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Posts Tagged ‘bread’

Since probably the mid 80’s, Thai cuisine has seen an explosion of popularity, likely due to a booming post-war tourism industry in Southeast Asia. As all popular things do, Thai cuisine was quickly adopted as the trendy go-to cuisine in America, built to excess, and generally ruined. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good dish of Pad Thai as much as the next person might. But a vast difference can be found from one pad thai to another. Generally, when seeking out foreign cuisines, look for recipes that aren’t written in english.

Thailand is host to a litany of amazing dishes exemplifying the core four flavors of their cuisine: sweet, sour, salty, and spicy. One thing that people don’t necessarily think about, however (maybe I can’t speak for you, but I’ve really never considered it), is what breakfast looks like in this part of the world. Rice and noodles are all well and good, but when it comes to the most important meal of the day I’ll usually reach for something a bit more familiar.

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Pa Thong Ko are a Thai version of a traditional Chinese-style cruller. Crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside; They’re almost more similar to the fried bread dough you’d get from a dirty cart at the county fair. Served with coconut jam (which is really a custard), you can see the influence from French colonialism, much the same way that the Banh Mi came about in Vietnam.

According to Thai tradition, the traditional X shaped fritters represent two inseparable lovers, always seen together. In stark contrast, Chinese tradition recounts a tale of two evil men who were put to death in boiling oil.

Pa Thong Ko, adapted from SheSimmers
makes 10-12 fritters

  • Bread Flour*, 260g
  • Active Dry Yeast, 2g
  • Baker’s Ammonia, 2g
  • Alum Powder, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Kosher Salt, 8g
  • Granulated Sugar, 14g
  • Warm Water, 170g (3/4 cup)
  • Vegetable Oil, 1 tablespoon, plus more as needed
  • Baking Powder, 4g

Combine all ingredients except baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on medium speed for 8 minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and lightly coat top of dough with oil. Cover with a towel and allow to rise 4-5 hours. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and lightly dust flour over dough. Sprinkle baking powder over dough. Fold and knead about 4 times. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut to desired shapes.
In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat 4-5 inches of vegetable oil to 350F. Fry dough until deep brown and crispy, 1-2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil

*Yes, you can use All-Purpose flour

Sangkhaya (Coconut Jam/Custard)
makes just over 1 cup

  • Egg Yolk, large, 4 each
  • Palm Sugar, 3 tablespoons
  • Granulated Sugar, 5 tablespoons
  • Coconut Milk, full-fat, 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
  • Dried Pandan Leaf**, about 1/4 cup
  • Kosher Salt, 1/8 teaspoon

Combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk vigorously until thick and creamy. Meanwhile, heat coconut milk, pandan and salt in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. While whisking, add 1/3 of the hot coconut milk to the egg yolk mixture. Continue whisking until full incorporated. While whisking, add egg mixture to remaining coconut milk. Continue cooking over medium heat, whisking very frequently, until sauce is thick, about 5-8 minutes. Once thick, immediately remove from heat, transfer sauce to a bowl or other container and refrigerate until cooled completely.

**If you can’t find pandan or don’t want to buy it, substitute 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

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There’s no pleasure quite as great as good food paired with a good beverage. While it’s easy to study up on the subject and learn how different components in food compliment and contrast aspects of whatever beverage you’ve got, I think the even easier method, and much more enjoyable, is to eat well and drink well and allow things to come naturally. What a drag, right? This week it’s all about finding that great match: food that makes a drink better, and drink that makes that food better.

