Ascorbic acid concentration effect on fermentation volume

Note: This is an ongoing post with updates. Scroll down for updates.
Link for this post: http://bit.ly/85Crbe

I've been enamored by bread volume for a long time. I like my breads, but, I've always yearned to make the super volume, airy, razor-crusted loaves that characterize the baguettes used in Parisian street food.

About a decade ago, potassium bromate was removed from most flour formulations. It was an agent used to strengthen dough, speed up aging and whitening of flour and contribute to huge volume. I'm not sure what combination of conditioners or additives replaced bromate, but one suspect is ascorbic acid. General Mills Pro formulations (Superlative, etc.) are spec'd at about 30-50 ppm ascorbic acid. Otherwise, the label ingredients look identical to the flour in the store.

In order to determine the effect of ascorbic acid on bread volume, I designed this little flour formulation experiment.* I'm not baking a loaf, but checking the volume of the first rise as a surrogate endpoint for the final loaf volume (big assumption).

I bought some vitamin C tablets, (ascorbic acid, 500 mg) and diluted it in Gold Medal Bread Flour to 50 and 500 ppm by successive solid dilutions. The 3 glasses contain flour (50 g), water (50 g), yeast (1 t). The glass on the left is straight unmodified flour, the middle is 50 ppm ascorbic acid and the right 500 ppm. I want to see which glass "test tube" contents give the highest rise before collapsing. It's getting late, it's a school night and I can't watch the results unfold. I set up the 3 tests and perched them in front of my netbook's webcam with a little piece of software to snap a pic every minute. I'll see what I see in the morning.

Anyone still there? Anyone? Stay tuned ...

*I realize I could buy a bag of flour with the ascorbic acid in it, but I'd have to commit to 50 lbs without a test. This way I can have a bit more flexibility. I can determine if the ascorbic acid does anything and I can alter its concentration to see what's best.

Results 01-Jan-10, discussion to follow ...

Kind of fun to watch.

Update 02-Jan-10
This may be a very long post but I want to keep it all in one entry. I'm currently retesting this using an alternate and more accurate dilution of ascorbic acid. My test samples contain 0, 40, 80 and 200 ppm ascorbic acid in a slack dough of 25 g flour, 25 g water, 1 t yeast. I added the ascorbic acid as a 2 mg/ml solution to these to achieve those concentrations. Using the successive solid dilutions in flour, I feared, may have been inaccurate. We'll see. Exciting isn't it?

In this case there is an effect on volume of fermentation even at the 40 ppm level, but the higher concentration is almost double.

Wrap up to this point
I'm having trouble reproducing these results.

Some key questions left unanswered that I'll be addressing in the future:
1. Is the small-scale (25 g flour, 25 g water, 1/4 t yeast), fermentation volume evaluation a valid flour assay and does it relate to final loaf volume?
2. I'll be trying gluten addition also.
3. Comparisons not only with ascorbic acid and gluten additions, but General Mills vs. Montana Sapphire flour need to be done.
4. Final baked loaf volume needs to be added to the small scale fermentation volume to see if they are correlated. If they are, the small scale fermentation would be a nice flour assay for high volume crusty bread applications.

Last night I just tried a loaf with Gold Medal (General Mills) flour and 50 ppm ascorbic acid and the loaf volume wasn't as good as my typical Montana Sapphire loaf. I need to try the Gold Medal without ascorbic acid and then try some gluten runs.

Reproducibility is a bitch.


Mirepoix madness, not just a fancy French name

Ever since I learned what a mirepoix was from Andrew, it has become my new best friend in the kitchen. The combination of aromatics is more than a great method to enhance sauces and soups; it's a cool way to add more veggies to almost anything. The Wikipedia entry (linked above) is a brief, but useful description. Over the past couple weeks, I've explored it in the following preparations:

1. A sweet potato and fish soup (depicted above). I used a mixture of turnips, celery and onion cooked down in olive oil and butter to make a base for what I had in the fridge: sweet potatoes and some mediocre fillets of cod. The soup was pureed and a couple tablespoons of cream finished it off for a wonderful meal. I think there were enough veggies to counter the evil calories of the cream.

2. A more flavorful tomato sauce. On xmas eve, we had friends over for ravioli with tomato sauce (and smelts - yum). One friend was vegetarian so I was unable to flavor the tomato sauce with pork. Mirepoix to the rescue using a traditional mix of onions, celery and carrots - finely diced and cooked to a mush in olive oil. The resulting tomato sauce, made from cans of pureed tomatoes, was rich and flavorful.

3. A venison chili. This was a bit involved. I'll save it for another post.

Coming up ... a lamb ragu.

Thanks Andrew for opening my eyes to a long-overlooked classic culinary technique.


The ravioli machine

Last night, I got about 4 lbs pasta dough mixed and put in the fridge. Today, Mrs. Davesbeer made the cheese mixture. I rolled dough, the kid stuffed and the Mrs. cut. About 200 made in about 2 hours with a side of noodles for the upcoming week.

Now, it's off to Studio 35 for the new Jim Carrey Christmas Story.


Food snobs we are not

In the early days of courtship, this was the food of the gods. Breadsticks and Rotel dip.

A few years later, we could not fathom such a lavish meal of "cheese," fat and starch without a fiberous antidote. For tonight's special movie night, we will introduce Frankie to this wonderful food with an accompaniment of lightly salted and blanched fresh veggies. It will be nostaligic and a wee bit healthier.

Our drink? Clos Normand French fermented cider. Should be interesting.


Merry smelt season

It's that horrid time of the year. One of the only things that takes the sting out of the pain and agony that is xmas is that it is also smelt season.

