Monday, December 29, 2008

Fresh Onions

Fresh Onions
Originally uploaded by monkeycat!.
One of my favorite aspects of Davis, CA is its Farmer's Market. These onions came from a farm near Lodi or Esparto (which are not particularly close to one another), if I remember correctly. These went into a leek and onion tart, modified from this recipe.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Yeast Rolls

Yeast Rolls Proofing
Originally uploaded by monkeycat!.
I have been reading a bread blog for a while now called The Fresh Loaf, and while I don't participate (shame on me), I do enjoy the sharing of bread recipes, experiences, and feedback that exists on the site.

I picked up the recipe for these rolls submitted by Eli on the Fresh Loaf post and gave them a try. They are wonderful, tasty, and truly easy rolls to make.

I made a few substitutions, so below is my version of the recipe.

Yeast Rolls
adapted from The Fresh Loaf

250 g bread flour
244 g AP flour
65 g sugar
5 g instant dry yeast
5 g salt
50 g egg, beaten (I think that is one egg.)
195 g soy milk
50 g vegetable shortening
50 g water

Combine the flours, yeast, and sugar in a bowl, add water. This mixture is very, very dry. Its ok. Let it sit for as long as it takes you to do the next part.

Beat egg, shortening, and salt, with the milk. The shortening did not totally disperse for me, but stayed as lumps. Its ok. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir to combine. It should now look like a wet, sticky dough.

Turn out onto a floured counter and knead for 12-13 minutes. The dough will be smooth, but tacky. Place in oiled bowl and let rise ~2 hours.

Once after 2 hours, the dough should have doubled in volume. If it hasn't, let it sit a bit longer, or proceed, your choice. If you have come this far, you must have a kitchen scale, so using the scale, cut the dough into 1.75-2.00 oz (50-60 g) pieces and form into balls. Let the balls proof (as in above photo) for 1-2 hours under a towel. The dough is ready when you poke a dough ball and the indentation slowly comes about half way back out.

Bake in a 375ºF oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops get a nice brown. Don't pull them out too early; your patience will be rewarded with a nice crunchy crust and a fluffy interior.

Wait until the rolls have cooled, about 30 minutes, to get the optimal texture. I couldn't wait (I ate 5 straight from the oven) and wish I had.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Single Serving Lunch - Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Originally uploaded by monkeycat!.
I decided to make today's lunch in the same manner I decide to make many meals - by asking myself "What is in the fridge?"

We have:
fridge: eggs, Parmesan cheese, bacon.
cupboard: pasta, olive oil, salt, pepper
garden: parsley

All the ingredients necessary for Spaghetti alla Carbonara. What about cream, you might ask? No cream in carbonara for me.

Single Serving Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Adapted from Tyler Florence

1 slice of bacon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 egg
1 handful freshly grated Parmesan
1 handful of parsley, chopped
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
1 big pinch garlic powder (no garlic on hand, unfortunately) or 1 clove, chopped
1 bunch of spaghetti judged to satisfy your appetite

Boil water for pasta, add salt. At the same time, heat up oil in skillet to about medium high. Add pasta to water. Once the pasta is going, we go to work. Chop up bacon and add to oil, let fat render and keep cooking until the bacon is crispy - about 5 minutes. Add in garlic (1 clove chopped, if you have it) or garlic powder. In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together egg and cheese until well mixed.

When the pasta is al dente (about a minute before you would call it done-done) use some kitchen utensil to get the pasta into the skillet without throwing away the pasta water. Toss pasta through the oil to get it nice and coated with bacony goodness. Once the pasta is coated and and the sizzling changes from a water boiling sizzle to a oil frying sizzle, take the pasta off of the heat. Slowly pour the egg-cheese mixture over the top, careful not to let it hit the bottom of the pan. Start to stir the egg mixture into the pasta. The goal is to get the egg to cook without scrambling. If the pan was left on the heat, scrambling would commence forthwith.

Once the sauce comes together, add the parsley and give a final mix. If the sauce is too stiff, add some starchy pasta water, 1 tsp at a time until you are happy with the consistency.

I like this recipe because it is made from one of each ingredient. It has nice recipe-symmetry.

How we learn to smell and the use of wine tasting notes.

I have been reading a lot of posts (NYTimes, for example) lately about wine tasting and its related art - tasting note poetry.

I will be the first to admit that tasting note poetry can go overboard, stepping into the realm of ode, or possibly love sonnet. But there is a profound usefulness to tasting notes: They provide a vehicle for sharing an inherently personal experience.

Like sight and sound, each person has a slightly different genetic makeup coding for the proteins and receptors related to smell. Each person has a unique-to-them experience when evaluating the flavors in the glass (See Thorngate, 1997).

Just like any language, in order to communicate wine tasting experiences effectively, there needs to exist a shared set of rules under which the communication takes place - the grammar and vocabulary of wine tasting notes. As young children we took vocabulary tests, an exercise designed to associate words with meanings by rote memorization. A similar vocabulary test takes place when learning to communicate wine experience. Odorants (smells) and their identity are associated with one another through rote memorization.

In order to pull strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, or olallieberry aroma out of a wine, a firm representation of the aroma of these berries needs to live in the brain. To form this association, aroma standards are produced according to various recipes (Noble et. al, 1987) and then repeatedly smelled and identified until the association sticks.

Therefore, if the appropriate work is done to learn the aromas, the learn the vocabulary of wine, then tasting notes become quite useful. The assumption required for usefulness is that the note writer and the note reader are speaking the same language.

The photo above was taken during the final exam of "Sensory Evaluation of Wine" taught by Dr. Heymann at UC Davis. This is a required course for all graduates of the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology program. The students in the class have to identify approximately 50 aroma standards out of numbered, black tasting glasses. As a graduate of the program, I can say that it is not an easy task. But, for all of the work it takes to learn the aromas, I am confident that when I speak to others about wine aromas who have had the same wine language training, we are communicating effectively a shared wine tasting experience.