Food Archives

October 12, 2007

Challah baking

Because I can. Picture in the extended entry.

two large challah baking in the oven

Posted by Red Ted at 04:07 PM | TrackBack

July 10, 2007

A Dangerous Link

There are many dangerous links. This is one of them.

Foodtimeline.org

That is all.

Posted by Red Ted at 11:12 AM | TrackBack

July 09, 2007

Sweet Short-Crust Pastry

For a single pie-crust

1 cup ap flour, scooped and leveled, plus two heaping spoonfuls flour
2 tsp sugar
Pinch salt

1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter. I keep it in the freezer and do first chop with a hot carving knife.
1 1/2 tbsp Crisco (or lard if you let that in your house)

A little cold water

Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together.

Quarter the butter lengthwise, then cut into small chunks.

Wash your hands well
run your fingers under cold water until they hurt (optional, more important with warmer butter)

Toss the fat into the flour.
Smear the butter into little sheets, crumble it with your fingers, and otherwise play until the butter is cut into the flour. A couple of minutes.

Somewhere in there, use the heel of your hand to shmear the pastry into sheets - you are trying to create layers of butter and layers of flour.

Add just enough water to stick the flour and butter into a ball.

Refrigerate for several hours.

Roll out (it usually takes me two rolls, one to get it flat and one to get it round.)

Make into pie crust.

Double the recipe if your pie wants a top crust.

Based on Julia Child et al, The Way to Cook

Posted by Red Ted at 02:12 PM | TrackBack

June 26, 2007

Heavy Backpack decoded

I wonder if I will survive on:
A hoagie
A bagel with cream cheese and lox
A container of soup
A bag of peppers and cucumbers (hope that was not reserved)
An apple
A bag of cookies
A chocolate bar
A thermos of coffee

And I wonder why my bag is heavy in the morning.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:09 AM | TrackBack

February 01, 2006

Superbowl Bets

I was asked who I was rooting for in the Superbowl.

My gut answer was that I was rooting for the chile, but that I expected the desserts to win.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:31 PM | TrackBack

January 31, 2006

There's Coffee in the Pot

To the tune of Whiskey in the Jar

As my dreams were roaming over
The mountains of the morning
I heard something wake me and
It was a toddler crying

So I outs of my warm bed
For to see what's the matter
And I said lets get going
For you are an early riser

And it wack for the daddy oh (3x)
There's Coffee in the Pot

Posted by Red Ted at 10:34 PM | TrackBack

November 09, 2005

Food rules

It hit me the other day that we have four food rules that we keep repeating at the table. They are a little more complicated than "eat what you want, then stop," but rules 1 and 3 are mostly refinements on the core principles.

1, The "no thank you" helping: You have to take a bite of everything on your plate.
2, After that bite, eat as much (or as little) as you want.
3, No extra serving of a thing while you still have some of that thing on your plate.
4, Stop when you have had enough, even if there is still food on the plate.

When the kids get a little older we will add one of J's family's rules as rule 2a - if you want something other than what the family is eating, take your no-thank-you bites and then cook yourself what you want to eat. i.e. eat a bite of chocolate haggis, then go make yourself a peanutbutter sammich.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:34 AM | TrackBack

October 18, 2005

Kosher Toad

Note to self.

When planning to cook Toad in the Hole for the boys on the night when J is out, remember to get soy milk for the Yorkshire pudding.

The cheese souffle I made instead should be out of the oven in a minute - we will see if that worked.

Timer dinged - bye.

EDIT
As expected, the toddlers liked slimy, puffy, cheesy, egg goo.

I think I just had my monthly quota of butterfat.

And the three of us killed a 4-egg souffle, with the boys also gorging on frozen peas.

Posted by Red Ted at 06:15 PM | TrackBack

August 23, 2005

Word associations

Yesterday I spent the middle of the day driving around taking a sick toddler (the younger one) to the doctor. I ended up with the choice between fast food lunch and no lunch at all.

The clerk at Wendy's asked me if I wanted to "biggie-size" my order. I had to ask her to repeat the question, because the first time she asked my head parsed her words as asking me if I wanted the food to make me look like a notoriously fat, dead, rap star.

They might want to think about their slogan for extra fries.

Oh, the little guy is doing fine.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:03 AM | TrackBack

April 08, 2005

Blasphemy in Texas

I really don't want to grade these papers.

Last semester one of my students said that two things "went together like beans and chile." I noted in the margin that "FYI, this is blasphemy in Texas."

Northeasterners, like that student and like J, say that what defines chile is that it has beans in it, oh, and some Southwestern spices.

Texas chile, in its orthodox persuasion, is stew made from meat, normally beef, and chiles.

I tend to think in terms of herbs. For me, chile is any dish made with: chiles, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt. One of my favorite chiles is a green chicken chile which has neither beef nor beans.

We bought a jar of dried, ground, ancho chile pepper from Penzey's Spices (dangerous website, if you click you might well spend.)

Tonight is a meat and bean chile. I intend to make two pots: one mild with ground turkey, beans, onions, bell pepper, garlic, ancho chile, cumin, oregano, and a small pinch of salt; one three-alarm with the same ingredients plus a couple of three Thai dragon peppers with their seeds, and some of the canned chipotles in adobo we have left over from the last time we made fajitas. I will be shooting for a 3.5 on the scale of: boring, tastes hot, clears sinuses, face sweats, vein in forehead appears. Anything over 2.5 qualifies as a "ring of fire" chile, and that means that J won't eat it.

Me, I like to get my endorphins twice, even if I am a northeaster hot-food-wimp unable to eat proper Texas or Colorado chile.

Posted by Red Ted at 02:13 PM | TrackBack

February 26, 2005

Toddler bread

I would not have tried this combination on my own, but the bigger man was acting as foreman yesterday. So, we call this toddler bread.

1 cup plus one ounce water
2 cups bread flour
1 cup WW flour
cup yellow cornmeal
1 egg
1 tsp yeast
scant tsp salt
long tbsp honey

Detailed narrative (cute but long and self-indulgent) after the fold.

Do you want to help daddy make bread?

Yeah.

OK, up on the counter with you.

Lets see, what do we want to put in the bread today.
[goes into refrigerator, grabs sourdough crock.]

No want daddy sourdough.

You don't want the sourdough in the bread?

No want daddy sourdough!

OK, lets put it back. What do you want in the bread?

No want daddy sourdough!

I know, it is already put away. Bread has flour water salt and yeast. Lets see, we are out of salt. Lets refill that first.

[Goes into cupboard, grabs box of kosher salt to refill the salt pig. Bag of cornmeal falls out of cupboard and onto counter next to toddler.]

OK, we have more salt. Now lets make bread. Bread is flour, water, yeast and salt. What flour do you want?

Want yellow powder [pointing to bag of cornmeal]

Yellow powder? Do you want cornmeal?

No want cornmeal. Want yellow powder.

The yellow powder IS cornmeal. We make it by taking corn, drying it, and grinding it up. Do you want it in the bread?

Yeah.

OK, lets put in half a cup of cornmeal. Does that sound right?

OK

Do you want to measure?

No. Daddy measure.

[ cup of cornmeal goes into the bread machine bucket.]

Now what other flour do we want? Do you want brown flour?

Yeah.

[1 cup of whole wheat flour goes into the bread machine bucket.]

Lets add some white flour, OK?

[2 cups of bread flour go into the bread machine bucket.]

That is the flour. Bread is flour, water yeast, and salt. Lets put the yeast in.

[go to freezer, get mason jar of yeast.]

No want daddy sourdough!

This isn't sourdough. This is the yeast. We need yeast to make bread.

OK

Lets see, tsp per cup of flour, lets call it 3 cups of flour, so 1 and tsp yeast.

[Yeast goes in the bread machine bucket.]

Now the salt, 1/4 tsp per cup of flour. Lets call it a scant teaspoon. Do you want to dump it in?

No

[1 scant tsp kosher salt goes into the bread.]

Do you want anything else in the bread? Eggs, oil?

Want egg.

OK, [one egg goes into the bread machine.]

Do you want any oil in the bread?

No want oil.

How about honey?

Want honey.

Do you want to squeeze the honey bottle?

Yeah

About 2 tbsp honey gets squeezed into the bread machine

Do you want anything else?

No

OK, lets add the water. Hmm, 1/3 cup per cup of flour. So we need 1 1/6 cups of water. Lets put in a cup plus an ounce. Does that sound right?

OK

[Water goes into bread machine]

Flour, water, yeast, salt. We have bread. We put in egg and honey. Do you want anything else in your bread?

NO

Do you want to push the button?

Yeah.

[toddler gets carried from the work counter to the bread machine counter. Bread bucket gets carried from the work counter to the bread machine counter. Bread machine gets pulled forward. Bucket goes in. Daddy sets it up for a 2 pound loaf, medium crust, long rises.]

Are you ready to push the green button.

Yeah.

And the toddler made a loaf of bread.

Posted by Red Ted at 12:34 PM | TrackBack

February 05, 2005

Challah like Henry V

In Shakespeare's Henry V Part II there is a moment where his honey asks Henry why he hates France so much that he makes war on it. He answers, in effect, that he makes war not because he hates France but because he loves it so much that he wants to make it all his own.

I just ate half a loaf of this challah with notbutter and honey for second breakfast. I felt like Henry V.

p.s. The sourdough is there as a bread conditioner. It gives a creamy texture. Our sourdough provides very little sourdough flavor, especially in a bread that is leavened fairly quickly by other yeast.

