29 September 2011

Sesame Spelt Bread

Back to non-failing bread, and it feels pretty good. This is after my no-rise bagels (dead yeast) and my no-rise mini baguettes (too much salt). Now, there is definitely one are where this recipe could be improved and a large avenue for experimentation. But - still good, still workable. Not a complete failure. The recipe is based off of the 50% whole wheat rustic from Artisan Breads Everyday, but contains a few tweaks. The goal was to create something like a pain au levain, without all that starter business. (Not that I'm against starters; one should be starting up this weekend).
It wasn't perfect, but it was close. The bread was a bit too much like a honey whole-wheat sandwich loaf than I would have liked. That is, it was soft but not airy, and excelled at soaking up honey (and, presumably, pbj if I had it handy). The spelt gave it a nice nutty flavor; I don't think the sesame seeds did anything besides poke out of the crust like sailors bobbing in the waters near a shipwreck. The biggest issue was definitely the texture, which was caused by my inclusion of olive oil in the recipe. I would cut it in half as an experiment; removing it entirely would likely prove drastically dry. Walnuts would also have been a great addition to this loaf, though I did not have them handy.
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Sesame Spelt Loaf
Makes 1 loaf
225g water
130g bread flour
130g whole wheat flour
20g spelt flour
20g sesame seeds
12g olive oil (halve this for a airier, less moist loaf)
5g salt
3g instant yeast

At least a night before you want to bake the bread, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix. Add in the water and olive oil, and stir with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes to hydrate things, then stretch and fold 4 times with a 10 minute break between each. Place in a clean bowl, cover tightly, and place it in the fridge.
The day of baking remove the dough from the fridge 1.5 hours before you wish to put it in the oven and shape it however you like (it might actually make great rolls as-is, without cutting down the olive oil). Place it on a parchment-lined pan, cover it, and let it sit until baking time. Preheat oven to 500, put the bread in, lower to 450, and cook for ~35 minutes. Check and rotate the loaf at the 15 minute mark. It is done when it sounds hollow and the top is very hard.

25 September 2011

Tomato-Radish Lentil 'lenta

In a shocking turn of events, the weather turned cold for the weekend. The (relative) heat of last week made cooking difficult, as did a rather packed schedule. I managed a round of bagels, on which the yeast did not activate. To follow that up, I cooked a dinner of which none of my photographs turned out. Cell phone camera, combined with low light, strikes again. But, I'll still provide the recipe because it was highly edible and a great foil for the cold weather. The dish was partially influenced by a brunch item at Gather - the lentil and polenta. It was a great breakfast food that I wanted to fashion as a dinner. I mostly failed, because I don't season things enough. More following of recipes may be in my future. So, yes, the flavor could stand to be improved but everything else about the dish was good. Have at it (or don't).
Lentil 'lenta
Serves 2
1 standard size can of lentils or lentil soup
2/3 cup dry polenta
2 cups water
bunch of radishes (15 or so)
2 flavorful tomatoes
1 shallot
1 tbsp olive oil
spices other than what I used (cumin, dill, and cayenne) or in larger quantities
(optionally) butter or cheese

So, lots of things going on at once with this recipe. Take 5 radishes and dice them, reserve a single radish, then slice the rest in half. Toss the halved radishes in the olive oil and salt, then place in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Once they are in the oven, dice the shallot and sautee it over medium until it has yellowed and lost some flavor. Cut the tomatoes into 6-8 slices each. Put one of them, as well as the diced radish, in with the shallot. Place the other tomato in a pot with the water and bring to boil while making sure the pan doesn't burn. You can, if you want, add some butter or cheese to the pot of water.

Once the water is boiling, add the polenta, reduce heat, and stir. Add the can of lentils to the frying pan, season it, then alternate between stirring the polenta and lentil mixture. You are aiming for a runny polenta mixture, which takes 5-10 minutes of cooking. This should be timed for the radishes coming out of the oven. Serve in a bowl with polenta put in first, the lentil mixture spooned into the center, and top with the baked radish. Slice the single, reserved radish for garnish.

22 September 2011

First Attempts at Pizza

It was finally decided that pizza would be cooked for dinner. Discussed many a times, even enacted once at a cooking class for E's birthday last year, but not for friends. My local expensive yuppie grocery store recently began stocking tipo 00 flour, the kind (hypothetically) used by chefs in Neapolitan cooking for their famous pizzas. That is, assuming you buy tipo 00 bread flour and not pastry flour. My packaged contained, as you can see, many photos of bread. The protein content was listed as 3g for 30g of flour (10%+ protein is a good indicator) and listed its humidity as 15,50% (another good indicator that it is meant for bread).
So, we set to work preparing procuring ingredients and prepping dough. The Saturday farmers market seems to be lacking in Mozzarella; though it appears Californian producers exist, none was found for sale. We did manage the large, juicy heirloom tomatoes and some smaller green zebra ones, as well as fresh basil. Generally, a pretty poor haul but we also wanted simple pizzas. We also snagged dates, as all the delicious ones are finally back in season. Notably Barhi dates, both unripened and ripe. Do try the unripened if you can, for an interesting experience, but note it was something like eating waxy paper or really bad jicama. It is amazing they turn into the ripe version; if you let them get warm in the sun they explode in your mouth. Soft, sweet, utterly delicious. But not a pizza topping.
For the dough, we used a modified Reinhart recipe, leaving out the oil and honey, and substituting 100% tipo 00 flour. The recipe warned us that less water would be needed; I didn't really listen. The initial dough was almost a batter, like the mini baguettes I make so frequently. Good for those, not so great for a pizza crust (unless you want it misshapen and thick). Just for the hell of it, I took about 1/4 of the dough aside to see what it would be like as crust, then poured flour into the dough and mixed until it felt right. I ended up using ~20% more flour than the recipe called for. So, yes, tipo 00 needs much less water than you would expect. And it still wasn't really glutenizing all that well, likely due to a combination of being worked for too long a period and being mixed in stages.
The resulting pizzas were quite good, though I'm not sure the crust had anything to do with it. The first pizza (the last photo here) was under-cooked. Given that the oven seemed to top out at 500 degrees, the cooking time was extended from the recommended 5 minutes in to the 10-15 minute range. The best pizzas were ones with a crust that had just started to blister and brown, however long that may take in your oven.

