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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Bread Baking Basics: The Twelve Steps of Baking

I love bread. To me, it is one of the most amazing things in the food universe. Turning four simple ingredients into a golden loaf with a soft and airy crumb is a process that I find exhilarating. And who knew, with just a few tweaks to the formula or by using a bread pan, that you can completely change the bread from a crusty, thick skinned baguette, to an open and airy ciabatta, or a soft and fluffy sandwich bread? And other ingredients can be added, too! Butter? You have brioche! Eggs? You have challah!

Well. Actually both of those breads have eggs and butter, just in different proportions. But, that’s not my point!

So, I really want to make bread. And I really want to blog about it. But bread making can be quite an enduring task for those that don’t know much about it. Even the pizza dough that I did might seem intimidating for some people, whom would rather just purchase the dough to avoid the hassle.

Many years ago, while I was working 10 jobs (ok, it was just 3,) I was employed by small bakery in Salem, Massachusetts called A & J King Artisan Bakers. It was the best baking job I’d ever had, and I learned an incredible amount from my mentors and peers there. They had only been open about a year when I got the job, and I’m happy to say that they’ve grown very much and are doing well. I’m also proud to say that one of the breads they have on their weekly special rotation is one of my formulas, tweaked for their production 😉 Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Baking, Bread, Food

 

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Creative Calzones!

Creative Calzones!

One of my very first jobs in the food business was working for a pizza place. It was called Pizza USA, and it was one of those food court pizza places you’d find in a mall. Think of Sbarro, only worse. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know any better. I was in high school just trying to make some spending money. I actually enjoyed the job quite a bit, and it introduced me to a few cooking skills that helped to lay the foundation of my knowledge today, to include bread making.

Of course, the place is out of business now. It was owned by shady people and managed by even shadier people. We had a manager that ended up being convicted of embezzling money from the petty cash safe. Funny story: I got fired for it! It wasn’t long, though, before the manager got caught and I got my job back, with a fairly hefty raise 😉

Once again, I digress. One thing I remember well from that job was making calzones. They were actually pretty decent and one of the few things that I enjoyed eating from there on a regular basis. When I made the ricotta earlier, my mind went immediately to making calzones! This time, though, I wouldn’t be limited to just pepperoni or spinach. And, since I’ve already got a pretty good pizza dough here to work with, it should be pretty easy! Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in Entree/Main Dish, Food, Pizza

 

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Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

I’m sitting here trying to think of all the reasons why I put so much effort into cooking, but I’m actually having a difficult time narrowing it down. I enjoy it, but I can’t name why. I guess it’s something that keeps me involved and moving. After all, what would I do when I get home from work if it wasn’t for having to put a meal on the table? I’d probably just veg out and stare at the tv.

There’s something about the creative process of cooking that I absolutely love. I rarely use a recipe, and if I do, it’s more for inspiration. The exception, of course, is with baked goods and pastries, which require very specific measurements, or you’ve likely got a disaster on your hands.

Cooking, for me, is just a collection of processes, and I get to fill in the blanks. Sometimes I find this exhilarating, especially if I’m trying something new. The most recent example of this is the creme fraiche I made earlier this week. It was delightfully simple, yet yielded a product so delicious and amazing that it put its grocery counterpart to shame! Even more satisfying is the fact that a $4.00 quart of cream yields far more creme fraiche than the $5.00 8 ounce packaged stuff in the cheese section! Imagine what it would be like if I could get my hands on fresh cream . . . Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in Appetizer, Dessert, Food

 

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Braised Ancho Lime Skirt Steak with Salsa Verde and Black Beans Mole

Braised Ancho Lime Skirt Steak with Salsa Verde and Black Beans Mole

I used to really enjoy my crock pot, because it enabled me to cook pretty decent meals while being lazy. I would have an optimum amount of time to play video games and then when Laura got home from work, I’d have this great meal ready. It would seem as if I spent all day cooking.

Ah, how things have changed so quickly 😉

Now the crock pot gets regular use because we still haven’t gotten the hang of the time management thing, what with our new variable needing constant feedings and changes. Our first night home from the hospital yielded a crock pot meal. Setting and forgetting really helps us focus on learning how to parent without having to settle for pizza or take out every night. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Beef, Entree/Main Dish, Food, Mexican

 

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Who’s your daddy?

