Archive for January, 2010

19
Jan

food surplus potential

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in Uncategorized

So there’s this friend whose relative is starting a job at a grocery where he’ll supposedly (not proven yet) have access to expired food.

Sadly, they live about an hour away from me, and my schedule is a leetle full these days. So I could probably not acquire produce as soon as it appeared.

Therefore, I am attempting to build a list of vegetables so that should they appear, I could ask for minimal processing in order to accept them in a stable form and process them further into tasty food at home.

I shall also accept suggestions from the audience.

Vegetables in a delicate condition
(gleaned from Wikipedia’s list of culinary vegetables and a couple other wikipedia pages)

Leafy and salad vegetables – Once salad greens go bad, they turn into brown sludge fairly quickly and can not be saved. If you want to start a compost bin, however, this is a great place to start. I have plenty compost, though, so I don’t need these.

Fruiting and Flowering vegetables
– Avocado | avocados are usually on sale long past the overripe stage, so by the time they squish off the shelves, they are probably brown through. If, however, they are not completely squishy, it’s worth saving about a dozen for immediate consumption. They do not freeze! But out of the dozen expired avocados, you can probably salvage enough good bits to make guacamole for 3 people and a bowl of chips.

– Bell peppers | possibly too much work to ask of someone else, but the best way to extend the lifespan of dodgy bell peppers is to cut the flesh away from the stems (usually slicing off the big lobes works well), placing them face down on a baking sheet, and then broiling them until the skin blisters and blackens. Turn the oven off and go do other stuff for an hour or so. And then the skins should come right off. Pack the roasted peppers tightly in their own juices and/or a little vinegar or a little oil and either freeze in manageable packets or store tightly closed in sterilized jars. (or proper water bath canning, but again, a bit much to ask)

– Corn | (really, wikipedia? You’re putting corn here and not as a grain? I give you a skeptical look) Cut off the cob and freeze. Woo hoo!

– Chayote | I haven’t experimented with them fresh yet, but I keep meaning to. No idea about large quantities.

– Cucumbers | I’ve never tried freezing cucumber, but I bet that if it were peeled, shredded, and then left to dry in a colander and patted dry, then freezing it in muffin tins would produce a fully acceptable product for tzatziki and raita.

