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Everything posted by vengroff

  1. I had a very nice strip loin sous vide at Union the other night. I would not have thought of cooking a steak that way, but it worked out really well--amazingly tender and a perfect medium rare all the way through. The sweetbread and carrot ragout that came with it was also really fantastic.
  2. I find it tends to be associate with high hydration and retarding. It's also usually a sign of a chewy crumb. But I don't know any more details than that.
  3. Thanks for the tip. I started down the bread flour road following the formulas in Reinhart's BBA, which call for bread flour. After switching from his biga/poolish versions to natural leavening, I've been experimenting mainly with hydration and retardation time. But protien content is another knob I guess I should start turning.
  4. The next step was shaping. First, I poured the dough out, using the plastic scraper again to seperate it from the bottom of the plastic tray. This worked quite well and I got the dough onto the counter with very limited loss of gas. Working on a heavily floured surface with heavily floured hands, I cut the dough in two with a scraper, tri-folded each peice, and carefully lifted them onto a floured couche laid flat on the counter. I then sprinkled the loaves with more flour and folded the couche around them. As you can see, I use the high-tech juice glass approach to keep the walls of the couche in place. After about an hour under plastic wrap, they were bulked up and ready for the oven. I rolled each loaf off of it's side of the couch onto a peel. From there it was onto a stone pre-heated to 450F. There was a pan of water below the stone, and I misted the over after 30 and 60 seconds. After that, 20 minutes of baking produced the loaves you saw in the first post.
  5. The next morning, I brought the starter back up to room temperature, and mixed the dough according to the formula above. I mixed it by hand at first, and then once it came together put it in a mixer with a dough hook for about 6 minutes. This was the first time I had gone to this level of hydration (85%) in anything but a pain a l'ancienne. Wow, was it wet. I was concerned that turning was going be a real pain. It ended up not being nearly as bad as I thought. A plastic pastry scraper dipped in water did a nice job of getting the dough up off the bottom of the tray. By the third turn the dough actually held it's shape more than long enough to snap a picture before it spread back out. From there, I let it prove another 90 minutes, until it had roughly doubled in bulk.
  6. The first step down the road to baking this ciabatta took place 48 hours in advance. I fed my starter to bulk it up for use in this formula. It had last been fed 48 hours earlier, so it had not gotten very acidic yet, which is how I like if for ciabatta anyway. Here is the starter, fresh from the fridge, being measured out before bulking up. I used 300g of starter, which I tripled by adding 300g or water and 300g of KA bread flour. I normally start by whisking the existing started with the water to ensure a very uniform distribution of microflora. I've found that when I do this the resulting starter bulks up more quickly than if I mix the flour and water together and add chunks of the old starter as some advise. This is the starter and water before mixing. This is a closup after mixing. I've basically got a very wet starter now, and it gets active and bubbly very quickly. Once the flour goes in, it returns to a more typical thick-batter kind of consistency. From here, it grows very quickly at room temperature. This is what it looks like less than three hours later. The top of the blue tape indicates where it started. After that, it was back into the fridge overnight before going into the final dough.
  7. I've also been baking naturally leavened ciabatta lately. After a series of experiments, I'm converging on a formula and technique that I really like. Here are the results of my latest effort. The crumb has a reall nice openness about it, with a springy chewy mouth feel. The taste is of wheat and yeast, with just a tiny finish of sourdough tang. The technical details of the formula I used for the bread shown above are: Starter (at 100% hydration): 150% Flour (KA bread): 100% Water: 74% Salt: 2% This works out to a final hydration of 85%. The technique is actually fairly similar to Dom W.'s description above. I'll go into more detail, with additional pictures, in posts to come.
  8. Continuing a commercial-yeast-free month, I made a ciabbata-ish loaf. I've never made it without commercial yeast before, so this was a bit of an experiment. I used a starter that had been quadruple-fed the day before, femented at room temp, and then retarded overnight. Theis started was used in place of a poolish. I went with 70% overal hydration, but I think 75% would be even better. The crust and crumb were both quite light and satisfying, but I didn't develop the large cavities I normally get. That's the main thing leading me to higher hydration. The loaf as a whole: Crust detail. This is the end that was slightly less floured due to a bit of stretching during the transfer from couche to peel. Crumb detail. As I said, I'd like to see a few more voids, but the texture and flavor were quite nice. There's one technical flaw in the center where I got a little too much flour on the dough during a turn.
  9. The crust and gringe on those loaves looks really great--it looks to me like you got some nice oven spring going to open them up like that. How much hydration do are you using?
  10. Tavolata is now open. 2323 2nd Ave in Belltown. I recommend the oysters and the oxtail and orange manicotti, and look forward to working my way through the rest of the menu.