In my last actual kitchen class in college, one of our assignments was to submit a food and drink pairing that we thought went really well together, with an explanation of the choice we made. Each team of 3 submitted 3 recipes, and one was chosen to be made in the following session. What we didn’t know until it was time to go, however, was that whoever’s recipe was chosen wasn’t allow to actually cook it, but rather would direct their team to make the dish the way they wanted it to happen. Likely to the chagrin of my team, my dish was chosen; Intending to poke fun at the somewhat elitist and highly conceptual dishes that many great restaurants have come to be known for, I submitted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with sliced apples and caramel dip on the side. The pairing: Viognier (vee-OWN-yay), a light, fruity white wine largely found in the northern Rhone region of France. The wine tropical notes in the wine complimented the homemade concord grape jam, and the acidity helped to cut through honey-roasted peanut butter. The other key element was pumpernickel  bread, which has a few spices that contrasted well with the light bodied wine.

This week, I wanted to pay tribute to that dish, while switching it up just a little bit. IMG_3061 For the sandwich, I used pumpernickel bread again just because I really like it. The jam is a four-fruit blend of strawberry, raspberry, cherry, and red currant. The peanut butter is jarred, but a really nice, locally produced one with lots of texture and a good amount of fat. As for the wine, I did a little research and came across the suggestion of a Torrontes from Argentina. Similar in body and acidity to a Viognier, but less sweet and less fruity, with a few spicier, minerally notes. When all’s said and done, it’s an excellent pairing, especially for these hot, humid summer afternoons we’ve been having recently.

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Sometimes, it’s really strange to me that people have normal jobs. Like, non-kitchen jobs. I’ve worked a single job outside of a kitchen or restaurant since the age of 13 (I did a brief stint at the IT department in college, go figure), so the thought of having eight-hour days with nights and weekends off is incredibly foreign to me. You mean to tell me that you don’t work until midnight and then have dinner? Weirdo. One benefit, I will concede, of working the abnormal hours that kitchen life requires is that getting drunk on Monday doesn’t seem that bad when Sunday is your Friday. But of the strangeness between us in the restaurant industry and the rest of the world, the strangest to me by far is the idea of breaks; 15 minutes or more where you can basically just fuck off and not worry about anything. I don’t smoke, so if I’m able to get a minute to run to the restroom during the night I consider myself lucky. But an actual break, nearly unheard of.

But I do realize that it’s a totally normal thing for pretty much everyone else. And when you are afforded this opportunity, refueling yourself for the rest of your day is crucial.  Food has to be quick, and require pretty minimal-to-no cooking or preparation. That being said, that doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with eating crap for your lunch break. With a little bit of thinking and beforehand prep,  you can become the King or Queen of the break room.

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I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again (and will continue to keep saying it).: Sandwiches are the best food, hands down. Endless combinations of great flavors and textures, wrapped up in a perfect vehicle. For brown baggin’ it at work, sandwiches are a staple, and since cooking options can be really limited, cold is the way to go. My go-to format for cold sandwiches is to try and hit all the major tastes: something sweet, salty, tart, and bitter (if you can get some umami in there, all the better). This week, I was lucky enough to take home some Goat Prosciutto* from work, and I wanted to base my sandwich around that (please excuse the horrendously cut prosciutto in the photo). Prosciutto is normally paired with cheese and fruits, so building a cohesive sandwich isn’t all that difficult. I normally like darker fruits with prosciutto, so I went with some fig jam, and keeping with the goat that I had already, I used chevre for the cheese. Vegetables are always good to add some texture (especially in cold sandwiches), so I added a nice handful of dandelion greens, which also provide a great bitter contrast the the jam. As for bread, you can use whatever floats your boat. I really enjoy baguettes, so I went with that.

The best part about packing yourself lunch is that it can really be as simple or complex as you want it to be. Crockpot chili? Awesome. Salad? Perfect. Just by planning a little bit in advance, you can save yourself from raiding the vending machine too often.

*I can say with near 100% certainty that you won’t be able to find goat prosciutto anywhere. Just use regular prosciutto.

