31 October 2010

The Real Reason Dinosaurs Went Extinct

Because they are so delicious!
Delicious dinosaur English muffins
Yes, those are English muffins made in the shape of dinosaurs, using cookie cutters. They were delicious. They looked awesome. Most of them were missing legs, heads, or other assorted appendages (before we even took any bites, none the less!). We ate them a few ways:
Delicious as (kind of) eggs florentine!
Delicious coated in mashed dinosaur organs (strawberry flavoured)
The recipe was from Artisan Breads Everyday - yet another cold fermenting dough, and containing no sourdough starter. It was prepped on a Thursday when I woke up and cooked on a Saturday. This was the first enriched bread I've made - that is, one consisting of more than flour, yeast, and water. Much of the liquid in the cold fermented dough was milk, into which honey and olive oil were dissolved. Added to this were the standard bread ingredients, mixed by hand and neither kneaded nor stretch-and-folded, but simply refrigerated for two nights.

The morning of baking, the dough got the standard rising period followed by folding in warm water and baking soda to make it rise even more (it bubbled slightly, in fact). Sadly, the dough was not as runny as envisioned and it didn't properly fill the molds. You can see below what they looked like cooking - note the dusting of cornmeal everywhere, to add both texture and prevent everything from getting stuck. These dinosaurs popped right out of the molds - the only casualty was a velociraptor head.
The cooking process, including not-quite-filled cookie cutters.
This worked not as well as hoped, but better than expected. There were a few sad T-Rex and velociraptor molds made, but they had too many skinny limbs and extensions to turn out given the somewhat gelatinous dough. Having English muffin fights should become a part of a complete breakfast.

26 October 2010

I Tried to Make an Origami Turtle but All I Made Was a Mess

Origami instructions you don't want to see: "Divide again, getting sixteenths." Followed by "One more time, getting thirty seconds." And note that this still left room on the side for seven more divisions, getting a total of thirty nine pinch creases along the top and bottom of the page.

Of course, this was followed by "Divide each of the gaps along the bottom edge in half." Here was where I wisely said "no" and simply marked the places I would need on the page. I wish I had done it sooner—the marking instead of folding—so my turtle would look healthier than this:
Turtle that looks more like a dinosaur of some sort.
All of this folding was just needed to get eleven parallel diagonal lines in teach of three directions (horizontal, and two diagonals). Without a ruler. Yes, instructions are provided which divide paper into 39 even sections without a ruler. Like so:
Just the two sets of diagonals. You can faintly see the pinches along the edge forming 39ths.
All of these folds are to form the lines on which three scales lie, as well as defining lines for scales formed later in the folding. Sadly, something went wrong in my creasing, pleating, or temperament (the most likely candidate) and I ended up with two scales, paper that didn't lie flat, and squished edges. To make the pleat, you have to fold everything at once - six edges for each hexagonal scale (which are all pleats, so twelve folds each) and three scales, plus some extra folds, leads to a very confusing diagram with arrows pointed everywhere.
It looks kinda squished because it is. Ideally, every fold would be firm and perfect. This is not an ideal turtle.
I may try this again and use the ruler-and-pen method or I may just fold a scaled model that uses all of the prefolds, not upsettingly few of them. All told, this took about two hours from start to "finish".

25 October 2010

More "Gourds Stuffed With Things"

This time, acorn squash filled with herb cheese Rice-A-Roni and topped with kinda caramelized onion (I got hungry and impatient). The filling should probably be something that didn't  come straight from a box, like some risotto or orzo with cheese. The combination of sweet onions, salty cheese, and baked squash is something unexpectedly delicious. And, while slightly time consuming (about 1 hour), the effort is minimal.
The plate is the most colorful thing in the photo, but the least tasty.
  • 1 acorn squash
  • ~2 servings of rice dish (about half a cup of rice, maybe a little more)
  • 1 large white onion
Preheat the oven to 350. Slice the squash in half and clean the inside. Place both halves open-side down on a cookie sheet and put in the oven for 45 minutes. While the squash is baking, prepare your rice. The flavoring should be something earthy and should contain a salty cheese. About 5-10 minutes before you remove the squash from the oven, start caramelizing an onion in a frying pan.

Remove the squash from the oven; the rice dish should be done by now. Flip over the squash and fill the halves with rice. Place back in the oven for 15 minutes longer while continuing to cook the onion. Remove from the oven, top with onion, and let cool for a bit unless you like burning your mouth.

24 October 2010

Wooly Mammoth

RAWR - tiny sized. 6" foil sheet.
I don't know how you would make this without a foil-backed sheet - there are a lot of crimp folds that went halfway through the model (normal paper will tend to get ugly crinkle lines) and a lot of very fine folds (foil is thin enough that you can work through many layers without anything slipping). I am very pleased with the final result; you can't really undo any mistakes in foil and I stupidly didn't do a dry-run of the model in normal paper. Luckily, there weren't too many tricky folds except the final shaping folds, which I bluffed my way through with the power of foil. 

