I’ve never been quite happy with the flavor of packaged vegetable broth. It always seems to lack flavor and taste more like water than vegetables. I’ll admit that before yesterday, I had never attempted to make a vegetable broth either. From the reading I have done online, it seems that it is quite easy to make a flavorful vegetable broth using a pressure cooker (well, it’s easy to make any broth using a pressure cooker), so I decided to try my hand at it instead of buying stock to make the Tofu Udon Noodle Soup that will be detailed after the broth recipe.
The short of this recipe is, get a bunch of vegetables, throw them in a pot, cover with water, and let cook for about a half an hour. Quite a bit shorter than making a stock under normal pressure. The added benefit (or at least what I’ve read) is that the higher pressure helps to infuse the flavors of the vegetables into the water more efficiently (it also uses less energy as you’re only cooking for 30 minutes). What resulted was a very earthy and flavorful broth that would be great in a vegetable risotto, vegetable soup, or anything else that calls for such a broth. The soup I made with it (Tofu Udon Noodle) bears a striking resemblance to the Chicken Noodle Soup I made a few weeks ago except it has no chicken. When it was all said and done, this was one of the better soups I’ve made. Continue reading
I received a new toy for Christmas: a shiny new
explosion machine pressure cooker. I can now say that I love the sound of a hissing pot in the evening. This thing literally shaves hours off of making stock, cooking tough cuts of meat, and making roasts. This may very well become one of the most used pieces of equipment in my kitchen. I’ll be more apt to make homemade stock, chili, stews, etc. now that it will take an hour or less from the first cut to table. From what I’ve made so far, it’s been hard to tell the difference between something that came out of the pressure cooker and the same dish out of the slow cooker.
I know some people have aversions to pressure cookers due to the possibility of explosion. The new generation of pressure cookers are extremely safe with many new fail safes built into the pot to prevent blowouts. With a lot of them, if there is a problem in the system, they won’t even build pressure. They’re damn near impossible to open while under pressure. In my humble opinion, after reading the literature and examining the pressure cooker I got, you’d have to try pretty damn hard to get one to explode on you. The only place for possible injury is if you put your hand in front of the vent while steam is venting from the pot. As with any kitchen appliance, paying attention to what you’re doing is the key.
With this new toy in hand, I had to find something to make. The pure beauty of these things is that you can cook tough meats to fork tender in a fraction of the time it would require at normal temperature and pressure. In this case, I took a previous recipe, Asian Inspired Beef Short Ribs, and altered it a little for the pressure cooker. I reduced the total volume some and tweaked it a little for the flavor. The meat came out fork tender and the flavors were quite nice. Instead of 8+ hours of prep/cooking time, it came down to right around an hour to make this meal with the same results. There will be more of these recipes as I’m on my third night of preparing dinner (or some part of it) with this thing.
In the most recent Fine Cooking, there was a breakdown on making chicken soup. The link to the master-type recipe isn’t up yet, but it’s a style of recipe that I’ve really started liking from this magazine. They get you started with a base (in this case, chicken broth) and give you ideas for what to add to complete it, but it’s not a true recipe. They’ve done this with meatloaf, vegetable soup, and a few other dishes. It’s a great set of “recipe planners” so that you can design a dish based more around your own palate.
In planning this dish, I decided to go towards more Asian flavors instead of a standard chicken noodle soup. I’ll get to those ingredients later, but suffice it to say that this was a pretty darn good soup. The stock was made from scratch, but a good quality store-bought low sodium chicken broth could be substituted (you’d have to add some chicken meat if you wanted to actually eat chicken in the soup). Also, this could be made completely vegetarian by making a vegetable stock and using firm tofu in place of the chicken.
I used Udon noodles for this soup, but somen, ramen, or any other type of noodle couple be used in place. I also used Ponzu to season the soup before serving. If you haven’t encountered it before, Ponzu (or, in this case, Ponzu shōyu) is a citrus sauce mixed with soy sauce. If you’re unable to find it at your grocery store, you should be able to use soy sauce and freshly squeezed lemon juice to come close to the flavor. It brightens up the dish quite nicely.
The entire crowd loved this version of chicken noodle soup…
When we last left our not-so-intrepid home baker, he was wrasslin’ with a homegrown yeast culture. Fortunately, this culture did not take over the house. It may have shown some aggressive tendencies towards world domination. I removed the bad half and gave it to some friends to propagate (Sorry, John and Mary Jo, it’s all yours now). I was left with a happy yeast culture not hell bent on world domination. My first attempt at using the sourdough seed culture was to make a deli style rye bread. I won’t be posting the recipe here just yet as it still needs some work. Once I have a refined recipe, I’ll post it for all to see.
The short overview was make an overnight with the sourdough, flour, water, and onions that had been sweated down. The next morning, I made the final dough which included caraway and mustard seeds for flavor. Rise until doubled in bulk (which took over two hours), form into freestanding loaves (which is where another mistake arose), proof, and bake. The results were good, but not outstanding. I should have let the onions cool a little more before adding to the sourdough overnight, the caraway could be a little more aggressive, it could have used a little more flour and/or kneading, and finally my shaping needed more attention to detail – one proofed more uniformly than the other. I think next time, I’ll just proof it in a bowl or bread pan…
One of these loaves is not like the other...