– Eggplant | One friend has had great success with cutting eggplant up, freezing it, and then adding it to dishes later. I am skeptical but willing to give it a try. I would want the first quantity to be no more than 5 lbs, peeled, and cut into reasonably saucy pieces (<1"?) - Mango | I am very interested in both damaged unripe and ripe ones, but if they are both very ripe and very damaged, there's not usually much salvageable. Again, however, these can't be frozen as is - otherwise they'll be solid and crazy. And peeling and de-seeding them is a lot of work. But, if you are interested in peeling and de-seeding them, then I can take any size chunks and turn them into jam and/or chutney. - Summer Squash | remove bad spots, and then cut thinner, even sized pieces (more like julliene or half moons than thick chunks) and freeze. Or can be shredded and frozen, but clearly labeled as not cucumber (for use in quick breads and stuff). - Tomatillo or Green Tomatoes | slice in half (through the stem bit) and freeze as is. To use them, I usually end up roasting them, anyway, so it should be good. - Tomatoes | I'm willing to try one large batch with just the bad spot cut out and frozen whole, skins on and everything. And I'd then try making tomato sauce from scratch. I'm not 100% sold on this plan, but I'd give it a shot. - Winter squash | If there are no obvious bad spots, just age, then I can take them all. Bad spots meaning brown and squishy - it it's just scrapes on the surface, then usually the squash underneath is okay. If there are no more than a couple minor but obvious bad spots, then I can take 2-3 squash for immediate conversion to roasted goodness and probably soup. But there's a limit to how much squash soup I can make/eat (and that's about 1 pot every 2 weeks) so I'm not interested in frozen quantities Flowers or flower buds of perennial or annual plants - Artichoke | no hope for the unloved artichoke - Broccoli / Cauliflower | cut into small chunks and freeze. Stems can also be cut up and frozen, but separately and they cook differently - thin thinner slices, like water chestnuts Bulb and stem vegetables - Asparagus | rinse, dry, trim of dry tip from the flowering end, and then line them all up and make one cut 2" from the tips and another cut 2" down from there. Discard (or compost) anything below. If the stems are shorter than that, just the first cut. And then freeze no more than 1lb together. And I don't think I can go through more than 5lbs of asparagus soup a year. - Celeriac | you should try and see if you like these - because I don't - Celery | Nope, I hate celery, too. - Garlic | I am rarely short of garlic, but I am willing to take any non-moldy, non-dried solid garlic and give it a good try as is - Kohlrabi | peel, slice, and freeze with the broccoli stems. Cooks exactly the same. - Leek | Get a big pot. Slice leeks in half the long way, and then in 1cm thick half moons the short way - all the way up into the dark green parts until it gets all dry and split. Dump them into the big pot. Cover with water. Swish them so well with your fingers that all the rings separate. Leave sit for 20 minutes so any dirt settles to the bottom. lift off the floating leek slices into a colander. In a big skillet, heat up some oil to frying temperature and fry the shit out of those leeks (they don't have to go all the way to crispy, but definitely into limp land. Drain on kitchen paper. Salt some and eat them right there. Cool the rest and freeze them in muffin tins or baggies or 1/2 pint containers. - Onion | Can be peeled, diced, and then frozen. You probably want to just keep these they are that awesome - Scallions / Green Onions | A little bit more problematic. If they aren't at all crispy and looking like they can keep until they are used fresh, then they probably aren't going to be worth freezing. I do use their greens to make stock, but I usually have plenty. - Shallot | again, peel and then either slice or mince and it will freeze well. Root and tuberous vegetables - Beets | if they'll keep fresh, then YAY! And they're edible way into the stage where you can bend them. But processing them to freeze them is so messy that if you aren't getting food out of it, it's not worth staining your cutting board and clothes. - Carrot | If you have a bunch of fresh carrots that need to be turned into soup, I'm here for you. But if they won't last until they see me and need to be processed and frozen, then I'm just not as interested. - Ginger | I hear that one of the best ways to store ginger is peeled and in the freezer. I haven't tried it on my own, but I'm game. If there's a lot, then I could even try candying it. - Parsnip | option 1) just trim of heads, tails, and dubious bits and freeze and I'll turn it onto stock; option 2) bring a bunch fresh, and I'll roast em or mash em or supthing; option 3) trim bits, peel, and cut into 1" chunks and I'll do any number of things with them - Potato | while there are many things to do with an abundance of potato, I have no need They are so cheap in perfect condition and I still have trouble getting through an entire bag. - Radish | good fresh and in spring, but I have no need of sketchy surplus - Sweet Potato | I haven't tried freezing these, but I just that if you just cut out any rotten bits and froze them they'd keep well enough for roasting. Then again, probably if you didn't freeze them, they'd still keep well enough for roasting. - other miscellaneous root vegetables | someday I shall be a poorer person and be grateful for them all, but right now I find they add too much bulk and not enough vitamins. Pome fruits - Apple and crabapple | Not interested in any with a waxy skin. If they can get to me fresh and whole, that's awesome. If they are in danger of all rotting to death: cut into quarters, remove seeds, cut out bad spots, freeze with or without skin - can be turned into apple sauce or apple butter - Pear | fresh is good, same procedure for freezing. If you cut into slightly rougher pieces, could probably also make jam - Quince | wash off fuzz, quarter, seed, freeze The stone fruits - apricot/peach/plum/hybrids | If they won't make it to me fresh, wash the surface, cut in half, remove the stone (if the stone doesn't come out easily, then compost the whole batch as overripe stone fruit is not hard to come by and the extra work isn't worth it - though I hear they often do taste better when in god enough quality to eat fresh), peel the fruit (I use a knife to peel, so that's easier after they are halved. If you do the parboiling method to peel, that's easier before - I don't judge), and then cut out the bad spots. freeze them by type or all together and I shall make jam. - Cherry | don't save. After they have been both frozen and cooked, they start to taste medicinal. Other fruits - Banana | there is no shortage of bananas in my world. If you want to make bread or smoothies, then they freeze well after peeling. - Berries | are going to be all moldy by the time they are expired 🙁 - Citrus | might still be perfectly happy for weeks after pulled. If some of the batch start going bad and you don't think the rest will keep fresh, and if you are willing to put in the effort, you could prep them for marmalade and then freeze. (and, yeah, that's any citrus) - Melon | I do not need more melon in my life. - Tamarind | I find the pastes in the store much easier to process than the whole pods. Herbs I don't really need any more herbs than I grow, but I hate to see them go to waste. For basil or cilantro, pick the leaves off the stems, mince finely, pack tightly into small containers, and freeze. For all other herbs, freeze as is - on the stems even - and I can chuck them into stock.

