Wednesday, July 19, 2017

IS ONE EGG AN OEUF? - EUROPEAN-AMERICAN EGG "TRANSLATION"



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When I started reading American cookbooks and food magazines, I noticed that their recipes almost always call for large eggs, whereas the typical egg in German recipes is medium-sized (Kl. M).

Though (supposedly) everything is bigger in the US, I was wondering about this. Why should American cooks and bakers in general use larger eggs than their European counterparts?

My experiences with the differences between European and American flour types and dairy products taught me that I should better not automatically assume that a "large egg" in Maine is the same as "ein grosses Ei" in Hamburg.

Contrary to what some people believe, size doesn't always matter - at least not for eggs - it's all about the weight!

The typical American recipe egg is "large" - but only medium-sized!


        EU-STANDARD                                                     US-STANDARD  

Class      Weight per Egg                                   Class       Minimum Weight per Egg
XL              73 g or more                                     Jumbo                   70.9 g (30 oz)
L                 63 g - 73 g                                        Extra Large           63.8 g (27 oz)
M                53 g - 63 g                                        Large                    56.7 g (24 oz)
S                 53 g or less                                       Medium                49.6 g (21 oz)
                                                                             Small                    42.5 g (18 oz)


Okay, then a US standard "large" egg equals an European "medium" egg. Right? Well, it's a bit more complicated.

When I want to know the weight of cups and tablespoons of baking ingredients, I check my friend The Rye Baker Stanley Ginsberg's NY Bakers' Ingredient-Weight Table (based on the USDA Nutritional Values Database.) And there I find a regular "large" egg listed with a weight of only 50 grams/21 ounces. That's almost 7 grams/0.25 ounces less!

The New York Times and other newspapers, as well as foodie magazines, like Cook's Illustrated or Bon Appétit, all base their recipes on this average Joe 21-ounce egg.

Whether your breakfast egg is standard size or not - who cares!

But should you really care whether your breakfast eggs meet the standard minimum weight? Probably not.

These little differences matter if you bake egg-rich pastry (where the difference compounds), or need to work with halves, or fractions of whole eggs.

To adapt large cakes to smaller versions - which I often do, since we are only two people - I use the practical Pan-Conversion-Tool von Keiko's Cake. For this calculation I need to know the weight of each ingredient.

With miniature cakes, like the glorious Bohemian Hazelnut Torte or traditional Dresden Rhubarb-Eierschecke-Torte, a difference in the egg content does have an impact on the results.

Miniature Bohemian Hazelnut Torte

Before I knew better, I would have simply taken either the yolk or white to get to 1/2 egg. But too much egg yolk makes a batter tough and dry.

And, after once being served a low-cholesterol scrambled egg, made of egg whites only, I knew why you should better not divide an egg like that: the white scrambled egg was bland and tasteless!

How do you divide an egg? Very easy: you crack it into a cup, stir well with a fork, and then weigh the desired amount.

Dan Lepard's Ale Crust Potato Pasties with a golden, egg washed crust

The egg leftovers you can work into your next scrambled eggs, or use as glaze for other pastries, for example Dan Lepard's tasty Ale Crust Potato Pasties.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

ROYAL TREATMENT FOR LEFTOVER PANCAKES - KAISERSCHMARREN






















My husband and I love pancakes! At least once a week we have them for lunch, made with all kinds of different grains, nuts and fruits. And, of course, our traditional family recipe, my Omi's German Pancakes.

Franz Joseph of Austria 1910 old.jpg
Emperor Franz Josef loved Kaiserschmarren
I always cook a whole batch of them, even though we are only two, and I could just halve the recipe.

There's a good  reason:: leftover pancakes can be easily recycled into an (almost even more delicious) dish: Kaiserschmarren!

A famous Austrian dessert, Kaiserschmarren ("Emperor's Mess") is made from twice-fried pancakes.

First you bake regular fluffy pancakes, then you mess them up by ripping them apart, creating a "Schmarren" -  a mess in Austrian dialect. After that, you refry the torn pancakes in butter, together with raisins and other add-ins.

Emperor Franz Josef I, to whom the royal "mess" was dedicated, supposedly loved this rich dessert.

His Empress Elisabeth, anxiously watching her famed hourglass waistline, most likely not so much.

