Monday, April 30, 2007

Day 4

Monday, April 30, 2007
I find it extremely difficult to believe that this is actually working. It's now about half rye and half white flour, but it's much more than a mixture of flour and water. It's alive! Partly I feel like there's an alien living in my kitchen, and partly I feel like a proud parent.
Rose says "the starter may give off a faint citrus aroma." It is giving off an aroma--it doesn't seem very citrusy, but it doesn't seem rank or rotten, either, which is a good sign. At this point, it has become so active that it can no longer have a tight lid because of all the escaping gases. (That sounds more like a sci-fi movie than a sweet baby movie: Escaping Gases From Planet 421). I hope it doesn't get too gassy.
Tomorrow is the test day. It should increase to three or four cups in volume. Even if it doesn't, however, I'm not supposed to give up--just keep feeding it until it finally grows. Tomorrow I'll find out if I have a husky baby at the top of the charts, or a sickly one that needs to be hand-fed.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Day 3

Sunday, April 29, 2007
Tonight I got home from a baby shower, and had just under an hour until it's time to watch "The Sopranos." (This may be the best year yet). There was some definite action in the starter--it was lighter and airier, even a little bubbly. This time I threw out about half of it and added 60 grams of both bread flour and bottled water, stirred it a while, and covered it back up.
The instructions are to mix it in a 4-cup glass canning jar or a 4-cup glass measuring cup. I don't have either item, so I'm using a plastic bowl. I hope this is not a serious mistake.

Day 2

Saturday, April 28, 2007
Day 2 is even easier than Day 1. "There will be no visible change in the color or texture of the starter." Check.

Sourdough starter - Day 1

Friday, April 27, 2007
I purchased some sourdough starter from Sourdo, which worked very well, although Rose did tell me that at some point in my bread-baking career, I'd want to make my own. I thought she might be wrong because I never experienced any need to do that, but then two things happened at about the same time: my purchased sourdough starter didn't make it through the kitchen remodel (it was in my makeshift kitchen on the front porch, but we happened to be out of town for a few days when the weather turned unseasonably hot, and the food in the temporary kitchen was in bad shape when we came home, so I dumped it all), and I also went to Lorenzo's Bread Circus. There, I heard breadbaker Kim Ode talk lovingly about her own sourdough starter that she'd made using Nancy Silverton's method, as well as listening to Klecko the Baker, founding father of the St. Paul Bread Club, talk affectionately about his "brick" sourdough starter. I decided that Rose was right: it was time to make my own.

The first step is pretty easy--mix a cup of organic rye flour (120 grams) and 1/2 cup of bottled water (also 120 grams). Stir for a few minutes. Cover it with plastic wrap and let sit for two days. So far, so good.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hearth Bread

Sunday, April 22, 2007
Several people have chided me for not bothering to read the instructions for my new Wolf oven, so I finally dug the instruction book out of a pile of important papers - waiting to be filed in some coherent filing system. I was glad I did. First, I had forgotten that there is a bread-proofing setting. The oven is set at 85 degrees F, which is so low you're not even sure the oven is on. It was a warmish spring day, so the bread would have been just fine on its own, but this is a very handy setting for very cold days or just if you want to be sure that it will only take an hour or two for the bread to rise.
In addition, the oven has a "bread stone" setting. Of course, you are supposed to use only the special Wolf bread stone rack, and not just any old bread stone, but the special Wolf bread stone rack costs a few hundred dollars, and I already have a bread stone. I thought and thought and tried to figure out if there was any possible way that putting another stone in the oven would hurt it, but I just couldn't see how it possibly could. (I have probably just invalidated my warranty by publicly confessing to not using the special rack).

Notice how rotund this loaf of bread is! Notice the "bread stone" setting! Notice that the oven glass is very clean! Notice my excessive use of exclamation marks!
This basic hearth bread recipe is one of the very few from The Bread Bible that I have repeated. I was so happy that I did--I'd forgotten what a very lovely basic loaf of bread this is. We were invited to our neighbors' house for dinner on Sunday (they've become so used to inviting us for dinner that they have forgotten that we now have a kitchen and should be inviting them). But I did offer to bring a loaf of bread, and this one seemed like one that everyone would like. I still don't know the peculiarities of this oven, and the bread got just a little too dark, but it's still a handsome loaf:

And, although the crust might have been a little dark, the crumb was just about perfect.

