Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Magic Hat Hi. P. A. verses Heavy Seas Loose Cannon - a IPA showdown

Magic Hat Brewing Company
Burlington, VT
6.7% ABV
Style: IPA

The second beer I had tonight was a bottled version in a Magic Hat variety pack. The nose has heavy pine and floral notes with just a hint of citrus. The taste is hops on the front and back with a rich malty middle. It's the way I like an IPA: very bold but still drinkable. The hops are strong and the beginning and mellow out at the end. At $16 for a variety 12 pack, it wasn't a bad buy.

Loose Cannon American Hop3 Ale
Heavy Seas Brewing
Baltimore, MD
7.25% ABV
Style: IPA

This was my first beer of the evening, on tap at the bar. The nose was largely pine and citrus (same as the Magic Hat) but without the same bold flavors. The beer was drinkable, but it was not what I would consider an IPA. It did not have bold enough flavors and was, at most, an American pale ale in its flavor profile. When I expected an IPA to start my evening, it was downright boring.

It might not be California, but my beer education on the east coast has begun. I'm looking forward to furthering my knowledge of microbrews out here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Coconut Flour Pancakes

These are some of the best gluten free pancakes I've ever tried. I discovered this recipe simply because I had a container of coconut flour I had used to make a gluten free cake. Needing to use the rest of it, I've been experimenting with other recipes.

The ratios look off, but this recipe is great for 2 people for breakfast. Coconut flour is a very thirsty flour, so it does need that high a ratio of eggs and milk. They are still light and fluffy, but a little grittier than normal pancakes.

Coconut Flour Pancakes
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • ⅛ tsp baking soda
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp dried coconut
  • 1 tsp honey
  1. Mix together eggs, milk, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and honey
  2. Add coconut flour and dried coconut, mixing thoroughly until fully combined
  3. Heat skillet with butter. Cook pancakes, flipping once when they begin to bubble.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sourdough Pizza Crust

Before I begin, let me apologize for the picture. I took beautiful pictures of pizza only to realize after dinner that I had not put my memory card in the camera. I could only take photos of the leftovers, but as you can see, dinner was very popular. I made a zucchini mushroom feta pizza, a tomato basil pizza and an asparagus pancetta.

I also do not believe in tomato sauce on pizzas I make myself, so these are herbed olive oil only.

I got the recipe for this from the Cheeseboard Recipe Book. I lived a 10 minute walk away from the Cheese Board when I was in college. Their pizzas were so delicious. I can do all my own toppings, but their crust is pretty damn good. But nothing I've created is nearly as delicious as their arugula, corn, feta, pine nut and key lime pizza. Mmmmm so damn good. It won't have those great giant blisters like napolitano style pizzas, but it does have a crisp yet chewy California style crust. That in itself is pretty good.

This post has been submitted to Yeastspotting

Sourdough Pizza Dough

  • 16 oz bread flour
  • 1 ½ cups cool water
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 4 oz sourdough starter at 100% hydration

  • Mix together flour and water. Let rest for 10 minutes
  • Add salt and starter. Mix and knead for 15 minutes or until dough is springy and passes the windowpane test.
  • Place dough in oiled bowl and let proof for 6-8 hours until doubled in size. If resting overnight in refrigerator, let dough come up to temperature for 2 hours before proceeding with recipe
  • Divide dough into 3 pieces and shape into loose rounds. Let rest 20 minutes
  • Stretch dough into 10 inch circles. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Bake pizza on the bottom rack on a baking sheet for 6 minutes. Move to top rack of the oven and bake 10 more minutes
  • Slide pizza out of pan and finish on the bottom oven rack for 4 minutes.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cheeseboard Bakery Sourdough - Suburban Bread

Despite the amount of bread I bake, I same still relatively new to bread. Artisan bread specifically is a different, difficult beast. The shaping requires talent, as does the slashing and proper baking. You need to know your oven and you have to feel comfortable with your flours and your kneading times. Most of all, you need to be comfortable with your starter, which I'm still figuring out.

I started baking with this bread recipe from the Cheeseboard Recipe Book. It's more complex than a standard white sourdough with a great flavor. Yet it's more simple than recipes from Tartine or a lot of other books. I'm growing out of this recipe, but I figure it's a good place to start when still learning simple sourdough bread baking.

