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Saturday, February 04, 2006

the pain de campagne rustique: remembering it

so last night was time to remember the pain de campagne chef from wed. it looked, as always, a tad unpromisng: a slightly cracked ball, dried out in some spots, moist in others, with a thick heavy skin all around.

but! if you take a knife and peel off that skin, inside you'll find a tablespoon or 2 of moist stuff with a spongy texture that indicates something's trying to rise in there and a pleasant smell rather like dark beer. bingo: you're good to go; the wild yeasties have moved in.

so in a clean glass bowl, plop in your 2 tablespoons of living chef and gradually stir in 1/4 c. lukewarm or warmish non-chlorinated water. the goal is to dissolve the chef and the yeasties into a stew.

it probably won't dissolve completely, but give it a nice gentle thorough stir. then add:

3/4 c./3.75 oz/108 g. organic stone-ground flour

you can add whatever flour you like: white whole wheat, whole rye, unbleached white, some mixture of the above, whatever. mix to a soft dough and knead by hand for about 3 mins.

personally, i always include some rye in both the chef and this step, the so-called "1st refreshment," which makes the chef into a levain. last night i used 1/4 c.

why? because the yeasties seem to love rye early on, and rye "sours" nicely. a little rye contributes to the nice "tang" in the finished bread.

however, since i don't like my bread very tangy, i don't add any more rye after this. i stick to the white whole wheat and/or unbleached white.

basically from now on, you're a yeast farmer. you want to create conditions that make the little yeasties happy so they will make good bread for you.

so cover your new levain with plastic, set it in a warm place (i keep mine over the pilot light in my old gas oven), and forget about it for another 24 hours. let the yeasties be.

thus, when i woke up this morning i checked the levain before making my usual morning cappuccini with jessica's batdorf dancing goat. already, just about 9 hours later, it had noticeably risen, but i must remind you the weather's been unseasonably warm these past few days.

tomorrow afternoon or early monday evening after work i'll be baking this bread, depending on how the yeasties flourish. see how easy making bread from scratch really is?

there's just almost no work -- it's all waiting for the yeasties to be their own bad selves. and home-made bread tastes so much better than anything you can buy, even from many bakers.

so while all this is going on, let me take this opportunity to note that long-time bccy chocolate pal jacques torres got a nice "best buy" mention from consumer reports in their recent chocolate survey. not that i'm a big fan of the magazine, but i do like jacques' bon-bons, esp. his coconut, espresso, and passion fruit ones.

i was mystified at their low rating of similar bccy pal richard m's richart candies. because those are yummy.

i especially remember his one particular truffle from the famous chocolate dinner. . .

posted by fortune | 8:20 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Friday, February 03, 2006

another reason to love the french culinary institute

besides the fact that they order gillies coffee. . .

recently, the french culinary institute has upgraded itself, which is all good. alice waters is now a dean, for example.

and at their secret gem, l'ecole, where you can get a great 4- or 5-course prix fixe french dinner that mixes modern and classical elements, they have added a cheese course. at last.

long-time readers know i adore the little-known l'ecole. it's one of the nicest dining spaces in all nyc. airy, uncrowded, relaxing, relatively quiet, tastefully decorated in a rich maroon and sandy taupe. . .what's not to like?

not to mention that US$35 dinner, which would cost US$150 uptown. the only difference is a few months -- those same students will shortly be working uptown and charging uptown rates for basically the same food. so!

by the time 2 people order, have some wine, and maybe order a supplemented dish, the bill at l'ecole is honestly going to be about US$140. uptown, you'd be looking at US$380, really.

speaking of supplemented dishes brings me to that cheese course. for an extra US$8, you get 5 selections.

what did i choose from their list of 9 raw-milk cheeses? the list is heavy on the cow, and light on the sheep.

