Saturday, January 29, 2011

Just slightly CUTE… not really a WANT!

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If I had these, I’d never use them, but they are the sort of cooking tool that probably “window-shops” REALLY well:  The M-CUP:  Matryoshka measuring cups

You get three “dolls” that each separate into measuring halves. 

Reviewers on Amazon have mentioned imagethat they are made of fairly flimsy plastic, and also the obvious fact that you can’t really measure anything in a canister without stuffing your fingers deep into the canister – they don’t have any handles.  Also, the measurement is stamped in hard-to-read white on the inside bottom of the measurer. 

SO… all in all, a clever concept implemented badly, so I don’t have to get too wanty about these in any event. 

imageThey also make a fairly uninspiring line of matching measuring spoons that feature a Matryoshka pattern on the bottom.  In case you get excited staring at the bottom of measuring spoons.  (nope!) 

Six Word Saturday: 25 Shevat, 5771

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out! 

Sourdough challah:  the Jewish holy grail?

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Yes, folks… I did it!  After weeks and weeks of “supplementing” the challah with a teaspoon of yeast, I spent a few days this week buffing up the starter and managed to create three delicious sourdough challahs – fully risen, perfectly cooked and beautifully-textured!

The problem is… you knew there was a catch, right?  They’re not very sweet.  And there’s a limit to how sweet they can become without either tasting weird or the sugar inhibiting the action of the yeast.

So I think next week, I’ll return to my basic tried-and-true Reliable Challah recipe – and then, perhaps, issue myself a new challenge.  Who knows what it will be?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Didja ever see one of…

solids 003…these?

It’s a flatbread-stretching cushion!  I have no idea what it’s called, though I saw a reference to something similar on the caption of a photo of a person making Druze flatbreads.

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Ted bought it from Pita Pita, the Israeli hole-in-the-wall where he buys laffa and other Israeli-ish delicacies.

My only concern about this cushion is that it’s suede, and if I don’t flour the surface enough, and the dough is a bit sticky, black flecks of dyed suede slough off onto the flatbread.

I kind of sniffed when Ted gave it to me because I wasn’t sure how useful it would be.  But with the right traction, it actually is a great thing for spreading dough rounds out gently.

I used it last week to make naan and was experimenting with the professional technique of using the cushion to “slap” the dough onto a hot cast-iron frying pan. 

The authentic thing to slap the dough onto is the rounded inside wall of a scorching-hot oven, or the inverted-wok arrangement that traditional Middle-Eastern flatbreads are made on (set over a fire). 

I suspect those would have been easier to “slap” onto , because inverting it all the way over the frying pan mostly caused the dough to fold over and “slouch” into a blob that I had to quickly unfold before it baked that way.

Still – it’s a weird tool that NOBODY else has… so naturally, I’m determined to use it often!

The TRUE brownie snob…

Bakes brownies FAST and HOT and cools them in an ice bath.

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Truly.

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This IS the secret.

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Here’s the basic recipe (I use only 1 cup of sugar). 

Instead of the cake-y brownies we’ve had in past, the ones in the picture were baked for 15 minutes at 400°F.

The TRUE brownie snob also knows that since brownies like these consist of equal parts butter and chocolate, and that at 4 ounces each, there’s almost TWICE as much of either ingredient as there is of flour, there is absolutely no point in trying to make GREAT brownies with anything other than pure butter.

But I’m sure you knew that already, right?

Good Sourdough Semolina!

brownies 002I cheated – as I’ve been doing with the challah, I added a teaspoon of commercial yeast.  It is just too darn cold in the house.

This would have been Maggie Glezer’s Sourdough Semolina bread otherwise…

It could have been moister, and the crumb is far tighter than the one shown in the pictures.  Not as intensely  yellowish, either, though it was slightly more yellow in real life before my camera destroyed the colour.

But I baked this in the dutch oven and was quite pleased that at least the darn thing was edible all the way through, for a change.  Considering I mixed the final dough at 1 pm and we sat down to eat this at 6 pm, it was quite fast for sourdough.

Next time – no yeast and a longer rise, like maybe even overnight, probably wouldn’t hurt.  And then, probably, a slightly shorter bake, although maybe NOT. 

All in all, I’m happy to have produced edible kind-of-sourdough bread.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jealous!

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As my sister the baker has pointed out often, she sometimes (probably not often) envies the flexiblity I have in deciding what to bake.  Too often, however, that “flexibility” translates to inconsistent, mediocre bread simply because, like anything, you need to rehearse a bread many, many times before you can make it reliably well.

And the other day, she pointed out that the upside of her inflexible routine – baking the same breads over and over every single night – is that she has absolutely no experience refreshing and rejuvenating an old starter from the back of the fridge, which is where mine lives most of the time.

If she wants a starter, she’s got one – heck, she’s got several.  Rye?  Probably a bucket of it somewhere in the back.  Spelt?  Whole wheat?  Maybe.  Definitely, there are active cultures just waiting around in buckets for someone to reach in and grab out a scoop.  

