Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Bread Story

Naturally Leavened Pain de "Simcha"

100g high protein bread flour
50g hard whole wheat flour (atta flour)
50g rosh hashanah starter (explained below)
1 (heavy) pinch salt
100g water
1 tbsp oil (to work the dough and grease the bowl)

Add enough water to the dry ingredients to make a moist dough. I went for 150g flour to 100g water, which was just nice. Then I let everything rise for 7 hours, overnight, until it was really, really, risen. Then I shaped the bread into a round (is it a boule?) and did a cross-slice in the middle. It is sitting on a tray, spread generously with cornmeal, and rising at this moment in the toaster oven.
Yes, that's right. I hate heating up the huge oven to do crafted breads, because the temperature requirements I am afraid will sky-rocket the electricity bill. So I make tiny loaves, and do them in my parents' really  lovely, new Panasonic toaster oven that has temperature adjustments and gives me the perfect crispy crust and well-done insides I desire, at about 220C and below.
This is the first time I have scored the bread, because before, I never had a knife or razor sharp enough not to completely botch the surface. Now, I received a Swiss deboning knife for my birthday. It is sharp and flexible, and made my first beautiful (but very imperfect) score. But I am happy, and oh-so-pleased.

The Starter
 The starter is a big of a strange experiment, a cocktail of natural yeast (fermentation of raisins, sugar, and water), alcohol, and solid fermented fruit parts.
1) The first step, was me experimenting with natural yeast starters and raisins. Using the raisin yeast water, I attempted to multiply it alla' sourdough without the  sour part. But it turned sour. I hate sour! Sourdough has been a big failure for me, and I have attempted to eat almost all of the mishaps and i do not wish to do so again.

2) The second step was me giving up temporarily on using the raisin yeast water for bread- so let is be wine. I kept adding cordial to the raisin water, and sugar, and syrup. I brewed and fermented wine.
3) Meanwhile, the raisins used for the wine sat at the back of the fridge, still full of yeast.
4) One fine day, it was Rosh Hashanah 2012 and i wanted to try and make Rosh Hashanah charoset, which is basically apples and honey and wine, without the nuts. So I chopped an apple, added it to the fermented raisins, added some honey, added some watermelon fiber (strained out of fresh juice) and doused it with my blackcurrant cordial wine. And I went on a holiday, so I took it along to eat.
5) It so happened, that with all the bubbling yeast activity, I did not attempt to eat the charoset. So it came back home with me. I took it home, and blended it with water, and added flour, and voila - it is a yeast starter. It is stiff, and purplish in color. It is made of the oddest things, really, but it is a really effective starter. Several experiments with this has yielded bread with a delicious crumb and subtle aroma.

The beautiful yeast did it's work
So that's why I call with my Rosh Hashanah starter, because I started it on Rosh Hashanah. And I finally baked it into a proper bread with weight ingredients and everything, after Simchat Torah. So it is Pain de "Simcha".

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Useful Breasts of Chicken

Chicken Breasts are a useful and cheap cut of meat. Indeed, they are almost free of fat and bone, and thus easy to prepare. They can be purchased from the supermarket, and are from battery-factory-raised chickens.

1) Chicken breasts must be washed. I pumped them with ozone gas, which is a good sterilizer. You may also wash meat with salt, by soaking it in water for an hour and then putting them in a colander, salt them with cheap and rough salt, like kosher salt.

2) Stock and Floss. For a quick floss, boil the breasts in a saucepan, covered with water. Once the water comes to a boil, bring it down to a simmer. Add herbs if you wish, and also a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar, to help remove scum and to bring out the minerals in the meat. You may brown some onions in the saucepan before boiling the breasts, and also add vegetable such as carrot and celery to boil. After an hour or a half of simmering, you can remove the breasts and floss them with two forks into fine flosses. Chicken floss can be added to soups, to sandwiches, to salads, to casseroles, etc. The stock, too is very useful. DO NOT throw it away! It can be used in soups, stews, and casseroles.

3) Tender Fried Steaks. Chicken breasts don't make good fried meats at first. They turn out tough and dry. That occurs for two reasons: firstly, because they don't contain tenderizing fat, secondly, because they are thicker on one side than on the other, making it so that when one part is cooked, the other is dry. This can be solved by frying them in a healthful fat like olive oil or palm oil, and also by pounding them flat with a meat hammer, a pestle, or the side of a knife

Chicken breasts can be marinated and coated in many different tasty ways, such as with pesto, mayyonaise, cajun seasoning, lemon pepper seasoning. They should be browned at high heat on either side.

4) Stir-Fried Strips. After pounding the breasts flat, you may slice them into strips and pieces to be stir-fried. This cut is exceptionally good for Chinese cuisine, making soft and tasty pieces of chicken that you won't even recognize as "dry breasts".

To make spicy chicken stir-fry, you will need:

3 chicken breasts, pounded and  cut into strips
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup of garlic, chopped
10 tiny bird's eye chillis
3/4 cup of spring onions, chopped into 1 inch long strips

Season the breast strips with salt, pepper, cornstarch, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Marinade in the fridge.

Stir fry the garlic, ginger, and chili in oil until fragrant. Add the chicken and fry on high fire to sear. Reduce the fire and stir-fry the chicken. Mix in dark mushroom soy sauce. Turn off the fire and stir in the spring onions.
5) Flavorful Skin. The skin of the chicken, rendered, is a delicious fat and flavoring. I reccomend, however, using only the fat of fatty, yellow, free-range organic chickens that have been exposed to the sun. Learn how to make them here. It is used instead of lard in kosher cooking. Learn how to render the fat here,


Remember that it is always more frugal and healthy to use whole, unprocessed meats. For example, I prefer to buy bacon than to buy pork sausages. That way, I getting the full value of the money in actual meat, as opposed to lots of worthless fillers, chemicals, preservatives, colors, etc.  You can buy minced meat, or better still, mince your own meat, to make hamburgers, meatballs, meatloaf, etc. You can also buy large blocks of meat to corn and to make pastrami. These are good alternatives to supermarket processed meats.