Update: cooking, quilts, and random thoughts

•March 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Dottie

Dottie

It’s been nearly a year since I sat down to write anything. While lots of events in that time have been boring or non-fun in nature, I choose to ignore those and instead talk about the fun things.,

That little lamb in the photo is our bottle baby, Dottie.  She’s about a month old now, and we will be keeping her as a pet.
So, now the food: I’m currently taking the baking class again. So much to learn, so little time. My instructor, MaryAnn Kleinot, is an awesome pastry chef. I’ll do my best to not embarrass her.
I make bread every week, sometimes every day. I have tried lots of recipes from traditional to no-knead, and have nice things to say about them all. Finally, the other day I decided to come up with my own recipe. So far, it has a great texture and good taste. I tweak it each time to see what else I can do with it, and so far, so good. I’m keeping a bread journal so I can repeat the results and make note of any failures. I’ll post the recipe very soon.
I’m also working to perfect my petit fours and decorating skills. I’ll be posting some pics of those efforts, too.

Quilts: although I have been spending most of my quilting time in the kitchen (not quilting), I have been working on several projects in my head. I am going to spring into action & complete one of them next month, if only to reassure myself that it can be done.

On dogs: Last year, two of our old girls passed on, and we went to the Humane Society of the Ouachitas and adopted an enormous eight year old Lab named Nelly. She’s an awesome dog, very sweet, and is most smitten with my husband. (I think she has very good taste in men.) I can go on and on about the pleasures of senior dogs, but the best thing I can tell you is, “Go get one!” If you like dogs but cannot commit to adopting one, then find a nice rescue group and volunteer. You will meet some new friends, both of the four-legged and two-legged variety, and trust me when I tell you, they will be worthy companions.
Well, it’s time to go check on today’s bread. Check in again soon for recipes and pics.

Angel cake update

•June 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Remember how I said in the previous post that it could only be better with fresh sliced strawberries over the lemon curd?

Well, I had it that way today–OMG that’s good!  OK, OK, the only way THAT gets better is maybe adding some fresh whipped cream with just a trace of sugar.  Talk about your food fantasies!

Angel food cake from hell due to operator error

•June 21, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Ok, so I’ve got cups full of egg whites as a result of making lots of custards, and I figure it’s time to make an angel food cake.  Note to self:  when you haven’t done something in 20 odd years, pay more attention.  I get all my mise en place, do all the requisite sifting, and put the cup and a half of egg whites along with the cream of tartar, salt, and lemon rind in the bowl of my Mixmaster.  This was my first mistake, as I thought 1 1/2 cups of egg whites is such a small amount, that I would not need the KitchenAid 7 quart bowl.  Next mistake was turning my back on the Mixmaster (as it was going at breakneck speed) to make my Dad a cup of tea.  I swear, it was ten seconds, and the next thing I know, there are foamy egg whites everywhere.  All over the mixer, the table, my bread board, the baker’s rack, the mixer, under the mixer, and a few places I’m sure I haven’t found yet.  !@#$%^&*()!

So I put the remaining foamy egg whites into the KitchenAid that I should have used in the first place, added another white for good measure, and followed the rest of the directions, after I had cleaned up as much of the mess as I could see.  The rest of the preparation went okay, and the cake is now in the oven.  While I’m waiting for it to bake, I might as well give you the recipe.  It’s from “A World of Baking” by Dolores Casella.  I’ve had this cookbook for years, and it’s a goodie.

1 C sifted pastry or cake flour

1 1/2 C superfine granulated sugar (I put cane sugar through the food processor.)

1/3 C cold water

1 1/2 C (about 12) egg whites

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp flavoring (I used grated lemon rind.)

1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Heat the oven to 425F and place the tube pan in the oven to heat. Sift the flour with 1/4 cup of the sugar five times; set aside.  In a LARGE bowl, combine the cold water, egg whites, salt, flavoring and cream of tartar. Beat with electric mixer until stiff. (Don’t look away like I did.)  Very gradually, beat in the remaining 1 1/4 C sugar until mixture is stiff and glossy.  At this time, say goodbye to  the mixer and gently hand fold in the flour, 1/4 cup at a time.  Then turn the batter into the preheated pan, taking care to not burn yourself.  Use the big oven mitts, and it helps if your tube pan has a handle, like mine does.  Bake at 425F for 15 minutes, then turn the heat off for 15 minutes.  After the second 15 minutes are up, remove from the oven and invert to cool.

Well, I just took it out of the oven, and it has over-caramelized.  I think this probably has to due with my oven acting up again, even though the temp read correctly when it went in.  I think the next time I will try baking it in the countertop convection oven.  At least I will be able to see what it’s doing.  Yup, that’s right, the oven with the temperamental thermostat has no viewing window.!@#$!!!

Anyhow, the cake has finally cooled and I trimmed off the too dark bits, and………it’s very tasty!  Very light and fluffy, as an angel cake should be, and it looks great, too.  I served it with a bit of that lemon curd from the CIA book, and the only thing that would make it even better is to add a few fresh strawberries.  So even with all my mistakes, this cake came out great.  Can you imagine how good it would be if I were actually paying attention?  Thanks, Dolores Casella!

