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  • Bread Dough Hydration (Baker’s Percentage)

    One of the key items in gaining a desired crust and crumb is the level of hydration in the dough. The percent of water to the amount of flour is the hydration level or the “Baker’s Percentage”.

    From Wikipedia:

    Baker’s percentage is a baker’s notation method indicating the flour-relative proportion of an ingredient used when making breads, cakes, muffins, and other pastries. It is also referred to as baker’s math, or otherwise contextually indicated by a phrase such as based on flour weight. It is sometimes called formula percentage, a phrase that refers to the sum of a set of bakers’ percentages. Baker’s percentage expresses each ingredient in parts per hundred as a ratio of the ingredient’s mass to the total flour’s mass

    For example, in a recipe that calls for 10 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of water, the corresponding baker’s percentages are 100% for the flour and 50% for the water. Because these percentages are stated with respect to the mass of flour rather than with respect to the mass of all ingredients, the total sum of these percentages always exceeds 100%.

    Flour-based recipes are more precisely conceived as baker’s percentages, and more accurately measured using mass instead of volume. The uncertainty in using volume measurements follows from the fact that flour settles in storage and therefore does not have a constant density.

    I.E. Use a SCALE!, do nothing by cups / tablespoons / pinches….

    Basing on my standard dough recipe, I.E. 500 grams of bread flour, the following can be assumed:

    Water in ml Hydration Texture Notes
    275 55% Stiff:Very firm, dry and satiny; not tacky dense crumb in breads such as bagels, pretzels
    290-325 58-62 Standard:Tacky but not sticky; supple dense closed crumb, in breads such as sandwich bread, rolls, French and other European breads
    325-400 65-80 Rustic:Wet, sticky airy crumb and large, irregular holes, in breads such as ciabatta, focaccia, pizza

    Stiff Doughs:

    Working a stiff dough requires a large amount of strength and as these are so dry, an incredibly long kneed time. I almost always use a stand mixer for this on very low, as anything else tend to burn on the motor or strip the gears. Great for very dense, chewy breads, bagels, pretzels.

    Regular Doughs:

    This dough is a pleasure to kneed, supple, silky, slightly tacky, gives us a good rise, stand up well to slashing, with a small crumb. Think Baguettes, crusty dinner rolls, loaves for sandwich.

    Wet Doughs:

    Very sticky stuff, can not be kneaded, use a stretch and fold. This will yield some of the most interesting boules, loaves, and rolls. Crispy crust, irregular crumb, greate for ciabatta, focaccia, pizza, and my favorite, crusty yeast rolls.

  • Guacamole


    Tis’ the night before Cinco De Mayo, and through the States, tomatoes, peppers, avocados, and cilantro are been beaten into a unrecognizable pulp, to be served as guacamole..

    From Wikipedia:

    Guacamole, sometimes informally referred to as “guac” in North America, is an avocado-based dip or salad first created by the Aztecs in what is now Mexico. In addition to its use in modern Mexican cuisine, it has also become part of American cuisine as a dip, condiment and salad ingredient.

    And there is the first time I can remember, that I venomently disagree, with the Wikipedia Community.

    Guacamole, is NOT a dip, Guacamole IS a salad.

    But like almost all things “Americanized”, the concept has been abused and misused to the point of no longer being recognizable as the original product. Made with chunks of avocado, minced onion, finely diced tomatoes, and just enough Jalapeño or Serrano pepper to add a spice kick. No mayonnaise, no sour cream, no stick blender and for god’s sake, no mariachi bands.

    Guasacaca is a smooth green sauce, from Venezuela, made with avocados and vinegar, with a much stronger flavor and spice kick .. (But that is another post)

  • Irish Toasted Cheese

    As I have been working on my bread, and baking almost every day, I find myself with the issue of too much bread.

    I’ve stuffed loaves of Ciabatta into every backpack that has entered the lair, smuggled baguettes into the backseat of every car, and provided bags of rolls to the neighbors.

    Time to start producing some posts to use that abundance.

