See that right there? That’s bread. Delicious, delicious bread. Every few months, I pick up a new kitchen/cooking/baking hobby. This past month, it’s been baking bread. In the previous post, I talked about Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. If you don’t own this book, you need to buy it. Now.
You still haven’t bought it, have you? BUY IT, DAMMIT.
Anyways, back to the bread. What’s so incredible about the book (to me) is that there’s no kneading involved. It’s as simple as mixing in the ingredients, letting it rise for a couple of hours, and storing the dough in the fridge. Whenever you want to make bread, you simply pull it out of the refrigerator, rip off a piece, form the loaf, and let it sit for an hour. When you’re done, pop it in the oven and bake it (preferably on a stone). Easy, right?
Without further ado, here’s the recipe (enough for two one-pound loaves):
- 1.5 cups warm water
- 2 1/4 tsp yeast (one packet)
- 2 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
- 3 1/4 cups unbleached flour (bread flour works best here)
- Mix the water, salt and yeast
- Add in the flour and mix well, but not too vigorously. You should end up with a pretty wet dough.
- Transfer the dough to a container and let it rise for two hours, or until it’s flattens off on top.
- Store in the refrigerator until ready for use.
- Spread cornmeal on a wooden peel.
- Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and rip off about half.
- Form a ball with the dough by pushing outward on top, inward on the bottom, and rotating about a quarter turn each time.
- Once the ball is done, let it rest on the peel for 60 minutes or so.
- After 40 minutes, turn the oven on to 450. Place a roasting pan below the baking stone and let it heat up as well.
- Let the oven heat for a total of 20 minutes–it won’t make it to the full 450.
- Liberally dust the top of the dough with flour, and make a few cuts into it using a serrated knife (this method is called “dust and slash”)
- Slide the dough from the peel onto the baking stone
- Pour one cup of very hot water into the pan.
- Let the bread bake for 30-35 minutes, or until fully (and dark) browned.
- Remove from oven and let cool. Nom away!
Wow, it sure has been a while–an entire month! Lately, I’ve been really getting into baking bread. Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois’ excellent Artisan Baking in Five Minutes a Day (buy from the link in this post!) is a book I can’t get enough of–they use an incredible, no-knead technique that produces absolutely amazing bread. It requires you to mix a batch of dough, let it rise, and then you can store it in the fridge for the next two weeks, grabbing and baking whenever you like, and with minimal effort.
Now, using a variation on their recipe, I thought it would be a great idea to try making pizza. Margherita is usually my go-to gourmet pizza style when it comes to freshness and quality. On it’s face, it’s a pretty basic pizza–tomatoes, sauce, fresh mozzarella, garlic and basil–but it’s also one of the most delicious things you can make and is sure to impress anyone who tries it. Click for the flatbread recipe and tips after the break (oh, and buy this book)!
British food is typically something I stay away from. It’s heavy, dense, and often bland. However, as an avid watcher of Hell’s Kitchen (the only reality show I watch), one particular dish has always managed to pique my curiosity–Beef Wellington. There’s something about watching Gordon Ramsay scream at chefs for their under (or over)-cooked Wellingtons that made me have an insatiable desire for this dish.
My roommate spent the past 4 months in England, and I felt that it was my duty to defer to him for this dish. We went to the grocery store and purchased the fillet tenderloin, which came in at a whopping $18/lb. I’ve never spent nearly that much on a steak, except in a restaurant, so my expectations for the dish were very high, to say the least.
The result? Well, the picture should give you a good indication–it was spectacular. This was arguably the best steak I’ve ever had that wasn’t from a restaurant, and it was cooked perfectly. If you’re willing to put in the work, I highly recommend making it! The recipe (and Gordon Ramsay yelling) is after the break–
First of all, to stay on point: Happy New Year’s, everyone! Here’s to a gratifying, healthy 2012. Too bad it won’t last all the way through…you know, with those damn Mayans’ predictions and whatnot. My resolution remains unchanged from last year: get on a running regimen and keep it up until it’s nice enough outside to hop back on the bike. It worked last year, and I hope it works this year, too!
