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Cooking with "Modernist Cuisine at Home" (Part 1)


Chris Hennes
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I would love to hear other people's impressions of the pizza. I ordered a baking steel yesterday and am really excited to try making some real home made pizza. However, any dough that requires kneeding has always been my kryptonite of cooking, pasta, gnocci, bread, etc I've never been able to get it right. Hearing some of the difficulty with the pizza dough from better cooks than I has me a little worried. I'm hoping someone from the MCAH team chimes in with some tips.

I flipped through the whole book and one of the more interesting recipes I think is the fat free mac and cheese. I am going to test that this weekend with a Mac and Cheese expert (a toddler) and see how it turns out.

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I just got my copy, and wow, it's absolutely incredible!

About the pizza: I looked at the recipe, and the hydration in MCaH is incredibly high, 75%. Way too high, in my opinion, unless you have extensive experience working with high-hydration doughs (even then, a Neapolitan pizza with hydration that high seems like an outlier).

For reference, Jim Lahey's no-knead dough (which the headnote says theirs is based on) is 70% hydration, and the Serious Eats Neapolitan dough mentioned by Merkinz is 65%. So if you thought the Serious Eats dough was hard to work with, this'll be much, much more difficult.

Most Neapolitan doughs have hydrations in the 60s, when it's up in the 70s its extremely difficult or impossible to work with. Most doughs with hydrations that high are things like Sicilian pies, which are stretched into a pan, not shaped by hand.

This is interesting, thanks for the insight ryansm.

In the end I developed a folding technique to transfer the dough to a peel that worked quite well for me: So the dough was spread out in 'rounds' on the bench, I'd use two hands and grab two opposite sides folding them in to the center so they are touching each other. Then I'd turn it 90° and do this again. I know I haven't described this very well and it sounds like some kinda origami project but the result was good for two reasons:

1) It stretches the skin of the dough enough to make it 'tight' for a short period of time in which you can pick it up, dust it with flour, transfer it to a peel and start working its shape.

2) It doesn't destroy all the air bubbles within the dough... and I love a good bubbly pizza!

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Chris, thanks for the response, it makes perfect sense.

So far, my impression of MCaH is that its main weakness is the lack of information about modernist ingredients. I understand the aim of this book, and wasn't expecting anything even close to the ingredient discussion present in MC, but I was hoping for something more than basically just showing a picture of some of the common ingredients in the 2-page spread. There are more details about how microwave ovens and induction burners work than what xanthan gum and soy lecithin are and how to use them. It's nice to know about cooking gear, sure, but it seems much more practical to learn about the ingredients.

For example, in the spread on pages 70-71, I saw that they recommend liquid lecithin instead of powdered, and saw this called for in the recipes. Only later did I happen to stumble upon a footnote in one of the sauce recipes that explained the difference between the two and why they cannot be substituted for one another. I'm sure there's more helpful info like this throughout the book, but it would be far preferable to have it in one place for easy reference.

I guess what I wanted was some kind of chart of the more common thickeners and such, with suggested uses and their accompanying percentages. For example, use .x% xanthan gum for this effect, .y% for this effect, etc. In the book's format, it's hard to take the techniques and ingredients used throughout MCaH and incorporate them into your own cooking and creation.

In fact, part of the reason for my expectations and then let down came from some of the pre-release publicity. This mini-guide to modernist ingredients, written by Nathan and the MC team (http://www.saveur.co...ist-Ingredients) in the lead-up to the book's release gave the impression that this was a sample or pared down version of what to come. In reality, this article has more information than the actual book! Several of the ingredients discussed in the article are not actually written about (at least not in the ingredient guide.)

I understand that all of the information I want is surely in MC, but (a) I only have access to it via the library, and (b) it's information that is quite relevant and should be available to MCaH buyers. I certainly don't think it's something that could be considered out of the scope of this book and its audience (definitely no more than detailing where the vacuum reservoir and exhaust channels are on an edge sealer!).

Edited by ryansm (log)
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Oops, Chris, I saw that you made the regular Neapolitan pizza dough, not the no-knead. The MCaH regular Neapolitan is 62% hydration, which should be pretty easy to work with. If your dough was that difficult to work with, the first suspect would be under-kneading it. Most of my pizza doughs are around 60%, give or take 2%, and they only behaved like you described when, as a beginner, I chronically under-kneaded breads.

As for transferring dough from the peel, I find that a 50/50 blend of white flour and semolina make a much better bench/peel flour than using plain white flour, and make sure you give the peel a good jerk or two before you add each topping.

