Category Archives: Bread

Suicide Bread

Today there was an unusually large amount of scrap dough after all our bread was made for the day, so our lead baker got creative:

He homogenized all the flavors of bread we have into one giant monster loaf….Suicide Loaf, like when you mix all the flavors of pop at the roller rink??? Anyone? Is it a Michigan thing? No?? Ok. 

I also tried branding it with a wire that I attempted to heat to red hot. You can kind of see it on the top left. The brand was pretty terrible, a lame spiral. I really want to get an actual cattle brand and try it out. 

My favorite part about this is the fact that the forced perspective makes me look like a toddler. I assure you, that although it was intentional, the bread was still pretty damn huge. Also, pretty tasty.


Marble Rye Scrap Bread

Sometimes you have left over dough, and rather than bin it, you swirl it all together and braid it, because it’s not like you are incredibly understaffed and exhausted. 


Then you patiently wait a night and bake it a nice golden brown, and then get your ass back to work. 


Pan de Muerto

Today until tomorrow, November 1 and November 2nd, are considered los Dias de los Muertos in Mexico, a few other parts of the world and in my apartment in Chicago. There are links to the holiday in both Pre-Hispanic and Post-Conquest Mexico. The Aztecs had a day to celebrate it, and the Spaniards celebrated All Saints Day on the 1st of the month. Naturally, the cultures blended, by choice or not, and today the “holiday” is celebrated over two days, “Dia de los Inocentes” (Innocents, as in children, who were free of sin when they passed), and “Dia de los Muertos” (Adults who were lost). Mexicans, typically further south and in more indigenous areas typically celebrate the days by making altars for specific lost loved ones. They offer them food, drinks and things that they loved in life. They open their homes to invite the spirits in to visit them and the food and drink are there to nourish them.  Many, then, go to the cemetery to clean and decorate the graves of those loved ones. In this way, they are coming to terms with their own mortality, while ensuring the tradition to be passed to the further generations. Death is not something to be feared, it is something that can bring families together, it can be a way to remember someone forever.

Traditionally for these days, semi-sweet breads are made in Mexico, as offerings for the dead. They are called Pan de Muerto. I found the recipe for the rich dough in From my Mexican Kitchen by Diana Kennedy, and I only slightly modified it to my liking. It ended up a lot like a brioche dough.

Into my mixing bowl with the dough hook attachment, I put:

2 Cups AP Flour

1 Scant teaspoon of Sea Salt

In a smaller bowl:

1 oz Sugar (2 T)

1 1/2 teaspoon Dry Yeast

1/4 Cup (plus a touch more) Body Temperature Water

1 1/2  Eggs Room Temperature

I whisked those all together and let the sugar feed the yeast for a little bit (10 Minutes).

Then I mixed that all together on low for about 5 minutes to make sure everything was incorporated, elastic and shiny. Next, I buttered a bowl (and should have buttered some plastic wrap, but I forgot, so my starter stuck to it as you will see later), and placed the starter, which I formed into a ball in the bowl.

I then covered it with plastic and a pilfered table napkin from a fancy restaurant and let the starter rest in a warm spot for 90 minutes or so.

Once the starter has doubled in size, I begin the actual dough.

See? It isn’t a big deal, it’s just a starter. So, next, you will want to tear this ball up and add it back to the mixing bowl. Also:

1/2 Cup Sugar

4 1/2 oz Room Temperature Butter

Mix that all together until it makes a sloppy dough, then alternate:

2 Cups Flour

4 Yolks with a Splash of Water

Also:

1/2 Orange Zested (save the other half for the glaze)

Mix all of this until a nice elastic dough is formed. It should stand up on it’s own though.

Put it back in the bowl to rest covered and greased again for another 90 minutes.

It will have doubled again.

Next, take 3/4 of the dough and form it into a ball, saving the 1/4 for the Calavera or the skull and bones.