But since those painfully strait-laced days of yore are past, we can follow His Majesty's example, happily indulging in refried pancakes - and with a good conscience to boot, since we are thrifty recyclers!

Typical add-ins for Kaiserschmarren

LEFTOVER PANCAKE KAISERSCHMARREN  (2 servings)

2 servings of leftover pancakes, any kind (4 to 8, depending on size)
1-2 tbsp butter, for frying
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup golden raisins (or to taste)
powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

Tear leftover pancakes in small pieces

Using two forks (or your fingers), tear pancakes in bite-sized pieces.

In large skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Add pancake pieces, and cook, stirring frequently, until they are warmed through.

Cook pancake pieces with almond slices and raisins, stirring often

Stir in raisins and almonds, and fry until pancakes are crisped, and almond slices are starting to brown.

To serve, dust the pancakes with powdered sugar. Or sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar, like I do.

We like the faux Kaiserschmarren with maple syrup and lingonberry preserve. (The classic accompaniment for this dessert is plum compote.)

Finally we have spring after this long, cold winter!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

BREWER'S BREAD WITH SPENT GRAINS


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When I heard about breads made with spent grains - leftovers from beer brewing - I was fascinated.

How interesting! But, where on earth, could you come by those mashed grains, unless you worked at a brewery? We have two micro-breweries in Bar Harbor, so I left a message, asking whether I could purchase a small amount of their spent grains.

The sobering answer: the mash goes to the dogs hogs. All sold to pig farms - sorry!

So I gave up on the idea. Then, two years ago, I found a Groupon in my emails with a real bargain on a small brewing kit. A beer drinker, and always curious, I ordered it  - but then the bulky package ended up in the basement, with other rarely used kitchen equipment, like the lobster pot.

It's alive! My beer is bubbling away
The best of all husbands needs some quality solitude now and then, playing his guitar and recording his music.

Left to my devices, I unearthed beer kit and lobster pot (just the right size for the mash!), and went around in the house with a thermometer.

Our guestroom closet proved to be the ideal environment for beer fermentation: cool, but not cold. And dark. 

Looking at the packages with malted barley, I realized: here was not only the base for my first (hopefully successful) stab at brewing, but, also, finally, the source for spent grain.

I visualized us drinking my very own Pale Ale, while enjoying a loaf made with the leftovers.

Whether the beer will be drinkable or not, I don't know, yet. Its precursor is foaming, happily bubbling away, next to our winter boots in the closet.

Many of my bread concoctions are based on porridge breads à la Tartine, tweaked to meet my needs (a bit tangier) and accommodating all kinds of grain/nut/seed combinations, like the squirrel-channeling Acorn Levain.

The bread I came up with contains a good measure of spent grains along with whole wheat. It turned out to be a very pleasing, hearty loaf - this newbie brewer was delighted! Definitely a keeper.

And I still have a bag of barley mash stored in the freezer, for my next recycling adventures.

Spent grains - malted barley from beer brewing


BREWER'S BREAD

Starter
10 g/1/2 tbsp very active starter (refreshed twice the day before)
50 g/1.5 oz bread flour
50 g/1.5 oz whole wheat
100 g/3.5 oz water (80-85ºF/26-29ºC)

Final Dough
100 g/ 3.5 oz bread flour
150 g/5.3 oz whole wheat flour
250 g/8.8 oz all-purpose flour
35 g/1.2 oz wheat germ
430 g/ 15.2 oz water
210 g/7.4 oz starter (all)
15 g/ 0.5 oz salt
250 g/8.8 oz spent grains (mash leftovers, from beer brewing)

Topping
grain flakes, cracked grains, or bran (I used barley flakes)

Float test - when a spoonful of starter rises to the surface,  it's ready to go

DAY 1
6:00 - 8:00 am: Mix starter. Leave for 4 - 8 hours, or until a spoonful of starter floats in water (if not, it needs to ferment longer!)

Whisk together flours and wheat germ
Dissolve starter in water

Whisk together flours and wheat germ in medium bowl. In large bowl, mix starter and 400 g/14.1 oz of the water, until starter has dissolved.

