Cooking

This is a page that I had on my website at http://lee.org/cooking/index.html for many years. I post it here for archival purposes. I have much more to say about food on my blog. And I can see that how I cook bread has changed. You can see part of that here.

Here is my online archive of recipes, including Ida’s recipes!

I won’t say I’m a very good cook, but I’m enthusiastic. ;-)

For whatever reason, I rather enjoy making individual dishes. I think I have
a fear of commitment when it comes to making enough courses to fill out an
entire meal.

Pressure Cooker

X-mas ’99: Shara and her ex- got me a pressure cooker. I’ve used it a couple
times but haven’t fallen in love with pressure cooking.

It’s a little scary. When you cool it down, it makes all kinds of hissing
noises that just don’t sound natural for a cooking product. Sometimes it makes a
popping noise like on Das Boot
when they dove down to twice the rated depth of the sub. Is she gonna crush
us all?
Of course, it’s not actually going to blow up, sending gravy-soaked
shrapnel through my dinner guests, but they don’t know that, do they?

It only speeds cooking that would normally take a very long time. If it would
take 20 minutes on the stove, it’ll take “4 minutes” in the pressure
cooker, + 5 minutes to get up to pressure + 10 minutes to cool it and get the
top off. Woo hoo! we saved 60 seconds!

Things come out gray. I made a stew and everything came out looking the same
color. One could argue that’s how its supposed to look. After cooking a stew for
8 hours in a normal pot it should look like that. Well, I dunno, maybe
I’m just not a fan of that style of cooking.

It doesn’t get the gassiness out of beans. When I got the cooker, I was
excited to think I could go from dry beans to cooked beans in only 20 minutes.
Well, it works, but there is a component in beans that gives you gas. The longer
you cook it and/or change the water, the more this stuff is removed. I haven’t
had very good luck with the pressure cooker. Maybe I should cook them longer?
Maybe I have a bummy-tummy? I don’t get gas from most canned beans but… woo
hoo!! Dem pressure-beans start a fire under my butt!

I really wanted to fall in love with it. Fagor’s moniker is “The single
most important piece of cookware you’ll ever own.” Now that is a pretty
tall order for anything, but I was still pretty excited about getting it… I
researched it for hours and hours. I’m unhappy that I didn’t catch
pressure-cooker fever. Well, a friend wrote to me recently, saying how a
pressure-cooker makes an excellent risotto in no-time flat. I’m going to have to
give that a try… I’ve made risotto the traditional way and it sucks to stand
there for 45 minutes gradually adding broth and stirring. There is room yet in
my heart for a pressure cooker!

Cook’s Illustrated

My very favorite Christmas gift in ’97 was a large anthology of Cook’s
Illustrated
magazines. I’m all excited about trying out all those new
recipes!

I got a C.I. in ’97 from my friend and ex- Heidi
and really really enjoyed the French Toast recipe and a bunch of other items in
it.

Recipes I love (and where I learned them from) include:

  • C.I. French Toast- Cook’s Illustrated May-June ’97. I’ve made this many
    times now. I’m becoming just a little famous for it.
  • Salmon in basil cream sauce – Found the recipe off the internet. I first
    made at Heidi’s house in Brighton. It was just so darn terrific! I don’t have
    the recipe but it’s just so darn simple.. salmon, cream, basil!
  • Chicken in Chocolate Mole sauce – learned at CCAE
    course, Winter-Spring ’96.. Just thinking about it makes me warm all over. I
    made it with my friend Darren Black in JP once. That was lots of fun!
  • Lots of variations on waffles – I’ve always loved home made waffles! Mike
    Saletnick has a good recipe with stiffened egg whites but I was never too wild
    about them.

Waffles

12-01 I bought myself a Villaware model 2001 Belgian 4 square waffle
makervillaware-wafflemaker
(pictured) from Williams Sonoma. I am quite happy with it. I’ve had issues with
waffle makers in the past. I had a waffle maker made by West Bend, it made 4
waffles in a round pie shape. It was terrific except that the plastic pieces
kept falling off it. Two of the three legs fell off (I’d prop it up on measuring
cups and such. The handle fell off (I fashioned one from a coat-hanger) and the
case became severely tarnished from cooking. I kept it around for so long
because it made a great waffle; the iron got hot enough to make a crisp waffle
and didn’t have any cold spots.

In 2000, my cousin Tami got me a Sunbeam Easyclean waffle maker shaped
the same as the West Bend. I tremendously appreciate the gift but it just wasn’t
hot enough and the cold spots around the outside of the iron made for uneven
cooking.

So, I was dealing with this rickety old West Bend model until I broke down
and got the Villaware. After comparison shopping on the internet for what seemed
like forever (and not finding all that much info), I ended up getting the
Villaware mostly because it was sold by Williams Sonoma… they wouldn’t sell a
bad one for so much money, would they?

Well, I wasn’t disappointed. It gets hot enough (I usually set the temp
control to almost the max setting). However, the corners sometimes are a little
cold, leaving you with that (unfortunate) classic home-made
perfect-in-the-middle-but-rare-and-not-totally-filled-out waffle. But it is
definitely good enough.

Recent waffle recipes include:

  • Tollhouse semi-sweet chocolate – ick! baking chocolate is too bitter for
    waffles! I’ll try milk-chocolate next time.
  • Pickled garlic – OK, you’re not going to believe me but they were really
    good. The sweetness of the pickled garlic worked really well

Tip: I usually make a double or triple batch of waffles and then freeze
them
. Considering all the effort you have to go through at such an early
hour to make waffles for breakfast, frozen waffles taste better than fresh. They
certainly put me in a better mood!

