Recipe first, because I don’t want to be one of those blogs that makes you wade through my life story (which you are all enraptured by and will read anyway, right?) before getting to the recipe.
- 3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon or so yeast (active? The kind in the jar. Or I guess one envelope or so.)
- A bunch* of dried minced onion
- A bunch of dried minced garlic
- A bunch of poppy seeds
- 1-2 cups warm water (Can you hold your finger in it comfortably? Then you’re good. If you burn yourself, it’s too hot. Probably if it’s steaming you can assume it’s too hot. Don’t put your finger in that.) The water required varies due to humidity and the basic weirdness of the world and if you carefully leveled your flour when you measured or if you just sort of chucked it in. E,.g,., I live in the desert and so my flour is already drier than your flour. I miss humidity. Also e.g. I do not level when I measure flour, I just sort of shake the cup and hope for the best. Some are heaping, some have divots. It evens out.
- A little more flour for dusting, and a little more water for baking
- Oh also if you’re putting topping on it you need an egg, and more minced onion, minced garlic, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and chunky salt like kosher or sea salt.
*When I say a bunch, I mean I do not measure things generally. I shake the container into the bowl until I think it looks like the amount I want. This is what the phrase “to taste” was invented for. In this case it’s probably pushing a tablespoon.
- Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. It’s going to rise in here, so make sure it’s got room to double. I think the bowl I usually use is 2 quarts? The largest of my Pyrex bowls definitely works. Stir to combine and decide if maybe you want to add more onion/garlic/poppy seeds. If the distribution looks goods, then yay. If not, add more.
- Add the water, starting with about a cup. You want the dough to be on the wet side. Stir and add water until the dough comes together and doesn’t have dry bits.
- Once it’s all mixed, cover with plastic wrap and put it somewhere reasonably warm, but not hot. Let it rise for about 2 hours, or until it’s doubled. If you forget and it goes longer, that’s fine.
- When it’s doubled, you have two options. You can throw it in the fridge and bake it later, or you can flour your counter fairly well and turn the dough out onto the counter. Turn it over on itself a couple of times and shape it as best you can, then plop it on a baking sheet lined with either parchment or a silpat. (Note: We got a two pack of the Amazon basics silpats for like 16 dollars and I love them and I am so happy we got them, especially since a roll of parchment here is like 8 bucks. The Amazon ones are rated up to 480 degrees, so get whatever ones you want, but double check how hot they go up to.) Throw a clean dishtowel (like a smooth floursack style one, nothing linty or that is going to stick to the dough) over it and let it rise another half hour.
Two things will make your life easier here: First is a dough scraper, which is a slightly flexible, rounded bit of plastic or silicone that is super helpful at getting all of the sticky dough out of the bowl. You can buy one, so you can take the lid from a container (I used the lid from an empty blue cheese container) and cut it to the size/shape you want. It is super handy. Also, a bench scraper, which is just a 6 inch or so long, straight bit of (usually) metal with a handle. Once you’ve got the dough on the counter (aka bench), the bench scraper makes moving and handling it a lot easier. Plus, when you’re done, it works great for scraping the flour off the edge of the counter into your dirty bowl. Anything that makes clean-up easier is excellent.
- Preheat your oven to eh… 425, 450. I think my oven runs a little hot, so I do 425, but when I have done it at 450 it hasn’t been the end of the world, the topping just gets a little too charred for my taste. Also, on the bottom rack in the oven put a muffin tin, cake pan, or cast iron skillet. You’re going to be adding water to it when you put your bread in and it works better if it’s preheated.
- OPTIONAL TOPPING INSTRUCTIONS Okay, I love everything bagels, so this bit is generally not optional around here. Beat an egg with a little water and put egg wash on the top of your bread. I kept an empty jar from some spice or other, the kind with the shaker top, and keep my topping mix in it for easy sprinkling. I do equalish amounts of dried minced onion, dried minced garlic, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and grey sea salt (because I’m fancy). If you want extra garlic power, add some garlic powder. If you can find them, black sesame seeds would be a good addition, but out here it’s a miracle I can find poppy seeds, so do what you can. Coat bread with topping to the extent that makes you happy. Even if you don’t want the stuff on top, just an egg wash will give you a pretty crust.
- Add a half cup or so of water to your water container in the oven. Careful, it will hiss and steam at you right away. The more water you add, the chewier the crust you end up with. Professor Furious was in charge of that bit once and added a full cup, and the bread was still tasty, but also very soft.
- Bake about a half hour. It will give you the good hollow noise when you tap on it when it’s done.
- Let it cool before you cut into it. I know, it’s hard to resist. But you can do it. Be strong. It’s especially tasty with cream cheese on it.