The dough:
1 cup sourdough starter (contains 1 cup AP flour, cup water, and the leavening equivalent of tsp yeast.)
3 eggs
the white of a 4th egg
1/4 cup oil
2 tbsp sugar
cold water
1 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
1 cups WW flour
3 cups bread flour

The wash:
1 egg yolk
splash of cold water

Tools:
2-cup wet measuring cup
assorted dry measures
mixmaster with dough hook
baking tiles
baking peel
oven

Method:
crack 3 eggs into the measuring cup
separate the 4th egg and put the white into the measuring cup. Save the yolk for later.
Use water to fill the measuring cup until the egg and water mixture is 1 cups of fluid.
Add 1/4 cup light olive oil

From there, use the mixmaster to make standard double risen bread dough. It should make about 3 pounds of dough.
After the second rise, separate the dough and braid into challot as usual, I make two triple-braided loaves.
Place tiles into the oven and heat to 400 while the braided loaves make their final rise.
Put cornmeal on the peel, turn the braided loaves onto it, paint with a wash of egg white and water, and bake on the tiles.
After 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 375

They are done when instant-read thermometer reads 180, you may want to flip them over (carefully) for the final few minutes of baking.

Cool and eat.

Because of the yeasting and the hot tiles my challah tend to roughly double in size when they bake. I could probably cut back on the yeast because of the leavening effect of the eggs. In fact, I think I will do that next week. Challah are a work in progress.

Yum.

Posted by Red Ted at 11:14 AM | TrackBack

December 20, 2004

Hot Milk Cake

I like pastry and baked goods.

I am on a low-saturated-fat diet.

So, I am constantly on the lookout for cakes I can eat.

Lately I have been working on hot milk cake. Below the fold is my most recent attempt. It is getting closer to what I want (I overcooked this one and the outer edge is leathery.)

Hot Milk Cake
modified from King Arthur Baking Guide
as of December 20, 2004 - still working on the method as the latest cake was overcooked.


"Beat me"
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
tsp corn starch
1/8 tsp salt

"Wets"
cup milk (2% is like cream), heated 90 seconds in microwave just before used.
1 tsp flavor du jour

"Dries"
1 cup AP flour (try half AP, half cake)
1 tsp baking powder

"Mis en place"
preheat oven to 325
butter and flour an 8*8 cake pan (or a 9 inch round, go half again as much on everything for a 9*9 square, double everything for 2 9 inch rounds)

sift flour and baking powder together
get milk ready to heat

"Method"
combine sugar, salt, and corn starch in a large mixing bowl
add the eggs
beat until a thick ribbon (you won't reach OLE but you should get to the O)
(5 on the hand mixer does nicely)

once it is almost at O, heat the milk 90 seconds in microwave
beat the milk into the eggs by very little dribbles - it should take a couple of minutes. You are trying to get the cooking effect of a genoise beaten over hot water, only by adding hot fluid to the eggs, sugar, and air.

Add the flavor. We find straight vanilla boring, almond with a little lemon very tasty, lemon with a little almond also good. J wants me to try anise soon.

Turn the mixer to its lowest (fold) setting.
Sprinkle the flour in a little at a time, and fold into the batter. Again, this should take a couple of minutes.

Once the flour is in and the batter is thick and smooth, pour into prepared cake pan and bake
8*8 is done in about 35 minutes at 325 in our hot oven.

Cool in pan 5 minutes, on rack until toddler demands cake now.

I like to sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. J finds that boring and wants a new hat for the cake. (A cake is not properly dressed unless it has a hat on.)

Posted by Red Ted at 09:14 PM | TrackBack

December 16, 2004

Apple Pie

I was going through the picture directory and I discovered a bit of food pr0n that I had forgotten to blog about back in October.

J's favorite pie is apple pie. I like pie, even though I should not eat the pie crust. So, at least once a year I make her an apple pie in a butter crust. This year's pie is below the fold (64K image).

It was not a good pie - the bits were fine but the combination did not work. The toddler and I made a wonderfully tender crust - too tender to stand up to the apples. We then pulled it from the oven when it was light golden brown, and when the apples were still a little firm. The resulting pie had a wonderful soft tender crust around slightly firm apples - the textures were exactly reversed from what they should be.

Oh, for the record I make the filling by peeling apples, cutting into slices, tossing them with lemon juice, a little flour, and pie spice, and then lay them into the shell in closely nested circles and layers. No jumble-pie for me. When I get it right it is a thick, intensely apple pie with just a little sweet from the lemon juice. Apple pie should be something you can eat for breakfast, not something that sends you into sugar shock.

Behold, the Pie:
a picture of a pie.

Discerning viewers will note the solid log rolling pin to the left of the pie and the salt pig behind the pie (the blue thing with salt in it.) The mason jar holds dried hot peppers. We like hot peppers.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 12, 2004

River Road Sauce

We call it River Road Sauce because we got the original recipe out of the River Road Cookbook. I forget what that book called it - bachelor's gravy or something like that. This is a VERY quick and easy sauce that we like to serve on steamed brocolli. Measurements are approximate.

Olive oil
hot pepper
dijon mustard (Grey Poupon brown works well, but use what you have)
worcestershire sauce
red or balsamic vinegar

If you are using a real hot pepper, say a dried Thai Dragon, then de-seed and mince the pepper. (Rip the head off, roll the pepper between your fingers, open side down, to remove most of the seeds. Cut open and remove the rest. Chop with a sharp knife.)
Otherwise, just grab the jar of cayenne or hot pepper flakes.

Pour a long tablespoon of olive oil into a non-stick pan. Add the hot pepper if you are using minced pepper or pepper flakes. (If you are using ground cayenne or the like, wait to add it until after the mustard goes in.)
Turn on the heat and heat until the peppers begin to sizzle.
Add a generous dollop of wet mustard. (as much as you can get on a teaspoon.)
Saute the mustard and hot pepper in the oil for a minute or so until the mustard turns a darker shade of yellow brown and begins to separate. It should look horrible - horrible is just right.
Add a dash of Worchestershire sauce - size of dash to vary by taste.
turn down the heat
Add a splash of vinegar, stir until it makes a smooth brown slime.
If it remains separated, either add more vinegar or decide that it is "ugly food" where the worse it looks the better it tastes.
We normally plate it in a side bowl so that we can dip veggies in it without getting hot pepper into the infant's portion. You can also spoon it over a bowl of vegetables for a more elegant presentation.

Quick, easy, and even the toddler likes it.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:28 PM | TrackBack

November 17, 2004

Coffee cake

The toddler woke up at 5:00 this morning, followed shortly afterwards by the littler man. J and I had no choice, and also got out of bed.

So, since we had time for a slow-moving morning, the toddler and I made a coffee cake before sending J and the boys out the door so I could go to work.

I want to make it again before I post the recipe - too much sugar for my taste.

Note to self: when making pastry anything from a cookbook, cut the sugar in half the FIRST time you make the recipe. It saves time.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:38 AM | TrackBack

November 15, 2004

J's Birthday Cake

It is not true that she gets a year older every time I bake this.

It is true that this is a very easy cake, low in saturated fat, and quite good. I like a strongly flavored not very sweet cake. You can easily add another half cup of sugar to get a sweeter cake with a finer crumb.

J's Birthday Cake
modified from "chocolate mint cake",
King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion
Countryman's Press, Woodstock, VT, 2003

Preheat oven to 350 f

Hardware:
large bowl
hand mixer
2 9" round pans or one bundt or tube pan

Dries:
1 cup sugar
1 cup cake flour
1 cups AP flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup buttermilk powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt

Wets:
2 large eggs
3/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup light vegetable oil (or walnut oil)
1/4 cup nonfat yoghurt
2 tsp vanilla extract

Fluid:
1 cup strong hot coffee

Method:
preheat oven to 350

grease and flour your pans

sift dries together
add wets to the bowl (do NOT add the coffee)
beat on medium speed for 2 minutes
add the fluid (coffee or hot water) to the bowl; the batter should be thin.
Pour the batter into the pans

Bake for 30-35 minutes, 40-45 minutes if in a bundt pan
cool in pans for ten minutes (upside down on a bottle if a bundt or tube)
remove from pans onto cooling rack
let cool completely

if you made two rounds then place one cake face down, ice the upper surface, then place the second cake on top, face up, and ice the top and sides. One can of commercial icing does nicely for this.

If you made the bundt, then paint the cake with cocoa glaze:

melt two tbsp butter in 2 tbsp coffee
add two tbsp cocoa
stir for 2 minutes, hot but not quite boiling
thin with a little more coffee
stir in confectioner's sugar to taste - we like a dark bitter icing
thin with coffee until the consistency of very thick latex paint.

Using a pastry brush, paint the entire exterior of the cake. Pour the rest of the icing onto the top ridge of the cake so that it pours down and glazes.

Serves one (over the course of about 3 days, in multiple sittings.)

Posted by Red Ted at 03:00 PM | TrackBack

October 22, 2004

Shippit!

"Shippit! shippit!" says the toddler.

And, being well versed in toddler speak, we know that he is calling for the ketchup. We do our best to use real words for foods, at least when he is in earshot - bottle not bahbah, ketchup not shippit, overalls not ra'-ra's - but this one is quite cute.

I was reading about ketchup as a powerful condiment and realized that there is a reason why the little people like dips and condiments - they are something that the child can add to food to control how it tastes. The little guy loves to have something to dip his food into; he loves his ketchup; he even eats Grey Poupon.

An aside, knowing that dipping food into something makes toddlers happy helps explain for me why chicken nuggets are so popular with so many people - it is a food that regresses them almost to infancy.

Next time I go for groceries I will get the smallest squeeze bottle of Heinz ketchup in the store. That will be our table bottle. The little man will be able to serve himself shippit, and we will refill the little bottle from the great big bottles we buy at the discount club.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Curry

I have a mess of little links that I don't quite feel up to blogging about but that I can't leave be. (I had the 1:00am to 2:30am infant shift last night, followed by a 5:30am toddler.)

