All images ⓒ Pastry Ninja Photography 2009|2010|2011

Search This Blog

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

~Toast and Tea~ Rainy day combo for the ages!

More rainy day recipes...  Good excuse to be in the kitchen I guess!

Good, old-fashioned whole-wheat toast and piping hot tea is good anytime but I think it tastes that much better when its really pouring.  And, of course, as the tenth Doctor would say "Good cup of tea! Super-heated infusion of free-radicals and tannin, just the thing for healing the synapses..."  Timelord regeneration or just old rainy day blues, a nice hot snack and a cup of tea can do you good.  Today I looked and was bereft of a good loaf of sandwich bread so I made some of my own:

~Basic Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread~

3.5 C Unbleached Bread Flour
1 C Unbleached Whole Wheat Flour
1.5 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Active Dry Yeast
1 Large Egg, beaten lightly
1/4 C + 1 Teaspoon Cultured Butter, melted
1 C Purified Water + 3/4 C Whole Milk (warm 108f)

SPECIAL TOOLS:  2 8.5" x 4.5" Loaf Pans  

Yield: 2 Loaves

This is a recipe I adapted based partly on a basic white bread from one of my favorite all time bread books - the BBA (Bread Baker's Apprentice), a few online recipe hunts, and some of my own tricks.  For one, I always proof my yeast in warmed water first.  You should also measure out your yeast first and let it come to room temperature before use so it can activate faster in the dough.  On that note, lets get going:

Start by combining flours, salt, and half your sugar in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.  

In a medium bowl, combine water, remaining sugar, and yeast and stir well, making sure to get all the yeast in the liquid not stuck to the side.  Let the yeast hydrate and proof until it forms a think, frothy foam.  Combine melted butter, egg, and milk and add to the proofed yeast.

Make a well in your dry mix and pour in the wet ingredients.  Stir with a wooden spoon or on medium-low speed on a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment until just combined and hydrated.  I needed to add a tiny bit more water to hydrate the dry bits at the bottom.  After all the liquid is absorbed, let your dough rest for 15 minutes in another common variation - the Autolysis stage:


In the tomato tart post, I talked about how
overly stretched gluten chains are the culprit in the case of chewy/bready pie crusts.  In the case of breads, we not only want the glutens to form but we get one extra step that helps the process.  That step is called Autolysis or "self splitting."  In the world of bread, this means the breakdown of starches and proteins in the flour through the action of its own natural enzymes (amylase and protease respectively.)  This results in the formation of less complex (less complex = more flavor) sugars and the reformation of complex protein structures into simpler gluten forming proteins (mostly glutenin.)  These processes are usually expressed during kneading but there is a dark side...  When you knead, you also expose the bread to oxygen and that can cause problems.  Just like in your body, oxygen (normally O2) can become unstable and destructive O, also known as free radicals and just as in your body, these free Os can work against you, causing the breakdown of all those helpful and tasty sugar and protein structures you want even as you build them.  Dough Autoloysis gives you a big head start, reducing kneading and rising times and thus reducing oxygen exposure!  A short 15 minutes and you get improved crumb, better bubbles, better crust better flavor...  world of difference!  Autolysis!  It's Science!


After your dough is rested, remove it to a floured work surface and knead smooth for 10 minutes or until it reaches 85f and passes the "windowpane" test.  

The test is to see if the glutens are stretched and structured properly.  Take a small piece about the size of a large marble and gently stretch and squeeze it thin as possible.  The dough will have passed the test if you can stretch it thin enough to see plenty of light through it without breaking.

Round off your dough and place it in a large, lightly oiled bowl to rise.  Let the dough rise 2.5 to 3 hrs until doubled in size at least.  Remember that the size not the time is the pressing factor here.  Remove the dough to a clean surface and cut in half, being gentle as to not degass the dough too much and cut it into 2 pieces for loaves.  Shape the pieces into boules by rounding and pinching the sides under to stretch the top and form a shinier crust.  Place into 2 8.5" x 4.5" loaf pans to rise at room temperature until doubled in size again.  Preheat your oven to 350f. Eggwash (1 egg plus + equal parts milk) and bake 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven, until the loaves reach a 180f internal temperature with a nice golden brown crust.  Depan them and cool on a wire rack for at least 40 minutes before slicing.  

There really isn't a smell quite like buttery bread in the oven to brighten up your day.  I think it's kinda the equivalent of cookie dough rivaling the actual cookies it becomes.  This bread makes great toast but has enough structure for sandwiches, even makes good french toast!


