Saturday, October 08, 2005
waffles, as promised
ok, so i made a biga last night with the full intent to create crazy larousse-style waffles. so i made the biga: 125 g. flour (about 4.5 oz by weight), a pinch of SAF yeast, and 70 g. (about 2.5 oz by weight) water, kneaded it up, and let it sit overnight to rise.
i awoke this morning all ready to take chekov on. . ."i work, you work, but we are all loafers on the grace of god," as the old nanny reassures poor waffles, whose family once owned the estate, but now is reduced to being a comic servant on what should have been his patrimony, as the wealthy who have purchased it destroy it through a neglect born of ennui and jealousy.
the larousse then suggests you take 375 g. flour (about 11.5 oz. by weight), add a pinch of salt (i would have used 1/2 teaspoon for that amount of flour), 125 g. sugar, 200g butter, a pinch of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, more yeast, and 4 large eggs. mix this all up with the biga, knead the dough lightly, shape into egg-size balls or sausages, and let rise for 30-45 mins. on a floured sheet.
pre-heat your belgian waffle iron on the stove, brush with a little oil, and place an egg of dough to bake as usual. this was the part that threw me.
my nordicware iron is a regrettable american size -- jumbo! with four waffle "squares." clearly i would need four pieces of dough to fill it.
how to spread out 4 pieces of dough on a red-hot waffle iron quickly so they all would cook in a similar amount of time without sending myself to the hospital burn unit confused me.
a european waffle iron usually only has 1 or 2 "squares." suddenly i understood the need to have a pourable batter.
thus in mid-recipe i adapted. this is what cooking is all about, no?
also, i didn't really need to make so much batter/dough. i needed at most 3 or 4 full waffles.
so i reduced the total flour in the recipe to 12.5 oz. (including the flour in the biga, about 2-1/2 cups or 355 g., all told), used just 2 eggs, reduced the fat to 1/3 cup canola oil, and added 2 cups milk.
this got me a batter thicker than the usual pancake-type thing. notice that unlike many waffle recipes, i didn't separate the eggs and beat the whites stiff.
this is because mr. right dislikes blonde, light, crispy, dry, sweet waffles. he wanted a heavier, chewier, darker, more flavorful but less sweet thing.
all those whipped egg whites would make the waffles light, crisp, and dry. so no separating the eggs, which also makes the waffles less fussy to do.
in short i just plopped all the wet ingredients in the stand mixer, beat 'em up until the biga had dissolved into the milk, and then dumped in the dry ingredients, including the extra 1 teaspoon SAF yeast. easier 'en cake.
once everything was well-mixed (the batter did have some small lumps), i set it aside to rise and made my usual morning cappuccini.
after 45 mins or an hour enjoying our weekend paper and coffee, it was waffle time! the batter was nicely bubbly, but not really "risen."
i pre-heated the iron for 3 mins. on both sides over medium heat, sprayed the inside with a little baker's joy, and poured 1-1/4 cup batter evenly across the bottom of the iron.
immediately the batter began to pouf. i closed the iron, and noticed that by 45 seconds the waffle had risen so the iron had popped open a tiny bit.
great! i turned the iron over and cooked it for another 3 mins. on the second side, until the steam stopped rising from the edges of the iron.
the waffle easily came off the iron, and was charmingly rustic in color -- uneven, some parts being dark like bread crust, other parts blonde. nice coloring, appetizing!
it was also not really a stiff waffle, but more like a pancake or french toast thing. i popped it on the plate, mr. right poured real vermont maple syrup a over it and pronounced it very good.
the interior of the waffle recipe above is in fact quite like french toast -- not at all like the hard, ultra-crisp diner waffle you might be used to.
since i love french toast, i think it's an excellent thing. i served mine without powdered sugar for decoration, but i think in retrospect it would have been a nice touch.
the recipe i describe above made 4 american jumbo waffles, and i regret to say, we ate them all. . ."wolfed" may be an accurate term. . .
next week or two: the chocolate waffle, sliced horizontally, and served filled with chocolate syrup; possibly decorated with raspberry jam?
