It’s time to get back into this whole writting thing..

Ok nerdlings, I know you’ve been wondering what that emptiness you’ve been feeling lately is, and I think I have it figured out…it’s me, duh…I know i’ve been major awol lately (a grand total of 2 posts in all of 2015!), but to be honest with you…

i miss you

..so let’s get back into this whole thing, mmmkay? Great..

ok…so where do we start? how about an ice breaker post, like on something we can all admit we love…

coffee morning illustrated caffeine

(secretly I’ve been spending the whole year searching for the appropiate gifs to attach, and I think it’s obvious that I..

the office nbc office andy nailed it…)

 – hey nossi! way to still be weird!! we barely even noticed you were gone!!

aww, you guys

stop ben stiller zoolander bashful derek zoolander

ok, i’m done…moving right along

So as I’m sure you remember we’ve already covered coffee … twice…but to recap for the sake of, whatever the opposite of brevity is, the coffee that we’ve all come to love is a “bean” that’s more like the seed found in a cherry-like fruit. The bean is then dried, fermented, roasted, ground, and brewed. There are so many variables that can affect the final product, that it can get confusing, so let’s go over the stuff that actually you have control over.

1) The beans – As with any food, quality deteriorates over time, and obviously the fresher and better the bean, the better the coffee (there’s actually a caveat to that statement…coffee beans are actually not at it’s best right after it’s roasted, and that’s because after roasting there’s a lot of gases [carbon dioxide being the most abundant] that still needs time to dissipate out, and if brewed right away can give an off flavor..)… So its always best to buy whole beans, and grind yourself (more on that in a second).

What kind of bean you get, I feel like, is where it can get mostly unnecessarily confusing. Roast of said bean aside, (which we’ll also get to shortly, Dr Impatientpants, geez…), there’s the actual type of bean. For example kona bean or blue mountain, or Ethiopian yagachurra are all names of famous beans known for distinct qualities (ok, I made up that last one), and sure they might be great and all, but I’m inclined to opine that the subtle nuances that differentiate between one bean and the next are of lesser importance than freshness, roast, and brew method. That’s not to say they’re not important, but it’s not the most important thing to look for. Also a lot of times they sell these high quality beans as part of a “blend,” and there’s no way to tell what percentage is high quality bean, and what is some other random bean. That’s not to say all blends are bad, but make sure it’s from a reputable roaster.

2) The roast – in order to get the dark color which is characteristic of coffee, can we please have Monsieur Maillard come back from his long hiatus? Don’t know what/who I’m talking about? Well its time you open your eyes bruhhh, and maybe read like one other post on this here fine establishment.. (Maillard = browning {which is not the same as caramelization}..which we’re not going to get into here..)…but how long you roast it will make a difference for coffee beans. To keep this brief – light roasts are obviously roasted the least amount of time, and will allow you to taste more of the coffee notes that are unique to the individual bean. Dark roasts (also known as Italian/french/vienna/espresso roasts) are as dark and shiny as they come, and will have mainly roasted-y flavor, and very little flavor of the character of the coffee, and are great for espressos. Medium roasts try to toe the line between the two.
The roast type you want is mainly whatever your preference is. Personally I used to love medium roasts, because I’ve felt that light roasts didn’t give me enough in the way of oomph/flavor, and dark roasts were too much. But nowadays I lean towards lighter roasts (partly because of the newer way I’ve been brewing, namely an aeropress, which if moshiach doesn’t come before I’m done this “short” diatribe, I might get around to talking about!).

3) the grind – there’s two ways of grinding your beans, the wrong way and the right way. The wrong way is to put it in a “spice grinder,” which similar to a food processor has a whirring blade on the bottom of some sort of bowl, and chops up the coffee bean into random sized chunks. The issue with this method is the non-uniformity in the grind size, which since we’re doing some sort of extraction of flavor, the variables that effect that are mainly: time, temperature, and surface area. The surface area of the coffee is dependent on the size of the grind, and if when grinding the coffee the beans are not uniform in size, then some beans will be under-brewed, and some over-brewed. However, if you were to use a burr grinder, which is essentially two inverted cones on top of each other, it dictates exactly how large the grind size will be. Which brings us to the last point –

4) the brew method – as Harold McGee says in On Food and Cookin there’s no one way that will brew the perfect cup of coffee. Each different method has it’s pros and cons taking into account different variables. Like for example – a French press allows you to take advantage of the amount of brew time, and obviously the temperature, but grind size is a little tricky. A pour over (like a Chemex) can help with the grind size problem, but time will be harder to control.

