jayfurr: (Preservation Hall)
We just bought our first ever sizeable outdoor grill (read: not one purchased for $29.95 and powered by a bag of charcoal) with our tax refund. A big four-burner Kenmore propane grill. My family back home in Virginia didn't do a lot of grilling when I was a kid, though we did have the kind with lava rocks, and I was never allowed near the damn thing, so I have to admit, you could fill a book with what I don't know about proper grilling technique.

I stopped eating meat myself a while ago to get my cholesterol down and for vaguely moral reasons, but my wife made it clear that she wanted no part of that madness, so when we fired the new grill up for the first time yesterday we made her a salmon steak, a top sirloin, and some snausages while I made some grilled portabello mushroom caps and grilled tofu steaks for me. Yeah, laugh it up.

We used one of those super-duper intelligent grilling forks with the temperature probe built in to measure the internal temp of her steak and fish and everything came out perfectly. I'll have to take her word on the meat being excellent; I eyed her gobbling as I gnawed idly on my tofu and fungus. But that being said, I still have some dumb questions.

1) Are you supposed to grill with the top of the grill down or not? The instructions said to preheat it that way but we weren't sure what to do during the actual cooking process.

2) Do you spray Pam or something on your steaks and fish before putting them on the grill? We did, but .. are you SUPPOSED TO? We don't want to break any grilling codes and get scolded by the American Beef Council.

3) Is it wrong to use your grill out on a wooden deck, or are the repeated admonitions in the manual about not doing that just CYA on the part of the manufacturer? If we watch the thing while we're using it, it seems like it's unlikely to burn the house down, but we weren't sure if everyone else alive out there had their grill stationed on a concrete back yard pad or driveway or what.

jayfurr: (Preservation Hall)
We just bought our first ever sizeable outdoor grill (read: not one purchased for $29.95 and powered by a bag of charcoal) with our tax refund. A big four-burner Kenmore propane grill. My family back home in Virginia didn't do a lot of grilling when I was a kid, though we did have the kind with lava rocks, and I was never allowed near the damn thing, so I have to admit, you could fill a book with what I don't know about proper grilling technique.

I stopped eating meat myself a while ago to get my cholesterol down and for vaguely moral reasons, but my wife made it clear that she wanted no part of that madness, so when we fired the new grill up for the first time yesterday we made her a salmon steak, a top sirloin, and some snausages while I made some grilled portabello mushroom caps and grilled tofu steaks for me. Yeah, laugh it up.

We used one of those super-duper intelligent grilling forks with the temperature probe built in to measure the internal temp of her steak and fish and everything came out perfectly. I'll have to take her word on the meat being excellent; I eyed her gobbling as I gnawed idly on my tofu and fungus. But that being said, I still have some dumb questions.

1) Are you supposed to grill with the top of the grill down or not? The instructions said to preheat it that way but we weren't sure what to do during the actual cooking process.

2) Do you spray Pam or something on your steaks and fish before putting them on the grill? We did, but .. are you SUPPOSED TO? We don't want to break any grilling codes and get scolded by the American Beef Council.

3) Is it wrong to use your grill out on a wooden deck, or are the repeated admonitions in the manual about not doing that just CYA on the part of the manufacturer? If we watch the thing while we're using it, it seems like it's unlikely to burn the house down, but we weren't sure if everyone else alive out there had their grill stationed on a concrete back yard pad or driveway or what.

jayfurr: (Atop the fire tower)
I, who went vegetarian during Lent a year ago and went vegetarian "for good" in July, just put a giant mess o' corned beef and vegetables in the fridge for my wife to eat tomorrow. Me, I'll be in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, so I won't have to face the stuff, but she wanted some for some reason. No cabbage, though -- she had her fill of purple cabbage slaw tonight while we watched NCIS.

I'm finally feeling mostly better, although not enough to go back to my happy little routine of an hour jogging on a treadmill set to 13 degrees incline. Maybe by this weekend. Saturday is supposed to be mostly sunny, high of 58 -- awesome weather for the first day of Spring 2010. I've talked to Carole about maybe just walking home, 15 miles, from the mall after our four-mile indoor training walk for the 3-Day. Maybe we'll do that, or maybe we'll do a 35-mile bike ride. Either way, what bliss! :)

