Friday, November 30, 2007

Fargo Sourdough

Remember the pizza I made a while back? I made it from the discarded starter I was feeding and building up to make my first batch of home made bread using my own culture. No commercial yeasts here. I actually made the bread on Thanksgiving day but am just getting around to blogging about it. Bread is alive! That's what I love about it. I am proud to have been able to leaven my own bread using yeasts from my local environment. It turned out with so much flavor from the long fermentation that I will definitely be doing this again. Here's the story of my Fargo Sourdough.

On Tuesday evening I took a cup of the active sourdough sarter and mixed it with 3 cups of flour and two cups of water. I mixed it well, covered it, and left it to ferment. After 22 hours, this is what I got. A wet dough sponge that was frothy and bubbly.

To the bubbly sponge, I added 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of salt, 1 and 1/2 cups of water and about 7 cups of flour. This was mixed together and allowed to rest for about 30 minutes.

Once the dough had a chance for the moisture to permeate the newly added flour I tipped it out onto the counter and kneaded it by hand for about 10 minutes until it was smooth and elastic. This was shaped into a ball and placed in a well oiled large bowl. definitely be doing this again. It was covered with a plastic bag and placed in my cool basement to rise overnight. The next morning, after about 10 hours, the result was a well risen dough that reached to the top of the bowl.

The dough was gently tipped out onto the counter being careful not to deflate it too much. It was divided into four and shaped into loaves. They were covered and allowed to rise for about 2 and a half hours. The dough was placed on a peel, slashed, and baked on a stone in a 450 °F oven two loaves at a time.

In order to provide the right texture to the crust and get maximum oven spring you need to have a humid oven at the beginning of baking. This is difficult to control in a home oven. I have good luck by first throwing a half cup of water onto the hot oven floor just before adding the bread. I then load the dough onto the baking stones and add another cup of water thrown onto the floor. After a few minutes I add another cup of water and then let it bake until the crust is nicely browned - about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the loaf.

The result was wonderful if I do say so myself. The crumb was not too big but certainly big enough. The crust was chewy and flavorful. The interior was still moist and soft. The bread was not sour like San Francisco sourdough. I guess Fargo flora are less acidic than that from the west coast. I like to think that my Fargo sourdough is more akin to traditional French sourdoughs. At least the bread was spot on what I hoped for.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

TD6 - Curried Turkey Salad

Yes it is day six of turkey leftovers. Let's see. On day 1 I had just turkey leftovers. Day 2 featured turkey soup. Day 3 had more of the turkey soup. Day 4 was when I made those turkey carnitas. Day 5 was a grilled turkey melt sandwich. Today we feature a turkey salad. Not any ordinary turkey salad, but one flavored with curry powder. This is my favorite way to enjoy turkey salad. I mixed it up with some carrots, green apples, walnuts, dried cranberries and mayonnaise. This was flavored with a good dose of Madras curry powder, salt and pepper. Plopped onto a bed of romaine lettuce.

I don't usually cook desserts but I was inspired by Giada who made a simple elegant cookie. She spread out a sugar cookie dough in a pan and baked it just until lightly golden brown. She topped it with some orange marmalade, chopped hazelnuts and almonds, and then drizzled it with chocolate. I set out to copy this but all I had on hand was some citron marmalade. It filled in nicely for the orange. I also added pecans to the nut mix. Mine didn't come out nearly as pretty as Giada's. My chocolate simply refused to drizzle so I just slathered it on top with a spoon.

Monday, November 26, 2007

What else is there to do with it?

Since I had to cancel Thanksgiving and I still had to roast my 18 pound bird, we've been feasting on turkey for a few days now. What can you do with leftover turkey? There's tetrazzini, turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, turkey chili, turkey stirfry, turkey pasta, turkey pot pie, turkey salad. Yes, the list is endless. I've had plenty of the soup and sandwiches. Tonight I had a hankerin for mexican flavors. And I wanted to make something quick. So I threw this together.

What to call it? Hmm . . how about Cheezy Turkey Carnitas on Sweet Potatoes. Yeah, that sounds good.

