Sunday, March 23, 2008

Recipe - Sourdough Pancakes

photo of sourdough pancakes by Mental MasalaOnce I established a viable sourdough starter, I needed to find some things to use it in besides bread. I love baking and eating bread, but its not something that I can fit into my schedule very often.

Pancakes are my first simple non-bread use for the starter. They take a little bit of planning ahead -- you need to add flour to the starter the night before and let it sit out overnight -- but the final mixing of the batter takes just a minute.

I keep my starter in the refrigerator between bread projects and I have found that using starter straight out of the refrigerator works fine for this recipe -- no multi-day refreshment is needed.

I'm generally not much of pancake person, but I like these a lot. They are fluffy, tender and have a nice sour tang. Typically I make two half-recipes using a different flour in each one. This weekend, for example, I made a half batch with buckwheat flour (so the starter contained 125 g starter, 75 g water, and 50 g buckwheat flour) and a half batch with Bob's Red Mill corn flour and some Full Belly Farms corn meal.

Sourdough Pancakes
Adapted from "Breads from the La Brea Bakery," by Nancy Silverton

For the starter
250 g batter-type sourdough starter (About 1 cup. See notes below.)
150 g water (About 2/3 cup.)
100 g flour (About 3/4 cup. See notes below.)

For the pancakes
The starter from above
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
2 eggs
3 T. oil
1 T. sweetener (maple syrup, honey, sugar, etc.)

Start the night before by combining the ingredients for the starter. Stir or whisk until well mixed. Leave at room temperature overnight.

Pass the salt, baking powder, and baking soda through a fine mesh into a small bowl to remove clumps.

Stir the starter, then add the eggs, oil, and sweetener. Mix in the dry ingredients.

Cook on a lightly oiled griddle or skillet.

  • The sourdough starter used in this recipe is a thin "batter type" starter, with the consistency of pancake batter, not a "levain type" stiff starter.
  • Try experimenting with different flours like buckwheat, whole wheat, kamut, or amaranth.

Random link from the archive: Featuring Spring Vegetables

Technorati tags: Sourdough : vegetarian : Food

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Learning to control my temper: making dipped chocolates, part 3

The first part of this series focused on the outside of a dipped chocolate (the process of tempering). The second part was a humorous view of the dipping process (the comedic genius of Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance). This part will look at the filling.

The standard recipe for ganache is simple: "chop some chocolate, pour hot cream over it, wait a few minutes, then mix."

The ganache in Chocolate Obsession (by Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage) is much more complicated. The basic flavored ganache recipe contains the following steps:
  1. Mix the cream and sweetener (they recommend invert sugar, not regular sugar. This is one of the recipe's three "secrets" for superior ganache).
  2. Bring the cream to a boil, remove from heat, then add the flavoring and let it steep (fifteen minutes for teas, overnight for herbs like lemon verbena).
  3. Heat the cream to 115 F (46 C). Proper temperature control is another one of their secrets.
  4. Melt the chocolate and cool it to 115 F (46 C).
  5. Combine the chocolate, sweetened and flavored cream, and softened butter.
  6. Use an immersion blender to emulsify the mixture (this is the third "secret").
  7. Pour it into a shallow pan to cool.
  8. After the ganache has cooled, put it in the refrigerator for a few hours to fully set. This allows you to more easily cut the ganache into rectangles.
Based on a few years of making ganache the old fashioned way and then making at least ten batches using the Chocolate Obsession method, I think that it is worth the extra effort. The ganache is smoother, richer and has a purer flavor.

