Saturday, November 20, 2004
braids braids braids
and for once i'm not talking about my hair. . .regular readers know mr. right loves a few things in life, two being pizza and of course challah.
yuppers, dear readers, i received today my two new bread books: maggie glezer's fantastic-looking big book of jewish baking -- more challah recipes than you could shake a smoked whitefish at -- and jeffrey hamelman's bread.
what's so cool is that glezer gives you a gazillion recipes for challah from all around the world and a few simple braiding techniques, while hamelman devotes an entire chapter to bread braiding, including such complex beauties as a starfish shape, all 5 arms interbraided!
the shape he calls the "winston knot" is particularly beautiful as well, looking very celtic. the 7-strand braid he offers is surprisingly elegant, and unlike many bread books, i think the instructions are very clear.
also worth noting is the hungarian shape he calls a "ring," which is a 6-pointed star braided into a surrounding circle. i've long been a big king arthur flour fan, and so hamelman, who is their head baking teacher, is a person i respect.
he offers but one challah recipe however. glezer's book is charming and remarkable for her organization; for example, she lists the challah recipes in the table of contents not alphabetically or anything dumb like that, but instead from least sweet-rich-n-eggy to most sweet-rich-n-eggy.
how sensible that is! because that's what you really wanna know, right? these books are going to be very hard for me to read, because i want to absorb one page from glezer and then get right back to hamelman: these two books fit hand in glove.
i love glezer's passion for bread, and hamelman's exactly perfect mix of baking science and practical artisan-level information. i highly recommend both of these books from spending my afternoon with them thus far. . .
jessica sent fresh dancing goat blend from batdorf (thanks, beautiful! you know mr. right lives on that coffee!) along with some of their holiday coffee-flavored chocolates. so you can guess right away how i spent the afternoon as soon as i came back from the hairdresser!
when thanksgiving is over with and all that nonsense clears away, it's full challah season. we here at bccy are just gonna braid & bake 'em all until spring. . .and possibly beyond.
first stop: czernowitzer challah.
Friday, November 19, 2004
ladies, get out your fans
"before he starts cooking he hands me a drink which looks like black silk. . . .thick dark chocolate infused with a range of seductive ingredients including rose-petal essence, cinnamon and chili. the exquisite taste and the fact there is a gorgeous near-naked man in my kitchen makes me flush from head to toe."
since i try to keep this a family friendly blog, i'll just link to this chocolate tale and say no more. we all remember what the italian researcher found.
now that we've calmed down, i'll just say that i made up another cafetiére of james' blue bottle yemen ismaili sanani. altho' some reading my description noted that they think the "wood" flavor this coffee displays is a taste fault in this origin, i find it strangely appealing, esp. with cream and sugar.
but then, i often love aged coffees too; please forgive me. so i popped the remainder of the pot in a pre-heated, insulated thermos and brought it to work to enjoy at leisure.
to complement it, i also brought a row from a bar of bernard castelain 77% noir intense. yummy!
finally, even tho' i have the miami-style challah nailed, i couldn't help but buy maggie glezer's new bread book, which has many variations on the challah concept. mr. right loves challah. . .i expect this in the mail any day now.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
take a giant step
and at long last i awoke this morning faced with the last of james' blue bottle blends, "giant steps." i didn't cup this coffee formally, due to its dark roast level, but just made it in a cafetiére (a.k.a. french press).
devoted readers know what i'm going to say next: refer henceforth to your scaa flavor wheel. . .
giant steps seemed to me to be the most darkly roasted of all the coffees james sent, high vienna to low espresso, with large patches of oil.
the fragrance of the dry grounds was strictly floral. stirring the coffee in the cafetiére, i was struck by a strong maple-syrup note. it's this syrup thing that causes james, i think, to remark that you could "pour this coffee on pancakes."
on tasting, the coffee offered a sense of sweet allspice, a swing of dutch cocoa, and an intense black pepper aftertaste.
adding my usual tablespoon of light cream and pinch of raw sugar emphasized the cocoa element, moving it more to a real deep milk-chocolate-y feeling. the black pepper was still noticeable but not as prominent, and the coffee left me with a moist, mouth-watering finish.
