Ingredients tossed together, mixed, rested and rolled. That's my quick fix for fresh pasta. It's not quite as fine as that derived from machine rolling, but it's pretty good for a weeknight and a few servings barely takes an hour.
Validation has many meanings. The most interesting context for this word from my experience was in big pharma. When scaling up a process, bringing a chemical reaction from research to manufacturing, a reaction procedure goes through a process of being tried by many others to see if it works as described. If you're the first chemist in line, the innovator, it is a humiliating process. You see your personal touch get shredded with vigor by others until it becomes reproducible. It's one of the fastest ways an experimental chemist matures.
This is what I think about when @TestKitchen or the ilk call something "Master Recipe." It rarely is. But this poached egg method, it's perfect.
So, this post is only my experience with someone else's method, a validation of sorts. The only thing - I don't know where ground zero is, feel free to chime in via comments. I don't know who created this method. I'd like to have a beer with whoever it is.
Inspired by the little industrious guy at Curry and Hurry who makes a killer chicken tikka biryani that we all love, I tried a few recipes to make something similar, failing miserably each time. I thought about the flavors I liked and took a stab at creating it from scratch. It didn't come out like Curry and Hurry's but I found a general prep for veggies and Indian spiced chicken and rice. What I like is the rice is cooked well, not mush, like what happened with oven versions. It's flexible and the "recipe" below is just an illustration of a general scheme - have fun with it.
Served with raita (yogurt, green onion,cumin seed and salt) on the side.
The learning curve on my flatbreads has flattened out; I'm giddy with my results. They've become a regular accompaniment to our Indian fare and Frankie's lunches. Whenever I spin off into a niche, I inevitably learn a new albeit subtle technique and am able to apply it to other areas, parlaying a history of nifty personal tricks.
What I learned most recently is the value of baking on a cast iron surface while using my 15" diameter low ridge cast
With that in mind, I meandered back into the crusty, lean, free form loaf. I've always admired the gods of slack doughs and natural starters - alas, that is not me. I've dabbled many times unsuccessfully in this area and failed. My bread today is a simple straight dough (entire dough mixed at once) but reasonably high hydration, low yeast loading and long retarded rise. Gods of bread, kill me, I'm a commercial yeast guy. Also, I'm not a fan of cooking in preheated cast iron, it's a great trick, but a little risky for a clutz like me and shape-limiting.
Today's loaf was mixed from unbleached white (Montana Sapphire, 360 g), atta flour (an Indian whole wheat, commonly available from local stores, 40 g), water (300-310 g, ca. 75% hydration), yeast (Fleischmann's instant active, 1/2 t), salt (7 g). I've found that 10% or so of whole wheat and its ability to absorb more water, makes a high hydration dough more manageable.
I mixed with a wooden spoon, then used my wet hand to squish it around. I did a few turn and folds for the first hour at room temp. A few more turn and folds and let it rise about 6 hours. Another turn and fold, bench rested for a 20 min or so (dog walk), loaf formation into a boule, placed it in a banneton, placed the banneton in a plastic bag and tossed it in the fridge overnight (ca. 8 hours). Removed it, let it warm and finish the proof about 2-3 hours.
Baking. Oven preheated with the cast iron in there at 500F for an hour (your oven needs to be clean to sit at 500F empty). I dusted the proofed loaf with atta, inverted it onto a peel, slashed the top and slid it on the cast iron. Then I opened the door and misted the crap out of the oven using a hand pumped water sprayer (from Lowe's). I sprayed the walls and the actual cast iron the bread sat on. I repeated this a few times for the first 10 minutes of baking. Then turned the oven to 425 and let it go for 30 minutes. The loaf came out and the crust slightly fractured on cooling (the singing). Not a lot, but it happened. The fractured crust means a lot to me.
i. tightened up the dough with a small addition of wheat
ii. long slow rise
iii. baked on cast iron with steam at 2 temps
It's a keeper.
