Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Refinement of Chicago deep dish pizza recipe

I've been making some modification to the Chicago deep dish pizza recipe I posted about quite a while ago, the main issue I had was that the dough was a bit too slack and wouldn't stay pressed up against the side of the cast iron skillet i use in place of a dedicated deep dish pan like I used to have.  Here is the new dough formula:

AP Flour    340.0g     100.0%

Water        180.0g      52.9%
Oil              80.0g       23.5%
IDY            9.0g         2.6%
sugar         4.0g         1.2%
salt             6.0g         1.8%

I used olive oil for this since that's what I had on hand, a 90/10 mix of corn oil/EVOO would be preferred as that imparts more of a buttery flavor.  All ingredients were placed in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mixed for 1 minute on low.  The bowl was covered and the dough allowed to autolyse for 15 minutes before being placed back on the mixer and kneaded for 2 minutes.  The dough should be allowed a long, warm fermentation to develop the best flavor (4-6 hours at room temp), but I didn't have time for that so I put it in the fridge until I could use it the next day.  

For the sauce I also used a new recipe...

1 28 oz can crushed tomato
1/2 TB kosher salt (Morton)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar (good stuff from Old Town Oil)
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Mix well and allow to sit for at least a few hours for the flavors to meld.

The dough was pressed in to and up the sides of the oiled skillet.  For toppings I used Italian sausage from Bari Finer Foods, pepperoni, onions and green peppers then covered with the sauce and a sprinkling of romano cheese.  The oven was preheated to 425°f with a baking steel on the bottom rack.  The pizza was baked for 30 minutes on the middle rack, then moved  down to the baking steel for another 10 minutes to make sure the bottom crust was cooked through and the broiler turned on for the last 2-3 minutes.

This pizza turned out much better than the one I posted about in July 2016.  The dough on the side didn't slump down, but I still think a little lower hydration would be in order.  The sauce was something I made up on the fly and I was really happy with it, hope I didn't forget any of the ingredients I used but I think the recipe above is complete.  

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

uKeg 64 Pressurized Growler

It's been a while since I last posted but if I keep my New Year's resolution to cook more meals at home I'll hopefully have some interesting things to share this year.  For the first post of 2018 I wanted to share what is probably the best Christmas gift I received this past Christmas, a uKeg 64 ounce pressurized growler.

This is basically a double-wall insulated 64 ounce growler with a tap.  It has a built in regulator in the cap that uses standard soda charges to pressurize the growler with CO2 (came with 2 8 gram cartridges) to keep the beer fresh and carbonated.  So far I've only filled it up once, Illinois law only allows your to get growlers filled at breweries so I went to the newly re-opened Goose Island Brewhouse on Clybourn.  No problem with the filling, but there was a bit of leakage on the way home which was probably due to the bartender not tightening the cap enough.  Growlers have to be sealed at the bar for it to be legal to take off premises, they usually use a shrink-plastic collar but in this case they just used masking tape.  There's a locking mechanism on the tap handle to keep it from opening when you don't want it to, like while driving home from the brewery.  From what I've heard the insulted growler will keep beer cold for up to 8 hours and if refrigerated and charged with CO2 it'll keep fresh for up to a month, not that I'll ever let 64 ounces of beer sit for that long.  Besides filling it with fresh beer from a brewery it should also be good for filling up with canned/bottled beer when I'm up on the computer and don't want to run downstairs to the beer fridge for a refill, that'll let me test how long it can keep something cold.

Friday, September 15, 2017

It's Here!: Spinzall Edition.

Yesterday evening my Spinzall arrived!

 The Spinzall is the latest product from Dave Arnold's company Booker and Dax, makers of the Searzall torch attachment.  It is the first centrifuge designed for the home cook.  Late last year Booker and Dax launched a crowdfunding campaign at Modernist Pantry to fund the tooling and initial production run and since I'm a bit of a gadget hound I jumped in.  The delivery was made in the evening while I happened to be at the grocery store so I picked up some fresh basil and a neutral flavor vegetable oil so I would have something to play with.  After unpacking the Spinzall I cleaned all the parts that would contact the food with hot, soapy water, rinsed well and allowed to dry while I finished reading through the instruction book.  For the first trial run I cooked some whole garlic cloves in about a cup of the oil until they started turning brown, then turned off the heat and added another 3/4 cup of room temperature oil to stop the cooking.  I cooled the oil further by placing the bottom of the saucepan in cold water, then put everything in a blender jar with about 1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves and blended on high for about a minute.  After reassembling the Spinzall the basil/garlic/oil mixture was poured in the rotor, the lid and bowl locked in place and the timer set to 15 minutes.

