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The Mighty Loaf

Christmas was very laid back this year, but I did find one small gift under the old tree. I got this very interesting dough rising basket called a brotform from Germany. After the first rise or proof you punch down the dough and place the ball in this well floured brotform for the final proofing. The dough rises around the brotform canes giving your bread a really cool design similar to a floury crop circle.

Today's mighty loaf is courtesy of my little pet, my sourdough starter. It's not too much work to keep a starter going but it does need attention about once a week. I just add a cup of flour and half a cup of warm britta water. I stir it up and check for bubbling action to ensure it's still alive. Next to my kombucha and fermenting sauerkraut crocks the sourdough jar is the best smelling of the bunch.

The bread recipe I used is the most basic sourdough recipe available from King Arthur Flour.

1 1/2 c Lukewarm water
5 1/2 c (to 6 1/2 cups) King Arthur
1 tb Sugar
1 tb Salt
1 tb (or packet) active dry yeast
1 tb Vegetable oil
1 c Sourdough starter

Combine all of the ingredients, using only 5 cups of the flour. I used a kitchen aid mixer with the dough hook attachment to knead this into a nice soft dough. I placed the dough in a greased bowl to rise for one hour. After an hour passed I punched the dough down and moved it to the brotform to rise for one more hour. Preheat the oven to 450f and bake for 20 min or until golden brown on a pizza stone.

The loaf had a nice crust and a very soft interior crumb. Normally I prefer to use only sourdough starter instead of the dry yeast/starter combo. Sure, the rise will take much longer but it produces a much stronger sour fermented flavored loaf.

Can't complain, this is my best looking and tasting loaf to date. Maybe I can pass my bread off as an artisan loaf now.


A Fennel Crusted Christmas Eve

I was looking for a new pork recipe for my dad as he requested pork for Christmas eve this year. A friend of mine passed this recipe on to me courtesy of RealSimple.com.

In addition to their ingredients, I also shaved one fennel bulb to add to the mix. The pork cooked quickly and was quite moist upon peeking in the Le Creuset dutch oven. There was enough liquid on the bottom of the Creuset to make some really intense pear and fennel flavored gravy. The pork was topped with fennel frawns and a generous pinch of clementine zest.

Great anise & citrus flavors in this simple one pot dinner.


Garden Rocket Pesto x2

I remember watching Jamie Oliver years ago, always preparing salads and garnishing dishes with a magical green called rocket. It turns out, rocket is actually my favorite garden green. Otherwise known as arugula, this green packs in the most flavor per leaf in my opinion. It's not bitter like escarole or too bland like iceburg lettuce, instead it's rather peppery with a good bite. During the CSA days, I anticipated each bunch of arugula more than anything else.

Over the past weekend, I was assigned the job of cooking for a pack of 10 hungry friends (to keep them nourished before a big holiday party) and was lucky enough to have a cooking partner who also shares my love of rocket/arugula. Making pesto is extremely simple and quick if you have a food processor. I usually just eyeball my ingredients to taste and consistency as I've made pesto far too many times at this point.

As a rough guide...
  • 4 cups of packed arugula leaves
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup (packed) freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
Once your pesto has a smooth consistency, toss with your favorite cooked pasta. For added flavor and texture, we sauteed a pint of grape tomatoes and tossed them in as well. We served this with a side of focaccia and a small bonus portion of very tasty sage pumpkin pasta that was leftover from the night before.

It's quite safe to say that our plates were a smashing success as most people were looking for seconds and maybe even thirds. I think we provided enough energy to keep everyone going until 4 am so we could all sing in holiday cheer.

The next day: x2

So we had some left over arugula and made another batch the following night substituting toasted walnuts instead of pine nuts.

X2 was served with a Tuscan bread salad made with a nice crusty loaf of organic rustic Italian courtesy of Amy's in Chelsea Market. The main flavor component in this salad is the lemon garlic vinaigrette. We ran low on oil and the bread in the salad was slightly on the dry side but still tasty with tomatoes, onion and cucumber.

So much good food & good times.


Waiting for the dough to rise.

I don't know if I would have the patience to be a baker. Waiting for the dough to rise is about as much fun as going to jury duty (t-minus seven hours). Baking also requires you to follow very precise instructions, something I don't always like do. That's why I enjoy the savory cooking side of the culinary field, it allows me to find a recipe and adjust it to my specific needs or ingredients. Either way I do really love bread, and I'm finding my self becoming more patient with baking so I'm going to go with it.

