Tag Archives: cooking

The Mousse Is Loose!

So for Valentine’s Day, TYG asked for chocolate mousse. I’ve never made it before and I’ve never had much look making anything that requires whipped egg whites, but of course, I gave it a shot.

Turns out that the cookbooks that say a mixer works better than a food processor for whipping eggs were right. They came out firm, and much faster than any other method I’ve tried. I whipped some cream as well, mixed them with the melted dark chocolate, set it to chill and voila! Mousse.

We’ve now been together roughly 12.5 years. Because of TYG, a year of confinement due to the Trump Virus has not been the worst year of my life. Nowhere near as bad as some where my friends were preoccupied and I felt alone (no disrespect to friend intended — life gets in the way sometimes). Or when I was single and convinced I’d always be so. Having her, the pups, and now Wisp makes all the difference.

“Down where the clouds lie on the sea, I found my sweet Penelope, with buds of roses in her hair, and kisses on her mouth.” (paraphrased from Henry Herbert Knibbs).

Oh, and TYG also got me a Spider-Man pop-up Valentine’s Day card. Take a look.



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A book about bread, and then some bread!

So last month I checked the ebook of BREAKING BREAD: A Baker’s Journey Home in 75 Recipes by Martin Philip because I heard it had some excellent sections on bread-baking technique. It does, though I’m not sure how easily I can apply them to recipes from my other bread books.

I actually skipped over most of the text in Philip’s book. A lot of it is food memoir and I don’t care that much about what food recipes mean to him or the nostalgic feelings he has when cooking his family’s traditional dishes, etc. (I had a similar problem with Michael Twitty’s The Cooking Gene, though that was a better read). I was reading for the bread directions, nothing more.

Philip’s technique advice is much more rigorous than most bread books. He recommends measuring flour amounts down to the gram rather than by volume, and says water temperature has to be exact. Dough needs a precise temperature to rise best and morph into the best possible loaf: if the ideal temperature is 76 degrees, for example, and your kitchen is at 70 degrees (normal for my kitchen this time of year), you want water at 88 degrees. That’s a lot cooler than I usually use. He favors folding the dough — stretch it up, drop it back in the middle — several times during the initial rising, without much kneading.

I was skeptical, but I must admit the results were impressive. After weeding out several breads with a sourdough starter — I dislike keeping and maintaining starters because I don’t use them that much — I settled on an oatmeal bread. It had a “soaker” which was oats in water, oil and milk, but it was a one-time deal, no starter left on hand afterwards (obviously I could throw out a starter after I’d made the sourdough, but I’m slightly obsessive about not wasting food).

I had to guesstimate the temperature — no thermometer handy — and working with an ebook was frustrating (check recipe steps, flip through to detailed technique instructions, flip back … over and over again. Much easier in hard copy). Regardless, I ended up with a very good-looking and very tasty pair of loaves.Did it taste better than other breads from other books? Not really? Did it taste good? Definitely. And the two loaves rose way more than mine ordinarily do. Not that my loaves are leaden or lifeless, they just don’t rise a lot. Is it just that some loaves don’t rise, or have I been doing it wrong all this time? And if so, which part of Philip’s approach made the difference? I’m guessing it’s either the water temperature or shaping the dough more carefully before the second rising.

If it’s the water temperature, I’m not sure this is a lesson I can apply to other breads. Philip gives a desired dough temperature to shoot for, but my other books don’t do that. At 70 degrees in the kitchen, the right water temperature ranges from 88 to 100 degrees depending on the desired dough temperature. Without a desired temperature to shoot for, I’d be flying blind. Though even 100 degrees is cooler than the water I usually use, so perhaps cooler water will help. Although that flies directly in the face of the usual recommended temperature for yeast, so I’m nervous … but I can proof the yeast in water in advance. If cooler doesn’t work, then I use hotter and try again before adding it to the bread.

If nothing else, the oatmeal bread was great. I copied a couple of the other recipes out; if they work out too, I may just buy the book.



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I’m not planning to make this a weekly food post, but …

But I don’t have much to talk about this morning (let’s face it, I’m not traveling much), so here’s a photo of the maple oat bread I made last week.I’ve no idea how I stumbled across this online recipe because with a dozen bread books, I don’t usually go looking unless there’s something specific I want to bake with and don’t have recipes for. But this one turned out well. It’s a no-knead bread which made it easy: mix, leave it to rise, then dump it into a pot heated to 450 degrees in the oven. It came out great, though the maple isn’t as strong as I’d expected; the baked flavor of the crust drowns a lot of the sweetness. Toasting it, however, amplifies the maple taste a lot. So does eating it with cheese. I also tried eating it with something spicy but that didn’t enhance the flavor.