Mix the dough until all flour is hydrated

Add flour mixture to bowl with dissolved starter, and stir (Danish dough whisk or per hand) until all flour is hydrated. Let dough rest, covered, for 30 minutes at warm room temperature.

To incorporate the salt, pinch and fold the dough several times

Add salt and remaining slightly warm water, pinching and folding dough to incorporate (as described here for Einkorn Hazelnut Levain). Let it rest for 30 minutes.

Add the spent grains during the second fold

Add spent grains to the bowl. Again, with wet hands, fold and pinch dough several times (as described here for Einkorn Hazelnut Levain), until grains are mostly incorporated.

When the dough is visibly swollen, transfer it to the work bench

Continue to let dough rise for 2 1/2 hours more, stretching and folding it 5 times at 30 minute intervals. If it's not swollen (with a 20-30% increase in volume), leave it for another 30 - 60 minutes.

With an oiled bowl scraper pre-shape dough into a tight ball

Sprinkle half of the work surface with flour, leaving the other half free. Transfer dough to the floured part. Lightly flour top. Using an oiled spatula, work dough into a taut, smooth round by drawing the spatula in circles around and under the side to create surface tension.

Prepared basket (here with a grain mix)

Re-flour top, cover dough with the empty bowl, and let it rest for 20 - 30 minutes. Generously flour rising basket with a 50/50 mixture of wheat and rice flours. Sprinkle a layer of grain flakes, grain chops, or bran over bottom of basket (prevents sticking and makes a nice topping).

Shaping the dough by folding it from four sides

Using oiled bench knife, flip dough around, so that the floured side is down. With floured hands, fold bottom end of dough up to a third, then fold both sides over the center to elongate.

Next, fold top down to the center, then fold the bottom up again to cover top fold, so that package is closed. Flip dough package over to the un-floured part of the counter, so that the seam is underneath.

Shaped loaf

With both (floured) hands, rotate dough ball, while pulling it towards you, so that it tightens.

Place loaf, seam-side up, in rising basket. Sprinkle with flour, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator overnight. (No warming up necessary!).

Ready to go to sleep in the fridge

DAY 2
Preheat oven to 500ºF/260ºC, with a Dutch oven (with lid) on middle rack.

Place a large piece of parchment paper on the counter, and keep scissors, a sharp knife or lamé and a brush at hand. A paper sling makes the transport of the loaf into the very hot pot easy - and painless!

Preparing the loaf for the Dutch oven baking (here with Acorn Levain)

With an energetic smack of the rising basket on the counter, turn bread out onto parchment paper. Cut paper around loaf to make a sling, leaving two 2 wide handles (see photo - this prevents the paper from creating folds that would press into the loaf).

Score bread and brush off excess flour from parchment (so that you don't end up with a lot of burnt flour in the pot.)

A paper sling makes the transfer to the hot pot painless and easy

Remove hot pot from the oven, and take off lid (I recommend leaving an oven mitt on the lid to remind you it's hot). Transfer bread with the paper sling into Dutch oven. Replace lid, and put it in the oven.

Bake bread for 20 minutes, then reduce temperature to 450ºF/230ºC and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove lid, and continue baking for 20 - 25 minutes more, or until loaf is golden brown (internal temperature at least 200ºF/93ºC.)

Freshly baked Brewer's Bread




BreadStorm users (also of the free version) can download the formula here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

BROWNIES OR COOKIES? - BROWNIEST COOKIES!

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After sadly slacking off last year, I hope to be a more productive blogger in 2017.

My cookie baking activities are usually restricted to the time before Christmas (except for NYTimes Chocolate Chip Cookies), but I DO like brownies.

http://avidbakerschallenge.blogspot.com/p/about-abc.html
Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen promised a cookie with "everything that we expect from a great brownie, a slight crackly exterior, and a plush, fudgy interior".

That sounded very enticing, and I was eager to tackle "The Browniest Cookies" - our Avid Bakers' February project.

But I didn't look at the recipe carefully enough, and, instead of mixing the sugar with the melted chocolate-butter, I added it to the dry ingredients.

Overmixing the batter was a no-no, and I feared that the undissolved sugar might give the cookies an unpleasant grittiness (it didn't!). 

I reduced the salt to 1/4 teaspoon and added some espresso powder to enhance the chocolate flavor.
 
