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Robert Schonfeld

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Posts posted by Robert Schonfeld

  1. Hello, Mr. Reinhart. My question concerning gluten is this: if I choose a flour with a relatively low protein number, and then add vital wheat gluten, do I stand a better chance of producing a very wet dough that can be aggressively developed into loaves that will retain their form and also have a very open crumb, as opposed to simply using a strong flour at a high hydration which, in my experience as a home baker, does not yield the large holes one looks for in such a loaf?

    edit: I am familiar with turning techniques, and I have produced good flattish loaves with a variable crumb. What I am curious about is a loaf I once saw that was very high - nearly round - but also with very large holes. I have seen flour offered that gives both protein and vital gluten specifications, which is what gives rise to my question.

  2. It was our pleasure to share a meal at this restaurant with Susan and Robert Brown last month. Lunch was served in a small, charming garden. One dish stands out in memory: daurade sauvage topped with a half-dried tomato, girolles and a sauce of galinette, described by the chef as a kind of (or similar to: my French isn't that good) rouget. The sauce was a deep reddish brown, as rich in taste as the promise of its color. It served perfectly to marry the mushrooms with the meaty fish. It also balanced nicely with the tomato, which in its turn was acid, rich and meaty.

    Plate design of the first by Bob.



  3. Florentine cooking is quite different from the food found in the rest of Tuscany.  I'm not even sure whether there is a valid category called Tuscan, and would be interested in opinions on this question.

    I am very interested to hear more about this from knowledgeable participants. My own experience has been that food in Florence can be "urbanized" with a greater dose of sophistication and finesse, like the city itself. This has also been true for me in at least one other important Tuscan city, Lucca. In general, it tends to be true of cooking in cities as opposed to the countryside, the latter of which makes up the majority of Tuscany and all of Italy. In addition, creations can arise in Florence, such as schiacciatta with grapes, rather than the foccacia found commonly elsewhere in Tuscany and throughout that part of Italy. Or things prepared "alla fiorentina" as another example.

    The Tuscans I know refer constantly to common characteristics of their province, as they do to differences among tiny areas within the province that are virtually indistinguishable to outsiders. Both are valid points of view.

    edited for typo

  4. My Japanese friends in New York call the style of sushi that involves different liquid applications and different condiments, as well as the occasional blow-torching, "New York style sushi". This style may be experienced at a high level of quality at Jewel Bako, for example.

    The use of different sauces, condiments and blowtorching is actually not that unusual in Japan either. My last meal in Tokyo for example I had Chu-Toro with some mayonaisse-based condiment that was cooked with a blow torch.

    Although the use is more common in NY, it is definitely not unique to the city.

    It was not my intent to encourage an inference concerning the uniqueness of this style to New York, but rather to report that it is referred to that way by at least some Japanese both in New York and in Japan.

  5. My Japanese friends in New York call the style of sushi that involves different liquid applications and different condiments, as well as the occasional blow-torching, "New York style sushi". This style may be experienced at a high level of quality at Jewel Bako, for example.

  6. You don't have to keep it warm. Many restaurants cook their risotto to "very al dente" and then spread it out on a sheet tray to cool. The line cook then uses this and stirs and simmers with the hot stock on hand to finish. Risotto is a great party/catering item because ot this trick.

    "Risotto" and "great party/catering item" strike me as contradictory terms.

  7. This is one reason, by the way, that many (most?) long-time sourdough bakers recommend starting with an established starter rather than starting one yourself.

    I agree. here's one that I have been using for nearly ten years with much satisfaction. It is available for the cost of a self-addressed stamped envelope from the family of a man who literally spent the last years of his life dedicated to giving it away to anyone who asked.

    A good part of the sourdough spirit resides in sharing. Carl exemplified that.

  8. I learned the folding-during-fermentation technique from a pizza baker in Rome. It's a good one and it works to increase the extensibility of the dough.

    As discussed, there are ways of making sour bread. Understanding buffering is important to this. Sour bread is not the goal of many regular sourdough bakers. Sourdough is an unfortunate misnomer in this regard.

    Why is the recipe in volume, rather than weight measure, which is so much more convenient for figuring hydration?

    When Dick Adams makes it onto this board, you know that sourdough has gone mainstream.

