Sunday, February 6, 2011

I know you are wondering how that baked hen turned out. I am so confused.

I had such high hopes.

When I found that really huge hen, with the uber-cute packaging, the one that weighed a ton, I just knew I found a winner.

Turns out I was wrong.

It was disgusting.

Sent shivers down my spine, actually.

What went wrong?  I did all my good moves, my regular moves.  Maybe that’s it.  I should have done something different.  Approached it differently.  I treated it like I did all my other chickens.  Bake.  350 degrees.   Olive Oil rub with simple seasonings.  Salt.  Pepper. Garlic Powder.  Just a touch.  Inserted digital timer into it’s colossal thick breast.  Waited for 165 degrees.  Continued to cook until it was 170 degrees.  It’s what I do.  Keep it safe.

Something just didn’t look right. 

Baked 20 minutes longer.

The juices ran red.  The skin was thick, rubbery, a sickly pale tone.  And then I sliced.  Tough, rubbery, not dry, not wet.  Just odd. 

More shivers down my spine.

There was no saving this one.  $8, down the drain.

So that begs me to ask:  What did I do wrong?  Should a hen be treated differently than a chicken?  Should it be slow cooked, boiled, grilled, roasted, or ignored?

I am bound and determined to find out.  To search out the answer.

First place to search? You.  Do you have any suggestions?

Second place to search?  The company who makes the hens.  Sigh.  Besides the cute packaging, I was already falling in love with their philosophy.  “Do unto others as they would do unto you.”  That is their motto, right?  They will want to help, right?

That’s it.  I am going to ask them for advice, too.

More to come...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

New event date for “Percolating for ONSC” (plus, new winner).

Hi Everyone,

This snowy weather is exciting, right?  It certainly has made this past week exciting:  school cancelled, working from home, creative menu planning, oh, there’s one more thing:  Percolating for ONSC is moved to next Friday, February 11th

That means there is still time for you to attend!

That also means that I did a re-draw for a lucky winner of pair of tickets.  A special thanks to our previous lucky winner #1, Whitney, who so graciously offered up her tickets for a re-draw after she realized she wouldn’t be able to attend on the new day.  Thanks Whitney, you rock!

So… who snagged the tickets?????

#9 – @mgbman

You’re the Lucky Winner!!  Now you can take your “coffee swillin’ (and roastin’) wife.  Congratulations!  Look for a tweet from me as a follow-up.

A huge THANK YOU to Beth Stephens, Executive Director at Ozark Natural Science Center who provided us tickets to this event. Click here to find out more about this fantastic outdoor learning center in our backyard.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Artisan French Baguette Part 2: The Finished Product

Posted by Lyndi

Today we continue with the finale of my dad (“the Bella Vista Baker”) making artisan bread.  Click here for Part 1, in case you missed it!

Dad’s words of wisdom:  “Remember, the slower and longer the yeast rises, the better the flavor!”

Take the dough out of fridge two hours before you begin this phase. 

“you want to bring the dough up to room temperature”

1. Lightly flour the cutting board surface. 

"in our case, we’ll need extra because our dough is on the wet side”
2. Roll dough gently on cutting board surface. 

3. Gently form the dough.  

4. Cut dough in half for two normal-sized baguettes. 

"I like small loaves, so I cut in four”
5. Take each one and gently form into a cylindar shape.  

“be gentle”
6. Cover with a towel and let it sit for 15 minutes. 

“it relaxes the gluten when it sits, so it’s not tough”
7.  Spray baguette pan with PAM spray.  

8. Flour cutting board and roll baguettes in flour. 

“Be really gentle with it.  If I find a raisin that sticks out,
I push it back in so it doesn’t burn into a hard crisp when baking”
9. Place in baguette pan. 

“Because this is a wet dough, the raisins pick up
all the water so they stay big, fat, and plump.”
10. Cover with towel again.  

“To keep “skin” from getting hard”
11. Let rest for 30 minutes.  It will rise a little bit more during this time.

12. Turn on oven and pre-heat to 450 degrees.


Dad’s words of wisdom:  “This bread has “oven spring” meaning when you put it in the oven, it rises about 25%.  The moisture suddenly expands.  It is not a rising of the yeast, it is the steam inside because it is so dense.  The danger is that if it is too wet, the bread may split.  Which only means it won’t look pretty.”

13. Set digital thermometer to 190 degrees and timer to15 minutes

14.  Remove towel.  

15. Turn on the hot water again

16.  Gently brush room temperature water (with a soft brush) on the tops of the bread dough.   

“it helps it to get firmer.  Do it GENTLY.”
17. Sprinkle carraway seeds, seseme seeds, or any kind of seed you want on top!  

“options are endless, sometimes I use rolled oats or lemon zest”
18.  Cut diagonals GENTLY on top of bread about ½ inch deep. 

“If dough is too wet, you may “lose” your cuts”
19. Put bread in oven. 

20. Put shallow pan in oven … not a dark or non-stick pan, on the side of the oven away from the oven light. Pour 1 cup of boiling water into the pan.  

"This will produce steam and the crust will get hard.
Be careful of your face, and don’t get any
water on the oven light or it will break."
21. Lower oven temperature to 400 degrees.   

