Her session featured a focus on the process of mixing dough by hand and explaining differences between wheat and rye bread. Though only three hours, it managed to go deep yet stay understandable throughout. A nice treat included a short nibble break, time for rye bread, cheese and cider made from Meyer's farm. Here's what we saw and did.
One of my kitchen-staff gave me a gift from Barbados. It's called Bajan Pepper Sauce, and according to my friend at work, it's too hot for even him. I also recently bought a bottle of hipster-influenced "organic Sricracha." So I did some taste tests. The Barbadian sauce is hot, but it adds a good fruity chili heat to eggs and rice. As for the organic Sriracha, it's clean but doesn't have the original's bite or fermentation. I'll go with Bajan Pepper for now.
I had to go spend time in the dentist chair on my birthday. Not fun! So why not follow it with a lunch break at Eataly Flatiron? Here's an admission. I've been known to kvetch to friends about Eataly's pretentiousness. What's with its branded star chef with orange clogs? Or the weird mix of expansive and claustrophobic aisles, packed with cluelessly excited tourists. Guess what, such complaints proved to be foolish snobbery. I had a great visit. Go early, grab a seat in the Piatto San Marco, order from a short but nice variety of plates offered, and you'll come away happy. I did.
For a belated birthday celebration, I was treated to dinner at Agern, a Danish-inspired restaurant focused on sustainable, seasonal cuisine and headed by Icelandic chef Gunar Gíslason. Brain-child of Claus Meyer, the restaurant sits in in Grand Central's Great Northern Hall. Having recently lost my iPhone, I found myself enjoying a hands-free, highly sensory meal without being a slave to posting. Thankfully I had others to snap the photos. Here's what it was about.
My rye and wheat levains have had strange results lately. These include uneven rising and acidic smells. I reasoned it was due to uneven baking schedules. Or could it be climate change? Then again, my rye source changed. And I also used an old pickle mason jar to refresh it. Maybe that led to a pickle-meets-rye marriage funk. Well, for a more uplifting share, here was a recent multigrain rye from Ian Lowe's trove of shared files. Divine taste, even in the frigid slow rising. Slow food rocks!
Coffee is my designated drug of choice. Obviously, I'm not alone, as Starbucks imperial dynasty makes clear. And of course that's nothing new. Among the historic multitudes who share the caffeine-in-black addiction was a favorite writer who famously penned "The Human Comedy."
Honore Balzac was supposedly a 50-cup-a-day drinker, which I suppose gave him the energy (or inspiration) to publish 85 books. Could this help me? I have yet to give that much of my day to coffee, but perhaps I should. It has so many pleasures; the smell, taste and, not least, the attendant ceremony of grind and brew. When out of my favorite bean, I periodically try substituting with unknown and badly roasted American suppliers. My brand? Passalacqua. It's Napolitano magic was first presented to me by my buddy Domenico. Below see it's fruits and packaging.
My brother introduced me to salt baked fish. It's a simple, clean tasting method for baking fish. Besides the fish (any white fish will do) all you need is salt, egg whites, herbs and some lemons. Baking time is 25 minutes at 450F.
Recently, my baker friend Marcos Cerutti shared a baguette formula that uses high extraction flour which is a 80-percent milled wheat flour. He told me that it was something he learned from Jeffrey Hamelman. I tried it, going "all-out" on levain and no yeast. The results are pictured below.
Despite recently purchasing an oven with a built-in proofer, a recent bake still resulted in what's known as a "blow out." A blowout is when the inner core temp of a dough isn't quite ready to bake. It results in an awful lot of un-even oven spring." How do you avoid? Well, my oven's proofer was supposed to help. It didn't. The more common way is to use an old fashioned cooking thermometer and then allow plenty of waiting time. Fail to do either of those things and you get what is pictured below.