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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 JalapeƱo 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)

  • 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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  • Preserved Lemons

    I have started playing with a fusion diet of Mediterranean, Mid-Eastern, and Far Eastern cuisines. Heavy on Rice, Noodles, Breads, Pastas, fuits, veggies, nuts, beans, olive / sesame oil, and very light on red meat. A fair amount of fish, lighter on poultry. This does not mean I will run screaming at the sight of a a steak, (or at least run screaming AWAY..)

    One item that keeps popping up is preserved lemons, used in all kinds of dishes around the Mediterranean, it really should be called preserved lemon peel, as that is the component most used.

    From Wikipedia:

    Preserved lemon or lemon pickle is a condiment that is common in Indian and North African cuisine. It is also known as “country lemon” and leems. Diced, quartered, halved, or whole, lemons are pickled in a brine of water, lemon juice, and salt; occasionally spices are included as well. The pickle is allowed to ferment at room temperature for weeks or months before it is used. The pulp of the preserved lemon can be used in stews and sauces, but it is the peel (zest and pith together) that is most valued. The flavor is mildly tart but intensely lemony.

    Pieces of pickled lemon may be washed before using to remove any surface salt, or blanched to remove more of the salt and bring out the natural mild sweetness. They may then be sliced, chopped, or minced as needed for the texture of the dish. The rind may be used with or without the pulp.

    Preserved lemon is the key ingredient in many Moroccan dishes such as tagines. In Cambodian cuisine, it is used in dishes such as Ngam nguv, a chicken soup with whole preserved lemons. They are often combined in various ways with olives, artichokes, seafood, veal, chicken, and rice. Lemon Pickle is a standard accompaniment to curd rice, which is often the last course in South Indian Cuisine.

    The pickled pulp and liquid can be used in Bloody Marys and other beverages where lemon and salt are used. The flavor also combines well with horseradish, as in American-style cocktail sauce.

    In Ayurvedic cuisine, lemon pickle is a home remedy for stomach disorders, and its value is said to increase as it matures. In East African folk medicine, lemon pickle is given for excessive growth of the spleen.

    From a VERY OLD COOKBOOK (Elizabeth Raffald (1786). The experienced English housekeeper )

    They should be small, and with thick rinds: rub them with a piece of flannel; then slit them half down in four quarters, but not through to the pulp; fill the slits with salt hard pressed in, set them upright in a pan for four or five days, until the salt melts; turn them thrice a day in their own liquor, until tender; make enough pickle to cover them, of rape-vinegar, the brine of the lemons, Jamaica pepper, and ginger; boil and skim it; when cold, put it to the lemons, with two ounces of mustard-seed, and two cloves of garlic to six lemons. When the lemons are used, the pickle will be useful in fish or other sauces.

    Note: When I speak of “Fresh” dried spices, I am stalking about items recently acquired, not sitting on a back shelf for a year. This should yield about a quart, so having a sterilized quart jar and lid is necessary. As a point, it is easier to manipulate the lemons in a wide mouth jar.

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  • Meatless Monday – Grilled Cheese

    The grilled cheese is true comfort food. Then again not just “normal” grilled cheese, I hate “white bread” and loth “spreadable cheeses”.

    Considering the construction of a perfect grilled cheese, I turn to my trusty chill box, where I found Sourdough, Irish Cheddar cheese, pickles, various herbs, and of course butter… This looks like heart attack ala grilled cheese…

    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.[11] 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.

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  • Stewed Squash

    squash

    One of my favorite squash recipes, this works well for those squash that have gotten a bit large for frying. This is prime time for squash and zucchini, they are making last fruit, in abundance. The pity is that soon they will be gone and the only one we will find are shipped in from every increasing distances, meaning ever decreasing levels of freshness.

    Oh well, I suppose we should make the best of this as we can. This recipe is rather simple, but as most “simple” things quite good.

    Note: I make this with butter, but one can also use other fats, (read this as bacon drippings for the porcine lover, olive oil for the health conscious / vegetarian), this is a basic recipe, some will move this to a casserole, cover with panko / butter and brown, others will add tomatoes, others will use zucchini, or mix them into the pot.

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