cheese whiz!

this recipe yields a silky and smooth cheese sauce of your favorite cheddar cheese, or goat cheese, or pretty much any cheese…. or does it? experimentation should help us determine that, but this is a pretty good start:

140g cheddar
130g whole milk
5.5g sodium citrate

Tried this from the mac&cheese recipe posted on the modernist cuisine site This encyclopedia on food and cooking, food technology and creativity is simply the best for anyone seriously interested in food and understanding the science behind it.

I gotta work on my photo skills, but you get the idea. Combine the milk and the sodium citrate bring to a gentle simmer, so they mix entirely, then add the grated cheese and allow for the cheese to melt, mix well with an immersion blender, I used my aerolatte milk frother which worked out great, since I was making a much smaller quantity of the original recipe.

done.

stock clarification part I

This one is fun to do. I started by digging through my freezer and found some old frozen carcasses of chicken, some roasted, some uncooked, I figured I’d make stock. Found some veggies in my fridge, onion, some carrots, celery, 5 cloves of garlic, I chopped these very coarsely, actually, onion only in half, carrots I broke in chunks by hand, same with the celery, garlics cut in half skins on, threw everything in my pressure cooker and added enough water to cover the chicken. 2 hours at 15psi, that took care of it.

Strained the stock and was left with a very fragrant but cloudy concoction.

1 quart (1000g) of stock needs 4 egg whited, figured this out after checking with the google machine.

This is a very old but very cool trick to filter stock and rid it from its impurities. It’s called the egg white raft, basically here’s what I did:

Got my egg whites in a bowl, my whisk, and beat the eggs until soft peaks would form, I could have used a hand mixer but didn’t have one… I know, it took forever but always nice to practice those traditional technics…

The the actual fun began. I had let the stock cool down a bit, didn’t want those egg whites setting right away. Got my immersion blender out (I know, I could have probably beaten the whites in style) poured the egg whites in, and cranked up the heat and brought the stock to about 80c while still mixing until I noticed the whites were setting and then it all happened, the egg white foam solidified, rose to the surface and left behind a wonderfully clear stock, free of impurities, golden brown in hue but without any suspended solids.

I could have followed the instructions and ladle out the liquid, but i instead strained the stock, very carefully, and even pressed down the whites in the strainer to release some of the clear stock that had been caught in them, to maximize yield. Here’s what it looked like:

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brioche part II

So I didn’t give up, and it paid off this time. Last time the result was not a total disaster, but it needed a huge improvement, specially in the texture of it, too dense, crust too hard, so I’m giving it another go here with a much lighter recipe, only 10:1 flour to butter, not 2:1, the result was definitely an improvement, and it made one thing pretty clear, mixing butter and flour isn’t a straight forward as I thought, actually I need to revisit that older recipe and mix the butter into cold dough, cold ingredients, cold water, and never let the dough get warm enough that the butter separates and the whole thing turns into an oily mess. Constant trips to the freezer, I’ve tried this with pastry dough and it works really well. Allow dough to rise in the fridge, and NEVER let the butter melt, EVER (although i just saw another recipe for brioche that uses vegetable oil and melted butter and the pics look awesome, so not entirely sure anymore!)

Anyways, here’s my second try:

200 water or 1 C (the cup i have, not the 230g cup, so check)
50g milk or 3 1/2 tbsp
60g sugar or 4 tbsp
8g or 1 packet

lukewarm liquids, add yeast, let foam rise till height of the liquid volume.

400g flour or little less than 3 1/2 C
10g sea salt or 2 tsp
40g butter

add cubed butter into flour+salt mix by hand squeezing cubes into flour until incorporated.

add liquid into batter plus:

add 60g egg or 1 egg ๐Ÿ™‚

knead until awesome, I used a wooden spatula in circular motion in the bowl, I could totally see the gluten stretching and becoming very pliable.. 20 mins or so, adding flour as needed, then finished it by hand, it was hard work!!! but paid off. I even tried this window pane test, which I had read about in some bakery sites, it worked!

1st rise (1 hour or until double the size), push air bubbles out and 2nd rise (over night or 8 hrs in the fridge, this time it rose just fine), then:

Sweet egg wash:

1 egg
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp water

(I considered adding a 1/4 tsp of baking soda to intensify the maillard reaction, but i didnt, though i tried it on a different situation and the result was pretty great)

Mix well and and brush the loaf generously. In a bread baking pan, buttered, place loaf, place in a preheated oven at 350f-400f (really depends on the oven), for about half hour. Here’s what came out of the oven, yes, im very proud!

