No Knead Sourdough Diary Vol. 2

Flax Seed and Oat Sourdough

With this entry, I have gone off the one sourdough recipe I have been making and found others. Basically, I am doing the turn and fold method with the long bulk fermentation for all my breads now. It is mostly working too and I love eating my sourdough. I bake it about once a week now, often prepping the dough in the morning and evening for first and second proof, then baking at night. I do not cut the bread until the next morning.

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The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

The Smitten Kitchen food blog is my favourite food blog and has been for many years so when Ms Perelman announced that she was going to release a book, I knew I would eventually buy it. Most of my cookbooks were sourced from a book surplus site which is more discounted than Amazon. However, I bought this book full price from Amazon.ca because I knew I would love it.

Food and Cookbooks are in general very subjective. With the praise the blog and cookbook got, some people didn’t see the appeal. I think you will get the author, writing, and style, or you won’t. Thankfully for me, Perelman’s food and writing style seem right up my and many other people’s alleys. As always, mileage varies, but this is a rave for me.

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No-Knead Sourdough Bread Diary Vol. 1

Sourdough

In 2012, I created my own sourdough starter from scratch. It used organic flours (rye, kamut, whole wheat, spelt) and distilled water. I kept the sourdough alive and tried to make sourdough bread half a dozen times. However, it was only mildly successful one time when I made a Olive Sourdough Fougasse. I basically gave up on sourdough until recently. It’s been a personal challenge for me as a baker. I put the sourdough starter in the fridge and would occasionally feed it, but it has lived in hibernation since 2013. In fact, I had a bit of a hard time reviving it when I took out for this experiment.

Currently, I feed my sourdough mostly with a mix of AP, whole wheat, and rye flours. I find rye flour really makes an active starter. I will also the starter with kamut or spelt if I have it on hand. I use distilled water some of the time, but I have been mixing it with cool boiled tap water. Luckily, I have access to one of the best municipal water systems in Canada.

A couple of months ago, a neighbor and I became friendly over our mutual love of food. She shared with me this no knead sourdough recipe from the Clever Carrot. She also gave me a loaf to try. The whole no-knead process and the many tips (love the water glass float taste) convinced me to try the recipe.

Why do I love sourdough? I do love the tangy taste of it. Second, it lasts longer than standard bread loaves. I do not consume a lot of bread. I make bread because I love to bake it, but rarely do I ever crave it. I am not a carbs person so a loaf of bread takes me a awhile consume. A standard 1kg loaf like the one below will take me on average 4-6 days. Loaves from commercial yeast including the other No Knead bread recipe I use get dry and hard within two days. This is why I always have to freeze those loaves, but with sourdough, they remain mostly soft in room temperature for days. I love that. Finally, I do believe sourdough is easier to digest and probably better for you.

Note: I use Canadian All Purpose flour which has higher gluten levels than standard American or British AP flours. I almost always used AP flour over bread flour for bread including all my previous Jim Lahey No Knead bread attempts. I bought bread flour for this experiment though. In the end, I feel AP is enough.

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Make the Bread: Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese – Cookbook Review and Sauerkraut

This a follow up review to one I made when I first read this book in 2014. However, I had not made anything from this book.

I still find it useful even though the costs and availability do not apply to my country or growing season. However, I really enjoyed reading about Reese’s experiments. She offers some very basic and classic recipes (pasta making, sauces, etc.) to some less typical ones (salted pork, cured salmon).

Furthermore, the author is basically one of us. Most of the recipes in this book come from other cookbooks she’s owned or read. She tested their recipes. I really like that aspect of it.

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How to Bake by Paul Hollywood

This is the first of three Paul Hollywood books I will review. As someone who loves baking, most of my cookbooks are focused on baking from the sweet to savoury to bread. This book covers that. It is the British edition of the book which I ordered from Book Outlet. I do prefer the UK editions of cookbooks.

What is a bit inconvenient is that Hollywood loves Stilton cheese which I can’t eat due to a penicillin allergy. Époisses cheese is featured once in this book too and it is hard to source here. As a UK book, there other things such as apricot jam, glace cherries, and dried peel. The pies and tarts section is more British as well. I love British baking so I adapt and substitute when necessary.

This book is suitable for novices, but it has recipes and sections for more adventurous bakers. There are sections for Sourdough and Pastries. My relationship with the former is contentious and most of the sourdough recipes makes 2 loaves which is too much for me. There are recipes for croissants, danishes, and brioche. I’ll tackle the brioche one day.

There are couple of non-baking recipes such as those breads or “bakes” you can make on the stove: chapatis, crumpets, and pancakes. On the whole, I’d recommend this for bakers who are keen on breads and expanding their repertoire. It’s not a cookies/biscuits kind of book. None of Hollywood’s books are. They are a bit more advanced than some standard cookbooks.

