Cookies, Frankie and Decorations

More cookies! During the past holiday, Frankie decorated cookies with Mom (kind of) and showed amazing potential. Trish finished 'em off (2nd image).

The cookies were heavenly. Flour was used merely as a support for butter and sugar in this rendition of the sugar cookie. These were the most delicate sugar cookies I have ever had (I think it was from the Cooks' Illustrated Baking Book). Then, they were decorated quite festively. Christmas this year was food, food and more food.


A Turkey, A Weber and 1-deg-F

The weather for Christmas stunk this year; snow followed by lots of ice. But, we kept indoors and had a very relaxing holiday.

However, we still needed to cook the holiday bird. Recipes developed for barbecueing from the infamous Weber Grill Company (note the sucking up so I can be in their televeision commercial) are created based on an ambient temperature of 60-deg-F. I figured it'd be about March before we saw those temps and the bird needed to be done by 4 pm. On Christmas morning, it was only 1-deg-F (note the ice covered bush in the foreground: proof it's wicked cold out). Luckily, it wasn't windy. Wind makes temperature control nearly impossible in the cold.

I knew my Weber was still the weapon of choice for our brined bird. The 8-pounder was prepared in the same manner described previously (only it wasn't given a name). The cold posed a bit of a challenge but a relatively steady temp of about 300 +/- 40 degrees was still realized; it simply required a bit more lump charcoal than anticipated. Four hours later, we had our bronzed turkey resting and waiting for dinner. It was pretty tasty and we reached a new low in 'cue.


Raviolis, et. al.

They need names.

Our Christmas eve feast will include ravioli with tomato sauce, breaded/fried smelts, cod (breaded/baked), assorted veggies, etc. Yesterday, I made the dough and stuffed it with a mixture of cheeses and spices to make our ravioli. For the first time ever, I used the food processor for the dough and it worked miraculously. A typical batch of dough was:

Pasta Dough (soon to be replaced by measures in mass, not volume)
unbleached white flour, 1 3/4 C
eggs, two
olive oil, 1.5 T
water, 1.5 T plus enough to make it "ball up" in the processor.
salt, 1/4 t

I didn't weigh the ingredients, but should have since eggs will always vary and moisture content is key to ease of rollability for pasta dough. Each batch of this dough was rolled to a huge, very thin sheet of pasta by hand. It was not sticky; almost a texture of kids' fruit leather. I used a mold to make about a dozen ravs at a time. Worked pretty well, a bit tedious, but worth it. Well, off to prepare more food (Trish has taken over cinnabon-style rolls - hers are better!), play with the kid and listen to Andy Williams tunes. Merry Christmas all.

I'll be pulling this entry back up and updating it sometime in the future with weights of ingredients.

ps: The image is of the little guys undergoing a flash freeze stage on our back stairs. It's been chili here in Columbus.

pps: Boy were these good. Not one burst on boiling. The pasta could probably have been rolled a tad thinner (to give them an apparently greater tenderness) but not many complaints. Of course it was just Trish and Frankie.


Artisan/Straight Dough Hybrid

A good bread can make even a quick meal seem special. But can a good bread be made when the night's hectic and time's short?

I think so. I've been playing playing around lately with my favorite hobby, the baguette recipe and realizing some nice unexpected results. That prep is a simple straight dough with a few small but significant modifications. Lately, I've been making the dough (up through step 6) and placing the resulting dough in the fridge.

This time, I made the dough (500 g) on Sunday and put it in the fridge (ca. 40-deg-F) and took off a piece on Tuesday, warmed it up for 20 minutes, baked it and repeated with the rest of the dough on Thursday. The resulting bread on the latter day was different, but each day good. Tuesday's was a bit bigger in volume; by Thursday, I think the yeast was nearly spent and the resulting loaf (pictured in this post) was a tad more dense than the one earlier in the week.

I suspect it's kind of a continuum where baking early is closest to the result of a typical straight dough but after several days in the fridge, even though a full shot of yeast is used, a more elaborate flavor profile develops; the resulting loaf has a bit more irregular crumb, open holes, etc. and it begins to approach a sourdough-derived loaf in texture.

I've repeated this a few times; here are a few specifics: After step 6 on the baguette recipe (for the delayed loaves I use chilled tap water anticipating not baking for at least 24 hours) I refrigerate the dough immediately. On the first or second day I want to make bread, I take about 250 grams of the dough and round the remaining dough and put it back in the fridge. With the portion I removed, I squash it into a disc (ca. 7" in diameter) to expose a lot of surface area and let it sit on the counter loosely covered with a dish towel for about 20 minutes to warm up (kind of a second rise). I then roll up the disc into a baguette shape (also a break from convention), dust it with flour and proceed as in the recipe using about 30 minutes for the final proof while the oven preheats to 450-deg-F. Last night, I only used about 200 grams and made something closer to a ficelle. It was very nice to have with leftover greans/cannelini bean/chicken soup we had.

