Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Strawberry mole barbecue sauce - like a boss

Strong, spicy, overtones of chocolate, with strawberry flavors before the heat kicks in.

Yields about 1/2-2/3 cup sauce:

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tbs mustard (not yellow.  Seriously, use something that will put hair on your chest.)
1 jalapeño, finely chopped (keep the seeds.  See above.)
1/3 cup tomato sauce
2 Tbs molasses
1 Tbs brown sugar
4 strawberries, finely chopped
3 Tbs mole poblano paste

Nothing too special on prep for this.  Just mix everything up in a saucepan, heat on medium-low heat until it is near boiling, stirring constantly.  Allow the sauce to come to a very low boil, then remove from heat.  Let sit for several hours or overnight.  Pour through a fine mesh screen or cheesecloth, making sure to press out as much liquid as possible.  Save the pulp for flavoring tofu dishes.

Sauce over pan-fried tofu and red swiss chard with red peppers blanched with garlic and jalapeño 

Rye with coffee, chocolate, and molasses

A hearty, rich bread - deep brown with all flavors coming through nicely.

For 3 medium loaves:

1 cup rye flour
6 cups all-purpose or high-gluten flour
3 cups lukewarm water
2 tsp Turkish ground coffee or instant espresso powder (add an extra teaspoon for extra machismo)
1 Tbs dark brown sugar
2 Tbs robust molasses
2 Tbs cocoa powder or finely shaved dark chocolate
1.5 Tbs active dry yeast (2 packets quick rise)

Mix the flours and yeast together in a large bowl. Whisk in the coffee and chocolate.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the water, molasses, and brown sugar.  Mix with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are all incorporated, turn out onto a floured work space and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Let rise in a covered 6-quart container for several hours.  The dough can then be refrigerated for up to 10 days.

When ready to bake, cut off a third of the dough and shape quickly into a round, using as little flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.  Let the dough sit for at least 45 minutes, longer if it has been refrigerated so that it comes to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  If you want a crustier loaf, put a cast iron or oven-safe dish in the oven when preheating and add 1/2 cup ice for steam when you put the loaf in.  Slash the loaf and transfer to the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes at 450, then turn the oven down to 400 and bake for an additional 25-35 minutes, until the crust is a rich brown.

The great thing about this bread is that you can play a lot with the flavorings.  Different types of coffee, chocolate, and molasses will all add to the bread's flavor.  Play with the amount of coffee and chocolate for lighter or richer flavors.  Use instant espresso or typical espresso blends for a typical coffee flavor, or experiment with more unique and exotic coffees.  Play with the bake time and temperature - this bread can take a longer bake time if you add ice to a dish in the first 15 minutes of baking.  If you don't use the dough all at once, the flavors will change as the dough sits in the fridge, with an almost sourdough undertone developing after 4-6 days.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Just some breads

20% wheat

High gluten

Thyme infused

Barbeque Tofu Sandwiches

Small, savory, filling.  The sauce is nice and tangy with a hint of heat.  I used homemade rolls which added a nice flavor.

Makes 6-8 sandwiches

1 package, extra firm tofu
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup mustard
1.5 Tbs robust molasses 
2 Tbs dark brown sugar
1 tsp hot sauce (More to taste.  A lot more to prove your wo/manliness)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mustard, greens, onion to garnish

Press the tofu for 2+ hours, getting as much liquid as possible out of the block.  Slice into 1/4 inch strips.

Mix the vinegar, tomato sauce, mustard, sugar, molasses, hot sauce, salt and pepper in a sauce pan.  Heat over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the sauce begins to thicken.  Remove from heat.

Transfer about 1 cup of the sauce to an oven dish and add the tofu.  Add more sauce to cover if needed.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Add the tofu and sauce from the oven dish to the sauce pan and cook over low heat for 20 minutes.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Unfiltered Ginger Beer

This was my first, albeit small, step into home brewing.  The goal: a basic ginger beer (think Canadian Dry with gingery chutzpah.)  Rather than use some commercial soda extract or concentrate, I decided to make a simple ginger-infused syrup and work from there.  After a lot of research into home soda making, this was the result:


1.5 cups dark brown sugar
.5 cup granulated sugar
7-9 inches ginger
1-3 limes
64 oz. water
3/16 tsp active yeast

microplane grater/zester
fine mesh strainer
large boiling pot
bottle(s) capable of holding contents under pressure

Peel the ginger root and start in on it with the microplane.  I used a full 7 inch piece for this 64 oz. batch, but more or less can be used to taste.  Make sure to collect all the liquid and pulp that is produced.

Mix 24 oz. water with the brown sugar and dissolve over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.  Once the sugar is dissolved, add the ginger.  An easy way to ensure that none of the ginger goes to waste is to rinse the microplane with 8-16 oz. of water and add that to the pot.

Add the granulated sugar and another 24 oz. water (subtracting any added from rinsing the microplane.)  As the sugar dissolves, squeeze in the juice of the limes.  1 lime will add a subtle acidity to a 64 oz. batch.  For an additional layer in the flavor, add the zest of the lime.  Use more limes to taste.  Stir constantly until the mixture reaches 150 degrees.  Let the mixture sit over very low heat for about 10 minutes.  Add the remaining water.

Cool rapidly in an ice or cold water bath.  Let the mixture sit, covered for several hours.  Once the mixture has had time to sit and mellow, you can start bottling.  Make sure that the bottles you are using are sanitized.  Add the yeast to the mixture.  Decant the mixture through the strainer into a bottling barrel or directly into the bottles.  While this will remove the majority of the ginger root and any zest added, there will be ginger solids in the final product.  After the bottles are sealed, place them in a dark area that is between 65-80 degrees.

Thus begins the fermentation process.  Because there is no airlock or mechanism to release the CO2 bi-product of the fermentation, the process needs to be retarded and eventually stopped through cooling.  So, after about 48 hours, toss the bottles in the fridge!  This provides enough time for the yeast to chew through enough sugar to produce adequate carbonation, but not enough time to develop noticeable amounts of alcohol.

A couple of notes:

  • Too much yeast, especially if it is generic active dry yeast, will create a bready flavor and excessive amounts of carbonation which can lead to exploding bottles and/or a very messy kitchen floor when the bottles are first opened.
  • You can add a variety of spices to the mixture prior to straining and bottling.  Vanilla, cloves, bay leaf, or any other aromatic that will play well with the spicy ginger.
  • For this batch, I used a single 2 liter growler for bottling and slightly more yeast than is called for in the above recipe.  
    • Some recipes I found call for 1/8 tsp active yeast per 24 oz. liquid.  This seemed a little high, so I went with 1/8 tsp active yeast per 32 oz.  I lowered the yeast content in the recipe since the growler was...slightly over-carbonated...
Next steps:
  • play with different sweeteners: honey and molasses come to mind
  • more complex flavoring: lower the sugar content and add spices.  Maybe dramatically lower the sugar content and bottle with a touch of priming sugar.
  • not having 1/3 of my batch empty onto the kitchen floor, table, and counter.