I slivered an onion and chopped 4 cloves of garlic and cooked them until good and done. I added some finely sliced celery (it's what I had in the fridge). I also threw in some freshly ground cumin and corriander along with some red chili powder and a nice smokey hungarian paprika. Toasted the spices for 30 seconds and threw in the shredded turkey. Once heated through I deglazed the pan by adding about 1/3 a bottle of Corona beer. Salt and pepper to season and a half cup of tomato sauce. I let that simmer just for a bit. Spooned it over halved already baked sweet potatoes. Topped it with some cheddar cheese and popped it into a 375 oven for about 15 minutes. It was pretty tasty. Would have been better if I had some sour cream and fresh salsa to go with it. I desperately need to get to the grocery store.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

It's just French Toast

But French toast can be so good. I've been quite sick for the last couple days. So sick I had to cancel my Thanksgiving dinner and tell all my guests not to come. I have hardly eaten anything in the last two days and woke up this morning HUNGRY! Well, on Thanksgiving day I did bake four loaves of the best bread I've ever made. From my own sourdough starter. I'll post about that later. But I have all this bread that never got eaten. I decided to make a simple French toast this morning. An egg, some milk, some cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg and this is what you get. I topped it simply with some frozen strawberries that had been heated in the microwave. Nothing fancy, not too sweet, but oh so satisfying.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Seafood and Barley Risotto

This evening I have been prepping some things for tomorrow's thanksgiving feast. I was trying to decide what I could make easily for dinner. Then I happened upon a bag of pearled barley in my pantry. Hmm, what to do with it? I wonder if I could make a risotto out of it. It would be healthier than rice. As long as I could get that creamy texture from the starch, it should be ok. So, I sautéed some onions and garlic in olive oil until softened and then added a couple cups of the barley. I added a few cups of heated seaweed broth I had leftover from a shabu shabu dinner last week. The first picture shows the risotto in the early stages after the first addition of broth. I also added some dried thyme, dried parsley and some Spanish saffron to flavor the dish.

I continued to cook it slowly adding a cup of broth whenever it got dry. This took about 50 minutes until the barley became tender and a creamy texture was developed. I then added two tilapia filets (thawed and cut into pieces), about a cup of small frozen bay scallops and about 20 medium sized shrimp. I made sure to have enough liquid present so I could cook it covered for about 5 minutes. This was the result!

The risotto has a wonderful toothsome texture while maintaining a creamy quality that you would expect from a risotto. Not exactly the same as an excellent starchy rice but pretty good. The tilapia was nicely mild enough in flavor so as to not overwhelm the subtle saffron aromas. The seaweed broth provided a nice flavor of the sea. I forgot to mention the broth was also seasoned with a bit of a clam dashi (broth powder) that I picked up at my local Asian market. Overall I would have to say this was a successful and satisfying substitute for a classic risotto.

Pizza Pizzazz

I am on such a bread making kick lately and my sourdough starter has been bubbling away like mad. I have been feeding it well over the last week to get it very active for my thanksgiving bread baking. Of course, when you feed starter you need to throw some out each time. I hate to kill my babies. So, I decided instead to use the extra for pizza dough. Pizza is really easy and you can do just about anything with it. I just top it with whatever I have around at the time. My dough was made solely from flour, salt, water, a bit of oil, and my starter.

Here are the ingredients I scrounged up for this batch of pizza:

Chopped garlic, dried oregano and basil, salt, pepper, pastrami, kalamata olives, fresh tomato slices and fresh mozzarella.

I didn't use a sauce on this on as I wanted the flavor of fresh tomatoes to dominate. But I do often use a simple tomato sauce.

First step is to stretch the dough into a round. This is the most fun part! You get to feel the dough. Pull it. Toss it if you dare. But get it flattened out and ready to go. I brushed this with olive oil and sprinkled on the herbs, salt and pepper. I always brush my dough with oil even if I'm using sauce to prevent the dough from getting to wet from the ingredients that top it.

This was topped with the fresh tomato, fresh chopped garlic, olives, pastrami and fresh mozzarella. Of course you can add just about any ingredient you like. Early in my pizza making days I made the mistake of piling on too many ingredients. Go light. Don't overdo it. Otherwise your pizza will be too heavy, too thick and will not cook well.

