torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
What more evidence do you need that a group of people truly has its own culture than the fact that they have their own set of observed holidays?

I observed Pi Day by baking, of course. Rhubarb seems to have gone out of season already in the stores around here (a month or so early, and it just happens to be the year I divided my own crowns in the garden...) Failing that, I fell back on other supplies, and made a very tasty butterscotch peach pie from home-canned peaches. It's lovely with vanilla ice cream.

I took the rest of the triple batch of pie crust and made 25 miniature crusts, ready to become mini-pies in a few days. One set will be pecan for Thursday evening, as our hostess loves pecan pie; the other set will, once I process the necessary ingredients, become lime meringue pies. I got an influx of limes, you see, and I need something to do with the juice after I've stashed away the zest. The first step is to make lime curd; the second step is to take whatever lime curd survives predation and use it to make pie... :)

If you ever have the opportunity to pick up a copy of Farm Journal's Complete Pie Cookbook, buy it without hesitation. It is, hands-down, the best reference book for pies I have ever seen. I should take the time to scan it someday, put it into PDF for when our copy completely disintegrates; it's out of print and difficult to find even now. It's the first thing I reach for when making any pie or similar object.
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
I finally made caramel buttercream icing today. Modifying Martha Stewart's recipe seemed to do the trick; I took copious notes, so I shouldn't have a lot of trouble doing it again. It turned out silky, not really fluffy (I've had one that was much like whipped cream, this is not that). Rich but not greasy, with a light mouthfeel you just can't get with shortening. I have to keep it cool since it is mostly butter, but I think it's worth it.

After that, I pulled some of the proto-cake batter out of the fridge from my previous attempts at icing. I mixed in the dry ingredients and milk to make a stiff batter, then made cupcakes, as they're easy to get rid of. :) I ended up with 28 cupcakes, minus a couple sacrificed for testing purposes, and the icing surprised me by stretching to 26 of them. So I now have a little over two dozen gluten-free, HFCS-free caramel cupcakes.

How are they? Amazing. The cupcakes are quite soft and springy, not dense at all, and not too sweet; they have a slightly sugar-crisp crust from the caramel syrup in the batter. They make oily prints through the cupcake liners (I may see about cutting down on the butter, but they don't taste oily/greasy at all). The icing adds a dark caramel flavor and a little more sweetness, with a satiny finish to complement the crumb of the cupcake. I used salted butter, as I usually do with baked goods, and its quantity and prominence make the iced cupcakes salty-sweet, like the best caramel corn. I'm very, very pleased with how they came out, and it bodes well for the cake I'm making in a couple of weeks.

Some of the cupcakes will be voyaging to Baycon -- get ready, [livejournal.com profile] elynne!
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
Upper East Bay wheat/gluten free folks: I'm baking my way through a set of recipes in the next fortnight, and I'll be producing a surplus of very good gluten-free bread. If you want to know what's fresh for pickup daily, I created a Twitter account specifically for announcing bread giveaways... if you don't want to touch Twitter, message me with an email address and I'll mail you with what's available out of my freezer at the end of the week.

Nobody's responded to these announcements yet -- the only one following me on Twitter so far is a girl in the Philippines -- so if you're able to work out a reasonable plan for me to get the bread to you, you'll have your pick. First dibs gets any item.
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
I need local (East Bay, preferably; I'm in central Contra Costa) gluten-intolerant or wheat-intolerant people to take broken loaves that I create during testing. These are entirely edible, and though most aren't yet perfect by my standards, they are a step up from the usual GF fare.

They need to be a) able to pick up or receive bread in central Contra Costa or make arrangements for transport (I'm not driving to Berkeley once a week just to drop these off), and b) willing to fill out a couple of questions about each one, so that I can improve my recipes. The bread will be small loaves missing an end, usually, or an odd (small) number of rolls, and I can provide basic instructions on how to thaw them if frozen.

If you know anyone who fits the bill, have them send me a message at spammo_hung at foogod dot com. I'm not currently looking for wheat-eaters to take these, as they aren't as good as what's on store shelves (and they're so much better than the GF options) so I'd rather they go where they can do the most good. :)

Please signal-boost. Thank you!
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
With only a few days left until Christmas, I got the itch... so I started mixing cookie dough like a fiend today. I made dough for chocolate refrigerator cookies, soft gingersnaps, plain sugar cookies, and the family peppernuts. The chocolate cookies were new to me, but the Farm Journal hasn't let me down yet, and the dough tastes good. :)

The sugar cookies were also new; since my goal is to make a filled/cutout cookie with lemon custard in the middle, I wanted a plain, basic sugar dough to start with. I reached for Mark Ruhlman's "Ratio", knowing that he has a ratio for the simplest cookie possible (sugar, butter, flour). So I mixed up a batch according to his recipe: 2 ounces sugar, 4 ounces butter, 6 ounces flour. At least we have a good electronic "scale".

