Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Recipe for Rye Bread

A Recipe for Rye Bread
by: Kit Heathcock


The more I make bread, the more I am convinced of the importance of the kitchen being in the best position in the house. When we designed and built our house, I was determined that the kitchen should have a view and be on the front of the house. Now that it’s six-fifteen of a summer morning and I’m up early, kneading bread, because we’ve run out again, I’m especially happy to be looking out over a sun-soaked landscape to the distant mountains. Every time you make bread you’re guaranteed a good ten minutes of contemplation as you knead it, the mechanical rhythmic activity frees the mind to wander or switch off…very therapeutic. Having a view thrown in as well is just an added bonus.

I haven’t always made bread. It is a comparatively recent development. Making jam was the first breakthrough into self-sufficiency, then came the day when our local supplier of rye bread, who made a loaf that (miracle of miracles), all the children would eat, decided to switch recipes and use caraway in it…instant rejection by the whole family.

We’d stopped the wheat bread to try and help my son’s allergies and found it helped most of us, so apart from the occasional indulgence of fluffy white bread, I wanted to stay off it. There was no alternative; I would have to take the leap into bread making. The main reason that I’d resisted was that it seemed to take so long. First the mixing and kneading, then the rising, then knocking down and forming loaves, a second rising and finally the baking. Who could keep track of all that in the chaotic life of a three-child family?

So eventually I take the plunge, turn to my friend Nigel (Slater, not namedropping but he and Nigella (Lawson) are ever-present in my kitchen, in book format of course) and find a foolproof recipe for a white loaf, simpler to start off with white I think. Well the first try produced a reasonable, if huge, loaf, though my son still remembers that it was a bit doughy in the middle. Second try, I got two pretty perfect loaves and I was on a roll.

Now to find a recipe for rye bread. It seems that 100% rye is usually made by the sour dough method and I couldn’t see my family going for that, so settle for a half and half rye/whole-wheat recipe… triumph. Ok, my son the food connoisseur complained it was a bit too sweet, so next time round I reduced the amount of honey, but this recipe has been our staple diet ever since, and I am now truly ensconced in my kitchen, looking at the view, every other day, while I endeavour to keep the supply level with the ever increasing demand.

Any way, finally to the recipe:

500g rye flour
450g whole-wheat flour plus more for kneading
50g plain flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 10g sachet of instant yeast
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons oil
670 ml milk
125 ml water

Warm the milk to lukewarm. Mix the flours and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and put in the yeast, then honey, then oil, pour on the warmed milk and water and mix. When it gets doughy turn out on to a well floured surface (it will be extremely sticky) and knead for 10 minutes. You will need to keep adding flour as you knead. It is better for it to be too sticky than too dry – you can always add more flour, but too dry will make a dry, hard loaf. After 10 minutes, put it back into the bowl with a plastic bag over it and leave in a warmish place for two hours or so. Then knock down, firmly pressing out the air, but not over kneading, then form into two or three loaves on a baking sheet, cover again and leave to rise for another hour. Then bake for 30 minutes at 190C until they sound hollow when you tap on the bottom of the loaf. Cool on a wire rack

So how do I keep track of the bread making, in between school runs, mealtimes and the rest? Well I don’t always. There are times when I optimistically start the bread off, leave it to rise and four hours later remember about it, knock it down, forget to switch on the oven so it has had an extra day or so in rising time by the time it gets cooked. It does seem to be very forgiving though – whatever you do to it, you do generally get bread out at the end, it may not always be the perfect loaf, but then variety is the spice of life after all. There was one time it hadn’t quite finished cooking by the time I had to do the school run, so I asked my husband to take it out in ten minutes….. By the time I got back we had a very useful weapon against intruders. We didn’t eat that one…I think it was ryvita for lunch…!

Good luck with yours.

Copyright 2005 Kit Heathcock

About the author:
Sometime flower photographer, keen observer of the resonances of life and fulltime mother. Born in the UK but now living on a farm in the southern hemisphere. Contributor to the creation and maintenance of http://www.aflowergallery.com one of the homes of chakra flower art.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cooking Lesson: Seasoning Cast Iron Like The Pros

Cooking Lesson: Seasoning Cast Iron Like The Pros
by: Michael Lansing


In the days before we had non-stick cookware, we had the next best thing - seasoned cast iron cookware. While non-stick cookware has certainly outdone cast iron cookware in the non-stick category, cast iron pots and pans are still favored by many chefs, including the professionals because of their durability and ability to retain flavor.

