Monthly Archives: May 2013

Another Perfect Baguette

Never has there been a food with so many wildly different recipes, each of which is Perfect, as the baguette. A quick search online will yield recipes ranging from three to twenty-four hours, with two to twenty minutes of kneading and proportions of ingredients varying just as drastically. In French bakeries this is less the case as there are laws regulating the contents of the dough, but not the size or specific shape, of the baguette.

Of course, as home-bakers we are bound by no such legal standards and since the word baguette simply refers to the shape why not try a dozen different recipes and figure out which works best for your taste in your part of the world? That’s what I did, I learned a lot and had tons of fun. The recipe I’m sharing today most closely resembles Martin Ginsburg’s in Chef Supreme, a delightful cookbook assembled by the spouses of the Supreme Court Justices in memoriam of Mr. Ginsburg. I usually make this on a baguette pan, sometimes I’ll use one section of the dough to make a batard or boule which you can make on a regular baking sheet lined with parchment paper or dusted with cornmeal. Or a cast iron griddle if you’ve got one.


-1 lb. AP flour (I like King Arthur)

-1 teaspoon yeast

-1/2 Tablespoon fine grain sea salt

-1 ¼ c. warm water


Mix flour, salt and yeast together in a mixing bowl. This will prevent the yeast from clumping up, a common problem when you add the water to the yeast first. Drizzle the water all over the top of the flour mixture and stir until their is no dry flour, but it isn’t a proper ball yet. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.


Stir the dough a little more until it starts to come together as a ball and knead for just 2 minutes. If you’re not familiar with the kneading process, here’s an episode of FOODLANDia, a public access cooking show I was on back in Iowa. I’m using a different recipe so the dough is more dense, but the technique is the same. The bit where I’m kneading is at 10:12. Also, don’t miss what may be the only hip-hop song about tea at 20:06.


Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover tightly and let rise on the counter for 2 hours. Afterward, flop the dough onto your counter, shape into a rough rectangle and cut into three equal pieces (each should weigh 8 1/2 to 9 ounces.) Shape these into balls, cover with a damp towel or oiled plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.


To shape each loaf, gently form a rectangle about 6” wide and 4” long. Fold it like a letter, the bottom third up, then the top third down. Create a trough with the edge of your hand, like I show in the video, then pinch it shut. Do this with each dough ball, replacing them under the towel when done. After the last ball is shaped, go back to the first and roll it out about 13”-14”. Start in the middle, moving your hands toward the ends of the loaf. For a batard, just keep it a bit shorter. After each loaf is formed place it on your pan or baking sheet, cover again and let rise about 1 hour. Preheat your oven to 475 now, so it has plenty of time to warm up.


10 minutes before the final rise is finished, heat up a cast iron skillet on the stove until it’s very hot, then place it in the bottom of the oven.

 Use a razor blade or bread knife to slash each loaf on a sharp bias 3 or 4 times, about ⅛” deep. Then immediately put them in the oven and turn the oven down to 450. Wait 2 minutes, get out 2 or 3 ice cubes, open the oven, drop them in the cast iron and then quickly close the oven again. Set the timer for 22 minutes and don’t open the door until the timer goes off. When done, move the loaves to a cooling rack and let rest for 1 hour before slicing. If three are too many baguettes, wrap one in plastic and freeze. It will be fine. Serving suggestion: Cheddar and Branston Pickle sandwich.


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Yuba and Soymilk: A Soybean Beginners Manual Vol. 1

Just so you know, this article is really about yuba, I just figured that while we’re here some you might be interested in turning the rest into soymilk.

Any description I could give of yuba would be superfluous next to the closing paragraph in Christa Weil’s gastrologue Fierce Food:

In flavor, it most closely resembles a slightly sweet, slippery, ultrathin ravioli or wonton that lost it’s filling… wholesome, light, and yet deeply warming. It is the food equivalent of a goose-down duvet.

Yuba is, essentially, the skin that develops on warm, freshly made soymilk. One of the simplest foods, and one of the best. The hardest part is waiting. It takes about 10 minutes for the first skin to develop, which means yuba isn’t really a dish you can serve at a dinner party or sit down and eat. I tend to think of making yuba as an opportunity for culinary meditation.

-1 cup dried soybeans (can be hard to find, check little Asian stores and Earth Fare)

-lots and lots of water

-1 lime for zesting

-soy sauce for dipping

Place your beans in a mixing bowl and rinse ‘em good. Swish your hands around in there, if the water gets cloudy change it and rinse some more until the water is clean.

Replace the water one  last  time and let the beans soak overnight.

The next morning they’ll be about twice as big and the water will be cloudy. Drain the beans and rinse them like you did yesterday. Remove any skins or non-bean items that you happen to notice floating around. After they’re nice and clean, drain all the remaining water and place them in a pot with 4 cups of water. Now get out your immersion blender (if you have a stand-up blender just put the beans and water in there.)