I don't know if smelt actually have a season, but the stores stock frozen smelts in the cold months and I can barely wait for them. Been frying these little guys forever, but this year, I changed my coating. I had always coated the little guys with egg and dredged in bread crumbs. This year I first dredged in flour, shook off excess, and then coated with egg and dredged in bread crumbs (seasoned with basil, salt and pepper).

smelt fishing
Don't name them or you might hesitate to drop them in hot oil.
After breading them in this way, the crumbs stuck tenaciously. Don't know why the flour had such an effect, but it was great. I took the breaded little guys and stacked them on a plate and put them in the fridge for an hour or so while I cleaned up.

I prepared my faithful FryDaddy (I deep fry outdoors on my deck) and started tossing the fish in the hot oil. A batch of 6 or so only takes a few minutes. Cook them fast because you'll probably eat quite a few while sitting at the fryer on a cold night. Frankie dips them in ketchup and we dip them in a mix of ketchup and horseradish.

smelt fishing

Interesting link on the smelt: seagrant.umn.edu/fisheries/smelt_mystery


Baking for the French Teachers

The kid goes to a French immersion school here in Columbus, Ecole Kenwood. The Europeans and Francophiles on staff were an irresistible gang to try a small bread baking production effort. Baking on a large scale has been tricky for me in the past, so I decided to use a retarded (cognitively disabled, sorry) rising to slow things down and gain control over the baking stage. I can't give all the details, but the pics show the sequence adequately and I wanted to use this entry to remind myself of things I did that I would and would not change.

This past Friday night, I mixed 4 batches of dough. Each batch was 400 g cold water, 1 packet rapid rise yeast, 10 g salt and 600 grams Montana Sapphire unbleached white. I plopped the 4 kg in a large stockpot for the weekend. Temperatures outside were 18-39°F throughout the weekend. I punched down the dough (it rose even at those temps!) during the weekend about 2 times. Sunday night at 8 pm, I plunked a probe in the middle and took it inside to my chilly home to warm up until 4 am the next morning.

rising dough warming up
It went from 38-50°F in 8 hours.

dough warming up and rising
Very active dough, even at cool temps

The dough was punched down and scaled to 100 g and 200 g pieces. The 200 g pieces were formed into small baguettes and the 100 g pieces, boules and allowed to proof about 20 minutes each.

scaled and proofing, boules and torpedos
Scaled and proofing

While 4-8 pieces proofed, another batch were formed into loaves. The house temp was cold and the proof was sluggish. Once the loaves formed I had between 20-30 minutes to get them in the oven. If any piece had overproofed, I punched it down again, reformed the loaf and let it proof again. Eventually I got a rhythm and the first batch of 4 small baguettes came out nice.

One of the first batches out
First batch up.

The rest of the morning went well. I tried various shapes and docking methods to play around. After all was finished (2.5 hours), the loaves were placed in a basket with preserves, butter, napkins and left in the teacher's lounge.

Ready for delivery

• At one point, I realized a 200 g piece was a bit much for a morning snack and took a long baguette-shaped piece of dough and chopped it into 80-100 g pieces with my spackle knife (pastry knife) and docked the center. It was a nice shape. Kind of a pillow with a vent on top. I never reformed the freshly cut ends - working too fast.

• Once the dough started to warm up by forming it into loaves, it started get pretty peppy rising.




Back from the joy of holiday travel and cooking again. In one of the many airports we visited over the past days, we ate at an Au Bon Pain. My daughter is nearly fluent in French and informed me this translates to "Really expensive and mediocre food."

She got yogurt and granola. I think it was about $12, but it was a good size and I figured I'd get her leftovers. Thought I'd make my own granola for mixing with yogurt when I got home. Here's one version.

I dried some fruit a week ago. The easiest method to dry fruit is toss a bunch of chopped and/or frozen fruit on a baking sheet, sprinkle some sugar on it and bake at 170°F (the lowest setting on most ovens) until they all look like raisins - soft, but not hard, still moist. 170°F is kind of high for fruit dehydration, but if you don't overdo it, the fruit will dehydrate and not bake. The fruit was reserved.

fruit for granola (before)
Pre-drying stage for mixed berries

The granola was tossed together quickly. To a large roasting pan (enamel on steel) I added: rolled oats (8 C), wheat bran (1/2 C), oat bran (1/2 C), sunflower seeds (1/2 C), flax seeds (handful) and slivered almonds (1/2 C). On this mixture I poured on a mixture of melted butter (1/4 pound), brown sugar (1 C), trace salt and vanilla extract (2 t) and stirred it all up. I baked the pan in a 350°F oven giving a thorough stir every 10 minutes - set a timer! I did this until the mixture had dried to a near crispy stage (about 50 minutes total). It cooled and the reserved dried fruit was mixed in. Yum.

Note the little fingers grabbing the goodness as it cools


Desperation Dinners: The potroast

Sunday I plopped a chuck roast into a pan, added salt and pepper and put it in a 225°F for 4 hours. Then I took it out, placed assorted roots around it (turnips, carrots, potatoes and brussels sprouts), a tad more salt and pepper and tossed it in the fridge.

I heated the entire pan covered for 30 minutes and uncovered for 30 minutes at 350°F. Nice meal for a weeknight.


General purpose chocolate sauce

Hot chocolate season is upon us and we're out of Hershey's syrup. So, I took a shot at my own:

heated and immersion blendered:

dark chocolate unsweetened powder, 3/4 C
sugar, 1C
water, 1C
sweetened condensed milk, about 3 oz

It's a little thin but tasty. I added about 2 oz of this and 4 oz of milk and steamed it using one of these.

Anyone else got a good general purposed chocolate sauce recipe?


Loot from Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati

click image for better view

The past week had FAST meals going on. Scallops and couscous with some veggies, leftover lasagna, etc. Nice but nothing blogworthy. Today we decided to get some inspiration, shlep the kid for a 3 h round trip to Jungle Jim's and get some fun things to eat. Didn't get the oh so stinky Dorian though. Wasn't that bold.