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Digging through old recipes can be a lot of fun. Reading about dishes that you haven’t made in a long time, if ever at all, can bring about a great sense of rediscovery and, if you’re like me, get excited about food at times when you really aren’t. At my parent’s house recently, I was going through some old things and remembered that my childhood toybox was literally full of old, obscure cookbooks that I picked up at yard sales and thrift stores. And when you consider how drastically the way we eat has changed in the last century, it’s fascinating to see how dishes and recipes were structured before that period. But what if we take that idea to the extreme? How much different can recipes be if we go back far enough?

Centuries ago, the way we ate couldn’t be more different than it is today. The highly processed foods that have ingrained themselves as low-class identifiers were once reserved solely for nobility and their guests; If you didn’t have copious amounts of money, you couldn’t afford to process flours, for example, as finely and were resigned to eat more hearty, whole-grain loaves.  Dried and preserved meats were once necessity rather than niche. Kitchens, cookware, and even recipes of the period would be nearly unrecognizable to many of today’s cooks and chefs. For the 17th week of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge, we’re looking at food from  the iconic Medieval era!

Of the surviving manuscripts, one of the most through is known as the Harleian Manuscript 279 and dates between 1420 and 1430. Now housed in the British Museum, the work was first reprinted published in England 1888 by Thomas Austin.The manuscript contains hundreds of recipes from Medieval England, written not only in the traditional narrative style, but also in the vernacular of the period, meaning that it can be incredibly difficult to read and even more so to replicate recipes from. While there are various groups have transliterated the recipes, their efforts seem mostly focused in recreating the dish as it would have been seen or eaten at the time it was created. And while that approach is certainly intriguing, I’ve always viewed recipes as more a guide than doctrine; With a basic idea of what your endgame is supposed to be, you can use the tools and methods available to reach that point.

After carefully perusing a wide array of dishes found in the Harleian, I found a recipe that piqued my interest:

.xxxvj. Pokerounce. Take Hony, & caste it in a potte tyl it wexe chargeaunt y-now; take & skeme it clene. Take Gyngere, Canel, & Galyngale, & caste þer-to; take whyte Brede, & kytte to trenchours, & toste ham; take þin paste whyle it is hot, & sprede it vppe-on þin trenchourys with a spone, & plante it with Pynes, & serue forth.

Like I said, difficult to replicate. However, after Googling nearly every term there, I think I’ve got a ballpark to work with.

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What the recipe boils down  to (no pun intended) is thickened honey, flavored with ginger, cinnamon, and galingale, served on bread and topped with pine nuts. That being said, I did take some liberties with things: Galingale is a plant closely related to ginger that’s native to England and Wales. As food, the tuber is used in much the same way that ginger is, as a earthy, spicy flavoring in sweet and savory dishes alike. Galingale isn’t exactly something that’s ever been farmed or used much outside of Medieval England, let alone being available here in the states. However, Galangal is a nearly identical plant, native to southeast Asia. It grows the same way, tastes the same, and can be used in the same way. Hell, even the name is almost the same! With the wealth of Asian markets in my area,  galangal is pretty easy to come across, so I went with that. As for the bread, trenchers were wide, flat portions of usually stale bread, that were commonly used as plates. While the recipe calls for the honey to be served on such a bread, I’m not really interested in eating a hunk of stale bread. I used a nice loaf of sourdough, cut into thick slabs and toasted with a little bit of butter. Common practice is to toast pine nuts, but the recipe didn’t specify, and I actually prefer them raw.

The results? Very, very tasty. The galangal gives an almost peppery note to the honey, which comes through really nice against such strong sweetness. And the woodsy, resin-y aspect of the pine nuts brings this kind of overlaying flavor that I can’t really describe properly.