14
Jan

pantry stock

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in Food, lists

So I’ve been having some trouble with my refrigerator, and it just started affecting the freezer, too. It might just be the seals, but I’m worried that it will need a replacement. So I did an inventory of the contents of my fridge and freezer… and then things kind of got out of hand, so there might be an inventory of all the food in my apartment (though I didn’t itemize the spices or the booze. yet.)

Note: There’s a lot of meat there. In about the last six months, I have switched my ethical take on buying meat. Instead of looking for the $2/lb stuff that is ruining the world, I’m now only eating free meat (aside from bacon). In that, over the years my mother has done things like buy a quarter of a cow and then have some of it still sitting in the freezer years later. And so my plan is to not buy meat until we’ve damn well eaten what we’ve already bought. And then I’ll re-evaluate my ethics vs income.

* asterisks mark things that will be more likely to spoil if the refrigerator/freezer fails

Refrigerator
Dairy
*6 8oz packages of neufchatel
3 8oz packages of extra sharp cheddar, 1 fancy 8oz package, 1 pepper jack
7oz parmesan
½ oz prima donna
3 oz chevre
6 6oz nonfat plain yogurt
*some heavy cream
*some low fat sour cream
*some 1/2 & 1/2 creamer packets

Lipids
Butter
7.5 oz creamed coconut
small and quart jar of herbed mayo (see also condiments)
quart jar of plain mayo (see also condiments)
ghee

Produce
Jar of peeled garlic
Jar of poppy seeds
½ a lemon
*salad greens
*arugula
limes
lemons
carrots (bag of baby, 4 purple from farmers market)
1/4 purple cabbage
1 red bell pepper
2 oranges

Prepped stuff
Tiny jar of minced garlic (which I can’t open)
*Tiny jar of pesto
*Ginger juice
Thai red curry paste
3 baked potatoes
*cheese filling for stuffed dates
giant jar of applesauce I don’t know what to do with

Beverages
*Orange juice
Apple cider
Hard apple cider

nuts
halved walnuts
sliced almonds

condiments/sauces
tahini
picante pot sauce base
oyster sauce
kick ass steak sauce
pomegranate molasses
fish sauce
black pepper stir fry sauce
black bean garlic sauce
tamarind honey lime sauce
coriander chutney
mustard
small and quart jar of herbed mayo (see also lipids)
quart jar of plain mayo (see also lipids)
sambal oelek
okonomi sauce
spicy stir fry sauce
Smucker’s apricot jelly
a jar of my own jam

Protein
1 doz eggs
*roasted beef (see also prepared food)
*carnitas (see also prepared food)
bacon
*Mexican chorizo

Rice
Brown
Carolina
Short grain asian
Risotto
*Cooked turmeric basmati (see also prepared food)
there’s also a rice breakfast cereal that needs to be thrown out next time I remember – too glutinous

Flour
Brown
Bread
Rye

Soups
*1 quart vegetable stock
*Cream of butternut squash
*Turkey & lentil
*Beef & bean Chilli

Prepared food
*Roasted beef (see also protein)
*Carnitas (see also protein)
*Cooked turmeric basmati (see also rice)
Beet/cabbage shred
Pie Crust (packaged)
large jar of applesauce (I have no idea what to do with this)
2 packages of flour tortillas

Freezer
random beef products
*filet mignon? 2
*slightly larger/thinner steak: 3
*>1″ chunk of beef: 2
*1lb package of ground beef: 3
*porterhouse steak: 1
*cubed? might be beef might be a dark pork? 1
*thinly sliced beef for stir fry: 1.5 pints
Hebrew National hot dogs