What I discovered is that this ratio fails with rice flour. It's odd, as I would expect weight to be the great equalizer between wheat and Asian rice flour -- they pack differently, but wouldn't the amount of actual material needed be the same? Apparently not. I adjusted it (1:3:3 seems to work well), added a splash of vanilla and a pinch of salt as suggested, and got a cookie dough that tastes just marvelous. If the cookies themselves taste anything like it, I'm sold. Ruhlman mentions that it's the quality of the butter that causes these cookies to succeed or fail; in that case, I highly recommend the store brand at Smart & Final, as it's fresh, very cheap, and tastes great. There's enough water in it to help with lifting baked goods, too. :)

So tomorrow I'll be baking these, as many as I get through, anyway. Not sure whether I'll get to making the lemon custard for the sugar cookies just yet. I made my Ninja Fudge today, so it's done and chilling in the fridge. I still have pie crust to make in the next few days; we need a mince pie, and I've had a request for another pumpkin pie too. Pie crust means more Cinnamon Pie Destroyers, which will make Greg happy.

Before Friday, we need to buy fruit (at least some D'anjou pears and a pineapple, maybe a grapefruit if there are some good ones out there) and our traditional lunch fare of sausage and cheeses for Christmas Day... I've been done with shopping for a while, and I'm ready to start wrapping. Whee!
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (happymaking things)
"Hmm, I feel like some rhubarb cobbler for dessert."

Go downstairs, get shoes and flashlight, head out to the garden. Pull a good double handful of rhubarb stalks. Bring them inside, wash and trim them. Cut them into 1/2" pieces, as the plant variety is such that peeling is unnecessary.

Pull out a small casserole and dump the pieces in. Look up a rhubarb pie recipe for the flour:sugar ratio, eyeball the amount of fruit, and estimate amounts. Pour the flour and sugar mix on. Toss some oatmeal in a bowl, add a half-handful of brown sugar, a dollop of flour, and a few tablespoons of butter; mash it together. Cover the top of the fruit with it.

Look at a few more recipes, set the oven to 425F, toss in the casserole dish, and set the timer to 35 minutes as a first guess. Head back upstairs. Watch old TV shows while the aroma of cobbler wafts up the stairs. Go down and pull it out. Watch some more TV until it's cool enough to touch. Eat dessert. Elapsed time since the rhubarb was pulled off the plant: 90 minutes.

I can cook well enough I don't need recipes for everything. I have a garden which provides us with something we all love, year-round, 24 hours a day. I have an hour in my evening which I can devote to combining the two.

This is the life I'm slowly working toward, and I love it.

*urp*

Sep. 29th, 2009 18:05
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (deadish)
I spent the day trying to make puff pastry -- the stuff croissants and turnovers are made of.

I gave it five or six turns (I lost count), rolled it out to a quarter-inch, and cut it into rough squares. It was my first time, I wasn't going to get neat edges. :) Then I put apple-pie filling into the squares, folded them over, and baked until golden brown.

Not one of the books and websites I've consulted on puff pastry said anything about providing drainage while baking. Yow.

Despite the impressive amount of clarified butter that ended up on the pan, these things are RICH. Not greasy, fortunately -- but when I eat one, I can feel my stomach getting a bit uneasy because of the sheer amount of oil I'm dumping on it. They're still good enough that I ate two, and I'm eyeing a third, but I really don't want to be ill tonight. It's a good thing my metabolism is so resilient -- these are diet-busters.

I would say that this was a success, in that I believe it was (once again) a lack of technique rather than a recipe failure which kept them from being perfect turnovers; the edges are very crispy and flaky, and the interior with the apples is moist and comes apart in sheets. BUT... The recipe would need a minimum of two more tests to make it out of my house, and I'm afraid I would not survive eating the results. Even if I stretched out my attempts across a couple of months, still... damn. Maybe if I made the squares/croissants really small, I think they freeze okay after baking...
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
I made flour tortillas for the second time tonight. Of course, in my world, first attempts usually don't fail as much as second ones. So...

Lessons learned about making tortillas:

- The skillet needs to be hot, but there is such a thing as too hot.
- Use metal spatulas. (oops.)
- A two-inch ball makes an 8" tortilla.
- The tortillas can be rolled only once; re-rolling them after a flop results in a placemat.
- Roll them until they refuse to be rolled any thinner - yes, they will stop at a certain point.
- Use a flat griddle, not a skillet.
- If using a skillet, put the tortilla on a flexible cutting surface, then curve the surface into a half-circle to ease the tortilla onto the skillet. Don't touch the sides (bzzzt!)
- Count the thirty-five seconds per side, don't try to estimate.

