Real Food

Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.


3/7/2014

Simple and requiring no cultures, mascarpone starts with cream rather than milk, Mascarpone With Fruitand needs a full day’s or night’s draining to be ready to eat. Similar to cream cheese, mascarpone’s richness lends itself to sweet preparations, such as the Italian pick-me-up tiramisu. It’s also good in savory preparations and with fruit. The finished cheese can be soft and creamy or crumbly, depending on how long you let it drain. Tartaric acid is not the same as cream of tartar and the two are not interchangeable; tartaric acid is available from winemaking and brewing stores. Yield: about 1 pound.

Mascarpone Recipe

Ingredients:

1 quart cream (light or heavy); see note later in this article
1/8 to 1/4 tsp tartaric acid dissolved in 1 tsp cool water (or use 1 to 2 tbsp lemon juice)

Instructions:

1.  Heat cream. In a heavy-bottom, nonreactive pot, heat the milk over medium-low to 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir continuously to prevent scorching. Remove cream from heat and stir for a couple of minutes to cool (to about 190 degrees).

2.  Acidify milk. Milk separates into curds and whey when it is acidified. The warmer the milk, the less acidic it will need to be to separate. When the milk has reached the proper temperature, remove the milk from the heat and add tartaric acid or lemon juice and stir. Let sit at room temperature until a uniform mass of curd has pulled away from the side of the pot and there is a clear layer of whey over the top. When curds have separated from mostly clear whey, leave the pot alone for 10 to 20 minutes.

3.  Drain curds. Line a colander with damp cheesecloth and set it over a large bowl or in the sink. Ladle curds into the cloaked colander to drain for about 12 hours. After the initial draining, you may salt the cheese by sprinkling salt over the curds and stirring to distribute.

4.  Store cheese. Cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

Note: To make a quart of light cream (25 percent butterfat), combine 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream with 2 cups half-and-half.

Interested in other homemade cheese recipes? Read How to Make Fresh Cheese: The Basic Steps.

Photo by Tim Nauman: Mascarpone, the rich and creamy Italian fresh cheese, is superb with fruit.



3/7/2014

Ready to eat in less than 2 hours, paneer is the quickest curd you can concoct. Mild-flavored Paneer with Dippaneer is typically added to highly seasoned Indian dishes, but it can shine in a multitude of recipes. It does not melt when heated. Don’t use colored vinegar unless you want colored cheese. Yield: about 1 3⁄4 pounds.

Paneer Recipe

Ingredients:

1 gallon milk (cow’s milk is traditional)
1/4 to 1/2 cup lemon juice or distilled white vinegar
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste

Instructions:

1. Heat milk. In a heavy-bottom, nonreactive pot, heat the milk over medium-low to195 degrees Fahrenheit . Stir continuously to prevent scorching. (If you don’t have a thermometer, heat until it foams but before it boils.) Remove from heat and stir to cool for a couple of minutes (to about 190 degrees).

2. Acidify milk. Milk separates into curds and whey when it is acidified. The warmer the milk, the less acidic it will need to be to separate. When the milk has reached the proper temperature, remove the milk from the heat and add the lemon juice or vinegar. Stir the acid into the milk a little at a time, pausing after each addition to check for curd separation. When the curds pull away from the side of the pot and the whey around them is mostly clear, you’ve added enough acid. When curds have separated, leave the pot alone for 10 to 20 minutes.

3. Drain curds. Line a colander with damp cheesecloth and set it over a large bowl or in the sink. Ladle curds into the cloaked colander to drain for 30 minutes. After draining 30 minutes, sprinkle salt over curds and stir. (Note: If you refrigerate the cheese at this point, you’ll have queso blanco — break out the taco shells!)

4. Press cheese. Pull the cheesecloth ends together at the top, then twist and squeeze the cheese into a disk. Lay the flattened disk down and re-dress the cheese by layering the four corners of the cloth smoothly on top of the disk. (Keep the cheese completely encased in cloth.) Place the wrapped cheese on an upside-down plate that’s atop a rimmed baking sheet (to catch the whey). Cover the cheese with another upside-down plate. Set something heavy, such as a cast-iron pan, on top of the top plate to press the cheese.

After an hour, check to see whether whey still runs out when you push the cheese with your fingertips. If so, press it longer. If not, get out your cheese knife!

5. Store cheese. Cover and refrigerate for up to a week. The pressed cheese may also be frozen for up to 3 months.

Interested in other homemade cheese recipes? Read How to Make Fresh Cheese: The Basic Steps.

Photo by Tim Nauman: Paneer doesn't melt when heated, so it's a great candidate to fry and serve with a dip.



