Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bread Basket Pt.1

In this first bread based entry, I will discuss the effects of hydrating flour before baking without heating. In some previous experience with bread baking I found that a loaf with a water content of 60% of the total weight of the flour had a texture that I liked. I will be using that base water content as the control, but these results should apply to any bread. To test if hydrating the flour more completely before baking made a difference, I pre-soaked three loaves with varying water percentages.
Here is the breakdown:
Loaf 1
100g flour
60g water
2g salt
.25g yeast
Loaf 2
75g flour + 25g before bulk ferment
60g water
2g salt
.25g yeast
Loaf 3
50g flour + 50g before bulk ferment
60g water
2g salt
.25g yeast
All of these were mixed and then left to sit under refrigeration for 56 hours. However, the control, Loaf 4, is the same as all of the others, but was mixed just before bulk fermenting. In other words, Loaf 1 was mixed and then let to sit in the fridge for 56 hours, 4 was mixed just before bulk fermenting. Also, loaf 2 and 3 are the same in that they both have additional flour added after sitting under refrigeration for 56 hours, but they both had different initial water concentrations.
I thought that maybe having the flour sit in a lot of water might affect the hydration(loaves 2,3), but I also considered that these loafs have some flour that does not have any advanced contact with water; they are a mixed bag.
After 1,2 and 3 had their cold resting time, I mixed the additional flour into 2 and 3, mixed all of 4, and briefly kneaded 1 to be consistent. Here is what they looked like at this point (ready to bulk ferment):
Starting at the top right and going clockwise, 1, 2, 4 and 3.
I let these sit, covered, at room temperature for 12 hours, and then gently folded-over and shaped them into loafs.
These fermented at room temperature, covered, for 2 hours.
The final step was to bake, 420F for 19 minutes. However, there are some weird additional steps that go beyond simply preheating the oven. When I place the tray into my oven, I make sure it is on the very top. Right before the bread goes in, I place a large ice cube (about the size of 5 regular cubes) into the other rack, which is as close to the bottom of the oven as possible. I also place an empty, heavy saute pan, that I have heated on high for 5 minutes, next to the cube and toss a little water into the pan. The pan should be hot enough that the leidenfrost effect(this cool article takes about it) takes place and keeps consistent steam going for 10-12 minutes. This combination of ice cub dripping(it eventually falls through the rack and the creates more steam faster), and the very hot pan, steam my oven and bread at home.
Here are the results: all of these loafs were baked in the same oven next to each other for the same amount of time.
Starting at the top right and going clockwise, 4, 1, 2, and 3.
Here are the cross-sections: 4,1,2 and 3 (same as above)
Pre-hydrating dough clearly has an effect. I thought the fully formed dough had the best results, and the difference between 2 and 3 was not noticeable. 4 had the most dense and regular crumb and least browned and crusty crusty. 1 had the most irregular and light crumb, and most browned and crusty crust.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Cinnamon Buns

These buns are super soft even when fully baked, as they should be. I used cinnamomum zeylanicum, or Ceylon cinnamon rather than Cannamomum aromaticum, or cassia.
42g milk
4g yeast
500g ap flour
80g cream cheese
82g sugar + 60g
3g salt
100g butter(melted) + 40g
60g eggs
83g yolks
44g buttermilk
30g lillet
12g cinnamon sticks
40g dark brown sugar
Place everything except the cinnamon, brown sugar and separate sugar and butter into a bowl and mix until it forms a loose dough. Shape the dough into a ball, cover the bowl with plastic, and let it sit out for 4 hours. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or up to 3 days, freeze if you want to wait longer. Blend the cinnamon with the reserve sugar until everything is powdery. Mix the powder with the brown sugar. Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle of 1/2cm thickness. Warm the reserve butter so that it is easy to spread and evenly distribute it across the rectangle. Do the same with the sugar-cinnamon mixture, minus the warming. Roll the longer side of the rectangle away from you until the two longer sides meet. Cut out 3cm disks, place the disks into a baking dish that leaves room for expansion between the buns, and then cover the dish with plastic wrap.
You can slow the fermentation process by keeping this in the fridge for up to 48 hours, or you can speed the final fermentation by not refrigerating at all. Out the the fridge will take longer, but regardless, you want them to almost double in size at room temperature, about 2 hours. Bake at 350F uncovered, with steam to start, (I throw several large ice blocks on to a tray that I preheat on the base of the oven) for 16 minutes. They should just barely start to brown on top.
Plate it up!

