Category Archives: books

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

There has been a lot of chatter on the internet (and blog) regarding this bread book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  I am consistently behind when it comes to cookbooks and new things, something I like to attribute to the avoidance of buyer’s remorse.  I mean, I don’t want to buy a book just because everyone’s raving about it.  I already have stacks of cookbooks that rarely get used (but look so pretty!).  But then, the more people rave about it and the recipes and the food, the more I want to try my hand at it.  I want to know what I’m missing.  It’s kind of a vicious cycle.  I was specifically resisting this one because I honestly didn’t think I needed a whole book on variations of the No-Knead bread (which I’ve only made once).  But then I thought about it, read some of the recipes being used and adapted and I really wanted to see what the fuss is about.  So I bought it.  And then found out you can buy it at Costco (where books are almost always cheaper).

The first recipe I made was the brioche master dough.  I was going to try the challah, but figured if I’m going to try one, it might as well be the butter-laden recipe, right?  I used a 3-quart Rubbermaid container to hold the dough, so I only made a half recipe (each dough recipe calls for a 5-quart container) and I totally made the right decision.  After a night in the fridge, the dough had practically risen to the top!  Of course, after I dropped the container on the floor, it all collapsed back down.

I used half the dough (the recipe is good for 4 loaves) to make the caramel pecan rolls, which were pretty awesome, and the other half for a regular brioche loaf to eat with the rillette in the fridge.  I’ve never made traditional brioche, so I don’t know how this compares, but the bread is soft, airy, and not chewy.  It makes beautiful toast and also a nice PB&J sandwich.  The caramel rolls were rich and soft and very easy to eat.  The caramel sauce on the bottom didn’t turn out very gooey and caramel-like, but the part that stuck to the rolls was delicious.

After those were done, I turned right back around and whipped up the original master recipe.  Half recipe.  It sat in the fridge, silenty creeping T out with its bubbles and oozeyness.  I baked up a piece of it tonight with dinner (meatballs in that grape jelly/chili sauce).  Instead of a baking stone and pan of water, I’m used a preheated Dutch oven, a la the No-Knead bread method.  It worked really well.  I’m starting to think I don’t need a pizza stone.  Pizzas go on the bbq grill and breads now go into the Dutch oven.

I pulled the dough out and formed the little smooth ball.  It seems like the brioche dough was way stickier than this one, so that makes me happy.  I set the ball on some parchment paper (yay Reynolds!) and let it sit for about half an hour (the book says 40 minutes; I am impatient).  Meanwhile, the Dutch oven was in the oven-oven, preheating to 450ºF.  Had dinner been ready and if I had been hungry, I’m not sure I would have waited for this bread.  But, I wasn’t terribly hungry and T was on the elliptical anyway, so I waited.  30 minutes later (I forgot to take the lid off, so the the top wasn’t very brown), I had a little round loaf of bread!  The top was crackly, the insides were soft, the bread was warm and had a nice chew, and we basically went through half that loaf with dinner.  I could have eaten the whole thing, but I managed to show some restraint.  Good job, bread book!

Now, I am all for raving about good books.  You all know that when I find something I totally love, I tell you all about it.  Having said that, I have some misgivings regarding this cookbook.  First, it’s a little misleading in the title.  It takes about 5 minutes to mix up the dough.  It takes about 5 minutes to grab the “grapefruit size” hunk of dough, “cloak” it and shape it, and put it down.  But there’s the rise time, which is longer if it’s cold out of the fridge.  And there’s a fairly long bake time, depending on the type of bread you’re baking.  Since most breads require maybe 6-10 minutes of kneading, this is the only step you’re cutting out.  Now, I do like that you can make a big batch of dough and keep it for a week, baking small loaves as you feel like it.  But this method will not save you huge amounts of time if you have an instant craving for fresh bread.

The organization of the recipes are a little wonky.  There’s a master recipe section, a peasant loaf section, flatbreads, and an enriched bread section.  I thought that meant there were 3 or 4 master doughs and then dozens of variations within the section, meaning you only had to learn 3 or 4 dough recipes.  Nope.  Each section could have multiple dough recipes.  Some recipes use a master dough, others you need to make from scratch.  This means that if you’ve whipped up a batch of challah dough, but you want to make another type of pastry, it’s very likely you’ll need to mix up new dough.  Some recipes call for an add-in, recipes for which are often provided.  However, I’d rather have a separate section for these add-ins, instead of having them inserted directly after the bread recipe.  I know, I know.  It’s kind of nitpicky, since it is also convenient to have the add-in recipe right after the bread recipe.  But I’m nitpicking!