Then there’s the Aeropress. The aeropress is basically a combination of a pour over and a French press, and it kinda looks like a very large syringe with a filter attached to it’s end. The nice thing that I’ve found is it allows you to control all of the things we’ve talked about. There are really two ways of brewing with an aeropress, the regular way, and the upside down way. Here’s a step-by-step rundown on how I do things in my backwards world.

I like to start my aeropress upside down, with the plunger on the bottom. I add my coffee (obviously i weigh my coffee and weigh my water…there’s absolutely no other way of having consistently good coffee every day without doing that, and I’ll range from a 15:1 water:coffee ratio [for lighter roasts] all the way up to a 22:1 [for medium roasts).  wpid-wp-1447724767602.jpg

The next step is what’s called blooming the coffee ground, and that simply means adding enough hot water to just moisten the grind by adding about double the amount of water than grind (so in our example, 48 grams), and letting it sit for about 30 seconds. This starts to pull out the remaining trapped gasses in the beans.

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Once that’s done, fill the rest of the aeropress with water*, and let it seep. I usually seep the grind for around 4 minutes (but again, since time is one of the determining factors, upping or downing [??] the amount of time will affect the end results).

*can we pause for a second and talk about water temperature?? So you know how temperature is one of the factors that affect the overall extraction? Well coffee needs to be brewed no more than 190-200 degrees because it will extract too many harsh flavors; Water boils at 212 degrees, so basically water that’s just boiled is not what you want. What I do is boil water and let is sit for about 15 minutes, or if I’m in a hurry, I take a page out of Sh’miras Shabbos K’Hilchasa, and use a k’li sheni [ie – I pour the really hot water into another cup, wait about a minute, and use that water]. Along those lines, we’ve done cold brewed coffee [which again, lower temperature, means longer brew time], and I’ve even attempted “warm brewed coffee” where I brew the coffee in a sous vide machine at about 100 for a few hours…the coffee was similar to cold brewed, with a little more oomph….

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Then, I’ll put the paper filter on the filter doo-hickey, and screw it on; Turn it right side up, and press the plunger down, gently…it should take about 1-2 minutes to express all that beautiful brown elixir.

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Once that’s done, then you top off the brew with hot water to come to your total. So in our example, we have 24 grams of coffee grind, if we’re going to go with a 15:1 ratio, we’re going to need 360 grams of water, but the aeropress can only hold about 250 grams of water, so I add the additional water after (in this example, the additional 90 grams). Now you might be thinking, but won’t that dilute the coffee down? The answer my friend is, no. So for once in your life, just please trust me.

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Now you can brew it the normal way, where you put the filter on first, put the coffee grind, pour your water, and then attach the plunger and push the brew out (and top of with water)

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Hard to tell, but this is the other brew method, where the plunger goes in last

So yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to, pretty boring right? Sooo…yeah, this was fun…maybe, um, we can do this again sometime soon?? I’ll call the shadchan.

Pie Dough

 

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Look at those layers of flaky goodness

After that post the other day, I realized I need to be doing this blogging thing more often. Mind you, I come to that realization once or twice a week, and you can see how well that’s been working. Anyway enough about me, let’s talk about you for a change.
How quickly did you shudder when you saw the title of this post? “Pie crust?? But isn’t that super hard? Its an unattainable food item, that will forever be relegated to super chefs, like Nossi Fogel, the likes of which will never be reached by me, a mere mortal.” Well my friend I’m here to tell you that I too once felt that way, but with a little tenacity and only 5 payments of $9.99, pie crusts can be yours too.
So where to begin…first thing first after all the many attempts to get you to purchase a scale, I can only assume you haven’t yet…well here’s your chance to right this ship. This pie dough is really very easy, provided you have a scale. Then again so is practically everything else in the kitchen, such as making custard, which is how you would make a quiche, which spoiler alert: is going to be the next post…sometime in the distant future.
Ok so now that a scale had been procured, the ratio that Michael Ruhlman uses is the 3:2:1 pie dough. 3 parts flour, to 2 parts fat, to 1 part water. So for all you Rhode scholars out there, if say you were using 100 grams of butter, you would need 150 grams of flour, and 50 grams of water. I think you can appreciate how easy and customizable that is if you have a scale, right? So I don’t have to convince you to buy a scale again correct? Moving right along.
The real tricky part of pie dough is accomplishing a sturdy and crispy crust that is not too tough and chewy, and it turns out we have tricks to accomplish this also, so worry not my friend.
Lets review what a pie dough really is. It falls into the category of laminated doughs, which mean there are layers of fat between layers of dough (as I’m sure you’ll no doubt remember from our scallion pancake recipe). The way to accomplish this in pie dough is to disperse small pockets of fat throughout the dough, that will essentially melt into separate layers that will separate the other  areas of dough. Now those “other areas of dough” is essentially the part of the dough where the flour and water mixed together. (If you look at the top picture of the post, you’ll see a few distinct layers of dough, and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish..)

