Friday, October 30, 2015

Baguette Success

This is basically the recipe from the Sur la Table class on bread baking I recently took. Here's a link to the recipe...

I mixed the dough on Wednesday and baked it tonight after I finished the clam pizza we had for dinner.

I formed it at about 3:00 in the afternoon, using the shaping instructions from America's Test Kitchen.  It rose for about 3 hours, and then I plopped it, still on the parchment onto the baguette pan and put that in the oven, onto a baking steel.  Next I covered it with a steam table tray, to contain the steam, put some water in my steam generator (an old broiler pan filled with lava rocks) and closed the oven door.  After 8 minutes, I removed the cover and the parchment paper and about 10 minutes later, it was done.

And It Was Tasty!

Need to work on my shaping, they're still a little uneven.  But they taste Real Good, and the texture is very close, so I can continue my quest for a perfect cylinder shape.

Monday, October 19, 2015

I would really like to do this someday...

This was at NYS Sheep and Wool Festival this past weekend in Rheinbeck, NY.  A whole lamb, spitted and cooked over coals.  


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Summer in a jar - Tomato Sauce

I am blessed to have the Royersford Tomato Company setting up shop three blocks from my house at Brewed Awakenings on Thursdays.  This past Thursday, I walked over, got an excellent Cafe au Lait and a shopping bag full of plum and small tomatoes.  I let them sit in the kitchen until Sunday to let them completely ripen.  Time to make some tomato sauce!

This is my Victorio Food Strainer, including the electric motor.  The motor is a luxury, but not one I would like to be without.  Hand cranking large quantities of tomatoes takes a lot of energy and time. 

Here you can see the machine in action.  The crushed tomatoes run down the chute in front, and the peels and seeds exit to the left.

This is the strainer that comes with the machine.  The holes are small enough to block the seeds from the tomatoes.

This is a vidoe of the food mill in action.  It's not quiet...

After running all the tomatoes from Rofotomo, along with whatever was ripe in my patch and a bagful from one of K's coworkers, I had a bow of peels and seeds.  This was quite wet, so I ran it back through twice, which yielded another two cups of juice.  Total yield from this sesson was 18 cups of tomato puree.

Before and after...

Let's put some heat to this...

Many hours later, the 1.5 liters of sauce had cooked down to about 0.5 liters and it thickened up.  I ran an immerson blender through it to even out the texture and ladled it into jars.  I got three full jars and a partial jar.  

I got the hot water canner filled and up to 180 degrees,  I tested the Ph of the sauce and it was well below 4.6, so no additions of acid were needed.  

I brought the water up to a boil and boiled the jars for 35 minutes.

And this winter, when the weather is cold and the sky is gray, we will open a jar of this, boil some pasta and will be transported back to summer...

Savory Apple Onion Pie


4 medium Apples
1 large or 2 medium onions (about 1 cup sliced)
2 tbsp butter
¼ tsp each ginger, anise, saffron
½ tsp cinnamon
about 10 Mission Figs or 5 larger ones, chopped
about 2 tbsp raisins or currants (or a mixture)
1 to 2 tsp fresh chopped parsley or fresh (not frozen) chopped spinach
¼ cup dry red wine or good port

Make a pie crust for a top and bottom crust.

Peel and core two apples.  Place in a plastic bag and crush or pound them with a rolling pin.  Add a few drops of wine to prevent browning.  Set aside.

Cut onion into thick slices.  Saute in the butter until they are soft and translucent, but not brown.  Add the spices.  Note: to use saffron, mix it with a little salt and grind in a mortar.

Cut two remaining apples into thick slices or chunks.  Mix with all of the remaining ingredients including the cooked onions and the pounded apples.

Roll out pie dough.  You can cook in a pie pan, or you can make two large squares or rectangles or you can make it into 6 or 8 pasty shells in whatever shape you like (free forms need to be baked on a cookie sheet or flat pan).

Place filling on bottom crust.  Be careful not to overfill the pie.  Wet the edge with water or egg white.  Add the top crust, seal carefully.  Make a decorative edge if you want.  Paint the pastry with egg white or with saffron mixed with water to make it pretty.

Bake for 25-35 minutes until pastry is done.  Let it cool for 10-15 minutes before serving, or eat it cold.

This recipe was found in the AS XXIX Arts and Sciences Issue of Pikestaff.  It is based on a recipe in Taillevent  and was originally written up by Lady Dante de Felice.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Chicken Stock

As part of a dish I'm working on for River Wars that we're calling Medieval Risotto , I'm going to need Chicken Stock, lots of Chicken Stock.

On Friday, Weis Markets had a meat sale and was offering whole chickens for $0.77 a pound.  So I stocked up.

I cut four chickens in half, loaded them into my two biggest stock pots and cooked them with carrots, onions (unpeeled), celery, bay leaf, parsley and peppercorns and covered it all with water.  I brought both pots up to a simmer and let them go for about two hours.

After the two hours were up, I strained the stock, then reduced it down to under two gallons of liquid.

Once the stock was nicely reduced, I loaded it into quart mason jars and put them into a pressure canner.

After loading up the pot, two inches of hot (around 180 degrees) water was added and the lid was clamped on.

I put the flame up to high and per the instructions in the Ball Blue Book, brought the pot up to a boil, let steam vent for 10 minutes and then put on the weight and brought the pressure up to 10 pounds.  Once the pressure had settled down, I processed the jars for 25 minutes.

As a side note, it's very important when canning to follow the recipes exactly, in order to insure food safety.