Here is the cross-section:
My icing was just milk and powdered sugar, it was alright. The bun is amazing.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Mushroom Purée

The texture of puréed mushrooms is unique, but is not luxurious on its own. Adjusting the consistency with shallot and sunchoke make the finished purée more integrated and smooth. The best part is you can get a great flavor from common white button mushrooms, no need to drop dollars on expensive mushrooms.
320g button mush scraps
100g shallots
62g butter
35g dolin dry
205g mushroom stock + 100g (water?)
65g sunchoke
20g olive oil
10g tamari
5g apple cider vinegar
5g lemon juice
Chop the mushrooms into small pieces, slice the shallots and the sunchokes. Fry the mushrooms and shallots in the butter until the butter, shallot, and mushrooms brown thoroughly. Add the dolin and cook until dry. Add the mushroom stock, or water if you don't have it, with the sunchokes. Cook until dry. Blend on high while streaming in the olive oil, vinegar, and tamari, along with with extra 100g of stock. Once smooth, taste and add more salt or acid.

Here is what it looks like when you put it on a plate, and what Shiraz looks like when he is blow-torching foie gras.
Plate it up!

Beef "Wellington"

Super savory, yet fluffy, and unburdening.


Thursday, May 13, 2010


This dough and method produce light and airy pastries, with just enough crisp on the outside. I initially tried using the danish dough from a previous entry, but the results were mediocre. There are a lot of steps to go wrong on, so attention to detail throughout the process is essential.
94g cream + 10g cream
30g buttermilk
5g salt
3g yeast
30g sugar
45g egg + 1 whole egg
25g yolks
21g olive oil
280g flour (extra for dusting and such)
150g butter
Mix everything, except for the butter, the extra egg, and extra cream, in a bowl until it forms a loose dough. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature for 3 hours. Shape the dough into a tight ball, cover in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge. Once cold, roll out the dough into a rectangle, being sure not to make the dough thinner than 1/4 of an inch. Pound out the butter, with some extra flour, to fit over half of the rectangle. Fold the other half of the rectangle over the butter and close the butter into the dough. Place in the fridge until cold. Roll out the dough to the length of the original rectangle and fold in half. Let rest for 30 minutes under refrigeration. Turn the dough 90 degrees from the last roll, and again make the same rectangle as before. Following this roll, rest, rotate 90 degree principle, make a 3-fold, a half-fold and a final 3-fold. For more detailed information about laminating doughs, check out the danish entry and this picasa page. Now you have a dough with 36 layers.
Roll out a rectangle with a thickness of 3/8th of an inch and cut triangles with alternating bases and tips. Cut a slit in the base of the triangle, stretch the dough slightly and roll up from base to tip tightly. Curve the roll into a crescent and place on a tray to rise. I cover mine with a big plastic box that I fill with steam from a small pot. It keeps the humidity and temperature in the box just right for the yeast. Let them rise for 2 hours, or until they have doubled in size.
Wash with the extra eggs and cream and bake at 400F for about 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. However, when you place them into the oven, toss a few large ice cubes into the base of the oven to steam them for the first 4-5 minutes.
Here is how they baked up.
And the interior.

   Homemade croissant

No plate, just eat that thing, although I have been known to make a sandwich...
Toasted croissant with avocado, lemon, firecracker mayo, bacon, pickled ramps, and chicken leg sausage patty.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Puréed Ramps

The season for ramps is so short and their flavor is so unique that I always want to show off that unique flavor when eating them. I believe that the flavor of the bulbs of ramps is best enjoyed pickled. Cooking the bulbs deadens their flavor and their texture becomes soft and mealy. A crunchy, seasoned ramp bulb is a real treat. As for the rest of the plant, this purée is the best way I have found to showcase this wild allium. The parts used are the middle and upper stem, which is trimmed off when pickling the bulb, and the entire leaf.
240g leaves
50g stems
50g  butter
40g water
2g salt
4g lemon juice
Set up a cooling station for the finished purée (a bowl filled with ice water, with a metal bowl floating on the water works well). Place the butter, salt, and stems into a pot and make them sweat for 10 minutes, or until very soft, over medium heat. Turn up the heat to high and add the leaves. Cook until the pan has lost almost all of the free water. Add the water to stop the pan from browning and then cook on high until about half of the water is gone. The greens need to be cooked, but should not be in the pot for more than 2 minutes. Blend everything in the pot(but not in the pot) on high until very smooth, being sure to pour the purée into the chilling station immediately. Stir to speed the cooling process. Add the lemon and additional salt, if needed, just before serving.

This method can be applied to green purées in general. However, some exceptions are stinging nettles or other leafy greens that need to be blanched in large amounts of water to dilute toxins. With these exceptions aside, I blend the greens I am going to purée with the liquid they were cooked in so that I do not lose any flavor down the drain.
The keys to keeping them green are destroying any enzymes that may cause browning when the item is blended with heat, not overcooking the item, and chilling quickly after blending.

