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Saturday, April 29, 2006

chocolate wine

as all subscribers know, the sunday nytimes mag shows up with part of the saturday paper, and what catches my eye, but the chocolate wine recipe? (this won't actually be posted on the website until later this sat. evening.)

this recipe is an update of an 18th cent. english concoction, and requires valrhona chocolate, banyuls, and milk. gentle readers know that i am one of the few people who is guaranteed to have all of these ingredients at her fingertips at all times.

so it was no effort to wander into the kitchen and make this in the microwave, frankly, reducing the recipe amounts by guess-timation for just one serving. i also ditched the milk chocolate -- ultra-milky chocolate is popular in england, true, but not in my household -- for the valrhona 85%.

wine and milk are a difficult mix (i think light cream or half-n-half would have been a better and more authentic choice, myself) so i understand why the recipe calls for boiling the wine to get rid of the alcohol. the alcohol would most likely curdle the milk.

i just microwaved my banyuls gently to heat it, and then tried my best to set it aflame to get rid of as much alcohol as i could. this was moderately successful, so i think really if you going to give this recipe a serious go, you'd want to evaporate the alcohol from the banyuls gently in a saucepan.

(this begs the question of why you would want to do this to a gorgeous and quality banyuls, which in my nabe starts at US$40 a bottle.)

ok, the banyuls is ready. so i took a small chunk of the valrhona, put in a cup with an oz. of milk, and melted that nicely in the microwave. long-time readers know that i believe the microwave has only 2 legitimate uses: melting chocolate without seizing, and defrosting tomato sauce for pizza.

ok, so i basically had a hot-chocolate base, which i was going to dilute with the intense black cherry/black plum, vanilla, and vaguely cinnamon flavor of the banyuls. so you see, while the idea of chocolate wine may sound odd at first, the sensations in the banyuls are actually going to be ok with a nice slightly fruity chocolate.

this is why i chose the valrhona 85% -- not only because i had it lying around the house. and because the banyuls is a low-toned wine, the brightness of the valrhona 85% that caused the hard-core chocophiles to complain seemed like it might be a balancing asset here.

ok, so now i have about a 5 oz. beverage here, and i drink it. it's surprising, and not bad.

it's a winter drink however; i have no idea why the times published it in the spring. if i were to do this again, i would definitely add some cinnamon to create more interest and to highlight the slight cinnamon feeling in the banyuls.

still, it's more of a curiosity than something i would actually bother to make for myself or serve to guests. think of it as that kind of quirky "renaissance faire" fare you eat in a muddy cow pasture on a piece of stale bread while milling about among morris dancers in drooping velvet motley.

something to quaff out of a leather mug. . .i have zero idea why one of the supposedly best restaurants in the world would serve it, other than for foodie buzz.

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posted by fortune | 8:30 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Friday, April 28, 2006


"well, if you're an old-fashioned body. . ."

long-time readers know i'm big fan of elizabeth david's books (i'm not alone in this), including her book on bread. you may recall this is where the recipe for the irish shooting cake comes from.

so as i was looking around recently for bread recipes, i found a charming bit of oral history.

here's a woman born in 1890 describing how she made traditional english white, whole-wheat (whole-meal), and raisin bread in a wood-fired oven. the cheerful, elderly speaker -- i imagine this is how dickens' miss flite must have talked -- has quite a strong accent to my american ears, but with careful listening i can make out her method.

it starts with a clean bowl! if you've read david's bread book, you will recognize these recipes immediately.

it's quite a testament to david's accuracy -- you'll even hear the strange, old-fashioned measurements, like a "quartern" of butter. and the bread sounds as if it would be delicious.