Blend until the beans are very finely ground, maybe the texture of sand. Skim off the foam that develops until you reach the cream colored puree. Bring this to a boil on a medium heat, then turn it down to a scant simmer for at least 20 minutes. Leave the lid on, but stir often and continue to remove any white foam. You’ll know it’s ready when the aroma changes from beany to sweet.


Pour all of this through butter muslin or a double layer of cheese cloth set in a colander over a bowl to strain out the solids (this is called okara and has many uses here) from the soymilk. When it gets cool enough to handle, give it a good squeeze to get the last of the liquid out.

Pour this liquid into a smaller pot and turn on very, very low. You don’t want any bubbles. Slowly yet surely a skin will develop. As the first skin is forming, grate a little lime zest into a small bowl and add a splash of soy sauce. This will take one to two minutes.

Now comes the meditation: Look at the soymilk: Are there bubbles? If so, turn it down; if not, good job. Is there a little bit of steam? Good. Blow gently on the soymilk, does it shimmer? If it doesn’t yet it will soon. Inhale deeply, smell the rich, almost earthy sweetness. Imagine that smell condensed. You’re about to eat that smell. Is it ready yet? Well that didn’t take too long. If not, take the opportunity to write a haiku. If I can do it, so can you.

Skin on the soymilk

some may scoff, but I know you are

warm deliciousness.  

Nudge around the edge of the skin to disconnect it from the bowl. Be gentle, you don’t want to tear it. When it’s all loose, open your chopsticks wide and pick up the yuba from the middle. Drape it into the dish of soy. How much soy you want is up to you, of course. Be quick, though, don’t let it get cold. Now put the whole thing in your mouth. It’s going to feel weird. Asian food tends to have a lot more textural variety than Western food. Think of this as an acquired texture. Just think of all the flavors mingling in your mouth and the feeling of pure soy goodness. The next one won’t take nearly as long. If you’re feeling very patient, you could make a meal out of this.


Or you could use the rest to make delicious homemade soymilk. Just add:

-1 to 2 Tablespoons sugar or whatever sweetener you like. I’m a honey man, myself.

to your soymilk and call it a day.

Of course there is always the third option: From here you’re only a few simple steps away from awesome homemade tofu. We’ll go over that a little later.

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Unbelievable Flourless Chocolate Torte

This is my first blog post, so to make sure I get you all hook, line, and sinker I decided to go with my new favorite recipe for chocolate torte. This recipe has it all: only four ingredients, rich chocolate flavor, and room to play around. The only drawback is that it needs to chill at least 8 hours before serving. You will also need to make a steam bath, but that’s easy. By the way, people who are lucky enough to live in Iowa City can try a markedly similar recipe to this at Clinton Street Social Club.

-3 eggs, separated
-1/2 Tbl. sugar
-5 Tbls butter (this is equal to 1/4 cup + 1 Tbl.)
-1/2 lb. chocolate – You can use either milk or dark chocolate in this recipe, but keep in mind that there is very little sugar added.

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Line the bottom of an 6 inch pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine the chocolate and butter in a saucepan and place over a low heat. If you need to, turn up the heat a little bit at a time, you don’t want to risk burning the chocolate, although the butter should keep everyone happy. Start stirring when the butter starts to melt.

If you’re feeling crazy you can use a different fat. I just made on of these with olive oil which worked out very well.


When the chocolate and butter are smooth transfer to a mixing bowl, let it cool down and stir in the egg yolks. Then set this mixture aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until your arm falls off. You can also use an electric mixer, if you like having two arms. When things get good and foamy, or by the time soft peaks form, add the sugar and keep whisking until you get stiff peaks.


Fold one quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate. When it’s fully incorporated flop the rest of the whites in a continue folding.


Gently pour the batter into the 6 inch pan and smooth it out as best you can.


Let’s talk for a minute about the top of this cake: it’s perfectly lovely as is, but there’s really so much you could do with it. Sprinkle some chopped nuts or dried fruit on there. Sprinkling on a thin crust of demerara or turbinado sugar on top would be nice. Or, you can wait until just before you serve it and hit it with some powdered sugar. Just promise me that you won’t, “BAM!” if you do. Say it. Say, “I promise.” Okay.
Now that the cake is in the pan you’re going to set up a steam bath, which means you take the cake pan, put it in a larger pan with some room to maneuver (a roasting pan works well or a 12 inch cake pan) and pour boiling water into the larger pan until it’s halfway up the side of the smaller pan. This is why God made tea kettles.


Put the whole kit-and-caboodle in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove it from the oven and bath. Wait about an hour, until it comes down to room temperature, and then chuck it in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight. Remove the cake and set it on the counter about an hour before you want to serve it. If you’re lucky it will have pulled away from the sides of the  pan as it cooled. If not, use a thin knife to loosen the cake, then flip it onto a plate.


Serve like how we talked about earlier or top with a spoonful of jam or marmalade.


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