For instance, the trunk was supposed to be bent using three successive crimp folds in a line. Very hard to do when the paper has that many layers, but foil just bends into place without needing actual folds. The final thinning of the tusks was done with a knitting needle to put a crease down the center and then I finished the fold with my fingers - tweezers may have worked better, but were not at hand.

Breadtastrophe + Brunch

The first loaf of failed bread!
Its so sad and ugly. But still kinda edible!
This was the "Lean Loaf" recipe which is supposed to be very good, halfway between the denser french bread and the very airy, liquidy l'ancienne. Unfortunately, it turned out denser than the french. It also rose way more in the oven than not, hence the "popped" look of the loaf. Something went wrong in the process - our best guess is that the fridge was too cold, so when the dough was placed overnight in the fridge to rise and flavor, it just sat there. Sleeping. Lazy bread.

They can't all be winners, but a bit of peanut butter saved it. Lesson learned for next time: if the recipe says to let the bread rise to 1.5 times its original size overnight, and it hasn't appeared to grow at all, don't cook it.

Luckily the morning was not a complete flavor failure. There was a great omelette served with potatoes. It was filled with bell pepper, mushrooms, salami, and onion. 
The morning savior.
I learned the secret to preparing a delicious and good looking omelette (my previous omelette prepartions have only been delicious). We cooked all of the fillings in a pan until they looked delicious and placed them in a bowl. Then, we buttered the pan heavily and poured in the pre-mixed egg/milk combination. That cooked with the lid on for a while medium heat until it looked very edible but with a somewhat-runny top. We then sprinkled on the grated cheese, re-topped with fillings, and folded it over onto a plate.

Delicious, delicious breakfast "taco".

20 October 2010

Origami Goatfish

Non-food tonight. I got two new origami books in the mail, both by Lang. One was purchased solely for this design of a Koi (complete with scales). I started off on the "easy" end of the book with the Goatfish. Easy, of course, was a very relative term.
My camera isn't so good at these shots
For reference, I used a 6" piece of paper to start with, pictured above. While there was no single fold that was difficult, this model had a lot of crimps, squashes, and pulling out of internal layers. The number of points on the final model is astounding - it started with a simple bird base, and went from there. Actually, it was refreshing to fold something this detailed and not have to make a single sink fold.

For reference as to how much my folding could improve (in addition to my camera), see Lang's original. Note that the prototype linked is missing the fins behind the gills (hard to make out in my photo).

17 October 2010

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal

Original idea
This picture does not adequately capture how delicious it was. Maybe I should use a real camera, not my cell phone.
Modified recipe from the original (serves 2-ish):
  • 1 sugar pumpkin (it was called a "pie pumpkin" at the store)
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cups vanilla soy milk
  • 1 apple, diced
  • handful of raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • a bit of cinnamon (to taste)
  • a bit of brown sugar (to taste)
Preheat oven to 375. Hollow out the pumpkin and soak the stem of the top in warm water (we placed it upside-down in a bowl). In a bowl, mix all ingredients together with a spoon. Fill the cleaned pumpkin with the raw oatmeal. Place pumpkin on a foiled cookie sheet and cook for 20 minutes. Loosely put on the top and cook for 30 minutes more, or until the inside of the pumpkin is cooked. Enjoy.

We ignored the egg, applesauce, and butter in the original recipe. I'm sure the applesauce and butter would add flavor, and the egg would add fluffiness. However, the oatmeal was not lacking in deliciousness so adding the ingredients is optional. The best part was having a cooked pumpkin be your dish - you get to scrape a little of the pumpkin off with your spoon on each bite and it creates a subtle flavor that mixes in with the oatmeal.

Perfect breakfast for a cold, rainy, miserable morning like the one we cooked it on.

15 October 2010

Pain a l'Ancienne Mini Baguettes

I've cooked a few loaves of basic french bread and decided: time to try something harder. The first recipe that caught my eye was "Pain a l'Ancienne" (also from Artisan Breads Everyday). The recipe has one major difference from the french bread: the flour to water ratio is around 1.25 : 1, where the french bread has around 1.5 : 1. This leads to a couple differences in the prep. First, the dough is not something you would want to knead. It is gooey and sticky when first mixed:

Dough after 1 minute of mixing and 5 minutes of resting
The instructions call for a process Reinhart calls "stretch and fold". You place the dough on a flat surface, pull out a side, and fold it back over. You do this for each side, and repeat the process four times allowing a 10 minute rest between each time. The process was a joy - you get to coat your hands and a prep surface in oil and feel the bread get a little firmer (but not really less sticky) with each iteration.
Dough after fourth (and final) stretch and fold. Note how firm and cohesive it looks.
After that, you do the usual cold fermentation - stick it in the fridge, covered, for at least a night. I prepped the dough Wednesday and cooked it Friday morning, giving it two nights. When I took it out in the morning to prep, it had at least doubled in size. For baking, I decided to go with mini baguettes because the ciabatta variant would take around 3 hours to prep (compared to 1 hour for the baguettes).