I was so pleased with this bread that I was almost tempted to just go through TBB one more time. But then I recovered my sanity. I do think that Rose should do another cookbook. I've looked at a number of bread cookbooks since I finished The Bible, but I still haven't found one to rival it.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Rosemary Olive Focaccia

Saturday, April 21, 2007
Last Saturday, April 14, my friend Mary and I went to Lorenzo's Bread Circus, held at the Mill City Museum. This event was sponsored by the St. Paul Bread Club, which sounds like some venerable institution, but it's only been around for a few years. What it lacks in longevity, it more than makes up for in enthusiasm. I've never been around so many people who are so crazy about bread, and so willing to share their passion.
Mary and I watched Pat Roberts demonstrate making walnut potica, a pastry of eastern European derivation. What you do is mix up a buttery, eggy dough and stretch it out to about the size of a ping-pong table so that it's incredibly thin. Her theory is that the dough part should be practically invisible in the final product: "If you have thick dough, you might as well just make coffee cake!" Then you fill it with a combination of walnuts--10 cups!--butter, milk, eggs, sugar, and honey, and roll it up. She was so skilled at making the pastry and spoke with such love about learning to bake from her mother and grandmother, that I wanted (very briefly) to run back home and start my own batch. Then I remembered that I'd had potica, and, sorry to say, was not that crazy about it. I tried another piece and still wasn't that crazy about it--maybe just because it doesn't bring back childhood memories. I'm not that crazy about lefse, either, or pasties--other foods that make people from The Range sigh in bliss. ("The Range" is northern Minnesota's iron range; people came from all over Europe to work in the iron mines, resulting in more cultural diversity than Minnesota had ever before known). If you're interested in making potica, however, you should pick up a copy of Baking With the St. Paul Bread Club, available from the Minnesota Historical Society Press. Pat Roberts' recipe will guide you through the process.
After watching Pat make her potica, and after sampling other Bread Club members' challah, rye bread, flatbread, sourdough, whole wheat bread, and cheese bread, I picked up a copy of the cookbook myself. It's got a nice sampling of some of the members' favorite breads, stories about how they came to baking, and their most important influences.
My first recipe was Karen Vogl's Rosemary Focaccia with Olives. Jim has been asking me to bake another loaf of olive bread since I first made the version in The BB--a bread that he rated as his number 1 choice in the entire Bible. He thought this one was not quite as good, but he had to eat about a dozen pieces in order to make the comparison.

Rosemary Focaccia with Olives

1 12 to 16-ounce russet potato
2 1/2 cups (313 grams) bread flour
3 t. fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 t. salt
1 c. (237 grams) warm water
1/4 t. sugar
1 package active dry yeast
4 T. (56 grams) extra-virgin olive oil
12 kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/2 t. sea salt

1. Bake or microwave potato until done. When cooled, scoop into small bowl and mash. Measure 2/3 cups potato.
2. In medium bowl, combine flour, half the rosemary, and salt. Add potato and blend.
3. In small bowl combine water, sugar and yeast, and let stand until foamy. Stir in 3 T. oil.
4. Pour yeast mixture into flour, and mix (by hand or in stand mixer) until smooth, about one minute. Knead only about a minute more, either by hand, on floured counter, or in machine. Place in large oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubed.
5. Preheat oven to 450.
6. Brush large baking sheet with oil. Punch down dough and knead for about 30 seconds on lightly floured surface. Pat or stretch dough into a 12-inch round and transfer to baking sheet. Press with fingertips to make dimples. Brush with 1 T. oil. Sprinkle with olives, sea salt, and remaining rosemary. Cover with cloth, and let rise about 20 minutes, just until puffy.
7. Bake about 20 minutes, until golden.

