter melts, then add the flour (and salt, if you're using it) all at once. Stir the mixture with a spoon till it thickens, begins to steam, and leaves the sides of the pan. This happens quickly.

Move the dough to a mixing bowl and beat it at medium speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute, to cool it down a bit.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Keep beating until the dough loses its slimy look, and each egg is totally absorbed, then mix in the almond extract.

Divide the batter in half. Spread half the batter over each of the dough strips on the pan, covering them completely. When the batter completely covers the entire bottom layer, smooth it out as best you can.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until it's a deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and transfer the pastries to a wire rack.

Spread each warm pastry with about 1/3 cup of jam or preserves. I used cherry-blackberry, but any flavor that works with almond would be fine.

Sprinkle the almonds on top of the jam. (I didn't use any, but they would be nice) By this time the pastry will have started to soften and deflate a bit. That's what they're supposed to do.

Stir together the sugar, vanilla, and water to form a thick but pourable icing. Drizzle the icing over the pastries.

Note: when I make this sort if drizzle, I often add another flavor to it. Depending on the pastry and filling flavors, I might add a bit of almond, maple, or even use coffee instead of the water.

Slice into squares or strips to serve.

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.

And when they look hopelessly burned, they're ready to come off the flame.

Then the peppers need to rest a bit, so they need to go into a plastic bag or in a covered bowl. This makes it easier to remove the skin. The burned bits slip off with no encouragement at all, but even the few parts that aren't charred come off with little effort.

Here's the fire-roasted green pepper, after it was peeled and diced:


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saffron Rice with Peas

It doesn't get any easier than this.

Into the rice cooker went...


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

Malted Barley Rye Bread

Pale chocolate barley malt is something I picked up at a brewing store. There's no chocolate in it, 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.

Malted Barley Rye Bread

1 tablespoon pale chocolate barley malt
1 cup dark rye flour (4 oz.)
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon yeast, divided
1 1/2 cups bread flour (6 3/4 oz)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil.

In the evening before you want the bread, combine the barley malt, rye flour, buttermilk, brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix well, cover with plastic wrap, and leave it on the counter overnight.

The next day, add the remaining ingredients, and knead with the dough hook until the dough comes together in a ball and cleans the sides of the bowl.

Stop the mixer and let it rest for about 10-15 minutes, then knead again until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Form the dough into a ball and place it back into the bowl (or a clean bowl if you prefer), drizzle with olive oil, cover the bowl and let it rise until doubled, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and sprinkle baking sheet with cornmeal.

Knead the dough briefly and form it into a tight ball. Place it on the prepared baking sheet, and let it rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Slash the loaf as desired, and bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.

Let the bread cool completely on a rack before slicing.

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