Browniest Cookies - crackly exterior and fudgy inside
With Chad Robertson's fabulous Salted Chocolate Rye Cookies in mind, I exchanged a bit of the white flour for rye.

The batter seemed to have the right consistency, so, instead of chilling it first, I  refrigerated the shaped cookies on the baking sheet.

In spite of these missteps, my cookies baked up perfectly, no unsightly flattening, crackly from the outside and fudgy from inside.

And, to my delight, VERY chocolate-y!

My husband ripped one hot from the baking sheet - of course, it fell apart - claiming they should be eaten warm.

A bit later, we had them, more civilized, slightly warm, for dessert. The dollop of vanilla ice cream that hubby added certainly didn't hurt.


THE BROWNIEST COOKIES  (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
(ca. 28 pieces)

115 g all-purpose flour
15 g whole rye flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
45 g unsweetened cocoa powder, any kind
115 g butter
115 g g unsweetened chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli's)
190 g dark or light brown sugar
25 g sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
115 g semisweet chocolate, chips or chunks

In a small bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa (sifted if necessary), baking soda and salt.

Melt butter and unsweetened chocolate in a double-boiler over simmering water.

Mixing dry ingredients into chocolate mixture

Off the heat, whisk sugars into chocolate mixture, followed by eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and espresso powder. Add flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips (or chunks).
Folding chocolate chips into the batter

Refrigerate batter for ca. 30 minutes. (If longer, it needs to warm up slightly to make it easier to scoop).

Heat oven to 350°F/175°C. Line 2 baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper.

A small scoop makes portioning the batter easy

Using a 1 1/2 - 2 tablespoon scoop, place mounds of batter on prepared baking sheets (they spread a little.)

Bake cookies for 11-12 minutes (they will look glossy and underbaked in the cracks, and feel still soft to the touch.)

Let cookies set on their baking sheets for 10 minutes, before transferring them to a wire rack to cool (an offset spatula works best.)

Warm Brownie Cookies - what can be better on a cold winter day

They taste best when they are slightly warm. Nuke them for a few seconds to re-warm (beware: if they get too hot, they will fall apart!)

Store the cookies, covered, in a tin or platter at room temperature.

View from our window - and the next blizzard is coming!

Friday, January 13, 2017

ACORN LEVAIN - CHANNELING MY INNER SQUIRREL


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Last September, William Rubel challenged Facebook group members of "Bread History & Practice" to gather acorns, and use them for bread baking. I was intrigued - the huge European oaks in our neighborhood had produced a bumper crop of acorns this year.

Shelling acorns - as easy as cracking nuts
Squirrels and pigs love the fat kernels, but acorns are too bitter for human consumption, unless the tannins are leached out of them.

This process, as described in "Acorns: The Inside Story", is easy.

Soaking ground acorns in cold water (instead of boiling them) works best for bread making, since the meal retains it binding qualities.

I gathered a bag full of acorns, and left them for several weeks on our porch to dry - the kernels shrink a bit, and are easier to remove from the shells.

With a nutcracker, the acorns could be cracked like hazelnuts, and I ended up with about half a pound of kernels.

The acorn are ground with some water in the food processor

First I ground the acorns with water in the food processor, then rinsed the meal in a fine-mesh strainer, before transferring it to a bowl and soaking it in a lot of cold water. Three times a day I rinsed and drained the acorn meal, and changed the soaking water.

After two days I started testing the meal for bitterness, and finally, after three days of leaching, the tannins had been washed out, and the meal tasted similar to walnuts, but a bit milder.

Acorn meal after drying
The wet acorn meal had to be dried. I used my dehydrator (lowest setting), or you can spread it out on a baking sheet and dry it in the oven, at very low heat.

Now I had my meal, ready to use. But what kind of bread should I bake with it?

The author of "Acorns: The Inside Story" offers a simple skillet bread, but I wanted a real loaf with a nice rise.

The percentage of the acorn meal should be high enough to be discernible, without compromising the structure.

My usual to-go bread is a Tartine-ish kind of loaf, with high hydration, long fermentation, and baked in a Dutch oven. I adapted one of Chad Robertson's formulas, using a mix of whole wheat, bread flour and 16% acorn meal.