Pokerounce

makes 4-6 servings

  • Honey, about 1 cup
  • Ginger, 1 2-inch piece
  • Galangal*, 1 2-inch piece
  • Cinnamon Stick**, 2 2-inch sticks
  • Sourdough Bread, thick sliced, 4-6 pieces
  • Butter, unsalted, 4-6 tablespoons
  • Pine Nuts, about 1/2 cup

In a small sauce pot, heat honey until it begins to bubble. Meanwhile, thinly slice ginger and galangal, and crack cinnamon stick with the back of a knife. Reduce honey to allow heat, add spices, and continue cooking until it begins to thicken, about 20 minutes. Strain spices from honey while still hot, and allow to cool completely (it will continue to thicken as it cools). Heat a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan to medium high heat. Spread sliced bread with butter on one side. Toast bread in hot pan, buttered side down, until well toasted and edges begin to blacken, about 5 minutes. Spread toasted side of bread with thickened honey and top with pine nuts (toasting optional)

*If galangal isn’t available, substitute half as much additional ginger and a few black peppercorns

**If cinnamon sticks aren’t available, substitute 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

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As I’ve mentioned a few times on here, bread is subject that is very near and dear to my heart. Bread is the thing that very first got me interested in cooking at a very young age. Bread was very nearly the entire reason that I went to culinary school. Last year, during a period of heavy depression and anxiety, bread got me back into cooking for myself and back into writing and helped me start taking back my crazy-ass brain. Going into the 13th week of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge with bread as the theme, I was already really excited about making bread. But this week also gave me a great opportunity to do some more research on a subject that’s been inescapable for me since first reading about it in Lucky Peach.

We’ve come to live in an era where bacteria isn’t necessarily seen as a bad thing anymore. Probiotic yogurts can be found on grocery store shelves everywhere, kimchi has seen a huge boom in the restaurant world, and there are countless sites and blogs detailing how home cooks can make  a transition back to more traditional foodways by creating lacto-fermented products. Bacteria and leavened bread have always gone hand in hand; Whether you’re making a yeast-risen dough or culturing your own sourdough starter, bacteria creates the gases that that are needed to give bread its light, airy structure (we can get into quickbreads another day). While certain bacterias can be really beneficial, today we’re looking at something on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

Salt-Rising (or salt-risen) bread is a traditional style of bread that was common in Appalachia during early American settlement. The word “salt” in the name can be misleading, as the bread doesn’t contain an unusual amount of salt. Salt is actually used to counteract the growth or development of yeast in the starter culture for the bread, which is were things get interesting. If yeast strains aren’t growing in the starter, other types of bacteria are free to inoculate the mixture.Lactobacillus  is the most common wild bacteria found in fermented products, and it does play a small role in leaving Salt Rising bread, but the real MVP here is Clostridium perfringens.  Clostridium perfringens is widely known to be the third leading cause of food poisoning in the United States and United Kingdom. It’s also the most common bacteria found in Gas Gangrene infections (symptoms include necrosis, putrefaction of tissue, and toxic gas production) and also produces the noxious gas emitted by dead bodies. I think it goes without saying that this is some pretty nasty stuff. While the baking process renders the bacteria inactive, it still might not be for the faint of heart. But, if you’re like me and you’re more intrigued than disgusted (or at least equally intrigued and disgusted), than Salt Rising bread is a really cool experiment. I could try and go on about the history and science behind this type of recipe, one of my favorite food writers, Harold McGee, wrote an absolutely incredible article about it (the one from Lucky Peach), which I highly recommend reading. So for now, we’ll just get into the recipe itself.

Since the bacteria  normally flourishes in a living host, a crucial part of the recipe is to keep it around body-temperature at all times. Since it require an incredibly long time* to ferment fully, this can be a pretty difficult task. However, with help from an immersion circulator it’s be accomplished without much hassle.

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Holding at 105F, it’s basically like a nice hot tub for your starter. Also, that’s definitely the original Star Wars trilogy in the background and you should be jealous. With a few key differences, Salt Rising bread isn’t all that different from a regular sourdough. You make a starter to culture some bacteria, add flour for it to grow into a sponge, then add a bunch more flour to form the final dough. The result?