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Never expected this thing to be so friggin’ good, spongy, and soft!

done!!!

brioche… fail!

Brioche = Intimidating!!! tons of steps and this and that, seems crazy! I happen to have all the ingredients at hand today and not much to do, but best of all, it is Saturday, I can forget about this dough in the fridge overnight and get back to it in the am (which some famous chefs out there recommend). I also want to try something while going through this process, I want to normalize this recipe down to work units, grams and I want to convert it to ratios so I don’t have to memorize so many things and I can understand better what am doing! I tried Thomas Keller’s recipe in my copy of ad hoc

1/3 C water
1 packet of active yeast
2.333 C cake flour
2 C AP flour
1/3 granulated sugar
2.5 tsp fine sea salt
6 large eggs at room temperature
2.5 sticks of unsalted butter (10 oz)

I’m already freaking out, all the different measurement units and large eggs? how large? Seems complicated, so by normalizing the weights of the ingredients to grams, this stuff starts to make some sense.

70g water
7g yeast
645g flour (combined AP and C)
70g sugar
12.5g sea salt
360g eggs
300g butter

It’s already a little simpler to follow, and something becomes more obvious, the ratio flour to butter: 2:1, which some say its the way a proper brioche is made, but after looking online for other recipes, that ratio was all over the map.

Take this one more step further and turn the whole thing to ratios, and here, this can be done in many different ways as long as the relative ratios stay relative ๐Ÿ™‚

I chose water as my unit for whatever reason, it made sense:

0.1 parts yeast (I’ve tried yeast to salt 1:1 and worked just fine)
0.18 parts salt
1 parts water
1 parts sugar
5 parts butter
5 parts eggs
10 parts flour

I had to round the parts to simplify the recipe and make it easier and friendlier. Of course, it’s not the exact same recipe anymore!!? well, are all brioche recipes exactly the same?…probably not. So, i wont worry about this… yet.

I only have 2 eggs (seriously), what other stuff do I need to make brioche? given that my eggs are 60g each, using the ratio I can calculate the stuff I need:

2.4g yeast
4.3g salt
24g water
24g sugar
120g butter
120g eggs
240g flour

30 mins at 400f after 1st rise at room temp, and second rise overnight in the fridge.

Without a stand mixer the mixing of the ingredients was pretty much a sticky mess, the dough turned oily, it did rise the first time, but not the second time in the fridge…. once in the oven, it didnt spring either, but the flavor was good and the look of the bread wasn’t actually all that horrifying:

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Very sophisticated kitchen math:

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In conclusion, this bread didn’t turn out all that great, and I have 3 possible reasons:

1. My butter separated and melted
2. I don’t have a stand mixer
3. amount of yeast was too low

The result was a very oily dough that wouldn’t rise enough. Out of the fridge it just felt like a compact mass, very firm, and I had to let it get to room temperature for it to rise a bit more, otherwise the lack of plasticity of the firmed up buttery dough wouldn’t rise.

Working brioche dough by hand is very time consuming, I haven’t found any information on this, I’m sure a stand mixer would give me a much better dough…. or would it?

Check out my second go at this brioche bread!

fettuccine, sun dried tomatoes, roasted pine nuts and feta

Here’s a quick one:

Eyeballed ingredients:

2 tbsp chives chopped finely
3 tbsp sun dried tomatoes, chopped coarsely
3 tbsp feta crumbs
2 tbsp roasted pine nuts ( roast to taste)

250g fetuccini pasta made al dente in salty water (ocean salty)

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done!

sponge cake… you guessed it, fail

I have learned that if I prep everything in advance, this baking business is not a messy experience and it’s actually rather quick to get something ready for the oven. So “mise en place” is as always the way to go.

I’m trying something a bit different this time. I’m prepping all the ingredients by weight and not by volume. I’m using ratios instead of blindly adding cups and tbs of things. I’m working in grams because it makes sense to me. You do need a scale to work this way, I got mine from amazon, it is awesome. Ok, here are the ratios for a sponge cake:

1 parts flour (I tested bread f.)
1 parts eggs
1 parts sugar
1 parts butter
0.08 parts baking powder

flavorings:
0.08 lemon juice (from a bottle)
0.08 pure vanilla extract

Since eggs are tricky to split in grams, I used one egg as my cooking part unit. It weighs about 60g, I made a cake that had 2 eggs, here’s the ingredients by weight:

120g eggs
120g flour
120g butter
120g sugar
4g baking powder
4g lemon juice
4g vanilla extract.

