Free Stuff! The Olive Orchard

Got some freebies the other day from Michele at The Olive Orchard, curators of olive oil located in our fair metropolis. The staff here at weber_cam are cheap, but not easy, we do not varnish our opinions. I told Michele if we in the test labs didn't like the product, we'd say nothing and cast the samples back, with anger. Not the case. Pictured here, arranged like Stonehenge, are their 5 bottle sampler of flavored oils and a larger bottle of extra virgin olive oil.

To use these I decided to make something simple to highlight the flavors of the oil. I've been reading about low carb diets (hence the beef jerky) which sent me into a frenzy of anticipatory anxiety at the thought of losing carbs in my life. Henceforth, I am disregarding any health information gleaned from said reading and will be joining a local monastery to survive on beer and bread while wearing a less than flattering, yet slenderizing robe (sorry @TheOtherZach). I will, however, make my carbs as complex as possible (porter in place of lager). To that end, the recipe I'm using is a simple lunch salad that's wicked easy. It's been developed and varied this week. I used both the basil flavored olive oil and the lemon flavored oil in two different salads.

A bulgur salad for work
bulgur, 1/3 cup
water, 2/3 cup
olive oil, 2T
cider vinegar, 1T
salt and pepper (not much)
+ anything else you like

Mix everything the night before or in the morning. Bulgur doesn't need to be hydrated by hot water, room temp is just fine and easier. By lunch it's pretty wonderful.

I made this salad with only the first 5 ingredients (salt and pepper is one) using the basil oil. The basil flavor was surprisingly bold, even in a chilled salad. The basil flavor was even more pronounced at room temperature. When I made the salad with a few additions, pine nuts, slivered carrots, etc., I used the lemon olive oil and it was killer. The lemon oil is not something I'd have bought for myself, but I'm lucky to have had the chance to try it. Might be a fun gift to give.

I am saving the evoo for a special bread and salad night, simple dipping is the only event in its future. Can't wait.

the henge of oil

ingredient labels like this are too rare

sorry, my images are not good today
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Easy boeuf jerky

Wow, you need to do this.  It's cheaper than anything you can buy, just as good or better because of the varieties of spices that can be added and it's really easy.

I got a flank steak and cut it up into thin pieces (across and/or with the grain) and trimmed all the fat.  It's really important to trim ALL the fat.  It looks gross in the finished product and it does NOT render out.  I think I'll be choosing a less marbled cut next time like a top or bottom round.  And, cut it thin.  The more plump pieces don't have a good mouthfeel when eating them.

Take the trimmed pieces and marinate in a bag.  I used 1/3 soy, 1/3 worcesteshire and 1/3 mirin for about 4 hours.  I removed them pieces and lay them on the depicted cooling rack.  This was placed on top of a roasting pan and placed on a low-setting hotplate.  I adjusted the temperature on the hotplate so the air above the rack was about 90-120, hotplates have sloppy cycling.  I gave the pieces a final sprinkle of coarse salt and went about my way for a day.  No fancy airflow, just relied on convection.  A day later, jerky bliss.  We all liked it immediately.  It is Scoopy's favorite!
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Twitter baguette giveaway...

Update Mar 25 
Thanks to all who stopped by or received in some way the demi baguettes this week.  I gave away about 15 in a couple days.  The ratio of flour to water (1.67 w/w) so far is the dominating factor in the volume and taste.  I also varied the shaping a bit this morning, 130 g (precooked weight, ca. 110 g final) was a nice size for a petit dejeuner.  I'll probably work on the final proof next, since the oven spring was too much.  I was baking in the morning of a busy day and rushed it a little.  Stay tuned for more giveaways...

Original post
My breads of the past months have, well - sucked.  Not real bad, just not good.  I just got into a slump of sorts that I couldn't figure out.  Based on my previous manic outburst, I climbed out of the rut with a new (or rediscovered old) ratio.  I'm up and running again and the volume is perfect.  Now, the crust is sometimes soft, sometimes perfect.  For a baguette, the perfect crust is razor thin, sharp and crackles as it leaves the oven.

At 20 liters per tablespoon of water, steam is an abundant commodity, even for a hack no matter what awkward technique one uses.  The real challenge for the home baker without an oven equipped for steam injection and evacuation is to remove the steam sometime into the baking cycle.  Therein lies the much bigger challenge for the home oven.  Ovens vary and this may be the source of reproducibility problems from person to person, recipe to recipe, etc.   The breads need to steam a bit and then bake in a dry environment.  I'm not going to go into to too much detail on this.   All I'm saying is that I'm in experiment mode and I'm baking faster than we can eat.

So, I'm introducing the first in an occasional series:  I bake early in the morning and you get to taste my experiments.  Tomorrow morning about 6, the dough will have risen overnight and I'll produce, by 7 am, some demi baguettes.  About 100-110 g with or without a good crust.  Don't worry, they'll taste good even if the crust isn't right.  DM me on Twitter and I'll reserve one for you and give you the address.  Just stop by at 7 and I'll toss one in your car.  For tomorrow, I should have about 8-10 available.   With your mini, you get a little pat of butter and jam.  Enjoy - and thanks for helping me not waste food and get some experimentation in. I love you guys.

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Saucisson Sec (finally)

Some time ago, I was muddling through my attempt at preparing one of the simplest dry cured sausage in Ruhlman's Charcuterie, saucisson sec. It's not fermented, just a simple mix of ground pork, garlic, salt and pepper and some curing salt.

I have a way of turning simple things into a 3 body problem. But, when I finish, I usually have a robust solution in which I know more about the process variables than if I nailed it on the first try. It's a frustrating way to learn, but learning is rarely uneventful.

The key environmental variables are 60°F, at least 60-70% relative humidity and some air movement. I won't rehash all the past attempts buried in my archives spent trying to find that environment. I will simply cut to the chase: I stuffed the sausage in beef casings and lay the links on a cooling rack suspended over some water in a plastic cooler in my basement. The open top of the high-walled container permitted air movement. The sides of the container coupled with the puddle of water in the bottom created a naturally bounded localized cloud of moisture that registered ca. 70% according to an accurate humidity probe and the temperature in my basement is about 60°F +/- 8°F almost all year 'round.

4 weeks of aging and voila. The sausage looks a little squat because it was on its side. So what. After I tasted it, didn't die, I fed it to others who enjoyed it immensely. The only changes? I didn't like the appearance of the wide beef middle casings - the biological reality of the appearance of these things is not pretty, I'm going back to simple small hog casings. And, I'll be using a finer grind. I like coarse for fresh sausage, it keeps them moist on cooking, but the dry cured, I believe, needs a finer grind.

A peek at the newest run (smaller casings, finer grind) about a week in:

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