Monday, February 27, 2017

Big Cook On A Monday

Clearly, I have gone mad. Insane, even.

Today is a Monday. Yet, I didn't do my weekly "Big Cook" on Saturday or Sunday as I normally do.  All I want to do on a Monday is sleep!

Tonight when I get home, in this particular order, this is what I need to tackle when I get home--a timeline of controlled chaos:

7:30 p.m.
Do up the batch of 2 minute HB eggs in the pressure cooker--do a quick release, as I need the cooker immediately after, in this sequence:

1. Retrieve eggs out of cooker. 
2. Pour cooking water into available pot for the pierogies. Turn on burner.
3. Pour a quart of milk into the cooker, and set it up on slow cook setting for 2.5 hours.
4. Once pierogi pot water is boiling, add salt and 1/2 the batch of frozen pierogies (see also: These are the pierogies I made a few weeks back--I'm stashing down my freezer!!)

Get wok and cooking oil preheated while I dice an onion. Toss onion into wok with a bit of water, to sweat the onion (for the pierogies).  

While the onions sweat and the pierogies boil, I'm going to do five minutes on my recumbent bike! 

Last night I already smeared honey-dijon and Shake and Bake coated two pork chops--and broiled them. So they just need to be reheated. And I got some roasted brussels sprouts at Whole Paycheck today, so that should round out our meal, I hope.  

Once I'm off the bike, I'm going to see if the pierogies are floating, and see how the onions are coming along. I'll then take the onions out and try to get a good pan sear on the pierogies. 

9:30 p.m.(thereabouts) 
I'll continue to build my pizza dough. I portioned out the "levain" aspect of the recipe last night, and figured I would follow MY OWN recipe AS I WROTE it, and wait until there's plenty of activity involved before building the dough.  

10:00 p.m. 
I'll turn the slow cooker off and let the milk cool a bit before continuing with the yogurt experiment. At this point, I'll add the milk powder and buzz it with my immersion blender to break up any lumps.

10:30 p.m. 
I'll punch down and divide my pizza dough into two equal portions (I love digital scales!); put 1/2 of it in an oiled container with a lid and put in the fridge to do a slow, cold bulk ferment for 4-5 days--so I'll make a pie perhaps this weekend; and then take the other 1/2 of the dough, and put it on a dish lined with semolina and pop in the freezer.

1 a.m. Before I go to bed:

1.   I will whisk in the 1/4 cup of yogurt (and some xanthan gum powder) into the cooled milk, then pour into prepared jars, and put back into my slow cooker, and surround the jars with a hot water bath, and put the lid back on the slow cooker (which will be turned off), and ignore it overnight to let the yogurt do its thing. 

2. Take partially frozen pizza dough and place in zip lock bag.

Then head to bed.

I'm getting tired just thinking about this! 

Pizza Quest: 50/50 Hybrid Success

I can finally stop my quest, my search for the perfect pizza dough. My hybrid meets the majority of my criteria (though I would like a bigger bubble in the cornicione--turns out there IS such a thing as Pizza Anatomy!) 

Additionally, this pie was made with the 1/2 batch of dough I froze before bulk fermenting. The pie turned out beautiful. I took the dough out of the freezer 5 days before I anticipated making the pie.  

BEHOLD! The pie I made last week. This one, I used a veggie stew called Turluh (I buy it in small jars at the Armenian market) in lieu of marinara, and studded it with merguez, and finished the pie with basil leaves and basil infused olive oil. No cheese as this one was for the Maharajah who is lactose intolerant. But BEHOLD! 

Isn't that a beauty? I just want to do an open-mouthed face plant right into it!
(And yes, I am still using parchment paper--I have trust issues with dislodging the pie from the pizza stone!)
I have also discontinued making one enormous pie, and rather, am now opting for two smaller, more manageable pies--plus there's the insane habit I got into of making an enormous SQUARE pie and trying to scootch it onto a round pizza stone. 

Additionally, I got additional tools for what is turning out to be something I make every 10-14 days or so. I buckled and bought a different pizza cutter, as well as a modest sized peel, as I'm tired of getting burned trying to transfer the pie from the oven to the cutting board. And my god, what a breeze it was to transfer this pie!  I have to admit, using the right tools is as important as your technique AND recipe. It makes a huge difference in the overall enjoyment of cooking/baking/creating.

