Yogurt for the Kid

The San Francisco Chronicle had an article in their food section recently on the comeback of whole milk yogurt (no registration required!). I never knew such stuff existed until Francesca Rose decided whole milk yogurt was the only food she would eat. It's unbelievable stuff; the kid has good taste. But it's a tad pricey. Included in the article is a preparation. Much cheaper too. I have my first batch on. I took a quart of whole milk, heated it to 190F, cooled it to 110F, innoculated it with 1/4 C of yogurt (forget the brand) and also added a couple tablespoons of dry milk. It's supposed to give the final yogurt good thickness. I immersed the innoculated milk in a water bath (100-110F) and let it sit overnight. We'll probably flavor it a bit with maple syrup and vanilla. Keep you posted on the results.


Recuperation - My Poolish Never Fails

Sunday, I demonstrated the baking skill of a lemur. My wild starter was used prematurely which (maybe) resulted in a miserable failure of a boule. I then threw together a straight dough American style wheat for the week for sandwiches. Would've been great if I took it out of the oven before it fossilized. I've contacted the Smithsonian, they may want to shellac it and use it in their Julia Child installation. Still waiting for the call. Sunday night, I had the nerve to start a poolish starter; the way Dan Leader does. I then propagated it for a couple days and got an awesome starter with only 1/8 teaspoon of dry yeast. I know it's cheating and it's not Mother Earth and all that, go to hell, it's my blog.

So, last night, I took some of my poolish (300 grams), tossed it in the bread machine and added water (300 g), unbleached white flour (450 g), salt (12 g, kosher, lent you know - and hey go confess) and another 1/8 teaspoon of dry yeast. The machine kneaded for 30 minutes and let rise for an hour to give a nice sloppy dough (slack). I plopped it out of the machine, degassed (the dough silly) and let it rest for 15 minutes. I then took my cloth lined basket (pic 1 of 4) and dusted it liberally with flour, rounded the dough blob into a boule and plopped it in the basket and covered it with a moistened muslin towel and let it rise for an hour while the oven preheated (450F). I turned the dough out onto the peel (pic 2) and slashed it. I then slid it into the clay tile-lined oven, gave it a steam shot (60 mLs from a squirt bottle) and closed the door and let it bake about 50 minutes. Didn't turn it once. America's Next Top Model was on, couldn't be bothered. Took it out probably a tad early. I like my breads dark on the exterior but it still had a pretty good crust, even this morning.

Yeah, I know the yeast thing is sad crutch but I really like the results. I'll keep cultivating the wild yeast thing to see if I can bring it to same level of behavior as the poolish. If you get Leader's Book and want to try it, I have some serious modifications that I think make his methods better. Contact me if you're interested.


A Miserable Failure

03/20/04 Sat Morning
1. starter, 150 g; water 225 g; unbleached white flour, 400g; mixed and let rest 20 minutes (autolyse).
2. added salt, 10 g and machine (KitchenAid) kneaded for 10 minutes.
3. let ferment 3 hours @ ca. 70F.
4. pre-shape, 15 minutes (deflate)
5. shape into boule, let rest one hour covered in muslin-lined basket.
6. into fridge 10 hours
7. removed from fridge, removed wrapping and covered with moist muslin towel, ca. 65F, 8 hours
8.dumped loaf onto peel, slashed
9. popped into 500F preheated (1 hour) oven, changed thermostat to450F and baked 45 min.

Let's just say there's no pic here because the memory of this horrid experience will last a long time without the aid of a digital image. It took every bit of integrity I had to not scrap the entire entry.

The loaf had an awesome crust, it was about 661 g post-cooking weight and about 8" in diameter. But the taste was horrible. I think the last rise was too long. However, it was dead way before the last rise. The dough wasn't slack enough and the kneading was too short. I really like the way my bread machine kneads. I know this sounds like a cop out but I've had the best loaves when the machine kneaded it for a long time. Oh well. I'll continue to use my starter in the same way I was using a poolish.


Warning: Wicked Boring Entry: Starter [Lot No. 1025]

What's with this lot no., what am I, a quality control freak?
This blog is more than just exhibitionist cooking. Given how cheap hosting and disk space are these days, I've decided to keep my little cooking notes here. To bore you all. Blog entries satisfy my scientific habits of documentation. I can pull the entry back whenever I want and continue adding data.

The lot numbers? The only problem with a spot on the blog archives is it gets labeled with this ridiculously long url. I noticed the other day, I can create a symbolic link to a blog entry to look it up fast. For instance, davesbeer.com/1024 is the link for the fermenting batch of wine (currently gurgling away in my basement). So, when I give a bottle away, I plan to label the bottle with a lot number (the url). This way, when the recipient ends up in the emergency room, the doc can quickly go to his laptop, plug in the easy-to-remember url and find the details of the poison in his patient - directly from my site! Cool huh?

Today's entry is another fermentation project. Inspired by Deb's amazing artisan loaves a la Silverton's La Brea book, I'm going to begin a starter. And, since I have a lifelong problem with authority, I've decided to create the starter the way I believe it should be done. Here's the beginning of my effort. I'll pull this out again as I update it. This entry will have a link corresponding to davesbeer.com/1025.