--Adapted from Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club. The recipe notes that it is adapted from the September 1999 issue of Bon Appetit.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Baa, baa, baa

April 19, 2007
The muntins aren't on the windows yet, but some jokester thought that a mutton would be just as good. Jim swears this wasn't his doing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hamburger Buns

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

How odd that my first bread-baking foray in my new Wolf oven would be the mundane hamburger bun. But I've been craving a simple hamburger, and it occurred to me that maybe I could make the best hamburger ever if I had fresh, homemade buns. But, although I had high hopes for these--they smelled terrific coming out of the oven--I have to admit it was not the best hamburger ever.
If Rose had decided to include a recipe for a hamburger bun, she would have tried it a few dozen times until she had it perfected, and then I would have the benefit of her experiments. I'm not willing to do that, but if I were, here are a few things I'd do. This recipe made a very soft bun. I would check out some ciabatta recipes to see if I could adapt one of those. I think it would stand up to a hamburger better and wouldn't squish so readily. I would at least use bread flour instead of all-purpose.
I deliberately didn't grill the buns because I wanted to taste them in their unsullied state. But they needed grilling. Buttering and grilling would be even better.
They are cute, though.


2 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg
435 grams all-purpose flour
45 grams sugar
1 t. salt
1 T. instant yeast
250 g. water

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 t. water
Sesame seeds

1. Mix butter, egg, flour, sugar, and yeast with dough hook until thorougohly blended.
2. Add salt and gradually add water.
3. Knead for about five minutes (10 if kneading by hand).
4. Put dough in lightly greased bowl. Cover with lid or plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, about an hour.
5. Divide dough into 8 pieces and shape each piece as if shaping a boule. Place them on baking sheet lined with parchment, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
6. Brush egg yolk glaze on buns, and sprinkle with sesame seed.
7. Put in preheated 375-degree oven.
8. Bake about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
9. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Maiden Voyage

Sunday, April 15, 2007
I thought that the kitchen would be completely finished by now, but the final steps are agonizingly slow. The in-floor heating still isn't ready to start heating, which is not important today because it was 60 degrees outside, but it may start snowing tomorrow for all I know. The window muntins aren't in because it has to be 65 degrees three days in a row before they can be installed. (I didn't know what muntins were; when Adam talked about them, I thought he said "muttons," which seemed like a peculiar name. In fact, I got so distracted by the idea of sheep on the windows that I forgot to pay attention to what else he was talking about). There are a few little nicks and scratches in the floors; the microwave has some scratches....
But this weekend we decided that we would just start moving things in the kitchen, even if it isn't completely done. Moving things back is even more of a chore than packing them up and moving them out. I have no idea what boxes contain what utensils, and I don't know where to put them.
I promised Sarah a birthday dinner, and even if I didn't know where my pots and pans were, I was determined to deliver!
I made a simple dinner. The idea was to make everything ahead of time so that I could just sit around and drink wine and eat cheese all afternoon. When Sarah and I drink wine, we both get pretty goofy. However, she was late to her own festivities because she had a flat tire that she was trying to take care of before she came over, and she and her beau, James, couldn't get the lug nuts off. Finally they had to give up on the flat tire, but Jim, in a nice fatherly way, told her that he would help her tomorrow. By the time they arrived, I'd already grilled the asparagus and scallions, and baked the cake.
The weather in Minnesota has been crazy this spring, veering from unseasonal highs to unseasonal blizzards. Yesterday was just a nice spring day--perfect for grilled asparagus and scallions.

This doesn't really need a recipe, and it couldn't be easier, except that you tend to burn your fingers when you're turning the thin pieces of asparagus. Just mix asparagus and scallions (I used two bunches of asparagus and three of scallions) and toss with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and a few pinches of sugar. Grill them. (This is where the burning of the fingers takes place). Put them on a platter or large bowl. When ready to serve, sprinkle with a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, some finely chopped red onion, and some toasted pine nuts.
Then I had pasta with shrimp, garbanzo beans, and greens.