I've been preoccupied with cooking legumes for about the past year. Fortuitously, in the middle of that period, I got to spend a couple weeks in Bangalore eating lots of beans. I left there with wonderful memories of my favorite bean dish, dal mahkani, a spiced butttery, tomatoey mix of urad dal and kidney beans. Drawers in our kitchen now overflow with masoor dal, lentils, kidney beans, navy beans, black and white chana, black eyed peas, black beans, etc. Beans are a big part of our diet.
As far as I've read or experienced, I don't know the difference between naan and pita bread. Regarding ingredients, they are both enriched, leavened (w yeast) flat breads. The enrichment is often milk, butter and/or yogurt (@CocktailStat even uses sour cream!) and sweetener honey or sugar. Regarding method, pita is often baked while naan is supposed to be made in a tandoor oven. The other significant difference is in form, pita is thicker and naan often much thinner so as to use as a flexible scoop for food.
I've posted on this type of flatbread a million times - I love them because they're tasty and fast to make, no need to warm up the refrigerated dough. I've done them on the stove top, and again on the stove top, and baked them in a ridiculous oven I made. Some I've started on the stove top and then tossed them in the broiler to finish. These methods aren't bad, but I wanted something better, better color and texture, faster bake on the outside to leave the middle super soft and tender.
Having studied a few diy tandoor ovens on YouTube, I identified the tandoor's critical components: a super hot surface with high contact to the dough and an exposed heat source that sears the other side of the dough. The broiler! I placed a 15" diameter cast iron pan on the middle rack, and heated the oven to 550F on broiler setting - this means only the top element is on. Your oven must be damn clean to do this. With the cast iron in place - I did many, many trials.
1. Dough made of milk 180 g (3/4 C), yogurt 20 g (1 T), butter 12 g (1 T), sugar 10 g (2 t), salt 5 g (1 t), Fleischmann's instant active 3 g (1 t), unbleached white flour (Montana Sapphire or Gold Medal unbleached white) 300 g (2 C + 2 T). Mixed/kneaded in a bread machine and left in fridge overnight.
I rolled a 50 gram piece to a 6" diameter, let it rest a few minutes and tossed it on the cast iron.
I also placed the pan as close as possible to the broiler element; it wasn't all that different than baked mid oven. So the top element preheats the pan enabling a nice browning of the bottom, then the top gets browned, albeit with a little lag. Not sure how to remedy that. Still some work to do.
So, this method is a single toss on the hot surface, remove and done, about a minute per bread. And for the small ones, I can make a bunch at a time with the big cast iron surface.
I did chapathi on here too, but ate it too fast for a pic. Chapathi dough is atta flour 100 g, water 60 g, salt 1.5 g - that's it. They are wonderful cooked like this. Better than stove top. Pics later.
I think this method is also amenable to cracker thin pizza and crackers, there are a lot of variations in ingredients and forms to try. If you don't have the cast iron disc, try a dark enamel on steel sheet. Enjoy.
Past couple weeks we've had the occasion to eat pizza at Tommy's Pizza and Subs on OSU's campus. It's an interesting pizza, super thin crackly crust with layers of crackly goodness. I think it's similar to Rubino's and Clintonville Pizza (some time ago, recently CP changed and their pizza is awful). We observed, in the basement of Tommy's is a sheeter, I've also seen one in Cville Pizza, so I figured this had something to do with the texture of the crust.
If one searches for this crust style using terms like "thin," "crackly," etc. results are filled with various dough formulations that fall short. There's more to it than thin. I can roll a dough extremely thin, but then there's no life to it, it turns into a soft dead crust, no bubbles, no nothing. There's crispiness and sometimes layers of crispiness. Recalling my experience with dough for biscuits, if I fold it a couple times and bake I get a pretty good set of layers and some crispiness. In an unlikely attempt, I tossed together a quick dough from quick rise flour, leavening from baking powder only - no yeast, tried to fold it, rolled it out thin - very hard to work with, it produced a terrible kind of cookie pizza crust. It was pretty disgusting.