So far I have made these ganache varieties:

  • Burnt Caramel (from Chocolate Obsession) - This flavor is Michael Recchiuti's "signature flavor" and I love caramel flavors, so I had to give it a try. Making the burnt caramel base is somewhat of an adventure, one that involves smoke, danger, and a complete transformation from the simplest of elements (pure granulated sugar) into a complex brew of aromas and tastes. Fortunately, the syrup has a very long shelf life, so you don't need to make it very often. It has hints of coffee, coconut, and hazelnut, a pleasant bitter edge, and it heightens the fruitiness of the chocolate.
  • Earl Grey tea (Chocolate Obsession) - In one batch, there was too much tea, not enough Earl. In another batch, the balance was better. I'm guessing that there are particular brands that have the right level of bergamot flavoring, so I'll have to keep trying different brands until I find the right one. (And also writing down which brand I used.)
  • Lemon Verbena (Chocolate Obsession) - Although I like lemon verbena in various places, I didn't particularly like it with chocolate (many others do and I bet it is a big seller at the Recchiuti shop).
  • Lavender (Chocolate Obsession) - I made the ganache, didn't really like it, and never dipped it in chocolate. I'm not much of a fan of this combination (but am willing to try it in again).
  • Mexican cinnamon (My own recipe) - This flavor intrigues me because of the connection between cinnamon and chocolate in Mexico -- for example, commercial chocolates like Ibarra contain cinnamon. Incidentally, the cinnamon in Mexican grocery stores (called canela) is the "true" cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum, whereas the cinnamon found in the spice aisle of grocery stores carry is cassia, Cinnamomum aromaticum.
  • Plain chocolate with vanilla (Chocolate Obsession) - I steeped a whole vanilla bean in the cream overnight to obtain a strong and pure vanilla flavor. Simply delicious.
  • Plain ganache topped with very thick apricot jam (My own recipe) - When you have overcooked apricot jam, it keeps its form so that it can be placed on a piece of ganache without flowing off. But it was challenging to dip and presented a risk of contaminating the batch of tempered chocolate, so I doubt I'll be trying this again. Perhaps I could use an alternative coating technique.
  • Pomegranate molasses (My own recipe) - I mixed a tablespoon of this wonderful ingredient into the cream after it reached the target temperature. It gave the filling a fruity note that complemented the natural flavor of the chocolate. But I'm not sure that it was immediately identifiable as pomegranate -- one taster thought it was raspberry.

Working through the flavor varieties has been an interesting and tasty experience. Technically, the ganache part of the dipped chocolate is probably the easiest. But from a taste perspective, it is the most difficult. I have some more ideas stewing in the back of my mind which I might write about another day.

For any chocolate experts who are reading this, I wonder if you could explain the phenomenon of nearly instantaneous 'blooming' shown in the photo below. Not after an afternoon in a warm car, or a day in the sun, but minutes after the chocolate was dipped. The weather was relatively cool, somewhat humid (it's the foggy Bay Area, after all). I thought that bloom was a relatively slow process, so I'm surprised it happened so quickly.

Random link from the archive: Mom's Shortbread

Technorati tags: Chocolate : Food

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A KitchenAid hack I'd like to see: the coconut scraper

About 2 weeks ago, David Lebovitz linked to five KitchenAid "hacks": an ice cream making attachment, flame stickers, a copper bowl, a paddle with built-in scrapers, and a candy coating pan.

I'd like to see a coconut scraper "hack" that would allow me to more easily extract the flesh from a fresh coconut.

Right now I have the "Mother's Pride" brand scraper, which consists of a suction-cup base, a crank handle, and a Spanish Inquisition-looking scraper. It does OK, but it can be challenging to turn with one hand while carefully maneuvering the coconut half with the other and keeping the leverage just right so that it doesn't detach from the counter (if I'm chewing gum at the same time, then it's next to impossible to operate).

I doubt that a coconut scraper hack exists, especially in the lawyer-crazed United States. Can you imagine a lawyer signing off on a product that makes a sharp object spin at face level?

And so I might need to make my own, perhaps by drilling a hole in a square bar of steel and tapping some threads that fit the Mother's Pride scraper. Or, if anyone nearby has a welder I can borrow...

Random link from the archive: Revenge of the Orchard

Technorati tags: Food