Pork/Chicken
*cubed? 1lb-ish: 1
*1/3 pork loin: 2
*pint container shredded pork: 1
bacon (the rest of the pound from what’s in the fridge)
*turkey meatballs
cubed roast pork shoulder leftovers
fat back
small commercial container of schmaltz (see also lipids)

Bread-ish
4 bagels
wonton wrappers
small quantities of seeds/grains for granola someday
2 boxes of phyllo dough

Produce
slices of lemongrass
*little cubes of cilantro
*stewed tomatoes from my mother’s garden this year
roll of dried tomatoes from my garden (dried by a friend)
*pesto from the previous summer
unsweetened shredded coconut (shredded by me)

nuts
1lb pine nuts
1/3 lb pecan halves

prepared food
*3 packages of my mother’s beef vegetable soup that cures all ills
*1 package of my mother’s chopped liver
*pint of mystery soup
*some lunches to take into work

lipids
3 lbs of butter
schmaltz (see also chicken)
some bacon fat

small bottle of some fancy brand of vodka

On top of the freezer
booze (not really itemized)
red wine
white wine
scotch
white run
spiced rum
gin
unopened cointreau
Manischewitz concord grape wine

soft drinks
ginger ale
tonic

boxed goods
1 cold breakfast cereal
1 box of graham crackers

Baker’s rack
produce
box of dates
4 small red potatoes
1 pomegranate
1 pear
2 rutabegas
1 butternut squash
some few, small straggler tomatoes left from my garden
live rosemary and winter savory

Canned goods
2 cans of cream of chicken
1 can of tomato soup
4 cans of corn
3 big cans of chickpeas
3 big cans of black beans
2 cans tomato sauce

starch
box of oyster crackers (hey, user name=”merisunshine36″>, you want? I forgot to offer them with your chilli)
what’s left of this week’s loaf of bread
basmati rice
whole wheat saltines (possibly my new favorite packaged cracker)

Sugar
1qt brownulated
1qt powdered
1qt demerara
1pt dark brown

condiments/sauces
jar of mustard
2 8oz, 1 4oz jar of my jam left
1 jar of apricot jelly
3 jars of fancipants jam from
1 qt mayonnaise (I bought a lot when it was on sale for $1.88/qt)
1 jar spicy stir fry sauce
ketchup (occasionally it’s useful)
3 jars of Chi-Chi’s hot salsa

Tea
2 boxes of Stash decaffeinated sampler
1 canister of english tea

Chocolate
3.5 bars of semisweet Ghirardelli baking chocolate

cabinet over the stove
canned goods
7 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans chickpeas
3 cans black beans

starch
2 boxes of flat, clear thai noodles

sweeteners
bottle of light Karo
equal (magnetic canister)
splenda (magnetic canister)

spice
whole cloves (magnetic canister)

cabinet over drying rack
starch
2 boxes rotini
1 box macaroni
2 boxes spaghetti
1 box Orzo
1 jar black rice
2 bags Ho Fun noodles
1 package soba noodles
1 package soba-esqe black rice noodles (which I should use for the next food blogger potluck!)

Tea
Mighty Leaf Orchid Oolong
Mighty Leaf Celebration
genmaicha
chinese restaurant tea
random tea swap teas
Republic of Tea Mango Ceylon
Twining’s sampler
Taylors of Harrowgate Assam
green tea sampler

Chocolate
Carnation hot cocoa packets
Lake Champlain cocoa mix
Mexican unsweetened chocolate with cloves for hot chocolate
shaved Santander chocolate

Cabinet under sink
jarred miscellany
Habanero salsa
2 jars roasted red peppers
shrimp paste
adobo sauce
pipian sauce
bartlett pear marmalade
Chipotle Lime Ginger marmalade
Harry & David horseradish & garlic mustard

Cabinet over microwave
grains
barley
popping corn
old fashioned oatmeal
steel cut oatmeal

canned goods
3 cans thai curry (red, green, penang)
3 jars pasta sauce
2 mini coconut milk
1 tomato paste
3 canned tuna in water

baking stuff?
kosher salt
baking powder
baking salt
red food color

produce
cooking dates
jar of dried tomatoes
raisins
onions

sauces
Tabasco (original)
El Yucateco green habanero
El Yucateco chipotle
Worcestershire sauce
browning sauce
bitters (which I have no idea what to do with, since I don’t make cocktails)
harissa

spices
not yet itemized

other bulk goods
lentils
whole roasted (unsalted) almonds
peanut butter
honey
demerara sugar
slightly sweetened shredded coconut

on top of cabinets
jar of kick ass steak sauce
fancy salt (gift from friends)
Lipton’s herbal tea sampler
Stash’s herbal tea sampler
Fancy canister of Oolong tea
dark Karo