Sourdough - Suburban Bread
  • 22 oz bread flour
  • 3.75 oz whole wheat flour
  • 3 Tbsp wheat bran
  • 2 cups cool water
  • 1 Tbsp and ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup (5 oz) sourdough starter

  1. Sift together flours and bran. Add water and stir until moistened and combined.
  2. Let dough rest 10 minutes. Add salt and sourdough starter
  3. Knead for 15 minutes by hand or in stand mixer until bread pulls aways from the sides and is tacky but still springy and passes the window pain test. Do not over knead.
  4. Place in oiled bowl and let rise in warm place for 5 hours or until doubled in size.
  5. Divide dough into two loaves and shape into lose rounds. Let rest 10 minutes.
  6. Shape bread into desired batards or boules and let rest another 4 hours or until increased in size by 1.5
  7. 45 minutes before baking, preheat oven with cast iron skillet in the bottom to 450 degrees.
  8. Just before baking bread slash tops and mist the loaves with water. Pour 1 cup cold water in pan and quickly up bread in oven. Bake for 5 minutes and add another cup of water to pan
  9. Bake 15 more minutes and rotate pan
  10. Bake another 25 minutes for a total baking time of 45 minutes. Let cool before serving.
This post has been submitted to Yeastspotting

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ethiopian Red Lentils

For a side dish to the Sik Sik Wat in the last post, I made these Ethiopian spiced red lentils. Red lentils are not as good for you as green lentils, being only 11% fiber as opposed to 31%, but they still have plenty of protein and are one of the healthiest foods.

These lentils are spicy and can act as a main dish as opposed to a side dish like I used them. If you prefer a thinner lentil stew, leave the water at 4 cups, but if you prefer a thicker paste, reduce the water to 3 1/2 cups. Either way, this dish is healthy and has great flavors of chili, onion, turmeric and cloves.

Note: you can find recipes for both the niter kibbeh and berbere spice in this post

Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 4 Tbsp niter kibbeh or clarified butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp berber seasoning
  • 4 cups water
  • salt to taste
  1. Melt clarified butter in a large pot. Wash lentils
  2. Add onion and garlic to butter, sautee until soft
  3. Add 1 tbsp of berber seasoning, lentils and water. Simmer for 45 minutes or until walter is almost all evaporated and lentils are soft
  4. Add remaining berber seasoning and salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sik Sik Wat (Ethiopian stewed beef)

I've always loved Ethiopian food. It's such a fun food to eat with your hands, share with friends, and explore a new culture of spices that are familiar to me, but that I have never used in this way before. In my exploration into Ethiopian food, I discovered a few key components of Ethiopian cuisine that are indispensable. They really are what create the flavors.

1. Teff: a grass native to northeast africa. Until making dinner, I had never heard of teff before. It can be ground into flour and is completely gluten free so it can be used by those with celiacs disease. It has a nutty, earthy flavor and is used to make injera. My injera came out horribly, so the recipe will not be posted. here, but it is an essential ingredient.

2. Berbere: a spice mixture usually containing chili, garlic, ginger, tumeric, fenugreek, allspice and cardamom (among other things). It's the spice powder that's usually added to... everything.

3. Niter Kibbeh: a spiced version of clarified butter, make by infusing the oil with cinnamon, ginger, onion tumeric, fenugreek, etc. Also used in practically everything.

Because of that, this is going to be a really really long post as this will have 3 recipes. You'll get a recipe for the spice, the butter and the main dish (of course, you can use normal clarified butter if you want, and you can use a packaged berbere spice, but what's the fun in that?) You really need these flavors and you can always adjust up the heat. And for a more traditional doro wat, just sub chicken for the beef.

Berbere (Ethiopian Spice)

  • 2 tsp whole cumin
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 ½ tsp cardamom pods
  • 1 ½ tsp fenugreek
  • 10 whole peppercorns
  • 9 whole allspice berries
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 ½ Tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  1. Mix together all ground ingredients in a jar
  2. Toast whole spices in pan until they release their aromas
  3. Grind whole spices in spice grinder and mix together
  4. If using in a recipe that calls for paste, add 1 tbsp of red wine and 1 Tbsp of oil for every 3 Tbsp powder.
Wasn't that easy? You can keep it around in a jar for all future uses with vegetables, lentils, and meat!

Niter Kibbeh (Ethiopian spiced butter)

  • 1 lb unsalted butter
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 1 inch pieces of ginger, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp fenugreek
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  1. Simmer all ingredients in saucepan over low heat for 1 hour
  2. Strain out solids and pour off only the fat. Leave the solids
  3. Store in refrigerator.
That was easy too! Keep it in the refrigerator and use it for anything. Now onto the real recipe.