nonetheless, i think i did ok: a brebis fedou, a tomme de crayeuse, an hoch ybrig, an abbaye de citeaux and a charollais affine. mr. right ordered a salad with a nice large coin of fresh chevre, so i traded him a bit of hoch yrbrig for that.

so i think in the end i ended up with a fairly good balance of goat, sheep, and cow in different textures and range of taste. not to mention that l'ecole is really one of the few places in nyc where the bread is worth eating, since the bread students do a good job with the pain au levain.

actually, on the chevre front, i should be making my own; it's dead simple. where to get fresh, raw goat's milk in bklyn?

new york is a big dairy state; raw milk(s) must be available somewhere. hmm. must meditate upon this.

at US$4.50 a half-gallon, i need to spend US$9 minimum to yield about 12oz cheese.

whereas 1 lb. of fresh chevre starts at about US$16. this situation hovers on the edge of how much i just wanna be able to boast that i make my own cheese vs. actual cost savings. . .

posted by fortune | 8:58 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Thursday, February 02, 2006

pain de campagne rustique. . .underway

it being winter -- altho' a crazily warm one -- i decided to bake a loaf of the pain de campagne rustique. this means last night i put together the starter, which as long-time readers know is quite simple:

1/4 c./1.25 oz./36 g organic, stone-ground whole rye flour
same amount of organic, stone-ground white whole-wheat flour

same amount of non-chlorinated water

wash your hands and, with your fingers, knead the above ingredients together in a glass bowl to form a soft ball. cover with plastic wrap, set in a warm place, and forget about it for 48 hours.

the situation with this bread is that you have to start early, because it takes 4 or 5 days before the bread's ready to bake, depending on how this starter (or chef) develops.

so i'm in the forgetting about it stage right now, just hoping that the little wild yeasties who are floating about my kitchen are desperate for a home and move on in.

on the water front, it turned out that i had a little bottle of australian mineral water, a brand called aquaqueen. so this is what i used!

brooklyn bread with aussie water -- we can only see what develops. . .

posted by fortune | 8:22 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 4 comments

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

funny who stops by & who doesn't

i guess i should take it as a validation of something when the frat boys from maxim stop by. hi guys: hope you love this pink chick site for coffee, and can't wait to see you in yoga class real soon!

but seriously, i wanna give a big bccy congrats to long-time "current influence" and scaa board member mark inman of taylor maid on this nice blog post at sf-ist.

i have always maintained that mark's espresso a-go-go is one of the most underappreciated blends in the u.s.a. i'm surprised he didn't give this to sf-ist to review.

however, he sent them the goat rock, which they liked. so that clearly indicates to me that they aren't gonna like dunkin's coffee at all.

nope. no way. thus the blog posting makes total sense to me. i also think, knowing dunkin's blend of colombians, that the vac pot ain't gonna be the best way to make that.

the vac pot is going to highlight dunkin's already marked brightness, which these folks aren't set to cotton to, as we used to say in kansas.

also, when it comes to vac pots, i just don't recommend the pricey new electric santos at all any more. why?

because you have to futz with them to get 'em to work right. for all that $$$ you shouldn't have to take a hacksaw to it or stuff little cards under the feet to prolong the brew time, all those tricks.

the vintage electric ones from the 40s & 50s, tho' -- they still work great. but for ease of use, i stick to my freaky stovetop santos.

actually, i haven't been brewing in my vac pot lately. i've been busy trying out andrew b's ecco great hama yrg in the cafetiére, the chemex that sweetie oren kindly gave me, my silver napoletana.

i think i prefer it in the first, frankly. altho' of course as the coffee changes -- it's 8 days old now -- the blue seems to be receding and i feel like i'm getting more dried cherry throughout the bouquet. that cherry comes through more clearly in the pressed cup, esp., i think.

whereas the chemex seems to minimize the fruit and strengthen the honey/malty, toasty flavors.

