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Saturday, July 10, 2004

not amazing

said silverton russian coffee cake below ought to be truly delicious.

there's no shortage of butter, sour cream, good things. and yet, as mr. right noted, "it lacks flavor somehow."

precisely, it's not sweet enough and it's too buttery. now, plenty of butter is a good thing.

but you don't want the product to feel greasy in your hand, which this does.

if i were to destroy my kitchen once again to make this monster, i'd reduce the butter by 1/3rd, double the sugar, use brown sugar, and more cinnamon and vanilla to the dough. . .

oh, and form it differently. it is in fact some kind of not-very-sweet chocolate babka.

silverton says to form it as 2 loaves, either free form or in pans. scratch that.

too much area wasted on crust. instead, make one large loaf -- use a springform pan if you don't have a loaf pan of the right size.

and finally, silverton suggests you bake it too long. she says an hour; i found 45 mins. was pushing it.

considering all the stuff in this recipe, it should taste better. but mr. right had to sprinkle extra sugar on top!

thank goodness i added the extra chocolate -- otherwise i would have been even more disappointed.

this could be a nice recipe if seriously tweaked. but why make all this effort when you could just make your standard chocolate babka?

me all confused. and now i have an entire loaf and a half of this left over. . .maybe i can make it into bread pudding or some kind of tiramisu-type thing.

posted by fortune | 8:10 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

a dream deferred. . .

last night i realized that the hope of the russian coffee cake was in danger of dying. it had to be acted upon immediately.

moved by this spirit, i opened nancy silverton's "pastries from the la brea bakery" (thanks again, marshall!) and pondered the recipe. this is an audio post - click to play her russian coffee cake looks more like a fancy chocolate babka to me than the 3-layered delight with walnuts, dried currants, and dried cherries found at the former royale kosher bakery, once a glory of the upper west side.

the royale's closing left an unhealable wound in the new york soul. . .but there it is.

silverton's recipe requires a rich batch of babka dough; a filling made of sour cream, chocolate cake crumbs, and chopped dark chocolate; and finally a sweet streusel topping.

the babka dough has to be made the night before. in doubt, i asked mr. right how he felt about the dilemma: chocolate filling or fruit filling?

without hesitation he replied: chocolate. which of course is why i married him. . .

but long-time readers know following other people's recipes exactly is not my forté. the longer i looked at silverton's, the more i saw room for improvements.

her basic babka dough looked fine. i made that last night, altho' i cut the butter into the flour a little smaller than she called for because i think that i'd rather have an all-over "flakier" dough than one with a few big buttery pockets.

making the filling this morning required more creativity. her sour cream base for the filling was just, well, sour cream. nonsense!

thus i improved it with a tablespoon of vanilla bean paste and a little cinnamon. much better.

the crumb filling was just, well, chocolate cake or cookie crumbs. again, i improved this by tossing home-made chocolate biscotti with almonds and store-bought chocolate-filled marbled pirouline into the food processor to grind together finely.

finally, she called for 3 oz. coarsely chopped chocolate. no, no, no. try 5 oz. of chocolate chunks.

some pieces will melt into veins and mix with the cookie crumbs; others will stay whole but become soft around the edges, adding another element of texture.

silverton is famed across the u.s.a. for the not-too-fussy but still decadent nature of her work. so call me trimalchio if you must -- i'm content to write my own satyricon here. . .

at any rate, this recipe rivals any in julia child's arsenal for the number of dishes, utensils, pots, pans, implements, and steps. it's frankly a nightmare and makes a huge mess.

on the other hand, it could very well be worth it! the resulting 2 loaves are presently rising in my oven.

if this turns out to be an amazing success, i'll post my version of silverton's recipe in an update. . .

posted by fortune | 12:01 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Friday, July 09, 2004

interesting book

yesterday i began reading another book by t.k.v. desikachar, the biography he wrote about his father, the famed yoga teacher krishnamarcharya. as most yoga students know, the majority of yoga taught in the west is rooted in krishnamarcharya's teaching.

while it seems desikachar doesn't write much of these books himself, he appears felicitous in his choice of co-authors. certainly all of them i've read so far have the same "voice," which is simple, thought-provoking and engaging.