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Oops, Chris, I saw that you made the regular Neapolitan pizza dough, not the no-knead. The MCaH regular Neapolitan is 62% hydration, which should be pretty easy to work with. If your dough was that difficult to work with, the first suspect would be under-kneading it. Most of my pizza doughs are around 60%, give or take 2%, and they only behaved like you described when, as a beginner, I chronically under-kneaded breads.

As for transferring dough from the peel, I find that a 50/50 blend of white flour and semolina make a much better bench/peel flour than using plain white flour, and make sure you give the peel a good jerk or two before you add each topping.

I strongly doubt under-kneading was an issue here: it gets kneaded for five minutes on medium speed, rested for ten minutes, and then kneaded for five minutes more. Medium struck me as insanely fast for kneading, actually, I was more concerned that it was overkneaded, rather than under. It did not feel like a hydration issue: the dough was tacky, but not wet, per se (certainly not as wet as my usual pizza dough, which is 70% hydration). It simply flowed. A lot.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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What kind of flour did you use? Many 00 flours in the US aren't labeled according to their gluten content, but since the 00 refers to the fineness of the grind, not protein level, there are low to high 00 flours floating around on shelves. Perhaps you used a lower-gluten 00 flour than they intended?

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Chicken Noodle Soup (p. 273)

which is composed of:

Fresh Egg Noodles (p. 268)

Pressure-Cooked Carrots and Leeks (p. 272)

Sous Vide Chicken (p. 244)

Aromatic Chicken Broth (p. 266)

Pressure-Rendered Chicken Fat (p. 123)

This chicken noodle soup captures the spirit of Modernist Cuisine quite well, I think: it's all about careful, precise cooking of each individual ingredient, accentuated with steps designed to take the basic flavor profile of Chicken Noodle Soup to the next level. What you end up with isn't so much a mind-bogglingly awesome display of Modernism as a perfect example of Chicken Noodle Soup. I did not have access to chervil, so I just sort of punted on the herbs in the broth, increasing the amount of tarragon and adding some Italian parsley: I'd really like to try it with the right ingredients next time, since I thought the herbs were a bit too subtle in this incarnation. Probably can't do that until next spring, though.

DSC_0396.jpg

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Microwave eggplant recipe was amazing. The texture of eggplant was similar to that of melted mozzarela, not chewy, not bitter, not soggy, just a great canvas for tomatoe basil cheese flavours that we know work well together. Quick to do if you keep marinara sauce at ready, which you should bc is so versatile and tasty.

Question about the pc squash puree: does lemongrass go inside the pressure cooker as well? I could not figure it out from the recipe. I have made carrot soup before few times, reducing butter slightly bc i felt it was too rich for my taste. Other than that, I am a fan, and hope someone knows what to do with lemongrass. Planning to use it for the risotto recipe tonight.

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Microwave eggplant recipe was amazing. The texture of eggplant was similar to that of melted mozzarela, not chewy, not bitter, not soggy, just a great canvas for tomatoe basil cheese flavours that we know work well together. Quick to do if you keep marinara sauce at ready, which you should bc is so versatile and tasty.

Question about the pc squash puree: does lemongrass go inside the pressure cooker as well? I could not figure it out from the recipe. I have made carrot soup before few times, reducing butter slightly bc i felt it was too rich for my taste. Other than that, I am a fan, and hope someone knows what to do with lemongrass. Planning to use it for the risotto recipe tonight.

I would guess yes ... I have a similar question about the cheeses in the PC broccoli recipe.

Look forward to trying the eggplant recipe soon :)

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I guess what I wanted was some kind of chart of the more common thickeners and such, with suggested uses and their accompanying percentages. For example, use .x% xanthan gum for this effect, .y% for this effect, etc. In the book's format, it's hard to take the techniques and ingredients used throughout MCaH and incorporate them into your own cooking and creation.

Ideas in food book contains nice information on exactly this. I do not own MC (yet) but have been using Ideas in food to play with a number of hydrocolloids succesfully.

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I cooked my first Modernist cuisine at home recipe last night. I made the pressure caramelized onions and then did the French onion soup variation. My wife is a French onion soup lover and she gave it 5 stars!

The recipe is really quite simple if you have some really good beef stock on hand. I used some beef stock from the Heston Blumenthal at home book that was in the freezer. Other than not having any perfectly melting cheese (my sodium citrate has not been delivered yet, so I just went with a slice of provolone that was in the fridge) I followed the recipe to the letter. Making the caramelized onions was a snap and they came out insanely rich. The rest of the recipe was just dump and stir (and put under the broiler).