The infant and I watched Bend it Like Bekham, so in the honor of that movie I give you The Washington Post on Curry recipies

I still have not decided what to say about the movie on the Reading Blog. But I will get there.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:42 AM | TrackBack

October 21, 2004

Toast and Jam

I commented to J this morning that I could very easily eat myself sick on toasted sourdough honey wheat bread and beach plum jam.

We agreed that it would be a bad idea to actually eat that much.

On the other hand, the toddler's breakfast this morning was two slabs of toasted home-made bread covered in home-made beach plum jam. The little man knows what is good stuff.

Bread recipe below the fold.

Sourdough Honey Wheat (a staple in our house)

We cheat and use the bread machine. This works just fine as a hand-kneaded, shaped, oven-risen loaf. Use the boule shape, not a long loaf, or bake it in a pan if you go by hand.

To feed the starter:
1/2 cup dechlorinated water
1 cup AP flour.

For the bread:
Sourdough starter
1 cup bread flour
1 cup Whole Wheat flour
1/2 cup water
1 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 tsp kosher salt
c. 1 tbsp honey

Method:
Put half of the starter into the bread machine (or your mixing bowl if by hand)
add water and honey.
Let it sit while you feed the sourdough (click the sourdough link above, and check comments.)

Add bread flour, WW flour, yeast and salt.

Press start (or knead, rise, beat down, rise, beat down, shape, rise, bake) normally. I like the "French Bread" setting on our Breadman.

Variation - what we did last night.
Use 1 cup of water and just a little bit of sourdough starter
Put the water, honey, and sourdough in the bowl. Add 1 cup bread flour and stir until it makes pasty white gloop. That is your new sponge.

If you are hand-baking, let this sit overnight and finish the bread in the morning.

If you are using a bread machine:
Sprinkle the a cup of bread flour and a cup of WW flour over the top, so it rests on top of the slime without mixing in.
Put salt and yeast on the top.
set up bread machine for delay bake - I like to time it so the bread finishes at the same time our alarm goes off. First one up goes down and pulls the bread out of the machine to breathe, and it is ready to cut by the time we are done showering and downstairs to eat.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:40 AM | TrackBack

October 19, 2004

Beach Plum Jam II

My mom grows beach plums, a shrub native to the barrier islands of New Jersey. The plums are little things, about the size of a cherry, which turn dark purple when ripe. They are tart and sweet and strange and very tasty in an odd sort of a way. They also make superior jam.

The first time I tried them, I overcooked the jam and made two small jars of candy. This time I undercooked it a little and made very tasty spoon jam - serve with a spoon, spread with a knife.

We now have 7 jars of jam, 6 cups and a pint, plus the 12 oz jar of jam in the fridge. Both the toddler and I like it a lot.

Recipe below the fold

Ted's Beach Plum Jam

7 cups beach plums, about a quarter of them green.
7 cups sugar
1/2 lemon
1 tbsp light oil - I use olive or walnut

usual jam-making gear.
cheesecloth

Wash the plums.
Pit them, and put the fruit into one container, the pits into another. It is easy to pit them if you just push the pit out with your thumb. Hold the plum over the pit container as you squeeze, because you will also be dumping a lot of the very tasty juice when you express the pit.

Pitted beach plums can be frozen for later use. That is what we did with this batch.

Place the plums in your jamming pot.
Place the pits and juice into a piece of cheesecloth, and squeeze all possible juice, pulp, and yumminess out of the pit bag and into the jam pot.
Half a lemon.
Squeeze out some of the juice.
Using a spoon, remove the pith and pulp. Discard the seeds, mince thepith and pulp of 1/2 lemon. Add the minced stuff to the jam.
(This adds extra pectin and lets you get away with a shorter boil. I like the bright taste of short-boiled jam.)
Put a little dash of light oil into the pot - this helps prevent boil-over.

Over a moderate-high flame, heat the plums and lemon to a rolling boil - it continues to boil while being stirred. Stir the fruit regularly as it heats. Don't worry about the skins - they add flavor and texture. (Some folks chop them, but I don't.)

Once the fruit comes to a rolling boil, boil for one minute.
Add the sugar all at once
Stir in.
Cook the jam, stirring constantly, until it comes to a full boil.
Reduce heat to maintain that boil, and stir for 60 to 180 seconds or until the jam just begins to sheet or clump off your spoon. If you stop too soon you get runny jam, which you can eat. If too late, you get candy.

Pour into sterilized glass canning jars, cover, boil for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Yield - a bit over 7 cups - exact quantities will vary depending on how long you boil. We got 9 1/2 cups last time, but it was runny and could have boiled for more than the 90 seconds I gave it.

Enjoy - it makes a nice bright, slightly tart jam.

Posted by Red Ted at 07:29 AM | TrackBack

September 15, 2004

Pain d'Epices

Rosh Hashanah starts tonight at sunset. Part of the holiday ritual is to eat honey "for a sweet new year," and honey cakes are an important part of the holiday food. An aside - Judaism really is an excuse to eat, and eat well.

My favorite honey cake is actually a French spice bread (recipe below the fold) made with honey, jam, anise, cinnamon, and milk. If done correctly it makes a dense tender bread that can be cut into thin slices; it has a sweet taste but the dense load of spices mean that what I notice when I eat it is the tingling on my tongue and the lingering resonance of anise back where nose and mouth connect to one another. Baking the bread fills my head with spice and I smell it for a day or two afterwards, and eating it returns all those smells to the forefront of my memory. It is powerful bread.

J does not care for it, so I get to eat most of it myself. The toddler likes it, probably because it is sweet, but it is so sweet that we serve it to him as "cake" and not as "bread."

I had not made it for a couple of years, and this year I goofed it badly. The problem was not the recipe but the execution. I think I had the oven a little too hot. I also left the rack at the bottom third of the oven instead of moving it higher. This meant that the bread smelled done, and the side of the loaf tested done, but the top of the loaf was not done, and so I have a trough of wet uncooked dough sitting on top of my slightly dry spice bread.

So far, since cracking the first loaf this morning, I have eaten about a third of the loaf, throwing out the wet dough and narfing the good stuff. I told you I like this bread.

I will leave the political implications of good recipe, poor execution, as an exercise for the reader.

Pain d'Epices
Susan Loomis
from French Farmhouse Cooking
New York: Workman Publishing Company, 1996

Ingredients:
2 cups milk (whole or skim depending on your dietary fetishes)
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cardomon
2 tbsp whole anise seeds
NOTE - if any of these run short, grate in some fresh nutmeg to fill.
24 oz liquid honey (one medium jar will do it.)
7 1/3 cups AP flour.
3/4 cup of jam - orange marmalade, red currant, or beach plum.(1)
2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp warm water

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 325
Butter and flour two 9*5*3 loaf pans

Method:
Combine the milk and spices in a medium sized saucepan. Heat, stirring constantly, until the milk just begins to steam or gets bubbles along the side of the pan. Do not let it come to a boil.(2) Once it hits this point, cover the pan and let sit for 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the milk and the honey and mix well.
Add 2 cups of flour and mix well.
Then add the jam.
Slowly add the rest of the flour, stirring until the mixture is thoroughly combined.
(I use the mixmaster with the paddle.)

In a small bowl mix together the baking soda and the warm water. Stir into the batter and mix at medium speed for 5 minutes until the dough becomes satiny. (10 minutes if by hand.) This will be a very thick, sticky dough.

Divide the batter between the two pans. Bake in center of oven, well separated for better air flow. Bake until loaves are puffed and golden and spring back when touched IN THE CENTER of the loaf. 1 hour and another 20-40 minutes depending on how moist your jam was.

Remove from oven and cool on wire racks. When cool, wrap in wax paper and aluminium foil and let sit for at least 24 hours to develop the flavor. Will remain good for about 2 weeks, or can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Cut into thin slices and serve as a snack, breakfast food, or dessert. They are wonderful with coffee.

Footnotes:
(1), Jam is made from fruit, sugar, and optional pectin, acid, and preservatives. If your jam has corn syrup or, horrors, HFCS in it, throw it out and get real jam.
(2)This is the same method I use when making hot cocoa on the stove.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:58 AM | TrackBack

August 09, 2004

Spice >> Peaches

Sunday we made our second batch of peach jam. The first batch was pretty good. These peaches were from a different grower. They were thin and juicy - I blame the recent Biblical torrents of rain - and so we decided to make peach spice jam instead of just plain peach.

Now I know.

3 pounds 4 pounds of watery peaches with soft spots makes 4 cups of peeled, pitted, chopped peaches. If you combine these with:
4 clove berries (the soft ball at the top of the stick)
8 allspice berries, crushed
20 grates of nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinammon
3 tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tbspn walnut oil (the new batch is tasteless and boring, wah)
1 packet pectin

bring to a boil add
5 1/2 cups of sugar

and make it into jam.

Well, what you get tastes like spice cake, not like peach jam. The spices are absolutely overwhelming.

I am just glad I resisted the urge to add powdered ginger and just a pinch of mustard, otherwise I would have made liquid gingerbread.

I am not sure if this is one to give away or one to use as an ingredient in other food - the spice might actually work in the middle of a jelly roll.

Posted by Red Ted at 11:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 19, 2004

Blueberry Spice Jam

No new jam this week, but last week's jam is still spectacular and I realized that I have not yet shared the recipe.

I use whole spices - nutmeg, allspice, cloves - and grate them or crush them myself. It makes a BIG difference in the quality of the spice and does not take much more time than measuring powder. I use a spice grater and a little marble mortar and pestle, plus a microplane grater for the lemon zest.

This makes a bright, flavorful jam that is excellent on challah.

Or on bagels with cream cheese

Or on toast.

OK, it is excellent in just about anything that uses jam, although I am too protective of it to make it into a jelly roll.