Now, the food–I’ve never made poached pears before. In fact, the only thing I’ve ever even attempted to poach was chicken. However, at this year’s Christmas Eve dinner, all the desserts were chocolate and cake, so I figured it would be worth a shot to throw some fruit into the occasion. The result? Well, these spectacular poached pears. The only terrifying thing for me was working with saffron–I’d never tried it before, and the spice is so insanely expensive that I was worried I would somehow waste it. Well, good news: I didn’t. The pears came out great, and it’s easy to call this recipe another winner from Bon Appetit!
Poached Pears with Cardamom and Saffron (from Bon Appetit)
- 1/2 tablespoon cardamom pods
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 4 firm pears, peeled, stems intact
Gently crush cardamom with a rolling pin or the bottom of a skillet to slightly crack open pods without releasing seeds. Combine cardamom, wine, sugar, lemon juice, saffron, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer. Add pears; add water if needed to completely submerge pears. Cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer, turning occasionally, until pears are tender but not mushy, about 30 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer pears to a plate. Increase heat and boil poaching liquid until reduced to 1 cup, 10–15 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate pears. Let syrup stand at room temperature. Rewarm syrup before continuing.
Spoon some of syrup over cold or room-temperature pears. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche; pass remaining syrup.
I know, I know…I’ve been pretty negligent with updating this blog. I attribute it to finals, which required ungodly amounts of outlining, reading, and studying. Thankfully, though, I’m done with the semester! Most of my classmates can’t say the same, and in that sense, I am better than them. Much better. Anyways, I’ll have a number of posts in the upcoming weeks that I’ve backlogged, so I can let everyone catch up!
I digress. PIZZA. It’s one of those things that those of us who grew up in the New York City area pride ourselves on. We have a predefined idea as to what it is, what a good pizza tastes like, and that you can only get “real” pizza in the the area around the city. That pile of slop and dough that they serve in Chicago? That’s not pizza, just a dough bowl of fat.
Well, my conception of fantastic pizza is now gone, and was totally thrown out the window after our trip to Cafe Porta Alba, located right in Madison’s Hilldale Mall complex. Cafe Porta Alba is one of only a handful of pizza places in the US recognized by the prestigious Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, which certifies pizza places as producing authentic Neapolitan pizza. Pizza made in this style is baked in a brick oven at extraordinarily high temperatures, with the pizza fully cooking in about 90 seconds.
Naturally, when we heard about this place, we had to go check it out. We ordered three separate pizzas and split them all–they’re about 12″ in diameter and designed for one person each. We got a basic margarita pizza, another with fontina, spinach, and sausage, and then the one you see pictured above–olive oil, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, and arugula.
True to their word, the pizzas each came out very quickly. The ingredients were fresh, high quality, and delicious. These pizzas have a very unique crust–thin and chewy, but absolutely superb. My personal favorite was the margarita pizza, with its incredible homemade sauce and fresh mozzarella…it’s simply indescribable. It’s always nice when a restaurant really puts the time and effort into their food to ensure that the quality of their product is exceptional–in this situation, that was absolutely the case.
The total for all three of us, with tip, was $42, or $14 each. Pricey for pizza? Sure, but with this kind of quality, it’s more than worth it. I would go back in a heartbeat, and certainly plan on doing so in the future. Cafe Porta Bella gets an A in my book–anything less would be selling them short.
Occasionally, I’ll take a break from writing about food, restaurant reviews, and beer and blab about totally random topics. This is definitely going to be one of those posts (although I will, of course, include some tidbits about said things).
First of all–Congratulations to the Badgers for their absolutely dominant win against Penn State today! I’d love to insert a joke about the Nittany Lions getting assaulted like a 10 year old boy in a locker room, but I’ll refrain. Oops.
Rolling Stone came out with a new “100 Greatest Guitarists” list. Jerry Garcia was not in the Top 10. He was not in the Top 20. Garcia was listed at #46. Yes, that’s right–46. Garcia, who many would argue is one of the greatest of all time, was not at the top of the list. Hendrix at #1? I’d agree with that, but not putting Garcia in the Top 10, let alone the Top 5, is an absolute embarrassment. Rolling Stone, you’re dead to me. Your pages will now only be used as toilet paper. Horrible, horrible toilet paper.