(see my how to talk about coffee with associated pic. the "sets" referred to are the 3 main interior divisions on the aromas side of the scaa flavor wheel.)

so actually, i guess my conclusion is: the guys from maxim are probably really bored over here, while the guys from sf-ist would probably enjoy it!

posted by fortune | 8:52 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

just say no to excessive yoga marketing

"paying more than US$100 for yoga or any kind of exercise clothing has got to be one of the trendiest consumer rip-offs around."

hear, hear. absolutely, judie & evelinda!

i know many of the yoginis who market this stuff -- like shiva rea's shiva-shakti gear mentioned in the above piece or even christy turlington's nuala line -- are fantastic, well-meaning students and teachers. they've worked hard to promote yoga, to offer quality instruction.

so in our american system, when the big apparel corporation comes to them and offers them a license deal for clothes, you can understand why they say yes. they have earned their success, and deserve to enjoy a decent living from their years of toil.

no doubt.

but these clothes are usually ridiculously over-priced (US$115 for a pair of yoga pants???), and i wonder where they are made. i know nuala supports a lot of charities.

but it couldn't support charities at a mere, oh, US$30 a pair? nuala is owned by global mega-corporation puma, after all; they can give money to a lot of charities, and they do!

puma is listed with fair labor, which supposedly offer some guarantee that at least the people who actually sew the fancy nuala yoga garments aren't exploited. otherwise, it would be a violation of the yogic principle (or yama) of ahimsa, non-harming.

the shiva-shakti gear is made by the marika corporation, which makes a wide variety of dance and fitness wear. these clothes are much more reasonably priced than the nuala; a pair of yoga pants is only US$50.

i couldn't find any links on the marika site as to where or how the yoga line is manufactured.

the problem, as i see it, is that of the yogini. women's yoga clothes have some technical requirements, sure: stretchy, but not too loose; good gussets so you don't split your pants in fany poses; fabric that wicks away moisture; soft on the skin, not itchy; easy to wash; long-lasting; etc.

but beyond those, which you can get with say, run-of-the-mill champion yoga pants for US$20 in a great variety of real sizes, what else does a yogini need? champion also supports charity.

however, champion is owned by sara lee, known in other contexts of this website until recently as a dread member of the "big four" multi-national coffee roasters. and sara lee has been charged with the issue of sweatshop labor (see 2002 and 2004).

to be fair, sara lee does have an ethical standards guideline program on its website. if that's enforced is another question, of course, since apparently sara lee doesn't allow independent inspections of its plants.

you may want to keep this mind when considering your purchase of yoga wear.

perhaps some yoginis trying to make a great display of their wealth or status with the cut of their pants, which might contradict the yama known as aparigraha, non-greed? isn't this one of the things we are studying yoga to try to avoid?

i think a somewhat better plan of yogic action might be to buy more sensible, more ethically made yoga gear, don't you? many companies fill this niche, such as inner waves.

i personally do all my yoga in marika clothes that i buy at century 21 at 75% off! i hope they answer my email asking about their labor practices!

posted by fortune | 9:10 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments

Monday, January 30, 2006

the tide begins to turn

"consumers are straying away from soft drinks and toward coffee drinks, industry statistics show.

for the first nine months of 2005, coca-cola's sales of carbonated soft drinks fell 4.2 percent, according to industry newsletter beverage digest. and pepsico's carbonated soft drink sales fell 3.6 percent.

overall, carbonated soft drink sales in the united states likely have dropped 1 percent in 2005, beverage marketing corp. estimates -- the first decline in decades. in contrast, 2005 sales in ready-to-drink coffees are expected to increase 19 percent from 2004. sales in the category have been growing substantially since 2002, while carbonated soft drink sales have remained relatively flat.

overall coffee consumption also is growing. daily coffee drinking in the united states in 2005 rose to 53 percent of adults, up from 49 percent the previous year, according to the national coffee association. and every month, 200 coffee shops are built."

how many times have we heard that coffee consumption was being murdered by soft drink marketing? and for how long now have we been fighting back?