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Nice, tight crumb with a thick, crispy crust. While the bread itself didn’t taste all that funky, while it was baking the apartment filled with a not-quite-overwhelming scent of ripe cheese, with a hint of dirty feet. While the process of making the bread was really cool to learn and play around with and the bread was pretty tasty,   I would say that the finished product isn’t entirely worth the time you have to put into it. That being said, its something I would really enjoy doing again and learning more about the processes at work.

Salt-Rising Bread, adapted from Harold McGee

makes 2 loaves

  • Cornmeal, 1 cup
  • Sugar, 1 tablespoon
  • Kosher Salt, 1 teaspoon
  • Whole Milk, 2 cups

Combine cornmeal sugar and salt, mixing thoroughly. Heat milk in a saucepan until just barely boiling. Combine with cornmeal mixture, mixing to combine thoroughly. Cover loosely with a towel and allow to ferment at 105F** for 8-10 hours.

  • Baking Soda, 1 teaspoon
  • Water, heated to 120F, 1 cup
  • All-Purpose Flour, about 2 cups, as needed

Add baking soda and water to starter, mixing to combine thoroughly. Add flour as needed to bake a thick batter. Cover loosely with a towel and allow to ferment at 105F** for 3-4 hours, until bubbly and spongy.

  • Kosher Salt, 1 teaspoon
  • All-Purpose Flour, about 4 cups, as needed

Transfer sponge to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add salt to sponge, then add flour as needed, mixing with a dough hook, until a solid dough is formed. Divide dough into two greased loaf pans, cover loosely with a towel and allow to proof until volume is increased by about one third, 2-6 hours. Preheat oven to 425F. Bake loaves at 425F until browned, about 35-40 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before cutting and serving.

*I recommend starting this in the late evening for it to be ready by about dinner time the following day. I started mine just before 11am and ended up baking it at 2am, which was kind of a pain in the ass.

**I used an immersion circulator to hold this temperature precisely, but if you can closely monitor the temperature of a water bath by other means, I would say go for it.

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I know I keep saying that I’m going to be posting more frequently, and that THIS time I’m really going to get back into writing on a regular basis. And I don’t mean that in the “the fans are counting on me!” kind of way (even though you guys are awesome and I love you all dearly), but more in the way that I actually want to keep writing, but the time always slips away from me. Quick update on what’s been going on with me, before we get into the juicy bits:

The past 4 months have been INCREDIBLY hectic. As I said in my last post, my job situation became incredibly unstable. Since then, I’ve been able to nail down an amazing job at a great, newly opened restaurant. The hours have been super crazy, but it’s been really fulfilling to be a part of something new and start from the ground up. I got a promotion really quickly and have been trusted with a lot more responsibility than I originally signed up for, but I think it’s going to be for the best. On the flip side of the coin, shortly after my last post, I was broken up with by my girlfriend. In and of itself, that’s a really hard situation to deal with. Continuing to live together for two months afterwards was possibly the worst experience of my life (so far). There’s no feeling quite as punishing as caring very deeply for somebody, and then one day they up and vanish from your life.  I know now that its through no fault of my own that she and I are in the situation we are, but it still doesn’t make it any easier. That being said (and if you are reading this right now), I hold no animosity towards her, and still want only the best for her moving forward. As for myself, the only thing left to do is keep pushing forward.

“Jedi are aware of the future impacts of action and inaction and of the influence of the past, but live in and focus on the Now. We let ourselves flow like water through the events around us. We embrace the ever changing and fluid world, adapting and changing as it does.”

Part of continuing to push forward to me is getting back into cooking for myself, rather than going the easy route of take out food all the time. In the past few posts I wrote about  how I was starting to drink healthy shakes again, because they seemed to help with my weight loss and were just a generally good way of starting the day off. While I still really like the idea in theory, the problem is that I get bored really quickly and never actually keep on track with making them every morning. Additionally, the kitchen in my last apartment was lacking to say the least (I had MAYBE two square feet of counter space). However, my new apartment has a pretty amazing kitchen, if I do say so myself.

