What have you been up to in the kitchen?

Monday, January 15, 2007

The best bread ever

Presented here is an excerpt from an article that apeared last week in the Press Democrat. So far I have made three loaves of this bread, and have two more rising at this moment. It produces a rustic, Italian-style loaf that is delicious!

I have found that it needs more salt than the recipe calls for: 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 teaspoons tastes better. Also, the amount of water is approximate, although in the recipe it appears to be precise. Usually I use closer to two cups of water.

Greatest thing since sliced . . . . . ?


Jim Lahey's method of breadmaking requires no kneading. It uses no special ingredients, equipment or techniques. It takes very little effort. It produces a loaf that is incredible, a fine-bakery quality, European-style boule that will blow your mind.

It accomplishes all of this by combining a number of unusual features. Most notable is that you'll need about 24 hours to create a loaf; time does almost all the work. Lahey's dough uses very little yeast, a quarter teaspoon, and he compensates for this tiny amount by fermenting the dough very slowly. He mixes a very wet dough, about 42 percent water, which is at the high end of the range that professional bakers use to create crisp crust and large, well-structured crumb, both of which are evident in this loaf.

The dough is so sticky that you couldn't knead it if you wanted to. It is mixed in less than a minute, then sits in a covered bowl, undisturbed, for about 18 hours. It is then turned out onto a board for 15 minutes, quickly shaped, and allowed to rise again for a couple of hours. Then it's baked. That's it.

What makes Lahey's process revolutionary is the resulting combination of great crumb, lightness, incredible flavor - long fermentation gives you that - and an enviable, crackling crust, the feature of bread that most frequently separates the amateurs from the pros.

Lahey achieves the perfect crust by putting the dough in a preheated covered pot - a common one, a heavy one, but nothing fancy. For one loaf he used an old Le Creuset enameled cast iron pot; for another, a heavy ceramic pot. I have used cast iron with great success. By starting this very wet dough in a hot, covered pot, Lahey lets the crust develop in a moist, enclosed environment. The pot is in effect the oven, and that oven has plenty of steam in it. Once uncovered, a half-hour later, the crust has time to harden and brown, still in the pot, and the bread is done.

The entire process is incredibly simple, and, in the time I've been using it, absolutely reliable. Lahey thinks imprecision isn't much of a handicap and, indeed, his method seems to iron out the wrinkles: "I encourage a somewhat careless approach," he says.

It is best made with bread flour, but all-purpose flour works fine. I've played with whole-wheat and rye flours, too; the results are fantastic. The baking itself is virtually foolproof, so the most important aspect is patience. Long, slow fermentation is critical.

No-Knead Bread

Makes one 1-1/2-pound loaf
Time: About 1-1/2 hours plus 14 to 20 hours' rising

3 cups (430 grams) all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting

1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) instant, or other, yeast

1-1/4 teaspoons (8 grams) salt

- Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/4 cups (345 grams) water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, and up to 24, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for 2 to 3 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is OK. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Beefy Jerky

Homemade jerky = goodness.
Making jerky isn't that hard, it just takes awhile to do it, but it's worth it. Esp since a 1/4 lb pack of it is like $7 now.
The 1st part is to find good meat, you want something lean, I usually use a roast and have the grocery store slice it about 1/8 to 1/4 thick. When you get home you can cut any fat off the individual pieces quickly. Once the meat is prepped you need to marinade it in whatever flavoring you prefer, you can use bottled ones, or I'll put a marinade I like that the bottom of this post. Let the meat soak in the marinade overnight, remove from the marinade and pat it dry with a paper towel.
The heat source, beef jerky needs temps of just above 100 degrees to cure, a toaster oven set on it's lowest setting, a gas oven with just the pilot light lit, rack several ft above a slow burning campfire, etc are all excellent sources. I've seen alot of toaster ovens that 175 is the low setting, if you are using that it'll do, but you have to keep closer check on the jerky to make sure it does not completely dry out.
Place the meat on a rack, it's ok to let it touch, but it needs to be one single layer, and put a drip pan under the rack to catch the drippings from the jerky as it cures. It'll take anywhere from 12-24 hrs or longer depending on how thick you had the meat sliced. Every few hrs check on it by taking a piece, and slicing into it, you're looking for it to have that leathey beef jerky look to the outside, and be cooked completely grey on the inside, if you see any pinkness to it, it needs to cook longer. Once it's done it'll keep for along time as long as you keep moisture away from it, you can vacum pack it if you have one of those little sealer things, or just keep it in a ziploc bag. Realisticly it'll keep for several months, but if you picked a good marinade it'll be gone way before then.
Evil Marinade (this is hot, so dont use it if you dont like peppery jerky)
3tsp white pepper
2tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp crushed black peppercorn
3 tbsp tabasco sauce
1 tbsp worchestishire sauce
1/4 cup molassas
2 tbsp brown sugar.
Combine above in a sauce pan and heat till the molassas thins, dip the slices of meat in it and put on a plate or tray and place in the fridge overnight, then cook as above.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Where to buy your slow cooker!!

Ok - so a couple of you need a slow cooker. I love mine and I just bought a small one to cook the oatmeal in. I have a couple of good other recipes for the slow cooker that I'll post soon.

Here's where I bought my new slow cooker from., they don't sell it in the store and it's only $16.99! Here's the web address if the link doesn't work.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Slow cooker oatmeal

Hello all,

My name is Tristen and I am a friend of Allison's. Here's my first blog about food. Let me know what you think.

I am a huge fan of Alton Brown & Good Eats on the Food Network. So I tried his recipe for oatmeal cooked in a slow cooker overnight, so it's ready for you in the morning.

1 c. Steel cut oats
1 c. Dried Cranberries
1 c. Dried Figs
4 c. water
1/2 c. Half & Half

Add all ingredients to slow cooker and set cooker on low. Cook for 8 - 9 hours. Enjoy oatmeal in the morning.

As adapted from

Ok - so I added all the wet and only the oatmeal because I have fresh fruit to mix in when ready i n the morning. The oatmeal is mushy and some has stuck to the sides of my slow cooker.

I am thinking that because I didn't add the dried fruit I had too much liquid. As for the sticking I think if I butter the sides of the slow cooker first then I won't have this problem.

I really like oatmeal, but don't have the time to fix it every morning.

Let me know what you think I could do to improve the situation.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, January 08, 2007

Food Porn

Last year, I received a gift subscription to Bon Appetit - food porn deluxe. I've found a few bits of info and some recipes useful, but overall, a magazine about high-brow entertaining (I don't even own a table and chairs, so "tablescape" means nothing to me) and ambitious, restaurant-quality recipes did little more than provide me with pretty pictures of stuff I would never make.

Now I subscribe to Cook's Illustrated, which, without any ads or glossy color-photos, still manages to inspire me to try new things. The best section has tips from readers, packed full of practical and creative kitchen solutions to common problems.

Still, I'm in the market for a second foodie subscription, preferably one with pretty pictures and healthy recipes. Any recommendations?