“A man in Afghanistan once told me that a third of this planet eats with spoons and forks, and a third of the planet eats with chopsticks, and a third eats with their fingers. And they’re all just as civilized as one another.”
Archive for March, 2009
cheese, story of my existence and lack of my productivity.
why do i treat myself with sleep when I really want to make cheese?!
i’ve heard that botox doesn’t allow your face to look angry. or sad.
maybe if i used botox i would make cheese.
I think it’s reasonable to want to make pizza every day of the week. It’s so versatile, and can be as eclectic as your fridge and cupboards allow. You know those crazy Chicago style pizzas, stuffed to an overflowing and greasy pillow of calories? Hmm. I’m not so into those these days. I like the Italian pizza, the one without drippy sauces and doughy crusts. The crust can be mistaken for a flaky cracker and the toppings are not ruled by cheese and cheese alone. Sitting atop a pizza Italian style can be tomatoes, potatoes, anchovies, pears, bleu cheese, mozzarella, eggs, asparagus, and whatever is locally available. It really does transcribe to so many different cultures.
Our pizza the other night for all intensive purposes was a sausage pizza, with a thin crust, less flaky and more crunchy actually. I’m thinking that maybe the flour we used was less than ideal, maybe lacking proteins that bread flours need, as opposed to cake flours. But delicious nonetheless, and really entertaining. We used the pizza crust recipe from the most amazing encyclopedia of Italian cooking, The Silver Spoon. The recipe has you mound your flour and salt into a volcano, and then into a space created in the middle, pour half a cup of water with dissolved yeast. all this happens directly on your kitchen counter. It takes strategy, planning ahead for how you will deal with the river of yeasty water running across your non-level counters. But once you figure it out, damming the river with flour from the volcano, the whole concoction becomes smooth and cohered with a kneading shoulder work-out.
We chose sausage because we had some ground beef that needed to be used. Here’s the fantastic and simple recipe for that, from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters:
using your hands, lightly mix together:
1 lb. ground pork
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp fresh or 1 tsp dried sage
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
a pinch of cayenne
Mix well enough to distribute the seasonings evenly, but avoid mashing the meat. Make a small patty of meat, fry it ina small skillet, and taste. Adjust.
OR replace the sage, nutmeg, and cayenne with 2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and lightly pounded; 2 garlic cloves, pounded to a puree; 3 TB red wine; and optional 2 tsp chopped parsley and 1/2 tsp dried chile flakes.
After forming our pizza crust, we gently distributed some sliced cherry tomatoes and chopped garlic on the crust, drizzling olive oil over the top of these. We baked the pizza at 425 for 18 minutes, and then added our homemade pre-cooked sausage, cheese, and dried basil for 7 or 8 more minutes. The crust really was cracker-like on the edges, but still really good. Next time I’ll try a change in flour and see what happens.
The basic pizza dough recipe from Silver Spoon cookbook (You’ve never heard of Silver Spoon? I want a semester of my life to be spent dwelling in this book, so many more recipes to explore!):
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 ounce yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
olive oil for brushing
Sift the flour and salt into a mound on a counter and make a well in the center. Mash the yeast in the water with a fork until very smooth and pour into the well. Incorporate the flour with your fingers to make a soft dough. Knead well, pulling and stretching until it becomes smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball, cut a cross in the top, place in a bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm place for about 3 hours until almost doubled in size. Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand and roll out on a lightly floured surface to a round about 1/4 inch thick. Brush a cookie sheet with oil or line it with baking parchment. Put the dough round on it and press out until it covers the area. Make sure the rim is thicker than the center. Sprinkle with the topping ingredients, leaving a 3/4 inch margin around the edge.
Home cured, home made, home cooked corned beef.
Check it out, people. It takes days to cure before cooking. And it is that time of year. It’s a good sign that it’s finally corned beef and stout season. Longer days are already here and warmer days supposedly are slipping around the corner. I also love the theory behind this roast, soaking the meat in a brine solution with stout beer and pickling spices, the house filling with complicated smells as it cooks. Yet it’s so easy to put the whole thing together on the stove and forget about it- welcome to my week. Ahh… forget about it.
The pound cake, so misunderstood in the world of the grocer. So easily made and so easily kept, but so often purchased full of chemicals and complicated words at the chain markets. After some digging, I found my original pound cake recipe. It’s the one that every time I make it and share it, the receiver never forgets it and deliberates back and forth in her mind whether or not she really wants the recipe. It’s so good that any level headed person knows that it’s better left unmade. It makes one crazy with desire- for the pound cake, that is, and only the pound cake. You can think of nothing else but just one more moist, soft, crumbly bit. And then your stomach turns over with glee from its richness- ouch.
