Pancakes Coming

It's almost February 2! According to Wikipedia, it's technically the festival of the Purification of the Virgin. According to word IQ,

the eve of Candlemas was the day on which Christmas decorations of greenery were removed from people's homes; for traces of berries, holly and so forth will bring death among the congregation before another year is out
But to us, it's the Festival of Pancakes with Huckleberry Jam and Powdered Sugar.

I think Frankie will approve of the Holiday.


Pizza, Lean 'n Thin

I usually don't write about what I ate last night. But, this was kind of interesting. I usually have a lump of dough in the fridge from the baguette recipe. Recall, that's a lean dough, about 3 grams fat (veg shortening) per 500 grams of dough; much less than my pizza dough which has about 25 grams fat (olive oil) per 500 grams (and a little honey). I keep the baguette dough in the fridge (up to a couple days) so we have something on hand to add something special to an otherwise skimpy meal.

Last night Mom was out wining and dining a job candidate and it was me and the kid home for dinner. Table for two and I had no plan. After a brief panic, I took my lean dough, warmed it a bit, and decided to make a couple personal pizzas out of it with some fresh tomato (ugly ripes™, the best!), mozzarella and a bit of Reggiano. Seemed like a promising fix. But would that lean a dough work for a crust? I like my pizza crust with the oil and trace of honey to give it a tender interior, crispy exterior and amber color.

To my (and Frankie's) pleasant surprise, it worked quite well. A bit more chewy than usual but since we let the topped pies rest a good 10-20 minutes (diaper change between pizzas) before shoving them in the 550-deg-F furnace, they bubbled up nicely and were adequately tender. Frankie ate mostly my crusts, a couple pieces of orange and a crayon (purple, I think). She likes sauce more than fresh tomato but the different dough was a nice change.

The image is one just out of the oven and one about to go in on my two peels.


Quick, Call My Agent

Got the TV commercial. Me and my Weber (and dog, of course, she cleans the grate). Got a conference call Wednesday morning at 9:15 to hash out some details. I think I'm going to hold out for Nick Cage as the stunt double. Let you know how it goes.

Update: Cage is busy that day. Filming starts Feb 15th (weather permitting) and I get my choice of a new grill for compensation! Someone pinch me.


Desperation Dinner #1 (Soup)

Our newest favorite quickie:

Collards, Chicken and Beans Soup, serves 2-3
1. Saute onion and a sliver of garlic in olive oil.
2. Add 10 oz. frozen collard greens, a chopped boneless chicken breast and can of cannelini beans.
3. Let simmer while walking the dog, changing a diaper and reading "Everyone Poops" (about 30 minutes).
4. Ladle into bowls, top with grated Reggiano, serve with crusty bread, wait anxiously for Spring and enjoy.


Fresh tomatoes - in Winter?

Last night was pizza night. We made one of our favorites: roasted eggplant, fresh tomato and chevre. The amazing thing I noticed this horrible season of rain, snow and dirt is the tomatoes in the supermarkets are pretty darn good! What a cool surprise. I've been buying a beefsteak type from Michigan and just last night got some killer Romas and used them for our pizza.

During past Winter seasons, supermarket tomatoes have always presented as ripe, red and juicy only to taste mealy and flavorless. But these two examples are really good - and from Giant Eagle of all places. It's good to have them around. Salads, pizzas and our spirits are better for them.

P.S. Pay no attention to the psychotic way I cut this pizza. Frankie gets small squares and we get slices and then I just started making random cuts. Trust me, it tasted MUCH better than it looks here.


We Made the Short List

A note I received last Friday from my contact at Picture Show Films:

Hi Dave-

I hope you had a good holiday season. I just wanted to let you know that you're on the short list of candidates for the Weber spots we're shooting. Weber is still figuring out exactly what they want to do in terms of the number of spots and the products they want to feature, but they really liked your story. I should know more by the middle of next week.
I had a phone interview a few weeks ago. He's making commercials for Weber and I might get in one. He said if the deal goes down, he pulls up with his crew in an RV and shoots improv style all day while I grill. Is that a cool gig or what? Keep you posted.

And for the last time, I did tell them what I looked like. Brad Pitt and Nicholas Cage made the short list for the stunt double.


Pan Size

Note: See update appended.

I was reading about a bread I'd like to try on Let's Cook with Meg and Ted. It's called a Grant Loaf and it seems really quick beginning to end. I especially appreciated the emphasis placed on the size of the baking pan relative to the batch size of the loaf. When baking in a pan (rather than free-form on tiles or something) I believe this is a particularly overlooked parameter. At least, it's been in my experience. I found this cool reference on volumes of popular Pan Size and their volumetric equivalents. Should be a useful reference when creating/planning/scaling a recipe. Just thought I'd share.

Update: You'd think I'd actually pay attention to my own advice. I used an 8 1/2 x 4 x 2 inch pan which was roughly 1100 mL volume (measured by simply adding water to the empty pan; It's tricky to compensate for the bevel in the pan and really wanted an accurate determination of volume. The recipe I decided to use was:

My First Grant Loaf
water, hot tap, ca 110F, 200 g
whole wheat flour, 90 g
rye flour, 90 g
spelt flour, 90 g
honey, ca. 15 g
salt, 5-6 g
rapid rise yeast, 1.5 t, ca. 5 g
Total mass, ca. 500 g

8 minute mix in my bread machine, shaped into a loaf, let proof for 30 minutes, baked at 425 for 30 minutes, popped out of the pan, let cool 20 minutes and ate some. It looked like the earthy crunchy super dense loaves at your least favorite health store. So, right now, no pic. But it tasted great!

The pan size, based on the citation in the first paragraph, was roughly 2 times too big. I think this has a lot to do with the dynamics of baking, the sides covered the loaf rather than the loaf springing past the sides of the pan to be baked. Maybe it won't make a difference, but my next attempt will confirm it. I'll either double the dough size or decrease the pan size. Stay tuned.

One last note: I'm actually not pitching this it tasted so good and I always pitch stuff that frustrates me. Drives my loved one nuts but I can't tolerate inferior baked goods and despite this one's shortcomings, it was quite good. And, I did all before dropping the kid off at daycare.