I think, traditionally, the skull and bones are not so literal, but I just got a little carried away. I took the small portion of dough for the skull and divided it in three, making a skull with one, and the bones with the other two. I shaped the body of the bread as Diana suggested, although, in the end the rim along the sides, didn’t really show up due to rising.

On greased baking sheet they go under the covers one more time for an hour, just to make sure they are nice and puffy.  Turning my oven on a few minutes before the parts were ready at 375 degrees Ferenheight.

Next, I made a egg wash of yolks (2) and brushed it on the main body before criss-crossing the bones over it. Then I  brushed the bones one more time, trying to not over wash them and leave pools on the bottom of the bread.

Then I layed my skull over the bones. I did one final shaping of the face, then I brushed that too. It was a little creepy, sort of had a terrifying Michael Jackson plastic surgery nose.

While in the oven and starting to smell amazing, I mixed together:

1/4 Cup  Raw Honey

2 T Melted Butter

1/2 Orange Zested (the other half)

(For the glaze)

I let it bake about 20 minutes, then I brushed my first layer of glaze over the whole loaf.

Then I put it back in the oven and let it bake 5 more minutes.

After which, I glazed it pretty heavily then sprinkled it with a touch of sugar, and let it sit in the oven (which I turned off), door open, to cool for about 10 minutes.

I am pretty proud of the end result. It was beautiful, if not a little ridiculous with the corny skull on top. It is a bit too pirate, and seems a little silly to offer to deceased loved ones, but as my first attempt, I hope it will suffice.

I decided to make the altar or ofrenda in honor of my Great Grand Mother, or as we called her Grandma Hoekie. She was the matriarch of my Dad’s family, serving 3 generations of us until well into her 90’s.

She passed away in 2008, living to be 100. She was an amazing lady who did everything she could for her family, even if she wasn’t appreciated by everyone as much as she should be. She is pictured (R) above in 1927 next to the car with her best friend Florence Ball (L), posing like a sassy flapper. The Bakelite bangles above the photo were hers, and when she passed, I asked to take them to remember her by.

In the small dish are some candies, left there as a reminder of many trips on the pontoon boat we took as children. She was always sure to take along blankets for the cold night air and small candies (Hers were usually Hershey’s Minis, but what can I do in a pinch?) for all of us kids and adults. The coffee cup is there, filled half way, the way she liked it, and black.  She was not a lady who enjoyed cold coffee, so it was always half full. The picture in front showing her as I remembered her.

The smell of marigolds as well as copal (an insence) are believed to draw the dead into the home as well. I repurposed my Halloween pumpkin for this. I hope that she is with me today. I often think about her as I am cooking, not that she made a whole lot of traditional Mexican food or anthing. I think about her taking the time to do things the right way. She probably thought that she was just doing things the way you did them, and nothing else. I know now, though, that that way was the right way. So, whenever I can, I am going to do things in this way, not the “easy way”, but the way that makes the ingredients happiest. In turn, I think it will make me happy, and hopefully I can pass that on to the next generation.

P.S. I never ended up using this, but this was my Frida Kahlo/Dia de los Muertos inspired Halloween Costume that I threw together in a few minutes. I think it is appropriate…hahaha.


Tortillas

Don’t be intimidated about making your own tortillas….they are tasty and there is something to be said for making your own tacos from SCRATCH.

They take a little bit of practice to make them pretty, but you don’t even need a tortilla press. You just need:

   2 Cups Masa Flour

   1 Teaspoon of Salt

   1-2 Cups Warm Water

   A Plastic Shopping Bag/Produce Bag Cut Into a Long Rectangle

   Something Solid and Flat (Cutting Board/Pot With a Flat Bottom)

   Skillet or Comal

   Spatula

   **Love**

I would have taken pictures of the process, but there is really nothing to it. I mixed the masa with the salt breifly then I mixed the water in. The goal was to be able to make balls that didn’t crumble totally when smashed. They were roughly the texture of warm playdough. Then I divided the dough into 20 balls roughly the size of golf balls. I covered the bowl of dough balls with a moist towel to keep them from drying out. Then I got my skillet hot, not so hot it is smoking, but hot enough to get some color on the tortillas.

