What a Difference a Recipe Makes!

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A bag of bagels for co-workers tomorrow

Bagel success! Yesterday evening I switched gears and picked up Julia Child’s Cookbook and began mixing up her bagel recipe. Because it was late, I followed her instructions about refrigerating it overnight and finishing the baking this morning. I was hopeful because if a Julia Child recipe isn’t successful then there is no hope for any cook anywhere!

This morning I punched the dough down, cut it in half and each half into five pieces. I actually weighed each piece on my scale so they were close to the same size, approximately 5.2 ounces in weight. I meticulously followed her directions and pulled each ball from back to front to form a gathered area on one side of the ball. Then I placed the gathered area down on my board and mashed my thumb through the center to the other side where I introduced my index finger from my other hand and proceeded to twirl the dough around until the hole was about 2 inches in diameter. Once all had been formed, I did the hot water bath trick for two minutes on each side where they puffed up beautifully. Once removed, I brushed each one with egg white, applied sesame and poppy seeds and popped them into the oven at 500 degrees on my baking stone that promptly cracked. I tossed about 10 ice cubes into the bottom of my oven so they would get steamed a little and then I reduced the heat to 450 degrees and baked for 25 minutes, left them sitting on the stone with oven turned off for another 5 minutes and then finally five more minutes with the oven door open before moving them to a cooling rack.  I still had one batch left to do so I inverted my cookie sheet and used that to bake the remaining five bagels.

 

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Ready to bake
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I’ll miss my trusty baking stone ūüė¶

They were beautiful!!! Even with all my troubles with a broken baking stone, the crust was crisp, crunchy and the crumb within was soft, chewy and moist. My idea of a perfect bagel. And big bonus, they were delicious.

Julia’s recipe is a keeper for sure and will be my go-to bagel recipe in the future.

Happy Bageling!!

 

Epic Failure and a Small Success

Multigrain Bagel with poppy seeds, flax seeds and kosher salt toppings

Win some and lose some. Last night I took “Boris” out of the fridge and combined the sponge for making sour dough bread this morning. The best use for these sour dough bread loaves would be as bludgeons for a murdering spree! I don’t have a clue what happened…starter (AKA Boris) losing his super power??? I just don’t know what went wrong so all 3 loaves hit the trash bin. What all was right? Nothing… weighed a ton, hard as a rock, still doughy crumb after an hour in the oven, less sour taste than previous loaf. I could not find one redeeming quality. I hate to fail!!!! Not in my wheelhouse so I’ll try again another day.

Epic Failure. Only good for use as a baseball bat!!!

Moving on to what I thought might be successful, I turned my attention to making bagels for the first time in my life. The recipe I followed came from my Bread Alone book by Daniel Leader and Judith Blahnik. I followed the recipe exactly except for one small deviation (maybe this is where I always shoot myself in the foot!!) and added a scant cup of my multigrain cereal mix to make them have a multigrain quality. Everything seemed to go well but the end result was neither super great nor abysmal. They had a great taste, nice crumb and looked OK but my personal preference is for the bagel to be a little larger than what these were. I didn’t get the oven spring I wanted (cereal multigrain mix???), but the overall result wasn’t horrible. On the plus side, smaller equals fewer calories, they weren’t dense and chewy as most bagels are and they had a chewy texture and pleasant taste.

Perfect crumb, moist and chewy
Divided into 2.5 ounce balls of dough
Shaped and awaiting water bath
Out of water bath and sprinkled with toppings….poppy seeds, flax seeds, kosher salt and one with rehydrated shallots

Each baking adventure is a learning process and I am gaining in knowledge with each failure and success. Most importantly, I am having fun in the process so I will keep….

Baking and bageling on!!!!

Technologically Challenged

Last Monday morning, Google Fiber arrived at my condo. I had finally reached my financial breaking point with Time Warner Cable or Spectrum (appropriately, that name makes me think of a James Bond villain) because fees for their services had become ridiculously high. How can anyone on a fixed income afford huge internet and cable TV charges for hundreds of channels that either were duplicates or have content that in no earthly way has any appeal for me.

So this week I had to learn a new TV system at home. New channel numbers for my favorites, change my internet user name and password and the list goes on and on. A trip to Spectrum to return all of their boxes, recorders, cable wires and remotes and hopefully my ties to this behemoth company will be over. However, I never say never because the judge and jury for this new system is still out and the installation process was far more difficult than it should have been.

Initially I was told that I could have internet services through Google Fiber for a reasonable $50.00 a month and that I could get the channels I most watched through you-tube for $35.00 a month. Sounds great yes??? I was reassured that I would be able to record programs, and that the installer would go over all devices, remotes etc during installation. So I expected no surprises, no problems, easy peasey right? WRONG!!!