This was my first Hollywood book and I continue to love his cookbooks from the photographs, instructions, and to the binding.

Prose and Writing: Each section has an introduction page which gives some good pointers. Every recipe has a little blurb which not extremely useful, but nice. Hollywood is not super effusive in his writing.
Technique and Teaching: Lots of information for bakers with a bit of experience. He teaches various bread shapes: plaits, spirals, loaves, couronnes, and so forth. I’ve learned many bread and baking tips from Paul Hollywood including kneading with oil and simple things like how to mix, what tools to use, etc.
Photography and Layout: This book stands out because of the instructional photos. Great photography all around.
Other Book Notes: I really liked the overall binding of this book. It’s a hard cover, but Hollywood’s books tend to be less glossy and lighter.
Usefulness Factor: 5/5. If you’re serious about baking, bread, and viennoiseries, this a useful book.
Inspiration Factor: 4/5. Croissants and Danishes!
Recipes Tested:

  • Focaccia – Amazing. As if you bought it in the store.
  • Cholla (Challah) – This book includes pictures and instructions on how to do an eight strand/plait. Very good challah recipe.
  • Scones – Uses bread flour which I’m not too keen on with scones. They are alright.

The Recipe:

Marble Cake

Marble Cake

From How to Bake by Paul Hollywood and lovefood

  • 200 g (7.1oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 200 g (7.1oz) caster sugar
  • 1.5 tsp natural vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 250 g (8.8oz) plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 40 ml (1.4fl oz) full-fat milk
  • 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup icing sugar for dusting
  1. Heat your oven to 180°C. Line a 1kg loaf tin with baking parchment.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter, 180g of the sugar and the vanilla extract together until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then sift the flour and baking powder over the mixture and fold in with 2 tbsp of the milk.
  3. Spoon two-thirds of the mixture into the prepared loaf tin – it should three-quarters fill the tin. Sift the cocoa over the remaining third of the mixture and fold in, together with the remaining 20g sugar and the last of the milk.
  4. Spoon the chocolate mixture over the cake mixture in the tin, then run a fork through both mixtures, gently swirling the two together to create a marbled effect.
  5. Bake for 55-70 minutes, until the cake shrinks slightly from the sides of the tin and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, testing the cake after 55 minutes. Remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack. Once cooled, dust with icing sugar.

Recipe Review: While still good, this is not one of the best recipes in the book.

A 1kg loaf tin is 2lb loaf tin or by some sources, a 9×5. I have an 8×4 metal tin and a 10×6 silicone loaf mold. I used my 10×6 silicone loaf mold which makes the cake batter more shallow. In Hollywood’s Bread book, he writes that a standard 1kg loaf tin is about 27cm x 13cm x 7.5cm which would make it almost a 10×6. To be safe, I increased the temperature by 25 degrees and decreased the baking time. I checked it around 33 minutes because of the smell. It was not done, but it was done about ten minutes later. I really like using the silicone mold because I don’t have to grease it or use parchment paper, but it throws off the baking time and makes loves lower than they could be. I need to buy a 9×5.

This recipe required a lot of beating which was good for the workout. Sugar was 160g or 15g for the cocoa portion. I found it hard to marble though which is why my loaf ended up looking ugly.

Taste was good and if I kept the sugar at 200g, it would still have been alright since I think Hollywood’s recipes are less sweet than some others. This recipe was for the most part easy and I did enjoy the result. Unlikely to make again, but I still adore this cookbook.

ETA: Four days later and I have to say that I gifted some of the loaf to my parents and as they ate through it, the marbling got better. Taste was still good within the first three days too. I’d make the loaf again actually, but using a hand mixer next time.

The Fast Diet by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer

Like many others, I became more interested in Intermittent Fasting (IF) after watching Dr Mosley’s BBC Horizon programme on it. I began to realize that this would be the only diet that I could ever do. It’s more of an eating pattern, but it is one that I can relate to. I do believe people eat too much in the West and especially junk or processed food. Food is everywhere. It’s excessive.

This “diet” is straightforward and easy to follow. Two non-consecutive fasting or low calorie days per week. The rules are simple and you can eat anything on the non fast days. The studies are showing

I do love food. I think about it a lot. I make it. I read about it. I watch shows about it. I also can and do eat a lot of it. However, I have done variations of IF or calorie restriction before. When travelling, I often go through hours without eating much. I often do not eat lunch. For breakfast, I often have a simple steel cut oatmeal breakfast. I do not mind it actually and love oatmeal as breakfast. On weekends, I will often brunch and have bigger meals with family or friends.