How to freeze your fresh waffles: cook as normal and let them cool for
a few minutes. Put them in the freezer on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes. Then
put them in freezer bags. They keep for a few weeks. To reheat: put syrup on
them and nuke for 45 seconds or so. That’s how I like ’em.

Bread bread bread bread

(update 9-14-09: I don’t use a bread machine any more. Now I always make it by hand and it takes no time at all. Read how!)

My mom got me a bread maker for Christmas ’96 (thanks mom!) and I just love it.
It’s wonderful. My favorite so far is the basic Buttermilk recipe in Beth
Hensperger’s Bread. I also really liked the rye bread in Shea MacKenzie’s
The Bread Machine Gourmet. I have a real weakness for bread stuff. I’m
just a carbo-lover. My old roommate in Watertown, Adam has this friend who owns
a bread bakery in JP. Every week, he brought home the most amazing loafs of
bread. Someday I’ll try to recreate his amazing raisin-rye loaf.

In case you’re interested, I own a Breadman Ultimate and just love it.
The loaf pan is a very pleasing shape, the motor never has trouble with fruits
or nuts. The drop-in tray is nice but a bit small, only allowing 1/2 cup of
stuff. Sometimes it sits on the counter for a month before making bread. When I
get into it, I make 2 loaves a week.

Here is the manual for the Breadman Ultimate. Most useful for your own personal settings are the Baking Cycles on page 15.

When on my own, I usually start with the “Standard Bread Recipe”
that came with the maker and make modifications from it.breadman

1.5lb loaf
1 cup + 3 tbsp. water
2 tbsp oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp dry milk
3 1/4 cups bread flour
1 5/6 tsp dry yeast

I often substitute molasses for the sugar, and throw whatever nuts, candy,
condiments, spices or what not I’ve got around. I recently threw in a can of
chicken soup (reducing the salt and water appropriately) and the loaf came
out… just fine! The lesson being, as long as you get the moisture and salt
content right, it’s hard to screw it up. Sometimes, you’ll add something that
makes the yeast unhappy. Apparently the vinegar in relish makes yeast grow just
1/2 as much. My relish-loaf came out pretty dense.

2-20-03 update: At the suggestion of my dad, I tried
dropping a can of anchovies into a loaf. I think he was mostly kidding when he
suggested it, but hey, that’s what you get when you suggest Anchovy Loaf to me!
It came out pretty good.. a little dense, a little dark. It has this specialty-loaf
appeal. Like maybe I should slice it really thin, dry out the slices and serve
it under crostini or fancy hors d’oeuvres. But I’ve got to say, it doesn’t make
a very good peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Ick!

Now, back to my original article….

I sometimes use Lora Brody’s Bread
Dough Enhancer. As advertised, it gives the bread a nice texture and rise.

Here is a terrific Buttermilk bread. So simple!   (For a machine,
cut this recipe in half or one-third)

1 tablespoon dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups warm buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon salt
6 to 6 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour

Tips:

-When using powdered buttermilk, just follow the directions on the box. No

need to mix the powder into the water before running the machine.

-I usually use 2 tablespoons molasses, 1 tablespoon sugar instead of honey for a
great flavor. 3 tablespoons of molasses might add too much flavor and color.

-If you take it out of the breadmaker and form it by hand, you can make

a great glaze with 1/4 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons water. Spread on with a paper

towel, then sprinkle with fennel seeds, sesame, whatever.

Here’s an excerpt from a letter I sent to my friend “Munky Babe” on
12/3/99:

I own a Breadman Ultimate. They sell for about $200.
the breadpan is loaf shaped with is really really nice. Most have a more
pillar shaped loaf pan which makes slightly weird but perfectly good bread.
I have seen other people's machines with their pillar-like loaves  and really
wanted this shape.

I rarely use the other features of the machine. IE making jelly & dough.
But a friend uses the dough setting all the time. She has the machine knead the
dough and then she shapes it into pretty shapes like braided hallah. 

I sometimes make 2lb loaves but usually make 1 1/2lb ones. 2 lbs is pretty big.

When making bread for a party or something, I can speed things up by making
a batch of dough (4 cups of flour, 2 loaves worth) in 1hr or so and finishing
it by hand and putting another batch in the machine. This way, I get 4 loaves
in about 4 hrs. But that's about as fast as you can churn out bread.

It's nice having a delay timer, setting it to start at 5am & waking up to hot
bread.

The Breadman Ultimate takes a large piece of counter space. The thing is pretty
heavy so you don't want to have to move it 2x a week to make bread. I was at
BJ's recently and saw a 2lb bread maker that did loaf style and it was actually
smaller than my unit. Since my unit is 3 years old, I'm not suprised they've
got smaller ones out there.

You might get some help from a mailing list:

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When shopping, I kept hearing "make sure you get one with a strong enough
motor." Well, I could never find any reviews that compared motor strength
head-to-head so that was never a useful comment...

PS, you probably already know this but I'm very happy with my machine.
As a matter of fact, while I was writing this, a loaf came out and I had some.
It's yummie! ...white bread + some sour cream + chocolate covered raisins +
a weird coconut milk cookie I bought that is ALL fat & sugar and gross as a
cookie but good as a cooking ingredient + a little tumeric for color... WEEE!
(and yes, it was good, my roomate tried it and smiled)

Hope I helped!
lee

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