The first two attempts were placemats. Then I started getting better, and the last two were eased into the pan perfectly once I learned the way to coax them off the cutting surface. Then I found the griddles, which should make my next batch even easier, without stressing the seasoning on my cast-iron skillet. Five good tortillas from this batch, though -- that should make fajitas tomorrow night quite pleasant. :)

The skillet also ended up doing a sort of "self-clean" cycle -- it got so hot the accumulated lacquer around the edges flaked off. Not a bad thing to do every eight to ten years. However, I think a heat-sensor gun might be a good tool to have for this sort of exercise...
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (dork)
As some of you know, I'm writing a cookbook. Unfortunately, while I know a great deal about gluten-free bread, I know next to nothing about submitting a manuscript to publishers and evaluating potential offers. I think that if I'm at the point of putting "pen" to "paper" on this, it's time I start considering what format a publisher might want, and how to make it appealing to them.

So I ask my multi-talented friends list: Have any of you been involved in getting a how-to book (anything from how to do Europe on 3 euros a day to how to make your own siege engines to, well, a cookbook) from handwritten material to hold-it-in-your-hand book form?

I'm hoping that someone out there might be able to, if not offer some advice on the workings of the publishing industry, at least offer the name of a good book on the subject. :)

Thank you!
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (bean)
There is no turning back for me now: I've started buying flour by the case.* Next stop: leasing commercial space for a bakery.


I ran into [livejournal.com profile] dancingshaman at the grocery store again last night... He's apparently been dubbed fit enough to go back to work again, but he is not optimistic about the chances of getting a job soon. If anyone knows of an office admin spot within easy commute distance of Concord, you might drop him a line.


* True, a case is only 24 pounds, but still.
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
I think I'd open a bakery.

My dream house has an outbuilding with an auxiliary kitchen -- who knows, if I ever manage to get my dream house or something like it, maybe I could have the outbuilding inspected by the health dept. and sell gluten-free breads to local bakeries.

Way down the line, that. I'm too busy right now to even think about getting a loan to set up shop in a real bakery space (ignoring the fact that there isn't a bank in the US right now that would be signing such loans).

Still... I made sixteen beautiful, uniform buns today, when I was almost too tired to see straight. No indication anywhere on them that they were actually filled with cheese before baking. Mmmmm, cheese.

I like baking. I want to share.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (bean)
1) A silicon life-form was found, and is now being assimilated. A 1U Pentium 4, courtesy of a fellow lilyite.

2) The little container of flour and water that we drove around SF on Saturday spawned a very nice sourdough culture; I fed it and split it in two today. It will be ready for experimenting by the end of the week.

That's likely to be the first bread recipe I'll create from scratch -- none of the sourdough recipes I'm finding are directly adaptable, so I'll combine my experience and the numbers to see what sort of loaf I can come up with. There are some traits of the average bread which are completely constant, and I'll work from that.
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
No, the weather is actually fairly cool here for a change. That means, however, I took the opportunity to fire up the oven.

Sunday )

Yesterday )

Oh, and just for the record: I had forgotten what it was like to have a home-grilled cheeseburger on a real, honest, proper bun. zomg.

(...and I have six buns still in the freezer... *drool*)
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
I'm looking for bread recipes that people particularly like. Batter breads are all right (like banana bread) but what I'm really looking for is kneaded dough breads. It doesn't have to be made by hand -- a recipe that came with the bread machine that turned out really good would qualify. Challah, fruit bread, white bread, french bread, raisin bread... you name it.

I'm particularly interested in breads that were made by relatives, if you have the actual recipe. I may end up adapting it and using it (with attribution) in any compilation I make, so if you're not comfortable with that, don't contribute it.

I'm essentially trying to branch out beyond Bernard Clayton's book for recipes to adapt to the gluten-free method; I have my own grandmother's white bread (which adapted very well), but more breads to play with would be good. You can certainly have a loaf or two of the results if they come out well during testing. :)
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (deadish)
Caught up on LJ (I hit "skip=120"). Whew.

Lots of stuff brewing up for a thought-provoking post... hopefully later.

Today I baked rolls -- the usual little cheese rolls for school mornings, plus big fat Lunch Rolls as an experiment. One set has canadian bacon and American cheese (the cheese escaped wherever it could, but came out well otherwise) and the other has deli turkey, dill havarti, and a squirt of pesto added after they had cooled down a bit. All of them are now in the freezer; I'll test-drive them next week.