In the video below I had left the cap off the feeder, so it's a little louder than normal.  I also may not have one of the fins in properly.

I should have taken a photo of the basil oil before spinning to show all the particulate matter it contained, but here is the final product.  Some of the bits came loose while I was removing the rotor from the bowl and the fins from the rotor, but they could have been easily filtered out if I had bothered.  Definitely could have used more basil and there are probably some enzymes I could use that would break down the leaves more.  I ordered the Spinzall Pre-Treatment Starter Kit from Modernistpantry.com this morning so hopefully I'll be able to make a better product in the near future.  Videos of different things that can be made with the Spinzall are starting to pop up so I'll be able to explore more possibilities for this piece of equipment.

Friday, September 8, 2017

It's Here: Paragon upgrade kit

I've had my Paragon Induction Cooktop for a while now and have been using it mostly for deep frying.  I know it's capable of doing much more, but I prefer using the gas range for sauteing and an immersion circulator (Nomiku, Anova, Joule) for sous vide.  Recently they offered an upgrade kit that would expand the cooktops abilities so I jumped in.

As noted on the box, the upgrade kit includes a mat, a temperature probe and a sensor module.

After opening the box.  Pretty sparse documentation but all the important stuff about getting the sensor paired to to the cooktop is easy to follow.  So what does the upgrade kit do?  The new mat goes between the cooktop and a pan and measures the temperature of the pan so you can control the surface temperature, this will be very useful for things like shallow frying, tempering chocolate and candy making where you want to bring your sugar up to a specific temperature.  The battery/sensor module is a separate piece that fits in to both the mat and the sensor probe, the original module was an integral part of the probe.  This should make it much less of a hassle to charge it and if something fails you won't have to replace the entire probe assembly.

Here is the mat in action, depending on which mode you're using you'll get some degree of overshoot with an empty pan (especially in "Rapid Mode") but the sensor reading from the mat seems to mesh pretty well with the actual surface temperature reading from my IR thermometer.

One downside of the upgrade kit is that the mat can only go up to 375°f, same as the temperature probe.  That means it probably won;t be particularly for post sous vide searing.  There is a new product coming from First Build called the Tasty One Top that appears to be basically the same technology.  From the description it looks like the surface temperature sensor is built in to the unit rather being a separate mat.  It also will feature Bluetooth connectivity for control via an app, but minimal on-board controls.  It will also have a higher temperature range up to 450°f making it useful for searing.  These are not out in the wild yet (expected shipping date in November) so I have no idea about the quality of the hardware, but may be something to take a look at if someone is interested in this type of technology.

Next week I should recieve my most expensive kitchen gadget yet, a Spinzall home culinary centrifuge.  Once I've had a chance to play around with it a bit I'll post a review.

Labor day dinner

Just wanted to make a quick post about Labor Day dinner this past week.  More of a lunch, we had to go to a funeral that evening so the meal was pretty early.  On the menu was sous vide ribeye steak, air fried potatoes and broccoli puree.

The steak was seasoned with salt, pepper, minced dried onion, minced dried garlic and ground togarashi (found this stuff at my local supermarket and have been using it on everything lately!).  It was vacuum sealed with the trusty old FoodSaver and cooked in a 130°f water bath (heated with my Joule immersion circulator) for about 2 1/2 hours then pressed under a weighted sheet pan for 15 minutes and finally seared in a screaming hot skillet.  The potatoes were first boiled to get the cooking process started, then allowed to dry out a bit before dressed with salt, pepper, togarashi and olive oil and placed in my air fryer to crisp up.  The broccoli was trimmed and cooked in the same water as the potatoes, once tender it was put in a blender with a little of the cooking liquid and pureed.  I added a bit too much water to the broccoli which made the puree little too loose, so I added a few of the potatoes to tighten it up.  All in all a great meal.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A good quality chefs knife for a cheap price

A few months ago I was reading through a food-themed message board and came across a post about a really cheap chef's knife the OP had found on Amazon.  At the time the Michlentic 8 Inch Professional Kitchen Chef Knife was selling for a mere $12.90 so it was an easy decision to add one to an order.  I've been using it for almost two months now and have been pretty happy with it's performance.