Friday, October 07, 2005
the shrek -- or if you're literary, the uncle vanya -- moment continues. . .
this simple recipe for chocolate waffles looks worth trying out. antioxidant-rich dark cocoa is so healthy for you, don't forget!
however, i'm starting out with those larousse liége gaufres. . .i'll make the biga tonight.
and then tomorrow we can all enjoy them with jessica's fresh batdorf dancing goat blend as usual. thanks, jessica!
Thursday, October 06, 2005
stuff and nonsense
as long-time readers know, i have for the most part tried to keep this blog super-positive -- maybe with the exception of talking about the "big four" and the junk coffee they push off on us consumers.
thus i have had little to say about the scaa embezzlement situation, which is tragic. a person trusted by everyone cheated us all.
now that the immediate situation has stabilized, i think it's time to respond to some of the truly horrible things that have been said, by members, non-members, and even otherwise well-meaning board members.
personally i think a lot of this rancor is left over from the recent contentious board elections; and it's time for people to move on from that. it's a new situation.
first, i'd like to say that all the (meager) things i have posted or written on this subject have been given to me and/or vetted by multiple scaa board members, staff, and/or former presidents. thus i can say that the charges here by some of our friends are untrue.
i have not spoken out of turn at all, nor will i here. and further, i will continue to reply with the plain truth and with the facts as i understand them from multiple sources in a position to know.
the scaa isn't trying to hide anything; it is trying to be transparent here. but there is a law-enforcement investigation going on and there are things that the organization can't say right now.
yet the facts are clear: the scaa is non-profit group with a small staff. it functions on a high level of trust.
why? because that's how the specialty coffee business is. and that's actually an admirable fact.
the specialty coffee business is amazing, as i have said many times here, because it operates like a family, on this high level of trust. there was a time not long ago -- before fax and email -- when people would do business solely on a handshake.
coffee businesses in larger cities all used to congregate in a "coffee district" down by the waterfront: as late as the 1960s. the coffeemen used to sit out on their stoops and do deals, or after telephones came into wide use, with office boys to run samples back and forth.
business was done verbally, based on a brownie or a greenie's reputation. since people tended to be in the coffee business because their family had been in the business, their reputation was important to them -- and their fathers and their sons.
when you needed coffee you called around for some, to those with whom your family had done business with for a long time. you agreed on a price verbally, and you delivered the coffee before the paperwork was written out or typed up.
you just had to be worth your word, or no one would do business with you. worse, you knew that they could call up your father, who they had known for 40 years, and shame you.
it really was a situation of honor. and this culture continues in the specialty realm, since the founders of the specialty industry, people like don schoenholt, ted lingle, steve colten, erna knutsen, etc. etc. all learned these ethics when they began in coffee.
indeed maintaining these ethics even in the modern world -- not cheating each other and not cheating the consumer -- is one of the reasons the scaa was founded in contradistinction to the "big four." finally, let me note that ted lingle himself, the chief of the scaa, went to west point, as everyone knows.
and the west point honor culture is famous. . .ted just has this attitude in his soul, not only from west point, but also from his family history in the traditional coffee business i have described.
and he has worked to spread and keep this culture in specialty coffee; in fact, i would even go so far as to say that he expects it, in my brief experience of him. ted personally sets high standards and makes it clear that everyone he deals with should do likewise.
thus no one is more shocked, i am sure, than ted by the recent scandal. the contention that there was a culture of corruption at scaa is just a total falsehood.
and i have to say this, even tho' the people who contend it are friends of mine.
we have to face facts. the scaa is not the only non-profit to have been embezzled from in recent times.
the scaa has and has had many ventures: roasters guild, barista guild, online auctions, conference, the coffee quality institute, to name a few. the accounting for all this is complicated.
the specialty coffee family seems small to us all, yet the scaa is the world's largest trade group. it's easy to forget that.
an expert, inside staffer(s) could easily maintain a "second set" of books or "cook the books" and with care hide illegal activities in a number of ways. and indeed, it appears this is what happened.
but the scaa will recover. it has a number of dedicated volunteer members who raised the necessary US$250,000 to keep the association going on a short-term basis -- 2 days ahead of the planned schedule.
of course, scaa needs to change, to evolve. there's no doubt that this will happen.
instead of tossing about wild rumors, or levelling patently untrue charges, the best thing to do is to resolve to be part of the future, to work to make the change happen, to stand with scaa.
