The Old Bake House

Back in the Kitchen…

Or, more precisely, back to blogging. Though I’ve been cooking a fair bit since my last post (ages ago now…) I haven’t been baking bread as much the past few years. I was trying to remember why this afternoon and reasons aren’t clear. A variety of distractions. What’s more important is that the stars–or starters–seem aligned now again, with two going at the moment, a rye and a white, and I’m back at it.

I’ve jumped back in with Jeffrey Hamelman‘s recipes, a natural place to start up again after a few years off. My favorite as I’m getting back into handling dough is his Vermont Sourdough with Increased Whole Grain. Love the addition of the rye. I’m getting better at remembering to keep the dough wet and not be tempted to add more flour, the first old instinct I had to break, yet again, after a few years off from baking…

Here’s the latest top and crumb shot.

 

 

Next up, digging further into rye breads…

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Rolling Dumpling Wrappers

Andrea Nguyen offers a great introduction to both tools and technique:

For more, see Nguyen’s own “Asian Dumpling Tips” website.

And… Summer’s Here

photo

So, spring has rolled into summer. Projects are underway, although they haven’t been reported here yet. Some of this is because my sig other is off on a long trip to China and I spent good time helping him prepare. And then, since, I’ve been enjoying recuperating in the quiet of the house, sans piles of luggage and strewn packing items. I’ve also been busy with work to prepare for a conference that’s coming soon. That’s left me mostly out of the kitchen these days, with three important exceptions:

First, late spring was devoted to making pizza. And also sampling it from restaurants around the region (the best, by far, in my locality is this one.) I love a pizza with a great crust, fresh mozzarella, and home-grown herbs. And I was baking them at 500+ degrees on a stone in my home oven, which while not the same as a true pizza oven still made for a decent, easy substitute. If you’re looking to give it a try, I highly recommend Peter Reinhart’s American Pie for its various dough and toppings recipes. PR’s books are also always very readable, which is nice on those days when it’s too hot to be in the kitchen.

The other project this spring has been fermentation. I got a hold of a big ceramic crock and Sandor Ellix Katz’s Wild Fermentation, then went to town with the sauerkraut recipe as a starting experiment. I chopped and salted cabbage, squeezed it down in the crock, and let it ferment away (checking every other day or so) in my basement. Now I’ve got two big mason jars of very good sauerkraut in the fridge, which goes wonderfully with grilled sausage on a late summer afternoon. I’ll be giving homemade kimchi a go later this summer.

And now, next, I’m moving to another project: Asian dumplings. It’s actually a return, as I used to do these back in my grad school days when my time was more flexible. There were also always many ready and willing helpers for the actual making (“bao jiaozi”) process. I’m craving them again lately. This may be because I’m cooking for one these days and having frozen dumplings available for a quick, easy meal is always nice. Or because I made the mistake (?) of browsing cookbooks at the bookstore right before lunch the other day (read: a very easy time to develop a food fixation) and stumbled across Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings cookbook (2009).

That book is on my wish-list (and I’d love to hear reports from anyone who’s cooked from it). In the meantime, I’m hopping back to the now-classic Land of Plenty cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop and her excellent recipes for all sorts of dumplings. I’m interested in trying out a hot-water dough, which I’ve never used before for dumplings. I also (geek city) bought two different sized dowels and am going to make my own mini rolling pins for rolling out the wrappers…

Image: Sig other’s photo from a morning hike today on the Great Wall. The closest I came today to such a hike was in traipsing back and forth across an annoying big box conglomerate hardware store looking for a wooden dowel that was shorter than 12 feet long… 

Detour: Pizza

While still delaying the resuscitation of my starters, I’ve been distracting myself (and my much-pleased spouse) with pizza experiments. I’m playing with dough, reading one account of a tour of different styles and shops,  namely Peter Reinhart’s American Pie, and also beginning to get a handle on technique…