Okay, now the bloggy bit:
I came late to the no knead trend, but whatever, I’m here now. Actually, I’ve been fussing with it for a while, but you know me and getting around to posting things. It started with the standard cook in a dutch oven loaf. And… eh? It was good, but the bottom over browned. Possibly due tot he fact that we don’t have a fancy Le Creuset enameled dutch oven, but good ol’ black-as-my-soul belonged-to-my-grandma regular cast iron. It’s great, but I think it’s a little too good at holding heat in this case. Plus, I always have to be difficult. Plus, what I was wanting to imitate is closer to the ciabatta loaves I spend entirely too much money on. But then I got frustrated that the store was once again out of the (overpriced) everything bagel chips, and also they don’t carry everything bagels, so I read a bunch of blogs and tinkered.
Most recipes you’re going to see for similarly named breads have you just do the topping. Yeah, that was not enough for me. I started with putting the poppy seeds and sesame seeds into the dough. You’ll note that I don’t do the sesame seeds inside now. They don’t do enough for me flavor-wise, and sesame seeds are at their best when they’re toasty. Putting them into the dough is the opposite of toasty. The garlic and onion, though, rehydrate a bit during the rise, and give off some excellent flavor, but don’t mess with the texture.
As for my “measurements”… I know. It drives Professor Furious crazy, too. He bought a kitchen scale and everything. I used it the first time I made bread. That was also the last time I used it. I don’t know if it’s the scale itself or what, but instead of helpful it was frustrating. Baking shouldn’t be frustrating, it should be relaxing. So I scoop things and don’t level them, and know what “enough” garlic or whatever looks like. If the dough seems dry, I add water. If it seems wet, I add flour. It’s hard to really, truly screw it up. (Which okay, I have managed. We’re not going to talk about the cheese bread that never baked. At least not today.) Mostly it works for me. And that’s good enough.
Oh my god it’s 2017. Hi there. I’m not even going to with what a horror 2016 was. Instead I’m going to talk about food. The other day Professor Furious got a hankering for pho. Impossible to find in Small Town, where we are unfortunately still living. So, like I do whenever I’m faced with a problem, I turned to the internet. So many recipes. Most of them are even pretty similar. I’m working off of the Serious Eats Quick and Easy 1-Hour Pho, mostly. Meanwhile, I had my own craving for barbacoa, which is tradiontal Mexican deliciousness made by slow roasting a cowhead in a pit. I opt for beef cheek meat and the slow cooker.
The biggest problem cooking anything around here is getting ingredients. I rarely see cheek meat at our grocery store, but luckily the one “downtown” actually had it. (And a beef heart, which I almost bought because I have been wanting to try cooking beef heart for freaking ages, but never have for various reasons, mostly of the not finding it variety.) Luckily the spices for pho are pretty easy. The weird thing was our store was out of limes. I don’t think they even carry bean sprouts or fresh basil or the noodles. No flank steak, either. Luckily, there’s a hippie store on the outskirts of town, so everything is organic and cost like twice what would be at HEB for pesticide laden stuff, but whatever. I really wanted to make it. Still no flank, we’re doing chuck, instead.
Barbacoa is stupid easy. Chuck the amount of meat you want into the slow cooker with salt, pepper, garlic, and cumin, and like a little bit of water. Use a lot of salt. More salt than that. I mean you can salt it when you’re eating it, but put in plenty. I am really bad about cooking by sight, and didn’t really pay attention to how much meat I had. So let’s say it was like a pound? A pound and a half? I threw in like a small handful of salt? What do I look like, a food blog? You do you, and it’s not the end of the world if you err on the side of caution and just put some salt on your taco. When we buy it already made, I always end up adding salt. Put your slow cooker on low and let it go overnight. I started ours about 8:30 on Saturday night, and woke up about 10:30 on Sunday. Twelve hours is probably good. I like frying it in a pan before making tacos. It crsips up any fat on it, and helps cook off any extra liquid. After that, it’s all up to you. I do corn tortillas, Professor and Mini like flour. You can dice up some onion, and cilantro, and slice some limes. (The acid in the limes helps cut through the fat.) I use the Herdez Taqueria salsa, which is red and has a smoky flavor it it. The Professor like the green avocado one they do. (And so do I, it’s really good. So is their tomatillo salsa. This is my go to brand for not making my own.) Or make some fresh pico de gallo and throw that on. Sky’s the limit my friends. No pictures, because it’s hard to make it look pretty, but man I wish you could smell my house right now, and that is really not something I say often. Here’s a cat instead.
Pho time! It’s a lazy Sunday, so I have more than an hour to get it done, which means I have to rely less on some of the quick bits in the Serious Eats recipe. I’m skipping the ground chuck, mostly because I hate the idea of tossing it after using it for stock, especially when I found perfectly good stock bones at the store for once. (Never ever do they have them. So frustrating.) Instead, I’m diligently skimming. I have this tiny strainer that is about sized to sit on a coffee cup. No idea where it came from, it’s just one of those things I’ve had forever. Possibly it’s from one of the times I broke a french press and decided to look into other options for my cold brew? (Mason jar and then straining directly into the glass I think this was. … It did not work great.)