With my old stove, my pasta was always sort of gently simmered. The water would come to a feeble, arthritic boil, and once I put the pasta in, it ceased boiling until the pasta was almost done. Then it managed a few more bubbles. This time I boiled the pasta using the super-charged burner. The water came to a wildly enthusiastic boil in just a few minutes, and even adding a pound of pasta didn't curb its enthusiasm. This was great fun, if you're a person who's easily entertained.

1/2 medium red onion
1 Italian frying pepper
2 red medium-hot jalapenos
10 Kalamata olives, pitted
1 pound spaghetti
2-3 T. olive oil
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
5 ounces mixed salad greens
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp
1/2 cup chives
1. Heat oil in 12-inch saute pan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion, pepper, chiles and olives. Saute about five minutes.
2. While vegetables are cooking, cook spaghetti in boiling water. When pasta is done, drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.
3. Stir garlic and half the greens into the onion-pepper mixture and cook for a few minutes. Stir iin the shrimp and cook a few minutes. Blend in reserved pasta water. Cook just until shrimp are done. Add the rest of the greens and the pasta. Turn into bowl, and sprinkle with snipped chives.
--Adapted from The Italian Country Table, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper
When Sarah was little, she craved sweets, and used to buy candy bars and toss the wrappers under her bed. I always found them, which meant we had to have A Discussion. I always wished she'd do a better job of hiding the evidence so I wouldn't have to yell at her, but even when the craving for Hershey's bars turned to more sophisticated, and less legal, substances, she never was good at doing things secretly.
Now, however, I have to browbeat her into eating dessert. As in, "This is the very first thing I've baked in my new oven, and I did it just for you, and now you're saying you're not going to eat any?" I convinced her that it was really good for her, especially served with fruit, so she gave in. She said she liked it pretty well. I thought it was good, but not great.

My new oven is very beautiful. It's probably the same size as the old oven, but it seems much more spacious--as if I could roast a 50-pound turkey and bake a three-layer cake at the same time. I was a little sad not to be baking bread for my first baking project, but I didn't promise Sarah a loaf of birthday bread. Of course, I didn't bother to look at the instruction book, so I had to just guess at what I was doing. I think I did everything right, except I couldn't figure out how to re-set the timer when I turned the oven temperature down. I'm used to adjusting the oven temperature by fifty degrees, so it seemed brave--or foolish--to just set the temperature to 375, as directed, but I did, and it seemed to be about right.

4 eggs, separated, plus 1 egg white, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 t. orange extract
Finely grated zest of l orange and l lemon
1/2 t. salt
1/2 cup plus 2 T. olive oil
1 1/3 cups milk
1 1/2 c. sifted cake flour
2 t. baking powder
Powdered sugar.

1. Preheat oven to 375. Oil a bundt pan.
2. Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gradually add 1/2 cup of sugar and continue beating until firm peaks are formed. Scrape into large bowl and set aside. In same mixing bowl, beat yolks with remaining 2/3 cups sugar until thick. Lower speed, and add flavorings and salt. Gradually pour in the oil. Slowly add milk, then whisk in flour and baking powder, making sure everything is well mixed. Fold in egg whites. Scrape batter into pan.
3. Bake for 25 minutes. Lower temperature to 325, and bake another 40 minutes, until cake starts to pull away from sides. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert on cooking rack. When cake is cool, transfer it to cake plate and dust with powdered sugar.

This cake is supposed to have a sponge-cake texture; I thought it was more of a pound cake, which is fine with me. I made it with whole wheat pastry flour and served it with whipped cream and mixed berries, thus convincing everyone that it was extremely wholesome. Dairy, fruit, fiber. A complete and well-balanced diet.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Wednesday, April 4, 2007
The electricians installed the lights today, leading to an ever more finished look. The ceiling fixture is a Mission-style chandelier.

The rest of the chandelier parts are still on the windowsill, as you can see in this shot of the pendant light over the kitchen sink. This light is the second of the two things I picked out with no guidance from Michael, the first being the faucet, on which more later.

On the east wall, there are two Art Deco-style sconces:

And, by the cooktop, one little wall sconce that matches the Mission-style chandelier. If you look closely, you can see that there is a hole in the wall above the sconce. It looks like the first space cut out of the wall for the sconce wasn't in the right place, so a little patching will have to be done here. Oops.