DIY Yogurt: The Prologue

Much like my pizza dough quest (which I feel quite confident has come to a glorious conclusion), I'm now going to try my hand at making my own yogurt.

My mother-in-law in India makes yogurt every day, has a nice little system of one day old, two day old, etc, it's a constant cycle from one batch to the next. And she's doing so without a yogurt maker or even a slow cooker (like I have) and surely, I can do this, right? RIGHT?

Anyway, I've searched around for a few recipes to get an idea, and since it's just me and the Maharajah, I'm not going to make a big-assed batch. He's going through a Nounos kick, and at $2.50 a 6 oz jar, the costs rachet up pretty quick, especially if we BOTH eat yogurt.

This weekend, I bought six jars (thereabouts) to hold us for a while (and for me to be in possession of those great little jars, which I can see fitting nicely in my electric pressure cooker), and have been thinking on the topic for a while.

This afternoon, I went to Whole Paycheck to pick up a few items (and somehow got out of there having spent less than $20--I did not even know THIS was possible!), and got a quart of skim milk.  I have some pouches of dry milk powder which I plan on adding some to the first batch, just to get an idea of texture etc, and will tweak things in subsequent batches, as I do with everything else I do.

This "tweaking" I do, my cousin refers to as "Maven-ing," as I find it next to impossible to follow a recipe verbatim. But the first time out the gate, I'll try to stay as close to a formula.

Anyway, I've divided things in half, and will start my first batch as a half batch of another recipe. 

The ingredients list is quite short:

4 C milk (cost: Stay tuned... my receipt is in the fridge!)
1/4 c plain yogurt (cost: $0--I have a couple cups of Siggi's in the fridge)

Optional ingredients:
1/4 C dry milk powder
1/4 tsp xanthan gum powder ($13 a pound, but I have had it on hand for years--cost $0)

My approach is going to be:

Put milk in slow cooker for 2.5 hours. Leave lid on and let sit for 3 hours. Then mix in the 1/4 C plain yogurt. At this point, I'm going to try adding 1/4 C powdered milk (to boost protein) and perhaps xanthan powder, to improve texture as the yogurt sets up, and blasting it with an immersion blender to make sure everything gets dissolved. I will probably put the yogurt in the clean glass jars, and then let them sit in still warm slow cooker (turned off) for at least 8 hours. 

My timetable (if I do this tonight) will be:

7:30     Put milk in slow cooker for 2.5 hours
10:00   Turn off cooker. *I might put milk powder in and blast this with the immersion blender--as to do it at 1 a.m. might be too noisy for my neighbors.
1 a.m. (before I go to bed) Put 1/4 Cup Yogurt and xanthan gum powder in the warm, cooked milk. Portion into jars, and place back in cooker.  

Before portioning into jars, I'll put some Dalmatia Fig Spread in 1 or 2; and in the remaining jars, I'll put some elderberry syrup and a few blue berries and hope for the best.

Knowing me, I'm lazy and rushed in the mornings, so it's not outlandish to think I'll forget to put the yogurt in the fridge before heading to work--and I suspect the additional time at room temp can only assist the yogurt to do its thing. So at this rate, I won't know until Tuesday night or Wednesday how successful the first batch will be.  

This, of course, is assuming I get off my duff and do this. I'd have to set this up right before I start setting up for dinner tonight.  

Stay tuned.

Also: Stay tuned for the cost calculations--whenever THAT happens!

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Pizza Quest: 50/50 Hybrid Pizza Dough (Fresh or Frozen)

I have YET to find a pizza dough that meets my demands: it should provide a stable foundation for the sauce and cheese, not be flimsy but be equally chewy on the end, and crisp over the entire bottom.

I've tried KAF's recipe, the recipe in Sarah Owens' Sourdough Book, and numerous others, then MacGuyvered my versions thereof, and STILL!, I am not pleased. I want my crust to be as impressive as ones I've eaten at restaurants.

Within my family, one particular aunt was reknown for her pizza, the recipe card of which is provided in this post--but much like other recipe cards from the family, there's a lot of data missing. 

What to do? I like certainty, and in baking, measurements are vital for overall success.

Aunt Connie's recipe involved 6 cups of flour, so I decided to Google "pizza recipe, 6 cups of flour," and found Tyler Florence's recipe, and I am using that as a jumping off point for what will be the next pizza experiment.