Then, preheat your oven at 350f

1. beat sugar and eggs until triple their volume
2. sift flour, mix baking powder. I use the hand mixer for sifting and mixing them together in a dry bowl.
3. mix (folding, need to look into it) the dry mix into the wet mix.
4. mix the melted butter (at room temperature, you don’t want your eggs to curdle when you mix it in) into the batter.
5. add flavorings
6. in the oven it goes for roughly 20 mins, better to check and test for doneness. it should be dry inside.

Ok, I learned a valuable lesson today, don’t take anything for granted, not even softening butter to room temperature… do just that or… once it separates (melts) its game over. Which is what happened to my second sponge cake. It did not raise much.

Also, I will try creaming the butter with the sugar first, then adding the eggs.

Some pics I took while working on this sponge cake failure!

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chocolate cake

This cake is super moist and airy, very delicate in texture, not overly sweet, just right. Courtesy of Maribeth’s mom ๐Ÿ™‚

Wet ingredients:

1+1/2 sticks of soft butter
1+2/3 cups of regular sugar

Beat until creamy (10 mins)

3 eggs
1 tps vanilla extract

One egg at a time incorporate until airy, 6 more minutes.

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Dry ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa powder
1 tbs salt
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tbs baking powder

Mix well with the help of a fork.

for final mix of dry and wet ingredients:
1+1/3 cups of water

Add dry mix (in thirds) into the wet mix while running the mixer, add water in thirds as well. Beat until satiny and pudding like. about 10 mins.

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Prep a cake pan, butter and dust with flour.

Bake at 350f for 30 mins.

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done.

pan de jamon

Christmas Holliday venezuelan recipe, and possibly the only true all venezuelan recipe. Super simple and delicious.

Dough:

1 highly active yeast packet
3 cups bread flour
4 tbsp butter
3/4 whole milk
1/4 water (to proof the yeast)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 beaten egg
1 egg yolk + 1 tbs water + 1tbs sugar for wash

Mix everything, knead until awesome, let rise, 1 hour, deflate, roll it flat, the flatter the better (2mm thick), a pasta machine crossed my mind, then lay the filling on top, and roll the dough, press ends shut and puncture body several times with a tooth pick to let air out while baking. you don’t want your roll to explode.

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Filling to your liking:

Serrano ham thinly sliced.
green olives, stuffed with bell peppers
raisins.

I made a blasphemous version with microwaved dehydrated roma tomatoes, basil and mozzarella, sprinkled a little salt… sorry, but this was better than a pizza by a 100 times ๐Ÿ˜‰

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this can give you a pretty good idea of how to lay the ingredients over the dough before making it into a roll.

DIY bacon

DIY bacon

Pork belly, not an easy thing to find around this neighbourhood. you can either go to a real butcher, and there aren’t that many out there that would sell this, so do your research before wasting your time. you can also get it online, but that isnt as exciting. You wanna know what’s even more exciting? Starting your DIY bacon project right now. 

DIY Bacon

DIY Bacon

Making bacon is a 2 step process, first you have to “wet” cure it, and then you have to slow cook it (smoke it) to dry it even further and develop more flavor. I didn’t smoke mine. I will try that later, I dont have a smoker and smoking in my oven… not ready for that yet!

1 lb of pork belly (You can easily scale up this recipe)

Dry Cure:

12g sea salt
9g brown sugar
3g pink curing salt
0.5g black pepper corns.
0.5g coriander seeds, toasted, ground.
2 cloves crushed.
3 juniper berries, crushed.

Herbs I like:

8 marjoram springs

or

2 tbsp minced rosemary
2 tbsp minced parsley

So how much pink salt is good enough… which isn’t a bad question since pink salt needs to be handled with caution. Well, I’ve based my percentages on a recipe that appears on the Modernist Cuisine Kitchen Manual, page 107.

For every 100g of meat: use 0.6g of pink salt.
For every 100g of meat: use 2.5g of salt.

One more note: Insta Cure #1 and D.Q. Curing pink salt are the same thing, same concentration.
Insta Cure #2 contains nitrates and is ONLY used for dry curing over long periods of time.