this rich coffee's definitely sweet and mellow tasting, with a heavy sumatra component. james says the blend also contains uganda, which i suspect is the source of the chocolate-like feeling, particularly if it's a bugisu.
both sumatra and uganda tend to have thick, heavy bodies, and i found this coffee was true to type here in the french press: thus james' own descriptor "fudgy." as a testament to james, even tho' this coffee is now 10 days old, it still bloomed strongly.
i'm one of those people who doesn't particularly like bugisu by itself. i think it's best as a blending coffee -- if i want earthy, funky and soulful i'll go straight for a sumatra lintong.
bugisu often seems just like a lesser sumatra to me in that regard. and this is what make this blend so interesting. two similar-in-a-certain-way types of beans put together. . .yet they modify each other in a not-quite-expected manner. . .
in fact i was expecting a stronger sense of "funk" from this blend, but age might have diminished these "muddy" flavors.
i was intrigued by giant steps, and i think most sumatra lovers would be. but if you like brighter, clearer, cleaner coffees, this one probably won't have your name written on it.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
the espresso temescal, part ii
this morning for some reason i just couldn't sleep -- this may have had something to do with an extremely unpleasant fed ex experience yesterday -- fed ex is the worst delivery service, except for all the others -- and so found myself roaming the kitchen pre-dawn.
in the non-light of this, i switched on my italian princess, silvia (why don't i have her on an appliance timer yet? i dunno!), and then went back to bed. this is all long way to say that due to various events, i had the chance this morning to sample james' blue bottle "espresso temescal" as brewed espresso.
i find this coffee less finicky to work with than his roman espresso, personally. as a triple shot, the temescal doesn't have the same outrageous crema as the roman.
however it does give a nice "guinness effect" even now at nearly 9 days old and a good amount of crema for such an old coffee. it displayed a thick, syrupy body that clung to the back of a demitasse spoon.
what mostly changed for me with this blend in silvia as opposed to the napoletana was the aftertaste. better glance down at the scaa flavor wheel on your mousepad again here. .
the temescal had decidedly turpeny, black-currant note at the end that was missing in the stove-top brewing. this allowed the coffee to stand clearly thru the milk in an italian-proportion cappuccino.
all good. tomorrow i at last approach the coffee i've heard the most about: james' "giant steps" blend.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
don't know what to say about this but
"chocolate is not like a food, it's like a drug. . ."
the italian researcher means it in a very good way. beyond this, i'm letting this chocolate story pass entirely without comment.
because anything i could say would really be superfluous; i mean this information is simply a well-known experiential fact in girlworld. . .
any gentleman who doubts this can turn to the lady closest to him and simply inquire. altho' i guarantee that if he isn't slapped à la hedy lamarr, he will only receive a disdainful raise of the eyebrow, a gesture meaning "amazing discovery, einstein."
wait a minute. let me be fair and balanced by providing a yoga news tidbit from guyworld here too.
i'm actually really intrigued by the early findings of this small study from yale university: that a regular yoga practice can reduce blood pressue by relaxing the linings of the arteries in middle-aged men in just 6 weeks! study participants did yoga 3 times a week, meaning just 18 yoga classes seems to make a dent in heart/vascular disease.
finally, i think everyone knows by now that the coffee market headed for mars yesterday after a rare large earthquake in colombia. the price of coffee on the exchange soared to a 4-year-high.
the fear was that the earthquake would destroy infrastructure and so block exports. but note that not a single story i could find on the subject thru google news remarked as to whether anyone was hurt or killed, which i think says a lot about the mentality of the market here, alas.
for us coffee-loving consumers who worry about the tough market situation our friends the coffee farmers have faced for years now, market increases are welcome. but only if they're meaningful and not one-time events, as this increase appears to be.
since we're discussing market news, i'll also point out that if the unrest in the ivory coast continues, consumers might see increased chocolate prices, since a significant amount of the world's cocoa originates there. . .the market appears to be hoping for the u.n. to take further action.
even if cocoa prices rose a lot now because of the political situation, consumers probably wouldn't see retail price increases until the spring. the biggest bump in the seemingly ever-rising price of premium european chocolate has more to do with the american dollar's continuing slide against the euro, i think.
but it is shocking to see that the cost of a premium european candy bar in my nabe has risen US$0.50 in the last 3 weeks! and since many american artisan chocolatiers use imported european chocolate, i imagine their prices will soon increase as well.