Monday, April 26, 2010

~Buttery Fruits of the Sea~ First time impressions of a long time favorite

A great little french place just opened up recently here in Walleyville and one dish in particular reminded me of a real piece of nostalgia:  Brown butter trout with herbs and shallots.  Simple and elegantly to the point in a culinary sense.  I've always loved recipes since I was small and I thought I would give my CCA training given recipe-copying skills a try for a little LOTR movie night dinner:

~Brown Butter Salmon with Wild Rice and Crispy Toasted Bread~
2-4 Equal sized King Salmon Fillets
1 C Cultured, Unsalted Butter
1 Large Lemon1 Medium Shallot
Sprigs fresh Thyme
1 Large clove Garlic
Kosher Salt
Fresh ground Black Pepper

1/2 C Dry organic wild/brown rice blend per person

1 Tablespoon butter or olive oil
1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon
1 good quality Demi-Baguette per 2 people
Olive oil

Special tools: Large Cast Iron Skillet
                       Large Casserole Baking Dish
                        Aluminum Foil

Another recipe I love for its simplicity!  Its more preparation than anything, like any task worth undertaking, but once you've got you mise en place its smooth sailing.  Depending on what rice you've got, it'll take up to 50 minutes of steaming to cook to perfection so lets get that done first.
I like to add a tiny bit of cinnamon to the water along with the butter to add some interesting aromatics!  Add 1/2 C rice and 1 C water PER PERSON to a medium pot with a tight fitting lid.  Add your butter and cinnamon to the water and follow the instructions on the rice packaging as different blends will greatly sometimes...  The rice I used required 50 minutes of steaming on low heat.

Next lets get our fish ready. It's always a good Idea to have color coded cutting boards to avoid cross contamination.  If you've only got one, or not too much counter space, just leave the fish in it's plastic packaging until the last minute.  

Preheat your oven to 400f.  Slice your lemon as thin as you like and set aside, keeping in mind that thicker slices mean a more zesty while thinner means more lemony sourness. Peel and slice your shallots about 1/8" thick and set aside.  Crush one large garlic clove with the flat of a blade.  Start browning butter with the shallot slices and the crushed garlic.  At the same time, heat butter in the cast iron skillet over medium heat and sear the fillets, 2 mins on one side to give them a nice dark glazing.  and place them in your baking dish.  Once the butter has a nice brown color to it, pour over the fillets.  Sprinkle each with salt and pepper, top with 2 or 3 lemon slices and three sprigs of thyme each.  Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 15 mins.  

After 15, remove the foil and spoon juices over each piece 2 or 3 times and put back in the heat for 5-7 minutes depending on your liking.  For the toasty bread, slice your baguettes in half like a hot dog bun and in half so you end up with 4 pieces.  Heat olive oil in a pan over medium high heat and fry quickly until just browned. 

 Well... I guess that's all I have to say on thi-


In my last post, I talked about pyrolysis - a form of heat based caramelization related to the Maillard Reaction (named for the chemist Louis-Camille Maillard) as a non-enzymatic browning.  When we heat the fish, especially when we sear it at the beginning  the amino acids and certain sugars in the meat form complex mixtures of semi-volatile flavor and scent molecules giving it that great flavor,color, and smell.  Each food group and type have their own nucleophilic amino groups, resulting in their own unique flavors and smells.  This reaction is responsible for some of our favorite things like BACON smells and nice grill marks on a steak!  There you have it!  Maillard Reaction.  SCIENCE!

I knew I almost forgot something important...

Food-copy Ninjutsu successful!  The textures work well with a stepping down from the crispy bread to the toothsome rice and the tender salmon.  Might even try some puff pastry crisps next time... Simple, elegant, quick, and delicious recipe that I will definitely be making and sharing again soon!  


Thursday, April 22, 2010

~Sweeter than Sweet!~ A cure for on-and-off spring gray-days

As much as I love spring with all its flowers, birds, insects, sunshine, and spring time civic events, there are parts I don't really like sometimes.  Don't get me wrong!  I love the rain and all the happy growing things it brings forth from the dirty brown winterscapes, but I can never be too enthused about the indecisive patterns.  I think the boring and grey outside is what inspired me to make something sweet and happy and VERY inside.  Inside a can that is:

~No-Muss, No-Fuss Dolce de Leche~

12-14 oz Can good quality Sweetened Condensed Milk
          (you can make as many as you like and store them for later)

Special Tools - 6" deep sauce or stock pot
                         Kitchen Tongs
                         Teapot (preferably with a fine neck)

Simplicity is best for this one.  Take your can and place it face up in your pot.  Fill the pot with enough water to cover the top of the can by at least 1".  More is better and better, in this case, is safer.  If you you let the water level drop too low, the can can leak and you'll have to start all over again.  Bring the water to a good simmer and set your timer for 2.5-3 hrs.  Even though the effort here is very minimal, you'll want to check the water level every 15 minutess or so.  If its getting too low, add some boiling water from your teapot.  You wont want to add cold water because it can stress the can and make for uneven heating/caramelization.  When you're done heating, let the water cool until you can dip your finger in without burning then place the can in cold water to cool.  Once its cool, the can can be opened right away or stored for as long as 6 months as the seal was never broken! 

NOTE - if you prefer a more liquidly sauce, you can boiled for 1-1.5 hrs

That is all you're going to need for this mid week recipe!  Its one of my personal favorite tricks not only for its ease and delicious results but because it lets me do THIS!