Internet installation with Google Fiber was easy but there were no recording boxes or remotes for You-Tube TV. I had an apple tv box on one of my television sets, but the one in my bedroom is greater than 12 years old and not a “smart” tv so for me to have You-Tube television in my bedroom either required me to buy a new “smart” TV or another apple tv device or similar product. Ultimately, I blew off You-Tube television and elected to go with the google fiber internet and TV package at a greater cost, but still saving myself $100.00 a month. The young man installing it all told me he doesn’t have anything except internet and watches all his programs via You-Tube, Sling TV, Netflicks, Hulu, and a host of others. Ah, to be young again and unintimidated by all the wireless devices available.

This senior citizen can only handle so many changes so having a remote control makes me feel a little more in charge of my world. So for now, I will keep plowing forward in my constant attempt to keep up in our ever-changing, fast-moving technological world.

Give me that remote!

 

 

Sour Dough Baby Boris

 

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Yesterday I birthed my starter. Boris made an appearance in the form of some very sour, sour dough bread. For being a young starter, he was quite robust. The recipe for Country French Bread came from the Tassajara Bread Book. It had a course bready crumb with nice air holes characteristic of sourdough bread and the taste was decidedly “sour”.

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The sponge, started the night before, consisted of Boris, whole wheat flour and water. Left to ferment overnight, the next morning it was riddled with gaseous bubbles. I replenished Boris and put him to sleep in the fridge and moved on to baking two loaves of passable bread. This recipe called for whole wheat flour in the night before sponge and then all-purpose unbleached flour for the morning mix. I baked them in boule form and the dough must have been very hydrated because they spread rather than giving me a great rise. Next time I will use unbleached bread flour and roll into traditional french bread loaves and bake in a form that will help it keep its form during the bake.

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The most important thing about this batch was to determine if my starter was a good one and absolutely proved Boris is a keeper! Having a sourdough living starter is akin to caring for a newborn infant…it requires continued care, love and support. Boris may become part of my legacy.

Happy Baking!!

What About Boris? Answer…Sour Dough Blueberry Pancakes

Pancakes evoke childhood memories in me of Saturday nights. My Mother worked outside our home but still managed to place a hot breakfast on the table for my sisters and me each and every morning of our lives. Sometimes it was scrambled eggs, bacon and toast and other times oatmeal, cream of wheat or cream of rice cereal with toast and always orange juice and sometimes hot chocolate. We were spoiled!

Ready to cook the pancakes!

In addition, she packed our lunches each day for school and my lunch was always much desired by my friends. On Mondays I might have a roast beef sandwich, on Fridays it was usually a fried chicken leg and a half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and my favorite was a tunafish sandwich with potato chips. And each lunch always had a piece of fruit and some sort of dessert…a twinkie, a hostess cupcake, a homemade brownie or a piece of chocolate cake.

Because she worked, she had a routine which enabled her to meet her job demands and still be super Mom to me and my sisters. Each night we had a hot meal in front of us. Sunday dinner was usually roast beef or a pork roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, green salad and cooked carrots with pie or cake for dessert. Monday night might be “Hash” made from left-over roast and potatoes. Tuesday and Wednesday¬†were toss ups…sometimes stuffed bell peppers or spaghetti or smothered steak and (YUCK!!!) liver and onions. Thursday was fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, peas, green beans or broccoli. Friday was my favorite (and my girlfriends too when we had a sleep over) hamburgers and french fries. Saturday night was pancakes and bacon and this was the night I rebelled. I didn’t want pancakes for dinner so my Mother indulged my stubbornness and cooked me another hamburger. As I said, she was super Mom and we were very lucky because when it came to mothers, we won the lottery.

I don’t know how she did it because back then there were no fast food restaurants or already prepared cooked foods in the grocery store and forget frozen meals, they didn’t exist. We were ecstatic when the first “TV dinners” came into our lives. I grew up in Houston and you could count on two hands the restaurants one might go to for eating out….Sonny Looks, Christie’s Seafood Restaurant, Brennans, Bud Bigelows, Gaidos, Kaphans and Felix Mexican Restaurant.

News_Felix_Mexican Restaurant_sign

I eventually found my way to loving pancakes as children often do with certain foods when they enter adulthood. And my love of blueberry pancakes swimming in butter and smothered in warm authentic maple syrup is second to none. So this morning I made blueberry pancakes for me and my daughter for a late breakfast. And they were certainly “sour”. That slight watering that occurs inside your cheeks when we eat something sour was definitely present. I had some difficulty finding the right temperature for my cast iron pan with my electric stove. (So wish I had gas but not allowed in my condo cause I think they worry about us blowing the place up!). They were too sour or “vinegary” (my daughter’s word) for her. But for a first effort and a young sourdough starter they weren’t half bad. I didn’t get the rise I wanted from the pancakes and think that perhaps I should have left my starter out overnight to come to room temperature. Next time. And next time about three times the blueberries.¬† I saved about a cup of my starter, re-fed it and returned it to a clean jar in the fridge until next week. Boris is turning into a dependable friend in helping me produce some pretty delicious food.