Pizza Grand Prix postmortem

webercam.com is largely a lab notebook of my adventures in cooking and amateur food science. Tonight I was invited by Jim of CMH Gourmand to attend the Pizza Grand Prix held at Wild Goose Creative and show off my cool toy, a modified grill that cooks pizzas. I had a blast. I love to share pizzas I make and gain feedback.

Hardly a well composed post, I just wanted to record some quick notes (I'll keep the post going a few days).

•I made a total of about 18 pizzas in 2 hours, 225 g crust each and mostly topped with Dei Fratelli crushed tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.

•Bethia brought some lovely ham from Thurns for a topping. Very nice. I snuck a few pieces of ham for myself too - thanks much Bethia.

•Lorence of Lorence's Kitchen brought some provolone and a nice mixture of sauteed mushrooms and shallots. It made great pizzas and Lorence was lucky that mixture made it to the pizza, it was very nice. I also enjoyed swapping parenting stories with him.

•Quantities: I only used about 2-3 lbs mozzarella (just BelGioso - a favorite commercial "fresh"), 1 28 oz can tomatoes (lightly salted), big bunch of chifonnade of basil, 9 lbs of dough [multiples of: water 400 g, flour 600 g, salt 12 g, olive oil 30 g, sugar 10 g].

•My contraption needs a good 40 minutes to come up to full temp (ca. 680-700°F).

•Karl of Wild Goose suggested lump as a fuel in between charcoal briquettes and wood in order to get another boost in temperature. Thanks Karl, I'll be trying this next time I get a shot (if my family's not too sick of my experiments).

•Jason gave me a Pumpkinhead Ale from Shipyard Brewing Co that I saved until all was shut down, put away and I was relaxed. I savored each and every mL. Thanks Jason.

•I got to speak to a co-owner of Surly Girl. Wow. I didn't even know it. How cool.

•Can you believe a French Ph.D. candidate was even present? How cool is that?


I'm ready

Tonight's the Pizza Grand Prix. My Firedome, 10 pounds of dough, simple toppings and I will be in attendance.

I heard Padma and Colicchio may also show up.

ps Sorry Jim, I had to pack the car early; still there will be some good photo ops @ 5. I also get to the airport 3 hours early.


Meatloaf on the grill

I walked by my cafeteria's meatloaf entre today and felt a rush of inspiration.

On the way home I dropped in to Weiland's Gourmet Market to get meatloaf mix. Meatloaf mix is 1/3 beef, 1/3 pork and 1/3 veal. I don't know anywhere that has it except Weiland's. I got a few pounds, separated it into 1 lb portions and went to work on tonight's dinner.

I took 400 grams of the heavenly mixture, and added 7 g salt; Ruhlman salts meat at a reliable rate of 40 g / 5 lbs. I use this ratio a lot in cooking. Cooking meat you only get one shot to get it right. Can't really eat the meat raw to check spices, can't salt after it's cooked, just have to get it right. After salt, anything goes. I added milk (1/4 C), my bread crumbs (fu#k Panko, mine are better, 3/4 C), pepper, oregano, basil, egg, parsley, mixed gently and tossed on the grill with a think skim of bbq sauce on top. Vents full open, indirect and cooked 40 min to an internal temp of 160°F, wrapped and let rest for 15 minutes or so and served with tater tots and broccoli. What a dinner. Nothing left.


Firedome using Stubbs charcoal

It's (Pizza) Grand Prix week! We're prepping the kettle for a very short road trip to the Wild Goose Creative (bicycle rack transporter and all). Last night I did a quick dry run to check out the fuel I'll be using while making Pizzas.

I ran my Firedome through a dry run to check the fuel, condition a new piece of clay and take some measurements. The dome ran for 3 hours at 600+ °F which was about the same temp as the clay surface. Great temperature uniformity. After the PGP, I'll be trying seasoned wood chunks to boost the temperature. For now, I'm ready. See you there.


I'm going to start making myself one of these

When Sodexo serves mini corn dogs, she jumps at it. Kills me.


cracked wheat bread

cracked wheat bread, originally uploaded by Seligmans Dog.

I like to bake whole grain breads, but often have problems. When I say whole grain, I don't want all rough milled flour, I want a significant fraction of the grain to be whole grain just hydrated to soften it. The biggest problem? I like my grainy bread to be for sandwhiches and enjoying with cheese; for that I prefer a boule shape. The inherent challenge with this shape and having whole grain in the ingredient list is often a doughy undercooked center. The whole grain retains so much moisture (which is great for shelf life), but it creates two different environments of cooking, the exterior and middle. Kind of like breast and thighs on chicken.

I tried a recipe I really liked recently. Inspired by Bittman's Food Matters (thanks Bethia!). I use more water than Bittman's recipe and let the grain steep for a long time prior to mixing to insure no crunchies in the final bread. I made this Sunday afternoon and it's still as good as the day it came out of the oven. This is a big deal for me. I like Frankie to have her bread from home and don't always have time to bake bread daily.

Cracked Wheat Bread
• In a bowl used for rising add:
Cracked wheat (coarse or fine), 1/2 C
Boiling water, 2.0 C
• Let sit until convenient (an hour or so, I let it sit all day).
• Add:
salt, 1.5 teaspoons
grain flours mix, 1/2 C (I have a tub of spelt, wheat and rye flour mixed)
unbleached white (need some structure), 2 Cups
vegetable oil, 2 tablespoon
dry yeast, 1/2 teaspoon
• Mix until the thing forms a ball and kind of knead with wooden spoon in bowl
• Let rise at least 12 hours.
• Form into a boule and let sit on parchment covered with a dry dishtowel for about 8 hours. The dough's not very sticky, typical of nice grainy doughs. Use a bit of flour to prevent any tackiness if you need while shaping.
• Slide into a 425°F oven; I cooked it on a sheet pan that preheated in the oven and toss a 1/4 cup of water into the bottom of the oven.
• Bake 45 minutes at 425°F, remove and let thoroughly cool.