Ingredients
3 pints fresh blueberries
4 cups sugar
1 packet dry pectin (Sure-gel)
20 grates nutmeg
12 allspice berries
4 cloves
1 slice lemon
4 grates lemon zest (microplane grater)
1 tbsp walnut oil

Method
Wash the berries. Sort through them removing stems and discarding any overripe or soft berries. I often add an extra handful of berries to make up for the discards.

One layer at a time,crush the berries with a potato masher

Put the crushed berries into your jamming pot
measure out your sugar into a holding bowl
grate the nutmeg into the berries
in a mortar and pestle, crush the allspice berries to dust
mash the heads of the cloves into the mortar to break off the flower, discard the stalk. Crush the flowers.
add spices to berries
squeeze the juice from the lemon slice onto the berries - very little juice
run the lemon over the microplane grater about 4 times - very little zest
add the walnut oil
sprinkle the dry pectin over the berries - I prefer Sure-Gel brand.

Heat the berries, pectin, and spices to a rolling boil (bubbles even while you stir) while stirring constantly
add the sugar all at once
continue to heat, stirring constantly, until the jam comes back to a rolling boil
boil for 60 seconds, then turn off the heat. If you pour jam off the stirring spoon it should just gel at the end. Blueberries have a LOT of pectin and jam up very easily.

Storage
Can normally with a hot-water process.

Enjoy.

Posted by Red Ted at 05:50 PM | TrackBack

July 15, 2004

Enrique

We have seven critters living in the house:
me and J
the two boys
the dog
the cat
and Enrique.

Enrique lives in the refrigerator and eats once a week.

He is a sourdough sponge.

We know he is a boy because he is a slighly ruddy shade of beige, and in our house the boys have red hair while the girls are all dark tressed.

I got him the new-fashioned, way, by mail-order.

Every time we go to use him for bread or pancakes or whatever, we scoop out half of Enrique, add half a cup of de-chlorinated water(1) and a cup of AP flour, stir well, and let him sit out for about three hours before chucking him back into the 'fridge.

The half of Enrique that gets used is either used as starter in a recipe or worked into any yeasted product as if it were half a cup of water, a cup of flour, and a half-teaspoon of yeast. So my normal one pound loaf of bread changes from 3 cups of flour, 1 cup water, 1 1/2 tsp yeast, 3/4 tsp salt to being 1 unit Enrique, 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup water, 1 tsp yeast, 3/4 tsp salt. Does that make any sense?

Anyhow, Enrique needs to come out and play, for I ate the last of the bread for breakfast.

Did I mention that home-made bread and fresh blueberry jam is a very fine thing? I should mention that, for it is very true.

ps, this entry dedicated to Rocket Jones.

(1) To get dechlorinated water, either leave a pitcher out overnight or, for the lazy folks, keep some bottled water around. We use bottled water for baby formula and for feeding Enrique - buying the 2 1/2 gallon bottles at the discount club and keeping them in a corner of the kitchen.

Posted by Red Ted at 01:19 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 12, 2004

Sourdough Blueberry Pancakes

I like blueberries. I like sourdough. I like real maple syrup.

Sunday we had wonderfulness on a plate.

We had bought wonderful fresh berries the day before - there is something to be said for living in the Garden State - and I had reserved a pint from the jam parade to eat in pancakes.

My sourdough pancake recipe (below the fold) makes a pancake that, when properly cooked, is smooth, creamy, and a little bit tart.

They really are quite good - creamy pancakes, bright sharp bursts of berry, and the sweet melding embrace of the syrup around it all. The tartness from the sourdough combines with the bright sour of the berries and they sweet of the syrup to produce something halfway between fireworks and an orgasm on the taste buds.

Of course, when I undercook a pancake or flip it too soon, it becomes thick and gluey, but even those were still pretty darn good.

Blueberry pancakes is one of the signs of summer for me. I guess summer really is here.

I wonder if the farm market will have more wonderful blueberries next week? If so, we might just do it again.

But, we won't go through another flat of berries - the todder has the runs from too many berries and that is not so good, even if he did like the pancakes, and the muffins, and the jam, and the fresh berries.

Maybe blueberry pie next week. I make a very good blueberry pie ...

Sourdough Pancakes
Modified from the Waffle recipe at King Arthur Flour


The Sponge
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 cup other flour or flours (1/2 cup buckwheat, 1/2 cup cake flour is very good indeed.)
2 tablespoons sugar (unbleached or white)
4 tablespoons buttermilk powder
1/2 cup yoghurt
2 cups milk
1 cup sourdough starter

The Batter
all of the sponge (above)
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or melted butter if you feel like throwing caution to the winds)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon baking soda

The Good Stuff
1 pint fresh blueberries, washed and stemmed

Making the Sponge: This first step is best done the night before you want to serve the pancakes. First, remove your starter from the refrigerator, stir it together with a spoon or whisk and pour out a cup. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, buttermilk powder and sugar. Pour in the milk, the yoghurt, and the sourdough starter. Stir this mixture until just combined. Cover loosely and let this sit on your counter until the next morning.

Either over night or the next morning, feed the starter and let it rise. Put it back in the 'fridge.

Creating the Batter: Next morning, complete the batter while you preheat your skillet.

Wash the berries, remove any remaining stems, discard any soft, overripe or otherwise bad berries.

In a small mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, oil or butter, salt and baking soda. Let the children (of any age) blend this into the sponge you made the night before. (Watch what happens; it's neat.) Dampen a couple of non-stick pans with light oil (I use walnut oil), and fry.

Spoon the dough into the pan for pancakes the size you like (we make 3 in a pan), then sprinkle 3 to 5 berries onto each pancake. Fry. Try not to turn them too often.

Serve with real maple syrup, preferably grade B dark.

Posted by Red Ted at 05:32 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 09, 2004

Blueberry Season

It is blueberry season here in New Jersey.

This is a very good thing indeed.

I got six pints of berries three days ago. So far we have gorged on berries, made a batch of wonderful blueberry muffins, and made my best blueberry jam yet!

I plan to buy another flat of berries this weekend, and make even MORE jam. It really is better with fresh berries than with the frozen.

And so to bake more blueberry muffins

blueberry Muffins, by Red Ted
10 minutes prep
20 minutes cook
my muffin tray makes 12 medium muffins.

Dries
1 cup AP flour, scooped and leveled
1 cup cake flour, scooped and leveled, plus one heaping tablespoon cake flour.
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda (crumble it in your palm to get rid of the lumps)
pinch salt (1/4 tsp?)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp powdered buttermilk

Wets

1 egg
about 1/4 cup non-fat yoghurt
about 2 tbsp oil (again, I measured by eye. I use olive oil.)

other
1 cup skim milk
1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 425
combine dries in a large bowl, stir them together with a whisk
combine wets in a small bowl, beat the egg, oil, and yoghurt together

spray a muffin tray with non-stick spray coating
Wash the berries. Remove stems. Discard any soft or bad berries.

Add wets to dries
add milk to dries
mix together in a few short, deft strokes
when almost combined, add blueberries
finish mixing - remember that if you develop the gluten the muffins will be tough, so easy does it.

pour batter in to muffin tray.
use a spoon to steal from the large and fill the low until they are all about even
bake for 15 to 18 minutes

remove muffins from the tin immediately, cool on a rack.
Once they are cool enough to eat, they are ready to eat. (Unlike bread which should breathe for an hour before cutting)

Posted by Red Ted at 08:44 PM | TrackBack

June 28, 2004

Not lemon enough

I made lemon-poppy muffins yesterday. This was my first attempt to modify my basic muffin recipe to this new variety.

They are not lemon enough, and my poppy seeds are very stale. Next time I think I will add a little lemon oil.

Recipe below the fold

Dries:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup plus one tablespoon cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 rounded tablespoons dried buttermilk powder

Wets:
1 egg
1/4 cup plain nonfat yoghurt
1 tbsp oil (approximate)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup skim milk

Other:
1/4 cup poppy seeds

Method:
preheat oven to 425f
combine dries in a large mixing bowl, whisk until light and fluffy
beat egg, oil and yoghurt
beat in lemon zest and lemon juice
beat in milk

Add wets to dries
fold briefly
add poppy seeds
continue folding until evenly mixed. Use as few strokes as possible, a mixture of sweeping folds and short, deft jabs at the dries at the bottom of the bowl.

Put batter into cups, expect to mostly fill the cups

Bake 15 to 22 minutes until golden brown on top (my oven and tray take 17 minutes exactly). The muffins will not rise very much.

Remove from oven
Run the back of a knife between the muffin and the side of the cup
Remove to a cooling rack

eat.

Posted by Red Ted at 02:34 AM | TrackBack

May 23, 2004

More Berries

Two more batches of strawberry jam.

Again, J hulled and I chopped, jammed, and canned.

We have enough strawberry jam to get through the next year, we think - about 12 pints not counting the refrigerator jam and the jam that did not can properly.

Now we get to see what is the next seasonal ripe fruit - I do hope the peaches will be good this year.

Strawberry II
2 quarts hulled strawberries
7 cups sugar
1 packet liquid pectin

chop berries in foot processor
add sugar to berries
heat to almost boil
add pectin
bring to a frothing boil for 1 minute
can

Was a little bubbly in the jars, had to skim off some froth before we canned. A little to sweet as were the previous - the berries were a touch overripe and I could maybe have cut some sugar.

Strawberry Spice Jam
4 cups chopped strawberries (just under 2 quarts)
c. 1 tsp allspice, crushed to powder in mortar and pestle
zest of 1/2 large lemon
7 cups sugar
1 packet liquid pectin

put chopped berries into pot
add allspice and lemon
heat until warm
stir in sugar
heat until steaming
add pectin
turn down heat to medium
boil at a light boil for 1 minute

stir 3 minutes
can

all three batches of strawberry jam were canned for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. I still have not gotten around to getting a canning rack, so I again used a dish rag at the bottom of the canning pot to keep the heat of the pan from cracking the glass jars.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:27 AM | TrackBack

May 22, 2004

Strawberry Jam I

We made our first strawberry jam of the season earlier tonight.