Blueberry Sourdough Pancakes

I never eat a pancake without thinking about my Mother and her dedication to going above and beyond in providing her family with healthy, home-made nutritious meals. I miss her!

Happy experimenting!!

 

#NeverAgain

My heart is breaking and I can only imagine the pain of losing a child, a sibling, a parent, a best friend in such a senseless way. This latest mass murder in a place that should be safe for our children, yet all too often safe places have become killing fields. Tears, tears and more tears combined with enormous pride and hope as I watch these young people rise up and make their voices heard. They can be a force of change. They are smart, tech savvy, strong-willed, articulate and I believe they mean business. I am thankful for their passion. They are tired of the worthless pattern that emerges after each mass murder and they want it to stop! This is what is needed today in America to stop the senseless killing of innocent people.

And for all the Second Amendment people who value their guns more than human beings, I say get over it. No one wants your handgun, no one wants your hunting rifle. Keep them and I pray that your life is free of accidental shootings. I pray that your child doesn’t find that gun and accidentally discharge it and in that process end their own life. But no one needs an AR15. These aren’t hunting guns, they are killing machines.

One story I recently read was about an eight year old who returned home from school sobbing and told her mother that she needed new tennis shoes. Thinking that someone at school had bullied her about her shoes, she asked her child why she needed new tennis shoes. Her child said…”because Mommy, my tennis shoes light up when I move and if I am hiding they would see me.” What kind of world are we living in when an eight year old child is afraid of being shot in school? What kind of Americans are OK with this? When did a gun become more important than a child’s life? What planet is this?

This “killing problem” in America must end!¬† Other nations that have instituted gun controls have virtually eliminated mass killings. When elected officials…Republicans, Democrats or Independents…take money from the NRA or any other organization for political gain, then they are working for that entity and not for the people who elected them to office. We the people have the power of the vote. And these young people will soon be of age to vote, some of them in the November elections. My warning to politicians…beware the wrath of this new generation. They are focused, they are tired of being afraid, they are tired of the senseless killing, they are tired of adults not solving a ridiculous problem, they are energized and they will work tirelessly to oust you from office. #Never again. They are the change. Tick tock…

 

In Search of…

Today after work, I visited the Goodwill Store next to my office in search of a “cloche” bread baker. This particular bread baking item can be quite pricey so in hopes of finding one that had been discarded when its previous owner had lost interest, I hit the aisles.¬† Fortune did not shine on me for there were no cloches or baking stones in this particular store. Not to be defeated, I tried another Goodwill store on my way home but once again no luck. The price for finding your treasure at a cheap cost means many trips to the stores hoping that eventually you’ll be rewarded.

What is a clouche? An ingenious bread baking container with a domed lid that captures the moisture coming off of the dough as the bread begins to bake. This moisture simulates the steam within a commercial oven which produces a crisp, chewy crust. I am salivating for one of these bread baking miracle pots

I find it interesting that deciding to bake my way through a bread book can lead to not only new knowledge but also a desire to reorganize my kitchen into a more “cook friendly” one. I have vacillated many times in my life between wanting the clean, uncluttered counter look in my kitchen to desiring kitchen utensils surrounding me in a wabi sabi manner. I always wind up back in a wabi sabi mode because I love the look, the feel of having familiar items surrounding me…an easy reach to my favorite wooden spoon, my salt-cellar I dragged all the way home from Italy, the Boos butcher block that has become a familiar friend, different shapes and sizes of glass containers filled with a variety of flours and grains and of course the mixing bowls…including one that belonged to my Mother and I can almost feel her hands performing the same mixing rituals.¬† A memory is attached to all of my kitchen utensils and equipment and with their help, I have produced many, many successful meals as well as some monstrous mistakes. It is a learning process and learning new things, experiencing new textures, flavors, sensual, visual or auditory sensations is exuberating. Isn’t life grand!!!

Sassafras Superstone‚ĄĘ La Cloche Round Bread Cloche

Happy treasure hunting!!

 

 

Pizza Time!!

I love pizza!! I’ve lived in Austin for twelve years and I spent many years searching for a pizza to rival my favorite Houston pie purveyor… Star Pizza. Star turned out a whole wheat Vegetarian Starburst pizza second to none. Gooey cheese, caramelized onions, broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini squash, green peppers and a light splash of a tangy tomato sauce. I craved this pizza on a regular basis and went into pizza withdrawal when I moved to Austin. My BFF Kathleen regularly takes pity on me and brings me one when she comes to visit.

