Tag Archives: cooking

Cornish pasties!

I had an itch to try a recipe that was more work than usual so I decided to make a Cornish pasty recipe I found on the Washington Post website. Although technically they’re “Cornish” pasties because it’s a heritage recipe and the name is reserved for the authentic recipe, which uses meat. I used veggie sausage. Other ingredients: rutabaga, potato and onion, wrapped up in a buttery dough.They were a fair amount of work; anything that involves making dough, rolling it out and then putting filling in it usually is. But they taste good and they’re very satisfying. About half of one makes a meal for me.

Now I have an itch to try a Samosa recipe, as that also involves wrapping veggies in dough, though with more spices.

#SFWApro.

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The cooking mojo is temporarily gone

Normally I love cooking and baking. Bread in particular.The past month I’ve been surprised how little I’ve been cooking, compared to usual. Not that I’m switching to junk food or takeout — fruit on cereal or yogurt, veggie sandwiches, scrambled eggs with this or that are all easy and they all provide me with healthy, or reasonably healthy, meals. Plus TYG’s been cooking for herself and I often wind up eating her leftovers

I think it’s that this has been a very hectic couple of months. TYG was dealing with some heavy work stuff in early April, then she began the transition to a new job at a new company. Being the awesome person she is, she negotiated to give five weeks notice to her current employer so that she can prep her former subordinates in everything she does that they’ll need to take over. Trouble is, she knows a lot so it’s been intense. And that leaks over to me in the form of more dog care, more running errands, etc. Which is perfectly reasonable, but it does leave me rather wiped by the week’s end.

So I wind up doing a lot less of anything on the weekend, relaxing as much as possible. It’s definitely the right choice but it feels strange. I look forward to getting back to normal next month.

#SFWApro.

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Cats and food

Snowdrop has decided to hang out in the planter sometimes.Wisp, meanwhile, has suddenly decided to sleep on the couch next to me or in my lap rather than on her pillow.It’s almost like they’re living creatures who change their preferences rather than wind-up toys.

And here’s the raw apple pie I mentioned planning to make. A mix of nuts, dates, apples and dried apples, it’s quite tasty. Especially with some cheddar on top.#SFWApro

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Pushing the food envelope

I have several food goals that I’m working on this month. Well, actually, most months. I’ve found if I don’t put them down regularly I slack off.

The main ones are baking more bread, making more vegetable-centric dishes — even though I’m vegetarian, it’s easy to go heavy on cheese or eggs and skip the green stuff — and more fruit dishes. Also to use more of my spices because after a while they go bad, and that’s wasteful. And to push myself to try some new things. This has turned into an excuse to check cookbooks out of the library and see if there’s anything good in them. For example Lee Watson’s Peace and Parsnips gave me a recipe for these chunky-looking but tasty apple-date muffins.Next weekend I’m going to try the book’s recipe for a raw apple pie — no baking, just a lot of chopping, mixing and pressing together. We’ll see how it goes.

I also recently tried a Vegetarian Times experiment in spelt bread. Spelt flour, with a generous cup of sunflower seeds mixed in.The flavor was strong enough it would have worked better as a sandwich bread rather than just as toast. It also makes firm, solid slices for sandwiches; next time I plan some sort of fancy sandwich, I may make the bread again and see how it works.

#SFWApro.

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The horror — the horror!

Did any of you “go fancy” for the holidays with fruit cocktail eggnog pie?Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth would recoil from this.

#SFWApro.

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TYG planted a garden

I think it looks good.I’m impressed by her dedication. I’m not the gardening type, and I can’t see myself spending a weekend working on something like that unless she asked me to help her. I will, however, happily work the basil, tomatoes and rosemary into recipes (the chives too, but I’ve no idea what, yet).

#SFWApro.

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So I made some bread

Normally I wait until the end of the week but I’d used up the beer bread I made last week. And the recipe for Cobb bread (a traditional English bread) I found in 100 Great Breads was a low-work one so I was able to fit making it into my afternoon’s work without much trouble.I tried calculating the correct dough temperature again and it did make the bread rise very well. It’s a basic white bread but with a salty tang and a great texture.

I highly recommend the 100 Great Breads book.

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Wow, that actually worked

Last year, I found Breaking Bread by Martin Philip a frustrating book. As I discuss at the link, when I followed Philip’s advice on keeping the dough at a precise temperature the dough rose much more than usual. But as my other bread books don’t specify a dough temperature, that didn’t seem to do me much good. Even so, I’ve had the urge to try and see if I could get the same results with other recipes. So last weekend, I gave it a shot.

Reading on the subject online indicated most bread doughs need a temperature between 75 and 78. Picking a whole-wheat recipe, I somewhat arbitrarily set the target temperature at 75 (75 to 78 is not a big difference but apparently it can make a big difference in the results). With air temperature at 66 and flour at 68 that meant the water temperature should be 91 degrees to get 75 degrees in the dough (I used my kitchen thermometer to figure all this out).

I actually miscalculated and made the temperature higher, but the bread still came out much larger than usual with my baking. I was able to use them for the sandwiches I made that evening — usually the slices are a little too small to be satisfactory.

I look forward to using this approach again.

#SFWApro.

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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.

#SFWApro.

 

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