Tuesday, January 15, 2008

explain please?

Why am I obsessed with bread these days?

Granted, I am on a streak...

I am baking like the wind...

if that is a term... I am not even using recipes... I am free fall baking (is that a term?) ok, if it isn't I am defining it by baking generally the same thing with minute variations from day to day. I don't open a cookbook... I don't consult a recipe... I just think about how bread is supposed to go together and behave accordingly...

If I don't have enough water? I add more... I know how the bread dough is supposed to feel and I knead it until it feels right. I doubt that I am a bread savant. I know that a certain amount of flour and yeast and water and salt will yield a certain amount of bread.

My goal? Two nearly perfect non-sourdough baguettes.

I did the best that I could!

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I can't help but giggle

Being a Nerd means that I have been identifying Luis Guzman in movies for years... And frankly I deplore that he was never included in the now defunct Fametracker's "Hey It's That Guy!" column.

However, when I saw this... I had to giggle a bit.

It is awfully good cheese... although if you asked my father, New York State Sharp Cheddar is better...

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

A baking experiment

I know, I know...

I am supposed to be using recipes in actual books... but sometimes I can't help myself...

A little flour, a little yeast, some water, olive oil and salt...

What do you have? Bread of course.

And the girlies love it when I make fresh bread... and so today I goofed around again...

2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 cup of unbleached flour
1/4 cup of ground flax seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons of flour

mixed with
1 1/2 cups of warmish water
1/4 cup of unbleached flour
1 package of rapid rise yeast
2 tablespoons of honey

Let the liquids mix together for 10 minutes or so until bubbly.. then pour the entire mess into the dry ingredients. Once they are mixed together pour out onto counter and knead (this dough was stiffer then the last time I made bread... so we will see how it effects the finished product.)

put in an olive oil coated bowl, coating the dough and cover with a damp towel and let rise for 1/2 hour (it is rapid rise yeast after all). After rising pour back onto the counter and cut in half... form into baguettes (that is the kind of pan I have... )slice the tops of the bread to make pretty marks (this makes me feel like I am a real boulanger) and recover with the damp towel and let rest for another 20 minutes...

Pop into a 375 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes or so... or until it looks crusty and smells bready... Oh, and I put a pan of water into the oven too... I think this helps with the crustiness...

I will come back on and tell you how it worked out.

But it smells good and looks pretty good too....

I am going for more of a country bread feel this time... You know of course that riots over bread led to the end of the Marie Antoinette, but did you know at the time the baguettes that we see as "official" French bread were available only to the people of Paris... if you lived in the countryside your bread by law was required to be coarses, harder? In some cases there was virtually no flour used in the bread and often contained ash and sawdust. This was seen as a way to keep the peasants hearty. White bread would make them soft. And brioche? Heaven forbid. Oh, and it was probably brioche that La Reine was speaking of when uttering the famous quotation (or completely made up quotation) that cost the queen her head....

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Friday, January 11, 2008

A Moral Dilemna

Is it right to fool with tradition?

For instance, cassoulet is a wonderful dish from Toulouse and Carcassone in Southwest France that is made of white beans and roasted meats, such as pork, mutton, sausages, bacon, goose and duck. Naturally, something this delicious should cook for four to five hours, not counting the twelve hours needed for the beans to soak overnight.

Seventeen hours... a full day really, to produce a dish full of flavor and tradition.

Or... maybe

Twenty minutes to pre-cook the beans in the pressure cooker, ten minutes to prep and assemble the other ingredients, chicken (I had no duck handy... but this is a dish that varies from village to village, so I think that I am safe on that account), smoked sausage, garlic, green onions, bay, thyme, rosemary, celery tomatoes (canned, diced and sun dried for different flavors), bacon (nature's candy!). I returned the beans to the pot with these ingredients, some home made beef stock (I used up the chicken... must make more this weekend) and turned the Mimi on low pressure for 15 minutes.

Within an hour... VoilĂ ! Semi-authentic Cassoulet.

Now, I am almost afraid of what other long cooking dishes I can accomplish in an hour. And is it the right thing to do? Well, it is certainly delicious!

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Good Luck Feast

New Years Eve has traditionally been a meal where people try to gather good luck for the next year... traditionally (and ironically across cultures) food items that are round (like coins), golden (like... duh, gold) and green (American dollars or the color of the rebirth of the earth) have been considered good luck. Herring is often considered good luck as well... at least it was according to my Bohemian Grandfather, but frankly, I can't work myself up to needing this kind of luck.

Our menu selections?

Filet Mignon with a mushroom sauce (both the mushrooms and filets are round representing coins)
Cheddar cheese risotto (golden color)
Asparagus (green the color or rebirth)
Garbanzo bean salad (golden and round!)

The good thing that I can report was that the meal was delicious and that the broth for both the sauce and the risotto as well as the garbanzos were all prepared in the Mimi!

Oh, and the grownups had some champagne too! And yes, it was really champagne... it came from the Champagne region of France... I know the difference....

Happy New Year!

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