DIY Bacon

Ok, pink curing salt is a blend of about 94% table salt and 6% sodium nitrite which although not a healthy thing to eat at high concentrations, the concentration in this brine is so low that is virtually harmless and what it does is inhibiting the growth of bacteria (botulism) which is the purpose of curing to begin with.
DIY Bacon

now mix all the ingredients and rub away. I used a food processor to mix everything up. then I threw the pork belly in a ziplock bag and with my hand rub the paste all over it. minimal mess.

DIY Bacon

this pork belly piece is ready to be sealed. I partially submerged the bag in a pot filled with cold water to get most of the air out of the bag and I zipped the bag. it will be 7 days before this is cured. every day, turn the bag over, to ensure even curing.

DIY Bacon

7 days and after many turns this is what I ended up with. By the way, I didn’t use the ziplock bag, instead I wrapped the belly in cheesecloth with seem to have worked amazingly well. This thing smells so good. Now we have to clean it up and get it ready for the oven.

DIY Bacon

Here it is after cleanup, really good color and scent. I should have removed the rind… or not…
DIY Bacon

Here it is after 3 hours at 200f in the oven, a bit toasty on the outside, very nice and pink in the inside, ready.

DIY Bacon

after vacuum sealing:

DIY Bacon

done.

DIY Bacon

coq au vin

Browning and degalzing, that’s the name of the game, to develop complex rich flavors in every step of the process. The order in which components are browned is not important, all the components will end up in the same pot and cook slowly for a couple of hours, thats where depth and complexity will be layered together, creating the most delicious wine reduction to coat the chicken thighs.

Ingredients:

6 chicken thighs
1/2 cup of bacon or salt pork, small dice.
Basic Mirepoix
15 perl onions
15 button mushroom
Bunch of thyme
4 garlic cloves
Bay leaf… or 3 small ones like i used, preferably turkish.
1 bottle of pinot noir
1 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp of tomato paste. I used my home made tomato sauce instead, so about a cup.
2 cups of chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

Stainless steel pot or a cast iron dutch oven is a must for this to work the best. The reason, in order to brown fast and create a deglazable fond things need to stick to the bottom of the pot, being careful not to burn anything, but making sure to get a nice rich golden brown color, then deglaze with water or wine and on to the next component. Main components to process this way, bacon, chicken, pearl onions, mushrooms and the mirepoix (leave this one for last).

First we gotta render the fat from the bacon, once crispy, remove bacon from the pot and save for later, leave fat in the pot.

Then the chicken, don’t over crowd the pan, try browning on all sides, medium heat, don’t let anything burn, control the browning, keep an eye on the stove, even if things stick to the pan, don’t panic, let those bits brown and then deglaze. Once deglazed, wait until the liquid boils down to be able to brown the next batch, patience. The chicken can be left in the fridge overnight without covering it, so the skin dries up, this will quicken the browning process.

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Now the perl onions, these can go all at once, and since their water content is so high, heat can be turned up and still be safe. Make sure to get a nice golden finish.

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Now the mushrooms, this one step is interesting, butter goes in, after all the previous browning there’s a need to add extra fat to keep going, but one thing for sure, these mushrooms that brown in this fat and butter and the brownings of previously deglazed stuff are just incredible, you could stop there and forget about finishing the dish ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Then finally the mirepoix goes in, I like to sweat this for a bit, get some browning if possible, it is hard, because theres so much water in the veggies that makes it extremely hard for anything to caramelize, but again, patience, eventually it will but don’t go too far with it.

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In goes the garlic, I’d be careful here as well, most thing can be browned, but garlic goes bitter rather easily, don’t let any garlic to go brown, light golden finish is all that’s needed.

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And the final touches, some herbs to infuse some more notes into the dish, bay leaves, bunch of thyme, add the tomato paste here as well. Salt and pepper later, remember, this needs to cook for a long time, and reduce the sauce. The concentration of this braising liquid will go up.

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The rest is about time and patience, since this dish is about braising, the amount of time will dictate how soft the chicken thighs get. About 2 hours is good (but different cooking times yield different textures, and overcooking the thighs is not what I want. Once finished cooking, do 2 things:

Put the chicken aside and strain the sauce through i fine sieve. Then place the strained liquid back in the pot (clean the pot before doing this) and reduce the sauce to a glaze. Extremely consecrated flavor at this point. Mix in bacon bits, mushrooms and perl onions. Let sit for 24 hours.

Done