Coffee Bean Roasting: I knew I could make this more complicated than it needed to be.

Mac's been roasting beans using a nifty whirly pop popcorn maker. Kudos to you Mac. I love those things. Eager to jump in and be cool too, I turned to my $1.91 generic (thanks Volunteers of America!) popocorn popper to roast green coffee beans. I got the beans from Mediterranean Food Imports on Dodridge and N High (home of the only source of Merguez in Columbus) for $4/lb. The owner thinks they're from Brazil, but is not sure.

The question I had is: While coffee's roasting, do the stages of roasting, indicated by the casually tossed around term "cracking," correspond to detectable thermal transitions? Temperature profile to the rescue.

I popped 50 grams of green beans to the hopper, dangled my thermocouple into the headspace and let the baby rip for 15 minutes (a time based on some futzing around). Here's the profile:

Coffee roasting temperature profile
Really boring temperature profile over roasting period.

The beans are shinier in the image because of my inability to use flash properly

The beans were slightly shiny, and dark roasted and are resting before I grind. I've never been able to hear that definitive cracking - all I hear is the dog whimpering, the cat attacking my feet or the kid running in the hall, so I've relied on time to provide an endpoint for roasting. According to my time profile, there appears to be no thermal events to dictate the perfect roasting endpoint. Just have to stick with plain old trial and error. A fun set of observations though.

... Honey, the popcorn is starting to taste funny.


Another nifty find at Crestview Market

Crestview (corner of Crestview and North High) is on my way home and my new favorite stop on the way home. It's a typical crammed Asian market and the value of it, I'm finding, is in the details.

The other day I had an itch to make a dish that was fast, used leftover freezer meat, and was healthy. Greens and grain is a biggie on our menus and I decided it would be greens, soba noodles and some of the vacuum wrapped, grilled pork loing that had occupied the freezer for months.

I ran in Crestview and had decided a simple, quick wilting bok choy would be a good green. I picked up one of the many types of greens there, my soba noodles, ginger and sprinted home to start a nice meal.

Turns out, my greens weren't bok choy but a more sturdy mustard-type green that took a bit longer to cook but pleasantly surprised us to be very tasty. The dish:

Into a mongo huge fry pan:
peanut and sesame oil, shaved garlic and ginger, sauted some sliced frozen pork loin, then tossed in greens, soy (2T) and 1/4 C water (the pork was grilled and had a lot of flavor), and let the greens steam a bit. While that was cooking, I cooked the soba in salted water for about 4-6 minutes, strained and tossed all to heat. Really fast, healthy and very satisfying.

Spend some time in Crestview's small produce area. It's got more than you might think.


Introducing my new infrared thermometer with laser

New IR temp gun with laser
I'm not paid as a scientist anymore, but I do enjoy the tools of the trade. My newest acquisition is an IR laser-guided thermometer. Just measures surface temps, but it's fun, and the cat loves it. I got it primarily for the firedome; I wanted to know how the temperature and uniformity of the clay cooking surface compared to the dome temperature. I also want to smuggle it into pizza places and check their oven temps. It stabilizes in about a 1/2 second and the range is -76°F to 1022°F. I wanted a higher temp unit, but this'll do for a while.


Caramelized Onion, Asiago Cheese and Salt Focaccia

The other night I got to partake in a food blogger thingy at Wild Goose Creative and we were all supposed to bring an item for a potluck type spread. I usually make a traditionally topped focaccia for something like this because it travels well and is pretty good served at room temp.

This time I got a little crazy. I caramelized some onion, used some grated asiago on top and some Baleine coarse salt. When it was topped before cooking (1 Kg dough on a standard half sheet), it looked kind of bland and ... white. After cooking, the onion became crisped in places, the cheese melted and darkened and the whole thing came together more like a lightly topped pizza than a focaccia but I was quite happy with it. I think I'll make it again sometime.


Wow, that was friggin' awesome!

(click image to visit the Wild Goose Creative's site)

Tonight I had the good fortune to:
a. be outside in Columbus after 8:00 pm
b. sit on a panel of food bloggers at the Wild Goose Creative on Summit.

A bunch of foodies talkin' food. Aside from being from Columbus, weber_cam doesn't have too much to do with the local thing, so I was grateful to be included. I also learned from Nick I should go to Michael's Goody Boy Drive-in for b'fast. Thanks for the tip Nick.

While there, I offered (as I often do) to give anyone interested a tutorial to make a baguette or focaccia and a few showed interest. To this end, we could do these tutorials in my kitchen OR in group mode at the rear of the WGC. If you're reading this, let me know your preference in the comments. If we go with the group, each could launch their bread prep every 20 minutes. This way we could all watch the lesson repeatedly - this helps when learning a process like this and also staggers us for oven use. A class could easily accommodate 4-5 individuals baking their own bread (more could be spectators). All you'd have to pay is a few hours time (a little slower than the two hours promised because more people). I think it'd be fun for a weekend afternoon.

To the staff and visitors at Wild Goose Creative - Thanks so much!!

ps, During the panel, I rambled. In a class I'd be more focused, and I can almost guarantee you'd go home with something nice to eat cooked in the WGC's own oven.

PS - Rosie got a nice recap of the event. Thanks Rosie.


The biggest pan on earth (for pad thai)

The biggest pan on earth., originally uploaded by Seligmans Dog.