Sik Sik Wat (Ethiopian Stewed Beef)

  • 2 lbs stew beef
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger root
  • ¼ cup niter kibbeh, oil or clarified butter
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • ¼ - ½ cup berbere paste
  • ¾ cup water or stock
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 1 tsp + cayenne pepper, depending on taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4-6 hard boiled eggs (optional)

  1. Rub stew beef with salt and lemon juice. Let sit for 30 minutes.
  2. Melt down butter in a large pan. Add paprika to color the oil
  3. Add berbere paste and cook for 3 minutes, making sure not to burn.
  4. Add onions, garlic and ginger, cooking for 10 minutes until soft and most moisture is evaporated
  5. Add beef, water, wine and cayenne pepper. Simmer for 45 minutes for until beef is tender and sauce has thickened. Add water as necessary to keep sauce a thick consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste
  6. Hard boil eggs if using and peel them.
  7. Add eggs to the wat and simmer for 15 more minutes before serving.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sugar Plum Vegan and Temple Coffee - A Restaurant Review

Sugar Plum Vegan Bakery
2315 K Street
Sacramento CA 95816

Temple Coffee
1014 10th Street and 2829 S Street
Sacramento CA

I told myself I wouldn't write any more restaurant reviews, but it occurred to me that I occasionally wanted to take a break from making food to purely enjoy food. I wanted to reflect on my life experiences and where I had been in my life. I wanted to savor the moment and create moments in my own life as opposed to simply creating moments of beauty for other people.

I've been going to Temple Coffee since I was 17 years old. It opened in 2005 at the start of my senior year of high school. I remember quite clearly that the day it opened, I had a college entrance interview and I was one of the very first customers at the 10th street location. This was back in the days when I still drank sweet, Starbucks style coffee drinks and I ordered a Mocha Thai (what I now consider to be too sweet for my taste).

I remember loving the style of the place. The interior of the 10th street location had exposed brick walls, beautiful furniture and a color scheme of brown, red and light blue. It felt comfortable, and the Swiss chalet style exterior facade still had the antique signage from the defunct Livingston Books that used to inhabit the same location.

Over the years, my tastes changed. I developed a taste for their Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk. I went through a black coffee phase and a tea phase with a specific love of their Golden Yunnan. I have recently (meaning since 2008 or so) settled on cappuccinos and cafe au laits. I have tried both the single origin espresso and the dharma blend espresso at temple and though I am normally a fan of single origin, I prefer the chocolate, honey and burgundy notes in the blend as opposed to the acidic fruity notes in the single origin.

I never thought I would give up the 10th street location, but the S street location might even be better. It feels much the same: couches and exposed brick walls and friendly service. The S street location is sadly more crowded than the downtown location, but it has parking and outdoor seating (both necessary qualities, especially in Sacramento). But the thing that has made the Midtown location special in my heart is the tabletop sketchbooks full of words, pictures, memories, and sharpie tags of ejaculating penises. It's a beautiful culmination of a community in all its imperfections.

Despite all the beauty of Temple, there was always one weak spot in my mind: the food. They sold a collection of sub-par pastries including cookies, black bottom muffins and blueberry scones. The only passable pastry was the biscotti, and I always knew I had to get my baked goods elsewhere. That's where the review of Sugar Plum comes in.

Until last week, I had not known about Sugar Plum vegan bakeshop. When I last lived in Sacramento, it was a coffeeshop called "True Love Cafe" and it was located right across the street from Rick's Dessert Diner. It had a brief stint afterward as a greek restaurant when True Love closed, but I didn't hear much about it afterward.

While running errands in midtown, I happened across the old True Love location. It had the same facade at the bottom floor of a townhouse. It had the same outdoor tables, but they were all full at lunchtime and there was a chalkboard sign on the sidewalk proclaiming them a vegan/gluten free cafe. I stepped inside, hesitant.

The interior was dark but the pastry case was well lit. The cakes were not the beautiful coiffed creations of those fancy cupcake shops that have recently come into being. They were large carrot cakes topped with messy large dollops of cream cheese frosting. They looked like cakes you bake at home, not beautiful desserts from a bakery. I think that might have made me more expectant of their great quality. If you don't need the gimmick of a star tip, you must be pretty damn confident.