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posted by fortune | 10:00 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments

i completely agree

"we get so many calls from westerners. they call, 'how can I become a teacher?' they write to us, 'how can I become a teacher?' you have to become a student first. for a long time. maybe ten years."

long-time readers know that ashtanga makes me grumpy, but i must say that i completely agree with sharath rangaswamy here. (thanks, souljerky!)

i absolutely have no truck for aerobics teachers who go 3-day seminars and call themselves "certified" to teach yoga.

nor do i have much more patience with aging ballerinas who take 6 months of yoga classes, go to a 1-month workshop, and emerge as mistresses of enlightenment, informing us all that we will be reborn as dogs if we don't make our cats vegetarian now or blow out our knees attempting poses that are inappropriate for us.

let's face it, the yoga alliance program guidelines are basically good, but there doesn't seem to be much checking up on how they are implemented. some yoga studios just pump out "registered" yoga teachers after a few weekends as a cash cow.

often people who know me ask when i will become a yoga teacher. and the answer is never.

i feel zero need to stand in front of a room full of people and tell them they are damned if they eat meat, wear leather, trade stocks on wall street, or drive a non-hybrid car. it's none of my business to preach to anyone, thank you very much.

and if it were, i would preach to them about coffee and chocolate anyway!

i do yoga because i like it, because it makes me feel better, and because it works for me. ymmv.

you have to live your life as it seems best to you, and if you want, you can do yoga to help you figure out how to make that happen.


i did brew up peter g's counterculture bolivia this morning in the chemex, as promised. it's yummy if you want a snappy, honeyed, spicy, vanilla coffee.

i want to write more about this one tomorrow. . .

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posted by fortune | 9:05 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments

Thursday, April 27, 2006

and the mystery answer is

portion size. the question is why does this coffee recipe make me crazy?

yeah, yeah, the use of instant's a bore, too.

the particular and instantly recognizable taste of instant -- wait! US$0.25 to the first reader who recalls the proper term(s) for it -- yes! credit your own bank account if the terms cooked and hydrolyzed leapt to your lips -- would of course most likely be enough to ensure no one made this beverage more than once.

(note: ok, ok, i'll spare you the trouble of writing the email and with trembling discuss these 2 aspects of [shiver] instant/soluble coffee:

  • cooked - this is the term i most commonly hear professionals use to describe the generic instant taste. it often has a nasty sort-of caramel edge to it. we all, sadly, have experienced the sensation of instant coffee and i don't want to go there more than necessary lest it come to trouble my dreams
  • hydrolyzed - this is the horrid sort of over-brightness sometimes associated with certain brands of instant coffee. it's not pleasing, desirable, dance-in-your-mouth sparkle, or zesty snappiness. this makes your nose squinch. it's rather similar to the taste you get from massively over-extracted coffee)

anyway, the suggested portion size on above supposedly "lite" coffee beverage is 16 oz! good godson of morgan spurlock!

okay, okay, the recipe uses a lot of "nonfat" fake dairy products, which have been thickened with various kinds of industrial gums. and you still end up with 240 calories.

yikes! you know, you can blend up your own coffee kinda smoothie frap-thing, and instead of relying on expensive fake dairy stuffs, you can just use grandma's friend, pectin.

no sugar pectin (and i guess here too) has got to be in every supermarket. pectin, we know what it is; it is naturally found in apples and pears.

follow the instructions on the box, but experts at this kind of thing say to use something like 1 tablespoon pectin for 24 oz. of liquid total, or did i mention you should just follow the package directions? that these no-sugar pectins set softly is the whole point of this application.

the pectin is going to move us toward the heavier mouthfeel you would get from full-fat cream.

actually, you'll probably want to experiment until you find the amount that thickens to your own taste. with the no-sugar pectin in your pocket, you could make a better beverage (no instant!) and save even more calories like this:

1/2 c. freshly made strong coffee or 4-5 double shots of espresso
20-24 ice cubes
1 or 2 oz. da vinci sugar-free chocolate syrup (optional)
1/8 c. splenda
1/2 c. skim plus or similar fat-free milk
1 tablespoon no-sugar pectin (or follow package directions)

combine the liquid coffee with the pectin according to the package (lumpy pectin bad -- it may take a few minutes to dissolve pectin in coffee!). toss in blender or food processor. add ice cubes and remaining ingredients to said device. whirl.

check for thickness, sweetness, chocolate-yness. adjust accordingly.

btw, pectin is good fiber, apparently, so you can tell yourself this is actually a healthy treat, no just a "lite" diet junk thing.

if you can't find pectin, you might experiment with a little agar-agar (most likely to be found at your local health food store) by dissolving the powder in the fresh, hot coffee for a few minutes.

of course, you can experiment with the recipe, increasing it to make a large amount of this stuff at a time, stick it in the fridge and then have it whenever. if playing with agar-agar, watch the amount, because it can set as thick as gelatin, which isn't what we really want here. . .

i believe the concotion above has about 70 calories total, about 45 of them from the skim milk. i think you get about 10 from the pectin and 15 from the syrup.

anyway, just play around with it. you'll work out a recipe to your satisfaction quickly.