In this recipe, you're trying to oxidize sugars through pyrolysis (heat decomposition) taking a polysaccharide, in this case Sucrose, and reducing it to Fructose and Glucose.  Caramel is made of oxidized forms of those two.  What makes this different is that since you're going to cook the sugars in the milk inside the sealed can, the process is accelerated.  The water heats the can, creating kinetic energy which causes pressure to build, which in turn causes it to heat further.  All the molecules whizzing around and crashing into each other and the sides create a lot of pressure on the can but the kinetic energy of the boiling water creates pressure of its own, keeping the can's equilibrium intact.  As with an egg, if you tried to cook it without any water distributing the heat and pressing from the outside, the can would heat far to quickly, stress cracks would form and it might burst.  Fun with food.  Dolce de Leche in a blast cooker.  It's SCIENCE!


There you have it!  Dolce De Leche in a still sealed can!  Delicious and Conveniently storable!  Great on ice-cream, fruit, in coffee, truffle filling, cakes, flans, cheesecakes, cookies, pancakes... so many options.


Monday, April 19, 2010

~Tomato Madness~Walla Walla Summer Invasion

First Recipe of my blog! Kinda exciting :D

Last year I though I would plant an Heirloom Roma Tomato and a Yellow Cherry Tomato plant with the thought "I'll get a couple of tomatoes out of this and give a few away" I planted them in the traditional 80% rule (bury 80% of the start in the earth when planting) but didn't think much of what that might do. Near the end of our 235 day growing season I had made 2 quarts of sauce and had given away about 5 pounds of tomatoes. I had a few people coming over for a late summer bbq so I decided to make something I've never made before. For a little twist, I thought I would make it gluten free in honor of my big sis (Links to her blog on my links page)

~Gluten-Free Roasted Roma Tomato and Herb Chevre Tarte Tartin~
12 well ripened Roma Tomatoes (halved lengthwise)
4 Sprigs fresh Oregano
3 Leaves Sweet Basil
Salt & Pepper (preferably coarse salt and fresh ground pepper)
EV Olive Oil

2 C + 1 Tbsp Pamela's Gluten Free Bread Mix
6 oz Unsalted Butter or Shortening
1/3 - 1/2 C Ice water

SPECIAL TOOLS - Large cast iron frying pan

For the crust I used a store bought Gluten-free mix by the name of Pamela's Gluten Free Bread Mix (Pamela's Products) I love this stuff and will defend it for even people who don't need to be gluten free. Many home cooks find pie crust daunting at first because it can be very easy to over work the crust, making it bready not flaky. This is because (food science content warning) the gluten chains get linked and stretched out like in bread crust. The gluten free path avoids this completely, making it very difficult to get "bready" crust :) Now back to the recipe!
This recipe is really easy to stay on top of because there is a LOT of cooking time where you don't need to be present. Preheat your oven to 300* and begin cutting your tomatoes length wise and placing them into your pan to be sure you have enough to cover the bottom, allowing them to all to remain mostly cut side up. Chop your herbs roughly, sprinkle over the tomatoes along with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and toss to coat evenly.

Make sure all of your tomato halves are cut side up and put the pan in the oven to slow roast for 2.5 hrs. The temp is so low that you don't need to worry too much about burning but check at the 2hr mark if you like the tomatoes a little less roasty. Now to make the crust while those are in the heat.
Measure out your dry mix in a large bowl and add your butter by grating it into the dry. Combine by smearing and pressing the flour into the mix with your palms to create sheets and flakes, working quickly so the butter doesn't get too warm. What you want to see is a mealy mix with maybe a few pieces the size of peas. Add your ice water a little at a time and toss until you get the consistency you want. Press into a 3/4" thick disk and place in the fridge. Take the disk out of the oven 20 minutes prior to the tomatoes coming out to let is warm slightly as this crust tends to get hard and unworkable if its too cold. When the crust is workable, roll out a disk slightly larger than the pan and set aside.

When your tomatoes are done to your liking, take them out of the oven and turn up your heat to 400* F. Crumble your chevre directly onto the tomatoes, taking care to get some crumbles between the spaces in between. lay the crust over the cheese and fruit and tuck it into the sides with the blunt side of a butter knife or spoon. You don't need to too precise and a rough edge looks nice and rustic! Place the whole thing in the 400 oven and bake for 20-25 mins until the crust begins to brown slightly. Remove from the oven and cool 10 minutes on a wire rack.

After you've let it cool a bit, it's time get it out of the pan. Place a large serving platter (I ended up using a large wooden cutting board. Ended with a great presentation this way actually) over the top of the pan and invert. If it doesn't pop out right away just shimmy it a bit and it'll release. Scrape any tiny bits of cheesy stuff off the bottom of the pan and replace them in the tart.


Sunday, April 18, 2010


Hello all! Welcome to another blog about food! Most people might tell me "never say you're just another ___ blog!" but Thats what I am and proud of it! Food is great and I've use food blogs so often at home and for parties, I thought I would give something back! Hope I can help at least one person the way many others have helped me. Thanks for reading!