- 3 whole star anise pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth, plus some water
- 1 ounce (four packets) powdered gelatin
- 2 cups of water
- 1 smallish (mine was maybe 5 inches) hand ginger, quartered
- 1 medium onion, sliced into thick rings
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- Oil, I used olive
- 2 pounds rib bones, with some meat on them
- 2 pounds chuck roast
- To Serve:
- 1 box rice noodles, the wide flat kind, prepared according to package directions
- A bunch of cilantro, basil, and thai basil
- Bean sprouts
- I had time and rib bones, so I decided to make stock. Heat up some oil in the bottom of a stock pot, and brown the ribs. What I had was two or three inch chunks that were probably the leftovers from the butcher doing up packs of ribs. Some of them had pretty good sized bits of meat on them. Work in batches, don’t crowd the pan. Generally, I ignore that advice, dump it all in, and hope for the best. I didn’t this time, and I’m glad.
- Add the ribs and cover with the chicken broth. I added about two cups of water because the broth didn’t cover the bones. I also threw in a good sized pinch of salt. A couple of tablespoons? IDK, y’all. I mostly make things up as I go along. If you’re trying to cook off my directions and are a beginner, ask me questions in the comments. Otherwise, y’all are making beef stock, but don’t go throwing in anything other than the salt.
- Bring it to a boil and turn it down to a simmer, and let it go for about 3 hours.
- Wander into the kitchen every half hour or so and skim off the gunk from the top.
- At about 2 1/2 hours, remember there are more steps to this whole thing and they take time to do.
- Put the chuck roast in the freezer for about 15 minutes to facilitate slicing.
- While the chuck is chilling, slice up your onion and ginger and put it under the broiler. Probably not on parchment paper like I did, because that gets sort of burnt. (But didn’t actually catch on fire, so it’s not the worst kitchen decision I’ve ever made.) Keep an eye on it. My onion charred nicely, but the ginger just sort of looked dried out. When one side is getting a nice black on, go ahead and flip it.
- While the aromatics are charring, get the spices (cinnamon, anise, coriander, cloves) together. I don’t have cheesecloth, but I do have a ton of coffee filters. I tied mine with kitchen twine (why do I have that? No freaking clue!), but you can probably staple it shut. I just dropped the cinnamon stick in, because it wasn’t going to fit in my little spice bag. Add to the pot.
- Dump the gelatin packs into 2 cups of water to bloom. Stir a bit to make sure it’s all submerged. Get distracted and start playing with it. Go back to cooking.
- Realize that the chuck isn’t going to fit in the stock pot with the bones, and it’s been about three hours, and the bones have given up about all they’re going to anyway. Use tongs to pull them out. Have a helper (I used a husband feeling guilty about playing video games while I was in the kitchen) remove any meat from the bones and add it back to the pot. Careful, it’s hot. Be sure to pull any gristle that hasn’t broken down. If it hasn’t yet, it isn’t going to.
- The gelatin should be properly bloomed, dump it in.
- Also add in the fish sauce and sugar.
- And the ginger and onion.
- Slice the chuck roast thinly, and probably about 1 inch long slices. This entirely depends on what you feel like trying to eat. Definitely remove as much silver skin as possible, and large chunks of fat. Add to the pot.
- By now, all of the ingredients should be in your stock pot, except for the”To serve” stuff.
- Bring to a boil and back down to a simmer. Let it simmer about 45 minutes to an hour.
- Again with the wandering in and skimming.
- The noodles should take about 8 to 10 minutes to rehydrate. So, about 20 minutes before you’re ready to eat, get started on that. Also on slicing up scallions.
- Put your noodles in the bottom of the bowl. Ladle soup in on top.
- Add your chosen add ins.
So very good. I was doubtful, because I don’t always nail stuff like this on the first go, but this is amazing. Even Mini really liked it, and she’s generally iffy on food as a whole, unless it’s pepperoni and crackers. Next time I will probably let it cook with the chuck and spices a little longer. I’m also getting some cheese cloth, or maybe one of those reusable bags for this sort of thing, because the cinnamon fell apart. It wasn’t horrible, but it happened. I might also go with 4 anise stars, and 5 cloves. I wanted just a little bit more out of those. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m working with about 4 more cups of liquid than the original recipe called for, or if it’s just my personal taste. It could just be that my brain is looking for things to fuss with, because how could I get it so right on the first go. (More fish sauce? But that’s totally me. I love fish sauce.) To put it away, I put all the meat in one container and the broth into mason jars on its own. (I got a canning funnel, and seriously, one of the best kitchen things I have. It combined with the mini strainer made separating meat and broth super easy.) I also could have probably done less meat. IDK. Go with how meaty you like your pho. I love the gelatin trick, and I am probably going to be using that one in the future for other soups.
Our new year started with our family together, a roof over our heads, and plenty of tasty food. All in all, not a bad beginning.