J sorted, washed, and hulled berries. I ran them through the food processor, cooked them, jammed them, and canned the jam.

2 quarts of hulled strawberries
1 packet pectin
1/4 cup lemon juice
7 cups sugar
dab of light olive oil

made 5 pints of jam.

I forgot to add the oil until too late in the process, and the jam frothed up. For this reason it does not look very good in the jars - the berry layer is all foamy. Perhaps I could have made prettier jam if I had let it sit another few minutes.

Still, Jam I is canned - we have the rest of the flat to work over tomorrow and should get two more batches out of it. This one was light and sweet and should be quite tasty.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:36 AM | TrackBack

May 21, 2004

The man who mistook a cow for a chicken

Silly Ted.

A couple of days ago I was cooking dinner and grabbed the wrong can of stock. I had baked chicken, and was serving it with meat-mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy. Both of those require stock and since we did not have an active soup I went to the pantry, pushed the beef stock to one side, and grabbed the can of chicken stock next to it.

I made mashers, made gravy, and noticed during dinner that things tasted a little different somehow. I thought it was the fennel.

As J was cleaning up, she asked why I had used beef stock in the dish - turns out I had mis-read the cans or grabbed the wrong can.

It was still yummy.

And yes, this post is an excuse to share recipes. Why do you ask?

Posted by Red Ted at 08:55 AM | TrackBack

Mushroom Gravy

Sometimes you cook meat and want gravy but there just are not enough drippings to make traditional gravy. What to do?

In that situation we usually make mushroom gravy - especially because you can add the few drippings that the meat did give and really improve the flavor.

Ingredients:
meat drippings (not enough)
olive oil
flour
enough sliced fresh mushrooms to cover the bottom of your pan in a single layer.
stock or soup - canned chicken stock works just fine
optional - one herb or seed. I like fennel.

Tools
a pan that can get hot - black iron is best
a high-temperature stirring spoon - we use a charred wooden spoon for roux.


Method
Slice the mushrooms and have ready

If you are adding a seed like fennel or cumin, put it in the pan now. If you are using an herb or something that will burn like garlic, add it after the stock goes in. For now, assume a healthy pinch (1/2 tsp or more) of fennel seed.

add olive oil to the pan - a healthy pour

heat the pan on high until the seeds start to fry a little. (optional, can toast seeds in dry pan, then add oil - just be careful pouring oil into a hot pan)

add any cooking drippings (grease) that you want to use

add as much flour to the pan as you have fat (olive oil and drippings combined) - you want a 1-1 ratio, but can measure by eye.

turn the heat to medium

now stir, frantically, and work the flour and the oil together into a smooth paste.

fry the paste in the pan, flipping and stirring it as you can, until it starts to brown a little. It will sizzle and fry for a while as the water in the flour boils off, then it will start darkening. I usually stop with a light oak roux for mushroom gravy, but you can take this as dark as your smoke alarm will allow if you want a cajun taste.

Add the mushrooms to the roux. Stir more.

The roux will adhere to the mushrooms in a thin paste. Keep stirring and flipping until the mushrooms are cooked - about two or three minutes.

You should now have a pan with lots of mushrooms covered in pasty slime, some bits of pasty slime, and the first hints of starch sticking to the bottom and sides of the pan.

turn heat to low

Add stock. The first pour will flash into steam. Keep adding and stirring, deglazing the pan and turning those lumps of starchy oil into a thick, smooth gravy.

Add any carving juices now, add herbs or garlic now if you want them.

Heat until it bubbles. Add more stock if it feels thick or lumpy.

Serve

Posted by Red Ted at 08:53 AM | TrackBack

Meat mashed potatoes

We don't mix milk and meat. I am on a low-fat diet. And we love meat and mashed potatoes. So, I worked up the following, which are pretty good.

The recipe is general - mashed potatoes are a matter of putting things in a bowl, beating them, and then adjusting so that the taste and texture suit YOUR desires.

Ingredients:
a mixture of waxy (red) and mealy (russet) potatoes
olive oil
stock or soup - we used canned chicken broth normally
salt pepper

Tools:
knife and cutting board
large pot
mixing bowl
mashing thingie (hand masher, or heavy duty hand mixer, or stand mixer)

Process:
wash the potatoes. Do NOT peel them - the peel is the good part.

cut up the potatoes into smallish chunks - big enough to hold together but small enough to cook quickly and mash easily. I normally take a russet potato, halve it lengthwise, take one dome, cut the ends off, then cut in lengthwise again, and make quarter-circles from the body of the potato. It does not matter much how big the bits are, as long as they are all the same size.

boil the potatoes until a fork goes through easily. It is better to be a little underdone than overdone.

Wait until everything is ready but the potatoes and the gravy - these should always be the last two things to finish.

drain the potatoes and put into bowl
add olive oil - a generous pour
salt, pepper, and a little broth

Start mashing or beating. Use a scraper to push potatoes down into the bowl. Add more stock to make them fluffier. Stop often, stir, and taste - everyone likes their mashers a little different, so cook it to your preferred consistency.

How far to beat them? if not enough they will be lumpy. If too much they will be a sodden lump. Try to break up the lumps of potato while working air into the mixture. Other than that, beat to taste - my dad loves lumpy potatoes and uses a potato masher. I like airy potatoes and use the hand mixer. J likes smooth potatoes, uses the stand mixer, and cranks that bad boy.

serve

This is a very general recipe - I find that mashers are a matter of feel and I don't have the knack for describing the feel of cookery.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:42 AM | TrackBack

April 21, 2004

Candy Canes

Halsted Bernard comments that there is nothing sadder than a candy cane in April except perhaps free tuition that someone is not taking advantage of.

I wish him luck as he contemplates going back to school for a humanities program - it is a terrible job future but a wonderful set of things to know and to learn.

I disagree with him about the candy cane. I am one of those folks who like candy canes. I stock up at the holidays, buy extra when they go on sale, and eat them all year long. For some reason the peppermint-sugar ratio in a candy cane is just a bit different from a starlight mint, the cane is lighter tasting and the taste is pitched more tenor, less baritone if that makes any sense.

I think it has to do with the ratio of peppermint oil to peppermint extracts, or to the way the candy is processed into a bent stick rather than a decorated lump.

Of course, I also buy peppermint starlights in the five-pound bag. I do like hard candy, peppermint candy in particular, as the next best thing to chocolate.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 19, 2004

Challah

I made challah earlier today.

I use the bread machine to knead and rise the dough, then I braid it by hand and bake in on tiles in the oven.

This is an extension of my ur-recipe for bread: 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup water, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp yeast to make 1/2 lb bread.

4 cups bread machine flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 eggs
1 egg white
enough water to bring the total volume of eggs and water to 1 1/3 1 1/2 cups
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp yeast
1/3 cup light olive oil

use the leftover egg yolk to glaze before baking.

I have some unglazed pottery tiles that I use to convert the oven into a baking surface. They are cheap and highly useful if you bake yeast bread.

EDIT: bonehead here can't count. Use one and one-half cups of fluid.

Method

Break two eggs into a measuring cup. Separate a third egg and reserve the yolk; add the white to the measuring cup. Add water to bring the total volume up to 1 1/3 1 1/2 cups. You may want to break the yolks or even beat the eggs lightly before adding the flour - we had some egg yolk goo in the corner of the bread machine after kneading.

Pour the wets into the machine, add the rest of the stuff (scoop and level your flour, you know the drill) and run on the Dough setting. Or, use the dough hook and the mixmaster and then rise it in a warm space.

After rising
punch down the dough (decant from machine, roughly flatten with your fist, pound flat with your fingertips so you get a flat sheet full of little divots, fold like a letter, bang with the heel of your hand to activate the yeast, fold like a letter, bank with the heel of your hand again. Just as Julia Child does in The Way to Cook

let it rest to relax the gluten
Divide the dough in half.
Divide each half into thirds
stretch each bit of dough into a long rope by squeezing the dough outward from the middle. Don't roll it on a table. You should have three rops about as long as your forearm.
Braid them. Use a dab of water to seal the ends.
Place on a towel on a baking sheet and let rise. Flip the towel over so it covers the dough.
Now do it again for the other half of the dough.

While the bread is rising, put your tiles or baking stone into the oven and pre-heat at 425

When the bread is roughly doubled in size but when it still springs back after being touched

Beat the reserved egg yolk with a bit of water to make a glaze.
Sprinkle your baking peel with cornmeal

Roll one loaf and its towel onto your forarm, roll it from your forarm onto the peel
Shake the peel to make sure the loaf moves freely

Paint the surface with the egg glaze
Deposit on one side of the stones or tiles

repeat with second loaf

turn down the oven
Bake for 15 minutes at 375
Flip over
bake for 5 minutes at 350
Check for doneness with instand-read thermometer - bread is done at 180 to 200 degrees.

Cool and serve.

Makes two small loaves.

Posted by Red Ted at 03:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 11, 2004

I wanna donut !

I wanna donut!

Actually, I want home-made sticky buns, made with real butter and lots of walnuts and raisins, but we are restricting tree nuts from the toddler until he is closer to two years old and I don't want to eat sticky buns and tell him he can't have any.

But, it is a moot desire, for I will not let myself have sticky buns. Or donuts.