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posted by fortune | 8:22 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

today's espresso porn

colin's shots on silvia long-time readers know -- i scarcely hide it -- that my readership stays pretty much around 1,000 unique page views a day. that's my core audience of coffee-lovin', home-bakin', chocophilic yoginis.

my husband often suggests i try to boost my readership with appeals to sex and commercialism. so here it is: today's espresso porn shot, courtesy of colin from coffee crew. for you slavering espressohounds, these gorgeous shots are being pulled on colin's rancilio siliva.

the coffee in question comes from scaa pro member sara of everydaygourmet "at the historic st. lawrence market - toronto ontario," as colin puts it.

the beans are 3 days old. i think i should try some mail-order here, hmm? or will i run into some kind of crazy customs gig?

in other news, scaa board member peter g. of counterculture surprised me today with a triple-certified -- fair-trade, organic, and shade-grown -- bolivian coffee, the caranavi.

this is very exciting, as it will be one of the few bolivian coffees i've had. the biggest bolivian fan i know is the famed andrew b. of ecco.

devoted readers will recall his bolivian c.o.e., grown by the late juan de dios blanco. so this should be an interesting addition to my bolivian origin experience!

it's in keeping with andean coffees i've been hanging out with lately -- from colombia, now bolivia. so far they all seem to have a few things in common -- bright and with strong vanilla notes.

speaking on andean coffees, i brewed up some of mary petitt's juan valdez macizo, as mentioned yesterday, in the "oren proportion" in the chemex.

i chose the chemex so i could better balance that coffee's bright character and light body. to french press it would lower the brightness, but strengthen the body; to vac pot, would send the brightness of the charts and thin the body down to nothingness.

since i love balance in a coffee, i chose the chemex to get the best of brightness and to increase the body a tad. success.

i warn you all -- a super-crisp & snappy, nutty, vanilla-y coffee most people would enjoy, esp. with sugar, for breakfast. a coffee not for the above espressohounds!

and finally, i'm going to yoga today no matter what or else i'll basically explode. . .luckily my husband seems to be improving rapidly, and has started to walk a bit around the house. . .

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posted by fortune | 8:17 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

the gist

of the lost posts -- i must say they were among the most eloquent and heartfelt:

  • an amazing description of cupping the 2006 first harvest colombian c.o.e. coffees at juan valdez with scaa board member mary petitt. the coffees on the table: fincas el progresso, paramito, and la alianza;
  • a brilliant apercu concerning a planned comparison tasting of decafs from don schoenholt of gillies, methyl vs. co2. decafs are the future of afternoon consumption after all;
  • astonishing insights into brewing andrew b's ecco espresso in the french press;
  • an especially touching description of mary's cafe blend, the "macizo colombiano," a high-brightness coffee with a body so like a silk scarf you could slide it through a wedding ring;
  • various reflections on how missing my daily yoga practice to take care of my husband this week has made me ultra-emotional, and the uses of a steady practice for creating that all-important sense of calm that helps keep you from feeling overwhelmed;
  • a charmingly light-hearted discussion of sweet portuguese rolls;
  • and why i was thinking of chantal coady's chocolate bar with arabian spices, which is definitely one of my favorites, ever.

trust me gentle readers, these posts were moving enough to melt a heart of stone.

truly they were set to be classics for the wayback machine. and now. . .electrons. . .scattered through the ether like stardust. . .