You’ll see pictures of the cloaked dough (it’s just turning and smoothing the ball of dough – it replaces kneading) and it all looks beautiful and sounds easy.  It’s totally not.  You’ll end up with dough-covered hands and flour everywhere.  Don’t get me wrong, your cloaked ball of dough will definitely look smooth, but it’s a sticky, messy process.  For this method, I’ve been flouring a piece of Reynold’s parchment paper (they come precut and folded, not in a roll) and I set the cloaked dough on top of that.  It makes it much easier to move the dough around, and I plan to just plop the parchment into my Dutch oven for baking from here on out.  I’ve heard people do this with the No-Knead bread, too, so it’s not like I’m a complete baking genius.  I just have some kitchen common sense!

I do like the book and I think the more I work with the different recipes the more I’ll start tweaking it to where I’m happy.  I don’t think it’s a revolutionary book that is a must-have on every baker’s bookshelf.  I also hope it doesn’t discourage people from breadbaking due to the sticky, messy cloaking step.  I can tell you that with traditional breads, the kneading step is typically much cleaner for me.  These recipes will probably be good for having dough at the ready, but I’m sure I will still want to make bread from scratch that involves kneading.

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Yume Cafe in Poway

update: Weird. Now the categories are back.

First, my “Poway” category and “Books” category have gone missing (and I can’t re-add them for some reason), although the posts are still in existence. For books, all you need to know is that I read the last Harry Potter solely on the elliptical and some parts of the story were so intriguing I actually did a second workout after the first just to justify continued reading. Also, I read Blaze and Lisey’s Story and I was “meh” and “blech”, respectively. Recently, I finished The Choice by Nicholas Sparks and I kind of wish he would write a book that didn’t just wrench my heart around so much. However, if you want a true heartbreaker, a story that will have you sobbing out loud, then go read The Time Traveler’s Wife. Really. It’s good. You’ll be bawling, but it’s a good read. Don’t take it on a plane trip, though.

As for the “Poway” posts, most of them related to the fire updates that went on last week. Some posts were related to local events and restaurants, and it would be nice if you could just click a category that would tell you what’s good to eat in this little city, but it’s just not going to happen until I figure out how to fix whatever it is that’s broken.

I do have a good place to eat in Poway, though, if you’re interested. It’s a new place called Yume Cafe and it’s located in the LA Fitness shopping center where the Lucky Chinese place was. They call themselves a Japanese Bistro, and I’m inclined to agree with the description. The menu has a very Japanese foundation to it, but there are also dishes that are more mainstream and bistro-like. Menus are on the webpage so you can take a look before heading out.

We went for dinner tonight because I like to go out to eat before leaving on a trip (I don’t know why since we always eat very well when traveling) and I couldn’t face another night of leftovers. Even if they are good leftovers. It was getting late and we were hungry, so we drove all 3 minutes to get there instead of walking like we could have. Whatever. We drove a Prius, which should offset any negative environmental impacts, right? When we got there, one couple was seated and one couple came in after us (and left before us… they must not have eaten much). Because they are so new, I wasn’t too concerned about the very empty restaurant. After looking over the menus (dinner, specials, drinks – one set between the two of us), we had to decide if we wanted to go for the “tapas” arrangement (a selection of small plates, quite varied, some smaller versions of the entrees) or just order an appetizer/tapas plate and entrees. T was set on the Prawns in Chili Sauce, so I settled on Kurobuta Schnitzel, which is a weird way of naming the Tonkatsu. Entrees come with miso soup, rice, and steamed vegetables – T was, surprisingly, able to substitute the house butternut squash apple soup for his miso. We also ordered the gyoza – our server told us they are made individually by hand and would take some time to come out. Oh, it was also emphasized that the menu focuses on fresh ingredients. Personally, I’m getting tired of the food buzzwords – fresh, seasonal, artisanal, sustainable, organic. I don’t argue they mean good things for everyone, I’m just tired of hearing it.

The soups came out first (due to the individual hand crimping of the dumplings, I guess) and they were good. The miso was tasty but not too salty and not watery at all. The butternut soup was creamy and full of flavors while managing not to be too rich. They were served in perfect mugs for sipping or drinking with the provided spoon.

Soon after, the dumplings came out, one side steamed and soft, the other side crispy and golden. I think they are either steamed or boiled and then pan fried until crispy, being inverted onto the serving platter. They are definitely handmade and not from a freezer, but I’m guessing they’re put together ahead of time. Folding up 10-12 gyoza to order seems a bit too time consuming (I didn’t count… I was hungry and they were really good. It seemed like there were a lot, though). The gyoza are small, with tender pork filling and a tasty dipping sauce, but they are worth ordering. The doughy wrapper melts away and ends with a bite of pan-fried crispiness. I’m glad we got those instead of the edamame.