Now, onto Thanksgiving–the picture for this blog post is, after all, a turkey. This year, I flew into Syracuse. Our families rotate who has the holiday every year, so I headed to upstate New York for this year’s turkey feast. Let’s start with the fun stuff–I woke up Wednesday morning with horrible stomach cramps. After they didn’t go away, I went to the urgent care clinic. To make a long story short, I returned to Madison without an appendix. Awesome, I know. Here’s a recap of the conversation I had with the surgeon in deciding to figure out whether or not to hold off for a few hours on the surgery:
- Me: Well, I have a few questions to ask first.
- Dr: Shoot.
- Me: When will I be able to eat?
- Dr: Probably an hour or two after the surgery. You’ll be eating normal foods by the morning.
- Me: Great. Will I be able to drink (alcohol) tomorrow?
- Dr: I don’t see why not.
- Me: Will I be out of here in time for the Packers game?
- Dr: Pending any complications, absolutely.
- Me: Alright man, yank this fucker out.
- Mango spring rolls with peanut sauce–they’re a winner every year, and I always look forward to them. Cilantro, mango, mint cucumber and basil make this one superb appetizer.
- Stuffing made with wild rice, sage, parsley, chestnuts, apples and sausage–uh, obviously a winner.
- Chocolate Mousse pie–it’s better than pumpkin for dessert. Seriously.
- Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale–as usual, I nearly shit myself when I found out that it was out! First thing I did when I got back to Madison was to buy a 6-pack of it. Delicious, fresh-hopped goodness.
- Some Belgian Kriek–Kriek’s are sour cherry ales, and aren’t for everyone. Whatever we had, though, was wonderful. I recommend this nameless beer.
So, apparently, these odd elf boots are now “in” here in Madison. I’m still deciding whether or not this is an improvement over Uggs, which haven’t been in style on the East Coast since 2009. Regardless, I saw at least 10 people on my way to class this morning wearing them. They look bizarre. My advice? Stick with the full-fledged boots.
This whole “Occupy Wall Street” movement has really been getting on my nerves. These people have become the Left’s version of the Tea Party, and most of their ideas are actually more illogical than the Tea Party’s. Honestly, I didn’t even think this was possible. They need to stop misplacing their anger and focus on Congress, not Wall Street. These investors are simply doing their job and, more importantly, they employ thousands of Americans. You can call it greed, but I certainly wouldn’t want to work if I was losing 70% of my salary to taxes.
I will be attempting to make meatballs tonight…more standard American fare. Hopefully I can create something halfway-decent, right? Regardless, I’ll be sure to post the recipe…unless it tastes like garbage. Click below for a review of Francisco’s Cantina, a tiny Mexican restaurant right off the capitol square–
A few weeks (okay, more like over a month) ago, we had a party for our small group. Yes, there was drinking, but more importantly–there was salsa (and chips). I promised some of our [awesome] small group members I’d put the recipe up on my blog. Yes, I know–it took forever, but guess what? Here it is! This recipe is the culmination of tons of experimenting, but I’ve finally got it down to a science. This salsa is incredible and, more importantly, will blow you away. I’m not quite sure what the style is called, but I really like to (sort of) puree it–the salsa becomes awesome for dipping. Click below for the full recipe!
I’m sitting in my Legal Writing class, listening to the soothing, accusatory tones of Justice Scalia as he peppers attorneys with questions, and I thought that I’d multitask and write up a review of last week’s trip to Red Sushi. This restaurant had come highly recommended by a number of friends (from the Midwest), so we were pretty eager to make the trip and check out the quality.
A little background on my experiences with sushi: I (Dylan) will eat any sort of sushi…I simply love it. Grocery store, restaurant, street cart–I could care less. Sushi is delicious! However: Last year, after harassing my parents for three straight years, I finally got a chance to go to Nobu, the legendary SoHo sushi joint in NYC. My perception of “good sushi” was forever changed–the quality was superb, and at $40/person (for lunch!), it certainly wasn’t cheap.
Now, onto Red Sushi. We each ordered 2 rolls and shared everything. The total, with tip, was about $20/person. For dinner, not a bad price at all. Click below for the full review!