But, if you're not lucky enough to have a hand-me-down from Grandma, you may find yourself confused about how to become a cast iron chef. Have no fear - you can learn to season cast iron cookware with the pros and keep them in great shape for years to come.


Seasoning New Cast Iron Cookware

The process is actually quite simple. When done correctly, your pans will last a long time and may even become your own hand-me -downs in the future.

1. Heat your oven to 300 degrees.
2. Coat the pan with lard or grease. (Be sure that you do not use vegetable oil or commercial cooking sprays. While they may seem easier, they will not only cause your cookware to be seasoned incorrectly, but they will also leave a sticky film on the outside of the cookware that is impossible to remove.)
3. Place the pan in the oven on the middle rack and allow it to bake for 15 minutes.
4. Remove the pan and pour out any excess grease or lard.
5. Put the pan back into the oven and bake for another two hours.
6. Repeat as needed

Many cast iron enthusiasts will swear upon repeating the seasoning process several times before ever using the cookware the first time. Each time you season the cookware, the seasoning bond becomes stronger. Many people will recommend that the first few times the cookware is used it should be used to cook greasy foods (bacon, fatty meats, etc.) to again strengthen the seasoning bond.


Re-seasoning Cookware

If you find that you seasoned the pan improperly the first time, or if food starts to stick to the pan after a period of time in use, you may want to re-season the cookware.

1. Wash the cookware thoroughly with a steel wool pad (doing this while the pan is warm and still safe to touch is best).
2. Make sure the pan is fully dry (use a towel if needed).
3. Follow the seasoning steps above to re-season the pan.


Cleaning Your Cast Iron Cookware

To make your cookware last the test of time, be sure to take proper care of it. Remember the creed of every enthusiast of cast iron - no soap and no steel wool. Soap and steel wool will cause a breakdown in the seasoning bond and should not be used to clean your cookware on a regular basis. If you're baffled at this moment, have no fear. Cleaning cast iron cookware is a breeze.

1. You'll need to rinse your cookware while it is still hot. If food is stuck to it, then scrape the pan or pot as needed.

That's it! Remember not to store food in your cast iron cookware because it may attach a metallic flavor to the food. In addition, store your pans with the lids off to prevent moisture from accumulating and rusting from occurring.

Now that you know the ins and outs to cast iron cookware, you can start creating your own family heirloom - as well as some great food!

About the author:
Mike Lansing is a retired chef who spent most of his time as a Head Chef in New Orleans after training in France. He spends his free time cooking for family and friends, as well as serving as a contributing editor for CookingSchools101.com which offers information on Cooking Schools for those wishing to enter the trade.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Chinese Food

Chinese Food
by: Marci Crane

now holds a popular place among the entire population of the world. You can find a Chinese restaurant in every major city and in many smaller areas of the world as well. Why is Chinese food so popular? Is Chinese food healthy? What is the history of Chinese food?

The History of Chinese Food

The history of Chinese food1 is an interesting one. Unlike many cultures the Chinese believe that the preparation of food is an art and not simply a craft. The art of cooking Chinese food can include dishes and food preparation techniques which are difficult to develop and may require the expertise of a chef with lots of experience. One such technique is noodle pulling (scroll down to the bottom of the page to learn more about this technique). Noodle pulling requires skill and lots of practice and results in a delicious noodle dish. This article will refer to noodle pulling later on, but for now, let’s go back to the history of Chinese food.

Chinese food and the way it is prepared is very much influenced by the two major philosophies, which influence the entire Chinese culture. These dominant philosophies are Confucianism and Taoism. Both have these philosophies have influenced the way that the Chinese people cook and the way that they enjoy their food..

Confucianism and Chinese Cuisine

Confucius was the man behind the Confucianism beliefs. Among many other standards Confucius established standards for proper table etiquette and for the appearance and taste of Chinese food. One of the standards set by Confucius (you might have noticed this at an authentic Chinese restaurant) is that food must be cut into small bite size pieces before serving the dish. This is a custom that is definitely unique to the Chinese culture.