It’s also quite a large loaf, which is good as I go through my homemade bread very fast. Or bad, because when I have a huge loaf I often wind up eating that much more.

I think for my next loaf I’ll try something more demanding, with kneading, before I get too lazy.


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Family and pie

So last weekend my kin and I — my brother, Dad, my sister and her and my mutual BFF Cindy — had a Zoom sit-down dinner. You get the idea, I’m sure, even if you haven’t tried it: they eat, TYG and I eat and we all chat over dinner (though my brother, being on Pacific time, didn’t participate in the eating part). For myself and TYG, I made a vegetarian pot pie from one of the Moosewood cookbooks

The Zoon hangout was my idea, I’m proud to say, and I also paid for a Zoom subscription so that I could host (the duration and number went beyond what a free membership would allow). It was worth it. I won’t be traveling anywhere outside Durham this year, but this way I got to see everyone and catch up.  It only lasted about 45 minutes, but we can do it again whenever we want, maybe with other relatives in on it.

I do think it’s a little limited. If we’d been there in person we’d have had side conversations and moments when conversation stopped while we chewed. The Zoom set-up sort of focuses against stuff on the side so when we ran out of conversation we just stopped. Still fun. Way better than not seeing them until 2021.



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Now THAT’S tragic

Last weekend, I made bread. Pane tuscan for TYG because she wanted a “rustic Italian bread” to eat with various soups and spreads.One of our neighbors brews bear and had spent grain left over, so I took some of it and made a spent grain bread. Moist and tasty — and then tragedy struck!I was a little frazzled after my medical checkup Tuesday (postponed from last month for quarantine reasons) and when I cut myself a slice of spent-grain bread I put it back in the bag without sealing it. When I moved to put it away, it fell and both loaves (okay, what remained of the loaves, I’d been digging into them) fell out and hit the floor. Goodbye bread!

No, the checkup wasn’t that awful. Higher cholesterol and blood pressure than usual, probably do to indulging in too much junk food (we’ll recheck in three months to see). Weight, surprisingly, is good. But I’m a little phobic about blood pressure (it’s the silent killer! What if it’s killing me right now?) and the appointment had been late in the day, which really threw off my schedule (and left me fasting until about 1:30 PM, plus I wanted to make dinner (spaghetti with veggies) and still make my writers’ group meeting (which I did). So throw it all together and I guess I felt distracted and rushed enough to screw up. Sigh.

Still I have some spent grain left, so I’ll make some more this weekend. And not drop it!


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What we do in the quarantine

Grooming our dogs, for one thing. Actually so far it’s only Plushie, as he has a heavier coat and his squishy face means he overheats in summer. Plus he needs regular medicated shampoos, which our doggy day care used to handle for us. But not right now.

So last weekend we bathed him.And before that we trimmed his fur. Here’s most of what we took off him.He was a remarkably good boy during all this. We also need to trim his toenails but we’re nervous of getting down to the sensitive parts so we just trimmed a little.

And I baked bread. TYG had ordered some apples she didn’t get around to eating and I’m somewhat obsessive about not wasting food, so I baked some with raisins and brown sugar and made one of them into raw apple bread (recipe courtesy of Beard on Bread by James Beard)#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

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Cooking in times like these

At the end of March I tried a recipe for home-made English muffins from the WaPo. They came out great, though the overnight rising required some changes to my cooking schedule. This past weekend, I made a carrot bread to use up some soon-to-expire carrots (this recipe came from the excellent Secrets of a Jewish Baker). It’s one I’ve made before, and very tasty.

We’re in no danger of running out of food right now. When it looked like we might just maybe have to stay home for a couple of weeks, I went out and bought a corresponding amount of frozen and shelf-stable food, just to be ready. Since then we’ve had delivery services. However we have encountered a few problems. The first is that the fridge is really crowded with a mix of leftovers and a higher-than-usual supply of “necessities.” TYG loves feta and Parmesan cheeses so the fridge is absolutely stuffed with containers. That wouldn’t be necessary if we could just drive out safely to the stores, but that’s not the time we live in.