Window Sill and behind stove (yes, I know this is the worst place for oils, but it’s the only place that really works in this apartment for me. But if it helps, I feel real guilty about it)

vinegar
Balsamic (good, okay, white)
apple cider
distilled white
chinese black
red wine
rice (not seasoned)

oil
white truffle (gift from friend)
olive (both good and just okay)
roasted sesame
mustard

miscellany
molasses (with sulfur)
good soy sauce

Now I have to plan a schedule for converting the perishables to a more stable form (i.e. lunches to take to work and store in their freezer). There’s already a random piece of meat being turned into pot roast right now.

13
Jan

Center City Restaurant Week

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in Center City Restaurant Week, Events/Promotions

From the website:

Enjoy a three-course dinner for $35 and a three-course lunch for $20† at these restaurants, January 17-22 and 24-29, 2010. Those also offering lunch are marked with an *. Most participating Restaurant Week restaurants offer online reservations through OpenTable.com.

And I’m going to limit my choices this year to places with OpenTable because my mother is accumulating points through them.

Here’s my short list:
Bella Cena 1506 Spruce St (has cannelloni! Open until 10 M-Th, 11 on Fri) ETA: 5:30pm Thurs 1/28
Bridget Foy’s 200 South St (lunch looks even better than dinner, open 11am-11pm)
Chifa 707 Chestnut Street (until 10 M-Th, until midnight Fri-Sat)
Estia 1405 Locust St (until 10 M-Th, until 11:30 Fri)
Joe Pesce 1113 Walnut Street (until 10:30 M-Th, until 11 F)
Meritage 500 South 20th Street (until 10 T-Th, until 11 F)
Noble American Cookery 2025 Sansom St (until 10 T-Th, until 11 F)
Palace at the Ben 834 Chestnut Street (until 10 M-Th, until 11 F)
Square 1682 121 S 17th St (until 10:30 daily)
Time 1315 Sansom Street (M-Sun until 1:30am \o/!)
Valanni 1229 Spruce Street (until 10:30 M-Th, until11 F)
Zahav 237 Saint James Pl (until 10 M-Th, until 11 F)

I haven’t tried any of these places yet, so they’d all be an adventure for me.

11
Jan

Combined purchasing

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in Uncategorized

One of the things I love about my local group of friends is that we have combined ordering for a few companies with high shipping (i.e. Republic of Tea, Penzey’s Spices, and King Arthur Flour)

I just put in an order to Penzey’s and need to pick it up from my mother’s this week. (eta: would anyone mind if I picked that up 1/22? I might be able to get both orders at the same time and save on gas that way)

And now I think I’m going to put in an order to King Arthur’s Flour.

Really, all I need is yeast (because my grocery store carries their flour already). But feel free to make suggestions to me of other things (not too expensive – I don’t plan to spend more than a total of $30) that I should buy for tasty bread experiments.

Also, if you are within an easy distance of me, let me know if you want to order something, too.

  • I’ll need you order by noon Thursday (1/14/2010)
  • I’ll send you the total, and then you can either paypal me or give me cash on delivery (the former, if your order is huge)
  • And, yeah, when I do the ordering, I have everything sent to my parents’ and then we’ll need to meet up, so it won’t be as timely as direct shipping

About a month ago (at the start of December) Marx Foods ran a promotion where they’d offer esoteric food items to food bloggers willing to write up reviews. And, honestly, this was my first ever shot at free food just because I have this hobby, so I gleefully bopped on over and signed up.

And also for full disclosure, I found out about the company in the first place because my friend, Meghan, had been to their site and entered a photo contest that had scored her some vanilla beans, of which she spoke highly.

So of three choices, I asked to try the Black Garlic because earlier in the year there had been a wave of food bloggers trying out this ingredient, too, and it’s appeal seemed to come from its flavor as well as its novelty value.