03/15/04: Unbleached white flour, 400 g; Rye/Wheat (1:1, w/w), 100g; water, 250 g; 9 red globe grapes (I ate the 10th), mushed in the mixture. It was left to sit at room temperature (rt).
03/17/04: The mush was a seething, smelly, disgusting slop that was full of tiny gaseous pores. Excellent. Something was happening. I removed the grapes (and seeds) and discarded most of the mixture. I then added about 100 g unbleached white flour to the remaining batter and mixed it with a spoon to a slightly more stiff batter and let it sit overnight. It looked to be quite active by the morning. Tonight I'll dump out most of it and start a daily regimen of feeding with 100 g flour and 100 g water.
03/18/04: A smelly seething porridge indeed. It's very active. I discarded all but ca. 50 g and mixed in 120 g unbleached white flour (ubw) and 120 grams water. The next morning it had fermented nicely. Volume increase and very porous. I'll be repeating the procedure of discarding all but 50-100 grams and charging approximately 100 g flour and water nightly until my first use. I'll probably maintain it by feeding it every other night. I don't like refrigeration of starters. Too much time to do temp adjustments. I'm considering doing the first loaf on Sunday.



I tried Alberto's recipe for Naan the other day. I measured stuff a bit more specifically (so I'd be in a better position to make changes if need be, no offense Alberto). The specifics:

water, 100 g
plain (lowfat) yogurt, 100 g
active dry yeast, 1 t
butter, 1 T (didn't have ghee)
unbleached white flour, 300 g
salt, 5 g

-preheated oven to 500F with clay tiles in lower third of oven.
-straight dough method, 30 minute knead
-1st rise, 60 minutes
-2nd rise, 60 minutes
-divided into 4 portions and pressed out into ca. 8" disc
-covered the dough discs with a moist muslin towel and let rest 20 minutes
-docked each piece (poked it with my fingers) and put sesame seeds on 2 of 4 them
-baked about 5 minutes each.

They came out pretty rigid, not like floppy Naan should be. I don't blame anything in Alberto's recipe for this. I suspect it could be one of two things. The flour I used may have been too strong (high in protein) OR the dough may have been not "slack" (wet) enough resulting in a pizza shell-like result. They tasted awesome though, just not like Naan. It was a tasty accompaniment (sp?) to an Indian dish of seasoned chickpeas/tomatoes and chicken. Yum.


Lentil Soup

The other night we were too busy to cook (childcare, etc.) and went to a favorite take out place for dinner, Cedar's Bakery, a Turkish place. They have interesting delicacies to take-away: a killer vegetable omelet, kibbe, these middle eastern-type calzones and a small selection of groceries. I happened to see these delicate little orange lentils and bought a 5 pound bag of them. Tonight I made a pretty nice soup of them. At the last minute (at the suggestion of my love) I put in a mixture of greens (turnip, collard, kale, etc.) and the soup turned out to be good and healthy. Since the Frankster has started eating what we eat, we've been trying to incorporate more veggies in our meals. This soup was healthy and balanced. We had it with crusty bread.

Lentil Soup with Extra Veggies
bacon fat (alright, so it's not vegetarian, lay off, gotta get the flavor somewhere), 2 T
olive oil, 1 T
red onion, 1 finely diced
carrots, 2 finely diced
garlic, 1 clove, sliced thin
lentils, little orange ones, 1 C
water, 3 C
mixed finely chopped greens (anything), ca. 1 C packed
salt, pepper, rosemary

Pretty simple prep. Saute veggies in bacon fat and a little olive oil until softened, add lentils and quickly saute them. Add water, spices and barely simmer for about an hour. About 15 minutes before serving, add greens and continue simmering. Serve up with crusty bread. We have crusty bread with everything. Atkins, go to hell. Oops - he's already there.


Survival - The Brainless Meal

Girl's gotta eat just posted a simple recipe of Lentils and Rice as a meal that requires little thought. It sounds good and thought I'd contribute my own recipe for a busy schedule. We're having it tonight. It's pasta based of course. It's a dish of greens, pasta, sausage, nuts and raisins.

Greens, sausage, pasta, nuts, raisins, etc.
1. Cook half pound of pasta, strain, reserve.
2. In a large skillet, saute sausage (ca. 1/2 lb, italian).
3. Add greens to skillet (tonight will be swiss chard, but in a pinch we used bagged mixed greens)
4. Saute greens a bit, add some water and cover till they steam and wilt.
5. Add nuts and raisins (pine nuts are best).
6. Add reserved pasta (gemelli is good for this).
7. Finally, season with salt and pepper and serve.

If the greens are prepped, the enitre meal, including cooking the pasta is about 20 minutes. Maybe I'll add a pic tonight.


Berry Crisp

One of my favorite food authors lately is Mark Bittmann. He's a regular contributor in the New York Times Wednesday food section and is referred to as "The Minimalist". He's the kind of cook I can relate to. Takes risks by venturing into new cuisines but seeks out the basic principles and shoots for the simple recipes that capture the cuisine in a few ingredients.

Today's post isn't about any exotic cuisine, but it is simple. The Crisp. A cornerstone of traditional American Desserts. Recipes are all over the place but Bittman's looked really good. I tried it, lost the recipe and then modified what I remember of it. I used less butter than in the original recipe and I shouldn't have. The original "crust" was excellent, this one was ok but could have been better. I also used a tablespoon of corn starch over the fruit to make it less runny. That part I liked. Held together nicely. I'll have to go back to Barnes and Noble to find the original recipe and jot it down; sorry Mark, raising a kid's expensive and cookbooks are a low priority.

Also note the use of self-rise flour, of which I've become a fan or. Makes the recipe go a lot faster.

Blackberry Crisp, big one, enough for 12 people or so
1. oil a 9x13 glass dish, preheat oven to 350F.
2. toss 2 bags (16 oz) of frozen blackberries, 1/2 C sugar, 1-2 T cornstarch and dump in prepared dish
3. cut 2 sticks butter in 3 cups self-rising flour (original recipe used 1 stick butter/cup of flour)
4. mix flour mixture with 5 beaten eggs
5. plop flour/egg mixture on top of berries
6. bake @ 350F for an hour
7. yum