In the past, when I have done IF without even realizing it (travelling, as a poor graduate student, as a poor intern), I did did lose weight. I am not sure if there were other effects. I do not need to lose a lot of weight to begin with, but it is getting harder to lose weight over the years.

This book could be shorter as the second half is full of reference information. IF and the Fast Diet is fairly simple to follow. The book was a good reminder of eating less at least a couple days a week. I hope to fast more in the future. Due to circumstances, I can’t follow the calorie restrictions, but it is a good reminder to eat less on certain days.

Read February 11-13, 2016.

How to Cook Everything: The Basics by Mark Bittman

When looking through my cookbooks I am surprised I had never written about this book. I love this cookbook.

This is the photographic edition of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook: The Basics. I have two other Bittman cookbooks largely because of how much I adored this one. I don’t know if I’ll get around to those for a long time.

This is a fantastic cookbook for someone starting out to cook for the first. Even an intermediate home cook will find it useful because he gives loads of variations in each recipe to alter it. I’ve used more recipes and tips from this cookbook than any other. It is extremely handy and helpful. Maybe not the best ever recipes for certain things, but practical and still good.

There are sections for vegetables, meat, seafood, and there’s a section on beans. 2016 is the year of the pulses so that is appropriate.

Prose and Writing: Concise. Strong. Easy to read. This befits a writer from the New York Times. Good for learning.
Photography and Layout: Not fancy, but to the point. I really like the layout as there were over 1000 photos in this book. It was all arranged well on the page.
Other Book Notes: This book is heavy, but no means my heaviest cookbook. I really like it though and it’s one of the first cookbooks I go to when I want to do something classic or standard.
Usefulness Factor: 5/5. This book has recipes for all your basics and for big family meals and entertaining.
Inspiration Factor: 4/5. While nothing fancy, the variations to the recipe give you a ton of ideas for the future.
Recipes Tested: Lots: Granola and Muesli, Cinnamon rolls, Chicken Stock, Minestrone soup, Vinaigrette in Jar, Tomato Soup, Garlicky White Bean Soup, Bean Burgers, Roast Chicken, Grill Cheese Sandwich, No Knead Bread (not from this book exactly from other Mark Bittman resources), Coconut Layer Cake (for reference of other cake).

The Recipe:

Pasta with Eggs and Cheese

Pasta with Eggs and Cheese

Salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated pecocorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, or more to taste
1 pound linguine or other long pasta
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Bring a stockpot of water to a boil and salt it. Heat the oven to 200F and put a large oven proof bowl in it for about 5 mins. When the bowl is warm–handle it with oven mitts to avoid burning yourself–crack the eggs on a flat surface and open them into it. Beat them with a fork or whisk until uniformly coloured. Then stir in the cheese.
  2. When the water boils, cook the pasta until it is tender but not mushy: start tasting after 5 minutes. When it’s done, scoop out the reserve at least 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  3. Immediately toss the pasta with the eggs in the bowl; if it’s too dry (unlikely), add a little of the pasta-cooking water. Taste and add more salt or cheese if you want, then add black pepper–I suggest a lot–and serve.

Notes: I made it for one person by using one egg and less than 150g of pasta. I liked the flavour and simplicity of it. A couple of quibbles. 200F not warm enough. I would raise the temperature and put it in while the pasta is cooking. I did not need the pasta water. I used a lot of parmesan. Yum.

Sunday Salon: Cookbook Challenge – Reviews

I have decided to challenge myself to read and use cookbooks from my vast collection. As of this writing, I have almost 45 cookbooks. Many that I have not properly read or used. This ongoing personal challenge will help me assess my collection, evaluate authors, and possibly, give/sell some away.

I am going to make more of an effort on reviewing cookbooks. To help myself and anyone who reads these reviews, I have made some guidelines for myself and for anyone who is interested in these reviews.

Most of these cookbooks are owned by me. Part of the reason I have a collection is that I love hardcover cookbooks. Their photos, their weight, their feel.

Read most of the book cover to cover. This generally means reading all the non-directional aspects of the book including introductions to recipes. This can often be fun as some cookbook authors are good. When I have read a cookbook cover to cover, I will mark it as such on GoodReads.

I have tried at least two to three of the recipes before writing the review. While this is a small number, I think it serves as a good first review. I may review the book in another time. In any case, it’s a good evaluation of my relationship with the book.

Substitutions are sometimes inevitable. I will note that in my review if I made substitutions when testing some of the recipes I used. If not, I try my best to follow recipes as this follows the book closely.

I often convert to metric when making most recipes. Not an issue with many books in my collection which were printed originally in the UK.