I've been reading Hungry Monkey, a great book about a Dad cooking simple, but wonderful, dishes with his little girl. There's a pad thai recipe in it that takes a bit of work to make the tamarind extract, but once done, the dish goes together in a couple minutes.

Whenever I make a dish like this I like to have a lot of room in the pan so the food doesn't suck ALL the heat from the pan. So, I got this heavy aluminum pan at Wasserstrom. It's killer. About $50, but we'll have it for life.


Baked Beans (w/ pancetta)

Baked Beans, originally uploaded by Seligmans Dog.

Was doing a casual burger cookout the other night and decided to have a nice side of baked beans. Didn't have a ham hock or other appropriate pork product to stand in for the backbone of the classic Boston Baked beans.

I did, however, have some leftover home-cured pancetta (courtesy of Andrew). Perfect. A little mediterranean would play nice with the traditional dish. It was too late to do all the saute and stuff to get this, so in 10 minutes or so these babies were tossed on the stove, about 18 hours before the get together.

My easy baked beans
pancetta, ca. 100 g, coarse chop
great northerns, 1C (dry)
dry mustard, Coleman's 1.5 t
pork fat, ca. 1T
parsley, 2T
brown sugar, 1T
ketchup, 1T
worcestershire, 1T
salt, 2t
water, 4C
Put in a cast iron dutch oven on smallest burner, covered, on lowest heat for 18 hours. Cooled and reheated for serving. Pretty amazing.

By the way, for only a finif, you can see me and a bunch of other food bloggers at ...
The Wild Goose Creative's Sunday night extravaganza: Too Many Cooks
When: Sunday, September 6th, 7 PM
Where: 2491 Summit Street, Columbus, OH 43202
I'll be signing autographs after the event.


Adventures with the Firedome

If my schedule permitted, I would open Dave's Brasserie and sell nothing but pizzas on my deck to a few tables a night. No charge. It's too much fun.

Had a nice smooth run last night. The Firedome maintained 600°F for about 2.5 hours and over 1 hour of that teetering around 700°F using briquettes.

My high temperature aspirations aren't just a manly effort to incinerate food. Noted by one guest, the pizza, using an identical dough formulation, tastes different (and better) cooked in this mini blast-furnace compared to my oven. And, it's still cooking evenly. A build up of cornmeal on the stone contributed to a couple charry bottoms, but I won't be using it anymore. A simple light dusting with flour is adequate to keep the pizza moving on the peel.

Where to from here? The fuel distribution and placement are near optimal, so is the method of fuel ignition, and the cooking surface. All I need is a heat resistant knob on the door (for which Mario gets 10% of the royalties if this goes into production) and some work on different combustibles: lump charcoal, green wood, small woodland animals. Some fun things to try.

Keep you all posted and watch out for invites to my version of Hell's Kitchen where I experiment on live dinner guests.


Training run for Pizza Grand Prix

I'm having a training run tonight with my beloved Firedome. Got a gig at the Wild Goose Creative on October 18th in the Pizza Grand Prix. Tonight's warm up is a basic 10 pizzas for a few friends in the Firedome. Tonight I'll be using a different lighting method: chimney of fuel to ignite the surrounding fuel, using simple briquettes and timing the available cook time for one charge of fuel with my datalogger. The Firedome is not convenient to charge midstream. A significant limitation if I want to push this to production level cooking. Modifiications will have to be made if this is the goal.

The other thing I'll be checking is amount of dough per pizza. I'm shooting for 10-12" pie with 225 g per shell. This should give a thin crust, but not paper thin. Toppings will be classic. Chiffonade of basil, tomatoes and mozzarella. A few will be the wife and I's favorite: grilled eggplant, caramelized onion and chevre (not classic, but good). I'll post the final Temp vs. Time profile. I'm also hoping this run gets me 700+ °F. We'll see.

For the dough. I made it about 24 hours in advance. I made a kilo at a time in my bread machine, scaled and rounded/balled it into 225 g lumps and chilled it in the freezer for 20 minutes. Then these were placed in retarding containers in my fridge for ca. 18 hours, punched down, re-rounded and are now ready for pushing into shells tonight.

Serf! Hand me my armor.


American Style Honey Wheat

Reposted because it's the beginning of the school year!

The Columbus City Schools are pretty awesome. Frankie's in a public French language immersion school (K-8). Just through kindergarten, she giggles at me trying to pronounce a French r. By second grade I suspect she'll be able to order me a beer in a brasserie in Paris. The only problem with the CCS is the lunch program. No veggies and lots of warmed up starch and fat. It's sad. So, here it is, the staple substrate of many of her lunches, bread.

Although my passion is a nice crispy baguette, it's sometimes tough to fit in with gymnastics, soccer and our work schedules. For the day to day, we often enjoy a plain old enriched American style loaf; it's got reasonable shelf life and is a fast prep. This is a really reliable straight dough method loaf. Just made one tonight for a sandwich for myself for tomorrow. It goes together in a snap.

Here's the recipe:
water, room temp - warm, 240 g (1 C)
unbleached white flour 240 g (ca. 1 2/3 C)
wheat/rye/spelt mix (1:1:1 w/w), 120 g (3/4 C)
shortening, 12 g (1 T)
vegetable oil, 24 g (2 T)
honey, 30 g (1.5 T)
instant active dry yeast, 1 packet
salt, 1.5 t
sunflower seeds, handful

Straight dough method, first rise 60 min, 2nd rise 25 min, 3rd rise (proof) 40 min in loaf pan (ca. 2.5" x 5" x 9", metal) slashed top of loaf, and baked in abundantly pre-heated 425°F oven for 30 minutes. Awesome volume. Popped the loaf out of the pan and let it sit out overnight to cool (all ready for my nostalgic bologna sandwich tomorrow).


