Seattle Summer Sonnet


National Poetry Writing Month
April 1, 2013
Prompt: Begin with an opening line from a well-known poem

Seattle Summer Sonnet

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art less transient and less o’ercast;
Chill rains do soak the mossy growth of May,
And August’s warmth has seldom proved to last;

This northwest sky presents a face so blue
That hearts are torn asunder by her face;
Her fickle winds to reason’s course won’t hew,
Though wizards would their winding path fain trace.

But all of summer’s brightness quickly’d fade
Did thee but smile, or merely quirk a grin;
And all those sweetly scented days I’d trade
To wrap a single night with thee therein.

So long as in this soggy land I be,
My port in stormy weather’s found in thee.

April 1, 2013

Nice to know I’ve reached bottom.
(Thanks, ilovecharts. No, really. Thanks. <facepalm>)

Nice to know I’ve reached bottom.

(Thanks, ilovecharts. No, really. Thanks. <facepalm>)

Time to Make the Brisket…


Most years, I do a brisket for the December holidays. Huge Flintstone-style slab’o’beef, root vegetables, sweet and sour tomato sauce… perfect things for entertaining hordes. But this year, for some reason, there was no entertaining; there were no hordes.

And yet… the year cannot possibly end without me cooking a brisket. Which has just gone into the oven at midnight. It will come out of the oven sometime between 8 and 10 in the morning. And we won’t be eating it for another day and a half, ‘cause that’s how we roll with a properly-cooked and prepared brisket. It’s always better the day after, so we wait until the day after to eat it the first time.

Photos after the beast comes out in the morning.

Irish Soda Bread


It being Saint Patrick’s Day, I thought it was a good a time as any to learn to make a traditional Irish Soda Bread. One might think this would be easy to learn to do. Au contraire, mon frere! Turns out there’s a huge, steaming controversy out there as to precisely what “traditional” Irish Soda Bread is.

Naturally, I did some research, looking in some cookbooks, hitting the web. I have to be honest; I found the arguments presented by the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread to be persuasive. (Not to mention hysterical.)

In any event, I worked out a rough consensus recipe. Flour, baking soda, salt, buttermilk. My recipe looked like a very high hydration dough (14 oz. flour and 12 oz. buttermilk); sure enough, when initially mixed the dough was too sticky and sloppy to effectively work.

Because this is a chemically-leavened dough, rather than yeasted, I couldn’t just leave the dough to hydrate for a while and thus eventually be workable; you really need to get this sucker shaped and onto the baking stone pretty quick. It only took an extra tablespoon or two of flour to give me something I could work. The feel of the dough reminded me that overworking it would be a bad idea; it really felt like another 30 seconds of kneading would leave me with the same sticky mess I started with.

I’d been heating my baking stone for an hour. I popped open the door, scattered a very thin layer in the center, used a bench scraper to get the shaped and scored dough round off the counter, and laid it on the stone. 30 minutes later I had a beautifully domed round, with a nice golden color and an aroma way more complex than four ingredients (even given that one was buttermilk) had any right to exude.

(“Where’s the picture?” I hear you cry. I forgot to take one, and we had a party to attend, and I brought the bread and a big chunk of real imported Irish butter, and… nothing but crumbs. I’ll fix that real soon, honest.)

How Not to Suck At Stretching Pizza Dough

Yeah, yeah. The real secret: a long, slow, retarded second rise in the refrigerator. I prefer to portion my dough after the first rise, shape each portion into a tight ball, coat lightly in oil, and leave in the fridge overnight. Remove from the fridge about 45-60 minutes before you plan to shape, so the dough can come up to room temp.

The gluten will be beautifully relaxed, making it easy to stretch the dough. In fact, you’ll need to be careful you don’t wind up stretching (effortlessly, I promise) well beyond the size you originally planned on.

The counter-top stretch described below is a great way to learn what dough feels like and how it behaves. Once you get comfortable with it, if you decide to try hand-tossing the dough, one piece of advice: lift and stretch the dough with the backs of your hands and fingers, not the palm and fingertips. Trust me, do that wrong and you’ll wind up looking like “fail” again.

americastestkitchen:

How to Win at Shaping Pizza Dough:

  1. Working with one ball of dough at a time and keeping the rest covered with a damp cloth, flatten the dough into a disk using your palms.
  2. Start at the center of the disk and work your way out using your fingertips to press the dough until it is about 1/2 and inch thick.
  3. Holding the center in place, stretch the dough outward. Rotate and stretch again, repeating until dough has a diameter of 12 inches. Finally use your palm to press down and flatten the thick edge of the dough.