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posted by fortune | 7:53 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments

weeping weeping

this is the 3rd time today i've tried to post and each time my browser died a horrible death just as i was publishing. lost, all lost.

and now i don't have time this evening. . .i'll try to pick up today's events tomorrow.


posted by fortune | 7:18 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

more things we felt we knew already

". . .coffee, in any quantity, does not raise the risk of coronary heart disease and could actually reduce the chances, says a study."

this news story's been all over the place, and i actually wouldn't have bothered to comment on it, except for explicit requests. in fact, the only thing i have to say is: umm, i'm glad this news has reached you now!

moderate coffee drinking really isn't harmful to the wide majority of people -- it's a simple, daily pleasure we can all enjoy together with our friends and family. naturally, i encourage you to spread some specialty coffee passion among your loved ones today!

speaking of loved ones, i spent part of the morning sheparding poor mr. right to the specialist about his slipped disc. thanks for your condolences, all.

he'll be fine soon, probably in less than 3 weeks. and he is enjoying his pizza.

i also had a charming conversation during lunch with colin newell; you may know him as coffee crew. he's got a book deal, isn't that cool?

a big bccy congrats to colin for spreading his coffee passion around like double-chocolate ganache! you go, big guy.

what's great about having canadian friends is that they are relaxed, charming, practical, and have fantastic common sense. i need to spend more time talking to colin, that's for sure; he has a great gift for putting things in perspective.

i also had a chance to spend a moment chatting with scott merle of batdorf about his los lirios c.o.e. more on that tomorrow. . .

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posted by fortune | 7:41 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Monday, April 24, 2006

the los lirios c.o.e., part iii

sometimes it's downright terrifying how events conspire against a great cup of coffee! so i'm sorry it took so long to deliver the promised results of brewing scott & jessica's wonderful los lirios colombia c.o.e. from their latitudes line in the cafetiére.

i brewed it both ways: the scaa standard and also by the staub method. in this case, i think i preferred the staub method personally.

the problem with staub's method is that there's not a good guideline yet as to how much finer to grind, which leaves so much to trial and error. and when you have only a precious 12 oz., you hate to waste even 14g.

so i just guessed: on my saeco 2002 burr grinder, instead of using setting number 11 as i normally would, i dialed it back to 7.5; not that this helps you out, gentle readers, since you probably don't have a saeco yourself and even if you did, your burrs probably have different wear than mine, resulting in a different grind on your machine. sigh.

thus i pressed my 60 g coffee/1 l water brew after 2-1/2 mins., and the java was good! in the cafetiére i thought the coffee developed a beautiful body, as you'd expect, even more muscular, but still sleek.

and the brightness was somewhat reduced, as you might also expect. it stayed sweet and crisp, but lost its sparkle.

since that sparkling quality is a highly desirable attribute, as much as i love press coffee, i think the los lirios may still be best displayed in the chemex.

if you're a big sugar fan, you can of course use some in this coffee, but frankly, i don't think it needs any, due to its astonishing balance.

and for you pizza fans: what's astonishing is that with the same dough, i can make a better pizza at home than the famous local pizzeria. working with that dough in my home oven and with a simple pizza stone, i made a good pizza.

of course, it's because i can use much higher-quality ingredients in the sauce and toppings than they profitably can.

the situation with their dough was interesting. it was exactly as st. hamelman describes commercial pizza dough: puffy (due to the use of chemical leaveners in recipe); extra moist (due to the use of dried milk powder, most likely); almost too easy to handle (due to the use of additives and dough relaxers).

what was astonishing was how quickly it baked. in just 2 minutes it was quite brown and in 3 one edge scorched -- this is probably due to a lot of sugar in the dough.

and yet it remained just as flavorless as it is at the pizzeria. working with this dough completely convinces me that it's worth every minute to make your own no-additive dough at home from organic flour with a biga.

while it's a little tough to roll it out quite as thin, the taste and texture are much better. much better.

but of course you'll have to check that out yourself.

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posted by fortune | 7:05 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments

Sunday, April 23, 2006


somedays baking disasters happen -- in this case, a pizza dough situation. for some reason, half-way through the second rise, the dough just died.

was it too hot? was my yeast too old? (i vote the latter.)

these things happen on rare occasion, but you know me: i spring back. it being an emergency situation, i ran down to my local highly-regarded pizzeria and negotiated the price of some dough.

wa-llah! i'm in bizness!

alas, my poor husband appears to have slipped a disc, and is forced to spend some time resting as much as possible. this makes pizza more important than ever.

it's a morale booster, really. well, that and a nice batdorf dancing goat cappuccino.

yummy. like honeyed walnuts. . .

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posted by fortune | 2:57 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 3 comments

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