Monday, November 15, 2004
the espresso temescal
following the roman espresso situation yesterday, my plan was to cup james' blue bottle "espresso temescal" and also make it in my napoletana, since he'd said he intended this for stovetop moka coffee.
but household events intervened this morning -- it's really shocking how life interrupts one's coffee -- and i didn't get a chance to cup it formally. as a result, i was forced to simply enjoy it from the napoletana in a deruta tazza; ah well.
the temescal is a delightful coffee. it appears to be what i would call a mélange, where the blend components are roasted separately and then mixed together.
i say this because the beans are not a uniform color, altho' they are all roasted to what i would consider medium vienna, that is, the beans show patches of oil. however because the temescal is an all-organic blend and does contain sumatra, there might be some wiggle room there.
what i'm saying is that these are beans that, like james' previous yemen, might not always roast evenly. got out your scaa flavor wheel yet? good!
the fragance of the dry grounds hovered between floral and fragrant, with a coffee blossom and slight cardamom feel. this full coffee with a fairly heavy body offered me notes of vanilla and caramel, and a slightly clove flavor.
it had a mild, sweet taste; altho' the blend contains some costa rica, i didn't detect anything more than a low brightness.
with a tablespoon of light cream and pinch of raw sugar, the temescal was a cheerful breakfast cup from the stovetop. if i have time tomorrow i'll brew this in my espresso machine while it's still fresh enough to produce a lovely shot. . .
Sunday, November 14, 2004
the roman espresso
i know, i know -- to me, a roman espresso is what you get when you walk down from the residenza canali to the via dei coronari and turn right at the corner. there's a cute little nabe bar where they speak only italian.
or, it could be the name of a 100% crema shot; the kind of thing for which i hope you have a 3 oz. glass, because the crema just won't stop coming. . .
and no, i'm not talking about dr. john's josuma cult espresso, malabar gold.
james freeman's blue bottle "roman espresso" is a very interesting and unusual coffee. honestly, short of dr. john, i've never seen so much crema.
the stunner is: james' coffee is all-arabica. normally you'd have to have a fair amount of robusta in a blend to get this incredible volume of crema on a shot.
how does james do it? by breaking the rules, he told me: the blend is 75% dry-processed (known in the coffee trade as "natural") coffee.
actually, he was quite free with the formula: 50% brazil, 25% sidamo, 25% sumatra. long-time readers know i'm deeply fond of a lovely sidamo!
also, james was quite frank when he sent this coffee to me: it was best at 4 days old, he thought. so i patiently waited until the days passed. and he did warn me that the coffee preferred an unusually low brewing temperature.
i have carlos expobar set to offer about 185 in the cup; the rancilio silvia of course has to be surfed down, as i have an original model with the 110 degree thermostat.
and despite this knowledge, i had a tough, tough, tough time setting the equipment up to get a cool shot. i just couldn't quite kick this slightly sour aftertaste.
i had to call james to troubleshoot. so after i talked nonstop at him like a fool (sorry james! i panicked!), he told me: cooler yet, cooler yet.
james thinks this coffee should exhibit a strong fruity, caramel flavor, which he gets from an astoria on his cart at the ferry street market. i could see the caramel, and that tremendous crema, but the right temperature still eludes me!
the sidamo should be giving me the fruity, i think, but i haven't quite got this coffee worked out yet. . .
i really don't think it's a grind problem: this blend behaves beautifully at 7 notches past the arrow on the mazzer, for those of you following along at home. it was a cinch to dial in for blossoming, all-crema, 27-second pours.
going to try it again in a day or two. tomorrow i'll move onto his "espresso temescal" while it's still very fresh.
james made this particular coffee with moka pots in mind. long-time readers know i don't have a moka, but instead use an antique silver machinetta napoletana.