If we were to separate these two elements, the fat dispersal and the flour and water mixing, we can really get an understanding why people think it’s difficult to make pie dough, and come up with some solutions.

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For the fat dispersal mission – the key is to get smallish pieces of fat, that will melt while the flour-water mixture is setting up. If it melts too soon, then it won’t disperse throughout the whole thingamabob, and it won’t make those distinct layers we talked about. The key to making sure you don’t do this is keeping the fat as cold as possible. The colder it is, the longer it takes for the fat to melt. So what I like to do, is cut the fat into cubes, and then place it in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. If my inner boy scout is calling, and I really want to do everything k’fi halacha, then I will place everything in the freezer…the food processor and all components, the flour, and even the whole kitchen. It all just goes into the freezer.

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Notice the chunks of fat dispersed among the flour

Then, when ready to mix the fat into the flour, you basically measure out your flour (pop quiz hot shot – what are we using to measure?? A scale! riiiiiighhhht???), if you want it to be a sweet dough, add some sugar, and before adding the fat, I like to aerate the flour (and pulverize the sugar if it’s in there) by pulsing a few times. Oh and salt, always add salt, because salt isn’t just a spice, it’s a flavor enhancer… (right mommy😉 ???). Anyway, once the flour is aerated, plop the really cold fat on top of the flour, and pulse a few times until there are “pea sized” chunks of fat.

We are now ready to commence phase #2 – Operation liquefaction. Here really the main goal is to prevent too much gluten from forming. The classical way of doing this is with ice cold water. The cold water will eventually form gluten, but like anything that’s freezing, will do so at a slower rate, plus the ice cold water has the added advantage of not bringing down the temperature. However, water + flour will inevitably make gluten, but guess what, alcohol + flour, does not make gluten, so imagine if instead of using water, we could use vodka, and since you have a bottle sitting in your freezer right now, it’ll be ice cold also!  This little trick is thanks to America’s Test Kitchen, and I’ve done this multiple times, with excellent results.

after adding vodka/water
after adding vodka/water

So after you have your pea sized chunks of fat dispersed through the flour, add the vodka/water and pulse until it’s mostly combined. I like to plop it down on a work surface, and finish putting it all together by hand.

bring it all together on your work surface
bring it all together on your work surface

Once it’s all together into a disk-like blob, I like to put it back in the fridge (or freezer if not baking that day…it freezes very well) to cool it off again.

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I would say the last hard part about baking the dough is rolling it out, and honestly this just takes time, but guess what? No one cares if it looks like your 2 year old did it, and bonus idea – when your pie does look like your 2 year old rolled it out, just lie and tell them she did! I lie all the time, and look where it’s gotten me!

We’re going to blind-bake the crust (which is fancy talk for baking the pie crust without any filling in it). First take the disc, and start rolling. The easiest way to do this, is by rolling out, and rotating the dough a 1/4 turn, and rolling out. Maybe one of these days, when I get around to posting videos, I’ll post one on rolling pie dough, but until then just …umm, roll it, ok?

this was rolled out by my 2 year old daughter....and this is what it looks like after blind-baking
this was rolled out by my 2 year old daughter….and this is what it looks like after removing the weighted foil (before browning a little)

Once your dough is in the receptacle of your choosing, I like to “dock” the dough (fancy talk for poking holes in it [like with a fork] to allow gases to escape, and not get trapped underneath the dough, and potentially cause an air bubble), and then place aluminum foil on top, with weights on top of the foil. This also prevents any air bubbles from forming (for the weights – you can actually buy “pie weights” or you can use household items, like dried beans, or better yet – pennies). Then you bake it for about 10-15 minutes, remove the foil, and bake another 5-10 minutes, until just beginning to brown.