i encourage those who have questions to email mike ferguson at scaa directly. i know both he and ted welcome the input and involvement of members.
and this, dear friends, i hope to be the last thing i need to say on this sad subject until the forensic accountants make their report and the perpetrator(s) are arrested. which they will be, i'm sure.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
news to all of us yoga students
"yoga boosts strength and endurance, but it's not a significant source of calorie consumption, a new study shows. in fact, incorporating calorie burning elements to yoga may cancel the benefits of the practice."
i pretty much fell over in tears of hysterical laughter reading this supposed "study." because as any ashtangi, bikram or kundalini student can tell you -- even a level 2 iygengar student -- those sun salutations in ashtanga vinyasa and the equivalent vigorous sequences or "kriyas" in the other schools are quite, um, calorie burning.
in fact, real kundalini yoga has been known to kick even a long-time ashtangi's butt. those kriyas are hard, fast and repetitive.
and tapas -- one meaning is "heat" -- is a core element of all yoga systems based on patanjali and krishnamacharya. ashtanga is so famously sweat-soaking that people buy special mat covers -- such as here and here -- to keep the basic yoga sticky mat from turning into a swimming pool.
i have taken several level 1 iyengar classes at the iyengar institute and i have to say that even when they don't do sun salutations per se, holding those warrior poses for 5 minutes is sweat-inducing. having likewise done several of the sequences from gary kraftsow's viniyoga, i can attest that those can be done in a seriously active manner as well, if appropriate to the individual.
in other words, i have absolutely no idea what this supposed "hatha yoga" they used in this study was. maybe the restorative yoga for cancer patients?
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
dark chocolate for your tummy?
even tho' by now i am almost inured to all the "chocolate is a health food" articles -- don't we know this already? -- it was amusing to read this:
"dark chocolate may offer mild relief to people who suffer from intestinal problems, according to a study. . ."
i never get these things like traveler's tummy, but then i always travel with what other people consider a large amount of dark chocolate, mostly in case i get stuck on the runway for an hour before take off, or the train is delayed, etc. etc.
in fact, i almost always have a bar of el rey apamate 73.5% with me in my bag. speaking of el rey, i remember at clay gordon's famous chocolate dinner sitting next an otherwise nice lady from chocolatier magazine who informed me with utter disdain dripping from every pore that no one who knew anything about chocolate liked el rey.
since then, i've been rooting for them, esp. since i met them at the chocolate show once and they were super nice people. so articles like this (thanks, marshall f.!) make me happy.
in other news, i'd like to report that the scaa "first responders" group has raised more than US$225,000 to support the organization. booth sales for the 2006 conference in charlotte have gone so well, i've heard, that the conference could pretty much be golden right now -- 767 10x10 spaces sold -- not even to mention the expected sales coming up.
for those who are interested in the whole scaa finance thing, check out this little summary. . .
Monday, October 03, 2005
music to my little ears
"buying coffee at premium coffee bars like starbucks is popular with 63% of the coffee drinkers 25 to 45. This is a worry for the big food companies, such as kraft, procter & gamble, and sara lee, who are seeing declining sales for their grand old brands like maxwell house, folgers, and chase & sanborn.
sales of specialty coffees, now [US]$10 billion today, are expected to grow 7% annually, while sales of traditional coffee brands slide downward. maxwell house alone dropped [US]$75 million in supermarket sales in the past two years, about one-fifth of its overall supermarket sales."
i love, love, love this new survey. i esp. love the figure that 77% of coffee drinkers in the crucial marketing 25-45 age range make coffee at home.
notice that 80% of those people however are still using supermarket brands, not even the mermaid! this means there's a lot of room for education and growth on the specialty coffee front, and plenty of opportunity for independent roaster/retailers to open stores and expand.
only 5% of people now make espresso at home. again, this shows how much room there is for this market to grow if we can only get the educational component together. and of course this is exactly what the scaa consumer member program is all about.
while people indicated that they liked going out for espresso drinks, note that they also expressed reservations about high costs, and said they would cut back due to the price.
so clearly there is a space for a medium-priced, high-quality home espresso experience -- but the machine has to make at least mermaid quality drinks and should be relatively easy to use.