And our oven, which, of course, isn't really pink, is finally out of its box in the living room and into its rightful place on the wall. Now that is progress.

However, what Jim really wanted was running water. When he came home, and saw that the faucet wasn't working, he was irate that the plumber hadn't come today to fix it. I was going to suggest that it might have been a special plumbers' holiday, but he didn't seem to be in the mood for banter, so I said nothing.
Jim announced he was going to Call Adam. Jim hates to complain, and he doesn't much like making phone calls, so Calling Adam is reserved for when Desperate Measures are called for. After he talked to Adam, however, his ire was redirected from the plumber to me. It seems that the plumber had been here today, but the problem was a defective part in the faucet. That is, "there's something wrong with YOUR faucet." As in, "Oh, no, a normal faucet from Home Depot isn't good enough for you. You had to have a SPECIAL faucet." And the part has to be Special Ordered. Probably, his voice implied, from Bulgaria or someplace that has once-a-month mail delivery. I said, "Don't worry Jim, we'll have water in the kitchen soon." "We'll see," he said darkly.
Then his rancor shifted to the refrigerator, which was still in the living room. "I'm moving the refrigerator in the kitchen myself," he announced. I said something helpful like, "That's insane." My friend Mary, who had been observing this exchange, moved quietly toward the front door, looking for escape.
Mary escaped. I went to yoga and meditated on the idea of running water. I brought Jim a big chocolate dessert from Gigi's to make him feel better. He felt better.
Will the Wolf kitchen ever have water? Will Jim return to his normal equable self? Will the pink and blue appliances become stainless steel?
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

More Appliances

Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Yesterday more appliances arrived, and some were even installed. None of them work yet, but I can at least see them.
The refrigerator hasn't moved from the living room to the kitchen yet, but I've grown accustomed to having appliances in my living room. In fact, I think the living room will look quite bare when all the appliances are removed.

This faucet is one of two things I actually picked out myself with no help from Michael. I showed him the picture, and he said he liked it. I thought he might just be humoring me, but when he opened the package, he seemed quite taken with it.

We also got the dishwasher. Jim stayed home to sign for the appliances. I was at work and got a frantic voice mail from him: "The appliances, came, but there's a problem. The dishwasher is blue. It's kind of a metallic blue. I thought we ordered all stainless appliances. And this is blue! Unless.... unless it's some kind of protective covering.... Oh, never mind."

But the best of all is the new cooktop. Look at how sturdy it is. And look at the super, turbo-charged burner that will boil water in eight seconds. (OK, the eight seconds is kind of an exaggeration, but it's supposed to boil water really, really fast.)

Today the electricians were supposed to come and plug everything in, but it was some kind of special electricians' holiday or something, so they didn't show up. But the stove is supposed to be installed tomorrow, unless the special holiday turns out to be a two-day festivity.
Suppose I can really bake bread this weekend? I will be paralyzed with the necessity to choose the appropriate bread to inaugurate a new stove with.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Thai Steak and Bok Choy Salad

Sunday, April 1, 2007
At last--another food posting. Now that the weather is nicer, the Weber grill is always available to make a quick dinner--even without a kitchen. I have an oral argument before the Minnesota Supreme Court Monday morning, and I've been working away at that all weekend, but I wanted real food today. Hence, this speedy salad.

Thai Steak and Bok Choy Salad
--adapted from Weeknight Kitchen
with Lynn Rossetto Kasper

1 pound sirloin steak
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Juice from 1 lime
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 t. Dijon mustard
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 T. soy sauce
5 ounces mixed greens
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
4 heads baby bok choy, thin sliced

Make the dressing. Whisk together lime juice, garlic, shallot, mustard, soy sauce, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth.

Season steak with salt and pepper. Grill over hot coals until medium rare (2-4 minutes per side).

Mix the greens, bok choy, and mint, and toss with half to three-fourths of the dressing. Place in bowl or on platter. Slice the steak on the diagonal and arrange over the top of the greens. Pour remaining dressing over the steak and serve.

Serves 3-4.