Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Scone of Stone

I coincidentally ran across this while trying to figure out what the incidences of sporadic Wilson's disease, hemochromatosis, and alpha-1 antitrypsin disease are. It's nifty to think that one could get to know all Wilson's disease patients in an entire country. Unfortunately, neither this article nor any other clarified exactly what those incidences are ("rare" and "extremely rare" were common phrases, though!). The paper for which I needed that data has since been completed, but I'd still like to know!

The scone is a tricky beast. Traditional English scones are light and fluffy and just a little sweet. Scottish scones* are a little denser and nuttier, often with oat or barley flour, but still just lightly sweet. American scones, on the other hand? Heavy, cloying, texturally hit-or-miss... the long and the short of it is that if I'm going to blow my daily calorie budget (and several dollars) on a pastry from 71 Irving Place or Starbucks or where have you, I'm going for something that is less likely to taste like a sugary rock.

Unfortunately for my pride, I am guilty of crafting the occasional sugary rock myself. Not so this batch:

Based on this recipe, these were flaky poufs of caraway and hazelnut and apricot and fig. 10/10, would blow daily calorie budget on again. I reduced the sugar in the recipe, added about a teaspoon (maybe less) of caraway seeds, and made a Seville orange glaze (just mix the juice with confectioner's sugar until desired consistency is reached). The unique Seville orange flavor was absolutely perfect. Next time, though, I want to avoid another layer of sweetness and will attempt to incorporate the juice directly into the dough.

*Scotland is, of course, the origin of this pastry (which, when pronounced the Scottish way, rhymes with "gone")

Monday, February 17, 2014

Think of Iceland

The planning is underway for Hannah and Andy's Great Iceland Tour of 2014! We're going on a nine-day trip to celebrate my impending graduation. Iceland has long been on my list of places to visit*; while the car rental and gas prices will be pretty steep, the actual flight and recreation--meaning days and days of hiking and soaking in volcanic hot springs--are quite affordable. It's still chilly in early May, which means that Andy can career around the countryside with me without breaking a sweat (he's a freak of nature who turns beet-red at the mere thought of actual warm weather).

I'm going for the geography but plan to take the opportunity to try some new and different foods. Aside from the traditional Icelandic dishes of fermented shark and sheep's head and dried puffin (the first of which has been described as truly foul), the famous Icelandic hot dog, eaten with "the works" (eina með öllu), is the local delicacy of choice. Oh, and a strained yogurt-type thing called skyr. The idea of eating whale doesn't sit right with me; I'll probably skip that.

I made the huge mistake of baking fresh bread again, this time a straightforward overnight whole-wheat boule.

What we didn't devour for breakfast with butter and blackberry jam I grilled for Creole egg salad and watercress sandwiches.

The recipe came directly from Deborah Madison's Greens cookbook. It's got some great recipes with unique concepts, but I frequently have issues with the proportions of herbs and seasonings to whatever protein or carb makes up the bulk of the dish. In this case, the recipe only called for three eggs against a cascade of cornichons, capers, celery, and--less alliteratively--red onion. There were so many vegetables and so much remoulade that, while the spice level was decent, the eggs were practically lost. I doubled the number of eggs and sprinkled in some more seasoning and a little more onion, celery, and pickle, and it was perfect. The spicy watercress really makes this dish, too; if you can find it in your local grocery, I highly recommend it over lettuce or spinach.

*Other hot items on the list: Mongolia (where I wish to go hawking on a bicycle, since I am not an experienced horseback rider), Antarctica, Socotra Island, Turkey (especially Cappadocia), South Korea, Croatia

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Think of England

I'm getting the catchup out of the way so that I can return to glamorous activities like going to the theater in the East Village wearing a Miro-print dress.

Because that's definitely an activity in which I engage more regularly than, say, taking a two-hour nap in the middle of the afternoon, bracketed by the rapid and violent consumption of multiple apples and followed by an evening of browsing the Internet and watching Andy play League of Legends. So glamorous.

More provisions for what I'm now calling persistent carb weather (because polar vortex is so end-of-2013).

Will someone please explain to me what differentiates ice
pellets from freezing rain from girth-challenged hail?

Polenta is great even when it's not fried golden-brown. This is topped with roasted bell peppers marinated in balsamic vinegar, caper juice, oregano, and olive oil; toasted walnuts; crispy shaved brussels sprouts; and a poached egg. I wish I'd cooked the polenta in water (or mostly water) instead of milk; it was weirdly creamy in a way that clashed with the Parmesan I'd cooked into it.

And here we have homemade mushroom and kale ravioli, the filling of which* I'm proud to say converted a friend who thought he hated kale. Using my brand-new ravioli press was... challenging. Because of a number of user errors, I thought the ravioli were kind of watery and was, at the time, ashamed to serve them to a non-spousal entity. I stand by the concept, though, and will refine the execution at some point.