22. Turn on timer and set to 15 minutes.

23. Clean up, throw away any flour you have left.

24. Set up cooling racks.

25. When temperature beeps, open oven and rotate pan.

26. Insert digital thermometer into middle of thickest loaf, leave in until it beeps (when internal temperature is 190 degrees.   

“takes a couple of minutes”
27. Turn off oven, leave bread in the oven until thermometer reaches 200 degrees.

28. Remove bread from oven, place on cooling racks for 5 minutes.

29. Remove baguettes from pan and leave on cooling racks until they are cool to the touch. Takes about 1 ½ to 2 hours. 

“you can’t cut the bread when it’s hot”

30. And the fun part… EAT!  

“I will wrap and freeze 3 of loaves but it must be absolutely cool before you wrap!”

And there you have it.  Step by step instructions on how to make your very own Artisan Bread. 

Oh, I didn’t say it would be easy.  You won’t catch me making it anytime soon.

But it was worth the time watching my dad bake, right?  And it was worth my time spending it with him.  Besides, half the fun of reading blogs is looking at the pictures, right?

Thanks Dad!  I love you!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Bella Vista Baker: Artisan Bread Making, Part 1

Posted by Lyndi

I have decided to dub my dad as “The Bella Vista Baker.”  He is my baking hero. 

On a recent Thursday afternoon I stopped by his house to learn how he prepares the yeast dough for artisan bread. What a treat!  Less than twenty-four hours later I was back and ready to watch the loaves bake as they filled the house with that hard-to-beat incense of freshly baked bread.  It does not get much better than that, right?

Just sit back and enjoy this two-part photo documentary of my father’s recipe for baking artisan bread.  All the comments are his, all the photo editing is his, and I made sure I captured all his little helpful hints in the photo captions.

Please note, the basic recipe inspired by and adapted from No Need to Knead by Suzanne Dunaway.

Artisan French Baguette 
Part 1:  Preparing the Dough

Dad’s words of wisdom:  “The great thing about this recipe is that you don’t have to be precise!  The options are endless!”

Dad’s words of wisdom: “Here’s the secret to this bread:  Keep the mixing gentle!  No violence whatsoever.  No kneading, no punching down… gentle.”

1.  Measure 5 cups of bread flour. 

“because of the high gluten content”
2.      1 tablespoon Vital Wheat Gluten. 

"the secret to making any bread - it’s the chewing gum that holds the gas in”
3. 1 ½ teaspoon salt. 

“when I use chicken broth as a liquid, I use less salt”
4.      ½ cup raisins. 

“generally all I need, of course add as much or as little as you wish”
5. 1 tablespoon of spice, such as Mediterranean Mix by McCormick. 

"it can be any kind of spice you want:  anise seed, Italian seasoning, or even open a mint tea bag!  It will dissipate.  Or, don’t put any spice in”
6. Mix all dry ingredients together. 

“remember, keep the mixing gentle”

Dad’s words of wisdom:  “Now the fun part… the liquid ingredients need to be 85 degrees to 95 degrees to start off.  I even start off at 100 degrees in order to make sure your yeast is about 95 degrees, human temperature, to be most efficient.”

7. Heat a pot of water and have it ready.  

“my electric kettle heats water lickity-split”
8.  In a glass measuring cup, add 1 cup of sour cream. 

“notice I am not being careful about measuring.  It’s not exact.  The other day I put in a bottle of beer instead of sour cream! 
Or, it can be chicken broth.  Your call.”
9. Insert your thermometer in the bowl and start adding cold and hot water (from the tea kettle) until you reach the 3 cup line.  You want the thermometer to measure about 95 degrees. 

“it becomes a game of hot and cold until you reach the right temperature”
“just right"
10. Pour 1 ½ cups into large mixing bowl.

11. Add 2 tablespoons of Active Dry Yeast. Rest for a couple of minutes. 

“whisk all together until yeast gets incorporated”


12. Add 2 cups of dry ingredients into the liquid bowl.

13. Wisk together.

14. Add 1½ cups dry ingredients into liquid ingredients.

15.  Mix with wooden spoon. If it is dry, add more liquid.  You can tell if it’s too dry if there are dry ingredients on the bottom of the bowl.  

"it smells so good at this point”
16. Dad’s words of wisdom:  “Continue adding dry ingredients to the liquid and keep mixing with wooden spoon. The trick is to keep it moist, but not too much moisture or the thing may collapse.  This type of bread has to be wet and I’ve found that 3 cups of liquid to the dry ingredients does the job, perfectly.  If there isn’t enough liquid, when you form the loaves they just won’t rise fully.”

17.  It is now moist, wet, shiny and oozing off the spoon.  

"typical bread dough recipes do not normally do that… but this is what we want!”
18. Cover bowl.

19.  Put in Refrigerator for 12-18 hours. That is why this recipe is called artisan.  The slower the yeast rises, the better the flavor! 

“I normally make the dough around 10pm, take it out at 5am the next morning and let it sit on countertop (2 hours) until it is ready to go at 7am”

And this is where we, too, will rest for 12-18 hours.  What do you think so far?

Come back tomorrow when we will learn about Part 2 of Artisan Bread…The Finished Product.

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