Next, I took my large rectangle of plastic and layed it out, placing a ball of dough on one end. Then I folded the plastic over the ball to cover it sandwich style. I layed my cutting board over the ball of dough sandwich and smashed it. I applied pressure evenly over the top. Actually, I smashed it slightly pushing down on it with my hand’s strength just to get it flat, then I sat on my cuttingboard on the edge of the counter to make it nice and flat. I had a bad migraine, so it really made my head want to explode just to press using hand strength alone, so this was my solution….sue me.  Then, I removed the bag from one side of the tortilla. Laying the dough side on my palm and fingers, I quickly peeled back the other side of the plastic from the tortilla, being careful not to tear the dough. Working quickly, because your hand tends to want to stick to the dough, I slapped the dough flat onto the hot skillet or comal. Then I quickly pressed another dough ball to be ready for the next round. After that, I used my spatula to press the tortilla down to get some color on it. Then I flipped it and pressed it with the spatula again. Once I had a few nice golden brown spots and the tortilla lost it’s translucent doughy color, I called it good, and started the whole process over again. I have to say that if I had a tortilla press the whole process would have been easier, and a double burner comal would have been awesome, but I made it happen. I didn’t use them immediately, but I wrapped them in a cloth and cooled them in the fridge. Once cool, I could have either bagged then froze them or used them in a day or two. I am no Mexican abuela, but I think I did a pretty good job. They were tasty with some thawed out molé from the freezer and chicken.


Naan of your business.

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I am sitting here listening to ‘Leader of the Pack’ radio on Pandora and baking some elaborate naan to go with my Daal Curry tonight. It is a good time. The smell of the dough baking and the cilantro and garlic together are amazing. A rather slow and lazy Saturday is a good day to make naan. I used to try to make Indian food and get really worried about doing things the right way, but today is all about experimentation. My naan isn’t traditional, but it is pretty damn good with Indian food. I looked up a general recipe for naan on the interweb, then I proceeded to not pay attention much and make some modifications due to my lack of attention span:

  • 1 Packet Dry Yeast
  • 1 C Warm Water
  • 2 t Sugar
  • 3 1/2 C AP Flour
  • 2 t Salt
  • Dash Turmeric
  • Dash Cumin
  • 3 T Shortening
  • 3 T Butter
  • 3 T Greek Yogurt
I activated the yeast with the water and sugar in the mixing bowl of my KitchenAid for 10 minutes or so, covered. Then I added everything else and mixed for like 10 minutes with the dough hook. The dough seemed really wet to me and I noticed that I more than doubled the fat in the last recipe without realizing it. Haha. I compensated by adding the extra 1/2 cup or maybe even more flour to the recipe. It seemed to work alright, although this made the dough almost brioche-like on the fatty scale. I decided that this didn’t matter one bit. Then I covered the bowl and let it rest a whole 90 minutes in the window sill to rise. Once the dough was nice and puffy I beat it down and kneaded it again with the dough hook for another 10 minutes.
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***This can all be done by hand, trust me, I have done plenty of things without the aid of a KitchenAid in my past life, but I did get one good thing out of my last relationship, and her name is Esther. ***
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Then I cut the dough into 8 pieces, which could easily be further divided for more portions. These naan were hUgE. I preheated the oven to 400 Degrees, then I balled them all up and rolled them out one by one into oblong disks.
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I made a sauce to brush on them before baking with finely chopped cilantro, garlic, salt, butter and olive oil.
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Then I baked them on an oiled sheet pan in the oven after I brushed them with the garlic cilantro oil. I baked them half way, brushed them with the oil mixture again, then baked them until golden brown. When I pulled out the little butterballs, I brushed them one more gratuitous time with the garlic-y magic paint.
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These naan are like nothing I have ever had before. That isn’t to say that they are superior or inferior either. They are not the stretchy moist things that Indian cooks pull out of a tandoor at all. First of all, I don’t own a tandoor, nor do I have the room in our kitchen. Mostly they were almost cracker-like in thin brown spots and crispy bready in the thick spots. They were pretty frickin’ tasty, and they aren’t that bad to look at either. The turmeric gives them a nice vibrant yellow tinge and a nice curry kick.
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Then I realized that, it was pretty important to start cooking the actual meal and stop focusing on the side dish. I have made curries before and tried to be true to the recipes, but I just have stopped caring about doing things the “right way”.  For my curry, I started with 1 1/2 White Onions and then I finely julienned it.