Due to time and attribution, I will not generally take photos of what I make or copy a recipe. If I do replicate a recipe for the review, it is a more basic one because this way I am not violating copyright and supporting the author.

In addition to the recipes, I will probably review the prose, techniques, chapters and layouts, the book binding and quality, and the photography if it exists.

Overall, I try to get a “feel” of the book and how useful and inspiring it may be to me or not. I am generally fair even with cookbooks I do not like and will point out their merits. I use cookbooks to learn from, but also to be inspired by.

I am looking forward to it. Hope you come along for the ride. Cheers.

No-Knead Bread Diary Vol. 2

Now that actual bread and baking season is among us, I found that my spring bread entries were still waiting to be published. Other than the standard Cranberry, Sunflower, Seed, and Orange loaf, the other two were good, but not necessarily standards. I’m already in process of attempt #10. More actual bread pictures will follow (hopefully).

Attempt #7 – May 26, 2015 – Cranberry Sunflower Seed Orange

24 hour first rise. 15 mins covered. 25 mins uncovered. Maybe the long first rise was a bad idea because this loaf came out too wet. For the first time, it was so stuck to the dutch oven that I had to rip it out in half. Not much rise. Still tasted good.

Attempt #8 – May 30, 2015 – Toasted Grains – Quinoa, Flax, Millet

1 tablespoon of butter
1 cup mixed grains (quinoa, flax, millet)

Idea taken from Girl Versus Dough. I rinsed the quinoa earlier in the day and let it dry. I melted the butter (more than 1tbsp maybe?) and toasted the grains on low-medium heat for about 10 minutes. I used way too much butter, but it smelled fantastic. Proceeded with my usual recipe (almost one third WW flour).

First rise was about 20 hours. The smell of the bread was even more lovely this time because of the toasted grain.

Attempt #9 – June 13-14, 2015 – White Loaf

Idea taken from The Kitchn. I only used white AP flour, same yeast/water, but I added 11g of kosher salt (accidentally poured too much). After the first rise of about 14 hours, I shaped it into a loaf and put it into my 10×6″ silicone Ikea loaf pan. Even with the silicone, I lightly oiled it with canola and put wheat bran in it. The oiling was not necessary, but the wheat bran made a nice crust. Second rise was for over an hour. I put it in oven for 30 minutes, turning it half way at 15 min. It did not have a good vertical rise (most my breads don’t for some reason).

It was a bit too salty as expected. Crust was still good, but more delicate than usual. I’d do this loaf again though 430g of flour seems a lot for a small loaf.

No-Knead Bread Diary Vol.1

bread

This is a bread technique I’ve wanted to try for some time. I actually like kneading. I started doing this in January when I moved into an apartment with a kitchenette and almost no counter space. I have wanted to own a dutch oven for a long time too.

Yeast: Unless otherwise stated, I used Fleischmann’s Traditional Active Dry Yeast. I didn’t proof it before using.
Salt: Fine sea salt or kosher salt.
Water: Room temp distilled water or room temp boiled tap water. I didn’t measure my water as I would always just pour enough to get a sticky dough.
Proofing: My first rise was usually 18 hours or more, but due to my schedule, I’d often have a very short second rise for about an hour. I found no significant difference with a longer second rise.
Non-stick Grain: I experimented with flour, wheat bran, cornmeal, oats, and polenta. Plain or WW flour was best because cutting made a mess of the others.
Dutch Oven: Lagostina 4-qt round dutch oven from Canadian Tire. I could not afford a Staub or Le Creuset yet; I would have to order a Lodge one online. The Lagostina is enameled on the inside unlike the Kitchen Aid and it had the dimpled lid (perfect for steam) unlike the Cuisinart. The only downside is that it’s a bit wider than I like and not 4″ high, but that’s alright for now.
Lid: I usually covered the bread for about 15-20 mins and uncovered for another 10-15.

Continue reading “No-Knead Bread Diary Vol.1”

Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney

If you liked Kitchen Confidential, you’ll like this book. This is 24 hours in a Modern American NYC restaurant as told by one of the Sous-Chefs. Since I have family members in the food industry, read other books like this, and watch a lot food professional food shows, none of this stuff came as a surprise.

For the lay person, this is a revealing look about what really happens behind the scenes of a nice restaurant. It has the highs and the many lows of it. It’s quite well written and it’s a debut work.

The second person narrative actually worked because you felt immersed in the kitchen with the narrator. His struggles were your struggles.

It’s a fun little book for those of us interested in food and the industry. I do not want this work, but it’s fascinating. At the core of it is the desire to make good food and do it well day after day.

Read July 31, 2014.