Pom Wow! (free swag)

frosty and freshly delivered cold to my door

weber_cam is one of the most visited sites on the internet. Last count, my sitemeter was tracking about 100-200 visitors per day. Take that Drudge.

With this kind of traffic there are perks. The delightful Molly, from Pom Wonderful emailed me and asked if I wanted a sample since it looks like some of my posts indicate I enjoyed healthy food (probably not the posts on ribs). I wasn't obliged to write anything or even mention the freebie on the site, but hey, nothing else to jabber about and still getting over jet-lag, I figured I'd write something about it anyway.

The good
It's yummy stuff. After having my first portion full strength, I cut it with water 1:1 because it's really strong. It possesses a pleasant tartness (similar to cranberry), but sweeter. The sugar content is 32 g/236 mL. I'm not sure what the native sweetener in a pomegranate, but it's a sweet one. I'm guessing it's cane. There's no added coloring and preservation is likely done through thermal processing rather than by benign chemical additives (I'm a chemist and believe chemical additives for preservation are perceived poorly because most people don't understand them and their function). Nonetheless, this is a great-tasting quality product and worth its high price. I think the 8 pack I generously received would be about $10. Actually, not bad for real juice, real juice is pricey.

My soapbox
The literature I received has lots of references to primary medical literature supporting its antioxidant activity, cardio-health claims, the crowd-pleasing manly things like super duper erections, and of course the ever popular, euro-loving, colon cleansing. These are the boiler plate claims of almost all natural foods claiming to be the newest fountain of youth and often underestimate the intelligence of the consumer. Some claims are supported, some, who knows. Antioxidant efficacy is a pretty easy proof for any food (most fruit knows how to protect itself from oxidation), but the chemical BHT in each and every bite of kid's cereal is also a great antioxidant and safe. The whole antioxidant thing isn't a guarantee against anything.

I'm no medical expert and feel free to shoot barbs at me in the comments, but a glass a day won't prevent you from getting a stroke and probably won't provide the woody promised - I'm currently participating in my own clinical study for the next 10 days - in the name of science.

Dear Molly of PomWonderful.com ...
Thanks so much for the gift. Despite my warning that I would not say a thing about this product on my site, you politely sent it anyway. My family and I do sincerely appreciate it. I think I'll actually buy more as a treat on special occasions. It's wicked tasty. I'm contemplating spiking my smoothies with it. I'll let you know in a subsequent post if I pursue it. Thanks again.


Friet from Waterlooplein Market

Fries and mayonaise is classic Amsterdam street food. I had this combo 7 years ago and my stomach still turns thinking about it. The fries are cooked perfectly; blanched til limp in oil and finished just before serving. I decided to identify myself as American and get them with some ketchup. Their ketchup was slightly spicy, not as sweet and more tomatoey and was the perfect complement to the perfect friet.


ribs ... mmmmmmmmmmm

ribs ... mmmmmmmmmmm, originally uploaded by Seligmans Dog.

I haven't done ribs in about a year. That time we made too many half racks, didn't cook them long enough and then served them to guests whom we didn't know had an aversion (or allergy) to pork products (we didn't know ahead of time). Needless to say, the experience left me a bit scarred on rib cookery.

The other night, we had our surrogate Columbus parents in for a meal of ribs, corn pudding and green beans. I got the ribs from plain old Kroger, removed the membrane (thanks for the instruction from Mike - worked easy), gave them an ever so light rub, let rest overnight and cooked 'em around 250°F for about 8 hours with a light slather of sauce (Charcuterie Carolina Sauce) 2 hours before the end. Covered them a couple hours and dug in.

I have never been so happy with the leftovers from that rib session.

I told Frankie the other morning I was taking out the leftover ribs for thawing so we could have them for dinner. She asked if we were having company. That's how good they were. She (and our friends) ate many. I am copacetic with ribs again.


Whole Wheat Noodles Sliced with a Pizza Cutter

Whole wheat pasta for dinner

In attempts to develop culinary processes, I often complicate things. A pause can often clarify the problem. I had an urge for noodles recently and also remembered seeing some silly device at Target and couldn't stop thinking about both of them. The device at Target was a 5 wheel roller that was supposed to mince herbs. The only thing I could hope to share with Bourdain is my fondness for a Chef's knife, its versatility made this herb shredder useless. BUT, maybe it'd be a slick noodle cutter.

I rolled about 250 grams of pasta dough (made from 135 g of a mixture of unbleached white, rye, wheat and spelt flours plus salt, 1.5 eggs, trace of olive oil and let the kneaded dough rest a day in the fridge). I split the dough in 3 golf ball size lumps, rolled it out kind of thin and tried this silly multi roll cutter. I thought I'd fly through these noodles being able to make 5 cuts instead of 1 with my trust pizza cutter.

Wasn't sharp enough, tough to cut. Then I realized using the Pizza cutter would take about a minute to cut noodles for all of us and using the 5 wheel roller would, if it worked, shave a big 40 seconds off the exercise. Dumb. The pizza cutter reigns supreme in noodle cutting. Unless you're making noodles for a hundred tables, it's pretty adequate.



crust, originally uploaded by Seligmans Dog.

When a loaf emerges from the oven (this one for our dinner tonight), a reliable diagnostic for a perfect crust is the crackling of the surface as it contracts on cooling.

Things I'm working on (a note to myself)

1. had California Pizza Kitchen last night and remembered their wispy thin crust is sublime. I'm so on it. I'm thinking a lean and low hydration dough rolled out thin as a lavash cracker, rest, top lightly, 600F, yum. Wish me luck.

2. Bittman today with more veg and less egg frittata http://tr.im/frittata, can't wait to try this.

3. Need to order my sausage stuffer and get my final saucisson sec batch (of the season) done. Also going to do some b'fast sausage (sage and apple, not stuffed).

ps Giant Eagle is looking pretty cool these days (C'ville location), yay!