3/6/2014

Curried Pinto Beans

A while back my husband and I bought a mammoth, 25-pound bag of pinto beans — a decision which has had its ups and its downs. On the plus side, beans are cheap, healthy, and filling, and buying in bulk cuts down on wasteful packaging. On the other side, we’ve had to store a bag of beans that weighs almost as much as our two-year old and takes up just about as much space.

Difficulties of storing and lifting aside, we’ve had fun finding new ways to enjoy our seemingly never-ending bean supply. Bean soups, southwestern bean salads, and beans as a side for Texas barbecue have been plentiful. However, I think my favorite bean dish to date is this Indian-inspired curry, with hearty pinto beans as the star and delicate baby kale in a supporting role.

The spice (heat) level can be kicked up or down according to your preferences, and the intensely flavored beans make a great vegetarian main dish either on their own or served with rice or bread.

A note on curry powder: Your results will vary slightly based on the curry powder blend that you use. I used an organic, salt-free, store-brand containing a mix of coriander, turmeric, mustard, cumin, fenugreek, paprika, cayenne, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. Yield: 4 to 6 hearty servings on its own, or 6 to 8 served over rice.

Curried Pinto Beans with Kale Recipe

2 cups dried pinto beans
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can diced organic tomatoes, with the juice (substitute 14.5 oz fresh tomatoes if desired)
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger root (or about a 1-inch chunk of fresh ginger root, peeled)
3 medium-sized cloves garlic, peeled
2 medium-sized shallots, peeled and quartered
1 jalapeno, stem removed (cored and seeded for less heat)
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnishing
2 tbsp curry powder
2 cups chopped baby kale (substitute baby spinach if desired)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Place the beans in a large pot and completely cover with water. Cover and let the beans soak at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours.

Strain off the soaking water and cover the beans with fresh water so that the water level extends two-to-three inches above the beans.  Add the salt and pepper and bring the beans to a vigorous boil, stirring once or twice. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat if necessary.

Place the tomatoes, ginger, garlic, shallots, jalapeno, cilantro, and curry powder in a blender and blend until completely smooth.  Stir the curry mixture into the beans, place the lid on the pot ajar (to allow steam to escape but prevent splatters), and cook over med-low heat, stirring occasionally, for one more hour or until the beans are tender and the sauce is fairly thick. Add the baby kale and cinnamon, stirring until the greens are softened, and finish by stirring in the vinegar.

Typically this sort of dish would be served with basmati rice, but I like to serve it with wedges of warm, whole-grain naan (or even toasted sandwich bread) for dipping or sopping up any extra sauce. My husband likes to dress his beans up with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a drizzle of Sriracha. I like mine simply garnished with a sprinkle of finely chopped cilantro.



3/6/2014

proofing boxMy second day of work, I was handed a Classic Sourdoughs revised A Home Baker's Handbook by Ed and Jean Wood and a Sourdoughs International Original San Francisco Culture.  I was so excited to head home and start my baking with mouth watering bread.  I was told by Ed that I would need to proof the culture first.  Now, you really have to understand that I don't bake.  I don't really cook even.  If I get the milk and cereal in the bowl at the same time, I think that I am tearing it up in the kitchen.  So proofing meant to me, that I would be making sure that it was OK.  I related it to proof reading a book.  All I could think is great!  I will get to taste all of these breads to make sure they are OK.  Wow, I was completely off!

Proofing, as I learned when I opened my new cookbook, was keeping the culture at a certain temperature for a given amount of time.  This is when I closed the cookbook and wondered what was the best sourdough bread available at the grocery store.  Proofing was an overwhelming concept to me.  I think this is for many first time bakers.  After about five times of reading and re-reading the chapter on proofing, I bit the bullet and charged ahead to build the proofing box. 

I was excited to build the box.  Now this was up my alley.  Ed has developed a simple way though to build a proofing box.  He takes a Styrofoam cooler, mounts a light bulb (low watts) on the bottom so that it is on the inside, attaches a dimmer switch and you have a proofing box.  The cooler is placed with the top on the floor.  I have added a thermometer through the side so I can see the temperature from the outside of the box.  Some put a thermometer on the floor under the proofing box.  Either way works.

Proofing Box Tips

Here are some tips that I figured out through trial and error.  One, I put a towel under the proofing box.  This helps if you have an uneven surface.  Then I put a bowl with some water in the proofing box and turned on the dimmer switch.  I played with the different temperatures until I found the two temperatures that I needed.  I put black marks on my dimmer switch with the temperatures so that it would be easy to find where to put the dimmer switch.  Now I was ready to try it with my sourdough culture.

I recommend to proof one culture at a time, especially when you are first starting out.  Having a thermometer on the outside of the proofing box allowed me to see the temperature during the proofing process without having to lift up the proofing box. 