Why not? I got my cholesterol test back last week and, well, I need more exercise and a tighter control over my diet.
Total: 153 - a fine number, low but not so low as to cause aggression problems.
LDL: 103 - a fine number (or it was before the recent test study)
HDL: 28 - bad bad bad. It had been 34 six months ago, acceptable, but 28 is too low and the ratio of LDL/HDL is back in the heart attack zone.

But I still really want a donut. A dozen donuts. And pie, extra pie. And brownies with ice cream!

I get a piece of hard candy, and to go join a gym again.

And back to work.

Posted by Red Ted at 11:03 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 05, 2004

Name your inner hobbit

At dinner tonight the toddler and I were "filling in around the corners" - having a little bite of this and a little bite of that as we properly pack our bellies for the long haul - hours at least - until the next meal.

I realized that what we were doing was filling our inner hobbit, the little man in your belly (or woman in your belly - everyone has one) who wants to know what happened to second breakfast? what are we having for tea? did you hear about what happened to my cousin's wife's great aunt's daughter? and what do you mean the beer comes in Pints!

I don't know what the toddler has named his inner hobbit, but mine has a name - Mortimer Stoutbuttons. I have long had a name for my tummy (some people name their sexual organs, but I know where MY priorities are) and called it Mortimer. Stoutbuttons is a fine hobbitish name and the usual surname for halflings and hobbits that I play in games. So, Mortimer Stoutbuttons it is.

What is the name of your inner hobbit?

Posted by Red Ted at 08:31 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 01, 2004

Chicken Soup

J's cooking is nothing like this.

But she does make a good chicken soup, and so I found the comic funny. In a perverse sort of way.

Why yes, I do get strange when I grade. Why do you ask?

Posted by Red Ted at 09:50 AM | TrackBack

January 28, 2004

The Lap Toddler Diet



I am still a little fragile from being sick: low appetite, sleepy, mazy brained.

Thus I was very glad tonight to have had a chance to try the Lap Toddler Diet. I predict that this will soon be all the rage among trendy diet people, with dieters who have more money than sense going to rent-a-toddler before going out for a bite.

What is the Lap Toddler Diet?

It is much as the name suggests. Sit down to dinner. Before eating, lift a still-hungry toddler and place him on your lap. Let the toddler eat from your bowl until the bowl is empty or the toddler bursts. Do not repeat! Management can not be responsible for busting toddlers.

Seriously, the little man had a good dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, then had another half dinner off my plate after I got home from teaching. Later, in his bath, he looked to be 4 months pregnant. I make a good meatball, but this was still a remarkable feat of gluttony.

I predict a growth spurt any day now. Either that or he is going to start growing hair on his toes.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:41 AM | TrackBack

January 24, 2004

Cornbread V


Why yes, there have been four other different cornbread recipes before this one.

Dries:

1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup AP flour
pinch salt
2 tsp baking powder, break up the lumps
1/2 tsp baking soda, break up the lumps
2 rounded spoonsful buttermilk powder

Wets:

1 egg
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup yoghurt
1 cup milk

Method
Preheat oven to 400f

combine dries in a large bowl
sift with a large whisk

Combine egg, yoghurt and oil in a small bowl
beat together
add milk to wets
stir

Spray the bottom of an 8 1/2 * 11 pan

Pour wets into dries
mix together with a few short deft strokes
pour into pan

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until done.

Posted by Red Ted at 05:14 AM | TrackBack

January 23, 2004

Good Bread


Yesterday morning I made a loaf of bread - I bake my own bread and muffins but buy rolls, buns, and funny-shaped loaves. It was a goofy loaf: I had wanted to make a standard pund and a half loaf of honey-sourdough, with a cup of sourdough, a cup of bread flour, a cup of whole wheat, a little salt, a little yeast, some honey and some oil. My hand slipped, and the AP flour that was supposed to feed the sourdough went into the bread machine (why yes, I am lazy). So, I made a 2 pound loaf with a cup of sourdough, a cup of AP flour, a cup of whole wheat, and a cup of mixed bread flour and whole wheat, plus a double dose of honey, and the appropriate amounts of salt, yeast, and oil.

It made a good loaf. Between last night and this morning I ate a pound of bread, less the half-slice that the little man had for dinner and less whatever J took with her for her snack. I just wanted to share the good loaf of bread.

In other news, I started writing up a longer rant on body issues, and it is currently an over-long mess half made up of me wearing my pretentious pundit hat and half of me in selective confessional mode. I will see if I can get enough B-level writing time to finish it; today I get to start making changes to chapter two and that will eat up my A-level writing. I get to turn 72 pages of run-on into 50 pages of tight argument, then I get to add a conclusion talking about Joseph Story's doctrine that Christianity is a part of the common law of the United States.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:36 AM | TrackBack

January 17, 2004

Reading and cooking


It is a day for reading and cooking, a bright cold day in January.

I plan to dig into the books I have on hand and look for help construing the tail end of chapter four. Along the way I am also doing some cookery - I have been craving home made pizza for much of the week so I will cook some tonight.

The dough is kneading in the kitchen as I write this. I think that the recipe I am working with will need to be adjusted - it uses a cup and a half of water and three and a third cups of flour. When I bake bread, I figure one third of a cup of water is right for a cup of flour - so if this were a bread flour it would need either 9 oz water or four and a quarter cups of flour. I added extra flour to bring it up to a ballparked four cups, and we will see how it works.

When trying something new, I always make it by the recipe once, then with variations a few times, then write down my own version. It is a pattern that works outside the kitchen as well.

And so to divide the dough and let it rise.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:08 AM | TrackBack

January 11, 2004

Evil Women


Fortune Elkins is an evil woman.

But that is OK, because we like evil women.

She is creatively evil - downstairs I have a batch of a variant on her pizza dough resting before it is kneaded. Later today we will be having home-made pizza for dinner.

I am on a low-fat diet, and should be very careful about pie. But, I dearly love it and when I saw her recipe I decided I had to try my own variations on the theme.

Evil Evil Evil

Posted by Red Ted at 10:33 AM | TrackBack

Pie notes


Hmm, Fortune Elkins lives in New York. Why am I not surprised that her pizza dough recipe makes a very good New York style crust - thin, crunchy and chewy all at the same time. It was a bit potchy to start dough mid morning and assemble pizza for dinner, but it was a good dough.

I need to work on my execution - it has been years since I made pizza and I was all out of practice. I still had the tiles for the oven handy, so that worked, and luckily we are in a house not an apartment so we were the only people bothered when we set off EVERY smoke alarm in the place, but the stretching and assembly needed work.

My dough was too wet and sticky, it stuck together when rising (use two trays next time, not one), and I had to flour it to work with it which meant that there was raw flour on the bottom of the pie where there should have only been a little cornmeal. It was still yummy.

For red sauce, I made a quick marinara with a Thai dragon, none of its seeds, two cloves garlic, one can crushed tomatoes, olive oil, fresh basil, and dried oregano. Oh, and a little salt. J sez it needed black pepper, so drop that in next time. That worked, as did the thin layer of cheese and the fresh mushrooms.

J wants home-made pie again next tomato season, I might make it again a little sooner. I need to make it more often if only to get pies that are more round than square. If only I had not blown my saturated fat budget.

We sometimes order a pie from the local pizza places. So far, every pizza place in South Jersey, and certainly every place in our neighborhood, has something wrong with the pie. Most of them use a dreadfully boring red sauce. Many use too much cheese. The two places that have a good sauce have other problems - one uses too much cheddar and nutty cheese, the other uses garlic powder. Why garlic powder on a pie? It ruins it.

If only pie were not potchy - especially when a hungry toddler wants to play with the 550 degree oven.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:59 AM | TrackBack

January 08, 2004

Coffee


Fortune Elkins - who has a cool blog about Bread, Coffee, Chocolate, and Yoga - wants to know:

"forgive me ted, but i wanna hear about the coffee.
whose yrg? which costa rica estate? how are you brewing it?
if you will forgive me, the politics of this or that is dull -- but the coffee! that i wanna know!"

Gladly. I drink a lot of coffee, about a pound a week - it is my one remaining luxury.

I normally drink a roughly 50-50 blend of hi-test and decaff, and choose two varietals that talk together to form the blend. The sidebar shows my current brew - normally there are only two lines but I got silly and bought a mess of half-pounds last time I went coffee shopping.

I currently get my coffee from CoffeeWorks in Voorhees, NJ (no web page). It is a small coffee cafe with a tiny stage, a sandwhich menu, and the usual steam brewing gear. The waitstaff and barristas are local teenagers; some are competant, others are clueless, all are friendly. The owner is a cool lady - I think she does the roasting but I have never been there while the roaster was running.

They roast their own coffee, and they roast it frequently; I buy coffee about every other week, and it has always been roasted in the last few days.

I have no idea what estate they buy from. The Yirg were medium-small beans, roasted medium, with a thin white line at the seam between the two halves of the bean. I found it a little thin solo, but when blended it gave a nice winy undertone to the mixture. I had been blending it with a Guatamalan decaff - slightly chocolate taste, medium roast, strong taste towards the front of the mouth - and found the combination so good I drank it for a month. They were out of the Guat, so I switched the Costa Rican decaff.

I store beans in Rubbermaid containers in a dark cupboard. I grind with a Krups chopper, usually going 10 seconds by the clock for 7 scoops of beans. I use a pastry brush to clean the chopper after each use.

Those seven scoops go into a basic Braun drip coffeemaker (185 degrees in the carafe after brewing) with a Melitta brown paper filter. I add water to the 8 mark on the machine - about the 9 mark on the carafe, and brew. It makes about 7 1/2 "cups" by the carafe or some 30oz of coffee - Braun is good and adjusts its water levels to approximate the water absorbed by the grounds during brewing. I turn off the hot plate after brewing - burnt coffee is worse than cold coffee.