Incidentally, the baguette, or better, the ficelle, offers another advantage for the busy weekday night. It can cool properly and quickly before the meal. A warm loaf is nice but if you crack into the baguette prematurely, the crumb doesn't get enough time to develop its flavor.


Frankincense, Myrrh and Samichlaus

About a year ago, I shamelessly begged for a special beer. Suddenly, out of the blue came a special package in the mail. It was two bottles swaddled safely in bubble wrap and carefully placed upon my porch. Behold, it was two bottles of Samichlaus Bier. Given some recent events, this was no less than a miracle.

You don't just drink a Sami. When indulging, it's more like a date. You put the kid to bed, wear something comfortable, find a friend to share it with and savor the spirit. It's on par with a good port.

And, while you savor your fine drink, you remind yourself of your wealth of good friends and family. Thanks! I owe ya big time.


I Win

I know my food preps are either too simple or too tedious to have any broad appeal to be nominated in The Floggies, so I'm going to nominate myself and give myself the honor of winning in the Too Simple or Too Tedious Food Blog category of 2004.

I'll be spending my $20.04 that I paid myself tonight on a bottle or two of Chimay.

And, if there were a Lifetime Achievement Food Blog award, KIP should get it.

Thank you all!


My 2.5 Minutes of Fame?

A gentleman from Picture Show Films contacted me by email today. He's working with the gods of The Weber Grill Company to make some tv spots for 2005. They need candidates who care and worship their grills using an improv/documentary style.

I am so all over this. Wish me luck. I'll be grilling something this weekend trying to create some good vibes.

Update: Just gave a quick phone interview, the info will be submitted to Weber for decisions and, yes, I did inform him I'm a short white bald guy. It wasn't a dealbreaker.


Food Finds Columbus: Northstar Cafe

Last Saturday we went out for breakfast and tried the Northstar Cafe. The Dispatch had a piece on it recently (paid content though). An excerpt:

An increasing number of restaurants are finding that the rewards of knowing the grower outweigh the bother.

One example is Northstar Cafe, founded earlier this year with a mission of buying from Ohio farmers.

A seasonal special uses beets from the Sippel Family Farm north of Columbus.

Chef John Skaggs oven-roasts the beets -- he uses Bull's Blood beets, an heirloom variety -- and then cuts them into large chunks that form the basis for the roasted-root salad ($7.80), where they're joined by goat cheese, house-glazed pecans and lots of designer greens in a light vinaigrette.

Another special is fresh-pressed apple cider from Charlie's Apples near Newark. The apples used are the yellow-colored GoldRush, which has the intense apple flavor missing from most types developed for cross-country shipping to supermarkets.

Northstar is now open for dinner.

Where: Northstar Cafe, 951 N. High St. (at 2nd Avenue), 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
We were there for breakfast with Frankie. There were a few other little kids there, good thing for us. I ordered a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit and was initially regretful. Such a nice place, why did I get a McD's knockoff??

This sandwich was exquisite. Perfectly cooked egg, perfect sausage, cheese and served on the best biscuit I have ever had in my entire life. How could a simple biscuit be this good? This is an example of what excites me about food. The simple preparations that have no absolute standard. A biscuit has only a few ingredients. But there are an infinite number of possibilities in the way they are processed - and the outcome is always different. In this case, I wanted to go and sit down with the chef, pat him encouragingly on the back and tell him how thrilled I was about this biscuit. It nearly drew a tear.

Instead, I chased Frankie around the restaurant.

But you should go there. B'fast or dinner, it's about $5-7/meal. It's got a small magazine stand in there, wireless and extraordinary coffee. It's so not Tarbucks. Go there. You won't regret it.

Update: Additional Reviews
Columbus Alive


Viewer Mail: Dense Bread - Part 2 of 2

Recently, I posted an exchange about a reader who, when trying one of Leader's Poolish recipes, had some problems with the final loaf being too dense. Since it's one of the most frequently expressed problems in bread baking, I posted the feedback.

It was revealed in a later email with this person, unlike Leader, the bread was made with ALL whole wheat flour! As virtuous as this sounds, breads made entirely from whole wheat flour are, for the most part, pretty darn dense. Leader, Silverton and most of the baking world use a fraction (typically not more than 1/3 of the flour makeup (by weight) whole wheat or whole grain flour and the other 2/3 unbleached white (UBW)) when making grainy breads. The UBW has the type of protein that gives structure to the risen loaf so it stays somewhat airy during the proof and subsequent baking.

That person wrote me later to give an update. Using the flour Leader uses (20% whole wheat) indeed made a difference and the results sounded quite good.

If there were ever a discipline in which the lessons are learned and relearned over time, it is baking. This individual also forwarded a cool quote from the 3rd printing of the 1975 Edn. of The Joy of Cooking found at a used book sale:

Whole-grain bread

Feather-lightness is, of course, by no means a prime objective in making whole-grain breads. Yet such loaves should have substance without high density. If our instructions are closely followed, you will never have occasion to level at us the reproach of Mrs. Burns, who, on viewing an impressive monument to her illustrious son, exclaimed: "Aye Robbie! Ye asked for bread, and they've given ye a stane".