When the time was  up, I turned off the heat and let the pressure drop to zero.  5 minutes later, I carefully removed the weight, unclamped the lid and let the opened pot sit for another 10 minutes.  After that, I removed the very hot jars and let them cool overnight.

Shelf stable and awaiting the next step...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Baked Beans Part 2

Just took the pot out of the smoker:

Took it into the kitchen and opened it up:

Almost all of the liquid is absorbed.  I gave them a good stir and dished some up:

The beans are still intact, and the onion has vanished, except for their taste.  The lean part of the bacon is still there, but the fat has dissolved into the sauce.  The flavor is creamy and savory with just a hint of sweetness and a tiny bit of pepper tang at the back.  

Some of the yummiest baked beans I've ever tasted.  I'll be making these again and again.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Baked Beans Part One

Okay, it's not SCA period, but it's pretty cool.  

On our recent vacation, we went to Sturbridge Village.  One of the things we saw was the pottery shop.  The artisans who work there make redware pottery which is sold in the gift shop.  

When we stopped in the gift shop, it was overwhelmed with kids lined up to buy candy (it was obviously field trip Friday), so I waited until I got home to order a medium bean pot.  

I poked around and looked at recipes, including the Old Sturbridge Village Cookbook, which is basically beans, pork and salt pork.  Bearing in mind that I didn't want beans that tasted like candy, but did want some tomato in the mix, I decided to try Alton Brown's Baked Beans recipe, with some modifications.  

I left out most of the jalapeno and the cayenne pepper, because I really wasn't looking for spicy here, more savory.  I also used tomato ketchup instead of tomato paste, because I had ketchup in the fridge. 

I soaked a pound of navy beans overnight and then followed the recipe.

I prepped everything in a cast iron pot and then ladled them into the bean jar, which I had preheated with hot water to avoid thermal shock.

Since I don't have a wood fired oven and since I really, really didn't want to run my oven for 8 - 12 hours (it's really hot out and we just broke down and put on the A/C today), I moved the bean pot into the electric smoker.  It's currrently running at 250 degrees, and tonight I'll turn it down to around 200 degrees and take it out in the morning.  

Next, taste results!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bread from Birka

My apprentice sister Asa in Svarta was recently honored by being selected as a Laurel in the SCA. Since her persona is Viking, we wanted to be sure there were some Viking dishes in the food for her vigil.

(By the way, if you don't understand the above paragraph, contact me privately and I'll explain it more)

I turned to the book "An Early Meal" for inspiration, and found a recipe for "Bread from Birka".  The authors talk about flatbreads in general, and were specifically talking about foodstuffs found in the Birka area in this section of the book.

The recipe called for mixing pea puree with barley flour and salt and then baking it, either on a hot rock or in a frypan.  They also mention that many flatbreads made with barley and oats were found.

I tried the pea mixture, first cooking dried green peas into a puree, then mixing it with ground barley, salt and water.

 This is my flour mill.  It sounds like a jet engine.

This is the barley before it was ground.

And this is what it looked like after being run through the flour mill.

Next, I mixed the flour with the other ingredients.

I mixed it into a smooth dough and then, after letting it rest, rolled out an about one ounce ball into a flat, mostly roundish sort of shape, about a quarter inch thick.

 This is the rolled out flatbread.  Copious amounts of barley flour were needed to prevent sticking.

This is a sample after cooking.  As you can see, it broke apart.  It also did not taste very good.  

Since the taste was not pleasing to me, I decided to explore the barley/oats combination.  I ground up some steel cut oats to go with the barley, mixed up a dough containing 2 parts barley to one part oats added some salt and enough water to make a stiff dough.  I also added 1/8 teaspoon yeast, more for the flavor than any leavening I might get.

I parceled this dough out into 1 oz balls, rolled them out and stored them stacked with wax paper between them. 

At the event, I cooked the flatbreads on a butane stove using a cast iron comal.  I got this in a thrift store quite a while ago, there is no manufactures name, only the number '6' on the bottom.  

Here's a shot of me cooking the flatbreads.  It was a very hot day.

The bread come out very tasty, and many people enjoyed it.  While the challenges of working with low gluten flours without the benefits of modern additives to add structure to the dough was interesting, I'm not sure I'd repeat this, unless asked to do so.  I'm happier baking with wheat.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mudthaw 2015 Bread

I didn't enter the bread contest this year, I've won it twice so I figured I'd sit it out this time.  I did however bake some bread for the Athena Thimble's lunch table.

It was 75% white all purpose flour and 25 percent whole grain rye flour (plus water, yeast and salt).  I mixed up the dough on Wednesday, let it rise on the counter overnight, put it in the fridge on Thursday morning before going to work and when I got home on Friday, took it out and let it warm up/rise in brotforms while we ate dinner and then baked it on the Baking Steel under a cloche.  There were two loaves and the first one came out a little burned, but the second one was perfect.

I'm a little. displeased isn't the right word,
with the crumb, it's a little tighter than I hoped. Next time I'll use bread flour and hope for more holes.  I'm also going to soak the rye flour to see if that helps with hole structure.

Here are the two loaves after mixing.

This is the cloche from an earlier competition...and here is a picture of one of my brotforms

I also made butter.  Not in the churn, but in the Kitchenaid.  Here's a pic of the finished product:

Everyone seemed to enjoy it.  Off the clean the kitchen and soak some rye!!

Sunday, February 8, 2015


Today I made baguettes with the Cook's Illustrated recipe:

The shaping needs practice, and will get it, but the crust is amazing and they taste great!