I drank my coffee black for 20 years until I had a bout of gastric reflux over the summer. (The blog started as an exercise and diet diary - the early months are boring.) I now blend my coffee half-and-half with skim milk. Sometimes, especially if I am using a darker roast, I heat the milk to thicken it .

Thats about it for coffee - I don't roast my own beans, I don't know the technical vocabulary to describe coffee tastes, I simply know what I like and make a lot of it.

J thinks my coffee is too strong.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:26 AM | TrackBack

January 01, 2004

Traditions and Change

The Barefoot Kitchen Witch wrote about braiding traditions a month or so ago at the start of winter Carnival season. (Scroll up - she continues the thought) I was reminded of her thoughts around 7:00 this morning as I put dinner in the oven.

Mom is Southern, and from her we learned that you will have good luck all year if you eat black-eye peas on New Year's Day. So, most years we remember to eat our black-eyes.

Black-eye peas are traditionally served with sauteed onions as a side dish to a meal of baked ham, corn bread, and collards. It is darn good eating. It also fails the kosher test - ham oinks, and cornbread is dairy.

So, we adapted another tradition, and on New Year's Eve we have vegetarian chile and dairy cornbread. It was good, although I made it too spicy for J's pregnant digestive tract.

Tonight, the menu is brisket, collard greens, and black-eye peas. No ham, no dairy, but it should still be good eating. We will cook the collards with vinegar and a little chipotle rather than using ham or pork fat. The brisket is cooking now - browned it and then put it up at 250 with sauteed onions, garlic, coriander, black pepper, and just a splash of strong coffee.

Braiding traditions, a rich yet experimental meal, and black-eye peas. I think I like the precedent we are setting for the new year.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:44 AM | TrackBack

December 30, 2003

Snakes and Cows



Snakes will eat one large meal and then spend hours or, in some cases, days digesting their food.

Cows spend half of their waking time eating, and the other half chewing the things they ate earlier. They are always consuming.

One way that I distinguish people is by the size and frequency of their meals. I know some snake people - my brother is one - who forget to eat for half a day and then consume thousands of calories at a sitting. I know some cow people - always grazing, never eating.

I was reminded of this because the little man is sick - ear infection - and it has thrown his meals off. Today, at least, he is eating larger meals less often. He had a snake for lunch - I was seriously worried that the boy would burst by the end of the meal.

I, of course, am neither a cow nor a snake. I am a hobbit - I like six meals a day when I can get them. That is cow-like, but I also have snake-like patterns. My culture hero is Dagwood Bumstead - large meals, frequent naps, and skinny as a rail.

So, six large meals a day, with a nap to recover. That sounds about right.

And, back when I was running 30+ miles a week, I was skinny as a rail.

And so to read another chapter.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:07 AM | TrackBack

December 20, 2003

Food notes


Melanie is still disconcerted by garlic. A couple of years ago I had a problem with garlic and gassiness. It has cleared up, and we now use moderately large quantities of garlic while cooking. Even the baby likes garlic. The only problem is, when we order pizza from the local stores, the sauce tastes boring without the extra zing of garlic, oregano, and hot pepper. This leads me to:

A note on low-fat cooking. Fat carries flavor and gives a pleasurable mouth feel. When reducing the fat, add more spices and more flavorings to recover. Many commercial low fat products try to cover their lack of fat by adding extra sugar. I don't like that. I use extra spices and strong flavors. I find that acids make a good replacement for salts, and that yoghurt and olive oil make good replacements for heavier oils. So when doing collards with salt port, pull the salt pork and add a splash of vinegar. If cooking a carrot cake, base it on yoghurt rather than on corn oil. Oh, and use a little bit of extra virgin olive oil rather than a mess of the boring stuff.

A final note on peppers: I cook with a fair number of hot peppers. I grow my own Thai Dragons. Hot peppers dry easily - just string a needle, pierce the pepper and draw a little loop to hold it in place, then hang the string of peppers in a well ventilated place. We dried them in the basement right over the dehumidifier. Whole hot peppers do best if chopped or broken up in the cooking oil before the pan is heated; this gives the pepper flavors a chance to infuse the oil and spread. If you are using ground pepper from the spice store instead, add the hot pepper when you add the garlic.

Oh, and for Melanie's readers. We are in an interfaith marriage. I was raised Catholic, currently have a belief system similar to liberal Protestantism, and am comfortable in the "courtyard of the temple." J was raised Reformative, is theologically Reform, but prefers Conservative worship practice.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:31 AM | TrackBack

December 19, 2003

Bloody Chicken


Hanukkah starts tonight. It is the festival of lights, a minor holiday that has been trotted out to join the solstice carnival.

Melanie at Just a Bump on the Beltway is a practicing Christian who is also gastronomically Jewish.(1) She has been looking forward to cooking a festival dinner. She has been looking into Latkes and the Ashkenazic tradition.

I checked with J, who reminded me that the festival of lights is a festival about oil lights. Anything cooked in oil is proper for Hanukkah. In Israel, apparantly, one of the big hits is a sugary dough, rolled into a log, twisted, and fried in oil - Jewish twist donuts. Any holiday where the ritual food is donuts appeals to my inner Homer Simpson - especially because I do not care for latkes.

But, I am on a low fat diet. Low fat kosher cooking is an oxymoron. We can do it, but mostly by cooking a lot of food at home, eating out rarely, and relaxing our already Reform strictures when we do eat out.(2)

So, we were planning to just cook bloody chicken for dinner tonight. What is that you ask? It is a dish I worked up about a dozen years ago when I had company coming over and all I had in the house was boneless chicken breasts, canned olives, carrots, onions, and the usual pantry staples. Oh, and a body of the very smooth 1984 Hungarian Sangre de Toros - a European lake wine that had softened to the point of innocuousness.

So, I sauteed onions and chicken in olive oil with vast amounts of fresh garlic, added carrots, added wine and tomato sauce, simmered, and finished with olives. We served it with rye bread and the rest of the bottle. Sangre des Toros translates as bull's blood, and so I called it bloody chicken. My mom still cooks it by that original recipe - I wrote it down for her that night. J and I also cook it, but it has evolved to drop the carrots, add the olives earlier, and can be made with or without whatever cheap red wine you happen to have around. Just remember that garlic is a vegetable and you are OK. I would give a detailed recipe, but that would be against the spirit of the dish: chuck stuff in a pot until you like it.

Bloody chicken is good food. It means we will have an open bottle of wine for the blessing. It would have been served with a light caraway rye - instead it will be served with a caraway buckwheat bread (or with stale kaiser rolls.) But, it is not an oil-based food.

Perhaps I will set up a bowl of olive oil to dip the bread into.

(1), In the spirit of Eugene Volokh's discussion about messianic judaism, I wonder if a Christian can be gastronomically Jewish without becoming apostate. One rabbi once, only half jokingly, described Judaism as: "They tried to kill us; they failed. Lets eat!" By joining in the feast, have you accepted the basic tenets of the faith? (3)

(2) The secret to restaurant cooking is to use a LOT of butter. That, more than the mis en place or the simmering pots of stock, is why things taste better when you eat out. Low fat and not mixing milk and meat come into trouble when, as J does, you dearly love roast lamb and you dearly love saute'd vegetables. What we do at restaurants is I order the heart healthy menu, J orders what she desires but asks for no pork or shellfish, and we assume that all side dishes were cooked with magical mystery oil.

(3) I love footnotes in footnotes. And, for the record, I am just teasing Melanie a little. Attending a passover seder or cooking latkes no more makes you Jewish than singing a Christmas carol makes you Christian.

Posted by Red Ted at 12:42 PM | TrackBack

Flour Bugs



I think that one of the best tests of a cook is not how things taste when everything works, but how well they recover when something goes wrong.

I was making a caraway rye bread for dinner tonight (more on that later) and things went wrong.

Flour bugs are, well, bugs that live in flour. Bug eggs make it through all the sifting, sorting, and filtering because they are about the same size as the flour particles. In coarsely ground flour, they have an easier time of it. After a while, they hatch and then bugs go through a life cycle in your cupboards. The only thing you can do about them is 1, keep your flour in a sealed container and 2, use it faster than the bugs cycle.

I opened the coarse-ground rye flour and, as I was scooping and levelling, found flour bugs crawling around. They were still in the crawly phase, not the flying egg-laying phase, so I just dumped the bag of flour and made a note to myself not to buy rye flour until I was ready to use it - no more paper bags of rye flour sitting around waiting to be opened.

But, what to do about dinner? Last night I had seethed the caraway seeds in water; the caraway seeds, sourdough, and sour salt were already in the bread machine; tonight's dinner wants strong bread.

I went to the cupboard, grabbed the bag of buckwheat flour that I keep around for pancakes, and made a caraway sourdough buckwheat loaf. It might be edible, or we might be eating stale kaiser rolls with dinner. But, I tried to recover.

The other key to being a good cook, especially on the home level, is a willingness to try something new and throw it out if it is terrible. Knowing that your new dish might turn out to be a pizza lowers the stress on the cook and, paradoxically, means that the new dish is more likely to work out because the cook will be more willing to mess with it.

So, tonight we will be starting the holidays with a very strange loaf of bread. I wonder if it will be any good.

Posted by Red Ted at 12:25 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Bloody Chicken Part II


Melanie said she was going to try the recipe. So, this time while cooking I decided to make a vague note of quantities.

3 small onions
3 pounds of boneless breasts
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
about a cup of wine
between a tsp and a tbsp thyme
half a head of garlic, crushed
about 6 oz olives (green with pits this time, but whatever you desire.)
1 dried Thai dragon pepper, with its seeds.
about a quarter cup olive oil

mis en place
French the onion (no comments from YOU LeeAnn)
chop the chicken into chunks
crush the garlic into a bowl
break up the pepper, put it in a large pot with the olive oil

Method
heat the olive oil and pepper
add the onions to the hot oil
add thyme and salt to onions
saute until onions are transluscent
add chicken, brown
when almost brown, add garlic
when aroma rises, add tomato and wine
bring to the simmer
add olives
simmer 20 to 40 minutes - until tender.