The dough was great fun to work with - it was light and airy, much like pizza dough. I think, in fact, the recipe is the same as used for pizza later in the book. For prep, you coat a work surface in flour, flour the top of the bread, and flour your hands - the dough will stick to anything and everything that you give it a chance to. Oh, you also roll the formed baguettes in flour, just for good measure.
Coated dough, patted into a rectangle an inch or two short of how long you want the baguettes to be.

The formed baguettes. To form them, you cut off a strip of the main loaf, roll it in flour, and gently lift it onto the baking surface, stretching it by an inch or two.

Finished baguettes. They had amazing internal pockets - some up to pinky-sized.
The baguettes only used about 3/4 of the dough (need either more patience or a second, large baking sheet), so I formed it into a tiny tiny ciabatta and threw it in the oven with the baguettes on my toaster oven tray. It failed to keep its shape, so mayhaps the 3 hour prep time for the ciabatta (consisting mostly of letting the dough sit after a minute of work) is required.

11 October 2010

Ditching FB photos

Backfilled some delicious things I have cooked from my FB photo albums. Figured they deserved a new home now that I am cooking more often. The earliest of these is from February going up until today.

French Bread, Batch #2, Loaf #2

Same recipe as the others, same batch of dough as the last, but it cold fermented in the fridge for 3 nights instead of 1. Little moister and a little more sour flavor. Sadly, the crust blistered a bit. I forgot to flour my work surface in the morning while shaping it, which may have contributed to this.

I woke up at my usual time, shaped the dough, and then worked from home for the time it took to rise and bake. I didn't actually let it cool properly - I wrapped it in aluminum foil and drove it in to work. This trapped moisture in during the cooling, which meant the crust lost most of its crispness. However, the inside of the bread was incredibly warm and chewy when it made it to work and would have worked wonders as a bread bowl.

French Bread, Batch #2, Loaf #1

This used the same Reinhart recipe as the previous loaf, but had a few improvements:
  • I used a whole recipe instead of halfing it without a kitchen scale. I think the last loaf didn't get quite enough yeast, but this one raised very well.
  • Shaped it into a round instead of batards. Don't know if the shaping process helped it at all, but it seemed to get patted down less in the process.
  • I got an oven-safe pan for creating a flash of steam at the start of baking (as recommended in the book). I have no clue if this added anything to the process.
A few notes about the technique used: if I had know baking good bread was this easy, I would have done it ages ago. For instance, this loaf took roughly 20 minutes at night to mix the ingredients and knead the dough (all by hand or by spoon). You then let the dough sit in the fridge overnight (or up to a few days) to give it a bunch of flavor without letting it rise. You then shape it the next day and let it rise for 1.5 hours which gives the oven plenty of time to heat up. Baking time after that is around 25-35 minutes. If you have a flexible schedule or don't mind waking up early, you can easily prep dough before you go to bed and cook it in the morning to bring in to work.

French Bread with Avocado/Fennel Salad and Lentil Soup

Salad and bread from scratch, soup from a can. First loaf of bread I've ever cooked.

Bread Recipe:
Peter Reinhart's Classic French Bread from "Artisan Breads Every Day"

Salad Recipe (I don't remember the specifics, so roughly):
1 Fennel Bulb
1 Avocado
1 Lemon
Handful of raisins
Hanful of walnuts
Small orange (used a Cutie for this recipe)

Cut the fennel into bite-sized strips. In a mixing bowl, mash the avocado with a fork and juice the lemon into it. Mix in the fennel to coat it in avocado pulp. Crush walnuts into mixture, add raisins, and stir again. Top with orange slices.

Soup Recipe: From a can.

Simple Vegan Pancakes

Wonderfully simple - buckwheat based.

1/4 cup pastry flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
tiny pinch sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

I think you can figure out how to make these. The biggest benefit of making pancakes vegan is removing the limiting factor on shrinking serving sizes - the eggs. This recipe makes just enough for one person and cooks in a few minutes total for the whole batch so you can have delicious pancakes for one in the amount of time it would take to toast bread.

Latke Eggs Bennie

The latkes were made with chopped up bacon in them. Kosher? Nope.

White Bean/Butter Sauce Pasta with Browned Brussel Sprouts

Tofu/Squash/Pea Stir Fry


Palmiers made from handmade "easy" puff pastry dough.

Most recipes I saw for puff pastry required 2-3 days of work to get a perfect texture, but I was far too lazy to do that. The recipe I had instead asked for putting the ingredients (flour, butter, water) in the freezer for a while, working the dough for no more than 30 minutes, letting it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes, and then finalizing the dough before putting in the oven.