Knives at the dinner table are also considered to be a sign of very poor taste by those who embrace Confucianism beliefs. The standards of quality and taste that Confucius recommended required the perfect blend of ingredients, herbs and condiments--a blend which would result in the perfect combination of flavor. Confucius also emphasized the importance of the texture and color of a dish, and taught that food must be prepared and eaten with harmony. Interestingly enough, Confucius was also of the opinion that an excellent cook must first make an excellent matchmaker.

Taoism and Chinese Cuisine

Those who follow the Taoism beliefs focus on the health benefits of particular foods vs. the presentation of the same. Taoists search for foods that will increase their health and longevity. They search for foods that have healing powers. Many times these benefits were often referred to as ‘life giving powers’. For instance, the Chinese found that ginger, which can be considered to be a garnish or a condiment was found to be a remedy for upset stomachs or a remedy for colds.

Is Chinese Food Healthy?

Chinese food, when authentic is probably the healthiest food in the world. Some restaurants, which are not authentic, prepare their menu with highly saturated fats or with meats that contain unhealthy amounts of animal fat. These Chinese restaurants are not recommended and they are both neither authentic nor healthy.

Good Chinese food however, is prepared and cooked with poly-unsaturated oils. Authentic Chinese food does not require the use of milk-fat ingredients such as cream, butter or cheese. Meat is used, but not in abundance, which makes it easy for those who love authentic Chinese food to avoid high levels of animal fat. Many believe that authentic Chinese food is really the ideal diet.

Chinese Restaurants in Every Part of the Nation

Whether it is in a Tennessee Chinese Restaurant to a New York Chinese restaurant you are going to find culinary dishes that are both healthy and delicious. Savor the flavor with Chinese food!

1 The majority of the information found in this article can be referenced at the following website: http://asiarecipe.com/chicookinghistory.html


About the author:
To find out more information in regards to delicious Chinese food, or noodle pulling in Tennessee, visit http://royalpandarestaurant.samsbiz.com/page/18jcr/Home.html

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Garlic: A Quick Guide

Garlic: A Quick Guide
by: Tim Sousa


Garlic, there's nothing like the smell of garlic. It's great in soups and sauces, roasted with meats or on it's own, and it's wonderful mixed with butter and slathered on bread and then baked.

The scientific name for garlic is Allium Sativum. It is related to the lily and the onion. Although related to the onion, and having a flavor that very slightly resembles that of an onion, garlic does not bring tears to the eyes when chopped.

When buying fresh garlic, be sure that the head feels very firm when you squeeze it. Over time, garlic will soften and begin to sprout, which turns the garlic bitter. To store fresh garlic, keep it in a dark, cool place, such as the basement. Do not refrigerate or freeze the garlic, as it will begin to loose it's taste.

To peel a clove of garlic, place it on a cutting board, and put the flat of the blade of the knife against it. Press down on the other side of the blade with the heel of your hand, flattening the garlic slightly. The skin will come right off.

The strong flavor and odor of garlic come from sulfur compounds within the cells. The more cells that are broken, the stronger the flavor of the garlic will be. For the mildest flavor, just use a whole or slightly crushed clove of garlic. For a bit stronger flavor, slice or chop the garlic, and for the strongest flavor, mash the garlic into a paste.

Cooking garlic tames the strong flavor, and changes it in different ways, depending on how it's cooked. If using in a sauce, it can be sweated or sauteed. In sweating the garlic, it is first chopped finely, and then added to a cold pan with some oil, it is then gently heated, causing the oil to become infused with the garlic flavor. To sautee garlic, heat the oil in the pan first, and then add the chopped garlic, stirring frequently, and being careful not to let the garlic burn and become bitter.

Roasting the garlic softens the flavor, and makes it soft and perfect for mixing with cream cheese to spread onto toast, or just spread on the toast itself.

To roast the garlic, take a whole head of garlic, and remove the papery outer skin. Place the garlic on a piece of aluminum foil, and drizzle with some olive oil. Loosely wrap the garlic in the foil, and place it into a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Remove the garlic and let it cool. When cool enough to handle, separate the cloves of garlic, and squeeze each one. The flesh should pop right out. The roasted garlic is great mixed with cheese or potatoes, or on it's own.

Don't be afraid to use garlic in your cooking. Garlic is flavorful, and healthful, and of course, it will keep those pesky vampires away.

About the author:
Tim Sousa is the webmaster for http://www.classy-cooking.com an online directory of free recipes.