the photographs in this book are quite amazing. there are quite a few pictures of krishnamarcharya at 100 as he continued to teach students; one showing him in a beautiful upavista konasana with his whole body totally flat to the floor is simply astonishing.

but maybe not, considering he was a youthful 88 or so at the time. another of him in what seems to be mid-pose as he may be moving from pincha mayurasana (known as "peacock feather" or "forearm stand") to vrischikasana (known as "scorpion") is also worthy of attention.

i was particularly touched to see a photo of him at 101 with his long-time western student, the famed yogini indra devi -- she was a spring chicken at about 85 -- as they sat together reading what look like postcards from friends.

it's interesting to remember that krishnamacharya was probably the first orthodox-type brahmin to teach patanjali's yoga to women, altho' traditional tantra had always allowed women to practice. nowadays many people still think of yoga as primarily a women's "sport!"

posted by fortune | 6:41 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Thursday, July 08, 2004

calling mr. sivetz

me no expert on coffee roasting technology, but this sounds just like another fluid-bed roaster to me. . .

or is there something about don chisholm's coffee roaster i'm missing? i dunno!

it's useful for coffee lovers -- even those who don't roast their own beans at home -- to understand a little about coffee roasting technology.

in general, the common wisdom is that fluid-bed roasters, such as those pioneered by coffee industry great sivetz, enhance a coffee's innate brightness. this happens because fluid-bed roasters generally roast the coffee more quickly, thus preserving more of the bean's natural sparkle.

in contrast, it is conventionally said that drum roasters enhance a coffee's body or mouthfeel and help develop the so-called "deeper" flavor notes, some of which come from the slightly smoky tastes the coffee can acquire in the drum.

in the u.s.a. at least, most pro roasters still seem to generally prefer drum roasting, altho' there are quite a few vocal & avid fluid-bed advocates out there. . .this a bitter debate, one in which frankly i lack the expertise to take a position!

posted by fortune | 9:09 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

guatemalan estate update

and a quick confirmation from don schoenholt tells me that the delicious gillies guatemala antigua shb i enjoyed this morning is the famed los volcanes estate, a washed coffee of the typica variety.

it's a medium-bright coffee, with a pleasant body. i love its floral, incense-like, woody spice perfume. in fact, for some reason it reminds me of mitsouko. . .but don insists it's closer to shalimar due to the cup's sweet finish.

how long ago was i writing that i didn't really like many centrals? i'll have to eat my biscotti on this one; the flavor gets more intriguing as the coffee cools.

posted by fortune | 6:05 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

a culinary art indeed

"it takes skill, it takes knowing and understanding your machine and your products and the best way to present that and get the best flavors out of it. it may not be as complicated as making a four-course meal, but it is very complex in its process. it's chemistry and it's physics."

you go, u.s.a. barista champ bronwen serna! in fact, i think it could easily be argued that a professional barista is akin to a winemaker or brewer. . .

this morning i skipped my usual espresso in favor of a cafetiére of don schoenholt's gillies guatemalan estate antigua shb. i must find out what estate this most pleasant coffee is! gimme a few minutes, and i'll report back. . .

posted by fortune | 9:11 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

bubbling fountains

"a three-tiered fountain continuously cycles melted chocolate, allowing guests to dip into its stream with fruit, pretzels, marshmallows. . ."

and so we document the summer's hottest new wedding trend, which i suppose is chocolate fondue writ large.

and today is just commodity day here at bccy. chocophiles are concerned about the possible impact of fungal disease in south american cacao fields affecting the price and availability of better quality chocolate.

meanwhile, coffee lovers have been watching commercial coffee prices briefly rise after 4 long years of the world-price depression known as the "coffee crisis," which has inflicted much poverty and misery on coffee farmers and workers.

fears of bad weather in brazil appear to be abating, and so prices have begun to decline. it's still too early to say whether we're seeing a trend or a blip, however.

but there's one bright spot: specialty coffee lovers can rejoice in recent records for great-tasting coffees at auction!

and finally, i'm calling for recipes: i'm interested in 2 types of dutch breads rarely seen outside of the netherlands. and i want good recipes, please, suitable for artisan baking, based on authentic dutch-grandma-type family secrets.