No worries though…I kept trying different Austin pizzerias and discovered Via 313 Pizza. They offer Chicago style crunchy yet chewy pizza crust in several combinations that satisfy my cravings. My favorite at this pizza parlour is “The Cadillac”…Gorgonzola cheese, fig preserves, Prosciutto di Parma, Parmesan drizzled with a Balsamic Glaze. A Melt in your mouth-watering experience! My second favorite at Via 313 is “The Rocket”…Hot Soppresatta, spicy arugula and shaved Parmesan. These pies aren’t cheap but so worth it since these guys use the highest quality ingredients which probably helps them create such gastronomical delights.

Through the years I have experimented with making my own pizza. My pizza stone gets quite a workout with pizzas, cookies, and bread. I usually use a whole wheat crust purchased from HEB or Trader Joe’s. My “go to” favorite at home pizza consists of cheese, cheese and more cheese (who doesn’t like bread and cheese!), caramelized onions, Medjool date pieces, cooked bacon bits, cherry tomatoes, roasted peppers, Parmesan Reggiano cheese and a splash of Con Olio pungent, peppery olive oil followed by a drizzle of Fig Balsamic Vinegar and a dash of coarse kosher salt. But I’ve decided that the time has come for me to master my own pizza dough since I have a definite preference for my toppings.

Prepped pizza toppings

Yesterday I tackled making pizza dough for the first time. Just plain old pizza dough. Using my Kitchen Aide, mixing the dough was easy and it doubled in size in about two hours. While it was rising, I prepped the toppings for my pizza. Next I gathered the dough into a ball and pressed it out on my pizza peel that was lightly dusted with flour. I was even able to pick the dough up and stretch it by moving my fists around and around like you see in the movies. With practice I might be able to send the dough flying. It stretched quickly to the size I wanted and after topping it, baked in a 475 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

My Pizza

For a first effort at making my own pizza dough, it wasn’t half bad. Was it perfect? Hardly and I will keep trying to find the one that satisfies my palette. I know I prefer a whole wheat crust so will try that next and perhaps bake in a square or rectangular pan to try to get that crisp buttery crust that Via 313 has made famous. Too bad I can’t take a lesson from their expert pizza makers.

Happy Baking!!!

 

 

Sour Dough Starter Update

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Rye Sourdough Taster – Looking sourdoughish to me!

So I spent yesterday in my kitchen “playing” with the two starter mixes. The one from the Tassajara Bread Book wasn’t looking too healthy but had a slight sour smell none the less. I decided that it might be starving so I fed it some flour and spring water and instantly it began to revive. So much for just stirring it daily for five days…definitely did NOT work!

The rye starter from the Bread Alone book was very healthy but I have been feeding it daily. In the end, I decided to leave the Tassajara starter to grow and mature for a few more days and I would use the Bread Alone rye starter to make some bread. The directions in the Bread Alone book left something to be desired and I found myself trying to “wing” it. I watched you-tube videos (thank goodness for the internet!) and plodded forward into a day of folding and proofing for about 8 hours. Finally I decided it was ready to form into loaves. Frankly I was tired of the whole process and was ready to go to bed. I divided the dough in half and divided one of those halves into two. I made a round loaf that I cooked in my Le Crueset dutch oven and the other two pieces I formed into baguettes. After a final rise, I baked them and the end result wasn’t all that great.

Rye Starter ready for the fridge

When I bent the baguette¬†it had a nice crackle. The crust was crisp and successful thanks to the pan of water beneath the loaves that delivered moisture in the form of steam as they baked. The inside crumb was chewy, moist and decidedly rye. The round loaf in my Dutch oven was not a thing of beauty. I had difficulty transferring the risen loaf into a blasting hot preheated dutch oven, burning myself a couple of times in the process. Bottom line…I think the starter needs to mature more and baking bread successfully and without injury, demands the right equipment. I fed a couple of tablespoons of this starter and placed the jar in the fridge until next weekend when I may try again. Now I am asking myself why I am bothering with the rye starter since I am not a great fan of rye bread.

Two Multigrain Dakota bread loaves and three Rye Sour Dough

On the plus side of this very long day in the baking kitchen, I cranked out more Multi-grain Dakota bread. My original loaf of this bread met my culinary needs but the loaf was quite large. I decided to divide the dough into two loaves this time but wasn’t too happy with the end result. The boule was great, just smaller, but the second loaf I placed into the willow basket (Banneton) and when I turned it out onto the stone, it spread while baking resulting in less rise. Bread still tastes great but just not as aesthetically pleasing as the round loaf.

 

Multigrain Dakota Bread that spread too much. Still tastes great!

As I write, I have another loaf of Dakota bread rising and almost ready for the oven. Did I say how easy this loaf is to make and that it is yummy!!! Onward to pizza crust for my dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow when I head back to work.

Bake on!!!