15 September 2011

Commissioning a Supper in C

I got a cold, which sucks. Though, in my search for non-orange sources of vitamin C, interesting facts were learned. Such as: a single red bell pepper has 2-3 times as much vitamin C as a single orange. A good fact to know; bell peppers can have hummus on them, oranges not so much. Bell peppers easily go in most cooked dinners, oranges not so much. Bell peppers taste good, oranges not so much. So; a dinner. It should contain red bell peppers and be warm, those being my only constraints. I went with a slightly-modified standard of my college days - Spanish rice. It defied all earthly descriptions.
Too many times I've burned my Spanish rice due to poor pots and improper heat; I finally found a way around that. I cooked everything in a pan, stirring constantly, instead of in a pot with the lid in. I used arborio rice, which you can probably find at your local upscale grocery store or any place with a wide grain selection. It's the rice you would use for risotto. You can also substitute other beans in this recipe for garbanzo, or leave them out entirely - if so, use some vegetable or chicken broth in place of the bean liquid. A perfect dish for a cold, much better than the canned soup I had for lunch; warm and golden, like an oven that's wide open.
Spanish Rice and Beans
Serves 1
1/3 cup arborio rice
1 small (8 oz) can garbanzo beans
1 cup liquid consisting of all the bean juice + water to top it off
1 red pepper, diced
1 flavorful and soft (heirloom) tomato, chopped into 8+ pieces
dash cinnamon
dash cumin
dash ground ginger
rosemary for garnish

In a pan, heat a bit of olive oil over medium-low. Add in the diced bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes. While that is cooking, separate out the bean liquid from the beans themselves and add enough water to get a cup of liquid. Add rice to the pan and sautee for a minute before adding 1/4 or 1/3 of the liquid, the tomato, and all the seasoning but the rosemary. Stir constantly; don't let it boil, though it should be hot enough that if you were to stop stirring it would boil. Once all the liquid is absorbed, pour in half the remaining liquid. Continue stirring; once all of that liquid has been absorbed, add in the beans and the rest of the liquid, cooking until all is absorbed. Top with rosemary and serve; to your nephew you can give it as a present.

You may need to (or choose to) add more liquid; this will make it more of a risotto. If you go this route, you will want to add more flavor; either in the form of butter, more tomato, or stock of some sort.

08 September 2011

Further Research into Popped Loaves of Bread, and Others

It has been a while since my last post. Shortly after coming back from vacation-vacation, I went on a week-long work-vacation to attend PAX, visit my family, attend a wedding, and work out of every coffee shop I could think of drinking in in the neighborhoods of Seattle that I know. To name drop: Victrola, Vivace, Verite, Fiore, Trabant, Solstice, Ladro. I did a tiny smidge of cooking by introducing my grandparents to the wonder that is dinosaur kale and by making them a loaf of bread. I did a rather lot of eating out, some of it even at new places. And now that I'm back, I've done a bit more cooking. All of these things in due time.
First, the bread. It looks like some other popped loaves I have prepared. This had a few things in common with the first loaf - that it used normal flour and it was cooked in an oven that was not my own. The oven is most likely older than I am, and probably approaching as old as my mother. It doesn't like being told what temperature to cook out; I set it to 425 and it gladly sat at 450 for long enough to call it stable; yet, when I checked ten minutes later it was sitting at 475. This gave the bread a somewhat scorched flavor, but it still had an odd taste which I will attribute to the use of normal flour. My grandparents found it delicious but I found it simply average. Lesson learned, don't use normal flour for bread. Moving on from this bread, I cooked dinner with E last night and made, roughly, this
It was pretty good, though we did make a few substitutions. Noticeably, we have figs where the recipe called for dates (we both read figs, and local figs where available). Less noticeably, although very apparent when tasted, we left out the serrano pepper and put in chili powder in its stead. Not enough, though. E commented that the sauce tasted like herbed cream cheese and that it belonged on crackers or bagels; I would recommend making sure it has a kick, and, if you are using a mortar and pestle in place of a food processor, cutting the amount of oil in half initially and building from there. Still, a delicious meal that was, roughly, one pan. Especially so if you leave out the mint sauce.
And, lastly, the notable places I went to in Seattle much in the style of my fellow food friend

  • ThaiTom because that was a large part of my college cuisine. Cheap Thai food ready in 5 minutes, seating right next to the woks where the magic happens? Sign me up!
  • Solstice because ditto, although the coffee-and-bagel portion.
  • Paseo. Yes, I was just in the Caribbean. No, they did not have sandwiches anywhere near this level of goodness.
  • Palace Kitchen, which was an excellent meal for a good price (as always). We had an appetizer and split the burger; I would recommend the same.
  • Tilth; I felt like spending a chunk of change on a good meal. This was definitely a good place to do it. We went with the smaller tasting menu and enjoyed every dish.
  • Facing East (on the Eastside, but not too far out of the way). Something about this place was delicious; I don't know if the food was truly good or if it was simply the sauces.