Hello, blog! Long time, yada, yada, yada… Anyway, anybody (I’m looking at you, wife and maybe sis), who’s read this old ass blog for a long ass time is familiar with my bread obsession. For those who aren’t, here’s a quick primer. It all started way back in ’09 with theSourdough Baby, followed a year later by Sourdough pizza dough, which was followed by the (un)fortunately titled PK’s Yeast Infection. Then came Bread Smack Down! which was followed by Baguettes!What’s obvious – along with my predilection for exclamation marks(!) – is this preoccupation with starters, flour to water ratios, yeast, fermentation, rising (or not rising) has been well documented. It’s fair to say that even major media might be trying to ride my coattails on this. Case in point: check out this recent article from the NY Times.Sheeit! Way to be late to the game, Times!
But thus far, what has been lacking is a step by step video where I guide the gentle viewer through the bread making process itself. Then, a few weeks ago, Mark and Amanda came over for dinner freshly inspired by Michael Pollen’s Netflix doc series called Cooked. The third episode is all about air and how the process of making bread has allowed humans to essential capture air in our food. It’s a really poetic and beautiful way of encapsulating the way yeast produces gas that is trapped in bubbles of wheat gluten thereby producing airy and delicious bread that demands be tasted though our olfactory sense. The show is gorgeous to look at and in it, Pollan makes a beautiful loaf during the course of the episode and at the end he says that there are few things as satisfying as baking a great loaf of bread. It was enough to inspire, Luca, Mark and Amanda’s son to make his own starter and Amanda asked if I (because I’m a stellar human being – and I’ve baked bread for them in the past) would help them make bread. So I thought “Why not? Why not help, Luca? And at the same time help EVERYBODY to make delicious bread?! Clarence, why not give the people the gift of a video with easy to follow instructions on how to make wonderful bread?” Basically, I want to to not just give people a fish, I want to teach them to fish… for bread.
Alright, all credit still goes to Chad Robertson and Tartine. I’ve been using theTartinemethod of making a rustic sourdough loaf for several years now, so I’d say I’ve gotten the hang it. When I first started making bread this way, I was pretty obsessive about following the steps as laid out by the book. Since then, I’ve gotten a bit looser so that I can make the process fit more to my schedule because as you’ll see, this bread takes a good long time to do properly. It’s a great weekend project because you’ll need time to prepare the leaven (starter+flour+water) that you’ll use in the bread. And the bread itself will take 12-18 hours from start to finish, depending on the weather, humidity, temperature and all the rest. The important thing to remember is even if it doesn’t come out the way you want, there’s really nothing as good as freshly baked bread.
Here are the actually proportions the ingredients for one loaf: leaven: 125 grams water: 350 grams bread flour: 400 grams whole wheat flour: 100 grams salt: 13 grams
That’s all the stuff. Now here’s how the bread magic happens:
Hello folks! Long time no post. By my count it’s been about six months since my last entry and this time I really don’t have a good excuse for the long gap. Ok, we did have a second kid back in April. Does that count as a huge time suck? I’d say it does. Allow me to make this a parenting blog for a minute. One kid: totally manageable – actually really fun especially as she gets older, more independent and comes into her own eccentric and goofy personality and allows each of the parents some much needed “me” time or even “us” time (date night, ya’ll!). Two kids: forget it. And an infant? Forget it even more – which you will with all the sleep you’re not getting. Gone are the days of two on one, tag-team parenting. Now it’s one-on-one all the time and it’s not even fair. The three year old now has mad trantrum skills and the baby, well she’s a freakin’ baby whose cries can shatter the strongest of wills. They. Are. Kicking. Our. Ass. So long story short, I blame the kids for the lapse in deliciousting posts. Well, it’s not all bad. After all, the new one can be pretty sweet:
We call her Momo because she’s such a little dumpling. Ok, ending parent blog now.
