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20 August 2010

Mark Bittman's Layer Vegetable Torte

I just love The Minimalist. I made this vegetable torte tonight, and it was magnificent! I used a Greek cheese called myzithra instead of parmesan, and it was pretty good, but next time I will just use parmesan. I had thought about using some onions too, but when it came right down to it, I forgot. It happens a lot. I stuck the veggies under the broiler to cook them instead of on the grill, that is easier for me. We ate it with mashed potatoes. My pictures aren't very good tonight, but check it out:

Pizza Dough with Sourdough

My sourdough starter experiment turned out well. It is very active and happy, and I have named it Harriet. I am still figuring out how the best schedule for feeding and learning how to use it. I don't love sourdough breads, so this is kind of a weird experiment for me. But it's all about learning, right? I have done this pizza crust a couple of times, and it worked really well. It is adapted from "The Bread Bible," by Rose Levy Berenbaum. The hardest thing about sourdough so far is knowing how long to let it rise. The first time made this I mixed up the dough at about 11 AM and made the pizza at 5 or 6 PM, and it had not doubled, but was light and fluffy enough to spread right out on the pan and it made a beautiful crust. The second time I made it I tripled the recipe and let it rise once overnight and it definitely doubled, then I split it in thirds and put each piece in seperate bowls in the fridge during the day and pulled them out about 1 hour before (we meant to take it out even earlier but forgot) and it rose only a little in the fridge, and it was hard to spread it out when the dough was cold, so I would not let it rise in the fridge again. And I of course used my new scale, and this size batch makes just enough for my 14-inch pizza pan.

SourPizzaDough (or PizzaSourDough)
100 grams starter
176 grams flour (I used some all-purpose flour and bread flour)
100 grams water
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
approx. 20 grams olive oil

Combine starter, flour, water, salt and sugar. It will be sticky and messy and crazy. If you find it unmanageable, let it sit for 10-20 minutes, then try kneading and folding it a little more. Scoop the dough into a clean large bowl and pour the olive oil over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for a few hours. I find it helpful to fold the dough over itself to incorporate some of the oil after an hour or so, to make the dough smooth and easy to handle. When you are ready to form the crust, pour any more excess oil from the dough bowl onto the pizza pan and smear it around. Plop the dough on top and gently spread it out. Top with your favorite toppings and bake for about 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melty and toasty and the crust is brown on the bottom as well as the outside crust.

Fruity Yogurt: or some ideas for using the sweetened condensed milk you opened by mistake

A few days ago I needed some milk for a recipe, and didn't have any regular milk, so I went to my trusty pantry and opened a can of what I though was evaporated milk, so that I could dilute it to make it regular milk, but as soon as I opened it, I realized my mistake, it was sweetened condensed milk. So I dumped it into a jar and put it in the fridge and found a can of evaporated milk and went on to do my thing.
I had to think for a few days to figure out what to do, it would be such a shame to waste sweetened condensed milk, something I hardly ever buy. I though of making dulce de leche, but I'm afraid of explosions, and I don't know exactly what to do with dulce de leche. I remembered this thing we had from an asian bakery/cafe that was sort of like a slurpee, but it had chunks of mango with shaved ice and sweetened condensed milk drizzled over it, it was very yummy, but there were not any mangoes at the grocery store. And then this recipe that looks like Almond Joy candy bars caught my eye as well as this other candy, called brigadeiros, from Brazil, but both of them seem way to sweet for me to handle right now. I will probably still make the almond joy things sometime, but do them the same as I did my macaroons, with unsweetened coconut. And then I saw this recipe for vietnamese yogurt, and it is the solution to (almost) all of my problems. Lovemuffun and Pricklypear both eat a lot of yogurt, and I am always fighting with the Lovemuffin because he eats his with a ton of jam, the jam that I made all by myself, and then there is never enough jam or yogurt for me, which frusterates me. So, here's what I did:

Fruity Yogurt
1 Large tub of plain yogurt with no added weirdness (no gelatin or corn starch for thickening)
1 Bag of frozen fruit of your choice
Some sweetened condensed milk, to taste (I used about 1/4 of the can)

Drain the yogurt over a sieve lined with cloth or just a paper towel. Let it drain for several hours till the yogurt is nice and thick, like greek style yogurt. It is nice to have it thick because the fruit will add more fluid and this is an easy way to keep it from turning into drinking yogurt. Unless you want drinking yogurt, that is okay with me, this is a very flexible recipe. Thaw the frozen fruit while the yogurt is draining, then blend the fruit up a little, so that it is chunky, not too fluid. Add the fruit to the drained yogurt, and add sweetened condensed milk to taste. You could, of course, just sweeten your yogurt with sugar, but where is the fun in that? Also, I think that would make it runnier, because of the way sugar pulls the juice out of fruit.
This large batch will last us about 3 days and I like it so much more than the pre-fruited and sweetened yogurt at the store. You can make it the level of sweetness you desire, and you can be sure that there is real fruit in there, not just artificial colors and flavors. So far I have used blackberries and a fruit medly containing strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, and I still have plenty of sweetened condensed milk. Up next is peaches.

12 August 2010

The Experiment Update: Some Failures and Successes

My sourdough starter is very happy and active. It's name is Harriet. I'm still learning how to use Harriet effectively, how to make bread with only the starter and no added yeast. I've been sifting through recipes on one of my new favorite food blogs,, trying to learn some new techniques and recipes.

The first thing I tried was this recipe for sourdough English muffins and it worked all right, but they tasted like baking soda, which  made me wonder if the baking soda is added to the dough to help it rise by reacting with the acidity created by the wild yeast and bacteria in the starter and if my little Harriet was not well developed and sour enough yet to use. Or maybe they're supposed to taste like that, but I don't think so. They look nice though, right? Later I tried another batch where I reduced the amount of baking soda, and used a little baking powder to make up for it and this second batch didn't get as puffy on the griddle as the first ones, but they did not taste yucky either.

My next attempt was a pizza crust adapted from the recipe in "The Bread Bible" that I brought to a friends house. I made it somewhat later in the day than I should have, and I was just hoping it would be able to rise and develop enough in the small amount of time I gave it. It turned out very delicious, with a great texture and flavor. I was very impressed. I'll be putting up that recipe soon. This is what the leftovers looked like.

Next, I tried making a couple of small loaves using the 1:2:3 method from Flo Makanai. I used whole wheat flour and bread flour, and I made a large batch because I thought I wanted to make some to give to some friends too. The dough was hard to work with. The night before baking, when I was kneading the dough, I thought it was going to be fine, it was smooth and not sticky the way I thought it would be. I let it rise overnight because I think the starter often needs more time to work than regular yeast. In the morning when I attempted to form the loaves it was sticking itself all over the place causing me all sorts of irritation. Then I was impatient and probably didn't let the first loaf rise enough before putting it in the oven, and it turned out deformed and weird. And a little undercooked. I cooked the next loaves for longer and they were a little better. The Lovemuffin says they tasted like sourdough, and that is something, but I did not like the way they tasted. I figured I just don't like sourdough, and wondered why I thought this experiment was a good idea, and then remembered that it is about learning something new. Not about being perfect.

And now I'm trying this sourdough recipe (also from wildyeast) and it has been a little easier. Although I made a mistake in the evening when I was feeding my little Harriet to make enough starter for the recipe plus some to save to keep feeding, and I discovered this morning that I was 20 grams short of starter. I figured it wasn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things, and continued on as directed. And I think the loaves are wonderful! They rose just fine, but then I had a hard time forming them because I'm terrified of deflating them too much. But they tasted delicious, not to sour and tangy, not weird like the rye flour, just perfect! This might become my go-to recipe for using up Harriet.

Also, I just found this incredible video about making croissants and pastries. You should check it out.