Which ties in to the next problem, gauging when to buy. We’re not preppers; we don’t see a need to stockpile more than we already have. However if we wait until we absolutely need something, it could very well be out. There seems to be a big yeast shortage, perhaps because everyone’s baking bread while in quarantine. I ordered some wheat germ, but it’ll be next month at best before it’s delivered (fortunately it’s not an urgent need).

Or consider tea. India’s having a big Trump Virus problem (though I suppose outside the U.S. it’s just regular COVID-19) which I assume will affect the tea industry. How badly will it affect my ability to buy tea? Should I buy extra as a stockpile for catastrophe (yes, I should)? How much? That’s a tougher question — though much more a first world problem than what India is dealing with.

The same strategizing applies to timing deliveries. Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods are unsurprisingly swamped; if we wait until right before the weekend, will we have whatever ingredients I need? Of course I can simply switch recipes — I have lots of options — but if it’s anything fancier it’s better to cook on a non-work day.

The biggest challenge was buying wine (I drink it for cholesterol). I had to sign for it which meant actually interacting with the delivery person at close range. Not comfortable. I bought four bottles at once to postpone doing that again.

At this point, these are strictly first world problems. We have money to buy food and despite occasional obstacles, it’s affordable. And unlike some of my friends who have to work in hospitals or retail, I’m not too stressed to cook. I’m extremely grateful.

But I still find it interesting how much forethought thinks like drawing up shopping lists now require.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

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I hate daylight savings time

Okay, not DST per se, but dammit, every year my body seems to find the time change harder to deal with. Sleep was not easy to come by this week at all.

On the plus side, I made some very tasty cinnamon rolls last weekend. Below you see them without and with icing. For something that involved rolling up and cutting pastry, they held their shape better than expected (it’s the point at which a lot of my baking falls apart) though I let a lot of the cinnamon fall out by accident.#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

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No, that isn’t blood clots in my freezer

It’s tomato paste.

I never use up all the paste before it goes bad. Searching for a solution online I found a recommendation I freeze the paste in one-tablespoon blobs. That way I know exactly how much I have. After bringing it up on FB, several friends of mine said they’ve tried it and it works.

That may have been my big accomplishment for the week.

The sad collapse of my work schedule began around 12:30 Sunday morning when Trixie fidgeted to go out. She didn’t need to relieve herself, she just though it would be fun, but I had no way to know until after we got outside. I wasn’t able to get back to sleep so I was zonked most of the day.

On top of which, in the morning Trixie developed a major tummy upset. No puking, she just became very restless, refusing to sit still for more than a second, frequently hiding under chairs in hopes whatever was hurting her would go away. This was, of course, a major distraction, plus we had the inevitable vet visit (some painkillers, some stomach soothers and she was fine). So my Sunday work was shot to heck.

Monday morning TYG asked me to walk the dogs, which took another chunk of time, and I wasn’t able to get back on-focus afterwards. Wednesday I had a dental cleaning and checkup (teeth doing great, thanks). And Thursday I took one of my work days off. Just too many little tasks piling up and distracting me (paperwork, trip planning, contractors) that needed to be dealt with. Plus some extra cleaning. And quite simply needing a break. My mind was really balking at work Monday – Wednesday (and even before that) which is a sure sign I need a change of pace and a day to relax. And while I do not find cleaning fun, doing it without having to squeeze it into my schedule was strangely calming. Plus I watched a DVD and did some schedule planning for the rest of the year.

So not much actual writing done. Some Leaf, a little on Undead Sexist Cliches. But I don’t feel bad about it, and I think I’ll be back in top form next week.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine.

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So last weekend I made a cake

Once again, I flipped open the next cookbook in my list — Vegetarian Times Cookbook, in case you were wondering — flipping through it for ideas of food for this week and for Saturday’s vegan potluck.

As if by destiny, I found a page with a chocolate layer cake recipe. I’d been thinking of doing something with apples, but everyone loves chocolate more than apples … hmm … so yeah, I went for it.

It turned out to be a more labor intensive recipe than I anticipated. And the icing/filling was runny (you can see it pooling around the base of the cake). I think I needed to cook it on the stove longer. It firmed up quite a bit after I put the cake in the fridge. However on the drive over to the potluck, it liquefied again.

However nobody objected. The cake got great reviews (I think it’s excellent) but being the Memorial Day weekend we didn’t have much of a turnout. I wound up taking about half of it home (I really, really underestimated how big it was when I read the recipe). I took some of the leftovers to one of our neighbors because eating it all ourselves would have been Not Good.

Still, it’s always cool to try and succeed with a challenging recipe.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine.

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