I happened to have some dough in the fridge, 2 days old. I made it for my crusty mini banh mi rolls. The dough consists of Gold Medal unbleached white flour 250 g, water 150 g, Fleischmann's instant active yeast 3g, salt 4g, crisco 4 g, just mix and knead and toss in fridge.
Popovers - 3 ingredients (not including salt). This is a food challenge I dream of. Last time I spun out of control in pursuit of this ethereal delicacy it was for a friendsgiving in 2012. Despite some good batches, I still realized too much of the dreaded post bake popover collapse.
- Ingredients - (good consensus) eggs 100 g, flour 135 g, milk 120 g, salt 3 g, mix, lumps allowed. This produces a pourable batter. I placed my ingredients in a used water bottle and shook it to mix. This diner chef stated all ingredients need to be at room temperature. This is what I thought might be 1 key piece of information. Given that eggs and milk are stored in the fridge, I wondered if past attempts utilized a room temp batter. This time, I mixed the batter and decided to wait until it was at room temp, hours if necessary - I figured the worst that could happen is it could start to ferment and/or I'd get nil rise.
- Pan - popover pan, I use this one - same as the one in TripleD.
- Preheating - preheat pan to baking temp, 375F.
- Lube - The chef on TripleD spray-lubed the preheated pan. I added a tablespoon of vegetable oil into the bottom of each cup prior to adding the batter.
- Baking - Removed preheated pan from the oven, lubed each cup and poured in batter. I noticed the diner chef took her time, filled each cup with batter and then added a few chunks of cheese to the top of the batter followed by cracked pepper. I was surprised there was no rush to get the hot pan back in the oven. I did the same, pouring the batter into the middle of the pool of vegetable oil in the bottom of each cup (this oils the cup as it fills with batter). I only made 3 at a time and used a tablespoon of reggiano instead of gruyere and a bunch of coarse cracked pepper (crushed on my cutting board). I took my time and placed the filled pan back in the 375F oven.
- Baking time - 45 minutes to an hour!! I can't recall seeing any temp/time profile like this, I figured they'd burn. But no, both runs went well.
Having settled down a bit from my trip to Bangalore, I have some notes, things I wanted to remember. It wasn't a food adventure, but I did get to taste enough to get a good sense of southern Indian food. And, it was amazing. I had one chicken dish and one merguez appetizer and that's it for meat for two weeks. I never yearned for meat though, too satisfying. Given that I was there with a specific purpose that was not pleasure, I was dedicated, above all else, to staying healthy, so very little produce either. Still, not disappointed at all.
Dishes like mac n cheese are exciting to me. A few ingredients and a million ways to put them together. And, even though it's just a few ingredients, the results can be sublime or disasterous.
Most common, a cheese sauce is made from a roux and cheese. It's always been touchy for me. Sometimes smooth, sometimes grainy, just not reliable. Cheese and condensed milk is pretty good, better than a roux, definitely more reliable.
Then a year ago I saw this Modernist Cuisine variation that uses just water or milk and cheese *plus* a few grams of sodium citrate. While not entirely sure if it's a pH thing or an ionic strength phenomena - I don't care. It's kind of shocking. Warm up some water or milk, add the sodium citrate and cheese, whisk away and boom! Cheese sauce smooth as velveeta in a few minutes. I dumped in my cooked macaroni, blanched cauliflower, pepper, topped with panko, baked and dinner. I'll be playing with this for some time, it's quite a trick.
For the 3 of us:
milk, 200 g
sodium pyrophosphate/sodium bicarb mix, found at Mediterranean Imports for 50 cents a packet, 14 grams
cheese, 90 grams sharp cheddar, 90 grams mozzarella
dijon mustard (1T)
pasta (180 g dry) cooked in salted water
small head of blanched cauliflower
some rendered bacon
Some action shots
That's it. Find this ingredient and go nuts - it's pretty incredible.