Serve with pasta, dumplings, or bread.

Oh, and J points out that anything with olives in it is, by definition, hanukkah food.

Ps, the buckwheat loaf was a brick of black bread. It was fairly tasty. I might add some buckwheat flour to my next rye bread.

Posted by Red Ted at 07:58 AM | TrackBack

December 13, 2003

Jammin !


This morning I made jam. I now have seven pints of orange marmalade and four half-pints of blueberry jam cooling on a rack in the kitchen. I have two more half-pints of blueberry in the refrigerator - overfilled the jars and they did not can properly.

I like jam. I like to make it; I like to eat it. I am very fond of bread and bread products, and I like my bread with a little bit of sweet on it.

The blueberry is almost straight out of an Alton Brown recipe - I dropped the star anise for allspice and cloves. For the marmalade I tried something different. The neat thing about oranges and lemons is that they contain enough pectin in their seeds and membranes to gell themselves easily. In the past my orange marmalade recipe was simple: Oranges, Sugar, Water, and lots of boiling, chopping, and boiling again. Squeeze the oranges, separate the pits and pulp, scrape the peel, chop the peel, boil until the peel cooks, add sugar, boil until it gels. It made OK marmalade, but I often boiled off the volatile orange flavors while trying to get the stuff to gell.

This time I started with frozen oranges. I boiled them for an hour, whole, then let them sit in their boiling liquid overnight. This morning I scooped the oranges out, boiled their innards for ten minutes while chopping the nice soft peels, squeezed the good stuff out of the boiling pile, and then assembled it into jam. I added sugar and boiled gently until I liked the caramel taste. Then, even though it was far from gelling, I added pectin, boiled three more minutes, and declared it jam.

Where last winter's marmalade was moderately orange with a thick caramel undertaste, this is brighter and more bitter with a delicate caramel undertaste. I will let it age for a few months, then try some.

Jam is remarkably easy, if you have some large pots and some mason jars.

Posted by Red Ted at 02:50 AM | TrackBack

December 06, 2003

The Spice of Life


J. cooked dinner tonight. It was good. She used one of my recipes, but she implemented the details herself. As usual when we share a recipe, we each make very different dishes from the same basic ingredients and method.

J and I both cook. Neither of us is professional quality, but both of us are good home-style cooks. During dinner I was reminded, as I often am, about the good things that come when you share a house with another cook. We still rotate meals and menus, but with two of us cooking we get two different meat loafs, two (or five - there are variants on variants) different spaghetti sauces, and so on. That is a good thing.

It is remarkable what a difference the cook makes.

That is all, it was a simple little thought.

Low fat Chicken Fajitas
Two boneless chicken breasts, cut into slices or strips
two green peppers, cut into strips
two medium onions, cut into strips (julienne)
chipotles in adobo
garlic - about a tablespoon, chopped
ground cumin
oregano
salt
pepper
olive oil
You need a cooking pan that can get hot, we use either an iron wok or a big cast iron fry pan.

Take 2 or 3 chipotle peppers and a proportionate amount of adobo sauce
put in a bowl big enough to marinade the chicken
chop up the peppers, remove seeds if you desire to make them less hot
add oregano, salt, pepper
add garlic
add a long tablespoon of olive oil (a dollop)
mash into a marinating paste

Cut the chicken into slices or strips, place in the marinade bowl, toss to cover
let sit

cut pepper into strips lengthwise
cut onion into strips

saute onion in olive oil with a pinch of salt, oregano, cumin seeds, black pepper
when translucent,
add green pepper
cook until the green pepper just changes color - should still be crunchy
Remove onion and pepper to a serving bowl.

Wipe out the pan
Saute the chicken, might take two batches

while sauteing the chicken, heat the burritos (we drop them in a dry cast iron fry pan)

To serve, put a tray of burrittos, a bowl of chicken, and a bowl of peppers & onions on table.
Serve with salsa.
If you mix milk and meat, put some sour cream on the table.

Easy, and about fortyfive minutes from "I'm hungry" to saying grace.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:42 AM | TrackBack

November 26, 2003

Starting the Thanks list


I got some good news yesterday and today, and I want to start making a list of things that I am thankful for.

Some of these are personal, others are professional.

In my personal life, I am thankful for wife and son; both are wonderful. I am thankful that three out of four grandparents have met the baby, and all three are active if not healthy.

I am thankful that we will be in a position to host a feast for twelve people, that is its own blessing despite also being a lot of work.

In my professional life, the thanks are smaller, or better, shorter term.

My advisor likes chapter three, finally. I am thankful that I may have learned how to write a chapter.

I have an interview next week, there I am hopeful that something will come of it.

Some of my students are wonderful. Teaching a bright, interested student is a fine experience, and I am thankful that I have had it this semester. So too is being able to make someone excited about material that they had expected to hate, the power to convert is a fun power to have.

Despite my flashes of the blues this fall, it has been a good year. And I am thankful for it.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:32 AM | TrackBack

November 21, 2003

Muffins


I baked blueberry muffins last night. I also baked corn muffins on Wednesday morning - I appear to be on a muffin kick. Recipes are at the bottom of this entry.

As I was walking the hound and the baby this morning I thought about the muffin-making process. I like to bake. I have liked to bake ever since, when I was in 7th grade or so, Mom decided that while she did not have time to bake pie for me, she did have time to find me some recipes so I could make them myself. I started with grandmother's lard-based pie crust and a family friend's lime chiffon pie. The first one was OK, the third one was very good indeed, and I have been a baker ever since.

The more I bake, the easier it is to do. Scooping and leveling flour is slow the first time you do it, faster the fourth time. Beating muffin/brownie/chemical bread batter together in a few short deft strokes is a lot easier after you have done it a few times. The first time I had to beat egg whites and then fold them into batter it took me a long time, and I checked Julia Child three times to see if I did it right. These days I think nothing of grabbing the blender and separating eggs so that the waffles will be lighter.

I don't make many pies any more; I am watching my saturated fat intake because of the cholesterol, and both the lard crust that I used to make and the butter crust that I shifted to about 10 years ago will break my fat budget. (The lard crust is flakier, the butter crust is tastier.) I do bake a lot of bread and, when I remember how easy they are, I bake muffins.

Muffins are: 5 to 10 minutes of prep, all of which can be done while the oven heats; 15 to 20 minutes of baking; 5 minutes of cleanup, most of which can be done while the muffins are baking. They are quick and easy.

Or rather, they are quick and easy if you have all the ingredients handy. Because I like to bake, I keep a fully stocked baking cupboard. I rarely find a recipe that calls for something that I do not have, and when I do I usually happen to have a substitute handy. Preparation means that baking becomes a whim, an instant gratification, rather than a project or a bother.

There are other things in life that are easy to do if you have the tools and supplies handy, and are a bother otherwise. When I putter around the house I always have to go to the home store once or thrice to get parts, get tools, and get supplies. Home maintenance is a bother. At some point, it will go from being a bother to being a chore. This pattern is not limited to mechanical things; it also applies to life skills from being able to use a hammer to having practice performing other tasks.

I am teaching my students how to write. Most of them have improved their writing over the course of the semester. Similarly, I am using this blog to give myself extra practice at writing - I still need to get better at short, fluid, effortless prose. We learn by doing.

We also build up stock of emotional tools, personal communication tools. I think of this because Lilith and Rupert have been talking about communication within relationships. Read the comments on Lilith's page. We learn phrases and bits of grammar just as we learn how to beat an egg or wield a hammer. With experience we figure out which phrases best convey which emotions. Every long-term couple has a phrase or three that they use to indicate, for example, a desire for sex. For us it is a simple "Hey baby, what'cha doin'?" In a long term relationship, we figure out when to hint and when to hit our partner with the metaphorical two-by-four.

I found myself trying to inventory life tools. What are the interpersonal equivalents of a jar of powdered buttermilk in the cupboard, or the skill of beating egg whites to a soft peak without using sugar, salt, or vinegar? I am not sure. I might make a list as a study break while I read rough drafts today.

The last few paragraphs were either very deep or very banal. Rather than decide which, I will leave you with the blueberry muffins I improvised last night. This is a lower fat recipe. I happened to have all the parts on hand. Adopt it to your kitchen.

blueberry Muffins, by Red Ted
10 minutes prep
20 minutes cook
my muffin tray makes 12 medium muffins.

Dries
1 cup AP flour, scooped and leveled
1 cup cake flour, scooped and leveled, plus one heaping tablespoon cake flour.
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda (crumble it in your palm to get rid of the lumps)
pinch salt (1/4 tsp?)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp powdered buttermilk

Wets

1 egg
about 1/4 cup non-fat yoghurt (I glopped with a spoon twice and said good enough.)
about 2 tbsp oil (again, I measured by eye. I use olive oil.)

other
1 cup skim milk
1 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 425
combine dries in a large bowl, stir them together with a whisk
combine wets in a small bowl, beat the egg, oil, and yoghurt together

spray a muffin tray with non-stick spray coating

Add wets to dries
add milk to dries
mix together in a few short, deft strokes
when almost combined, add blueberries
finish mixing - remember that if you develop the gluten the muffins will be tough, so easy does it.

pour batter in to muffin tray.
use a spoon to steal from the large and fill the low until they are all about even
bake for 15 to 18 minutes

remove muffins from the tin immediately, cool on a rack.
Once they are cool enough to eat, they are ready to eat. (Unlike bread which should breathe for an hour before cutting)

Posted by Red Ted at 09:04 AM | TrackBack