This post includes a review of one of my favourite cookbooks and my own personal sourdough journey.Continue reading →
I have been due to read a Sandor Katz book for awhile now. I am glad I was able to get the revised edition of this book.
Fermentation has become a hobby of mine for the last few years. I’ve made sourdough, kombucha, milk kefir, water kefir, jun kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and recently started lacto-fermentation of pickles and garlic. On a regular basis, I make jun kombucha at least twice a week and sourdough almost weekly during the cooler months. I drink the kombucha almost daily and when I am not making sourdough regularly, I do buy it from my local bakery.
A few years ago, I noticed that after a morning of drinking kefir, eating sauerkraut, and sourdough bread, my stomach felt great. Not heavy and things felt easy to digest. While I have never been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, IBS, digestion issues, etc. I have always had some digestive problems since I was a kid. My father has similar ones and is even more restricted by lactose intolerance. It’s not chronic nor is it persistent on a weekly or monthly basis, but I am the kind of person who gets digestion issues while travelling. At least a couple times of year, I get painful indigestion or food poisoning from eating something that did not agree with me. I guess the microbiome that Dad gave me is not the best. However, I generally eat pretty well and I find that fermented drinks and foods digest well. They do not give me problems.
I liked Katz’s style and ethos about fermentation. He emphasizes that you should keep clean but not sterilized and unlike a lot of other food or beverage books, he does not give you a mandatory list of what you need to get started. I found the book really interesting. There were lots of things I wanted to try and it was very accessible. The book has recipes but there is an emphasis on process rather than strict guidelines. Even the process can be adjusted.
The book has a lot of references and tips from lots of sources. I also really like the reflection about how microbes and bacteria and yeast are all around us. That this biodiversity in our food is important for sustainability in the long run.
I would really like to do a proper full cookbook review where I evaluate some of the recipes, but I do not own this book in book form. I do have an ebook version and will experiment with some recipes.
Read August 27-28, 2019.
Marcus Wareing is a Michelin starred London based chef. He is widely known on UK TV for judging “Masterchef: The Professionals”. I’ve been a fan of Wareing since watching him judge “Great British Menu”. Masterchef: The Pros is one of my absolute favourite TV programmes. Last year, I was lucky enough to dine at Marcus at the Berkeley. It was one of the best dining experiences. I hope to go back one day.
I was gifted a copy of this book and another of book by Wareing. Of the two books, this one is looked more informal which is why I read it first.
I started this as a bed time book last December and there many weeks (if not months) where I did not read it at all. I made a concerted effort to finish the last third which compromised of Entertaining (irrelevant for me) and Baking (more relevant but smaller section).Continue reading →
Books and Reading
My goal for 2018 was to read 32 books. 2017 was not a good reading year, but 2018 was much better. As of this writing, I read 45 books!
The following are books that I dumped:
- Georgette Heyer mysteries – I read the one that I owned then I tried to read one more from the library, but gave up. I enjoyed Heyer’s Regency romances, but her mysteries were rather flat.
- The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory – I was already prepared to dump this, but I read the first prologue and some of the first chapter. I did not like it and skimming through a coupe of chapters.
- Joy on Demand by Chade-Meng Tan – A book on meditation that I started and was then put on hold for months. I gave up and realized it didn’t grab me.
2019 Books and Reading Goals
- Read 42 books for 2019 – This was my old standard goal of 42 books. I think 50 would be pushing my luck. I want to go back to the old days of my youth when I did read 50+ books in a year, but I don’t think there are gurantees of it.
- Read more cookbooks – So many cookbooks, so little time.
- Read remaining 2018 New Yorker magazines – I received a promo subscription in 2017. I only have about five to read.
For 2018, I wanted to knit six projects. I finished three and am currently still work on my fourth. I am satisfied since my current project is a light sweater.
2019 Knitting Goals
- Finish three projects in 2019 including my current sweater
- Continue to not buy yarn – With the exception of travel (and even on my last few trips), I have not bought yarn in a couple years.
This year, I finally made kimchi. I continue to bake bread but always using the same recipe since sourdough is finnicky. I want to learn more recipes, but the most important is to keep baking bread.
Some ideas for 2019:
- Make stollen next Christmas
- Find another reliable sourdough bread recipe that works for my starter and me
- Cook and Bake from my cookbooks
I have many other small goals. I am continuing to work on writing more, meditation, and fitness. I have planned and booked a few races in the new year.
This is a graphic novel and cookbook in one. It’s about Cohen’s life as a chef and vegetable focused restaurant owner. Along side recipes and discussions on how to cook vegetables well, there is a lot of on how the struggles and challenges of opening and managing a restaurant. It may be a slightly easier outside of New York City, but I have always been wary of that industry.
As much as I like food (and maybe harbour some deep desire to train to be a pro if I ever had the money/time), the idea of owning a restaurant has never really appealed to me. It’s expensive and stressful. I know from growing up as an immigrant and observing my parents working in and out of restaurants. Many migrants work in the industry and they often can good money doing it especially if they ever open one up.
The recipes in this novel are interesting, but I’ll be honest and always found some vegetable techniques complex. I need to be more innovative with my vegetables. The book did have some good tips on it though.
All in all, an interesting graphic novel and cookbook. I’d recommend to readers who enjoy either or both.
Read May 4th, 2018.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
- 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.
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
- Heat your oven to 180°C. Line a 1kg loaf tin with baking parchment.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.