They seemed to offer lunch specials too like tempeh BLTs, tacos, salads, sandwiches, etc. Yet I knew I was here for a pastry to go with my coffee later. I asked for recommendations and discovered only half their selection was gluten free, but all options in the restaurant were vegan. I was throwing all my normal sensibilities out the window by ordering vegan baked goods anyway, so I figured I would go all the way and get gluten free.

I ordered the "fauxstess" cupcake: a vegan take on the snack food favorite made gluten free with a combination of garbanzo and rice flours. I was expecting an almond flour cake, but I liked that the desserts used nut free options too in order to give even further options to those with dietary restrictions. I can say the cake did not have the same moisture as almond flour cakes normally have, but it had a great nuttiness from the chickpeas. It was a more dense, dry cake, but it had a rich chocolate flavor, a great chocolate ganache and a good cream filling (even though it did not have the standard almost marshmallow fluff texture of real hostess cupcakes). The only complaint I had was that I could not have had the cake on its own. It was almost cloyingly sweet and it needed a cup of strong coffee to go with it.

It amazes me how many memories come back to me with a sip of coffee. They seem to be memories of high school, of my first boyfriend, of carefree days and feelings we once upon a time called "love". It feels so naive now, but they seemed like they mattered then. Have a sip, take a bite, and savor them for even a little while.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Smoked Salmon and Tomato Baked Eggs

We had left over smoked salmon from yesterday's breakfast so I made simple baked eggs for breakfast. I would normally do it with pancetta instead, but c'est la vie. It was only missing capers

It's a great easy breakfast for as many people as you want, and one of the easiest ways to make eggs for a crowd, and a fun way to make eggs for an individual

Baked eggs in tomatoes

  • 4 medium to large tomatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 pieces of smoked salmon
  • small handfull of fresh basil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cut the tops off the tomatoes and scoop out the interior seeds and pulp. Turn upside down and allow to dry on a paper towel for 15 minutes
  3. Chiffonade basil. Mix with a little freshly ground black pepper and olive oil. Spread on the inside of the tomatoes
  4. Place a piece of smoked salmon inside the tomato and bake for 20 minutes or until tomatoes have begun to soften slightly.
  5. Crack eggs into the tomatoes and bake another 10 minutes or until the whites are set but the yolks are still soft.
  6. Serve immediately with toast points

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Russian Black Bread

Pumpernickel has always been my favorite bread. It has that fantastic rye/caraway flavor, but with a greater richness and nuttiness. When I saw this recipe for Russian black bread, I knew I had to make it. When a bread seems like a more complicated pumpernickel and when something manages to use chocolate, coffee, rye flour, and shallots in the same recipe to good ends, you know the recipe is a keeper.

Everyone in the family loved this recipe. It was great with butter and trout roe when it was fresh out of the oven, and this morning it was perfect with cream cheese and smoked salmon. The crumb is tender and the crust was firm, creating a wonderful contrast. It's great right now, but this bread will be even better with soup or smoked fish in the winter.

Note: I am submitting this post to Yeastspotting

Russian Black Bread
  • 2 packs active yeast
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup dark molasses
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 2 oz (1/2 cup) whole wheat flour
  • 2 ¼ oz (1 cup) wheat bran
  • 13 oz (3 cups) bread flour
  • 11.25 oz (3 cups) rye flour
  • 2 Tbsp caraway seeds
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp minced shallots
  • 1 tbsp ground dark roast coffee
  • ¼ cup cornmeal
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds


  1. Heat 2 cups water, butter, chocolate, molasses, coffee grounds and vinegar on stove until butter and chocolate are melted. Set in refrigerator to cool. Too hot liquids will damage the yeast.Proof yeast with ½ cup water and pinch of sugar
  2. Sift together flours and bran.
  3. In separate bowl, add fennel, shallots, caraway and 2 cups of the mixed flours. Add chocolate mixture and yeast to the flour. Continue adding flour half a cup at a time until the mixture pulls away from the mixing bowl.
  4. Knead until mixture is springy yet dense. Place in oiled bowl and let proof until doubled in size (about a hour and a half).
  5. Remove dough from bowl and divide into two pieces. Shape pieces into boules and dust tops with cornmeal, flour and caraway mixture. Let rest for 45 minutes
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Just before baking, slash tops of loaves. Bake for 45 minutes or until dark.