On another 3-Day note, the video blog entry (http://bit.ly/jf3day) I wrote was posted to the Susan G. Komen For The Cure Facebook and Twitter feeds today by the 3-Day staff, so I got a lot of new friends who saw it and friended or followed me. No donations yet -- the new audience was mostly people who are raising funds for their own 3-Day walks. But I still hope. :) I'm $235 shy of the $2300 I need to raise to get into the Tampa Bay 3-Day, and who knows? Maybe some angel will look down and help me out between now and the weekend. It'd be splendoriffic if I made my minimum by the beginning of Spring. (If anyone wants to help out, my donation URL is http://www.the3day.org/goto/jayfurr. And thanks!)


jayfurr: (Atop the fire tower)
I, who went vegetarian during Lent a year ago and went vegetarian "for good" in July, just put a giant mess o' corned beef and vegetables in the fridge for my wife to eat tomorrow. Me, I'll be in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, so I won't have to face the stuff, but she wanted some for some reason. No cabbage, though -- she had her fill of purple cabbage slaw tonight while we watched NCIS.

I'm finally feeling mostly better, although not enough to go back to my happy little routine of an hour jogging on a treadmill set to 13 degrees incline. Maybe by this weekend. Saturday is supposed to be mostly sunny, high of 58 -- awesome weather for the first day of Spring 2010. I've talked to Carole about maybe just walking home, 15 miles, from the mall after our four-mile indoor training walk for the 3-Day. Maybe we'll do that, or maybe we'll do a 35-mile bike ride. Either way, what bliss! :)

On another 3-Day note, the video blog entry (http://bit.ly/jf3day) I wrote was posted to the Susan G. Komen For The Cure Facebook and Twitter feeds today by the 3-Day staff, so I got a lot of new friends who saw it and friended or followed me. No donations yet -- the new audience was mostly people who are raising funds for their own 3-Day walks. But I still hope. :) I'm $235 shy of the $2300 I need to raise to get into the Tampa Bay 3-Day, and who knows? Maybe some angel will look down and help me out between now and the weekend. It'd be splendoriffic if I made my minimum by the beginning of Spring. (If anyone wants to help out, my donation URL is http://www.the3day.org/goto/jayfurr. And thanks!)


jayfurr: (Default)
I love to bake, even though I don't need all the carbohydrates on the diet I've been on.

Tonight I used my King Arthur Flour pain de mie pan and whipped up some dilled sourdough using sourdough starter and my favorite flour, King Arthur Flour's "Sir Lancelot" high-gluten flour (makes for a dense, chewy loaf). I enjoyed the outcome -- and probably would have enjoyed it more if I'd made the loaf the slow, old-fashioned way: without using bread yeast and instead letting the bread rise slowly and develop real sourness in the refrigerator overnight. But I can't complain.



jayfurr: (Zzyzx)
So on Friday I bought some Irish-Style Wholemeal Flour at the King Arthur Flour store in Norwich, Vermont. It came with a recipe on the back for an Irish-style brown bread, made with baking soda and baking powder instead of yeast. I've made soda bread in the past, just not using that specific kind of flour, and figured I'd have no trouble.

Well, I followed the instructions to the letter and got a dough that was still moderately sticky. Sticky in the sense of "I sprayed my hands with PAM before going to lift it out of the bowl because otherwise I'd have had a huge mess." I considered adding more flour but was afraid that if I went too far in that direction the resulting loaf would be really, really dry. Sometimes specialty flours keep on absorbing liquid and if you don't allow for that you get bricks.

I baked it per instructions in my GE convecting oven. I could have used the non-convection setting but have found that in general convection baking results in a more evenly baked loaf.

The resulting loaf was a bit of a disappointment. It did wind up moderately dry and a bit crumbly. I don't know if it might have benefited from a shorter bake -- I used an instant-read thermometer to measure the internal temperature when I thought it looked like it was getting done (with five minutes left on the timer) and found that it read only 156 Fahrenheit so left it in for the full bake cycle.

Here's what it looks like (click the photo once, then click again to fully enlarge it):



I'm a bit perplexed. With dough so gloppy, I really wasn't expecting such a dry loaf. My main theory at this time is that I should have stopped the baking sooner, and never mind what the instant-read thermometer said. I'm also a bit surprised that the dough was so sticky. Should I have added flour until it felt more like ordinary bread dough? Should I have baked for a shorter period of time? I'm just not sure at this point. The loaf tastes okay -- it's good warmed up with a bit of butter -- but I'd like to know what I could do to get a less crumbly loaf, if anyone has any brilliant ideas.

jayfurr: (Coffee at Nickels)
I had Friday off and decided to drive over to the New Hampshire side of Vermont to do a little shopping at the King Arthur Flour company store in Norwich. King Arthur Flour is the company that sells premium and super-premium flours in many US grocery stores and also distributes its products via the "Baker's Catalogue" print catalog. I love their stuff but don't like the fact that many of my favorite products are only available in little tiny 3 pound bags via their website or print catalogs. If you want to buy in quantity and avoid paying a fortune in shipping (and don't want to wait for a sale where they offer free shipping for large orders) it makes the most sense to just have done with it and drive over there yourself.

