Having recently sampled the village baker's traditional baguette in La Borne, Menetou-Salon, Bourges, Henrichemont and a few others, I'm back on the trail with the biggest challenge being I'm making a couple in a home oven vs big batch in a commercial oven. My thinking lately has still been with covered baking in order to get a crackly crust, but instead of an inverted pan, I'm switching to keeping the bread in the pan similar to the dutch oven variant. However, a baguette is a little trickier since there aren't many 20"+ cast iron pans. I can't even find a 20" pullman. Anyway, just a couple photo notes.
I made the first beer in years that I liked, just sampled it the other day. It was a small 1.5 gal batch of malted barley and malted corn (4:1), infusion, fuggles hops early addition and nottingham yeast. I went nuts trying to keep clean and it paid off! I sugar primed a small sample, let it bottle condition and it was great. I then wanted to carbonate the rest in PET bottles with a carbonator cap and realized my tank was empty and no one fills them on Saturdays - bastards!
I placed 3 qts of water and a thermocouple datalogger in the oven over the past couple days to see if an oven could hold a stable temperature. The water's heat capacity certainly helps to smooth out the fluctuations, but I didn't realize how much. This is just an excerpt of many hours of evaluation, but wow, it's pretty darn stable. I was also surprised how much lower the temp of the water was compared to the atmosphere inside, must be the inefficiency in heat transfer? Whatever, looks good enough to plan a big slab o steak!
Given the length of time required to equilibrate this system, it's lame compared to any circulator, but still a fun observation and good for intermittent use.
I've been watching The Mind of a Chef series on Netflix, this popped up on season 1, episode 4, a cool way to poach an egg. Here's how it played out during my morning.
This is great, no streams of egg white running around the water, many eggs could be done at once, if I don't lose my credit card, I can quite likely control the cooking a little better. Do this people!
A couple friends recently expressed an interest in baking bread. They said they had limited experience so I wanted to step outside my usual tedious practices and create a list of ingredients and procedure that would be accessible to anyone. The following is what I came up with, it's a robust preparation. The bread is a basic yeasted loaf derived from a straight dough (a straight dough is one where everything goes in all at once and mixed), it's a fast riser but uses the fridge for a slow fermentation. The next day the dough warms up and is ready for the oven about 1.5 - 2h after coming out of the fridge.
Over the past year or so I spun into a frenzy in baking. I've pumped medium pressure steam into my oven via a hacked pressure cooker, premixed various additions into my flour, played with special pans (one an inverted aluminum gutter) and baking surfaces. I actually have had only limited success.
In preparation for a micro class tutorial, I decided on a simple loaf using common equipment, no convection oven, no balance, no microbalance, but counterintuitively using a fast yeast and long aging to impart ease and hopefully flavor. I'll update this post with a fairly long sequence of pics so I can use it for future reference, but for now, this is a pretty solid daily loaf, ca. 1.1 pound, easily scaleable, easy to prep, slightly enriched, derived from a 67-70 hydration dough.
Tonight, I went to OSU to see Trish receive a distinguished award for one of her papers. While eating about 2 pounds of bacon-wrapped scallops, one of her fellow faculty members mentioned the time he saw us on a Weber Grills commercial. The commercial was originally filmed before YouTube was popular and then an abbreviated version got archived. Here it is.
The love affair with my pressure cooker continues. Once familiarity is gained with cooking times for a few grains, legumes, hearty greens and/or cuts of meat, toss away the cookbook and get moving. Most beans, if soaked/hydrated a few hours ahead cook in 6-8 minutes on high (high on a pressure cooker is about 15 psi, low is about 10 psi) or about 10-12 minutes if unsoaked. Brown rice takes at least 12 minutes, but has a huge window for error, 15-20 minutes and it still won't be too soft. We've been enjoying brown rice bowls recently: brown rice topped with sauteed veggies/meat/sauce. Meats do well in a slow cooker, but I still prefer a long low temp braise for fatty cuts. Once in a while I'll cook a small chunk of pork shoulder in about 30 minutes with star anise, cinnamon and cardamon - this gives some meat and a great broth to use for pho in short order.