    Edited for spelling and clarity.

  9. Thanks for the reply, Bill. Usually, when you can smell or taste the yeast, bakers say there's too much. I suspect that the big oven spring you are getting is coming from your exceptional, very hot oven, along with a dough that's been well developed by a good machine. But I love your commitment to the experiments, and most of all I'd love to taste some of that pizza. Your family and neighbors are lucky!

  10. A magnum opus branding you as certifiably nuts, Bill. Of course, the fact that I sought out terracotta tiles from an Italian oven maker to line my own home oven here in New York is perfectly normal...

    I agree - in fact I preach to anyone who will listen - that all bread baking is about technique, temperature and state of mind, not recipes.

    Just this question: all that yeast? Typically flavor is developed by using a very small amount of yeast (the Italians make a biga), and by fermenting the dough in bulk in a cool environment for an extended period of time. Successive turnings of the dough promote the extensibility that allows the pie to be shaped by stretching rather than rolling. What is the advantage of so much yeast?

  11. Robert, let me offer you a belated apology for having been totally useless to you in this quest!  I think that, if one had the essential language skills, this would be a fascinating pursuit.  Certainly, much more has been done on this front in France, and if it is true (as I, of course, choose to believe) that Caterina de' Medici taught the French how to cook (and eat with something other than their fingers), there must be significant undiscovered (at least by English-speakers) history.

    No need for regrets, Bill. This is, to say the least, a slow-moving pursuit on my part, something for me to get into gradually during periods of boredom with my everyday livelihood. I do, however, share your sense of opportunity for discovery, and this is my motivation, along with the insufferable arrogance of the French apologists.

  12. I want a 100 pound soapstone.

    Here's one idea that I haven't seen mentioned: in conjunction with a long bulk fermentation, turn the dough gently at least several times. This will help with extensibility if olive oil is anathema to you. Be sure the dough is fully rested before forming the crust.

  13. Most, if not all primary source material is to be found in some or other archive somewhere. Given that your interest lies in Italy this would seem to be the place to start. You might wish to start by contacting the University of Bologna (the original university). They may have such things 'commonplace' books, a kind of middle class houskeeping/scrapbook kept by many families from the middle ages onwards, and which might contain something of which you seek. If you do decide to contact them, try writing to Professor Massimo Montanari, a medieval food specialist and co-author of 'Food, a Culinary History'. Alternatively use the bibiliographies in the secondary sources to guide you to primary sources of interest. I do warn you though, dealing with primary sources of this kind is a thankless and tortuous undertaking.

    Many thanks for the good suggestions, lml. A hobby for retirement, perhaps. Meantime, I'll look into Prof. Montanari's book.

  14. The discussion of the origin of the names of some pasta dishes in the guanciale thread has me thinking once again about the difference between anecdotal information and primary source material. While folk history is a vital part of culture, and offers much useful information, the egghead in me is always wondering about primary sources. For example, much opinion and secondary source material is offered concerning earlier development of many important techniques in Italy before the same techniques were adopted in France. My question is this: where would a serious researcher look for primary material on the subject of Italian cuisine? Has any compelling academic work been done on the history of Italian cuisine that is footnoted with references to primary sources? This question is asked not to give short shrift to observation and tradition, but to ask whether sources exist to support these, and, if so, to what degree have they been studied and published with footnotes?

  15. In view of the fact that so many Italian dishes have imprecise, even poetical origins, it seems to me that insistence in the form of words like "mandatory" can be contradicted by observation and experience.

  16. Doesn't "carbonara" mean coal miner or charcoal maker? I always thought the reference in the title of the dish was to a noun relating the dish to the working people with whom it was first associated, like puttanesca.

    The Roman recipe also includes, unsurprisingly, some pecorino romano.

    I find that cracked pepper suits the dish better than ground pepper.

    I'm surprised that no one has mentioned that spaghetti alla carbonara is sometimes offered in Italy made with smoked bacon, perhaps leading to its association with American GI's (bacon and eggs).

    Salumeria Biellese's guanciale, like Niman Ranch's, is available by the piece. The last piece I got there was about $20, which compares favorably with buying a few slices of pancetta here and there on the East Side of NYC.

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