  11. Here is a country French loaf based on Thom Leonard's formula in Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking. I made two oblong loaves of about 900g each instead of one larger boule as the book recommends. This cut the baking time from the recommended 70 minutes to about 55. I was very happy with the crust development--it actually looks a fair bit darker in person than in these photos--and relatively satisfied with the crumb. I think I'll definitely use this formula again.
  12. So if you order a few plates, theoretically compromising your whole order, eat them, and then tell them you'd like order a few more, what happens? Do they kick you out of the place at that point? That's my normal strategy for creating a sequence I want if I have reason to believe the restaurant won't normally do it. Of course it's less convenient than ordering all at once, but it's not that different than the very standard the practice of ordering cheese and/or dessert after the main meal.
  13. Whenever a brilliant dinner party host starts thinking about restaurant ownership, I always offer the same advice: Twice a week, every week for the next year, host a dinner party for 10. Buy quality ingredients and good wine from passionate and reputable local suppliers, then spend the whole day preparing for the dinner. For an average of $50 per person or less I am confident that you will be able to produce many fantastic dinners and have a great time, both in the kitchen and at the table with your guests. At the end of the year, you will find that you have spent $50,000, worked two days a week, and spent the other five doing whatever else interests you. Contrast that with what you can expect the first year in the restaurant business. First, you will be working seven days a week, and rarely if ever enjoying any time at the table with your friends or customers. Second, it is highly unlikely you will burn through less than $50K. You could very easily go in the hole much deeper than that. So if you really want to open a restaurant, save yourself a lot of time, trouble, and expense, and just take your dinner party hosting to the next level, as described above. All I ask in exchange for this advice is that you invite me to the table once or twice a month.
  14. We had a Tre Marie brand Pandoro (fruit-free cousin of the panettone) on Christmas morning. The texture was soft and fluffy and the aroma was rich and sweet. It also came with a generous packet of icing sugar to sprinkle over the top. Even the panetonne skeptics gave it high marks. Unless, or perhaps even if, I teach myself to bake one at some point this year, I will buy another one of these next holiday season.
  15. Mignonette is red wine vinegar, brunoise of shallots, salt and pepper. It's a traditional French sauce for oysters. I have never seen it frozen anywhere but Seattle, and I must confess I really don't like the frozen version. As for Elliot's I don't go that often, but they do have a very nice selection of fresh oysters. I've never been super happy with the rest of the menu, however.
  16. I was there that night as well. We had a very nice platter of super-fresh sashimi. The standout were the scallops, in a light creamy sauce served piled in a hollowed out lemon bowl. I also thought the garden room was really fantastic. Apparently they have some kind of elaborate snow machine that is supposed to make it feel like a snowy day in Kyoto. I can't wait to see that in action.
  17. In case anyone missed it, Nancy Leson recently reported on Ethan Stowell's new venture, Travolata, slated to open this fall in Belltown. Count me among those looking forward to this place.
  18. Ramp tempura is hard to beat. Otherwise a quick saute is all they need.
  19. Uwajimaya had ramps when I was there last week, with the requisite 50% dirt ratio. But it's worth the effort to clean them.
  20. 26 brix is my favorite place in Walla Walla. Whitehouse Crawford is probably second on my list. The menu at the former is a bit more daring--off the map really for Walla Walla--but both are excellent.
  21. For my money, James Miller at Cafe Besalu rules the local patisserie scene. His operation is small, and I have no idea if he has openings, but absolutely stop in and see what he is up to.
  22. Recently I had my first experience with a glass closure. It was in a 2004 Zweigelt from Heinrich in Austria. I didn't actually know what the closure was and had a hard time figuring out how to get it open. But after playing with it a bit, I managed to pull and twist it out of the bottle. I have to say that in my experience this is the most elegent of the non-cork closures I have seen. I'd be interested to hear other opinions. I did a little gooling and found out that this closure is called a vino-lok . It's made of glass, with an o-ring seal of elvax, which is the same stuff you see under bottle caps. Here are some pictures of the vino-lok: First, the profile, where you can see the extent of the seal. It goes down 3-4mm into the bottle and has a rim that covers the lip of the bottle. Here are a couple of more angles on it. The wine stain on the seal probably has more to do with me playing with the stopper and putting it back in the half-drunk bottle a few times than any leakage during storage. Finally, here it is back in the bottle. After the wine was gone I tested resealing the bottle full of water and turning it upside-down. There was no leakage. This zweigelt is meant to be consumed young, like a beaujolais, and as such it was quite nice, bold and fruity. I have no idea how this kind of closure would hold up under long term aging, but in the short term it seems to have done a marvelous job. One thing I wonder about this and other non-cork closures is whether bottles that use them need to be stored horizontally. If the closure is inert or nearly so, it might not need to be kept wet like cork. On the other hand, storing bottles vertically would result in a different amount of surface area of wine in contact with the air in the bottle. Might this matter?
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