Saturday, December 23, 2006

grandmas bread 2006

Made the bread today, per last years recipe, with some modifications:

  1. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hr 20 minutes (this was grandma's original specification)
  2. Made 3 loaves of bread with total dough batch
  3. Mix all ingredients, then split in 2 and knead in mixer; to each batch, add 4oz of flour
  4. Brush tops with melted butter before baking
  5. Brush tops with melted butter after baking


  1. Kneaded dough was still tacky, but not dry; probably just about perfect.
  2. Nice tender crumb, good lift & texture, not gummy/wet/sticky, but could use a more defined structure (springy with lots of little air holes is optimum)
  3. Crust was too thick and hard; needs to be more chewy

To try next time:

  1. Try baking at 375 degrees for less time (see #2)
  2. Try 375 temp with 35 to 45 minutes baking time, or until loaf sounds hollow when lightly tapped.
  3. Try placing loaves on baking stone on lowest shelf

Some info on Rye Flour (from the Baking 911 site):

"Using rye flour yields baked goods that are moist and dense, with a slightly sour flavor. The gluten in rye is similar in character to the gluten in pastry flour, which is low, so it is often used in combination with wheat flour (bread flour or all-purpose). The wheat flour is included in order to make a gluten structure strong enough to form a framework that will hold the gases released from the yeast.

Light rye flour can be successfully substituted for 40 percent of wheat flour in a recipe without loss of volume. Medium and dark rye flours should be limited to 30 percent and 20 percent, respectively, of the total flour amount.

Rye flour also has a much higher percentage of carbohydrate gums, which make rye dough stickier to work with than wheat, so don't add extra flour when kneading. On the up side, the substances which yield the sugars in rye that the yeast feeds on, break down very easily so they usually ferment well."

Friday, December 15, 2006


2001 Woodenhead Zin
I really like Woodenhead wines.

One of the best wines I ever had, in fact. A very memorable dinner with my lady featured this Woodenhead wine:

2001 Braccialini Vineyards Zinfandel, Alexander Valley. Medium dark ruby, fragrant, wild berry, anise, pumpkin pie spice and sage on the nose. Sweet blackberry, vanilla, cedar, spice and anise on the palate. Very forward, very big and rich, powerful, full-bodied, yet elegant. Killer juice! Alc. 16.8%, 417 cases produced.

Looking at it now, wow, very high alcohol! But it was hands down, "killer", absolutely delicious!

freezing infrequently used items

Some great tips for freezing things. Certain things freeze really well, and are convenient to use in small amounts:
  • Pesto
  • Pureed chipotle en adobo
  • Chicken stock
  • Tomato paste
For things that are really runny (like chicken stock), I pour the liquid into ice cube trays, freeze them, then pop it out into a freezer bag, from which I can get a few cubes as needed. Even better: if you measure out how much liquid goes into each ice cube, you'll know exactly how much to add to your dish!

For things that are really thick (like tomato paste), I cover a small plate or cookie sheet with parchment, spoon out some ice-cube sized globs and let them freeze, then bag 'em up as well.

Certain other fresh or prepared foods freeze really well:
  • meatballs
  • won tons or other dumplings
  • certain fresh berries
  • fresh peppers (red, green, even jalapenos!)

"da best" roast chicken

This is a roast chicken I made a few weeks ago, based on Tyler Florence's "Ultimate Chicken" recipe. The pan sauce is especially delicious!

Roast Chicken with Pan Sauce

5 cloves garlic, minced + 1/2 head garlic, trimmed so cloves are exposed
1/4 lb. butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 orange
2 onions, peeled and halved
1/2 bunch each: Fresh oregano, thyme and parsley
6 strips bacon (optional; I didn't use them)
1 roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Preheast oven to 425 F.

Remove giblets (liver, gizzard, etc.) from chicken cavity and save, if desired (gizzard is good for stock!). Rinse inside and outside of chicken well. Pat dry with paper towels, and set aside.

Finely chop 1/2 of herbs (oregano, thyme and parsley). Add herbs and minced garlic to butter, and mash together thoroughly.

Take some of the butter/herb mixture, and stuff it under the skin of the chicken. Take the remaining butter and rub it all over the outside of the chicken. Season inside cavity and outside with salt & pepper.

Stuff cavity with orange, garlic head, 1 halved onion, and remaining herbs. Tie legs together, and place in roasting pan. Add remaining onion and garlic cloves to pan.

Place bacon across the top of the chicken.

Roast for 25 minutes; then remove bacon, baste and cook for at least 25 minutes more, or until the internal temperature of the chicken meat reaches 165 degrees.

Remove from oven, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile, prepare Pan Sauce.

Pan Sauce

Roasting pan drippings
2 tbsp. flour
1.5 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup sherry

Skim excess fat from roasting pan drippings (there will be a good amount of fat, due to the butter and chicken fat). Remove onion and garlic from pan.

Heat roasting pan on the stove, add flour to form a paste, and cook for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in chicken broth, and heat until bubbly. Add sherry and cook for about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Carve the breasts off the chicken, serve (as I did) with twice baked potatoes and garlic green beans. Freeze the carcass to make and/or fortify chicken stock later.