The reason I searched high and low for the recipe- I really need to invent some sort of an organizational system for myself (it’ll never happen)- was that I had found a pound cake recipe in gourmet this month that called for cardamom. I’ve been home alone the past 4 days, Josh still being in California, but I haven’t touched more than the damn microwave. I wasn’t into it. After being in heaven the past week myself (aka San Francisco), I just wasn’t in the mood to be domestic. I was like a little bachelor, going out to dinner with girlfriends I don’t see enough of, going to the bar by myself, drinking whole milk and not much more for breakfast, not touching laundry or dirty bathrooms that were supposed to be cleaned before we left… and it was fantastic. But last night I was tugged to do something, preferably something that was less than productive, but more than drinking beer or wine and reading off the computer.
I received some pretty severe news yesterday afternoon, news that overwhelmed me with sadness and further debilitated my motivation. It’s nothing involving my life, but life changing news for a friend. So I decided to make this friend homemade yogurt and pound cake. She’s a very competent cook and I think would not appreciate a meal just yet, but this pound cake you can freeze and the yogurt lasts for at least 2 weeks. It’s something, right? And it took my attention for a good while, filling the house with sweet smells.
Last night I actually made the new recipe from Gourmet, but pulled out the original pound cake recipe discovered back in 2003 in Bon Appetit for comparison and options for you. Funny to think back to when this pound cake entered my life. Was I really an adult with a real job in 2003? It sounds like so long ago, but I was married, paying back students loans, working a couple of jobs, making this pound cake and shipping it to family when we couldn’t be there for holidays. Let me tell you, it seems like a great and economical idea, but it is a pound cake people. It’s a bit heavy. Maybe now that we have evolved to smarter postal ways since then (sigh, I feel so old) you could actually send in the flat rate box and send all over this country. Other than its weight, it’s great for shipping because it lasts so very long. It’s actually better the next day and is naturally preserved by it’s sugar content.
So here they are; take your pick. Honestly, I like the cardamom flavor, but it is not bashful so use cautiously if sharing with a timid eater. All in all I think the 2003 recipe is a bit more addictive, but I think it’s because it remains a little moister from cooking at such low temperatures. The Gourmet recipe has fewer eggs and less sugar, but does have more butter due to not having cream cheese in the recipe. I think in the end I would stick with Gourmet, but cook for less than an hour. I actually diviated from the recipe by using vanilla extract (saddly I felt that I couldn’t spend the $11 on the vanilla beans at Whole Foods yesterday- I wish I could have had specks of compost black vanilla bean seeds in this cake) and adding some sour cream to the milk just because we had it. It was great and would have been better a little less cooked (unless you are sharing with those people that like their cookies crispy- then it would have been cooked just perfectly).
March 2009 Gourmet Cardamom Vanilla Pound Cake
3 c. flour
1 tsp ground cardamom (I used more)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter (I buy by the pound and calculated it to be just over a pound)
1 3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise (or 1+ TB extract)
4 large eggs
1 TB fresh lemon juice
1 c. whole milk (I used 1 1/2 TB sour cream, scooped into a measuring cup, and added milk to the cup)
For whipping cream (which I didn’t make):
1 1/2 c. chilled heavy cream
2 1/2 TB confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
}Preheat oven to 350 with rack in middle. Generously butter pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.
}Whisk together flour, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat together butter and sugar in mixer at medium speed, scraping side of bowl occasionally, until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape seeds from vanilla beans with tip of a paring knife into butter mixture, reserving pods for another use, and beat until combined well, about 1 minute. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in lemon juice until combined well. At low speed, add flour mix and milk, alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, mixing just until combined.
}Spoon batter into pan, smoothing top. Gently rap pan on counter to eliminate air bubbles.
Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in pan 1 hour, then invert onto a rack and cool completely, about 1 hour more.
}For whipping cream: Beat cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla extract using whisk attachment of mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve cake with whipped vanilla cream.
And from December 2003 Bon Appetit:
Cream Cheese Pound Cake
The cake is put into a cold oven and then baked slowly at gradually increasing temperatures.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
}Butter and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Using electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese in large bowl until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add sugar and salt; beat 10 minutes, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Beat in flour at low speed until batter is smooth (do not overbeat). Transfer batter to pan.
}Place pan in cold oven. Set temperature at 200°F; bake 20 minutes. Increase temperature to 250°F; bake 20 minutes. Increase to 275°F; bake 10 minutes. Increase to 300°F; bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour longer. Cool cake in pan on rack 15 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack; cool completely. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Wrap; store at room temperature.)