there is now no home espresso machine that fits this bill, imvho. if we could take a basic machine like the old rancilio lucy, fit it with temperature control, tweak the grinder, make it just a tad more attractive in a couple of colors, and manufacture it in a high-quality way in mexico, we'd be golden.
would anyone like to give me several million dollars to do this? on the other hand, here's the story of a couple who went the other way: making the highest-quality pro machines possible.
finally, this is also a testament to what one or 2 people can do. please remember that this whole specialty coffee movement was begun basically by don schoenholt of gillies, now-scaa chief ted lingle, and the mother of us all, erna knutsen.
many years ago when don s. went into the evil nca to try to join, they rudely told him there was no place in the world for his little, unimportant specialty coffee business. now, that unimportant business has sparked a global coffee revolution that is eating the nca's lunch.
one arrogant and dismissive response decades ago is costing maxwell house alone a nice chunk of change this year. i'd call this karma in action, frankly!
the upshot is 1 - listen when don schoenholt talks to you about coffee; and 2 - in a broader sense, be nice to the little guy, because he might not get mad, but rather, as don and the rest of the industry he helped found is doing, get even.
Sunday, October 02, 2005
those who don't believe that waffles fall into the bccy perimeter, oh, think again! even the gloried wikipedia categorizes them under bread.
personally, i'm a big crepe, pancake, and waffle person, but alas mr. right doesn't want them very often. he views them as cold weather food.
so when he mentioned 'em the other day, i went a-ha! and ran out to pick up a classic stovetop belgian waffle iron (properly, a gaufrier). now, these puppies should be made of heavy bright steel or cast iron and have a little thermometer in the handle.
but apparently you can't find those anymore -- all i could come up with even in nyc is the sorrowful nordicware dark aluminum model. sigh.
let's get serious here: as someone who has actually been to belgium (bruges! bruges!) i am well aware that there is no such thing as a belgian waffle.
there are brussels waffles (gaufres to be precise) and liége waffles. the former is raised with yeast and features stiff beaten egg whites, which gives it a light, dry, crunchy texture.
the latter is usually made with beer and no yeast, meaning it has a little more flavor, and is darker and a tad heavier. i think this is more the variety mr. right will prefer.
of course i've been all over the 'net looking for various quality recipes. sadly google drives you to the dumb food network site, where tyler florence's "recipe" basically begins "make up your favorite waffle mix. . . ."
what is the point of this network? so that couch potatoes can watch other people "make" fast food junk while they eat chain pizza with pounds of cheese?
but i digress. when in doubt on matters of antique tradition, of course i do the unfashionable and immediately consult elizabeth david, louis diat, and/or my older-than-i-am (french) copy of larousse.
this is because i like food that actually tastes like something good as described by people who actually know what they are talking about instead of people whose claim to fame is that they can't even follow instructions from a certain classic if overly fussy cookbook. i know: i'm crazy that way.
the larousse is the gold mine here, devoting 2 pages to waffles. it classifies the gaufre as a type of pastry, noting that they were traditionally served as street food during medieval feast days, when the waffle irons were decorated with religious symbols.
and it reminds us that the highest quality waffles were known as métiers, as well as illustrating "waffle molds" for making fritters with waffle batter.
in its fantastic gallicism, it delves into the literary history of the waffle -- often mentioned in poems at the end of the 12th cent. we couldn't forget the hilarious 16th cent. illustration of people eating waffles during mardi gras.
the larousse describes 5 waffle types: brussels (which it calls "dutch" or "northern"), liége, ordinary, filled (with a praline cream!), and vanilla.
what's interesting about the larousse recipes is that they are not exactly of the thinner-pancake-batter type. for example, the liége dough it describes is thick enough to be rolled out and kneaded by hand and is furthermore based in a biga.
the "modern" recipe for vanilla waffles is likewise thick enough to roll out by hand, is raised with eggs and baking soda, and comes with a buttercream frosting recipe! while the "modern" "ordinary" waffle contains no flour and a soft-ball sugar syrup!
oh yeah, i am definitely making a larousse liége-type waffle as soon as the opportunity presents itself. . .and not just your average "2 cups flour, 4 eggs, 1/4 oil, 2 cups milk" type thing.