    As it is almost St. Patrick’s day, I am sure an Irish themed post would be appropriate. But I DETEST corned beef, and do not say that is caused by my not having a special brisket, or having it prepared a special way… (I’ve corned my own briskets …)

    Sooo, Toasted Cheese, Irish toasted cheese… True comfort food. Then again not just “normal” grilled cheese, I hate “white bread” and loth “spreadable cheeses”. (Yes, I am still having intense nicotine cravings.. So pardon my intense distaste for many things..)

    From Wikipedia:

    Uncooked cheese sandwiches simply require assembly of the cheese slices on the bread, along with any additions and condiments.

    A grilled cheese sandwich is assembled and then heated until the bread crisps and the cheese melts, sometimes combined with an additional ingredient such as peppers, tomatoes or onions. Several different methods of heating the sandwich are used, depending on the region and personal preference. Common methods include being cooked on a griddle, grilled, fried in a pan or made in a panini grill or sandwich toaster (this method is more common in the United Kingdom where the sandwiches are normally called “toasted sandwiches” or “toasties”).

    When making grilled cheese on an open griddle or pan, one side is cooked first, then the sandwich is flipped and cooked on the other side. The sandwich is finished when both sides are toasted and the cheese has melted. Butter, oil, or mayonnaise may first be spread on either the bread or the cooking surface in the case of butter and oil. An alternative technique is to toast or grill each half of the sandwich separately, then combine them.

    When using butter best results are achieved at a medium heat. This prevents the milk solids in butter from burning and allows sufficient time for heat to thoroughly penetrate the sandwich and melt the cheese without burning the bread. A crispy golden-brown crust with a melted cheese center is a commonly preferred level of preparedness. Cooking times can vary depending on pan dimensions, ability to control the intensity of the heat source, bread type, cheese variety and overall thickness of pre-cooked sandwich.

    There is only one pan for this, CAST IRON, if one is good, two are better. For this what is needed is two cast iron griddles, or a heavy cast iron skillet and a griddle. Similar to this:

    One Note: These are great heat “batteries”, so when handling, USE KITCHEN MIT’s or POT HOLDERS.. When hot they are branding irons for the unaware..

  • Meatless Monday – Fried Okra

    fokra

    In keeping with my home cooking, comfort food bend of mind, another favorite dish from you youth. Some people just rebel at the thought, but young orka, rolled in corn meal, and allowed to firm up, then deep fried is a sweet taste treat of a side dish.

    Background
    The name okra is most often used in the United States, with a variant pronunciation, English Caribbean okro. The word okra is of West African origin and is cognate with ọkwurụ in the Igbo language spoken in Nigeria. Okra is often known as “lady’s fingers” outside of the United States. In various Bantu languages, okra is called kingombo or a variant thereof, and this is the origin of its name in Portuguese (quiabo), Spanish (quimbombó or guigambó), Dutch and French, and also possibly of the name “gumbo”, used in parts of the United States and English-speaking Caribbean for either the vegetable or a stew based on it. In India and Pakistan, and often in the United Kingdom, it is called by its Hindi/Urdu name, bhindi, bhendi, bendai or “bhinda”. In Tamilnadu ,India it is called as Vendaikai.

    The products of the plant are mucilaginous, resulting in the characteristic “goo” or slime when the seed pods are cooked; the mucilage contains a usable form of soluble fiber. Some people cook okra this way, others prefer to minimize sliminess; keeping the pods intact, and brief cooking, for example stir-frying, help to achieve this. Cooking with acidic ingredients such as a few drops of lemon juice, tomatoes, or vinegar may help. Alternatively, the pods can be sliced thinly and cooked for a long time so the mucilage dissolves, as in gumbo. The cooked leaves can also be used as a powerful soup thickener. The immature pods may also be pickled.

    Okra is richer in potassium than bananas and has nearly twice as much calcium gram for gram as milk. 100g supplies a third of the recommended daily intake of magnesium (needed for energy release and healthy nerves) and more than 10 per cent of the RDA for iron. Okra is also a source of fiber – stir-fried okra contains much fiber as whole wheat bread. In addition it is quite a good source of vitamin C and the antioxidant betacarotene, which has a range of benefits, including protection against cancer and heart disease by helping to neutralise free radicals.