Yes, that's only rational if you live in Vermont or New Hampshire. I know. Aren't I lucky?

And did I mention the best reason of all to drive over in person? No, I didn't! It's the FIFTY POUND BAG OF SIR LANCELOT HIGH-GLUTEN FLOUR FOR $31.50. Whee! You can't get that via their catalog or website. Unless you have a friend who's a professional baker, you have to buy it via their website or catalog in those aforementioned three-pound bags at $6.95 a pop (before shipping).

It's great flour and I don't begrudge the company a profit, but if you make a LOT of bread and you like making chewy bagels and pizza crust, you can go through a lot of little bags in a hurry. Buying it in fifty-pound bags at $31.50 a bag is a lot more cost effective. Fifty pounds of Sir Lancelot in three-pound bags would be $115.83 (if you could magically get 2/3 of a bag) or $118.15 if you bought seventeen bags. And then there's the shipping (although they do often offer free-shipping-on-orders-over-$75).

Me, I'll drive to Norwich now and then. My only regret is that I didn't know about Sir Lancelot flour sooner, but when I started getting into serious pizza-making and did a lot of poking around on the net, so many people mentioned that the only flour they used was Sir Lancelot and would move heaven and earth to get it that I decided to try it for myself and was very pleased with the results.

I wish they'd sell the flour in, say, 10 pound or 12 pound bags, though, because it's a teeny bit of a nuisance, bringing home a bag that size and then having to portion it out into Ziploc bags and freezing 'em until needed. If you don't have a big freezer in the basement I don't know where you'd store all that extra flour until you need it.

While I was there I also picked up several bags of their Mellow Pastry Blend for pie crusts and so on -- regrettably, you can't buy that in fifty pound bags or even ten pound bags. Apparently it's three pound bags all the way. And for good measure, I randomly chose a bag of their Irish-style Wholemeal Flour. I can't say I have a lot of personal or familial experience with Irish brown breads but I'm eager to learn.

When I checked out, one of their seasonal employees was on her first day (or close to it) on the register) and had some difficulties with the point of sale software they use. I helped her out (even though I'd never seen the software before) and explained that in my work, you see a lot of user interfaces and can pretty much figure out how they work. Unfortunately, when she finished the sale, she punched the 'cash' button -- and when her cash drawer popped open, she blinked and reflexively pushed it shut. Aiee!

So at that point we had to get a manager to void off my entire order and re-enter it and ring it up as a debit card purchase, many apologies, many apologies. I kept smiling and telling them it was fine and, apparently because I kept turning down opportunities to be a cranky ogre about the whole thing, got one of my bags of Mellow Pastry Blend thrown in for free. So, that was nice. Very friendly people.

Baking

Nov. 23rd, 2008 12:29 pm
jayfurr: (Hot dog buns)
Last night's project: bagel dogs.



Today: a nice chewy loaf of sourdough bread baked in my King Arthur Flour pain de mie pan, using King Arthur Flour's special Sir Lancelot high-gluten flour:



I suppose this baking thing I do isn't intrinsically very exciting to folks out there, but I blame it on not having any kids or anything like that to occupy my time.

Gorble

Aug. 27th, 2008 06:39 am
jayfurr: (Lounging on the Vision)
This morning's weigh-in had me at 221.5. I'd probably have weighed a smidgen less but for last night's baking project.

Carole's been mopey lately and hinted that she needed chocolate baked goods, so I made up a giant batch of chocolate chocolate chunk coconut cherry crunch cookies. She liked them a lot last time when they were just chocolate chocolate chunk coconut cherry cookies so this time I went one step further and added Heath Bar crunchy bits of toffee. I made a ton of cookies.

I only had one, and that was during a middle-of-the-night somnambulatory hunt for food. But I also had bits of batter that came my way during the mixing and baking process. Bad Jay.