And right away I had to change my shipping address and had to try out their customer service – and received prompt emails back from Justin Marx on a weekend. Wow! And he was very supportive of my little amateur blog and every welcoming even though many of the things he sells just seem way out of my league / price range. So I am very impressed by them.

But how impressive is the black garlic?

Scent – I had it shipped to my work address, and I could not resist opening the package and poking at it right away. At first it didn’t seem to have much scent, but then I left the office to do something, and I came back to realize that there was quite a strong, dark garlic scent all through my office. Oh, yeah. I am full of professionalism. Luckily, no one has to share the office with me. But it made me very hungry for the rest of the day.

It ended up arriving at a fairly busy time for me, and the first recipe I made from it was born of a need for simplicity. That Friday, was the Philadelphia Food Bloggers pot luck, and I’d been planning to make stuffed dates… and then just didn’t have any time to assemble them. So I went with an incredibly easy cream cheese dip instead.

Recipe 1 – flavored cream cheese with crackers
I made two side-by-side bowls of dip.

Garlic & Parsley Cream Cheese

Garlic (3 cloves minced black garlic in one, 5 cloves mashed roasted garlic in the other)
12 ounces neuchatel cheese
large bunch of flat leaf parsley, minced (the last from the summer garden)
2 Tablespoons finely minced purple onion
pinch of salt

So with exactly the same recipe, I set out to see what people thought the differences were.

First off – after a full day at work, the cream cheese with the black garlic needed to be mixed up with a fork again to be presentable because the brown color had seeped out into the surrounding cheese. (And with the leftovers, it continued to spread and blend into the cream cheese until there was an even mocha color – I might recommend making this 2-3 days ahead for maximum joy)

No one thought there was a licorice flavor to the black garlic spread. Descriptions tended more toward round and dark and complex, but no one could quite name the difference. That said, people loved them both equally, but separately. They were not interchangeable at all.

Recipe #2 – flavored butter
So since it melted to well into the cream cheese, I figured I’d try mixing it with butter, too.

Now, I’d already read Diane’s entry from White on Rice where she found that it didn’t infuse well into oil, but I figured it would not only be useful to confirm her results, but also be useful for extending the experiment – since I’d only acquired 2 heads of garlic.

And, no, the garlic didn’t melt into the butter at all. But it was still tasty spread on bread. My favorite experiment at this stage was making toast with the black garlic butter and a thin smear of thick, smooth Frontera salsa.

Texture: The reason so many descriptions of black garlic evoke licorice is that’s exactly what it looks like coming out of the papery husk. The paper skin is so thin, there’s not more than a single layer between you and the clove, but the clove has shrunk down to a thick black nub. It’s dry and squishy and a bit sticky/tacky as you but into it. Putting it in the freezer doesn’t change its texture much at all and doesn’t make it easier to slice. I ended up resenting the fine layer it would leave behind on my knife because I had so little to work with.

Experiment #3 – Black garlic in mushroom barley
I’d been trying to hold out against a Black Garlic Risotto recipe because that would be too ridiculously easy. How could black garlic not be tasty in that set up? But I caved because the taste matched exactly a Roman barley recipe, which I made for my last Roman cooking workshop (and, huh, never got around to writing up) and had promised myself I would revisit. So a cold night and much starch and there was a tasty, garlicy meal of joy. Guaranteed crowd pleaser. I’ll get my copy of Apicius and try to remember to make a separate entry for that one, but trust me – it’s a lot like risotto.

Taste: So it doesn’t taste quite like garlic, so what does it taste like? Well, darker and rounder and definitely umami… but that’s not helpful. The best description is that it tastes like garlic breath – everything around the flavor of garlic, without the obvious front taste. It’s dark and musky, but it’s all around the edges of flavor without confronting you directly.

Experiment #4 – Chocolate Truffles
Now I was a little dubious about this from the start, but the Marx Food people has promised this would be useful for savories or sweets. And they had even offered up a chocolate truffle recipe. Having read it, I’m kind of dubious about their preparation – which has a regular truffle center, rolled in minced black garlic. I think the garlic would end up too chewy and right there on your tongue.

