Monday, January 16, 2012

That No-Knead Bread recipe : If I can do it, anybody can.

So there's this recipe floating around the Internet...

It's for this crusty rustic bread that can be made at home simply, and with little effort.
My friend Tony sent me the recipe last year, since I was tossing around the idea of making my own bread instead of buying it from the store.  I read it, saw all the waiting involved, and went "pffft" and threw it into the recipe box.

Fast forward to a few days ago, when my friend J posted pictures of 
"Le no knead bread"
and I was like "Woah J, you did that!?  that's soooooooooo awesome!!"
and it looked so good. Sooooo freakin' good that, well, I got bread envy. I got it baaaad.   It had that chewwy panera bread look. The nooks... the crannies... I rebuked myself for my own laziness, and shook my fist in the air. AS GOD IS MY WITNESS, I WILL TRY THIS RECIPE!

So, I decided I have amassed enough culinary experience that I could surely tackle this no knead bread recipe... right?

He used the NY times recipe found here:

Okay Step 1. Mix all that stuff and let it sit for 12 hours, but 18 is better.

12 hour mark. Mrhhmmmm.... it's not exactly rising. Hopefully nothing's wrong with the yeast?

18 hour mark, welp this is as good as it's gonna get. :(

Fold over a few times on a floured surface, and loosely cover with plastic wrap for 15 minutes.

15 minutes later:  Gah it's stuck to the plastic wrap!  FUUUUUUUUUUU!!
I fail at life!  ::scrapes it off the plastic wrap::   sigh....

Put on a floured and corn mealed towel (non terry cloth towel) okay...
Let sit for 2 hours.

3-4 hours later. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!
I had to go to the library and I couldn't get home any sooner, and fuuuuuuu -- !!
Looks okay with the poke test.
Doesn't spring back... hrmm but it looks the same size as 3 hours ago :(

Look at how it's glued to the towel!!!!!! Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu
 ::scrapes it off, again::
into a pot/castiron/enamel/pyrex that was in the oven as it preheated.
:( I don't own anything like that, so this casserole dish will have to do (OMG there's so much fail in this).

:Sigh:  Bread, I am disappoint.

I don't have any bakeware with a lid, so this inverted cake pan on a casserole dish will have to do :\
And threw it in le oven. Welp here goes.. who knows what'll come out.

Suspenseful periods

After 30 minutes you take off the lid. WTF~!?
It looks like... like there's a chance! That yeast WAS alive. Whaddaya know?!
Another 30 minutes and take it out!

45 minutes later, because I'm le horrible and forgot all about it as I was surfing the 'net, I
 Ran downstairs to the smell of slight burning, and it wasn't too bad.

Even with failing at every step possible, the kids and I ate it all.  

Here I am breaking off a piece to see how it looks inside... and give it a test sniff.

Oh wow.. look at all those nooks and crannies. It's a miracle! a no knead bread miracle!

Close up of air pockets perfect for eating with home made jams, and buuuuuuuuuuuuutter.

The skin was a little too hard because I burned it, but we ate it all. Surely since you witnessed all this fail, and it turned out OK. That means you too should be able to replicate with much success!!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Katchemak: Albanian Breakfast

Bulgarian feta is on sale at the local grocer...that can only mean one of two things...
Either they have too much and it's getting old, or
 Many years ago, I lived in a three flat with an Albanian family who lived on the other two floors.
The result was me being invited to have all sorts of their food. LOLOLOL
Now, I'm not exactly sure how to spell it.  I couldn't find the recipe online for the life of me every time I googled it. So with guidance from Nani who told me the steps, and my own testing of it for five years... here's the way it works.

ADVICE 1:  If you don't have a half hour to 45 minutes to stand in front of your stove, do not make this. As Nani told me, "You can't step away from the stove when you make katchemak, or it will burn." and seriously, there's no shortcuts in making this recipe. I've tried. Oh how the good Lord knows I've tried...  and it NEVER turns out tasting good.

ADVICE 2:  It must be Bulgarian feta which is made of  - sheep's milk? I just know it's not from a cow.
Nani said this as though my survival depended on it, but when discussing this recipe with Greeks I know, I start getting history lessons and all sorts of stuff against feta elitists, so I don't know. It comes in a tub with brine.   

This is the one Nani used, but I just get the Bulgarian feta at the deli counter when it's on sale for 2.99/lb and ask for a container of the brine (they will give you the brine water for free).  Any unused feta can go in the brine water, and into your fridge. It will last much longer.
2 1/2 cups "self rising white cornmeal"
2 cups White cornmeal
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup flour  (for gluten free/Celiac's friendly omit the flour)
Coarse salt.  Hrmmmmm I'd say a teaspoon.  We can add more later, but it does taste better to be a little on the slightly salty side (1/2 teaspoon if using table salt)

1/2 cup olive oil
1.5 qts water

Serves at least 4 adults... trial and error to see how much you guys can actually eat. It's very filling.  Nani told me: "If you eat this for breakfast, they say you wont be hungry all day in the fields."

1) Put all those ingredients into a HIGH SIDED stainless steel pot. IT MUST HAVE HIGH SIDES. Here I am using a soup pot. In another pot put the 1.5 qts water and turn on the heat. It should be at a furious boil by the time we're done stirring the cornmeal.  Do this at the same time, because...remember we cannot walk away.

2) Turn on heat to medium high for the dry ingredients and stir... stir... stir.. keep stirring. You might see some smoke appearing...keep stirring. At the smoking point, you will see the cornmeal mixture turn a different color. "This is why we use white cornmeal as opposed to the yellow. so you can see the color change better." says Nani.