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I also small diced 4 small carrots.

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Then I caramelized the onion mostly.

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Before the onions were fully caramelized, I added the diced carrots and made sure that they were fully cooked.

Then I busted open a Can of Coconut Milk. I couldn’t find my can opener, so it is a good thing that a keep a P-38 military issue can opener on my keychain. It is the best can opener on the planet in my opinion.

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I took out 3/4 of the Carrot and Onion and put it in the blender cup with the Coconut Milk and blended it smooth to add back to the pan for further cooking.

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Then I added some ground Coriander, Cumin, Yellow Curry Powder, Turmeric, Chiles de Arbol, and Allspice to the pan with the remaining whole vegetables.

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I also added the Coconut Milk, Water, Lentils, and a Can of Garbanzo Beans and let the lentils cook fully. While this was reducing, I made some Jasmine Rice with the remaing Garlic-Cilantro Paint from the naan.

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It was really F-ing good.

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Twins in the City

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My twin sister visited, flew even, over the last week and we hung out in the middle of a heat wave. My goal was to convince her to move to Chicago, as she has been tossing the idea around for a little while, but given the heat wave, the city wasn’t looking it’s most glamorous. However, we did manage to have fun and to cook some. I miss her dearly already. Continue reading


Food Porn From the Past

I cook things a lot, and at times, I don’t have time to sit and nit-pick each item, so I jut thought that I would throw a smattering of goodness at you. There are few things better in life than the ‘fixins for a Mexican Barbeque….

Once we made tamales with our friend Paco’s Mom, it was amazing. Her’s were way better. I would love to have another one on one with her.

When I used to make pastries, I made this at the Zeeb. Blood Orange Creme Carmel, with Orange Spice Grandma Hoekie Cookies, Candied Kumquats, Blood Oranges, and Lemon Curd. It was baller.

During Snowpocalypse 2011, I was inspired to make home-made Sno-Balls without the pink poison coconut. I made a chocolate cake, cut it into disks, cracked open a coconut, shaved it by hand, toasted and candied it, then made a Italian meringue. Then I smeared the meringue on the cakes, and rolled them in the coconut, the end result was aMaZiNg!!!

See? I told you I was a line cook. I’m so fast, I’m blurry….just kidding…. Oh, Mushroom Roll…..

 

Sabritas Preparadas translates literally to sack ‘o deliciousness, actually no, but it is. Basically Doritos of your choice slathered in Salsa Maga, mixed with cueritos (pickled pork skin), pickled potatoes, salchicha, or whatever else you feel like. This was awesome. If you are spooked by the pickled pork skin, just hope you get tricked into eating it before you realize it, then you will fall in love as I have.

To this day, the Hobo-Pie Maker remains one of my favorite cooking tools.

This is what happens to you when it is your last day in the kitchen, even if you are the Chef de Cuisine.

When I make you pulled pork, I also take the time to make you slaw, oh, and don’t forget the pretzel rolls.

p.s. As I was looking through these photos, I was very tempted to start showing you the injuries I sustained while working in kitchens….burns, cuts, bruises, blisters, but…thank God….I had the self restraint to avoid combining food with gore. XOX.