TO DO (next time)

  1. Beckey thought is was totally delicious, but would like more garlic
  2. Skim that gravy fat! It wasn't terrible, but the gravy was a tiny bit greasy.
  3. You can really taste the sherry in the gravy. Reduce the quantity if it bothers you. Or, maybe add sherry first (to let it cook off), then flour, then stock.
UPDATE 2007-09-10

More tips:

Pour off fat completely. Use less sherry. Use sherry to deglaze cooking pan FIRST before adding flour. I think the sherry flavor is a bit strong. Or, try using a non-sherry wine, like a sauvignon blanc.

Monday, December 04, 2006

blue cheese for wings

So I've seen a lot of recipes for blue cheese dressing/dip for chicken wings, and every one of them involves mayonnaise. I tried using Miracle Whip (we didn't have mayo), and I abhor the sickly sweet flavor it provides. Might be fine for sandwiches, not for blue cheese dip.

So after some experimenting, I came up with one that appears to work pretty well.

Blue Cheese Dip

4oz of mild blue cheese, such as Danish Rosenborg, crumbled
1/4 cup plain yogurt
16oz (1 tub) sour cream
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp freshly ground pepper
2 tsp. thyme, dried
1 tsp. oregano, dried
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. white (or white wine) vinegar

In a large bowl, mash blue cheese and yogurt with fork. Combine yogurt mixture with remaining ingredients, and stir thoroughly. Adjust salt & pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to have flavors blend together. Serve with carrot sticks and fried chicken wings.

try increasing vinegar to 2 tsp or 1 tbsp.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Orange-Flavored Chicken

This recipe is courtesy of America's Test Kitchen. I'm always on the hunt for the best orange chicken recipes, and ATK has yet to really let me down in terms of overall recipe quality.

"We prefer the flavor and texture of thigh meat for this recipe, though an equal amount of boneless skinless chicken breasts can be used. It is easiest to grate the orange zest and remove the strips of orange peel before juicing the oranges; use a sharp vegetable peeler to remove the strips. For extra spiciness, increase the cayenne added to the sauce to 1/2 teaspoon. The whole dried chiles are added for appearance, not for flavor, and can be omitted. To fry the chicken, use a Dutch oven or a straight-sided sauté pan (with at least 3-quart capacity); do not use a 12-inch skillet with sloped sides, as it will be too small to contain the oil once the chicken is added. White rice and steamed broccoli are good accompaniments. "

Serves 4

Marinade and Sauce
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs , trimmed and cut in 1 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup
low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup orange juice , plus 1 1/2 teaspoons grated zest, and 8 strips orange peel (each about 2 inches long by 1/2 inch wide) from 2 oranges
6 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 piece fresh ginger (about 1 inch), grated (1 tablespoon)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch , plus 2 teaspoons
2 tablespoons water (cold)
8 small whole dried red chiles (optional)
Coating and Frying Medium
3 large egg whites
1 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups peanut oil

1. FOR THE MARINADE AND SAUCE: Place chicken in 1-gallon zipper-lock bag; set aside. Combine chicken broth, orange juice, grated zest, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, and cayenne in large saucepan (with at least 3-quart capacity); whisk until sugar is fully dissolved. Measure out 3/4 cup mixture and pour into bag with chicken; press out as much air as possible and seal bag, making sure that all pieces are coated with marinade. Refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes, but no longer.

2. Bring remaining mixture in saucepan to boil over high heat. In small bowl, stir together cornstarch and cold water; whisk cornstarch mixture into sauce. Simmer sauce, stirring occasionally, until thick and translucent, about 1 minute. Off heat, stir in orange peel and chiles (sauce should measure 1 1/2 cups); set sauce aside.

3. FOR THE COATING: Place egg whites in pie plate; using fork, beat until frothy. In second pie plate, whisk cornstarch, cayenne, and baking soda until combined. Drain chicken in colander or large mesh strainer; thoroughly pat chicken dry with paper towels. Place half of chicken pieces in egg whites and turn to coat; transfer pieces to cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly. Place dredged chicken pieces on wire rack set over baking sheet; repeat with remaining chicken.

4. TO FRY THE CHICKEN: Heat oil in 11- to 12-inch Dutch oven or straight-sided sauté pan with at least 3-quart capacity over high heat until oil registers 350 degrees on instant-read or deep-fry thermometer. Carefully place half of chicken in oil one piece at a time; fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning each piece with tongs halfway through cooking. Transfer chicken to large plate lined with paper towels. Return oil to 350 degrees and repeat with remaining chicken.

5. TO SERVE: Reheat sauce over medium heat until simmering, about 2 minutes. Add chicken and gently toss until evenly coated and heated through. Serve immediately.

Secrets to great orange chicken (according to ATK):

1. Soy-orange marinade keeps chicken juicy.
2. Patting marinated chicken dry helps chicken adhere.
3. Beaten egg white acts as "glue," securing coating to chicken.
4. Cornstarch and baking soda coating fries up golden and crisp.
5. Frying in peanut oil produces chicken with fresh, clean flavor.