I just picked up a great book called Ultimate Bread by Eric Treuille. Ultimate Bread is very straight forward, with great photography of each step involved. I've been meaning to try to make bagels for quite some time and their recipe is fast and easy.

Makes 8 Bagels

2 Tsp Dried yeast
1 1/2 Tbs sugar
300ml Water
500g white flour
1 1/2 Tsp Salt

1. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar into 100ml of the water in a bowl. Leave four 5 minutes and then stir to dissolve.
2. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl, make a well in a center of the flour and pour in the yeasted water.
3. Pour the remaining water, holding back about half, into the well. Mix in the flour and stir in the reserved water, as needed, to form a firm, moist dough.
4. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic for about 10 minutes. As you knead the dough, gradually work in as much additional flour as you can comfortably knead.
5. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning into coat and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

6. Knock back the dough, then leave to rest for 10 minutes.
7. Cut the dough into 8 equalized pieces.
8. Shape each piece into a bowl and form each bowl into a ring by inserting a floured finger into the center of each one. Work the finger in a circle to stretch and widen the hole. Then twirl the ring around the index finger of one hand and the thumb of the other hand until the hole is about a third of the bagel’s diameter.
9. Place the bagels on a lightly oiled baking sheet, then cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
10. Bring a large pan of water to the bowl, then reduce the heat to allow the water to simmer. Use a perforated skimmer to carefully lower the bagels into the water in batches of two or three at a time.
11. Transfer the drained to a lightly oiled baking sheet.
12. Beat one egg to wash each bagel for a nice shine. You can also sprinkle salt, poppy seeds etc onto the bagel at this point.
13. Bake at 220°C (425°F) for 20 minutes or until golden.

So what's the verdict? I made a batch 8 bagels in 2 hours total. I'm still in shock that these require such a quick rise of 1 hour. I also had a small cookie sheet in the oven loaded with ice to help "steam" the oven. The steam worked great, providing a super moist interior and a chewy exterior. Just like a good bagel should.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say stop at Hoboken Hot Bagels next time you're in Jersey. A total hole in the wall, no frills bagel joint on Hoboken's main drag. It's a great cheap breakfast after a night on the town.


Breakfast fail.

Looks great, right?

I can assure you the rats got to nibble on this one after I chucked it off the balcony.

This was a promising breakfast of a simple baked egg & rosemary. The egg tasted great, and the complete package looked great. However I HIGHLY recommend never using 100% semolina flour when you're looking to achieve a nice, flaky, pastry consistency to hold your breakfast. The semolina flour produced a very grainy texture (obviously). If you've never used semolina flour before, the grain consistency is close corn meal.

I should have known better, but I had so much semolina flour I went with it.


Super Sloppies.

Vegan slop-sloppy joes.

October 1st marks the first day of the eat local challenge. It's day one and I am already chalking this years challenge up as an epic failure for me personally. Mainly the neighborhood supermarkets are slightly scary, and definitely are not even close to being on the organic bandwagon yet. I honestly do not want to know where most of the items are grown and I feel I may be better off not knowing. When your local super market is nicknamed the ASS-MART, I think it's safe to say market basket and Johnie food master would be a god send right now. Yeah there are plenty of green markets in the Brooklyn area, some I really do like. Regularly shopping at them just seems to get pricey faster than normal. I try to keep on it as there is a green market literally everyday of the week if you're looking for it. I think the key to healthy living and schooling the eat local challenge is clearly having a csa share or having your own garden. That should cover about 80% of what you need to eat leaving you only to search for proteins and grains. I miss my Parker farm share.

I loaded my fridge up with tempeh and tofu last time I made it to unholy foods. I've been eating less and trying to eat more vegetables and vegan things. Mainly after my last visit to the local mart smelled of cow urine, the already suspicious meat department was looking worse by the day.


This is my vegan super sloppy joe.

Note the package of sloppy joe mix. It's actually from Brockton Mass, I had to buy it, at 79 cents who could say no. The packaging looks as if it is from 1974. Surprisingly, there is nothing but spices listed in the ingredient list, it saved me from buying quite a few expensive spices.

So I browned one crumbled package of Soy Boy tempeh in olive oil. Added one diced Wheeler pepper, one can of tomato paste, 1 cup of water and Brockton's own sloppy joe spice pouch. This was topped on my purple cabbage apple slaw marinated in rice wine vinegar for a bit of a kick. all on top of a classy white bun.

The slaw completed the package & you will not miss the meat.