Plate it up!
Homemade ricotta gnudi with fresh chickpeas, sunflower sprouts, puréed ramp leaves and black olive oil

I use the stems for added texture in the finished purée. They must be cooked well so that the blender can render them smooth, as straining this purée would not produce the thick creamy texture that I want. As for the dish, depending on your definition of ricotta, these might not be made of ricotta, but as they say, the jury is still out on that one.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Jellied Cucumber

This can be used as a base recipe for jelling any base liquid that you do not want to heat to preserve the raw flavor. I am using gelatin in this recipe because I want this jelly to melt in your (or my...our?) mouth, but you could use another jelling agent like agar agar with the same basic approach. Although, every hydro-colloid has its own unique properties to be aware of when using.
265g burbless cucumber
50g ice cold water
1 pinch salt
1 pinch agave nectar
1/2 pinch malic acid powder
7g sheet gelatin
Wash and cut the cucumbers. Place the cucumber, with the salt, agave nectar, malic acid, and half of the water, into a blender. Blend on as high as possible until everything is smooth. Pour out the mash and strain through a fine filter, I used a 250 micron mesh bag. Add the rest of the water to the blender and swirl to get the fine pulp that sticks to the side. Dump this into the rest of the straining mash.
Bloom the gelatin in ice cold water and place into a small pot. Pour 1/4 of the strained cucumber juice into the pot and warm to 100F while stirring, or until the gelatin melts. Dump all of the warm cucumber and gelatin liquid into the unheated cucumber juice while stirring rapidly. Pour into desired container and cool in the fridge until it sets.

This concentration of gelatin produces a very soft jelly, you can see on the right that it can be shaken easily, but it is just firm enough to not break apart from being giggled. Only warming a small portion of the cucumber retains most of the fresh, raw flavor of the fruit. You can substitute another acid for the malic acid, citrus, vinegar, etc. I think just blending the cucumber produces a nice flavor, but I prefer to balance the flavor with some additional seasonings. Also, I use the measurement "pinch" in this recipe because I do not have a gram scale accurate enough to read in tenths of a gram; the idea is that I want this jelly to taste like cucumber, but a little (a pinch of) sweetener, salt, and acid improve the finished flavor, but you do not want them to be noticeable on their own. That is to say, in a side by side tasting you would notice the altered (and improved) flavor, but by itself, all that will be perceived is that this cucumber tastes really good, not that the cucumber is altered.

Plate it up!
This one needs three pictures:
1 Caviar tin
2 Breaking through the first layer
to find cucumber
3 Shallot cream on the bottom


Monday, May 10, 2010

Fried Chicken

Traditional fried chicken is not seen on very many fine dinning dinner menus, but it is so delicious. This recipe is designed to bring the everyday, crunchy, juicy wonder of fried chicken into a fork and knife environment.
Chicken legs and thighs(still attached to each other)
Salt and Pepper
Take the leg and thigh and lay it inner-thigh up. Make one slice, through the skin only, from the top joint to the base of the leg. Carefully press your knife through the joint, but not through the skin. Pull the leg meat and bone away from the skin leaving a thigh with skin from the leg still attached. For all of the steps, with pictures, check out my picasa page.
Take the leg meat off of the bone and grind it in a meat grinder. Season, whatever the resulting weight is, with 2% salt and as much pepper as you like. Stir well and place on top of the thigh meat. Sprinkle salt onto a rectangle of plastic wrap and place the outside of the skin on top of the salt. Roll the, now seasoned, skin around the sausage and thigh meat and then roll the plastic around that. Rolling stuff in plastic is covered in more detail in this post. Poach the roll in 167F water for 2 hours and then place in an ice bath to cool.
Once completely cooled, remove the plastic wrap and dust the roll in seasoned flour. Submerge in whipped whole eggs that have been seasoned and then place back into the flour. Now the roll should have a good, uniform, coating of flour and egg, but to get uneven nooks and crannies you need one more step. Hold the roll with some extra flour in your hand and drizzle some of the eggs over the roll. As the eggs flow over the flour coating, press more flour into the eggs, creating bumps of egg and flour paste. You do not want to cover the roll evenly with the egg and flour, that is why you are drizzling and not submerging in the egg. Fry immediately in 350F oil until brown and crunchy.
Plate it up!

Rolled chicken thigh, with chicken sausage, cabbage slaw, black truffle ranch, and koni roots.

Breading and then storing in the fridge overnight produces a bad crust, like that of a frozen product. You can make this roll, up until it is breaded, in advance.