The proofing box is very important to maintaining consistent temperatures.  You can use the proofing box with your dough also.  We have heard of people placing ice in the proofing box to bring temperatures lower when they are unable to lower temperatures in their home.

The proofing box scared me, almost to the point of throwing my hands in the air and saying no way to sourdough.  But once I accepted that I really wanted to make this amazing bread, I jumped in and it was extremely easy. 

I have conquered the proofing box!  Now on to baking with sourdough!  Next week I will tackle pizza crust ... please check back and see how it goes.



3/5/2014

breadI love to bake and eat homemade bread; however I always was disappointed in the texture of sandwich bread. Most recipes are a little too heavy or crummy to accompany sandwich fillings. A few years ago I discovered the secret to wonderfully textured sandwich bread quite by accident.

I was milking goats and making cheese nearly every day. I was also making something that I called yogurt cheese which is basically the equivalent of Greek yogurt. In making cheeses and yogurt a byproduct is produced called whey. I had a lot of whey and I hated to see it go to waste every day.

I was baking bread one morning and had a giant pot of warm whey it was the perfect temperature so I decided to experiment and use whey to replace the milk and water in my recipe.  I was happy to discover that using whey resulted in flavorful evenly textured bread neither too heavy or to light.

After a little research I learned that the reason that whey works to improve breads texture is that it is an acid. Commercial bakeries usually use acid in some form (vinegar, vitamin c, or even whey) to improve crumb and shelf life of bread.  Now I almost never bake yeast bread without whey or sourdough starter.

The Best Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

10 cups whole wheat flour (my favorite is King Arthur white wheat)
4 cups warm whey plus 1 additional cup of water or whey
(If you don’t have whey on hand use half water and half yogurt)
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons yeast
¼ cup honey
¼ cup melted butter

Electric mixer instructions: In a large electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment add the flour, salt, and yeast incorporate them well. Next melt the butter and honey together on low and allow it to cool to the touch. Turn on the mixer and in a slow stream add the warm whey and melted butter and honey. Allow the mixer to incorporate the ingredients for about a minute.

At this point there may be a bit of flour on the bottom of the mixer bowl. Stop the mixer and use a silicon spatula to scrape all of the flour and unincorporated dough together. Then turn the mixer on and slowly add as much of the extra liquid to make a soft, slightly sticky dough.

Resist the urge to add additional flour. I have found that kneading more water into whole wheat bread dough and having a wetter dough results in a much better textured loaf.

Allow the mixer to knead the dough for at least 5 minutes and no more than 10 minutes.

When the bread is well kneaded coat your hands in vegetable oil, using your hands and a silicon spatula remove the dough from the mixer bowl. Coat the mixer bowl with a little vegetable oil or butter and put the dough back in the bowl. Turn it a few times to coat the outside with oil.

Cover with a dish cloth and place it in a warm place and allow it to rise until it doubles in size - about 2 hours.

After the dough rises it should lose some of its stickiness.  Punch the dough down with well-greased hands.

For sandwich loaves place the dough in 3 standard loaf pans lined with parchment paper or well-greased.

For rolls, form them into fist shaped balls and place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Allow to rise once again for about 1 hour.

Fifteen minutes before you are ready to bake them preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and place a pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

You can also bake the bread at 550 degrees for the first 5 to 10 minutes and add the water to the pan right after you insert the bread. The shock of the heat will cause the air pockets in bread to expand and the bread to increase up to 20 percent in size. The steam will prevent the exterior from becoming crispy. (My husband, Shaun’s, 2 cents)

In a bowl, scramble an egg with 2 tablespoons of water, brush the tops of the loaves with the egg mixture, and slash each loaf with a sharp knife. When the oven is pre-heated, quickly place the loaves in and bake them for 45 minutes.

Remove the loaves from the oven and allow them at least 30 minutes to cool before slicing to allow the loaves to firm up and finish cooking internally. Of course, if you want hot fresh bread and aren’t concerned about the shape of the slices you can eat it straight out of the oven. Yield 3 loaves.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! Please feel free send me any suggestions, tips, or experiences that might help to make this blog more informative and interesting. Thanks.



2/28/2014

A commercial still from BJ Hookers in Houston TX

Many people mistake the distilling process as the “alcohol creation” process. Rather is it the process in which a chemical, in this case ethanol alcohol, is removed from another chemical. The process is centuries old, and is used in a myriad of applications from alcohol distillation to essential oil extraction.

Luckily, our blog is primarily focused on alcohol distillation. Why luckily? Because who doesn’t like a stiff drink every now and again?

The overall process of alcohol distillation can be summed up into 3 parts: Fermentation, Distillation, and Finishing. The next 3 installments of this blog will hit each of these topics in some depth. However, this episode will give us a brief overview of each segment.

