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aperture

Why bake carrots in dough?

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On p. 116 of the VOLT ink. cookbook there's a recipe that involves making a dough out of flour, salt, egg whites, water, and ras el hanout, then dividing the dough in half, spreading one half on a pan and topping it with kaffir lime leaves, carrots, and olive oil, then laying the other half of the dough on top everything (so the carrots and lime leaves are sealed in).

What's odd to me is that once the crust is baked to golden brown, the whole thing is cut open, the carrots are removed, and the crust is never mentioned again. In fact, the crust is made with dough that calls for 300g (!) of kosher salt so I'm pretty sure it's not meant to be eaten. So my question is why use the crust at all? Why use the ras el hanout in the crust? Is it really just for aroma? How is a dough crust much better than, say, aluminum foil if you're not going to actually use the crust? I'm guessing there's a reason behind this, but I don't know what it is.

Thanks!


Edited by aperture (log)

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aperture, this technique is typically used to keep the moisture in fish or fowl while it is baked. The food also takes flavour from the flour and salt, which is why it might be preferred to foil, but I can see very little benefit in using this method for vegetables, which would not normally dry out through cooking.

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I've seen a similar approach used with beets. My suspicion (though this is really just a guess) is that it's intended as a form of salt-roasting, but uses less salt than actually burying the vegetables in it, because the dough allows you to make the salt "stick" to the vegetables. I keep meaning to give it a try sometime...


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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This recipe is not quite like anything I've seen before, where vegetables are cooked in a flavored dough that is discarded. It does seem like a lot of work for a bunch of carrots.

I'm familiar with chicken baked in bread dough and chicken baked in clay. With bread dough, you eat the cooked bread, which is soaked with juices and is yummy. In clay-baked chicken, the chicken is rubbed with aromatics, wrapped in parchment, then clay. This self-contained, cooked-in-its-juices method can make the food more intensely flavored and succulent.

Paula Wolfert has a couple carrot recipes in her cookbooks that are a variation on this theme. She uses parchment to partially contain the food.

In Mediterranean Claypot Cooking, Summer Carrots in Claypot:

http://books.google.com/books?id=iHh19M8YNxEC&pg=PA209&lpg=PA209&dq=wolfert+summer+carrots+cooked+in+claypot&source=bl&ots=_Dp-T-mAl5&sig=EtjmBIx8uNxJwkpPy-zWBky5elk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=5BP8UvGwHc7soATvroD4Cg&ved=0CDQQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=wolfert%20summer%20carrots%20cooked%20in%20claypot&f=false

In Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, Glazed Carrots with Green Olives:

http://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/glazed-carrots-green-olives

I've tried both carrot recipes. I think the carrots do have a better flavor and color, and the texture is more pleasantly firm than you would get with ordinary steaming or boiling. I like the Glazed Carrots recipe better, because of the oomph from the additional ingredients. I use a stovetop claypot to ensure low even cooking, and I prefer it without the cream.

FYI, another Wolfert recipe, for Baked Chicken Wrapped in Clay. The method in this recipe is closest to the OP's recipe (i.e., the food is cooked with aromatics and totally sealed).

http://books.google.com/books?id=iHh19M8YNxEC&pg=PA73&lpg=PA73&dq=wolfert+Carlo+Middione+Gypsy-Style+Clay-Wrapped+Chicken&source=bl&ots=_Dp-T-mxm4&sig=RUYqmFndZKtBoo0lCAZvQ7OAogs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=wBL8UqPIM4mjrQGmjIHoDg&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=wolfert%20Carlo%20Middione%20Gypsy-Style%20Clay-Wrapped%20Chicken&f=false

If you make the VOLT ink. recipe, pls let us know how it comes out.


Edited by djyee100 (log)

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Seems like a silly chef trick to me.

Why not bake the carrots in the mud in which they were grown. Terroir and all that. Farm to table to a new degree!


Edited by gfweb (log)

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@Plantes Vertes - This is along the lines of what I thought. I've seen salt crusts used for fish but never for vegetables and couldn't really tell why it would be helpful when carrots don't really "dry out" in the same way that fish can.

@mkayahara - Perhaps it uses less salt but I'm not actually sure it's more economical to make a dough with flour and egg whites. Maybe it's different for a restaurant?

@djyee100 - Thanks for the links. This is not a technique (clay or dough) I've ever tried but it actually sounds promising, along the lines of using a parchment or clay lid in a braise. I might try the clay-wrapped chicken soon.

@gfweb - There's actually another recipe in the book that calls for beets to be baked in garden soil (just beets, garlic, rosemary, and thyme mixed into soil and salt and baked for a few hours).

I'm not sure when/if I'll make this, but if I do I'll report back.


Edited by aperture (log)

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@mkayahara - Perhaps it uses less salt but I'm not actually sure it's more economical to make a dough with flour and egg whites. Maybe it's different for a restaurant?

So, I asked my chef about this yesterday as he was baking celery roots in a similar salt dough. He replied that many things, if baked in salt alone, simply become too salty; the salt-and-flour crust lets you control the amount of salt you use, while still fully encasing the vegetable in it.


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Then why not just brine the vegetables before cooking them?

So, I asked my chef about this yesterday as he was baking celery roots in a similar salt dough. He replied that many things, if baked in salt alone, simply become too salty; the salt-and-flour crust lets you control the amount of salt you use, while still fully encasing the vegetable in it.

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