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Everything posted by abooja

  1. I was recently forced to buy an 8-ounce bottle of Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract, after not having purchased vanilla extract in more than a decade, when my beloved jug of home brew shattered in a tragic vacuuming accident. Vanilla bean prices are more reasonable than they have been in recent years, so that is the next vanilla related purchase on the horizon.
  2. abooja

    Steven Shaw

    Only yesterday, I learned of the tragic passing of Steven Shaw. He had been kind enough to add me to his list of LinkedIn connections, where I happened upon the terrible news. I am still quite upset by this, as all of you are. I did not know the man personally, but he was always amiable and impressed me greatly with what he helped create here in eGullet. I will never forget hearing him interviewed on Food Talk on WOR radio in New York, and reporting back excitedly to the group. Or that time I advised him to boil water in his microwave, then use the oven as a proofing receptacle to avoid having roaches invade his dough, as silly as that recollection may be. I felt a kinship with this man, who was my own age, and a fellow New Yorker, even though we were worlds apart in terms of accomplishment. I would like to extend my condolences to his wife and child, and everyone who ever had the pleasure of his friendship. He will be greatly missed.
  3. I harvested the bulk of tomatillos from the three plants in my garden yesterday, or 7-1/2 pounds worth. In the next couple of days, I will make a double batch of enchiladas verdes, half of which will be frozen, and jar the rest as salsa. Pretty decent production in total (about ten pounds), considering these plants were at the back of a garden which received maybe six hours a day of afternoon sun.
  4. We used the term in Brooklyn, too. My Italian grandmother would say "gravy", but her son, my father, still says "sauce". It seems pretty arbitrary to me.
  5. abooja

    Lunch! (2003-2012)