And that my friend is how we do.

Tune in next time when we take this seemingly innocent pie crust, and transform it into a quiche, using nothing more than a scale…Magic!!

 

Quick Vegetable Stock/Soup

Hey remember the other day when I made that one pot noodle thingy, and talked about stock, and how I made a really quick stock? No? Well, you can always brush up on your Gastronome by clicking here.

Soup! What could be more boring, ammiright?

Well, yeah, but you know those nights when you come home and you want some hardy vegetable soup, but you’re not sure how in your laziness laden stupor you can pull it off. Well the easiest way is to have vegetable stock on the ready, and to be honest with you, I actually stock up on boxed vegetable stock (stock up on stock…see what I did there??), and will use it to add to dishes, or to even make soup with; Just add a few vegetables, and you have your own fresh soup. Now I know the snarky ones out there are already trying to figure out how to properly eloquate why or how I’m a complete sham and mockery to society at large, but I’m comfortable with that.

All right so weird rant aside, I’m not here to tell you how to open up a box of vegetable stock, and use it for making soup (you sham and mockery what you are)…what I am here to do is to tell you how to make fresh vegetable stock, on a regular weeknight, and still have time to spare to watch Keeping up with the Kardashians.

Now just to clear the air on some definitions, stock vs soup..what’s the difference you ask? Now I’m no culinary linguist, but the working definition that I go with is this: Stock is basically flavored water. So chicken stock (which I’m sure you’ll no doubt remember) is chicken flavored water; Vegetable stock, is, well, vegetable flavored water. Stock has many applications. One of those applications is Soup, which is the name of a dish, in which we’re consuming some sort of liquid, usually combined with either vegetables, or some other food item, that can be eaten out of a bowl, with a spoon. (Another use of stock can be adding it to anything in place of plain water to get the taste of whatever you’re attempting to do. So for example, you can make rice with chicken stock instead of water to add more flavor…this is another good reason to have boxed/canned stock ready to use, to help spice up random dishes…).

Since stock is just flavored water, the “ingredients” for a stock are whatever flavor you want the final result to be, plus water. Then in order for the whole shooting match (it’s a little weird how often I use that term, isn’t it?) to work, we apply heat, which then allows the water (which is the solvent) to draw out flavor molecules (the solute) to form a solution. The higher the temperature the more readily the solute will dissolve into the solvent, and the faster you have stock. So for all intents and purposes, the hotter the water the faster you’ll have stock. (One problem with this is when making chicken stock, there are some bad flavor molecules that will only dissolve once the temperature reaches over 200ish, so while you can boil a chicken stock, and have it quicker, it’s generally not recommended because of the bad flavors that come with it…however, I’ve done it, and while I haven’t done a blind taste test, it’s a little hard to notice the difference…but more on that another time)…

Anyway, back to vegetable stock, with vegetables, there’s really no concern of harsh flavors associated with higher temperatures, so all you need to do for vegetable stock is cook the heck out of the vegetables, until they’ve given all they can to the water, strain the liquid, and you have yourself vegetable stock.

So traditional vegetable stock is made by dumping a whole bunch of whatever vegetables you want into a pot, covering with water, adding spices, and cooking it until you’ve deemed it ready, and that can usually take up to an hour or so. Now, we’ve discussed increasing the temperature in order to make the stock faster, but there’s another way to make it faster. If you decrease the particle size, then you’re increasing the surface area (ie there’s more of the solvent in contact with the solution), which will decrease the amount of time the water will need to do it’s thing.

I know this all sounds scientific-y, but it’s just common sense. Think of it this way, it takes longer to dissolve one of those sugar cube in hot water, than it does for regular sugar to dissolve, because of the amount of area that’s exposed to the hot water is less in the large cube, than in the regular sugar. Make sense?

Anyway, really short story long, what I’m trying to say is if you take your vegetables, puree them in the food processor until they’re what’s technically called a mush, add your water, spices, and what not, bring it to a boil, it will cook and be done in like 20 minutes (I actually don’t remember how long it took, but I think it was around that). Then all you need to do is strain the mush out, and now you have your quick vegetable stock.

Of course you can use this to make the one pot dish I posted the other day, or you can try what I did here. I decided to cube up some tofu, and since the food processor was out, I took some random pasta I had, and whizzed it for a little, so I can get pieces of different size pasta in my soup. Cooked the pasta, tofu, and vegetable stock, and I think some soy sauce, for about 10 minutes together, and there you have it, a quick soup. As you’ll notice in the picture all the way on the top, I topped with some sriracha, and headed off to watch Keeping up with the Kardashians.

