February 2010

The Mysteries of Bread Dough

I had my first semi-success with the sourdough starter this week.  After several failures!  It isn't easy to convert from an inveterate bread machine bread maker, to a by hand sourdough bread maker, believe me.

The most frustrating part has been that a lot of the success of your bread depends on learning whether or not it "looks about right."  There are a few guidelines to what looks right and what doesn't, but unfortunately you really do have to develop a sense of your own, about whether a loaf is too dry or too wet, whether it needs more kneading, or any kneading, or just a bit of folding, and whether it's done rising or not risen enough, or (horrors never end!) over-risen.

There are three basic stages to bread dough:

1.  The initial mixing of ingredients.  

Cornmeal Pancakes

Right off the bat, I need to make it clear that I am not talking about corn cakes. Corn cakes are far more substantial than pancakes and often include substantive ingredients like corn kernels, or cheese, or jalapenos, and may

not include corn meal at all. What I am writing about are pancakes made with cornmeal and white flour. My experience with cornmeal pancakes begins not with my Southern kin, but at a small Mexican restaurant, where they served absolutely incredible mouth-watering cornmeal pancakes with blueberries that, well, if they were still serving them today, I'd be thinking about travel arrangements.

Havana Cuban Restaurant in West Palm Beach

From Cubano sandwich stands to upscale fusion restaurants, Florida has no shortage of Cuban eateries. If you're in the West Palm Beach area, just blocks from Delray and the impressive mansions of Boca Raton, be sure to make time for Havana, one of the most authentic, delicious eating experiences in the country. It's inviting, affordable and has an unparalleled menu of Cuban favorites.

The Garlic Press: Good or Evil?

I will state up front that I am an avowed garlic press user.  I have taken flack for this before, usually from the same person who overthinks everything right into the ground.  The kind of person who can define the difference between "purified water" and "distilled water," and can give you at least three use cases for one and not the other.

And yet I, like Guardian food blogger Felicity Cloake, have often wondered if I was on the wrong side of the debate all along.  

Fundamentally the problem for me is that my knife skills are sloppy, and my patience is lacking.  And I use a lot of garlic! If I have to process five cloves of garlic, I can do it in a garlic press in a tenth the time it would take me to mince them by hand.

REAL Ramen!

The New York Times has a mouthwatering Frugal Traveler article about "Tokyo's sprawling ramen ecosystem."  Although we here in the States are used to ramen as a ridiculously cheap, dried foodstuff, ramen is serious business in Japan.  As Frugal Traveler Matt Gross says, Tokyo's ramen stands and restaurants serve ramen where "everything is fresh, handmade and artisanal."

I learned a lot about ramen and Tokyo from this article.  (Among other things, I learned not to read articles about "real" ramen at lunchtime.  I finally broke down and fixed up a packet of Top Ramen, but it just wasn't the same.)  Many ramen shops specialize in just one kind of ramen.  For example, one restaurant specializes in green curry ramen, another in tonkotsu (a milky pork broth).