Whereas if I want to bake sourdough, it can’t be a spur-of-the-moment thing.  I have to plan ahead by at least one day, and preferably two, just to buff up the starter enough that it will do its job.

She did mention that she was saddened by the fact that these days, the bakery where she spends most of her time isn’t baking any 100% sourdough breads – there’s commercial yeast in every single formula.

Of course, she mentioned all of this because there is an uber-chef/foodie lady in our shul and Sara happened to be at her house last Friday morning, just in time to admire the – yes, you saw it coming! – freshly-baked challahs sitting out which were, natch, 100% sourdough.

Sigh… another challenge to keep me on my toes.  But NOT THIS WEEK!  This week it is SOoooo cold.  The temperature inside the house dropped to 16 (Celsius!) and my fingers were going numb.  There is no way I’m trying sourdough challah with temperatures like these.  But sourdough bread…?  Maybe tomorrow.

Ewww…

Thought I’d post this here in case you hadn’t seen it anywhere else.  Can you spot the problem on this translated-into-English grape juice label???

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If you aren’t sure, or can’t make out the label, click here to find out!

I will say that if you know the word in question, it is a very natural and “easy” mis-translation.  But still – ew…!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Six-Word Saturday: 18 Shevat, 5771

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out! 

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Dregs of the homemade pareve eclairs!

I guess these were a hit…

Friday, January 21, 2011

OMG, Eclairs!

Normally, I object to desserts that just take pareve stuff and substitute it into recipes to come up with pareve desserts.  But today, I don’t know why, I just needed eclairs.  I have never made them before, but they were super-easy!

Step by step:

Basic pareve Pâte à choux aka “shoe paste” (I used Earth Balance sticks instead of butter), piped with a medium ziploc freezer bag into “hot dog” shapes:

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Baked, then poked with a toothpick so they can vent steam while cooling, to prevent sogginess:

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When cool, skewered at the toothpick end to open up the hole a bit, and then I piped in pareve “bavarian cream” – vanilla pudding mix (made with soy milk), mixed with NutriWhip.  Any ratio that tastes good would work!

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Meanwhile, here’s the mess on the table!

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Finally, add a simple pareve coconut-milk ganache (from this recipe at Couldn’t be Pareve) and dip, dip, dip – I was generous with the dip!

Can you see the one I’ve snuck onto a plate in the background?

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Here it is – breakfast!  It’s a mitzvah to sample Shabbos food before Shabbos, just to make sure it’s yummy, of course.

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Mmm….. yes, indeed:  it WAS as good as it looks!  I can’t believe it’s not dairy!  (if I hadn’t made it myself, I wouldn’t)

So there it is… my first time making eclairs, but definitely not my last.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Six Word Saturday: 11 Shevat, 5771

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out! 

My new baking stuff has arrived!

Sometimes, it just takes a little thing to re-ignite your interest… so this week, I’m excited about TWO little things, birthday present replacements from Ted,  that arrived on Thursday.  Both from Breadtopia!

Jumbo Flour Sack Towels x 4:

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Kevlar oven gloves (women’s size) x 2:

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These are the perfect bread-handling gloves, offering the dexterity and heat resistance to not fear things like 500-degree dutch ovens.

So I have to use all this loot – the only problem being my now-fleishik baking stone – so no good for most baking purposes.  :-(

I never asked a shailah, but it got meatloaf-juice spattered on it, so I’m assuming it is now MEATY, as the british say… so I have to replace it before I do any serious baking.

And then be WAY more careful about removing it from the oven before doing any non-pareve baking.  It’s just a pain because sometimes the oven is already hot when I realize it’s still in there.  Blah.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Six-Word Saturday: 4 Shevat, 5771

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out! 

Fresh challah means dishes to wash.

How I wish that were not so!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Six-Word Saturday: 25 Teves, 5771

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out! 

A whole week of bread adventures!

Not all entirely successful….

 

Sourdough rye bread that I finally got around to baking in my little dutch oven.  Beautiful loaf!  Just not all that flavourful.breads 001

The “bread” that isn’t breadSeitan for hot & sour soup that turned out so gloriously well last time… but this time globbed into chewy rubberish nightmare.  Flavourful, but the texture was horrid!

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Ew!

But finally, finally, to cap things off, a sourdough challah that was amazingly buoyant; this rose better, and with less commercial yeast, than any sourdough challah that I have made so far.  I had 324g of starter, more than I’ve used before, and it performed super-well, though I did add 1/2 tsp of yeast. 

The rise times were comparable to non-sourdough loaves, despite the wintry-cool house.  On the downside, it tasted like there was no sugar in the loaf, and I’m really kind of wondering why (I’m pretty sure I added 1/4 cup!).

Took a picture before it baked, but got too busy to do another one afterwards!

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Have a great week!!!

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