I walked eight miles last night. My feet are starting to callous up again nicely and while I'm a bit stiff today I'm sure that it's for the best. Tonight I'm going to take a night off and tomorrow we're going to the Champlain Valley Fair so my next walking will be this weekend, when I plan to do a lot.

jayfurr: (Jay confused in Quebec)
Amateur but aspiring baker that I am, it's bothered me that I can make my own bread for most purposes but hadn't had a lot of luck producing worthwhile hot dog buns. I'll spare you the details and cut to the essential point of this post: I finally snapped and ordered a hot dog bun pan from King Arthur Flour. It's used for baking "New England" style hot dog buns, the kind with the slit on the top as opposed to the side.

I made my first batch using the pan this evening, going out for a walk during the first rise and going back to pick up the car (long story) during the second rise:



They look good. Tomorrow night we'll have wurst of some kind in homemade buns. Yum!

jayfurr: (With bee)
Lately I've been reading a lot about alternate grains, the ancient grains still used in parts of the world, such as amaranth, sorghum, and so on. There are lots of ancient grains out there that we Americans don't ever eat but which serve as staple crops elsewhere on Earth. Broadly speaking, there are cereal grains that are closely related to wheat (spelt, kamut, triticale) and there are cereal and pseudocereal grains that aren't closely related to wheat and which don't have gluten. For the obvious reason, this latter category is what people with celiac disease use.

The thing is, as many of you may know, that without gluten, it's very hard to make bread that looks and feels like wheat bread. The stretchy gluten protein you get from the glutenin and gliadin in wheat flour is what gives bread its texture and structure; it's what keeps the cells in the bread intact as the bread rises due to the leavening. Without something to help the bread form structure you get a dense, flat bread. Thus, people who try to replicate the look and feel of wheat bread for celiac sufferers tend to use certain gums (like xanthan gum) and starches to help the non-wheat bread form structure.

I don't suffer from celiac disease. Not in the slightest. But I am interested in baking with non-wheat grains, partly because I'm curious what they wind up tasting like and partly because I'm curious what you have to do with them to get them to form usable bread. I haven't tried doing a lot of completely wheat-free breads but I've done a lot of loaves lately that are half-wheat, half something else. King Arthur Flour makes a twelve-grain flour that has just about everything under the sun in it, and Bob's Red Mill makes amaranth flour, sorghum flour, you name it. Even coconut flour. I've really enjoyed the wheat/amaranth yeast bread I've made; it has a bit of a nutty, sweet taste to it that I find appealing. I've also tried using sorghum flour in combination with wheat in yeast breads and again, found the results very promising. I've had to add a bit of vital wheat gluten to get them to rise the way I like, but that's no big deal.

Last night I tried something a little different: I took an absolutely ordinary cornbread recipe, leavened by baking soda, and simply substituted amaranth flour for the cornmeal. Since the amaranth flour was ground much more finely than your typical yellow cornmeal, the resulting product was very different in texture, but good. I also substituted brown sugar for the white sugar in the recipe since, annoyingly, I'd let myself run out of sugar. The end result was a very light, mildly sweet table bread, not heavy like cornbread can sometimes be. I think it might have benefited from a little bit of vanilla extract, but on the other hand, adding vanilla extract would have masked the amaranth taste.

One of these days when I've got the time and I'm feeling good, I'm going to try to make an a completely wheat-free yeast-leavened loaf. The only thing that's stopping me is that your typical celiac-friendly non-wheat loaf recipe calls for six or seven different flours, like tapioca flour, rice flour, garbanzo bean flour, and even almond flour. I don't know enough yet about the chemistry of each of those flours to know which are really essential and which are just the result of fussy bakers wanting something to taste a particular way. I don't really want to buy a bunch of $8 bags of obscure little flours if I can achieve some sort of worthwhile results simply using a couple of grains and some xanthan gum (which I do have) to form structure.

Stay tuned.

Stoo

Feb. 23rd, 2008 09:27 pm
jayfurr: (Default)
I haven't made Brunswich stew in, like, forever -- if I've even made it at all. I'm not sure.





Num.


jayfurr: (Default)
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Dinner

Jan. 27th, 2008 08:29 pm
jayfurr: (Euglena)
Carole's dinner for the next week, provided she doesn't suddenly hear voices from space telling her how to cook anything more complicated than a frozen dinner:

http://www.furrs.org/lj/200827011.JPG

Our dinner tonight:

http://www.furrs.org/lj/200827012.JPG
http://www.furrs.org/lj/200827013.JPG

Baby spinach, ham, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, a little blue cheese, topped with some wonton strips and some sesame/ginger dressing. Num!

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