Michael Ruhlman's Tools for Cooking On The Road


In which Michael Ruhlman tells us what kitchenware and tools he brings to a vacation home to prepare 9 consecutive dinners for 16 people. What he doesn’t mention until buried deep in the comments is just how he got those knives, pots, pans, immersion circulator (!!!), etc. to the vacation home.

Wait for it…

Corporate jet.

Well. Definitely not my world. Last time I took a bunch of stuff to my vacation home, I drove. 2800 miles. Each. Way.

(Click the headline to read the article. It’s not a bad read, honest, but…)

Triple Chocolate Cookies


Over on Red + Black Apron I saw this interesting-looking recipe for seriously chocolate cookies that was adapted from a less-intense recipe posted on Martha Stewart’s web site. I did a little more reading, did a little more tweaking, and produced my own variation.

I found I got much better results using dutch-process cocoa. The additional alkali neutralized some of the acids that would otherwise react with the baking soda, resulting in a thinner, crispier cookie that came closer to my family’s preference. The recipe already uses melted butter as the shortening, so it really seems to scream “thin and crispy”; all the chocolate makes it chewy nonetheless.

If you wanted to go the other way ‘round, i.e. get something cakier, you could make two big changes. First, switch to regular cocoa instead of dutch-process, ensuring the baking soda saw all the acid it wanted for maximum lift. Second, instead of melting the butter with the chocolate over the double boiler, soften the butter at room temp and cream it with the sugar first (let the mixer run at least 5 minutes) before combining with the chocolate, eggs, and vanilla. The extra lift plus all the air trapped by the creaming process should yield a taller, less-dense cookie.

Recipe: Triple Chocolate Cookies

This looks and sounds absolutely amazing. The oil in the almonds is pretty darn healthy as oils go, and there&#8217;s lots of fiber, and deep chocolate flavor from the cocoa powder, and&#8230; I must shop tomorrow.
One of the blog comments mentioned using stevia instead of honey; I&#8217;m considering trying that change.
thehealthyfoodie:
Almond Joy Chocolate Spread
Almond, Coconut and Dark Chocolate Spread. A healthy nut butter that feels and tastes just as if you were eating chocolate bar filling by the spoonful. It’s got a sweet bitterness to it, and a super dense and chewy texture that makes you go back for more. 

This looks and sounds absolutely amazing. The oil in the almonds is pretty darn healthy as oils go, and there’s lots of fiber, and deep chocolate flavor from the cocoa powder, and… I must shop tomorrow.

One of the blog comments mentioned using stevia instead of honey; I’m considering trying that change.

thehealthyfoodie:

Almond Joy Chocolate Spread

Almond, Coconut and Dark Chocolate Spread. A healthy nut butter that feels and tastes just as if you were eating chocolate bar filling by the spoonful. It’s got a sweet bitterness to it, and a super dense and chewy texture that makes you go back for more. 

(via ffffood)

Sugar Tricks: Almond-Chocolate Toffee


I am eternally fascinated by the huge variety of things that sugar can do when you cook it. Cotton candy, caramel, toffee, candy canes… just amazing.

Most of these tricks are simple if you have a reliable heat source and candy thermometer. One of my favorite simple candies is toffee. My dentist doesn’t like it (although his dislike for toffee is a mere pimple on his hatred for crown-removing caramels), but I love the stuff. It’s made even better with the addition of a layer of dark chocolate, and we all know chocolate (and almost anything else sweet) is greatly improved with a tiny hit of salt.

The photo shows my almond-chocolate toffee made with 70% cacao organic dark chocolate and pink flake salt from Murray River Salt Works. This salt has very large but delicate flakes, so it shows up quite nicely but doesn’t deliver a huge chunk of saltiness in a small area.

shesalty asked: Actually, I return to the CIA in March to start my bachelor's degree! Until then I will be relaxing (for once), possibly doing some trails in restaurants, and lot's of cooking/eating! Rachel

Two more years for the Bachelor’s, or 4?

Enjoy your time off, and keep blogging about what you’re cooking!