Valuable, but painful, lesson learned.

Andrew, my Master Po of grinding and stuffing, warned me. Stuffing sausage with a grinder doesn't work. Need the Grizzly. I worked my ass off to make my grinder a stuffer. Grinding and stuffing are different operations requiring two different methods.

Today, I made a batch of saucisson sec, this time with the amount of pork fat called for in Ruhlman's Charcuterie recipe. When I stuffed using the auger mechanism, I think the fat and protein broke.1 It looked almost emulsified when it came out, probably heated up - as Master Po warned.

I didn't listen. Finally, I hear the grasshopper. I will use the Grizzly in the future.

I hung the sausage to cure anyway, made the basement smell nice.

Note 1. There is a chance the appearance was different because of the extra fat in the recipe. However, I'll still be using the right tool next time. The Grizzly is also MUCH faster. My original desire to do it all with one piece of equipment was the extra labor washing stuff.


Crestview Market, I think they slaughter their own pigs in the back room.

yummy pork fat, originally uploaded by Seligmans Dog.

I posted this image on Flickr, but, since no one sees my Flickr images and because bloggers tend to be needy when it comes to attention, I'm posting here about my pig fat ... my glorious rolls of pig fat.

What's the deal lately with pigs? I saw a few recently on a farm and they all looked pretty fat. I called around recently looking for some pig fat and all the butchers said they get such lean pork, they didn't have any. I know it's calorically dense and potentially could be used as an alternative to a fossil fuel given the right equipment, but who's holding it all?

Crestview, that's who. They have all you need and the rest of the pig parts as well. Awesome pieces of pork shoulder cut into the shape of thick steaks (ca. $2/lb) and fat (don't know where on the pig this fat is from, but it's fat) for only $1/lb (min. 2 lbs).

My recent saucisson sec run was successful, but the product, while it tasted great, was kind of tough. The recipe called for more fat than I put in and it made a bigger difference than I expected. Next run should be even better.


My grinder is now a stuffer

auger support for meat grinder
Click through to the image to see the note on the Flickr image.

On Andrew's recommendation, my lovely wife and child bought me a grinder for Father's day. It's a prized possession of mine. On various message and review sites, it has a known deficiency. It requires one to stuff a sausage mixture through one of the dies. No sausage maker worth their salt would ever consider such an option.

Taking a hint from the Kitchen Aid version of the sausage stuffing set up (the Kitchen Aid version of the grinder/stuffer is made for a little girl, the grinder I'm talking about can grind the weight of an average size adult per hour) and decided to make an auger support; a critical piece for successful stuffing using the auger mechanism.

The only material strong enough was one of the dies itself. I decided to sacrifice the one with the 12 mm dia. holes (I never use that one and can probably replace it). I excised the middle section of it leaving it mostly open for meat to come through to the stuffing tube. Click through on the image for the flickr note I placed on the image.

It was a bitch to cut. Thick steel. I used 6 grinder wheels and 3 days of intermittent work to get it cut. But, fits like a perfectly machined piece. I'll get some dog food-grade ground meat to give it a control run.


Mapping a Brix Scale to an Expert System in the Raspberry Patch


It's the height of black raspberry season everyone! The ideal blackberry picking experience is going to Weiland's, finding a stack of fresh berries and picking a pint or two.

For some reason, that wasn't good enough for the kid this morning. So, we shlepped ourselves to Mitchell's to hunt and gather. Inexperienced in the way of the berry, I decided to see what everyone else was doing to figure out where the best product was. The place was busy: industrious church ladies, authoritarian soccer moms militantly dictating orders to their kids and big sloppy families stumbling around confused. Who was getting the best stuff?

We decided to try 'em all, although we mostly shadowed the church ladies (much to their chagrin). We grabbed some darn good looking product from several areas. But the berries near the church ladies were best - or were they? When we got home, we subjected them to a sugar content analysis. I used a refractometer to measure % sugar or Brix. It's the same instrument vintners use when evaluating grape development throughout the season. Here are our findings:

Analyte Brix
Diligently working church ladies picking black raspberries for the church bake sale, knowing full well they would do serious time in purgatory if they didn't make the best pie. 10% Brix
Soccer Moms looking for good subjects for still life paintings to sell on Etsy. 9% Brix
The family gathering: stems, cheerios, berries of some sort while roaming the fields of bushes yelling at each other and running back and forth to the potty. 8% Brix
Reference Std: water 0% Brix
Reference Std: 5% w/w sucrose/water 4% Brix
Reference Std: 10% w/w sucrose/water 8% Brix
Reference Std: 15% w/w sucrose/water 12% Brix
No seriously, this is science All berries sampled were 8% Brix

Our hunch was right and the church ladies will likely go to heaven with minimal time in the "waiting room."


simple pickles

simple pickles, originally uploaded by Seligmans Dog.

Saw some nice little cucumbers yesterday at Meijer (yes, I was the one that missed the farmer's market).

I got in the door, poured 3 Kg of water and 150 g salt and 75 g sugar in a stockpot and yelled for Frankie to help me make pickles. She dilligently stormed into the kitchen, tossed in the cucumbers, chopped the dill, smashed a couple pieces of garlic and mixed it up with her hands.

It's a slightly dressed up version of Ruhlman's simple pickles. They'll sit for a week in the basement at room temp. Can't wait.

Update, 2.5 days
The brine is a tad murky, the smell is lovely, the cucumbers have become a much more dull green and are beginning to look a bit more pickle-like. I wish we reserved a fresh one for comparison, but they're on the right track. Definitely the easiest pickle prep I've used.


saucisson sec

saucisson sec, originally uploaded by Seligmans Dog.

I've let about 6 people sample this so far and no one has died.