Friday, August 5, 2011


I don't know if I can call a drink this alcoholic "refreshing". I don't know if I should be able to call something like this a summer drink. It's very strong, Italian liquor made my steeping lemon zest but it's a great digestif on a warm summer day. And if you want a daytime cocktail, it's best mixed with sparkling water, an extra twist of fresh lemon, perhaps a few fresh fruits.


  • 10 organic lemons
  • 1 liter Everclear
  • 750 grams sugar
  • 1 liter water

  1. Zest lemon in strips, making sure not to also remove the bitter pith. Place in glass mason jar
  2. Pour everclear over lemon zest and let sit for 10 to 14 days in a cool dark place, shaking once each day
  3. After infusion is ready, remove lemon zest. Boil water and sugar until dissolved. Add lemon zest and let cool to room temperature
  4. Remove lemon zest and add lemon infused everclear to the simple syrup. Strain limoncello through cheesecloth and into clean bottles.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Simple Roast Chicken

This is the easiest roast chicken recipe I've ever found, and it comes from Thomas Keller of the French Laundry. Even the most prestigious chefs love simple food the best. No matter how great fancy food prepared in inventive ways might be, it rarely beats a well done classic.

This chicken is definitely a "set it and forget it" kind of recipe. Remove bird from refrigerator. Let sit 3 hours or so to come up to room temperature. Season, truss, roast, rest, carve. That's it. The time required gives you ample time to prepare the rest of the meal, and everyone loves this extremely moist, flavorful chicken. The potatoes are optional, but they do prevent the chicken from smoking as much and they are essentially potatoes roasted in chicken fat. they're heavenly.

Simple Roast Chicken

  • 1 3-4 pound chicken
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • Black pepper
  • Fresh thyme
  • 2 lb red potatoes (optional)

  1. Let chicken come up to room temperature and pat dry inside and out with paper towels
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  3. Line a roasting pan or cast iron skillet with sliced potatoes. Season lightly with pepper. This will prevent the oven from smoking so much, but also make some great potatoes soaked in the chicken drippings/fat
  4. Season inside of the chicken with a generous amount of salt, pepper and fresh thyme.
  5. Truss chicken, folding the wing tips under the body and tying the legs close to compact the weight of the bird
  6. Generously season the outside of the bird, raining down salt to create a slightly crust on the outside. Season with pepper and thyme
  7. Place bird over pan of potatoes. Roast in preheated oven for 1 hour or until meat thermometer registers 180
  8. Let rest 10 minutes before carving.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Soft Garlic Knots

I've made this recipe take from Zoom Yummy twice in the past two weeks. It had been on my to-do list for ages, but I only got around to making it for a dinner party last week. They were such a big hit at the party that I decided to make it again for dinner tonight while cooking for my parents. They too loved these soft garlic knots

This was one of the easiest breads I've made. Not too many ingredients and no careful shaping or slashing. That is easily the area at which I am the weakest: shaping my loaves. The first time I made these loaves, I made them in a house without bread flour. I used all purpose and they took on an almost crisp yet fluffy dinner roll quality. Tonight I made them with bread flour and there was a noticeable difference. The interior was soft yet toothsome. They're not necessarily better or worse, just different. Perhaps next time I'll do a 50/50 ratio to see what happens.
The only hard part about these rolls is making enough. Not only will people wants seconds with dinner, but it will be a struggle not to pull one off the tray and dig in as soon as they come out of the oven. They just smell too good when cooking.

Soft Garlic Knots

  • 3 cups (480 grams) bread flour
  • 1 pack active yeast (2 ¼ tsp)
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp lukewarm water
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 Tbsp melted salted butter
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried parsley or 1 Tbsp fresh chopped italian parsley
DirectionsMix sugar, yeast and ¼ cup warm water to let yeast proof for 10 minutes
  1. Combined flour, yeast mixture, salt, olive oil, milk and remaining water in a large bowl, stirring until it comes together.
  2. Knead for 8 minutes on floured work surface until dough passes the window pane test.
  3. Form dough into a lose round and let proof in a greased, covered bowl for 1 hour until doubled in size.
  4. Divide dough into 8 pieces and shape into knots. Roll dough into a long rope like you would a pretzel. Tie a knot in the center.
  5. Fold the rope underlying the knot over the top, and fold the rope overlying underneath, securing in the center.
  6. Let rise another 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  7. While dough is rising, melt butter and combine it with garlic, oregano and parsley
  8. Brush butter over knots just before baking. Bake around 15-20 minutes until golden
This post has been submitted to Yeastspotting

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