I always try to eat delicious food. Unfortunately I don't have that much money, so I have to cook a lot of it at home. But thats OK because I love cooking and I love eating at home with my wife. This is a website with my favorite recipes and a little bit of commentary.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Thoughts on weekend cooking

Everything was delicious last night. The hashbrown casserole turned out absolutely perfect. I tweaked the recipe a little. My earlier versions had a lot more butter in them, but I found myself thinking that the texture was too gooey. This final version has only 3 T butter and I actually put about 1/2 that amount in, and I only used it to butter the pan. Its key to make sure that the potatoes are thawed out before you put them in the mix. It will seem a little stiff when you first mix it up but don't worry, the cheese will soften things up along with the cream of chicken soup.

The meatloaf was delicious and comforting as always. It is hard to beat that recipe unless you are going for different affects. When I have meatloaf I just like plain old meatloaf, and that is a perfect recipe. I made it in a bread loaf pan because I think it makes better sandwiches that way. Because it is thicker it takes a little longer to cook than 1 hour. You can tell its done by sticking a thermometer in the center. It should read 160. The other thing I do when I am making it is to periodically pour off some of the grease/liquids that arise. One last modification that I usually do is turn the temp up to 400 for the last 15 minutes because it glazes the ketchup on top a little better. Finally both of these dishes have to sit for about 10 minutes before you slice them up. It helps them firm up a bit. Don't skip the cooling step or you will regret it.

The deviled eggs were perfect. I have tons of different recipes for deviled eggs depending on what mood I am in. I like Elvis' recipe because it doesn't have any mayo or prepared mustard in them. Also the bacon is a nice touch. Its just a little different than what most people are used to. The texture is sometimes a little dryer and crumblier than what I would think of as deviled eggs, but that is a blessing because I like to put a little hot sauce on my eggs, and they soak it up nicely.

Another treat we had last night was my grandmother's recipe for cobbler. The original recipe calls for rhubarb, but its kind of out of season. The good news is that you can use just about any fruit you have available and it will still be mindblowingly good. My wife made it with cherries from our cherry tree that we froze. Let me tell you, when this stuff comes out of the oven it is divine. I like to pour a little milk on mine. I will post the recipe later.

Finally I must speak of the wild-yeasted bread. If bread were to fall from heaven, this would be the bread. It was by far the best sourdough bread I have ever tasted or made, and it is tied with the baguettes as my favorite bread. The crust was perfect. It was crispy and chewy. The bread itself had nice big holes and was chewy like I like it. I made two boules (round loaves. The first one came out of the oven and I cooled it. Looking at the bottom of the loaf gave me an idea. One thing that I like about Panera bread is that the crusts are nice and tan and they have this shine about them. There are also little tiny airbubbles in the crust that add interest. The bottom of the first loaf had that appearance. I tried to figure out how it got it and the only difference I could find between the top and the bottom of the loaf was that the bottom was on parchment paper that was coated with canola spray oil. So for the second loaf I tried a little experiment - I sprayed the top a couple times with spray canola oil. The result - bread perfection. The crust was everything I have ever wanted in a piece of bread. It was perfect. I saved that loaf to eat tonight with meatloaf sandwiches.

Just a few quick thoughts on the formulas for bread. Since you have such long rise times the yeast makes the starches in the bread into alcohol and CO2. The CO2 gives you the nice bubbles in the bread, but the alcohol makes the dough softer than it would normally be. Long rise times = more alcohol = gooeyer dough than you thought it would be. I found the baguette bread to be some of the gooeyest dough I have ever worked with. Although the texture and flavor were perfect, I think that a little less water would improve the recipe. Because the dough was so gooey it didn't hold its shape quite as well for the proofing rise. The baguettes were a little flatter than what I am used to but obviously still delicious. That recipe would be absolutely perfect for making a flatter dough like ciabatta or for making pizza dough. The next time I make it I will add a smaller % water. Likewise the sourdough was a little moister than I would prefer and it didn't puff up quite like I like from sourdough. It rose up a little more than the baguettes and a little bit higher than a flatbread like ciabatta would, but not as high as I would like from a boule of sourdough. One thing I will have to keep in mind is that the dough softens a LOT as it ferments. Anyway thats it for today. Meatloaf sandwiches tonight. Later on in the week I feel like Italian food. I also feel a smoked turkey coming on in the near future.