3) When the whole mixture is pretty much a tanned/roasted color, take it off the heat (preferably under a range vent you turn on).  Now comes the crazily dangerous part. Oh I forgot to tell you there was some crazy danger involved?!   Pour some of the boiling water into the cornmeal mixture.
But you must stir, or you'll get clumps instead of smoothness!!
Pour Maybe a couple cups of liquid. STIR CAREFULLY but with determination! 
This is where I have been burned more times than I care to say. Yes, the water will jump, and pop and hiss, and cornmeal seems to fly everywhere. This is why we used a pot with high sides.
You can either wear an oven mitt, or as I sometimes do, pull my hand into my sweater, and hold the wooden spoon with my sweater covered hand.   When the water has been absorbed by the cornmeal, pour more water, and MIX again.

4) Put Cornmeal mush back on the range, and turn on to medium-low heat. You will add water and stir a few times until it is at the consistency below. YOU MAY/MAY NOT USE ALL THE WATER.

I Just made a sweeping generalization because I never know how much I'm going to use! You just want to do this until the cornmeal is soft enough but isn't a watery slurry.  Taste it. It will taste a little bitter, but we're testing for texture right now...  is it grainy? Add more water.  Keep stirring!!!  Needs salt? Add it now. Keep stirring!!!  Too bland and soft? Don't add water, but continue to stir and cook until some of the water has evaporated. Yes, it is hard to stir, but you MUST PERSEVERE ON! YOU CAN DO IT!  Turn off the heat (Aaaargh! My tendonitis!).

5) In a small frying, put the 1/2 cup of oil in it.  Heat it up until there are ripples in the oil.   Pour this onto the cornmeal mixture. It will pop! it will hiss! it's craziness! Use oven mitt, hold spoon, and stir with fierce perseverance!  This oil is the difference between it tasting bitter, and it tasting like Frito's. After all the oil has been mixed in evenly, pour this out onto a plate.

6) Serve with slices of raw sweet onions, and Bulgarian feta cheese.
See this image below: the plate on the left has the Katchemak, and that's how it should look.
Another satisfied Customer!  The kids BEG for this every so often for breakfast.


In the very beginning when I tried to make it, it was ALWAYS too dry. Not enough stirring.
Not enough adding water and stirring it in a way where ALL the grains of cornmeal could absorb the water, so there'd be dry little pebbles. BLEAUGH. Don't give up! It still happens to me sometimes.

A few times ago, I made it too watery and it came out looking like this:
That's ok, too. It's a little too much water, but tastes alright. Honestly better to have too much water than too little and be eating sand.

DON'T GIVE UP!!!!!!!

You'll get better with more practice. We'll cook it just as good as Nani.  Maybe that's why she made it so deliciously... she's had SO many years of experience with the water ratio and all that stirring.

Love you, Nani and Jisho!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Honey

If you've never heard of MY HONEY, it's this little ma&pa (literally) owned store in Richmond, IL where you can buy honey by the pound if you bring in your own glass jars. Since I can preserves, I have tons of glass jars. Not only that, my friends give me all their empty pasta sauce, and other glass jars they get from the store, so that works out swimmingly. Every time we go to lake Geneva, or anywhere up route 12, I MUST Stop by there. I like to look at the hive in a cabinet. Which always makes me ponder converting my cabinet to a beehive, but I DIGRESSSSSSSSS...

If you're ever around Richmond, IL be sure to stop by there. I am always "awwwwed" by the cute husband and wife team who run the place, and the guy is VERY Knowledgeable.

He will spend time telling you how to get started with your own bees, and associations you can join or meetings you can attend. He is a Font of knowledge! :)

We went yesterday (while waiting for the marmalade to sit for 18 hours) and it was $3.49/lb for honey when you bring your own jars. Clover, Wildflower, and Cranberry.  I'll take a picture of the jars tonight so you can see the gorgeous colors.

I have an affinity for dark foods, so when I choose maple syrup, hot chocolate, or honey,
I choose the darkest!!!!

The wildflower honey was coffee colored. Mmmmm
They didn't pay me to put this here, but God bless them, they are a cute pair with a cute store!!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Making Marmalade

Well, the new year is upon us...
I made a plan in my head to go to three different stores and run a bunch of errands. However, after breakfast, I noticed we had a plethora of Oranges.
"Hrmmmmmmmm" I thought, " I COULD make some marmalade..."  so I pulled out the 'ol Ball Blue book of canning or something like that in name, and Looked up the orange marmalade recipe.

I don't know why, but on the first page of the marmalade chapter was citrus marmalade, and I thought well...this is probably it.  The directions say to boil the rinds of a grapefruit, and toss the water away.
While turning the pages looking for a possible persimmon preserves to use all these persimmons my parents gave me, I found ORANGE MARMALADE in a separate entry and was like WTF.  close call! AMIRITE?!

Orange marmalade recipe says not to throw out the water.
Simmer rinds, and pulp of oranges and lemon slices for 5 minutes.  Then, let the pot sit somewhere for 12-18 hours. Of course, I start all this before realizing how long it takes. That's ok. I can still go out during the 12-18 hour sitting time.
after first boil

After it sits for 12-18 hours, you bring it to a boil again until all the rinds are soft.

Then, for every cup of boiled slurry you have, you add 1 cup sugar.

It reduces down and down... I swear I stirred it for
an hour and a half while the kids watched all of Kung fu Panda 2

Here's the final product, which has reached the gelling point.  It's much clearer than when we first started, and it's thick enough that the orange rinds are not floating to the top - not even in processing.

All in all, well worth it. I think it tasted SO good! I was in heaven.
Orange marmalade always reminds me of my grandpa, and my mom always had a jar of it in the house when I was a kid.  I disliked the taste, but would continue to eat it for nostalgia.
Now, It has not only flavor, but memories... and this was a GREAT recipe.