So I set about to make the garlic part of the filling. I mixed together butter and garlic again, and I added as much chocolate as necessary to keep it from being overwhelmingly butter. I added enough sugar to make it feel like dessert, but I also added some salt and smoked paprika to bring out the smokier notes. I chilled this and dipped it in a pretty dark chocolate coating (a ratio of 2 squares unsweetened to 1 square semi-sweet Ghirardelli chocolate) and then garnished with a dusting a regular paprika.

And… it turned out bad. Not devastatingly bad, but not something I want to eat. Other people who tried it described it as a flavor explosion. But it wasn’t a pleasing one by my call, and I threw out the untried ones, instead of taking them home with me. (right, and I also need to write up the other, more sucessful, truffle recipes)

Experiment #5 – Black Garlic omelet
So I had just one clove left, and I decided to go with something I knew would be good. I sliced it very thinly, and I fried them crisp in a teaspoon and a half of bacon fat.

note: it was hard to track their cooking progress because they were already black. I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me before, but yeah worth pointing out.

And then I scrambled together an egg and almost an equal quantity of light cream. Poured in just enough to coat the pan, pulled the garlic slices back into the pan so they were evenly distributed, and rolled out a soft, luscious omelet of pure bliss!

(Note: this same trick of frying slices of garlic was also used in Steamy Kitchen‘s experiment, where she made Scallops with Black Garlic)

Conclusion: This was a lot of fun to try, and I’d definitely use them again… but I’m not sure it’s something I’ll feel the need to seek out.

Tags: , , , ,

10
Jan

Bread! No, really – bread!

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in baked things (bread/pastry), chocolate, Recipe, Review

I have started baking!

Now I’ve tried baking before, and I have ruined cookies. I have ruined more than one box mix of bread made in a bread machine. I just don’t get dough.

And now, all of a sudden, I’m baking. Bread. Without a bread machine.

Okay, so the without a bread machine part was entirely accidental, but I’d already added water to flour when I found out the motor on my bread machine had given up, and it would have been more difficult to clean up at that stage than to keep going and give it a try completely by hand.

I’m trying to keep myself to eating no more than a loaf of bread a week, so there hasn’t been an explosion of bread products. But it’s the second week of fearless breadmaking, and the second loaf of tasty bread… so I’m ready to confess to it.

Premise: Michael Ruhlman wrote a book, Ratio. And after talking it up with my friends, it was a yule gift to me (thanks!). I thought it was a book about baking, but it’s really more a book about all kinds of cooking – at a very high level. It pretty much says, “All of those techniques you know that come with complicated recipes? Well the recipes are secretly rather simple, and here are the magic formulae behind them all – in graph form, no less.”

Okay, well, I have a scale and I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with bread being able to be reduced to a framework with some flexibility.

But I’m also not an expert, so I can tell right away that the scant ten pages on bread will not be sufficient, so I also pull out the book of bread machine recipes and my Joy of Cooking.

Experiment 1:
I look at the lean dough recipe (Ratio, p.10):

20 ounces bread flour (about 2 cups)
12 ounces water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon active or instant yeast

And I compare it with the recipes for 2 lb loaves in the bread machine cookbooks. Those tend to call for about 3 cups of flour, so I scale down the recipe to:

15 ounces flour
9 ounces water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
yeast

Yeah, so I didn’t measure the yeast. The store only had packets, so I just went with a whole packet and figured that should be a loaf of bread worth.

So I pulled out my measuring cup (because it’s microwave safe) and poured in 9 ounces of water. And then I chucked in the random egg yolk I had in my freezer (thawed first) and 2 teaspoons of butter (because every recipe in the bread machine cookbook had about that quantity of lipids). And then I carefully microwaved it up to about 90F and poured some over the active dry yeast to soften it.

Into another container (a quart yogurt container was the perfect size), I started measuring out my flours. And of course I didn’t go the easy route, but I went for whole wheat flour right away. I added about 5 ounces of whole wheat, maybe another 3 ounces of rye flour, and then I was just careful adding the white bread flour to get it to exactly 15 ounces.

Then I added the liquid to the bread machine, added the flour, and topped it with the wet yeast. Plugged it in and nothing happened. Nothing! Whah!