Between Aunt Connie's recipe and Tyler Florence's recipe, plus my own preference/need for sourdough, I MacGuyvered the following recipe, which I hope will end this quest, leaving me with a reliable pizza dough recipe to return to, time and time again.

My recipe is a hybrid of a traditional fresh dough and a sourdough, so I can enjoy aspects of both in one dough.

This coming weekend, I will mix up a batch, and when I divide the dough, I plan on using 1/2 of it fresh, and then the following week or so, thaw out the remaining dough and see how that works. 

But for now, I present my 50/50 Hybrid Pizza Dough. If you play along at home, please leave me a comment and let me know how it works for you.


Step 1:
1 C unfed starter
1 C APF or “00” flour
1 C tepid water

Mix well and let sit 8-12 hours (or overnight if kitchen is cool).

Step 2:
Once levain has some bubbles/activity, add & dissolve:

7 gm (or 1 packet) Dry yeast
7 gm (1 tsp) Sugar

Let sit for 10 minutes.

Step 3:
Then add & mix well:

2 T Olive Oil
2 eggs

Step 4:
Start to mix in the remaining 4.5 Cups of flour, mixing it in ½ cup at a time. Once you have added 3.5 cups of flour, let the dough rest 30 minutes.
ETA NOTE: When I mixed up my first batch of this dough, it only took 5 cups overall (which includes the flour and 50% in the sourdough starter). If your dough comes together with less than the 6 cups listed in both of the recipes referenced below, go with less. Your flour could be more thirsty, or your sourdough starter might be too stiff--which I think is the issue with mine.
Work into the dough 2 tsp (14 gm) of salt, and remainder of the flour. As you knead, dough should be elastic, not sticky but not stiff. If you find that 4 cups is sufficient, don’t add the additional ½ cup of flour. YMMV.


If you plan on using this FRESH: Let the dough sit in a warm spot until it has doubled in size. Timing will be dependent on how warm your kitchen is, if you have a proof box, etc. The time can range from an hour or more. Eyeball the dough.

If you plan on FREEZING this dough: Before letting dough rise and ferment, divide the dough into two balls, and place on a parchment lined dish and put in freezer until frozen—then transfer frozen dough into separate zip lock bags.  

To use FROZEN DOUGH: Remove from freezer, take out of zip lock bag, and place in an oiled, covered bowl (ideally the morning of the day you want to make pizza). 

Now for the recipes I've referenced above: 



2 packages active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups warm water (100 to 110 degrees F.)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for bowl


In a small bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and water and stir gently to dissolve. Let the mixture stand until the yeast comes alive and starts to foam, 5 to 10 minutes.

If you're using a stand mixer, combine the salt and flour to the bowl and pulse a few times to mix. Add the yeast mixture, at the lowest speed, until the flour incorporates. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough gathers into a ball. This should take about 2 minutes. Add the olive oil and pulse a few more times. Stop the machine periodically to scrape the dough off the hook. Get a feel for the dough as you're making it by squeezing a small amount together between your thumb and fingers. If it's crumbly, add more water, if it's sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and fold it over itself a few times, kneading until it's smooth and elastic.

If you're making the dough by hand, add the yeast mixture to a large bowl and stir in the salt and the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Then begin stirring in the flour. When the mixture becomes too stiff to stir with a spoon, knead in the rest of the flour by hand, adding just enough so that the dough is soft but not too sticky. As you work, squeeze a small amount of dough together between your thumb and fingers. If it's crumbly, add more water; if it's sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Form the dough into a round and put it into a lightly oiled bowl, turning it over to coat the dough entirely with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot (i.e., over a gas pilot light) until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year Post: Dim Sum And Then Some

For those still checking out this blog, thank you very much, and by the way, Happy New Year!  

I'll be doing a bit of travel throughout the year ranging from Hong Kong and Madras, to New Orleans, and a quadruple threat of Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

I never thought I'd ever even DREAM of visiting even ONE of these places, and yet, 2017 has me both, beginning my year, and ending my year (as well as starting 2018!) in Asia.

One thing that always meant a lot to me (and still does) is the ability to transport yourself by eating foods from other cultures, even if you've never GONE to those cultures, we can still experience the delights that each country can provide us, and often times, elevating humble ingredients into something truly special.

