Roll by Frankie

After a busy couple days, Sunday was a relaxing day of reading and baking. Scones in the morning and some good bread for the afternoon to have with dinner. I made the dough in the morning and Frankie and I pulled it from the fridge and pounded it like Play-Do. I made a baguette and Frankie pounded a piece and then diced up another piece with a "pastry knife" (spackle knife). Hers ended up squashed in a ball and it cooked along side the baguettes. Not bad for her first shot.


La Baguette Modified

In a recent post in C&Z, Clotilde states: "Very rarely do I repeat a recipe.".

I, and most of the world, adore Chocolate and Zucchini but food blogs are not created equal; this site is the antithesis of C&Z. If Clotilde were the pastry maker, I would surely be the stereotypical moody baker in the oven-heated cellars baking from midnight till dawn. My baguette is the recipe (or what I refer to as process) that motivates me the most. That loaf is our dominant food staple and the bread I have the most pride in, despite using yeast rather than a starter.

The prep for it is not as constant as one might think, however. I'm constantly tweaking it and adapting it to a changing lifestyle. I'll be making some modifications to the post soon, but the significant changes are:

1. I use 2-3 grams of fat per 500 g dough. This is to impart tenderness to the interior while maintaining a razor sharp exterior crust. I switched from butter to vegetable shortening for this and am getting an even better texture. Originally, this was done to accomodate a friend's milk allergy, but, it turned out so well I adopted it as a permanent practice. This additive is unconventional, but, in such small concentration, I consider it "catalytic".

2. I'm starting to use the refrigerator for the first rise. I can now prep the dough a day or 2 ahead and when I want to bake the loaf, I warm it up by squashing it into a flat disc (to maximize the exposed surface area and hence have it warm up faster), letting it rest, and then molding it into a baguette shape for the final proof. This means we can have a fresh baguette for our meal an hour in the door. Frankie loves the warm middles and we like the crust. Win-win. Details will be added to the baguette post in due time.


Meet Tom

He's been hiding in our freezer for about 9 months now. We haven't had the chance to cook him. Sunday, we finally got the time.

He's a 6 lb turkey breast. I learned a few things with this one. Thawing for 24 hours in the fridge, like the directions instructed, didn't do squat. On Saturday afternoon, I plunged him into a gallon of brine composed of: 1 cup kosher salt; 1 cup brown sugar; and 1 gallon of liquid composed of water and some leftover apple cider. I mixed this until the salt and sugar dissolved and plunged Tom in. I left him sitting at room temperature for the rest of the day indoors. The temperature of the solution was never greater than 45F (stored indoors) and by the end of the day, I could pierce the breast; it was thawed finally. Much more effective than the fridge. I placed the pot outside (ca. 30-40F) overnight and let it come to 50F the next day (by bringing it indoors) before blotting it dry.

I rubbed the bird (I would've called it Tom in this case but I'm just not that secure) with olive oil, rosemary, salt, pepper and finished it off with a slather of butter. It was 50F outside and not windy; ideal conditions for 'cue. I tossed him on my Weber for a good dose of indirect cooking. I used lump charcoal and opened 1 and 1/2 vents on the bottom and full open on the top vent which afforded a dome temperature of about 350 throughout the cooking. I was shooting for 170F internal; got it in two hours. Since it was brined, I let it go longer (a total of about 3 hours, very little maintenance). The image was taken when I pulled Tom off and tented him with foil for a full 2 hours (that large mass has great heat capacity) and got ready for the remaining feast.

I strained the drippings (collected in a foil pan below) and made a killer gravy with it. Trish made the rest. Fried green tomatoes, mashed russets and we feasted with a cheapo cabernet. I won't even admit the brand. Franky ate a bit of turkey too.

Things I wanted to remember
1. Brining for a full day did not make the meat taste salty.
2. Brining also facilitated the thawing much better than the fridge at a safe temperature (bacteria-wise).
3. The meat was so tender I think I could've cooked it much longer with no fear of drying out.
4. I used lump charcoal and added no fresh wood chips for smoke flavor; I relied on the native wood used to make the lump. In this particular case, it didn't have much smokiness. For turkey, that suited us just fine. But it's interesting. Each brand of lump has it's own native flavor. Applying smoke by smoldering fresh wood is heavy handed and should be used cautiously. Too much smoke isn't good.


Tofu Fries

This won't earn me father of the year but when I need a break to just sit back and veg while Frankie isn't on the brink of death somewhere, I go to McDonalds. Most of them now have flashy big panel monitors scattered about (apparently McDonalds' patrons don't want to or don't know how to read) and our local franchises have been rennovated so they're actually nice inside. And - they have the absolute best child restraint devices high-chairs in the industry. I go there with her so she can eat fries and I can rest.

A while back, her Mom had a great idea. Deep fried tofu in the shape of french fries! I forget the brand we tried, but it was just some generic supermarket tofu but the REALLY firm variety (otherwise the splatttering in the deep-frier is too much), we cut it into strips (and cubes) and deep fried it. We used a Fry Baby, took about 5 minutes per batch. Trish and I ate a bunch. I like tofu and they were really good. Did Frankie like them?

We won't know till we re-try them. We did this when she was a screaming demon child and didn't want to eat anything.

Or sit. Or stand. Or not scream.

Fortunately, that night, Julian and his parents came over to take the edge off. Both kids were much more calm. No one ate much, but it was much more pleasant. Thanks guys! We survived another dinner.

Anyway, we did achieve proof of principle. Tofu can be fried up into shapes that look like those seductive looking McD's fries.