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BOOM. Look at that shit. It may not seem THAT impressive, but it’s a huge step up from any of my previous apartments. Working 80 hour weeks on top of trying to move has been a real challenge, but I managed to get it all done with my sanity (somewhat) intact. On my first real day off after getting everything moved INTO the apartment, I spent the day setting up the kitchen just the way I wanted; a luxury I had never experienced before. I quickly realized that I hadn’t yet gotten a good chance to break in my new KitchenAid mixer I got for Christmas last year.

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Yeah, be jealous. In the spirit of new beginnings, I decided to go back to where it all started: bread.

Artisan Bread at Home

I don’t know if I’ve ever told this story on here, but the way that I started cooking was by baking bread. I’m told that I was probably about 5 or 6 years old and kept pestering my dad for a loaf of this homemade bread that he made pretty frequently at the time. Frustrated, he exclaims “If you want it so badly, why don’t you just make it yourself?”, to which I proceeded to pester him further into showing me how to bake my first loaf of bread. Ever since then, I’ve always had a deep love for breads and baked goods, despite my lack of any actual skill at creating them. Truth be told, when I applied for culinary school, I almost went for baking and pastry just to learn more about breads.

After the big move, I was left with not much in the pantry and even less in my wallet. However, the local co-op has a pretty amazing bulk section, and I could get all the ingredients for two nice, hearty wheat loaves for under $10.

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Since it’s such a simple recipe by design, it wouldn’t do much good for me to delve into the process in too much detail. For those of you familiar with bread baking, it’s pretty standard procedure. For the less familiar, I would suggest brushing up on the basic steps involved and maybe trying out some quick, simple recipes. I was a bit more out-of-practice than I normally am, but I’m really happy with my first foray back into bread baking. For time, energy, money and sanity sake, I think I’m going to start baking a lot more frequently. There’s something that’s just very comforting and familiar about a loaf of bread fresh from the oven.

Whole Wheat Bread, adapted from Artisan Breads at Home with the Culinary Institute of America

Yield: 2 Loaves

  • Water (90 Degrees Fahrenheit), 20.2oz OR 572g OR 2.5c OR 73.2%
  • Honey, 1.3oz OR 36g OR .25c OR 4.6%
  • Molasses, .1oz OR 2g OR 1/8tsp OR .5%
  • Bread Flour, 16.6oz OR 470g OR 3.33c OR 60.1%
  • Whole Wheat Flour, 11oz OR 312g OR 2.5c OR 39.9%
  • Dry Yeast, .2oz OR 7g OR 1tsp OR .8%
  • Kosher Salt, .6oz OR 18g OR 1tbsp OR 2.3%

Put the water, honey and molasses in the bowl of a mixer. Combine the flours and yeast and add to the bowl, then add the salt and place the bowl on a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on medium speed for 8 minutes, making sure to scrape down and flip the dough over twice during this time. After mixing, the dough should have some gluten development butt feel slightly tacky. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl large enough for it to double in size and cover with plastic wrap.

Allow the dough to rest and ferment in a warm place for 45-60 minutes, until when lightly touched the dough springs back halfway.

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and stretch it out slightly. Fold the dough in thirds. Put the dough back into the bowl, re-cover it with plastic wrap, and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.

Prepare plastic bowls lined with a kitchen towel. Flour the lined bowls generously.

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and divide it into two 24oz pieces. Round each piece against the tabletop. Place the loaves in the prepared bowls with the seam side up. Use any extra cloth to cover the loaves and then lightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Place the dough in a warm place for 45-60 minutes, until when lightly pressed the dough springs back halfway.

Twenty minutes before the end of the final fermentation, preheat the oven to 475F. Ten Minutes before baking the loaves, place a tray filled with 3 cups of water below the baking area in the oven to help produce steam.

Lightly oil and flour two loaf pans. Place loaves seam side down in the pans. Spray the loaves with water and let sit for 5 minutes. Score the top of each loaf lengthwise, cutting 1/4-1/2 inch deep. Spray loaves with water again.