Last night I thought of 3 ingredients that would cook in about the same amount of time: unsoaked navy beans, chopped kale (the bagged stuff) and trimmed and cubed chicken thighs (breasts overcook and nearly disintegrate in a slow cooker). I tossed everything in the pot with a few slivers of garlic, some olive oil, a little pork fat (because it's lent), s&p and a quart of water and locked it down on high for 12 minutes. Boom, soup! I topped it with a squirt of olive oil and reggiano.
There are a trillion recipes online and another trillion on the shelves of the supermarket. This prep is barely mine, I tweaked @CookingLight's cranberry pistachio granola bar. Their's had great ingredients but fell apart when cooled and cut, really crumbly. So here's my modifiication.
What separates this bar from others?
1. It doesn't taste like most shitty bars of sweetened rolled oats.
2. The raw quinoa adds a crunchy textural component.
3. They hold together in a bar, but aren't too firm.
4. The pistachios are pretty awesome, don't use a substitute for them.
5. Using the fresh ground peanuts as peanut butter, this is pretty unprocessed, but doesn't taste like a raw bar.
rolled oats 100 g (1C)
quinoa 140 g (3/4 C)
raisins 100 g
pistachios, salted roasted 80 g (1/2 C)
unsweetened coconut 30 g (1/3 C)
flax seed 25 g (2 T)
peanut butter, ground in store 150 g
honey 150 g
nutella 20 g
Warm up the gloppy ingredients in a sauce pan until pretty hot and add to dry ingredients. Mix. Add to parchment lined 11" x 7" pan, press lightly to fill pan, bake at 350F for 25 minutes. Let cool at least an hour in the pan. Remove from pan, cut into bars slowly with a serrated edge knife - they are still kind of soft, so go slow. Let the bars sit out on the counter - away from dogs - about a day, they'll firm up.
Not sure why I've been dabbling in gluten free territory lately, I think it's the different set of physical and rheological properties that intrigues me about the building blocks involved.
Today's adventure is a snack food. The snack food literature (and there most definitely is a great deal of food science dedicated to the snack) has many wheat free snacks. When beans are used, the snack almost always involves a fraction of rice. This observation coupled with my bean-only experiments resulting in crackers that are too delicate, leads me to believe gelatinous over-cooked rice helps bind things together.
My most recent "chip" is a 1:1 mix of beans and rice with some added fat, salt and spice and baked. I've only made these a couple times and frankly may not do it again. They're a lot of work. I was more interested in watching the transformation of the beans and rice than I was in making anything novel or economical. And, after this, you won't flinch when you pay $4 for a bag of chips. Formation of the chip and baking was the most laborious part of the prep - this is where a continuous process and different equipment would be required for production.
I've watched Heston Blumenthal's Triple-Cooked Chips many times. I actually went through the arduous process once and it works well. However, there are limits on the amount of time one has to live. These take a very long time to prepare.
Sometime back I was obsessing over humidity in my oven while baking. Having read about these steam injection deck ovens, I got an itch to try baking with steam. Not an ice cube on the floor of the oven steam, I wanted a ca. 10-20 psi intermittent blast applied in early stages of baking.
Off to the thrift store, I found a cheap pressure cooker. First I removed all safety exhaust ports from it, tapped some new threads and affixed a few pieces of pipe, a copper tubing outlet and a gauge.
Then, I tried using my contraption in our new sucky winter climate. I thought if I pumped steam into sub zero temps, I could create a snow machine. This didn't work either.
Then, even though it had no safety ports, I tried something crazy - standing over it the entire time and moderating the pressure manually - I tried beans in it. Soaked garbanzo beans cooked in a light brine at about 10 psi for30 minutes cooked to a consistency I've not experienced in a can. Not soft, but more done than the can and more done than I've been able to achieve by slow simmering. I then tried other beans, e.g., toor dal for sambar, red kidneys, a pork butt(!), etc. etc. This thing is amazing! Why am I so late to the party?
I spent some time with America's Test Kitchen watching their pressure cooker video and bought a safe one, the Faygor Duo. I can't wait to explore legumes and stews in a way I never have before.