Our dinners arrived and they looked amazing. Presentation is very lovely here, which I appreciate. Both dishes came with a small pyramid of rice, a potato pancake/croquette, a steamed baby bok choy, and some steamed baby squash. My pork had the tonkatsu sauce in a little dish with the cutest tiny ladle. The ends of the pork were a little chewy and the breading was starting to fall off some of the moister middle pieces, but the pork was tender and tasty. Honestly, it wasn’t the best tonkatsu I’ve had, but it was quite good and with everything else on the plate I was more than happy. T’s prawns were in a tangy chili sauce that was just spicy enough to make you sniffle, but just tangy enough to make you eat more. It was addictive in a way. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and had no trace of fishy-shrimpiness. They were good. We polished our plates and were pleasantly full. Yum yum yum. I’m still thinking of that chili sauce, it was so tasty.

The tapas plates are priced very reasonably (prices are on the website, too) and I could see stopping by for an assortment of 3 or 4 for dinner. The entrees are a few dollars more than the typical Japanese restaurant, but I think the quality is worth the extra money. There is also a standard sushi menu – one of the tables ordered some and it looked beautiful. It’s not a cheap dinner, so I don’t know how often we’ll end up at Yume Cafe, but it is good food and I hope they are successful.

The other nice thing about Yume Cafe is that it is just a few doors away from my beloved Golden Spoon. If we are anywhere near Golden Spoon, I don’t even bother looking at a dessert menu. I know we’re going to get a mini cup of Peanut Butter cup frozen yogurt, the tastiest fat-free dessert I know. Except, tonight we walked out with a mini cup of Pumpkin frozen yogurt, something that is almost better than full-fat pumpkin ice cream. Crazy! It’s that good, though, trust me. We may have to take an additional trip there while pumpkin season is still on, just to get another taste.

In other news, Three Dog Bakery is offering opportunities to open a franchise and one of their markets is San Diego. You’ll notice a similarity to the name of this website, which is purely coincidental. While I think running a dog bakery would be a lot of fun, especially since it already has a strong marketing presence (kind of like opening a Nothing Bundt Cakes store), I am well aware that it would be a lot of work and definitely wouldn’t allow me the freedom to take vacations like my present job does. It’s fun to dream, though, especially since it would be a job that would allow dogs in the office!

Edible San Diego

There’s a new magazine coming to town – Edible San Diego. Per the website:

edible SAN DIEGO is a community-based quarterly publication that promotes the abundance of local foods, season by season. Our mission is to transform the way our community shops for, cooks, eats and relates to food one decision at a time. We celebrate local, sustainable, seasonal, authentic foods and culinary traditions.”

It’s scheduled to launch March 1, 2008. I’d assume that as the date gets closer, the page will be updated with information on how to pick up one of these magazines. Based on the other cities it’s debuted in, circulation will either be via subscription or pick-up spots around town. I’m excited to see a neighborhood magazine that focuses on food, the people who produce it, and the people who prepare it. Hopefully, it will have an equal amount of articles to go with advertisements. San Diego already has home decorating/improvement circulars, why not one whose subject we can taste?

The magazine is produced by Edible Communities, if you’d like to see what other cities have going on and check out the site’s recipes and pictures.

Harry Potter and the end

HP7

By now, I’m sure half the world has finished this book and I actually put a lot of thought into how long I wanted to wait before I read it. I certainly didn’t care enough to rush out the night it was released or to pre-order it. Do I wait until my little sister has tossed it aside, so I don’t actually have to purchase one of my own? Do I just order it from Amazon.com so I have an excuse to order another cookbook to get the free shipping? Maybe I should just go grab it from Costco, where I know they’ll have piles set up.

I finally did just buy it from Costco, along with Blaze and a dog washer nozzle attachment (hey, my last purchase was 2 pounds of bacon and another book). I was tired of averting my eyes every time someone’s blog said **Attention, Harry Potter spoilers follow** and I really did want to know how it ended. But, I also didn’t want to read it straight through and be done in a day or two. It’s not a cheap book and I feel like it should last longer than that. But what a great marketing campaign! Put out a book that 90% of your fans will buy the second it’s available and then finished within 24 hours! Wow.

Anyway, I figured out how to hold the book on the elliptical machine (but I don’t get that great upper body workout, ha ha) and it makes the 40 minutes pass really quickly. I’ve also noticed that my heart rate doesn’t skyrocket and I don’t “travel” as far as when I’m just watching tv, but that’s okay. I think it’s been 4 workouts and I’m almost halfway through the book. It’s actually one of the better ways to motivate me to get on the machine. I want to get through the book, but I’m only going to read it if I’m exercising, so I’d better keep it up if I want to know how the whole saga ends!

I’m not really sure what other books would motivate me like this.