I cannot imagine going to the homelands of dim sum, or nasi goreng, or beef rendang or pla lad prik! I'm hoping to come home with a new perspective on things, and with some new favorite items to learn how to make.

In the 15 years I have been married, I was unable to incite excitement in my husband, aka The Maharajah, regarding dimsum, and this was something relegated to girl's days out with a friend. In October, I seized a moment when we both were in NYC for an appointment, and left without a plan for lunch, I took my husband hostage and took him to Jing Fong in Chinatown--which to me is something truly special. Surely there are places that might do certain dishes better, but Jing Fong is accessible by an escalator which dumps you upstairs into what amounts to a vacuous ballroom sized dining room. 

As of current date, to my knowledge, Jing Fong is still operational--I keep an eye on news updates on line regarding it, as it IS planned for demolition as a developer wants to put up a new high rise and hotel etc, in the on-going gentrification of the lower east side of Manhattan. However, as of today it's still alive--I just checked online just now. Who knows when it's subject to change.

Anyway, I took the husband there, and despite not seeming all too keen on it, the place left an impact on him. And soon we have been visiting a local dimsum place near our homes, which is considerably smaller, and offers some of the same types of dishes.

And one of our favorites we gravitate to consistently is turnip cake. To be honest, I'd be happy with nothing but har gow, bbq ribs, char siu bao, and turnip cake. It truly is something very special and each place we have gone to makes it nice. 

It is my hope that after visiting Hong Kong, which I view as the mother land for dim sum itself (with Shanghai being the motherland for dumplings, specifically), that I will be making this dish regularly.  I found this recipe online and the photos really SELL the recipe as being tasty. The photos make me salivate:)  Posting this link to share, as well as a "note to self" for when I return stateside.   


Monday, December 05, 2016

One of My Signature Dishes: *Kanga* Nadu* Chicken* Surprise*

Very rarely will I actually toast and grind my own spices. I leave that for special occasions. Normally, I rely heavily on good quality spice blends from either Kalustyans, Penzeys, or Shaan, all of which EXCEED my needs.

Disclaimer: This is my own creation, not an actual dish; and if it WERE an actual dish, it'd be a biryani, I GUESS, but I fail every time I make a biryani, so this is neither a biryani, nor is it a pullao. It's in the great tradition of 1970s one dish/casseroles, and I'm calling it "SURPRISE."

This dish is similar to a Kerala dish called "curry meen pullichatthu" where there is seasoned pearl spot fish, pan seared, then wrapped in banana leaf and steamed in the leaf on a tawa/skillet to finish. This is also NOT dissimilar from a Bengali dish, Bhekti Macher Paturi, but the only similarity is the fish is seasoned with a paste, and neither the paste nor the fish is cooked prior to being wrapped in banana leaf, then steamed on a tawa/skillet. All of these are merely variations on the same theme.

Rather than give an ingredient list, and then go into the process; I'm just going to list the process with the ingredients in each step. Oh, and there are SOME photos of the process.

Note: Right up until you get to the instructions for the rice and remainder of the recipe, what will be detailed is pretty much MY VERSION of what is known as Chicken Varuval.

Step One:
Toast in a dry skillet: 1 handful of dessicated coconut, and 1T
that's TABLESPOON) of ground cashews or almonds (I
used Trader Joes brand) until it is this color. Set this aside.

 Step Two (No Photo, Sorry):
Toast in a dry skillet:
1 T coriander seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp fennel seed* 
1 tsp split moong dal
(*I may alter this measurement in future batches)
1/4 tsp fenugreek seed

Toast up until fragrant--make sure you don't scorch it!
Let it cool, then grind in a spice grinder, then sprinkle over
1-2 lbs of diced up boneless, skinless chicken thighs, 
mixing in a smidge (about a tsp) of jingelly oil*.
(*Indian sesame seed oil, not to be confused with 
toasted sesame oil used in Chinese or Japanese cooking.)
Set chicken aside.