it's starting to work!

every podcaster, every blogger, every specialty-coffee-oriented website, every contributor to, everyone who has been quoted in an msm coffee story, every home coffee drinker, home roaster, and home barista, has been part of the fight to raise coffee consciousness.

and we are finally beginning to show results! yay, us!

the broad informal alliance of scaa coffee professionals and average coffee lovers is starting to show its first dividends.(because i can pretty much guarantee that all this coffee growth is within the specialty sector!)

this will be the true solution for the coffee crisis. . .

posted by fortune | 8:09 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Sunday, January 29, 2006

dilemma solved!

regarding yesterday's chocolate-chocolate chunk dilemma -- once again, m.b. steps through the breach with a solution!

of course, being as that i'm completely incorrigible, once i see a nice recipe, i have to immediately tinker with it to make it even more decadent. despite my small changes to m.b.'s recipe, i'm still calling these "m.b.'s miracle chunk marvels:"

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate (valrhona extra 100% if you can get it, but since i had a scrap of ghirardelli 100% around, i knew it would be fine)
6.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate (callebaut 60%)
2 oz. butter (i used plugra)
1/4 cup flour (i used king arthur high-protein bread flour to make the cookies a tad chewier)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla paste (i didn't want to add any more liquid to the recipe, you see, while at the same time increasing the vanilla flavor)
2 large eggs (pete & gerry's as usual)
3/4 cup sugar (i used 1/2 cup white and 1/4 cup light brown)
12 oz. chocolate chunks (i used schokinag semisweet 50%)

in sum, i basically doubled the butter and the vanilla, while pushing the envelope on the chocolate all around. ok, so here's the technique: preheat oven to 325 degrees f (m.b. originally said 350, but with this much chocolate and butter, i don't want to scorch or overbake the cookies so i turned it down) and line your cookie sheets with baking parchment.

break up the 100% and 60% chocolate; place in a microwave safe bowl with the butter. i use med.-high power for 2 mins. to melt the chocolate, and stirring for another minute dissolves the remaining bits completely into a smooth pool of yumminess.

while the chocolate cools a bit, mix the flour, salt, and baking soda together well in a second bowl.

in the big bowl of your stand mixer, begin beating the eggs. gradually add the sugar and beat until they form a thickish ribbon, maybe 3 or 4 minutes.

stir the vanilla paste into the cooling chocolate mixture. gradually add the chocolate into the eggs -- make sure the chocolate is cool enough, or else you'll get scrambled chocolate eggs! beat to combine, 1 minute.

add the flour mixture and mix gently but thoroughly, not even a minute.

now look at your dough. it may look more like cake batter than cookie dough. that's ok.

stir the chocolate chunks in by hand. if the dough is still too soft to drop into cookies, just pop it in the freezer for 20 mins. to firm it up -- which i did myself.

i used a soup spoon to make big cookies, which i put 6 on a sheet. this recipe made 18 cookies, which spread into palm size.

m.b.'s original recipe says to bake for 10-12 minutes. but because my cookies were large, cold, and i'd turned the oven down, it was more like 14-16 mins. for me.

these cookies can be baked hard and crispy, or slightly underbaked to be fudgy in the middle. obviously i took m.b.'s advice and underbaked.

you'll know they are done when the tops are nearly dry and the edges show small cracks. don't burn these, i beg you!

you won't be able to get these off the sheets in 1 piece until they've cooled for 5-10 mins to firm up and finish congealing in the center.

what you get are large, shiny, slightly puffy, super-chunky cookies with a thin brittle sugar crust. and the amount of chocolate intensity should knock you back in your socks.

all good! m.b.'s original recipe offered 1/2 cup walnutes and 2 teaspoons instant coffee as options.

i love coffee, but decided against it. yummy!!!

thanks again, m.b.

posted by fortune | 7:03 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments

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