As I said above, it’s a good bread, but it just needs a little more work to be a great bread. More to come on this and the adventure of making corned beef from scratch….
Normal people sleep at the end of a long day cooking and cleaning after Thanksgiving. It’s obvious that I don’t fall into that category. As soon as the dishes were finished, I started on today’s bread – a roasted garlic rosemary potato bread. The perfect use for the leftover garlic mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving. I also dumped the carcass of the turkey into a stock pot and made turkey stock that was used to make an absolutely wonderful Turkey Dumpling Soup (I won’t blog about this one now). Of course, it’s no tofurkey, but I’m content being an omnivore and using the turkey for every delicious morsel possible, but I digress.
I’ve had my eye on this bread for a while now. It looked like a great bread with wonderful flavors (can you go wrong with garlic in bread?) and a fairly straightforward recipe. It starts with an overnight biga to begin the process of flavor development. The biga undergoes a quick 4 hour rise followed by retardation in the refrigerator overnight. That slow down of the fermentation helps to develop more complexity in flavor. The next day starts with the roasting of the garlic and building the rest of the dough (although only a small portion of the biga used. What results at the end of baking is a deliciously soft and tasty bread with an irregular crumb. By looking at the recipe, you wouldn’t think that the final product would be all that soft because of the use of high gluten flour, but the starch of the potatoes help to soften the texture.
I guess the ultimate proof is that my wife proclaimed this bread, “the best you have ever made.” Either I’ve been making some really bad bread lately or this was truly extraordinary. I’m going to hope that it’s the latter….
Finally, with any luck, there will be an interesting bread presented tomorrow. The first batch of bread using Rutherford S. Cerevisiae is fermenting as I type.
So I’m in the middle of preparations for Thanksgiving, and what do I end up doing? Make a cinnamon raisin swirl bread as a dry run for a potential holiday gift (This year will be more of a baked good Christmas). Surprise, this is another recipe from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. This was a fairly easy bread to make, although it was torture during the proof and while it was baking – I won’t even mention the cooling off period, I was a bad…See, you’re supposed to let bread cool completely before slicing into this. This isn’t some demented trick that the author is trying to play on you. There’s actually a reason for not slicing into piping hot bread – moisture. The crust on the bread acts as type of moisture barrier, it keeps the bread from drying out as it cools and if you cut into it, well, that kind of defeats the purpose. However, if you’re going to devour over half the loaf within 2 hours of it coming out of the oven, I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal. Not that we did that…really…we didn’t…I swear, hey! Look, something shiny.
As with Reinhart’s other breads I’ve made, this was fairly easy to make. I had to add more flour during the knead cycle to make the dough the proper texture. Also, more flour was added after the raisins were initially incorporated. Finally, I hand kneaded the dough for 3-4 more minutes to make sure the raisins were equally distributed before the first rise.
This turned out really well. It had quite a bit of oven spring and a very soft internal texture. This would be great toasted with breakfast…or devoured whole as if the people eating it had not eaten a thing in two weeks. I gifted a loaf to our daughter’s violin teacher and the loaf that is saved for us will, sadly (depending on your position), not see the morning. I will be using this for my Christmas baked good bags, but in much smaller loaves.
This isn’t the most attractive image I’ve ever posted, I know. I won’t go into descriptions on what I think it looks like because I don’t want to have that image in my mind whenever I use it. This is, hopefully, the start of something wonderful: sourdough. This is the fourth day of this little bugger’s long life. One of the first things I’m looking forward to making using this is a deli rye bread. I figure the bread will be the hardest part to figure out – making corned beef from scratch will be the easy part (I do realize that Murphy’s Law will probably be visiting me with his beat down stick of reality).
At any rate, I am propagating the local yeast species for use in breads. Of course, San Francisco is known as a mecca for sourdough breads, but if you were to bring a sourdough seed from there to where you live, after a few weeks you’d find that the taste changes because your local yeast would end up inoculating the culture, giving their own distinct flavor to the bread you made. If you live in a hermetically sealed, sterile house that has no microorganisms floating around in the air, however, that won’t happen. I don’t know many people who live in those environments.
Later on down the road, I’ll talk about how to make your own sourdough starter and some of the problems I encountered. But right now, I just wanted to introduce everyone to my new friend Rutherford S. Cerevisiae.
Instead of deciding what to make for Thanksgiving, I’ve been making a lot more bread lately (we all procrastinate in our own special way), and I’ve been slowly working my way through Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. So far, I’ve made only a small handful of the recipes and they’ve all turned out very well. Last week, I dove into this recipe, Pain de Campagne and was quite impressed. This is a French country bread that is made from a mixture of white and wheat/rye flours. It rises well, develops a smallish crumb (i.e., you’re not going to get a large, irregular crumb as in ciabatta), a hard crust, and is easily manipulated to form baguettes, epi baguettes, rolls, or almost anything else you could come up with.
The second time around, I decided to make a pull apart-type roll to take in for my daughter’s preschool Thanksgiving celebration. The pattern on the top was created with clean kitchen shears and as you can see from the glistening on top of the rolls, I brushed some butter on the tops…just because. I was able to sample the one extra roll and again, it turned out really well. Hopefully the kids like them.