Back in August, our good friends from NYC, Donna and Anthony came to visit us in Oakland with their two kids. A little back story on D & A: they’re the ones I hold responsible – I mean to whom I’m forever grateful – for introducing me to Shef, my wife in life and food. I’ll try to be brief. I met Donna a long time ago through a mutual friend in California. Later, at the wedding of that mutual friend, I met Anthony, Donna’s date. This was a ten years ago. I was just about to move to NYC so I was glad to befriend Donna and Ant who proved to be welcoming and warm when I did land in NYC a month or two later. Fast forward eight or nine months. Summer in NYC. I found myself happily single. D & A (who at the time lived in Manhattan) invited me to this Hawaiian picnic in Central Park. A friend of theirs had invited them Now, Donna is somebody who always has a plan. And this occasion was no exception. She had also invited her good friend, Shefali, also single and ready to enjoy the summer, if you catch my drift. And all credit to Donna and her machinations, this is where it all started. Okay, if I was going to be 100% honest this was the second time we’d met. The first time we crossed paths was about six months prior, and let’s just say I wasn’t in the right head space to notice her charms – her charms at that point consisted of a lot of snot because she had head cold if I recall. So for the sake of a good story, let’s count that Hawaiian picnic in Central Park as the starting point. I was waiting for D & A at the entrance near Columbus circle when I spied this really cute -nay, hot young woman walk by and enter the park. Donna and Ant arrived a short time later and I walked into the park with them. As we approached the picnic, the woman whom I’d noticed earlier approached them and gave them each a hug. Stoked! “Do you remember Shefali?” asked Donna. “Um, yeah…” Though honestly, I had not recognized her from six months before, (like I said I was a little oblivious at the time and she was really snotty, so that first impression was obviously not so meaningful). On this occasion, I was checked in and checking her out. Needless to say, I was bowled over by her beauty and sparkling personality. But equally if not more importantly, I was impressed with her ability to eat. She was all about attacking the mountain of food that people had brought, going back for second helpings, thirds, fourths, etc. I was like “who is this girl?” So, I got her number, followed up and the end, as they say, is history. Don’t believe me? Here’s a photo of that fateful meeting:
Meeting and eating. Me holding up the spam musubi. Anthony in the middle and Shef looking funny.
Alright back to the original reason for this post. Donna and Ant were visiting us here in Oakland (already been two years since we moved from BK!) with their two kids. Yup, we’re all grown up now – kind of. We needed to eat dinner. I’d been hearing great things about this Burmese grocery store (?) near our house that also served really authentic Burmese food. What?! I did a little internet research, because I’m resourceful like that. I found out the place was actually a fully functional Burmese restaurant called Grocery Cafe because it occupied an old corner grocery store on a residential street in Oakland’s working class Highland neighborhood. That’s the cool thing about Oakland. Smack dab in in the middle of these unassuming and unpolished residential neighborhoods you can find these gems like Champa Gardens or Vientien Cafe. It had been well reviewed by locals and the local weekly. Good enough for us. We called and ordered about five dishes which comprised most of the small menu. Ant and I headed over to pick up the food. Sure enough, it was an old corner store with a make-shift kitchen separated from the front of the house by one of those refrigerated display cases that might have contained old macaroni salad and deli meats back in the day. Now it housed stacks of containers of homemade spicy Burmese pickles. The front of the house was a mish mash of second hand tables (like dining room tables you’d find at Goodwill) and most of the seats were old church pews. This was my kind of place. As we waited for the food we struck up a conversation with Mr. William Lue, the owner proprietor and some time chef of the Grocery Cafe. It turns out he’s been in the Burmese restaurant game for a good 30 plus years and has had a hand in running or cooking for many of the more well known and well heeled Burmese spots in the SF Bay Area. Currently, he’s running a few Burmese spots in the East and North Bay, but the Grocery Cafe is his baby. Soft spoken, but with a deep resonant voice, Mr. Lue was not shy about describing his ambitions for the restaurant. But it was when he started talking about the different dishes he wanted to serve, that his language became evocative and poetic. After over thirty years in the restaurant business, his passion for and excitement about the possibilities of Burmese food – the different ingredients, the regional specialties, the traditional preparations – and introducing it to the masses are palpable. I thought it would be great to video him making one of those dishes. A couple weeks later, I managed to carve out some time in his busy schedule to film him for about an hour before he opened for business. In the interest of time, I had him prepare the ever popular Burmese tea leaf salad. I don’t know if it’s something the lay person could necessarily throw together, unless said lay person has their own vat of seasoned and fermented green tea leaves. But it’s a great example of how simple ingredients can combine to produce really complex flavors and textures. As prepared by Mr. Lue, it’s delicious – as was all the other food we ate with D&A. Please enjoy.
Howdy folks! This has probably been the longest gap in posts in the history of blogs – well, at least this blog. It’s been almost a year since I’ve posted anything and for all you loyal readers (I know there are still a few – and I mean literally, three, “Hi Mom, Sis and Wife!” #strongwomen) I apologize. Life seems to have taken over in the last year. Shef and I bought a house! I got back in the TV game and produced a couple episodes of this “crazy science” show. Also, Shef has again been eating for two. So, it’s been a busy past year. But all along, Matt – who’s also had a really busy year – and I have been working on our dumplings recipes and are getting closer to making our dumpling dreams into dumpling reality. Since Episode 1 (you can watch below), we got our pork and chive dumplings down to a science, including the the grind. We also created two other fillings: chicken/lemon grass and kale/caramelized onions (because we care about vegetarians too!). We tested out our three types of dumplings when we catered a party of 120 people for a friend. The dumplings were a hit. But we were not satisfied to rest on our laurels. You see, we used mostly store bought skins which are pretty easy to work with and obviously very consistent. But in our experiences, the best dumplings we’d ever had were ones with homemade skin – just flour and water. That’s what we wanted our dumplings to be: the best that people had ever eaten. We needed to make our own skins. So, for our first pop up held a few weeks ago at school where Matt teaches, we gave ourselves the “small” task of making our own dumpling skins. We thought we simplified the process by employing pasta machines and biscuit cutters, but even still, making skins added a whole level of complexity and time to the dumpling equation which almost killed us. Thankfully, we had great family and friends who generously volunteered their positive attidudes and fingers to help us fold and we got it done. It was a lot of work but we learned a whole hell of a lot too. Check out the video below.
Here’s my favorite bit of feedback from our inaugural pop up.
As some of you may or may not know, since moving back to the Bay Area, I’ve been talking to my good friend Matt about starting up a dumpling company. Now, as of yet, our plans a still in the, well planning stages, but one thing we have made forward progress on is our recipe. Flavor-wise, we’re pretty close. We’re focusing on a pretty basic pork dumpling – pork, cabbage, garlic chives, ginger, garlic, soy and sugar. The thing that we’re doing differently than other times we’ve made dumplings, is grinding our own meat. So we’ve been experimenting with the different sizes of the grind trying to figure out what grind will give us the meaty and firm texture we want in a dumpling. Given Matt’s book learning, he’s taken to salting the pork before we grind it which not only adds flavor, but changes the texture of the meat. I think it dries it out and firms it up a little bit. In our first or second trial, we thought we’d figured it out: going with a large grind in order to maximize the chunky meat bits in the dumpling. However we found that while the individual chunks of meat were satisfying, the filling as a whole just wasn’t holding together very well after cooking (boiling). Perhaps too much cabbage? Perhaps the cabbage was not dry enough? Not enough mixing? Too much mixing? Did we need to add cornstarch? In taking a scientific approach we realized that there were so many variables. How could this be? It’s not rocket brain science surgery! I remembered that in my (vast) dumpling making experience, I would get my ground pork from a butcher in Chinatown and it was rather small grind, but the filling held together quite well even when I added a whole host of other ingredients and hand mixed it like crazy. So, keeping all the other ingredients proportionally consistent we decided to change course and try the small grind to see if that would impact the way the filling would hold together. This is what we discovered…