After much despairing, I pulled out the bowl part and twirled the paddle for a bit by hand – and it came together pretty quickly and painlessly into a ball. So I dumped the ball into a large, heavy bowl to mix a little more. And here was the real moment of brilliance that will keep my coming back to bread making – I realized that I didn’t have to get a whole table messy/floury to make bread – I could knead it right there in the bowl!!! Not only was my table not getting dirty, but I was also amazed to discover that my hand didn’t end up all that messy, either. I love bread dough!

I kneaded it in the bowl for a bit, but it fairly quickly became apparent that there wasn’t enough liquid in the dough and it just felt grainy. So I slowly added water in batches as I was kneading. And then I was reading more in Joy of Cooking as I was kneading, and I saw that it said you must have sugars in the dough, too, in order to feed the yeast. So the next time the dough felt dry, I grabbed the honey bottle and squeezed in some honey. I think I ended up adding slightly less than al 1/4 cup of water and maybe an eighth of a cup of honey.

And then I had to let it rise… except my kitchen isn’t hot enough. I live in a tiny studio apartment, and I’ve come up with a solution where I heat my bedroom just a little and the kitchen not at all and this winter (thanks to the help of friends) I have the place insulated enough that it’s enough for me to be comfortable… but the kitchen’s around 40F on most days. So I (oiled the bowl, rounded the dough, turned it in the oil) dampened a kitchen towel and microwaved it until it was warm and steamy. Then I put the bowl on a cutting board and wrapped the top in the warm towel and tucked it all up close to the baseboard heater in my bedroom.

By morning it had doubled in size. Punched it down, kneaded it a little, had some errands to run, so I re-wet and microwaved the towel and put it up for a second rise. Came home and heated up the oven and baked it. (400F for 10 minutes, 350F for 25-30 more minutes – from Joy of Cooking)

Results of experiment #1: So I fully expected this loaf to fail. From no recipe to the equipment failure, from starting off trying a whole wheat loaf to the random inexplicable tinkering – this recipe was doomed to fail. Only it didn’t! It was delicious! It was bread! Okay, so it was a bit solid and tough and more suited to toasting that gobbling up straight, but it was still hard not to gobble it all up right away. I even took some to my mother that night, and she agreed it was tasty bread! Success!

Experiment #2:But I can do better.

This time I only went up to 3.5 ounces of 15 to be whole wheat flour. And I mixed some whole milk with the water (still a total weight of 9 ounces).

And I kneaded it for longer in hopes of making it chewier. Oh, and I figured that since I can keep kneading the flour in a bowl and my hand isn’t getting too dirty that the whole project is portable! So I tucked back into the warm bedroom and kneaded the flour for a whole episode of Earth 2.

The dough still needed more liquid (about the same amount more) and I still added honey (2 Tablespoons-ish). And I accidentally – because I didn’t check back with the book – only included 3/4 teaspoon salt.

And even with the long kneading time, it never reached the stage Ruhlman describes where, “To know if you’ve kneaded the bread dough enough, cut a small piece and stretch it gently. If it reaches the point of translucency before it breaks, the dough is ready.” (Ratio, p.8) But I figure that’s a feature of using the whole wheat flour. And I was starting to worry after 50 minutes of desultory kneading whether I might not be doing too much. I kept adding liquid until the dough was just slightly tacky/sticky after a thorough kneading.

Since the initial mixing had been done in this bowl, too, there was a fine crust of floury bits around the rim, so I did have to wash and dry the bowl before oiling it and putting the dough back in it to rise. But I used the same set up as last week. Only one rise, though.

Results of experiment #2: OMG BREAD! No, really – bread! Just the right amount of gumminess. It could use a bit deeper flavor, but it was exactly what bread should be! Without a recipe and done by feel! I can not express how happy this makes me! It wasn’t just beginners’ luck, either! Wooo! I can not wait until next week when I’ll let myself have another go, but I have no idea how this loaf will last through the night without getting completely devoured.

Plan for experiment #3 So I’m going to need to buy more yeast for next week, so I was perusing the King Arthur Flour website, and I stopped by to look at their recipes – some of which convert back and forth between volume and weight. I’ve noticed that they tend to go with a 16oz flour : 10 oz liquid ratio. That would be a little more wet, and I think I’ll try that next.

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