Sunday, April 29, 2012

Kaiser Rolls

Mister and I have a friend who's coming to stay for nearly two weeks. In an endeavor to have food at home, we actually bought cold-cuts. This means that we needed either bread or rolls. Being much more a fan of rolls for sandwiches, I figured I'd make some rolls with my sourdough starter.

I had had a sponge in the fridge getting sadder and sadder for almost a week, so I tried to wake it up first. I added another cup of flour, a half cup of water, and put it in a warm oven. As it rose quite beautifully, I searched for roll recipes. I based my rolls upon this recipe. I poured one cup of bread flour on the counter, added 4 tsp of salt, about 3 or 4 Tbs of sugar, 3 Tbs of powdered milk, and another cup of bread flour on top of that. I whisked it all together and into a flat circle. I poured my healthy sponge onto this dry mix and proceeded to combine the two. While kneading this all, I also added about 4 Tbs of oil, in 4 increments and a single egg. After working it all together, I let it rest for about 5 minutes while I washed out and oiled the bowl. Re-kneaded the bread for a few minutes, then put it in the oiled bowl to rise in a warm oven.

After it had doubled in size, I dumped it on the counter (the oil helped prevent sticking), and divided it into 16. I shaped each piece into a little ball, and placed it on an oiled pan while working with the others. After balling each of the 16 balls, I then covered the balls with a damp towel while shaping the rolls.

To shape the rolls, I based it off of these directions. I sprinkled rye flour over the counter, and flattened a ball on the flour. Picking up little bits of the edge, I brought the edge into the center much like folding flower petals inward and with the final one, gave the center a good smoosh. I inverted the rolls onto a dish of poppy seeds, and put it poppy-seed-down on a pan lined with parchment paper. After all of the rolls had been shaped, I covered them with plastic and let them rise overnight in the now-cool oven.

This morning, I preheated the oven to 425F and, after turning each roll poppy-side-up, baked the rolls for ~25 mins, rotating the trays halfway through the bake.< br />
The only thing that I would do differently for the next batch is to twist the "petals" of the kaiser knot as I brought them to the center, as most of my rolls recombined and didn't have distinct markings on the top. But they're delicious! Mister and I have already made a breakfast sandwich with them with great success.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Grape Bitters

So remember when, a few years back, I gathered lots of wild Concord grapes and made grape cider and grape bitters? Well, I hadn't quite finished making the bitters.

I had soaked the grape skins and pits in grain alcohol for months, and did eventually strain it, but that is as much as I did. I even moved it into this place amongst the fridge items as purple colored grain alcohol. I got sick and tired of not working with it, so I figured I'd do some more research and finish it up.

Basing my recipe on this process, I steeped a mix of spices in my grape alcohol for two weeks, shaking it every day. I am now bringing to a boil water with my strained spices, and I will let that steep for a week, shaking every day. I will then restrain it, and add both the water and burned sugar to my alcohol. And that will be my bitters!

The spices that I used for 1/2 cup of alcohol are as follows: 4 pieces of fresh lemon peel, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 cardamom pod, ~40 rosemary leaves, 5 black peppercorns, 6 allspice berries, ~25 coriander pods. The spices are steeping in 1 cup of water, and I will use 1/5 cup burned sugar.

Hopefully this will be tasty!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Easter, Round Two

So Mister's mother, two sisters and a soon-to-be brother-in-law (I think we won't be related but he's a nice guy so I'll claim him!) were at our apartment Sunday for Easter. Mister's mother is Greek Orthodox (sometimes Russian, depending upon the community she finds), so she celebrated a week later than Rome this year.

In preparation for this visit, as Mister's older sister and fiance had never seen our apartment, Mister and I cleaned like fury. Saturday, I washed tons of dishes and cleaned the kitchen top to bottom, all while prepping bread and intending to make rice pie (we put the oven on self-clean instead, and that takes 3.5 hours. Nothing else was getting baked THAT night!). While doing this, Mister was running loads of laundry and putting away the massive piles of laundry that were on our floor. Did you know that you can WALK in our bedroom now? Shocking! Our energy fizzled out, and that was all that we tackled Saturday.

Sunday, we cleaned the rest of the house. I beat carpets outside, dusted all of the baseboards and chair rails (they're white -- it's super obvious when they're dusty), cleaned the bathroom top to bottom, and cooked. Mister got the main task of removing all of the schlock from the main rooms and either finding homes, or consolidating them in the study.

I did not take pictures of the food, because a) there was no one unified time when all the food was out and b) I was so busy chatting I didn't think about it.

But the food score! Mister's mother brought: greek meatballs, candy, baklava, eggs (which stayed in the car?), and greek olives which we never got into.

We bought or made: sourdough bread (made), bagels and cream cheese (bought), crackers and cheese (bought and didn't eat), horseradish and beets (made), rice pie (made), roast lamb (made), kielbasa (bought). I think that's about it. There was lots of food, to say the least.

Thanks to my beloved Rimi, our roast lamb turned out delicious! This was the way we cooked it (in her words):
I'd say about five to eight cloves of garlic, depending how large your leg of lamb is, plus half your average supermarket bunch of oregano, plus the juice of one lemon/half an orange/one small tangerine, plus a little bit of the sun-dried (or lightly toasted) peel of said lemon/orange, grated -- but taste this before adding to make sure it isn't bitter -- and some salt, olive oil, and black pepper.

Personally, I like rubbing in a little pureed or plain chopped tomato myself, but you'll have to decide whether you like tomatoes in the mix. Someone once told me adding some de-seeded, diced olives to the roasting mix is also a great idea, but I've never tried this myself. The basic trick lies in the citrus juice, garlic, oregano, and oil, and in making enough incisions all over the lamb and really rubbing the spices in. If you manage to do that, you're set :-)

We roasted it surrounded by potatoes and a few shallots. We might have cooked it a little long, but it was delicious and tender. We also added a bit more lemon juice and olive oil and marinated it over night to really work that flavoring in. Mister said that the lemon peel really did the trick. Thanks!

All in all, everyone liked our house, our hospitality and our aptitude for cooking. I do so love hosting events.

Monday, April 16, 2012

11 Questions

Continuing the questionaire that I picked up from Francesca.

1) What's your favorite meal? Probably mac and cheese. I also love steak, and ham, and sausage, and brussel sprouts, and...

2) What would you do if someone gave 1 million dollars? Put it into savings. And then probably buy a house when we find one.

3) Where do you see yourself in the future? Still in this area, maybe with cute little animals? Hopefully?

4) Which country/place do you want to necessarily see in your life? I want to go somewhere where I at least partially know the language to try and communicate in a foreign language. I've got a bit of French and Russian so far...

5) What moment made you very happy? Only one? I think after any success (such as how fabulous my bread turned out yesterday) I get quite happy.

6) What's your favorite author? (May we change that to 'who'?) Hmm... probably Vonnegut. I haven't read a thing of his that I didn't like.

7) What do you want to necessarily do in your life? Make food and eat it.

8) What movie made you happy? I want to say that the movie we saw last night made me happy (Cabin in the Woods) but it was scary as all get out. I really like the movie version of Chicago.

9) What are you afraid of? Confrontations.

10) What moment in your youth do you love to remember? Having a half day at school and going to the bridge with all of my friends. We'd sit and dangle our feet, nom snacks, and play in the creek. The fact that our parents didn't know where we were made it that much better.

11) Which season do you like the best? Honestly, I think spring. I get so excited seeing all the flowers coming up, how bright and happy everything is, I just wish it were warmer and less wet.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

New Beginnings!

I recently nursed started back to health. Last Saturday, in fact. I probably had ignored her for almost a month -- if not more! She had a solid inch of alcohol on top when I finally pulled her jar out and was all huddled in the bottom of the jar. But with warm air, warm clean jars, and fresh food, she soon perked right back up.

I pulled her out to feed today, although I probably could have done this yesterday or maybe even Tuesday. I had PLANS for her today. But when I washed out my Official Starter Mixing Bowl and tried to pour some starter in, she refused to budge. I shook the jar a bit. She made a huffing noise as air whooshed in and out. Left with no recourse, I pulled out a big spoon and ruthlessly divided her in half.

And onto the project! Y'see, Mister and I have been sneakily, behind starter's back, looking into recipes for rye bread. Apparently, most traditional german rye breads were sourdough based and cooked over a looooooooooong time to get that dark color (it's now common to use caramel coloring and cook it faster). With that in mind, we even bought rye flour. We bought this... oh probably close to two months ago now. And today I implemented it.

Half of starter got fed with rye flour and water. The other half got fed with all purpose and water, like normal. It did mean that this feeding I would not be able to bake, as when dividing in half, normally with the second half one would make two loaves of bread.

But so now I have two little jars of starter in the fridge. We'll see how the rye comes out! I probably won't be able to bake with it for at least 3 feedings or so, as I want the rye to be the dominant flavor.

Monday, April 9, 2012


So Easter with my family did not happen as planned. It turned out that Mister and I got sick over the weekend. A quick jaunt to the doctor's today verified that we each had strep. This would be Mister's second bout of it in as many weeks, and my first lately.

Because of the lack of traveling, Mister and I had Easter at home. I've been pining for such feasts as my family always prepares, so I attempted to recreate it, with a fair amount of success!

Here is our lovely table set with the new china from my mother, Warwick AB9428, and a couple of vintage embroidered cloths. Mister and I had our dear friend M stop by to eat with us. Set on the table you can see: sliced ham, sliced sausage (it claimed to be kielbasa but it lied!), cottage cheese, butter, horseradish and beets, hardboiled eggs (green Americauna eggs, so they sorta look dyed :-P), and bread under the embroidered napkin.

The recipe I used for the horseradish and beets is this one. I only used 3 good sized beets in lieu of the 10-12 small ones they call for. In retrospect, I should have used far more horseradish than I used. Also, it's surprisingly difficult to grate! It flakes more than grates.

I wound up making close to 4 cups of horseradish and beets. AND I managed to do it without staining my kitchen counters, any cutting boards, or my hands! Victory!

When making the paska bread, I based it off of this recipe. I halved the recipe, but kept the same amount of eggs, added in craisins (I didn't have golden raisins on hand and I hate cooked dark raisins). I also didn't have sour cream, but I DID have that cottage cheese I bought... so I mixed a bit of cottage cheese with vanilla almond milk and a dash of white vinegar. I shaped it into a boule, not a ring. I also removed the handle of our small 2 quart saucepan to bake it. It also took it much closer to an hour to bake due to it's shape.

Here it is baking.

This is all that remains now! It was a success -- although it could have used a bit more sugar and perhaps another egg or two -- or maybe just the yolks for color? But it was a good substitute for paska bread.

Aside from that, two things remain regarding my Easter.

We bought a little pot of daffodils! When we bought it Saturday, it had no blooms. On Easter morning, it had 2. By that afternoon, it had 4. And it now has 6. It's a cute little plant.

I dyed my first yarn! Since I had to boil beets, I had all this gorgeous beet water. So I boiled some peruvian wool from knitpicks for about an hour, while I was prepping other things Saturday night. But when rinsing, it turned out to be yellow (it is much closer to goldenrod color than is evident in the picture). Who knew?

And that was my exciting Easter!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter Festivities

I was telling my studio prof that I've been looking forward to April -- it is the month of tasty food. This weekend, Mister and I go to two Easter celebrations. Saturday is Easter dinner at my step-sister's house, and Sunday is Easter breakfast at my mother's house. Fast forward to NEXT Sunday, and Mister's mother and sister stop by for Pascha dinner. And then Mister's birthday is at the end of this month. Lots of tasty food!

I don't know what my step-sister will be serving, but Easter breakfast is highly proscribed. It's ham, kielbasa, cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, horseradish and beets, and a rich, eggy, raisin-studded bread. So delicious. I dream of this meal all year. Luckily for me, I haven't had to deal with plaintive cries of "oh, you can't come home to do eggs?" as I've had to hear ever since I turned 18 and went to college. Since I left for college, I've never lived closer than 4 hours from my mother. No, I'm not going home to do eggs.

[I DID still have problems with mom concerning Easter. For some reason, she's convinced that the best way for us to get to my stepsisters is to go to my mother's house in Albany (3+ hrs), drive down to NYC with her (3+ hrs) and back. FYI, it's ALSO 3+ hrs to drive straight to NYC from Boston -- which is the option we've taken, and there are apparently hurt feelings involved. Wtf.]

Apparently for his mother's Pascha celebration, there aren't really hard and fast traditions like there are for my family. All that is required is lamb, which we are providing. The reason why it's at OUR house this year is because of his kid sister's boarding school. She only has the Sunday off, and rather than drive 6+ hours home and 6+ hours back, they are going to drive the 3+ hours to OUR house and back.

I'm honestly looking forward to roasting a lamb leg for the first time! Maybe next year we'll have a spit in the backyard... :-D