White Bread from James Beard

•June 21, 2013 • Leave a Comment

When I last made this bread, I used potato water and had a wonderful loaf.  Today  I made it with regular water and find that my oven is conspiring against me.  I have had temperature control issues with this electric oven ever since we moved into our house;  the oven came with.  After I burned a few meals, I invested in an oven thermometer and discovered the temperature ran fifty degrees F hotter than the dial indicator showed.  I have since compensated and all has gone fairly well.  So today, it seems to have reverted to matching the dial.  What’s up with that?  The result is that it took longer to come up to temp, and never made it to 400, but rather 375F.  Normally, not a huge problem, but I noticed my bread lost some of its rise, a sure sign of a too cold oven.

Fast forward a few hours:  The bread tasted great!  Had a nice texture and flavor, though I do think the potato water adds on the flavor score.  Even the small drop in rise, about a half inch, did not adversely affect the texture.  I love this bread!

Again, the recipe is from ‘Beard on Bread’ and is the first one in the book, Basic White Bread.

Casserole day

•June 20, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I haven’t made a casserole in years.  Until yesterday, that is.  I had this leftover ricotta from the cannoli, and figured some pasta, tomatoes, a pound of italian sausage and a few other things I had lying around might make a decent meal.  Being out of lasagna noodles, I decided to use a box of bowtie pasta.  While that was cooking, I started my sauce by cooking off the last of the bacon.  I used the bacon grease to sweat the diced onion and bell pepper, then drained them to eliminate the excess grease.  With the pan now empty, I browned the sausage meat that had been removed from the casings.  I added a large can of diced tomatoes, returned the onions & pepper to the pan along with the bacon.  This was already tasting pretty good, and I added a dash of cinnamon, about a teaspoon of demerara sugar (aka sugar in the raw), and some fresh ground pepper.  The sausage and the bacon provided enough salt.  Using an oblong baking pan, I started with a ladle of sauce, added a layer of pasta, then dotted the pasta landscape with ricotta, another layer of sauce, and repeated the layering until I ran out.  I topped it all off with a layer of grated jack cheese, covered with tinfoil, and baked in a 400F oven for about 45 minutes.   Not bad for working with leftovers.  And my DH liked it, which is what counts most.

First time fish

•June 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I love eating fish;  all kinds of fish.  I can’t tell one from another, I have never caught a fish, and before yesterday, had never filleted one, either. Well, thanks to watching Chef Anne Burrell teach her team of Worst Cooks, I followed her instructions and butchered 2 Tilapia.  Brilliantly?  I think not, but I did manage to keep the bones out of our meal.  BTW, those two fish weighed in at 1.5 pounds total, 2/3 of which was waste.  Someone more experienced could make stock out of those fish heads and bones; ( I fed them to the chickens and the duck, who I noticed didn’t care for them, either.  Go figure.)  Anyway, I carefully floured my tiny filets, then coated them in egg whites as I was out of whole eggs, and fried them up in some oil.  I did remember to season them as they came out of the pan, and they weren’t half bad, considering this was my first attempt.  I;m happy to do it again, but the next time, ‘ll leave the butchering to a pro.  I figure those filets cost  about 10 bucks a pound.

Father’s Day Fare

•June 16, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Since my Dad has more stuff than he wants or needs, I figured I’d make him dinner for today.  On the menu are Garlic & Herb Pork Loin, Smashed Potatoes, Potato Water Bread, and Paula Deen’s Bread Pudding, topped with Cream Anglaise.

I adapted one of James Beard’s recipes from” Beard on Bread,” just making a few changes. Here is my version:

Potato Water Bread

Potato Water Bread

Potato Water White Bread based on James Beard’s Basic White Bread

1 2/3 cups warm potato water with as much of the potato starch as possible

2 ¼ tsp instant yeast (any yeast will do)

2 tsp sugar

3 ½ to 4 cups AP flour

2 tsp salt

Place the yeast in a medium bowl with the sugar and about a cup of the warm potato water.  Allow to proof 10 mins or as necessary.

Put 3 ½ cups of the flour in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle.  Add the balance of the potato water and begin to mix.  Add the yeast mixture and finally the salt.  Mix until the dough comes together (you can add more water or flour if you need to)  and then remove to a lightly floured board and knead for a few minutes.  The extra half cup of flour is to use on the board if you still have some left.

Form dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top of the dough.  Cover and place in cold oven on middle rack.  Place a pan of boiling water underneath, on the rack below.  Allow to rise until doubled, which may take 40 to 90 minutes.

Turn out onto floured board, knead and shape into one large or 2 small loaves.  I prefer one loaf from this recipe.  Place your loaf in a well greased pan or let it take a free form shape on a cookie sheet.

Cover with a towel, place over a pan of steaming water, and allow to rise until doubled.

Spritz top of loaf with water before placing in oven.

Bake at 375F for 20-40 mins until internal temp is between 190-210⁰F;  200⁰ is ideal.

This was the best bread of the week.  It’s a country style, chewy without being tough, and having a crust somewhat like a french loaf.  The potato water really makes a difference, as does the reduction of the salt in JB’s recipe from 1 tablespoon to 2 teaspoons.  Note that I do salt my potatoes when I boil them, so some of that salt remains in the water.  Another thing that makes a big difference, and I do not know why, is that I add the salt gradually, at the last minute.  Sometimes I add the salt as I am kneading on the bread board.  It seems that the later I add it, the better the texture of the bread.  Maybe Alton Brown can explain it;  all I know is that it works for me.

 
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