My acorn levain turned out very nice - a hearty, slightly nutty loaf with a crisp crust, fairly open crumb, and a dark, reddish color from the acorns. Good for sandwiches and, also, for toasting.

Next year I will channel my inner squirrel again!

If you want to try it, but can't get acorns - you can purchase acorn flour online, but it costs a fortune: $28 - $32 per pound.


Baked Acorn Levain
ACORN LEVAIN

Starter
10 g/1/2 tbsp. very active starter (refreshed twice the day before)
50 g/1.5 oz bread flour
50 g/1.5 oz whole wheat
100 g/3.5 oz water (80-85ºF/26-29ºC)

Final Dough
250 g/8.8 oz bread flour
150 g/5.3 oz whole wheat flour
100 g3.5 oz acorn meal
35 g/1.2 oz wheat germ
455 g/16 oz water
210 g/7.4 oz starter (all)
13 g/0..45 oz salt

acorn meal, for coating

(For the BreadStorm formula please scroll down)

Float test - the starter swims on the surface

DAY 1
6:00 - 8:00 am: Mix starter. Leave for 4 - 8 hours, or until a spoonful of starter floats in water (if not, it needs to ferment longer!)

Whisk together flours, acorn meal and wheat germ in medium bowl. In large bowl, dissolve starter in 430 g/15 oz of the water.

Mixing flours and wheat germ

Add flour mixture to bowl with starter and stir (I use a Danish dough whisk) until all flour is hydrated. Let dough rest for 30 minutes at warm room temperature.

Mixing the dough

Add salt and remaining slightly warm water, pinching and folding dough in the bowl to incorporate (as described here for Einkorn Hazelnut Levain).

....then pinching it to incorporate the salt (photo: Einkorn Hazelnut Levain)

Let dough rise for 3 hours (DDT: 80-85ºF/26-29ºC), stretching and folding it in the bowl, 6 times at 30 minute intervals (I use a wet bowl scraper).

Dough after 3. folding

Risen dough - it will be sticky!

Sprinkle half of the work surface with flour, leaving the other half free. Transfer dough to the floured part. Lightly flour top. Using oiled spatula(s), work dough into a round by drawing the spatula(s) around the side in circles to create surface tension. (Dough round should be taut and smooth).

Working dough into a taut round

Re-flour top, cover dough (I use the empty bowl), and let it rest for 20 - 30 minutes. Generously flour rising basket with a 50/50 wheat and rice flour mixture. Sprinkle a layer of  acorn meal on the bottom (looks nice and prevents sticking).

Preparing the banneton like this prevents sticking

Using oiled bench knife, flip dough around, so that the floured side is down. With floured hands, fold bottom end of dough up to a third, then fold both sides over the center to elongate.

Fold top down to the center. Now fold the bottom again to cover top fold, so that package is closed. Flip dough package over to the un-floured part of the counter, so that seam is underneath.

Shaping the dough by folding sides over

Shaped loaf

With both (floured) hands, rotate dough ball, pulling it towards you, to tighten it.

Place shaped loaf, seam-side up, in rising basket. Sprinkle with flour, cover with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator overnight. (No warming up necessary!).

Bread in banneton, seamside up

DAY 3
Preheat oven to 500ºF/260ºC, with a Dutch oven (with lid) in the middle. Place a large piece of parchment paper on the counter.

With an energetic smack of the rising basket on the counter, turn bread out onto the parchment paper. Cut paper around loaf into a sling with 2 wide handles (see photo), and score bread (brush off excess flour from the parchment).

Cutting the paper sling and scoring (I tried to do an acorn)

Remove hot Dutch oven from the oven, take off lid (I leave an oven mitt on the lid to remind me it's hot). Transfer bread with paper sling into Dutch oven. Replace lid, and put it in the oven.

Bread with paper sling in the Dutch oven

Bake bread for 20 minutes, then reduce temperature to 450ºF/230ºC and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove lid, and continue baking for another 20 - 25 minutes, until loaf is golden brown (internal temperature at least 200ºF/93ºC).

Turn bread out onto wire rack and let cool completely before cutting it.

Baked Acorn Levain

BreadStorm users (also of the free version) can download the formula here: