Friday, December 27, 2013

Baking Steel Naan


Recipe Adapted from Neelam Batra, 1000 Indian Recipes

Yield: 10 Naan
  • 7 g Dry Yeast (1 packet)
  • 5 g Sugar
  • 60 g Warm Water
  • 220 g Plain Non-fat Yogurt
  • 20 g Vegetable Oil
  • 330 g AP or Bread Flour
  • 2.5 g Kosher Salt or to taste
  • Bench Flour
  • Melted Butter or Ghee
Cooking Directions
  1. Place the Baking Steel on a shelf at the second level below your oven's broiler. Preheat the oven to 500 or 550 F.
  2. Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water in a small bowl.
  3. When the yeast mixture is frothy combine it with the yogurt and vegetable oil. Whisk until a smooth homogenous mixture is achieved.
  4. Place the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Cover and pulse once or twice to combine.
  5. Add the yogurt mixture and process until a smooth ball is formed. It should be quite soft and a little sticky. If necessary, add a little more flour (if too wet) or yogurt (if too dry) and continue to process.
  6. Place the dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl, rotating to coat it with oil, cover with foil, and allow it to double in volume, about 1 hour in a warm kitchen.

  7. When the dough has doubled in volume, lightly flour your work surface and hands and roll the dough into a a log about 10 inches long.
  8. Cut nine 12 inch squares of wax paper.

  9. When the oven is preheated cut the log into 10 sections.
  10. Roll out each ball into an 8 inch disk. Stack each naan, separated by a piece of wax paper. Cover the pile with the damp towel.
  11. Switch the oven to broil.

  12. Stretch the first naan into the characteristic triangular shape.
  13. Carefully toss the naan onto the Baking Steel.

  14. 15 Seconds

    60 Seconds

  15. Cook for about 90 seconds. Adjust the naan's location with tongs to optimize browning.
  16. Remove the naan with tongs, brush generously with melted butter and set aside, covered.
  17. Continue until all are cooked.
  18. Serve hot.


Quantities: The original recipe is expressed in cups and teaspoons and is, perhaps, somewhat inaccurate. (If you have Batra's book, you'll see that I used considerably more yogurt.) I weighed everything out as I measured for this version. Use caution and good sense if you choose to give it a try. As always with bread recipes, the exact amount of liquid will vary somewhat depending on you flour, the weather, and the whims of Hestia.

Flour: I used King Arthur Bread Flour.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Dinner the Modernist Way: Squash Soup, Flat Iron Steak and Roasted Potatoes

Well, this whole Modernist Cuisine thing has got me hooked. At first it looks like a lot of effort, especially if you come to it by way of Thomas Keller and Ferran AdriĆ . But in reality a lot of things require less effort than their conventional counterparts. This meal is a good example - the hardest part is peeling the squash - everything else is "set and forget".

Squash Soup

Recipe Adapted From Modernist Cuisine At Home
  • 500 grams Butternut Squash, peeled and diced
  • 18 grams Lemongrass, sliced thin
  • 113 grams Unsalted Butter
  • 30 grams Water
  • 5 grams Salt
  • 2.5 grams Baking Soda
  • Coconut Milk
Cooking Directions
  1. Over medium heat melt the butter in the pressure cooker.
  2. Combine the water, salt and baking soda in a small bowl.
  3. Add the squash, lemongrass, and salt mixture to the pressure cooker. Mix well.
  4. Seal the pressure cooker and cook at 15 psi for 20 minutes. If you're using an electric pressure cooker like mine, cook on high pressure for 30 minutes.
  5. Carefully shake the pressure cooker two or three times while cooking to prevent sticking.

  6. Cooked Squash

  7. When the cooking time has elapsed, carefully release the pressure and transfer the contents to a blender.
  8. Blend at high speed, adding enough coconut milk to produce a smooth creamy soup.
  9. Strain through a fine sieve (this removes any woody bits of the lemon grass) and serve hot.

Perfect Steak

Sous Vide Flat Iron Steak

Recipe by Michael Callahan
Yield: 4 servings
  • 1 Flat Iron steak, about 1.25 lb
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Tbs Garlic Powder
  • 2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tsp Mustard powder
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat your water bath to 130 F.
  2. Carefully trim the steak, removing excess fat and connective tissue.
  3. Combine the vinegar, garlic powder, olive oil and mustard in a container large enough to hold the steak.
  4. Add the steak and turn to coat it with the marinade.
  5. Allow steak to marinate 30 minutes.
  6. Vacuum seal the steak.
  7. Cook in the water bath for 3 hours
  8. Remove the steak from the cooking bag and wipe it dry.
  9. Quickly sear the steak, about 30 seconds on each side.
  10. Slice thin across the grain and serve hot.

Roasted Potatoes

Recipe by William Colsher
Yield: 2 servings
  • 8-10 Small "new" potatoes
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Fresh Rosemary, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil
Cooking Directions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 F
  2. Halve or quarter the potatoes.
  3. Combine salt, pepper, rosemary, and olive oil in a bowl large enough to hold the potatoes.
  4. Add the potatoes to the bowl and toss to coat with oil and seasonings.

  5. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are browned and tender.
  6. Serve hot.


Pressure Cooker: 1) Modernist recipes typically specify 15 PSI for pressure cooking. However, most electric pressure cookers (like mine) only come up to 11 PSI on their "high" setting. They work perfectly but do require a little extra time. I cooked the squash in this recipe for 30 minutes with excellent results.  2) You cannot make this recipe in an old fashioned "jiggler weight" cooker. You'll lose too much steam and the squash will burn.

Butternut Squash: 500 grams is about half a typical butternut squash. The extra can be frozen.

Coconut Milk: How much you need will depend on how moist the squash is. I ended up using almost the whole 12 oz can.

Flat Iron Steak: A typical flat iron steak is about 1.25 - 1.75 pounds. Because very little weight is lost when cooking sous vide you can get 4 "normal" servings from a single steak. After the cooking is complete you can just toss half in the freezer with the left over squash.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bonci Dough & The Modernist Baking Steel

In my seemingly endless quest to make the perfect pizza (whatever that is) I recently came across something called The Baking Steel. This is nothing more than a heavy slab of treated steel that replaces the more traditional pizza stone. It has a couple obvious advantages: 1) it will never break and 2) its enormous thermal mass means even a rather wet pizza is going to cook very quickly. The big disadvantage is cost - $99. Nevertheless...

I had made a full batch on Bonci style dough for Tomato and Black Olive Focaccia over the weekend and still had two of the dough balls in the freezer when my Baking Steel arrived. So it seemed reasonable to use one of those for my first trial.

But first, I loaded the Baking Steel into the oven on a rack at the third from the top level. This is one level lower than suggested in the guidelines the company supplies, but I was pretty sure my pizza would be quite a bit taller than is typical. Pre-heat at 550 F for an hour and then...

Bonci Dough - Full Batch

  • 1000 gm Bread Flour
  • 800 gm Tepid Water
  • 7 gm Yeast
  • 20 gm Salt
  • 40 gm Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Those quantities result in 3 big (about 600 gram), very soft dough balls. This dough is far too soft and sticky to ever slide off a peel on its own (after all it's meant to be baked on sheet pans). So I stretched one ball onto a piece of well oiled aluminum foil.

You can see from the wrinkling around the dough that it's already grabbing the foil in spite of the oiling.

Toppings were Neapolitan style: crushed tomatoes, fresh (as in made that morning) Valley Shepherd Creamery Mozzarella, a bit of crushed oregano and sea salt. Slide it onto the Baking Steel and about 10 minutes later I turned the broiler on high. After another minute I rotated the pizza and another minute later out it came:

2 inches of crispy and delicious
Yep. The Baking Steel worked exactly as advertised. Since we make pizza or some type of bread at least once a week, its worth the $99 (there's a thinner model for $79). It makes a tremendous difference in the the quality of what comes out of my oven.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Late to the Party - Modernist Mac and Cheese

Milk, Cheese, Pasta, Sodium Citrate

OK, so I'm a couple years late to this modernist cuisine party. So I decided to make a start with the famous Mac and  Cheese from Modernist Cuisine at Home. It turns out to be pretty easy and the only weird ingredient is Sodium Citrate.

Modernist Mac and Cheese
Recipe Adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home

Yield: 4 servings
  • 212 grams Milk
  • 8.8 grams Sodium Citrate
  • 228 Grams White cheddar Cheese, grated
  • 192 Grams Dry Macaroni
Cooking Directions
  1. Bring a large pot of unsalted water to a boil and cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain the macaroni (do not rinse) and set aside, covered.
  2. Combine the Milk and Sodium Citrate in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring continuously until the Sodium Citrate is dissolved.
  3. Add the grated cheese to the boiling milk in small handfuls, blending each with an immersion blender until melted and smooth.
  4. Fold the macaroni into the cheese mixture.
  5. Optionally, sprinkle some panko on top and slip it under the broiler to add some crunch.
  6. Serve hot.

The Pasta: Resist the urge to salt your pasta water. Good cheese will provide plenty of flavor.

The Cheese: Buy good cheese, not a block of that orange supermarket stuff. This recipe is all about the flavor of the cheese. It is perfectly reasonable to use $15 worth of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar in this recipe. I used Flory's Truckle, made in Missouri and finished in Iowa.

The Sauce: Although this recipe looks extremely accurate, you do need to pay attention. If the cheese sauce seems too thick, add a little more milk, a tablespoon or so at a time. Know that it will thicken as it cools - a lot.

Sodium Citrate: The brand I bought is listed below. 15 bucks may sound like a lot for a food additive, but it comes to about 29¢ per batch.And there's other stuff you can use it for...

The Book: You could buy Modernist Cuisine at Home, but if you have an iOS device you can also get the "inkling" eBook version and only buy the chapters you want for $4.99 each ($79.99 for the whole thing.) The eBook is not only cheaper, it also has a number of features that make it worth while including a shopping list builder and a built in "scaler" that adjusts ingredient quantities so you can make the recipe for any number of servings.


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