    The latest in a recent series of killer BLTs. Homemade bread, pulled out of the oven 45 minutes before toasting, thick cut bacon, perfectly ripe, home grown Brandywine tomatoes, iceberg lettuce (sorry, I like it for this sandwich), and a schmear of mayonnaise. I would have enjoyed a cigarette afterwards, but I don't smoke.
  6. I am actually doing this right now. 225 degrees Fahrenheit, convection mode, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt. I plan on freezing them when they're done.
  7. I'm officially overwhelmed by tomatoes. I only grew two (heirloom) varieties -- Brandywine and Hillbilly -- but it's just the two of us, and they've been prolific, for six hours of sun per day. I have around ten pounds right now that I have to figure out what to do with by tomorrow. This is a 17.4 ounce Brandywine: And here's a selection from the most recent crop: The Hillbillies were supposed to be streaked, but a lot of them turned out straight up yellow. Cross pollination with the Brandywines? I certainly prefer the latter. DH wasn't a big fan of the yellow tomato sauce. I'm not quite sure what to do with them. They were very watery. I don't think I'll bother growing them again.
  8. My assumption -- and this is based purely on timing (around one minute after First Crack) and color -- is somewhere between City+ and Full City. I have the same problem in that some beans are roasted more than others. Perhaps an actual dog bowl is needed. Its larger diameter would cause the beans to spread out more, giving the heat gun access to a wider surface area at one time.
  9. Incidentally, the Colombia "Dos Payasos de Tolima" beans, when properly roasted, were quite tasty. Nothing exotic about them, but then that's how I like my coffee, apparently. I've finally been able to enjoy good (for me) coffee. The stuff is so fresh, it effervesces as I add the hot water, so constant stirring is required. Yesterday, I repeated the heat gun technique with some more Brazil "Fazenda do Sertao (Lot 50)" beans, to be tasted tomorrow morning. I also reordered -- two more pounds of Colombia "Dos Payasos de Tolima" and two pounds of Costa Rica "Lourdes de Naranjo" beans. I have high hopes for the latter.
  10. I recently made the switch to roasting with a cheap heat gun instead of a popcorn popper, and have finally been able to achieve darker roasts. My first attempt was with four ounces of Sumatra Lintong Tano Batak beans, roasted for five minutes on low (750 degrees Fahrenheit) and nearly eight minutes on high (1,000 degrees F.) This roast was quite dark, having achieved both First Crack and most of Second Crack, from what I could tell. The resulting cup was too strong/bitter (I still don't know how to describe it), but drinkable when blended with other beans. Here it is on the right, next to some One Village Artist's Blend on the left: My second attempt was just this morning. Four ounces of Colombian beans (same as first popper roast), also roasted for five minutes on low, but for about a minute and a half less on high, or about 30-60 seconds past First Crack. This time, I pulled the heat gun a bit farther away (4-5 inches instead of 1-2 inches) during the initial heating as well as the final few minutes of roasting. I think I achieved a very even, brown roast, similar in color to Eight O'Clock Colombian, which was purely by accident. Here it is in the center, along with Eight O'Clock on the right, and One Village on the left: I can't wait to taste it on Saturday morning.
  11. The detailed photos of the "Something Borrowed" cake suggest that it is covered in actual pie crust, not fondant. I would be amazed if fondant could be made to look that blistered and brittle, like real pastry.
  12. I've owned a French press for years, but haven't used it since I lived in Queens six years and four moves ago. I wanted to give it another shot, since my drip and pourover experiments have been lackluster, but discovered a minor fracture in its base. Instead, I repurposed an Adagio ingenuiTEA 16 ounce teapot, purchased during a brief flirtation with loose tea. I must say, it works pretty darn well as a makeshift French press. I grind more coarsely (the finest of the Capresso's coarse settings), and use about 23 grams of coffee and 14 ounces of water. Four minute steep. The resulting cup has a lot more body and flavor than what I've been getting out of the Technivorm. I don't think I'll bother again with drip unless I'm brewing for more than one.
  13. I've purchased corn four times this season. Twice, it was very good. Once, it was excellent. And then there was that time, around a week ago, that it was god awful. I knew it wouldn't be great, but I was desperate and didn't have time to drive to another market. I was so bummed. It ruined the whole meal. I can't erase the memory of that bad corn -- chewy, puckered -- just vile. If I see some great looking corn again, and I'm sure I will at least once (Wegmans is good for such things), I will buy enough to make chowder. I tend to buy four ears at a time, for just the two of us, so it doesn't spoil before we can eat it all. And then there is the corn I am attempting to grow. Seven of the twelve plants survived the varmints, and three of those seven, thus far, have some small ears growing on them. It's the one hybrid plant in my garden. I figured if hybrid corn is good enough for the farmers around here (and corn grows EVERYWHERE in my area of Pennsylvania), it's good enough for me.
  14. An eG coffee get together sounds like a fun idea! I'm willing to host, if you're willing to travel. It will take a bit of planning -- and four-wheel drive. Our driveway is steep and gravelly. I'm drinking a cup of my latest (Ethiopian) roast, aged 48+ hours, and it's not half bad -- not terribly complex, and very light bodied. (This sounds exactly like my last review.) It doesn't taste any more darkly roasted than the Brazilian roast, despite having been roasted an additional few minutes. I actually think I preferred the Brazilian beans. Since the popper seems to stall after First Crack, but stays quite hot, despite not getting any hotter, I wonder what the effect is on the finished product. Is it sort of like searing a steak on a hot pan, then finishing it in the oven? Or toasting spices low and slow instead of hot and fast? Does the coffee not still cook? Regardless, this is clearly not the preferred approach to roasting coffee, and coffee beans will never get to a Full City+ or French roast with an unmodified popcorn popper. After recently tasting, and enjoying, a professionally roasted French blend, I realize that I am not averse to dark roasts, just overextracted coffee.
  15. I took onocoffee's advice, and picked up a pound of One Village coffee beans from the Creamery in Emmaus. I'm sure I got a great deal -- $8 for the pound -- considering the One Village website charges $12. They had no idea how much to charge, since they don't typically sell coffee beans, just brewed coffee. Their "Artist's Blend", which is all they carry at this location, is a combination of Central American beans roasted to both French and Full City. I didn't have high hopes, since the beans were quite oily, but it made for a really good cup of coffee. Since I've been drinking my coffee with half and half lately, I did notice a bit of fat buildup where the oils from the beans and the cream congealed into an unsightly fat layer on the surface of the cup. I just skimmed it right off and kept drinking.