The soup came out amazingly savory. It was on the edge of too rich for me but my wife practically turned up her bowl to get the last drops out. Great first go from the book.

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I guess what I wanted was some kind of chart of the more common thickeners and such, with suggested uses and their accompanying percentages. For example, use .x% xanthan gum for this effect, .y% for this effect, etc. In the book's format, it's hard to take the techniques and ingredients used throughout MCaH and incorporate them into your own cooking and creation.

Ideas in food book contains nice information on exactly this. I do not own MC (yet) but have been using Ideas in food to play with a number of hydrocolloids succesfully.

Thanks! I actually already own that, but haven't gotten to any of the hydrocolloid sections yet, so thanks for the heads up.

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Sorry. 62% should be fine. Are you sure there wasn't a measurement error on your side?

Nope! It could definitely be a measurement error. I don't remember making one, of course, but it's always a possibility. I'm just tossing my results out there: now we wait until the next person tries it, and see what happens to theirs.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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No-Knead Pizza Dough (p. 300)

Tonight I made the same pizza as the other night, but used the no-knead crust recipe instead of the Neapolitan. This is a 75% hydration dough made with all-purpose flour (based on Lahey's recipe, which I have made many times). The dough was relatively easy to work with, showing none of the susceptibility to tearing that I saw the other evening. Of course as a high-hydration dough you have to handle it gently and quickly, but it held together quite well. Possibly even better than I am used to, actually, maybe due to the additional gluten that gets added. At any rate, when baked via the oven-frying method the crust ends up very soft and puffy: maybe not my favorite style, but "it is what it is."

DSC_0416.jpg

DSC_0423.jpg

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Pressure-Cooked Pork Belly Adobo

This looked good in the book to me so I thought 'why not' :cool: ... So I made a half batch

I measured out all the ingredients (everything shown below except the soy sauce) and thought ... "is that it?" :huh: not much really goes into this.

P1010823.jpg

... in then out of the pressure cooker ...

P1010838.jpg

Strained, reduced, glazed ...

P1010846.jpg

WOW! This dish packed some flavor! By far my favorite recipe from the book thus far. It is dead simple to make, has relatively few ingredients but transforms into something truly wonderful.

Some of the meat (the bigger muscle pieces furtherest away from the skin) dried out a bit but didn't detract too much from the dish. I'd be interested if anyone had any ideas on how to avoid this ... I've never had much luck with pork.

None the less a great recipe for a great meal.

Edited by Merkinz (log)
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that really looks delicious. but ... can't imagine where to find a few fresh bay leaves, no trees around here>

off to Chinese market Sun to stock up on some pork belly!

i wonder how the Adobo would do with some orange rind, fresh or dried?

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@Merkinz, I'm looking forward to trying that one: the pressure cooker works wonders on pork belly.

Uovo Pizza (using the Neapolitan crust and Oven Fried Pizza technique)

I decided to take another stab at the Neapolitan crust that I struggled with last week, since I wound up quite happy with its texture and flavor, just not its handling qualities. Today I double-checked all my weights to ensure I wasn't screwing anything up there. Next, instead of kneading on "medium" that the recipe calls for, I kneaded on "2" (out of 10, on my KitchenAid)—this is the setting I normally use for bread. Finally, I was much more liberal with the flour while handling the dough, and I worked it more quickly.

Here is the dough in the mixer:

DSC_0430.jpg

At that point it cleared the sides of the bowl but not the bottom, exactly as described in the recipe (for the record, the same was true of my last attempt). Here it is straight out of the mixer:

DSC_0432.jpg

It's quite sticky at this point, and comes nowhere near passing a windowpane test. I rolled it about in a large amount of flour and divided it into four pieces (two of which went into the freezer). The remaining two pieces I aggressively worked into balls, allowing them to absorb a lot of flour, and working out the gluten a bit more. I wound up with this:

DSC_0434.jpg

That's much better than last time. After an hours' rest, I shaped the dough, which was much easier this time. It was still fragile, but working faster, and making no attempt to dress the pizza before placing it in the pan, I was able to produce a couple of respectable pies.

DSC_0451.jpg

The Modernist touch of adding extra milk solids to the butter paid off again in this recipe: the browned butter flavor easily stood up to the other toppings, balancing very well, IMO (I used Chukar eggs rather than quail, since that's what I had on hand). I'm still not 100% pleased with the handling qualities of the crust, but it may simply come down to the exact brand of 00 flour used: I'm not using the same one the MC folks do.

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Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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