Sufganiyot – Chanukka 2012

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Yes, I am aware Chanukka is over, but you know what? I decided to turn over a new leaf, and get started on next year. You know me, my motto is you can never be too prepared.

Anyway, back to real life; Sufganiyot, for the un-initiated, are jelly doughnuts, but they really apply to any sort of stuffed doughnuts, like caramel, chocolate, or whatever.

To make the dough, I saw an interesting recipe in the “The Joy of Cooking,” which essentially utilizes the creaming method for this yeasted dough. The reason why I find it interesting is when making any yeasted dough, we take advantage of gas by-products from the yeast to get trapped in a gluten network, which then when baked will expand. When making cookies however, you want some lift, but not too much, and that’s where the creaming method comes in. When you take soft butter and cream it together with sugar, what you’re doing is punching thousands of tiny little holes into the dough, which then expands also, and makes the cookie fluffy. The recipe I used for the sufganiyot, starts by creaming butter and sugar, and then adding some yeast, and some more flour, and allowing it to rise. So by doing the whole creaming thing first, it incorporates all of those air bubbles, which then can add to an even fluffier end result…Well I thought it was cool.

I allowed them to rise overnight in the fridge, which helps develop flavor, without causing them to rise too much (which is a thing), and then the next day, I punched the dough down, and allowed it to rise again.

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When ready to roll, I decided to follow the instructions in the book, and rolled it thinner than normal (1/4 of an inch, as opposed to 1/2”), cut out rounds, placed the jelly filling inside, brushed egg white around, and topped each round with another round. I made some with jelly, some with homemade caramel sauce, and some with chocolate.

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To fry, I brought the oil up to 350 degrees, which if you don’t have a thermometer, or if your thermometer sucks like mine, you can test it with a kernel of popcorn, and when it pops, you’re good to go.

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Let them rest on a cooling rack, and when ready dust the hell out of them with confectionary sugar.

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I did the same thing for the caramel, I placed a dollop of the caramel on one of the rounds, and topped with another

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Now for the chocolate, I tried making a ganache, and doing the same thing, but it didn’t work out as I expected, so I tried stuffing them the classical approach, by injecting the chocolate inside. Well that was quite the disaster. I mean it somewhat worked out, but it made a mess, and then the chocolate pretty much oozed out, as you can see.

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All in all, the dough came out really good. But I didn’t like the laying the two pieces on top of each other. A bunch of them opened up when frying. I would rather stuff them afterwards, the only problem is getting something to make that task easier. (I’ve used a piping bag with metal tip, and a plastic syringe, both didn’t do such a good job).

Well I hope you had a good Chanukka, and that you gained at least 5 pounds strictly from oil, however if you didn’t you can always make a batch of these.

Sufganiyot

adapted from Joy of Cooking (pg – 810)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water, warm
  • 4.5 teaspoons yeast (2 envelopes)
  • 4.5 cups flour, divided
  • 10 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Oil for frying
  • powdered sugar
  • Jelly, Caramel, Chocolate, or whatever you’re planning on stuffing the doughnuts with

Directions:

  1. Combine warm water, and yeast, mix, and allow to sit until frothy. Add 1 cup of the flour, mix until combined, and allow to sit, covered for at least 30 minutes (It will start to bubble vigorously)
  2. With a paddle, beat butter and sugar on medium until light and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, waiting until the egg is incorporated before adding the next egg.
  3. Add vanilla, salt, yeast mixture, and remaining flour, and mix until combined. Switch to a dough hook, and knead until the dough pulls away from the bowl, about 10minutes on medium speed
  4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, tightly cover, and allow to rise for 4 hours, or overnight in the fridge
  5. Punch down dough, and (if risen in the fridge, bring to room temperature, and) allow to rise a second time, around 60-90 minutes.
  6. If you’re planning on placing the filling before frying (like I did), roll out the dough to 1/4”. If you’re planning on stuffing the dough after fried, roll it out to 1/2”
  7. Bring oil to 350 degrees (which is about the temperature a popcorn kernel would pop), and fry, without crowding the pan too much.
  8. Allow to cool on a cooling rack (allowing it to cool on paper towels can lead to soggy-ness), and when ready, dust with powdered sugar.