  16. I have been roasting longer and longer each time, but have been loathe to burn the beans, despite encouragement to do so. After reading the following discussion... http://www.sweetmari...t=2436&start=30 ...I think I have an explanation for why First Crack happens so soon, but then many minutes pass, and the beans still do not burn. The thermostat on my 1040 watt popper causes a stall, prolonging First Crack and possibly preventing Second Crack from ever happening. Perhaps my infrared readings were correct, and my imagination did get the best of me. Rather than go to the trouble of modifying a cheap popcorn popper, I will likely venture into the heat gun method, and larger batch sizes, sometime soon.
  17. Another day, another roast... Today, it was three ounces of Sweet Maria's "Ethiopia Illubabor Baaroo", roasted for exactly eleven minutes. Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, First Crack began shortly after two minutes, but continued, on occasion, through eight minutes. I believe I heard flickers of Second Crack, but I could have been imagining that. Here they are on the right, with my control beans, Eight O'Clock Colombian, on the left: I think, overall, they look very similar in color, particularly in this shot: There was even a bit of sheen to some of my beans. Not that I am looking for sheen. Once again, I tried to measure bean temperature with an infrared thermometer and, once again, they reached a peak of 410 degrees Fahrenheit, before dropping to the upper 300s. I would love to know the exact reason for that. 410 is certainly within First Crack range, but the beans would had to have been scorched, losing all moisture, before cooling back down that much. Assuming that did not happen, it is clear that measuring temperature with an infrared thermometer is not particularly useful. Incidentally, I tasted the last of my Brazilian roast, two days later, and rather enjoyed it compared to my earlier efforts. I brewed it more strongly this time, plus the beans had two full days to age. If I had enough beans to make more than the one cup, I could have toyed with different strengths. I have no idea if it was the aging or the coffee to water ratio that improved the drinking experience, but I'll take it.
  18. I just brewed a cup of my latest roast, and it tastes virtually identical to the last, despite having been roasted twice as long. It has the color and astringency of black tea. It has been about 24 hours since it was roasted. As someone in Steve's link suggests, did it need to age a bit longer because it is a lighter roast? Or, from what you can tell, was it just not roasted long enough? I have enough left for one more cup. I may just run out and buy a heat gun today so that I can start roasting larger batches. I'd like to be able to test small portions of a batch over the course of a week, because three ounces only lasts so long.
  19. Here's a photo of my Brazilian roast side by side with Eight O'Clock Colombian, which is on the left. With the exception of maybe one or two beans, not in the photo, my roast definitely lacks the sheen and is lighter than the Eight O'Clock. They call theirs a medium roast, but it looks much darker than that to me. Of course, color is not the only determining factor. My roast has some of the surface cracks that are reminiscent of a City to City+ roast. Perhaps if I had a professional roasting drum, the slower roast would produce darker tones without the cracking? Just a guess. So, how do you guys measure temperature?
  20. I did, and this latest roast, at least visually, appears to be close to a Full City+. BTW, I didn't keep the Thermapen inside the machine, just held it there for a few seconds, then pulled it right out. Sweet Maria's has a recommended set-up for monitoring temps using a popcorn popper, but I would have to buy some things, and modify the machine. I may just decide to switch to a bake-and-heat gun method, in which case, I will need a different approach to monitoring temps. Thanks for your encouragement!
  21. I didn't bother to monitor the temperature of that first roast because I didn't think I had, on hand, an adequate method of doing so. I'm pretty sure I still don't. I have a Thermapen, and an infrared thermometer, and a meat thermometer (that I never use) that is too short-stemmed for the popper, and that lacks a high enough range. How is everyone else monitoring bean temperature? As for the taste, who can rightly say? Someone other than myself, apparently. I'm not sure what the heck it tasted like. I know that I liked it more than I did the Eight O'Clock I've been brewing lately. I removed the quakers (or beans that were very pale) before grinding, then brewed a 60 grams of coffee-to-one liter of water ratio, stronger than my usual 50:1, because of the lightness of the roast. The first brew was 18 hours after the roast, and the second was nearly two days later, or this morning. Both tasted identical, at least to my uninformed palate. Mild, not bitter, very light bodied, and vaguely reminiscent of coffee. Forging ahead, I roasted three more ounces of coffee this morning, some Brazil Fazenda do Sertao (Lot 50). This time, I stirred the roasting beans with the blunt end of a wooden skewer, and roasted a lot longer -- for 8 minutes, 53 seconds, to be precise. I heard first crack, and again could not determine whether or not I was hearing second crack. I also tried to monitor temperature with my infrared thermometer, but never got a reading higher than 405 degrees fahrenheit. The numbers even started to drop back to the high 300s, at which point I realized how much time had passed, and abruptly ended the roast. Here's what it looks like: And here is how it compares to my first roast, which is on the right: I hope I didn't burn it, but it did not smell burnt. It looks a lot more uniformly brown and smooth than my first roast, with less attached chaff and some "exploded" beans. I'll see how it tastes tomorrow.
  22. I've been reading as much as I can (online) about coffee and its various qualities, but think I need a hands on class in order to speak more fluently on the subject. As Fat Guy once said, I'm pretty much still at the "I like it" or "I don't like it" stage. I did just discover the following article on Sweet Maria's website, and plan on following its recommendations: http://www.sweetmari...brary/node/2931 I think that I do prefer a lighter roast. From what I understand, "roast taste" is a more caramelized, homogeneous flavor that will mask the origin taste of a particular bean. Also, if a bean is over roasted, it is likely to taste funky, for lack of a better word. If I'm seeing lots of oil in a particular bag of roasted beans, doesn't that mean that it is a very dark roast? The Eight O'Clock coffee, besides being old and from a supermarket, certainly was oily.
  23. I use $.79 / gallon Wegmans spring water, which is to say, I have no clue about its mineral composition. I tried searching, but got as far as determining its origin. I'm fairly certain that my brother uses filtered tap water. (He's in the filter business.)
  24. Thanks for the One Village recommendation. There's a shop a lot closer -- Creamery on Main, in Emmaus -- that also sells and brews One Village coffee. I hope that means it's about as fresh as the stuff in Souderton. My Google search yielded a place in Bethlehem, but I didn't want to travel that far. I do have a good scale (My Weigh KD-8000) and have been weighing my coffee before and after grinding. I've been varying the amount used, depending on the coffee, in order to determine a ratio that pleases me. Since I still haven't tried a great coffee, that ratio has yet to be determined. As for grind size, I've been using a mid-range grind on the medium scale of the Capresso Infinity, which some people recommend for the Technivorm. I've tried grinding it more finely, which seems to clog up the filter, and less finely, which results in a too-weak brew.
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