    Okra is one of those “binary foods” where people seem to hate it or love it, just like mushrooms, seaweed, and tofu. The hate is usually because of the gooey slime that coats the okra, but that is not a preordained fate

    Okra becomes slimy when cooked with a moist method—in a stew, curry, gumbo (in all these the sliminess helps to thicken the overall dish), or a steamer basket. Stir-frying or sauteing in hot oil, in contrast, keeps the slime within the okra pieces, or perhaps causes the moisture in the mucilage to evaporate, thus improving the pods’ texture.

    There are cooking techniques tol prevent your okra dish from being slimed. Indian food has many techniques of okra preparation, and I have three recommendations from my Indian friends.

    1. Trim just the very tip and the end of the okra and pan fry the whole okra pods until tender.
    2. Trim and round the pods then saute with onions and spices
    3. Trim SMALL okra pods, dredge in spices and corn meal / flour, and deep fry

    Note : After you wash the okra pods, wipe them dry with a paper towel. Controlling moisture is the key to controlling the slime.

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  • Meatless Monday – Fried Yellow Squash

    Again a dish from my youth. Fresh from the garden squash, (yellow, summer, crook-neck, or zucchini), sliced thin, tossed in seasoned corn meal and quick fried, usually served hot. (actually, we just stood around the stove grabbing pieces off the plate as they came out for the frying pan.)

    Background
    Squashes generally refer to four species of the genus Cucurbita native to Mexico and Central America, natively grown in parts of North America, Europe, India, and Australia. In North America, squash is loosely grouped into summer squash or winter squash, as well as autumn squash depending on whether they are harvested as immature vegetables (summer squash) or mature vegetables (autumn squash or winter squash). Well known types of squash include the pumpkin and zucchini.

    When used for food, squash are usually picked when under 8in/20cm in length and the seeds are soft and immature. Mature squash can be as much as three feet long, but are often fibrous and not appetizing to eat. Squash with the flowers attached are a sign of a truly fresh and immature fruit, and are especially sought by many people.

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  • Meatless Monday – Breakfast Fry

    It’s coolish/ warminsh / coldish / hotish, in short mid spring, I am quite busy, and have a yen for some comfort food. The original comfort food was the potato, crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside. But I want a bit more flavor and texture…

    Maybe I’ll par-boil some potatoes, slice or quarter them, and fry them up in my heavy cast iron skillet, maybe adding some cheese and a Jalapeño, along with some spices to kick up the flavor a notch.

    Home fries, house fries, or cottage fries are a type of basic potato dish made by pan or skillet frying diced, chunked, wedged or sliced potatoes (sometimes unpeeled) that have been par-cooked by boiling, baking, steaming, or microwaving.

    While it is possible to make “home fries” without par-cooking the potatoes, these are technically raw fries. The texture will be more chewy, and the longer cooking time increases the likelihood of burning the potato pieces. Home fries are also made, as the name suggests, as a simple homemade potato dish and can be prepared even by people with modest cooking skills as a meal or a snack.

    The frying is typically done in vegetable oil or butter. Other ingredients may be added. If chopped onions and bell peppers are added to diced potatoes it creates a dish referred to as Potatoes O’Brien. If sliced potatoes and sliced onions are sautéed together with seasonings it can create a dish referred to as Lyonnaise potatoes.

    The consistency depends on the type of potato used. Although various types of white potatoes are the most popular base, sometimes waxy (usually red-skinned) or sweet potatoes are used.

    In the United States, home fries are popular as a breakfast dish and are sometimes served in place of hash browns. Home fries may be served with a condiment such as ketchup or maple syrup.

    Patatas bravas or papas bravas is a dish of the cuisine of Spain, often served as a tapa in bars. It typically consists of white potatoes that have been cut into 2 centimeter irregular shapes and then fried in oil and served warm with a spicy tomato sauce. This dish is commonly served in restaurants and bars throughout Spain, where it is traditionally accompanied by a shot of orujo or a glass of wine.

    The potatoes are boiled in brine for several minutes to tenderize them. They are then rubbed dry and fried in oil in a manner similar to the preparation of potato chips.

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