no commercial or americanized yucky heavy ugliness will do, if you don't mind!

one is a light bread, often eaten for breakfast, called "fruit loaf" (in dutch i've see it referred to as both krentenbrood and ontbijtkoek; i'm not sure these are actually the same object), which contains a various mixture of currants, raisins, nuts. apparently it's often comprised of whole-wheat flour and buttermilk.

the other is a very unusual bread, the "frisian sugar loaf." this is baked with whole brown sugar cubes in the dough, which melt and create sweet pockets of runny syrupy stuff. it's said to be usually made of white flour and heavily flavored with cinnamon.

i'm not sure whether these are always yeast-raised doughs, or might sometimes be coffee-cake-like quick breads made with baking powder. . .

since erick schat's is closed for the summer, i gotta make my own. . .

posted by fortune | 9:35 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Monday, July 05, 2004

nothing like a pleasant holiday. . .

to enjoy the strong heat, the sudden breaking rainstorm, a little viniyoga, and the inevitable iced coffee.

but first, a bccy congrats to our yogic friends at the breathing project for their nice mention yesterday in the
ny times, even if it was about shoes
. . .

after the quick hard rain, the breeze blows strongly off the harbor. it's much cooler, so i took advantage of the respite to make up a cafetiére (a.k.a. french press) of don schoenholt's gillies sumatra lintong.

half i chilled for iced coffee; the remainder, i poured into the ice cube tray to make the coffee cubes that go into said iced coffee. i decided it was still too hot to cook, so i defrosted slices of both the recent pain au levain and challah to support a few dollops of curried chicken salad with sliced almonds.

after sampling both, i think the pain au levain actually does the chicken best. the challah however might nicely complement some lobster salad (add some sweet star fruit for a tropical feeling).

ummm --- lobster salad. must acquire now! well maybe not exactly now.

maybe i'll first enjoy a quick americano made from batdorf's caramel-ly, honey-walnut dancing goats blend. . .(thanks again, jessica!)

posted by fortune | 1:04 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Sunday, July 04, 2004

not that you need me to tell you

spiderman 2's a tremendously fun movie -- much better than the first! and you know, i ususally dislike "action" pictures. . .

the best part is that in many ways, this movie is really a love song to new york city, to its physicality, its dream architecture. of course little of the movie is the real new york.

but the parts of it that are, capture the current feeling of the city so well, in several of its moods, its light. . .

maybe i'm the only one who goes to see movies this way!

and now on to the serious part of the day: making pizza. gotta get out the peel!

posted by fortune | 4:08 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

focus on the pizza sauce, baby

holiday or no, today's sunday, which means it's pizza day at here at bccy.

however in honor of the day, i'm using some fire-roasted tomatoes in the sauce. they add a great smoky flavor that enhances the pepperoni mr. right favors.

long-time readers know i personally think pizza comes in one flavor -- margherita -- but hey, it's a big world. i'll just enjoy my own pizza the way i like it and toss the pepperoni on his, hmmm?

i'm also going to see spiderman 2 today, mostly as means of avoiding the television.

devoted readers understand my connection to 9-11. and so i'm sure they also understand why today's completely opportunistic "ceremony," the laying of the supposed "foundation stone," carved with the screaming caps "enduring freedom," frankly makes me sick.

as the usual stinking pile of political bloviators dutifully line up for the expected photo op -- really why isn't the handpicked audience of "observers" screaming, "where's the money you promised new york? why are you leaving the first-responders bereft?"

and we won't even mention the question of the six-foot-plus mass-murderer, whose name the news reports seem unable to say today. along with several other key terms. . .

oops! i keep forgetting -- whether of the left or right, there are just some things we aren't allowed to talk about any longer. yet i can't go on like this, because political talk of this nature is not only boring, but in this situation, actually obscene.

it's important in yoga to remember our positive intention. so even tho' i'm not a saints-n-angels type, and while i haven't seen or felt him (although i know several people who claim to have witnessed him personally), i leave you with the person we should be hearing about today.

posted by fortune | 11:56 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

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