I’m cookin some dinner right now in the crock pot. Actually, in both crock pots, because I have two for some reason. But you’ll hear more on that later.

Sneak peak!

Sneak peak!

I’ve been a father for a week now. It has been an enlightening experience, so far. And, perhaps, a bit exhausting. Not so much that I don’t continue to blog on food and such. I still have a bit of free time, since he mostly just sleeps. He demands little of our attention, so far, which will likely change soon.

His eyes are open more often now

His eyes are open more often now

So in between feedings, burpings, and diaper changes, I can’t help but look at my little bundle and smile so hard that my head hurts. When I think I about it, I realize that Jack is truly an amazing thing. He is a culmination of love between two individuals who care so deeply for each other and want nothing more than to be the best parents possible. He’s such a helpless entity that, in years, will hopefully grow into an endearing and self sustaining man that will make a contribution to society. As young parents, we have so many goals for our little one. So many aspirations of what we hope he will become.

Jack and Momma!

Jack and Momma!

Of course I want the best for him. But what is that? Protection from the world around him? Teaching him selflessness? Should I present every opportunity for him to grab and take hold, or should I let him find those opportunities himself? What if he becomes a person that I didn’t envision him becoming? Ideally, Jack will be strong and handsome, smart, a little bit of a nerd yet still socially integrated, respectful, and a good husband. Hopefully he will certainly be a better man than I. What happens if he isn’t so smart? What will happen if he isn’t strong and handsome? What will I do if he isn’t respectful? What if my son turns out to be a complete asshole?

He wasn't really digging being on his belly

He wasn't really digging being on his belly

I have to accept the inevitability that I can’t control everything. All I can do is try to teach him what I think he needs to be taught, and open a few doors for him. It will be up to him to take what he wants and choose whether he wants to walk through those doors or shut them.

My little man and I

My little man and I

In the meantime, I’ll put a bottle in his mouth, wipe his little bum, and smile wide when he opens his eyes and looks into mine.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Fatherhood

 

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Lemon Short Bread with Creme Fraiche and Macerated Berries

Lemon Short Bread with Creme Fraiche and Macerated Berries

I’m seem to always be talking lately of cutting calories, trying to eat healthier, and high protein diets. Yet I can’t help but try to satiate my sweet tooth, which isn’t nearly as demanding as my wife’s. We gotta do something about this.

I had stumbled upon (not using stumbleupon) a recipe for creme fraiche. I’ve seen it made in the earlier years of my kitchen career, as it seemed every menu had creme fraiche on it at the time, though I had never made it myself. I could buy it, after all, or just use sour cream.

But I was inspired, so I whipped up a small batch. It’s surprisingly easy to do. I also decided to make my own ricotta, but there will be more on that later.

So, as I was testing the creme fraiche near its completion, I pondered on some uses for it. My sweet tooth started singing to me, with delicate whispers of fresh fruit or berries with a tender, not too sweet pastry. Thinking of a fairly light, summery dessert (I know it’s winter for most of you, but it’s 80 degrees here) that isn’t too heavy on the calories, the lemon short bread idea came to mind. Granted, it’s not health food, but some fresh berries, a dollop of creme fraiche, and a little lemon short bread can’t be that high in calories, right? Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Baking, Dessert, Food

 

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Char Siu Pork Ju Bao with Cold Soba Noodles and Japanese Cucumber Salad

It’s Monday already? Where has the time gone?

Jack and Laura

Jack and Laura

Oh, right, Laura popped out a little baby boy! XD

It has been an absolutely amazing week. We got home from the hospital  on Saturday, and it has been nonstop for us ever since. My internet presence has definitely decreased. It is weird for both of us to be home all the time, tending to our little bundle. I find myself constantly cleaning and doing laundry in addition to the consolations, feedings, and burpings.

Tiny face!

Tiny face!

So, although things have certainly been busier for us, one thing remains a constant; we gotta eat. I ate a ridiculous amount of fast food, as the hospital (Army hospital) didn’t feed me (the guy in the Army,) so some healthy food was due. We had a hankering for some Chinese/Japanese fare, and I thought char siu pork ju bao, known as manapua here on the islands, would do the trick Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Asian, Entree/Main Dish, Food, Pork

 

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