That was all the energy I had, sadly. I really need to plant stuff out, but simply walking around the house has been exhausting me this weekend. Sigh.
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
I now have a formal lab book to record my bread experiments in. I've spent the last half-hour recording the previous ones, and it's all ready for the next time I bake.

It's all very impressive -- one of the graph-paper, speckled-cover "Lab Book"s that you find in college bookstores. Bound, and all the writing is in ink, with each session dated (and indexed for convenience). I don't expect to have to challenge anyone with a "prior work" argument, but just in case... it never hurts to be thorough.*

Besides, now I'm not messing with loose bits of paper and post-its. Much better.




* From what my chem teachers have told me, barring a sign-off or lab book checkout system, this is the best format I can get for a legal challenge. And if anyone knows about systems to minimize losses in intellectual property cases, it's the pharmaceutical labs.
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
Homemade bread is a blessing. Good homemade bread, fresh and warm from the oven with a little butter, rivals good sex. In my opinion. Perhaps the years of hunting for a good store-bought loaf without wheat, and now the fact that if I want it I have to craft it myself, has something to do with that -- but I've always appreciated bread.

Last night's baking, and a few related thoughts... )

Life is generally good right now -- while I'm still waiting on ENT to call me for a medical appointment, my throat is only a tiny bit sore right now, and the systemic inflammation seems to be a little better. I'm dog-tired, but no one expects much from me this week, and I get a nice four-day weekend before finals. I get to drop a class for next quarter, so I'll take three (and three in spring). I'm waiting for the garden to dry out a little, and for me to have some time, before I finally transplant stuff. And my home life is very good. Yay December.
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
Anyone want to pitch in on an order to King Arthur Flour? All I need is cheese powder, and it's kind of silly to order just that. Especially when they keep offering free shipping or gifts for orders over $60 or so. They have really good pans and equipment, but I have everything they carry that I need... and I either can't use their mixes or have no need to. It's good stuff, though.

It isn't urgent, but I should get more cheese powder before the end of the year, if I keep indulging my cravings for mac&cheese as much as I have been. And holiday baking is upon us...

Edit: The yeast measure (2.25 tsp) for $4; the crumpet rings for $8; perhaps the rolling pin rings for $8; liquid measure for $5?

Edit: Gah! the orange cheese powder is no longer listed... I have to write them to ask whether they've discontinued it. (That would suck.)
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (deadish)
I'm ready to not be sick now. I'm so done. It can go away any time...

I've got a referral to Ear/Nose/Throat, which may take me to Woodland instead of Sacramento (Sutter/Davis doesn't have anything free until February). I'm willing to miss class at this point; not being sick is more important to me than grades. The current bout started on Friday night, and instead of fading after four days, it's been six and it's still trying to climb into my sinuses. At least it's (mostly) been leaving my lungs alone after the first two days, and my throat isn't too swollen.

General consensus is that my tonsils are in the process of failing, and they're out of warranty... we'll see what ENT has to say. It would mean that this isn't one bug, but several in succession, minor things that my immune system would normally munch without a second thought. The interval is down to about 20 days, though, and the constant inflammatory immune response is hammering my chronic fatigue triggers. As if this quarter weren't difficult enough already.

I'm at home today, as Russian was cancelled and I took the quiz for Cuba yesterday in office hours. I wish I were well enough to take full advantage of a free day, but I'll use it to rest and relax and hope that helps out my immune system. I'm ensconced in bed with my laptop and a great deal of tea. Maybe after I drink the rest of the six or seven mugs' worth I'll stop feeling like my upper respiratory tract is cracking from dehydration.

I made raisin bread last night, and came pretty darned close to the objective. Some fine-tuning is required, of course, but I have lovely, moist, slightly chewy sweet bread with raisins and a little cinnamon. Damned good for a first attempt. I learned a great deal about handling the magic flour in the process, and about the manner and order of addition for both eggs and butter. If I had the time, I'd pull together my recipes and start on a wheat/gluten-free bread book. Much testing is still required for the kneaded breads, though I have several quite-adequate batter breads already, along with some desserts. (I really ought to try challah one of these days...)

I should find out whether Morgan's brewing this morning, and see about picking up some mash if I can. I won't dig much today, but I'd like to have the amendments on hand.
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
I was going to post pictures of my two geometrically perfect loaves of bread... but ended up talking to [livejournal.com profile] supersniffles for an hour and a half instead. So no pictures tonight. You'll just have to take my word that they came out as ideally formed long rectangular prisms.

The dough baby came to life once again and tried to eat the mixer. I tamed it. It'll be back.

For now... my feet hurt. I'm off to bed.

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