Here's the final product after being baked for about 10 minutes in a hot (500 degree) oven. Of course I use a baking stone to get that crispy crust.

bon appetit

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Kimchee Tutorial

I don't know that there is a more versatile condiment than kimchee. This staple of the Korean diet is made from napa cabbage that is allowed to ferment with red pepper. You can eat it with rice. You can eat it in soups. You can fry it up in a savory pancake batter. Anyway you like your kimchee, its sweet, spicy, and sour flavors will add to nearly any dish. Kimchee is actually easy to make and there is no substitute for fresh homemade stuff. There are as many ways to make kimchee as there are homes in Korea. Everyone has their own family recipe so you really can't go wrong. I have a dear friend from Korea who taught me this simple way to make kimchee using fresh ingredients.

For my batch of kimchee I will be using the following:

2 large heads of napa cabbage
1 cup of salt
2 bunches of green onions
2 heads of garlic
about 2 inches of fresh ginger
about 2 cups of Korean red chili flakes
about 1/4 cup of Vietnamese nuoc mam fish sauce.

I would say the most important ingredient for getting the right flavor is the Korean red pepper. I have tried other red pepper powders but nothing else will give you that authentic taste. My kimchee uses a lot (2-3 large fistfulls). It is spicy but not really that spicy. Korean red pepper has a wonderfully sweet fruity taste that accompanies the spice. It is no where near as hot as a cayenne pepper. So don't be shy about using this much. I buy it in large bags from my local Asian grocery.

To prepare the cabbages I first cut them into quarters so I can easily wash and drain them. They are then cut into pieces. You can cut them whatever size you want. I prefer them about 2 inches or so. I layer the cabbage pieces salting the layers liberally. This is allowed to sit for a couple of hours. The cabbage will drain off some of its water and will shrink in volume by about 1/3. The cabbage should be rinsed very well with cold water to remove as much salt as possible and drained.

Chop the garlic finely and mince the ginger. The onions should be cut on a bias. I prefer them about 1/2 inch in size but you can cut them larger or smaller to your liking. Mix all the rest of the ingredients together well. I find that my hands work best for mixing all the ingredients. Kimchee recipes usually have some kind of fish flavor. Some call for the addition of raw oysters. Some for the brine from fermented shrimp. I find that the Vietnamese nuoc mam sauce does a great job of imparting that subtle but not overpowering flavor of the fish. The sauce smells awful on its own but you will not taste it in the kimchee. Trust me. The kimchee will not be right without it. You can use more or less to taste. If I have it I usually add a splash of the juice from my last batch of kimchee to make sure the good souring bacteria are present.

Pack the kimchee tightly into a large jar or any non-reactive container you have loosely covered. Leave this sit at room temperature for 2-3 days and then store in the refrigerator. Be careful that your container has enough room at the top to allow the gases to escape. My jar shown above is probably too full and likely to spill kimchee liquid out of the top as it ferments. Kimchee will slowly ferment in the fridge. You can eat it as soon as you like. The younger it is the sweeter the cabbage tastes. If you like it more sour just let it sit longer. Actually you should try tasting it at different stages to see how it changes. In Korea they eat fresh kimchee as well as fermented kimchee. I like to let some kimchee stay in my fridge for months so I have some really sour stuff to cook with.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Whole Wheat Sourdough Onion No-Knead Bread

If you haven't heard about the no-knead bread craze popularized by a New York Times article last year, you are missing out. Dirt easy to make and wonderfully crusty and delicious, no-knead bread is very amenable to modifications. Of course for my first attempt I couldn't do just a simple white bread. I had to doctor it up. The basic recipe ingredients for the standard bread are:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/2 cup water

That's it! Just mix it up, cover it with plastic, and let it rise for about 18 hours. Fold the dough a few times and let it raise in a bowl with a floured towel inside. Let it rise again for a couple of hours. Pop it into a hot cast iron pot in a 500 degree oven. Bake it for 30 min covered and 15 minutes at 450 degrees uncovered.

For my bread I substituted one cup of all purpose flour with 1 cup of whole wheat flour. I added 1/2 cup of dehydrated onions and 1/2 cup of my sourdough starter that I have been culturing for a couple of months. I was very pleased with the results. It has a terrific chewy crackly crust and a soft moist interior. I let the second rise go for 2.5 hours but it probably could have risen even more.

For video tutorials on the no-knead bread method (and lots of other good information about bread) check out the breadtopia web site.