And last but not least, have a bonus recipe debut for healthful whole-grain graham crackers containing, in the words of another friend, "seeds and other stuff that white people are into." They didn't turn out as crunchy as I would have liked, but the taste was great. I'll troubleshoot them at some point as well.

Whole-grain graham crackers

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup almond flour
1/3 c wheat bran
1/4 c raw millet
1/4 c flaxseeds
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
5 tbsp olive oil (or melted butter)
5 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp molasses
1/4 c milk (which may have sabotaged the crispy factor, and which I may do away with next time)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mix all ingredients together; it will form a stiff, yet still sticky dough. Roll out on a piece of parchment paper to about 1/8-inch thickness. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon, mixed with brown sugar if you want a sweeter cookie.

*Kale, wild mushroom blend, pinch of nutmeg

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Bread weather

I've been on an orthopedics service for the last week. Between waking up very early and spending most of the afternoon agonizing over my rank list*, I've been able to cook, but too drained lazy to blog. Catchup time!

For those of us who live under a rock on Pluto, cold and slush have overtaken the Northeast. I'd failed to capitalize on this with anything but a ruined umbrella and damp socks. Cue a timely bread-baking session yesterday! Two loaves later:

This is a poolish-based seeded loaf based on a recipe for harvest bread from Flour Water Salt Yeast. A poolish is a preferment with a one-to-one flour-to-water ratio (by weight, of course), which some books might refer to as 100% hydration. This Eastern European preferment is less sharp than a sourdough-type starter. It's also more susceptible to ambient temperatures, since the total fermenting time is short compared to a true starter. I love the slightly sweet, buttery flavor a poolish gives to the finished crust, not to mention how resource- and time-parsimonious it is compared to a sourdough starter.

Happy poolish!

The recipe below makes one loaf. We, however, are gluttons.

To assess for proofing, poke the bread. If the indentation slowly
bounces back, it's ready to go. If it rapidly springs back, it's not
sufficiently proofed; if it stays indented, it's overproofed.

Because I'm trying to get rid of the minute amounts of random ingredients that are lurking in my cabinets--lurking in a cramped way, that is--I threw in 46 g of buckwheat flour**. While I didn't have any wheat bran, in went a couple handfuls each of sunflower seeds, flax seeds, raw millet, parcooked wheat berries, and oats. Buckwheat is delicious, but in this case I felt like it distracted a little from the otherwise subtle bread. I'm going to load it up with more seeds next time, especially millet, and coat the outside of the loaf with a seed blend as well.

Harvest seed bread
With all due credit to Ken Forkish

250 g white flour
250 g 80 F water
0.4 g dried yeast

The night before baking, mix the ingredients by hand in a 6-quart tub until completely blended. Cover and leave out overnight at room temperature, between 65 and 70 F. When it is done, 12 to 14 hours later, it will have tripled in volume and be bubbly, with bubbles visibly popping on the surface. It will last 1-2 hours, depending on how warm your room is. If room temperature in your house is more than 70 F, be sure to check a little earlier so your poolish doesn't age beyond its bubbly peak.

Final dough:
200 g white flour
50 g whole wheat flour
140 g 105 F water
11 g sea salt
1.5 g yeast
25 g wheat germ
10 g wheat bran
Assorted nuts and seeds
All the poolish

Pour the water around the perimeter of the poolish and loosen it from the tub. Then add the remainder of the ingredients. Mix by hand; you can wet your hand as much as you want when you mix, but it's a very sticky dough. The end temperature will be variable; I didn't even bother to measure. The dough will need two folds during the first hour after mixing. Let it rise for 2 to 3 hours, or until 2.5 times its original volume.

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and shape into a medium-tight ball. Dust a proofing basket (makeshift or otherwise) with flour and place the loaf seam side down in the basket. You can also coat the basket with more seeds or bran for an extra-crunchy outside. Lightly flour the top, cover with a kitchen towel, and proof for 45 min to an hour. Mine proofed in just under 45 minutes; check early.

As soon as you start proofing, put a rack in the middle of the oven and place a Dutch oven with a lid on in it. Preheat the oven to 475 F while the loaf is proofing, to allow the Dutch oven to reheat. Carefully invert the proofed loaf onto a lightly floured surface. Remove the Dutch oven and very carefully place the loaf in the Dutch oven, seam side up. Cover and bake for 30-35 minutes, then uncover and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the loaf is deep brown to dark brown.

Remove the loaf from the Dutch oven and let cool on a rack or on its side (for maximum air circulation) for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

*My personal decision deadline is today. Basically, this.
**N.b.: Buckwheat flour, teff flour, and millet flour are among the many gluten-free flours out there. Unless you have celiac disease--in which case you probably shouldn't be eating this bread anyway--you'll have to add gluten to make up for the amount of all-purpose you're cutting out. I calculated that there are 5.5 g gluten in 46 g all-purpose flour and added that amount to the blend.