Step Three: 
Fry up the tadka in 1 tsp jingelly oil:
1 tsp black mustard seeds
12 curry leaves 
1 dry red chile pepper, broken in small pieces
A couple dashes of asafatoeida (compounded, powdered) 

Step Four:
To the prepared tadka, add:
1 white onion, minced (my onions are about 160 gm)
1 red bell pepper/capsicum, diced

Remove the tadka/onion mix from skillet and set aside.
Toss in the diced, seasoned chicken, and turn up the heat. 
Sear the chicken pieces on all sides.
Note: I use a Green Pan wok, which pretty much ensures
nothing will ever stick to my wok. YMMV, depending
on the nature of your cooking vessel. 
I pretty much ignored my chicken while it cooked, 
and I was doing other things. 
But this is what it is supposed to look like once 
you've achieved a good sear on all sides.
Toss tadka/onion mix back in and cook together for 2 more minutes.
Toss in the toasted coconut/ground cashew mixture, 
then set aside. 
Oh, and if you're so inclined, squeeze a bit of lemon juice 
over this and give a good stir. 
Oh! I almost forgot: About 20-40 grinds of fresh pepper. YMMV.
NOTE: I *am* INTENTIONALLY omitting a special ingredient. 
:) SUE ME :)
Into your pressure cooker or rice cooker, toss what you see here,
with the water and oil measurements on the bags.
Toss some additional saffron into the water, if you're so inclined.
It's truly disgusting how easy and tasty this rice IS at this point.
Once the rice is cooked, fluff it with the paddle to your rice cooker, 
and set aside.
Yes. Banana leaves. Not parchment paper, though you COULD
use parchment paper and set this up "en papillote," 
HOWEVER, you would be missing the subtle fragrance
with which the banana leaves imbue (YES IMBUE) 
the tasty tidbits inside.

Thaw out, wash and dry your banana leaves,
trimming off the tough ends.

This works good for one big casserole dish, or for 
individual serving sizes, as shown below...
Here are the pouches filled up and ready for the oven.
(Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes to steam in the leaves.)
I'm hopping around, I know. Stay with me. It'll all be worth it.
This is how you should layer:
Layer banana leaves criss-crossed with longer ends to tuck everything in.

First layer on bottom: Rice.
Second layer in middle: Chicken varuval with fresh cilantro sprigs.
Third layer: More rice.
Fold each end of the banana leaves over the food, pressing down
and tucking the ends into the pan to make a good seal.

Surprise! It's fucking delicious!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Just a few photos I managed to save from our Thanksgiving this year. My menu doesn't vary all that much from year to year. 

 Flowers I bought for the hostess (me!).
We went from originally having six people to twelve;
I needed to rent an additional table and chairs to
accommodate everyone.
 Here I am, the night before, pouletting the bird
after having spatchcocked it.
 Sorry, no photos of it in the roasted state.
But it was delicious.
 The view everyone sees when they came
into our home.
PS: That "Give Thanks" banner stays up all year long.
 Beverages offered: Sangria, Dark and Stormies,
and apple cider spiked with Apple Jack and
spiced bitters.
What to do with leftovers? Deep dish Thanksgiving Pie!
Hint: Canned buttermilk biscuits form the "crust,"
then you layer all the leftovers in, bake it for 20-25 minutes.
BOOM. Thanksgiving Pie.

Friday, October 21, 2016

It's Been a While Since My Last Loaf

It's been a while since I've baked a loaf. Considering that my stoneware baker is so long, the loaf that it produces is quite big, and I managed to slice it and freeze half. So pretty much it's big enough for nearly 3 weeks worth of bread.

Last night I fed my starter/mother with some APF, so that'll make her nice and happy and active. Tonight I'll mix up a batch of the oatmeal bread I've used in previous attempts (some of which I've blogged about), and instead, this time, of the three cups of flour, I've used only two cups of KAF Bread Flour and one cup of teff (to add some interest/taste).

I'm going to mix up the batch, and do stretch and folds every 30 minutes for about two hours, and then dump it into my prepared banneton, and shove it in the fridge overnight. Then tomorrow a.m., before I head off to physical therapy, I'll take it out of the fridge, and put it on a heating pad to proof up. Granted this post was for "room temp," to be honest, my room temp isn't all that conducive to bread proofing. My kitchen always it more than a bit cool (unless we're in the dead of July and August, and even then it's still a dodgey affair). So I'll put the heating pad on low, and hope for the best.

I'm hoping the banneton helps me get the crust I want to achieve. 

I'll put some other add-ins into it like maybe a bit of hemp hearts, and meusli and dried cran for interest. 

I'm really hoping the crumb and crust cooperate.

Time will only tell.