Fermentation

Any of you who have ever made beer or wine will see this process as old hat, but in the effort for maximum clarity we will cover it for everyone. The basics of the fermentation process are thus:

  1.        Introduce sugar to liquid and yeast
  2.        Over time the yeast process the sugar into alcohol
  3.        After a certain time the yeast stop producing alcohol as the sugar has been fully consumed.

What most people don’t understand is, alcohol is really just the excrement of yeast. Yes, alcohol is yeast pee. (Makes you look at your gin and tonic a bit differently doesn’t it?!?!?)

In the case of most, not all, alcohols, grains are used as the sugar source. In their raw form they are offered as starches, but after a boiling process, and the addition of malt or certain enzymes, the starches are converted into sugar, which are then processed by the yeast, resulting in a number of chemicals including ethanol alcohol.

Distillation

Once a liquid fermentation is finished, the liquid is then heated in a still.

The still has seen many forms and adaptions. For our current example, we will stick with the basics. All stills consist of 3 things; a boiler, a column, and a condenser. As the liquid is increased slowly from room temperature to approximately 190 degrees (F), the liquid vaporizes and rises through the column. Once it reaches the condenser it comes in contact with a cold surface and condenses back into a liquid state. It then exits the still in the form of a number of different chemicals.

During the fermentation process a few very specific chemicals are excreted by the yeast. Acetone, Methanol, Ethanol, and Isopropyl are just a few of the major ones. Each of these chemicals have different boiling points. As we know from high school chemistry water boils at 212 degrees (F). These other chemicals have distinct boiling points as well.

As we increase the temperature of the liquid in the still these chemicals vaporize and go through the distillation process. However, all the alcohol distiller wants is the ethanol. (What do I do with the other chemicals you ask? Keep an eye out for a future post on distillation waste, and their uses.) Through the process known as “cutting” the distiller is able to segregate the different chemicals leaving the ethanol in a pure state.

Finishing

The finishing process is the final process before bottling. This process has a few different steps, and depending on the alcohol type desired will depend on which of these steps you would use.

Filtering – Filtering alcohol primarily does 2 things. It removes off flavors and it smoothes out the overall taste and flavor.
Flavoring – Whether you make the decision to add a commercial type of flavor such as an essence (a cross between an essential oil and a extract), or if you soak fruit in the spirit, or use some type of spice to influence the taste, flavor options are almost endless. 
Oaking/Aging – Whiskey doesn’t get its color from the grains used in the fermentation process. Instead it gets its color from the oak in which it is stored. Although it gets much of its flavor from the grains, another layer of flavor is also added through the oak, or other hardwood, used in the aging process. Same goes with bourbon, scotch, tequila, and other brown spirits.

The finishing process is a step that is kept in mind from the beginning of fermentation. Often you will choose certain grains based on the type of finishing you plan. If you plan on making bourbon, then grain selection is of upmost importance, as bourbon is made of at least 51% corn.

Obviously, the alcohol distillation process is in depth, but this process helps break it down into a few steps that are rather easy to manage. With just a little practice each of these steps get easier. I mean c’mon, if Tickle can do it….

Our next blog will go into depth on the fermentation process specifically. CHEERS!!!



2/28/2014

Naan FinishedFollowing these instructions for naan provides delicious, diverse food with minimal prep time. It is a great accompaniment with Indian dishes, can be used as a hearty wrap, or just scarfed down right out of the pan (because you have dough ready and there is no other prep work).  It's also the best food I have come across to do the "toss in the air to flip sides without use of a spatula and look really cool" move.  For great Indian cuisine recipes click here and here.

Tools:
Frying pan
Spatula or wooden spoon

Ingredients:
1 ball of pre-made bread dough
1 tbsp butter or olive oil

Instructions:

Follow the recipe on my "Basic Artisan Loaf" blog post.

After the dough has risen (at least 2 hours) take a half fistful of dough and place it on a lightly floured counter or nonstick mat.

Naan Dough
Preheat a pan or skillet at medium-high with a tablespoon of butter or olive oil (feel free to use as much or as little as you want depending on tastes, but 1 tbsp is a good place to start).

With a rolling pin, flatten the ball of dough as thinly as possible. (You may need to coat the dough lightly with a pinch of flour to avoid it sticking to the pin).


Transfer the dough into the preheated pan and let it cook for 2-4 minutes.  The dough may rise a little as it cooks.

Flip and cook the other side. With the spatula / wooden spoon, compress the cooked side down in an attempt to thin the dough out even more. Cook for 2-4 minutes.

Naan CookingRemove from the pan and allow 1-2 minutes cooling time.

Eat.  Repeat.












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