Place loaf pans in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 450F. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove the steam tray, reduce temperature to 425F and bake for an additional 18-20 minutes. Remove bread from oven and pans, and transfer to a cooling rack.

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Well, here we are. The final installment of another year of the  52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge. It’s crazy how quickly a year can go by and how much can go by. Since starting the challenge in January, I’ve changed jobs twice, moved twice and I’ve dealt with a lot of professional and personal stress. Luckily, cooking and writing for this blog has given me a bit of release of relaxation. Every week I can kind of sit down and forget about things for a minute and just get everything out on the paper, so to speak. To anybody that’s followed along with these posts for the better part of the past two years, thanks for sticking along. I don’t know how often  this actually gets read, but it’s nice to know that it’s not entirely just to stroke my own ego. Anyway, enough of being mopey! For the final week of the 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge, we’re celebrating a year of cooking and going all-out with Fancy Ingredients!

When I think of classy, fancy ingredients, nothing quite beats the classic Foie Gras. Just the name brings about the image of snooty French dining, fanciness and class; Foie Gras. For those who don’t actually know what foie gras is, and if you’re not in the food industry it’s entirely likely that you don’t, it is the liver of a duck or goose that has been fattened through a process called gavage, force-feeding through a tube. While the practice of fattening birds for food dates back to at least 2500 BCE in ancient Egypt, it has come under scrutiny in recent years because you know, the whole animal torture thing. While I do enjoy the product, I can’t say I support the means of production. However, many producers are now beginning to develop methods to produce the same product without endangering the health and safety of the animals, something which we can all get behind. As far as I could research, the raw foie gras that I purchased was produced humanely. But for now, we’ll save the morality debate for a later time and just get into the food.

foie

The process of preparing foie gras is long and tedious. I won’t go into the excruciating details, but I used the recipe and method described by Michael Ruhlman. If you’re unfamilliar with Ruhlman or his writings, I suggest that you start some reading. The process starts by taking apart the liver and removing any of the membranes and veins. It’s then soaked overnight in milk to remove some of the gaminess that liver is known to have. After that, a quick overnight cure with salt, pepper, sugar, cognac, and curing salt. Next, the liver is rolled into a tight cylinder, wrapped in cheesecloth, and left to hang and solidify overnight yet again. A quick poach in hot water loosens the flesh a little and releases any remaining air pockets, creating a consistent texture throughout the roll. One last overnight hang was all that was left to finish it off. As per Ruhlman’s serving suggestion, I made a nice loaf of buttery brioche to use as a base, and topped the finished foie with a 25 year-aged balsamic vinegar that I picked up years ago when I was in Italy. When it was all said and done, it was about 2:30 in the morning before I had a finished product. I was already a few beers deep, but all I wanted to do was stay up and eat the whole damn thing. Buttery, fatty, a little tartness from the vinegar, but all brought together by the unmistakable funkiness of the foie. It’s not really a flavor you can explain, it’s just something that you need to experience for yourself. And maybe you won’t always get a chance too, it’s a bit expensive after all. But after a year of writing, cooking, and learning from myself, I was happy to splurge a little and go out with a bang.

I’m happy to have made it through another year of the 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge. It’s been fun as always, and definitely a good learning experience. In the past two years, I’ve got to make some of my favorite dishes, as well as experiencing new cuisines, techniques, ingredients and inspirations that I had never really looked at before. However, nothing, no matter how good or bad, lasts forever. It is with a heavy heart that I say this will be my last regular submission for the 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge. I have some other projects I want to focus on for this blog, as well as planning a business venture that I’ve been thinking about for a long time now, so I don’t think I’ll have the time to do the Challenge on top of that. This surely isn’t the end of C&K by any means, it’s just time to move in a new direction with things. Thanks to everyone who has been reading for the weekly recipes, and I hope the new stuff will be just as entertaining!

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