21 days after I hung it up to cure, the saucisson is now essentially done. It's furry, green, firm and very tasty. I took a few links and rubbed the exterior with a cloth and some cornmeal to remove the most of the exterior mold. I sliced it up thin to taste.

The texture is tough, a little like jerky. It's been so long since we've been to France and I don't even remember what this should taste like. The wife says it's good - tad heavy on the garlic - but good. I followed Ruhlman's Charcuterie recipe but crushed the garlic instead of chopping it, I think that's why it's a bit strong.

I've been giving out samples all over the place, so, before we go on any vacation this Summer, I'll be putting another batch up to cure. Yum. Xmas presents??


A Firedome Experiment

Several on the Virtual Weber Board asked if the door on the Firedome is really necessary? It's a question that I'm a bit embarrassed I didn't interrogate before embarking on this project. Let's say we configure the fuel and cooking surface the same and:

1. remove the entire dome and slide a pizza on or
2. open the little door of the Firedome to slide a pizza on - which is better?

In the earliest stage of this project, I simply assumed the temp in the dome, if we were to remove the dome, would drop so much the top of the pizza wouldn't cook adequately because the time to recover the heat would be too great.

The experiment:
I charged up the Firedome and ignited it. Took about 30 minutes to get to 500F or so, placed a probe in the dome and measured the following:

a. door closed on the Firedome for 10 minutes,
b. opened the hatch for 10 seconds,
c. closed it and let it ride for 10 minutes,
d. removed the dome for 10 seconds,
e. let it ride for 10 minutes - view temp profile


firedome expt. hatch vs. dome removal

Pretty big drop in temperature removing the dome (opening the little door, 10°F drop, removing the lid, 100°F drop). I didn't try cooking on it during this expt., but I suspect if it takes too long for the temp to recover in the headspace, the food is in danger of overcooking on the bottom before the top gets cooked.

After the expt, while the grill was hot ... a little focaccia for lunch and dinner.
Focaccia on the FIredome

Firedome, part 1


saucisson sec, day 18

saucisson sec, day 18, originally uploaded by Seligmans Dog.

Firm, fuzzy and green are they. Sadly, sausage, pepperoni, even sopressata aren't photogenic. This year's attempt at saucisson sec however, is going swimmingly. Next week I'll take 'em down, clean up the exterior a bit by rubbing them with a dry cloth and some rice flour, get the wife on the ready with 911 on the cell and take a taste (I honestly can't wait, I may go for it earlier). If I live through a day, we'll be feasting on them with a nice wine (no box stuff for these, thank you) and a crusty loaf, some fresh veggies and cheese for a celebratory feast.

In the next run, while the basement's still humid, I'll be repeating this with the wider casings.


firedome 2nd run data

firedome 2nd run data, originally uploaded by Seligmans Dog.

Cooking pizza on a Weber using the http://tr.im/firedome was based on 2 key requirements:

1. Using the kettle as an oven and getting a pizza in the "oven" without removing the kettle dome so as to maintain a constant (and high) temperature.

2. Getting a temperature distribution in the kettle/oven sufficient to cook the pizza uniformly; a necessary condition regardless of the oven used (conventional or grill).

This temperature profile, although a tad low, shows the relatively constant cooking temperature over an hour of cooking last night. I cooked 4 pizzas and opened the door of the firedome several times for each pizza. No significant dips; I'm giddy.


Weber Kettle Mods: Firedome (pizza cooked on a kettle)

Welcome Weber-Stephen Products, LLC!  Look around and enjoy your visit,  please leave a comment to contact me.

Cooking pizza on the grill is filled with challenge and adventure. Mike is a pro and knows this area well. He and Andrew have finely honed the pizza on the grill by grilling the dough, flipping, topping and re-grilling, the final grilling melding all the flavors together.

Inspired by a friend's most decadent pizza oven ripping at 900+°F, I sought to make one of my beloved kettles into something more; an instrument that could cook pizza evenly. Although I failed to obtain my desired 800+ temps, the uniformity of cooking was an equally critical objective that was achieved.


Getting an old Weber Kettle lid ready for cutting out a "slice" to attach via hinge.


Made the cuts with a grinder and holes for the hinge with a drill. The jagged edges were buffed with a grinder attachment. I kept the tape on during the cutting to help keep the line and help keep the edges more smooth.

Firedome ignition

I placed the briquettes around the edge of the kettle in order to attempt to get a high temp high in the dome and not too hot at the base of the pizza. I tried once before with just the briquettes in the center and burned the pizza on the bottom before the top could get done. Also, I chose to light the coals once in place with lighter fluid (instead of a chimney and then arranging the lit briquettes).

Clay surface for the Firedome cooking

I chose an inverted clay flower pot drip tray because it was elevated. This enabled the top of the surface to be more easily accessible from the lip of the Weber. The bifurcation of the surface is intentional. This clay was cast in a Shaolin monastery. The halves symbolize the yin and yang of humanity; the balance between eating from the Weber and drinking ale from the keg.

First pizza from the Firedome

The coals were ready in about 30 minutes. I did a quick temp check. I had about 500°F in the high part of the dome and about 450°F on the clay surface. Not quite high as I wanted but went through with the test anyway. I used a basic pizza dough, a simple tomato paste and parmesan and olive oil topping (don't knock the smear of tomato paste, it's nice). I put the pizza on the clay and 8 minutes and 30 seconds later ...

First pizza from the Firedome

Future?? I'm thrilled with the results. Perfectly cooked all around and no burned bottom. I think the relative temps of the dome and surface are what I was looking for with this configuration of briquettes. I would like now to get the temp up a bit. Maybe 700° or so in the dome - maybe lump? Suggestions appreciated via comments. For now, I'm just thrilled. Zach, Jim - podcast time??

More pics of the Firedome project on Flickr.

Other Firedome links: