Strange Brouhaha

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Reinventing the Wheel

People tell you not to reinvent the wheel, but I think there's a certain amount of merit in going through steps that thousands of people have gone through before, even if you all arrive at exactly the same conclusion.

I've been baking a lot recently, for example, and I finally figured out that they're really not kidding when they say that you get the best results when you measure your ingredients by weight. The banana bread recipe that I got from my mom improved remarkably when I stopped using the swoop-and-scrape method for the flour and started using a scale to measure instead. It went from far too crumby to absolutely perfect.

They're also not kidding when they say that the temperature at which yeast breads rise affects the final product. All of the baking books and theory guides spell this out in gory detail, but until you see for yourself that it really does make a difference, it's all just words on paper. I baked a couple of loaves of sandwich bread last weekend, and the only major difference between the loaves I baked then and the loaves I baked today is that last weekend, the second rise was at about 70 degrees while today's second rise was...mmm, high-80s. It made a major difference in the finished product's density and flavor. (I proofed them in the oven, with the oven off and the light on and a pan of super-hot tap water underneath. Works great. Last weekend, I forgot and turned the oven on while I was shaping the dough into loaves, which was why they had to rise at room temperature.)

I went a little overboard today. Two loaves of bread, a meatloaf, and a HUGE amount of apple crisp which we will have coming out of our ears for the entire week. It's all so good, though. If you want some, come by. I'm betting that the bread and the meatloaf are going to make some pretty tasty sandwiches at lunchtime tomorrow.


  • (Josh) No more low carb?

    For best results, be sure to use Betty Crocker and Gold Medal baking products. ;)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:29 AM  

  • (Ham)
    Since we're on the topic, I recommend highly the following recipe for those not watching carbs.

    2T extra-virgin olive oil
    6oz 1/4in thick sliced pancetta, cut into strips about 1in long and 1/4in wide.
    1 medium onion, chiopped fine
    1/2t red pepper flakes, or to taste
    2-1/2c canned diced tomatoes
    1lb linguine
    1/3c grated pecorino cheese
    a little bit of fresh basil

    Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a stockpot. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer pancetta with slotted spoon to paper-towel-lined plate; set aside. If necessary, drain all but 2T fat from skillet. Add onion to skillet; suate over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add pepper flakes and cook to release their flavor, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and salt to taste; simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

    While sauce is simmering, add 1T salt and the pasta to boiling water. Sytir to separate and cook until pasta is al dente; drain and return pasta to stockpot. Add pancetta to tomato sauce and adjust seasonings with salt. Add sauce to pot with pasta and toss over low heat to combine, about 30 seconds. Add pecorino and toss again; garnish with a small amount of fresh basil and serve immediately. 4 servings. 30 minutes cooking time?

    Pretty easy to make. I strenuously recommend not taking shortcuts with the pancetta or the pecorino. These flavors go very well together with everything else. Substituting bacon, or romano cheese will cause some loss of flavor.

    Hope you like it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:04 AM  

  • No more low carb. For now at least.

    That pasta recipe looks good.

    By Blogger Robert, at 11:01 AM  

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