 The knife comes in a black gift box.

In the box the blade is nestled in to a form-fitting compartment with a cutout protecting the blade.  The box feel sturdy and should offer great protection when travelling with the knife.

With the cutout removed.  The knife has a hollow edge blade to help reduce surface tension when cutting through wet foods.

The knife weighs in at just under 186 grams, about 33 grams lighter than my Missen chefs knife I wrote about last year and 26 grams lighter than the Victorinox 8 Inch Fibrox Pro Chef's Knife.

The knife is balanced right at the bolster.

I've found the knife very nice to hold, the pakkawood handle is shaped to fit comfortably in your hand.  The knife was razor sharp right out of the box and I haven't really seen much dulling with use, however I do hone the edge before each use like I do with all my knives to keep them sharp.  I was able to quickly shred a head of cabbage with little difficulty and have used it for a variety of other tasks, although I still reach for one of my sturdier knives when a little more heft is called for.  

The price on this knife has been going up and down quite a bit, when I made my purchase it was $12.90, as of today it is up to $22.90.  It'll probably go up and down a bit more before the price stabilizes, but even at the current higher price I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this knife to someone who wants a good quality knife for a low cost.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Snappy Beer Cheese

If you're from Central Kentucky you're most likely familiar with snappy beer cheese, a spicy, flavorful cheese spread that's somewhat unique to the area.  My first memories of the spread are from our family going to Hall's on the River just outside Lexington in Winchester Kentucky.  Our whole  extended family would gather there for dinners several times a summer, and we always had their beer cheese.  Over time Hall's declined (but I'm told has rebounded since I moved away in the 90's) so we found other sources for beer cheese.  For the last 15 years or so a friend of my parents would make large batches of her family recipe beer cheese and sell it to friends in 10 pound buckets, which would then be divvied up amongst us.  She kept the recipe close to the vest, all I know is that she used a spreadable processed cheese and added flavorings.  The standard flavorings are worcestershire sauce, garlic, cayenne (or tabasco), mustard and (of course) beer.

Now that the parents have moved further down south I have to find a new way to get my beer cheese fix.  I've tried a few times to make my own version using spreadable processed cheese, but adding enough beer to make it noticeable resulted in a very loose cheese sauce rather than a spread. Recently I came into possession of a rather old (1949) cookbook of Kentucky recipes (a newer edition can be found here) and while leafing through found a recipe for beer cheese that I had to try.

I ended up making a few changes to the recipe while making it, and made some adjustments later.  What I used was...

8 oz sharp cheddar
8 oz "rat" cheese
1 large clove garlic (grated)
1/2 cup beer (american pilsner)
1 1/2 TB worcestershire sauce
1/2 ts salt
1/2 ts powdered mustard
1/4 ts cayenne pepper  
1/8 ts celery salt                  

I had never heard the term "rat cheese" before, I learned that at the time this book was published it was the common name for young, domestic cheddar, the kind you would use to bait rat traps.  All the cheese was grated and placed in the bowl of a stand mixer to warm up a bit.  The garlic was grated on a microplane and added along with all the dry spices.  The beer was mixed with the worcestershire sauce and warmed up in a saucepan both to get rid of the carbonation and help the cheese become smooth.  I turned the mixer to low and let it blend everything, then added the beer/worcestershire sauce mix and turned the speed up to medium and let it run for a while.  The end result was good, all the flavors were these but it was chunky and a little to stiff for my liking.  A few days later I decided to loosen things up a bit, I mixed another 1/4 - 1/3 cup beer with a 1/2 ts or so sodium citrate in a saucepan and started warming it up, then added the beer cheese and mixed vigorously over low heat until all the cheese melted and smooth.  The result is much closer to the spreadable cheese I remember, but not quite.  It seems to be a very thick liquid that self levels when left alone, next time I'll probably beat more air in to the mixture before packing into tubs.  Still a good starting point and one that I'mm enjoying!