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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Miso Making Madness

Koji is a crazy enzyme packed medium that has the potential to convert almost anything into a delicious miso. We all know the wonders it does to soybeans. The focus here is to mix koji in with different bases that vary the ratio of protein to carbohydrate to fat and see what happens. I used nutrition facts tables as a rudimentary baseline for comparison. I'm on a mission to see if there are any limits to this process.

End of the First Batch of Plantain Miso
Plantain miso was my first adventure into a mash that wasn't a legume or grain. The high carbohydrate content was what I was most curious about. The nutrition ratio is similar to rice. After a year, the funky green banana scented miso was quite good.

Pepita Paste and Teff Koji

Pepita Miso Looking Like Mustard
Why not a seed? Pepitas seemed like a logical choice due to their use in moles. Somewhat close to the soybean ratio but the carbohydrate dominates instead of protein. Nutty soy sauce paste after 7 months.

Miso Method Hard Cheese
A hard miso cheese was the result of pressing and hanging ricotta inoculated with Jasmine rice koji. Primarily protein and fat. Amazing how similar it was to Parmesan cheese after a couple of months. Check out Miso Method Cheese Making for how the base was made.

Peanut Butter and Jasmine Koji
Ground peanuts were used to make a PB miso. The enzymes converted the high fat content into something ridiculously good after only a couple of months. A peanut butter umami bomb.

Cookie Dough and Teff Koji
Why not use a medium that's already delicious like cookie dough? Twice as much carbohydrates as fat with very little protein. Still waiting on this one...

Cookie Dough Miso Cookies?
Why not bake it off after a short fermentation period to use as breadcrumbs?

White Chocolate and Teff Koji
White chocolate miso had to happen. Interestingly enough, the ratio is very similar to cookie dough. Still too early to know if it'll be good.

Raw Egg and Jasmine Koji
Raw egg is pretty much all protein and fat. We'll see...

The koji enzyme monster has converted everything I've thrown at it into miso with unique characteristics of the base ingredient. Pretty much anything works. I don't have the palate to parse out the protein:carbohydrate:fat ratio conversion differences I was looking for. It has all tasted good so far so maybe it doesn't really matter.

I hope these miso making adventures will inspire you to push the limits of processes you already know and love. The key to discovery is understanding the fundamental method and applying it to your heart's desire.

As always, please share your investigations to keep the ideas bouncing.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bay Leaf Snickerdoodles

Aromas and complimentary flavors are ties to comfort. Cinnamon has a way but the wonder is long gone. Vanilla is ubiquitous. No need to rest on those laurels any longer.

Broken Bay Leaf Snickerdoodle

The scent of bay leaves cooked with rice is quite nice. It adds a depth of flavor to savory dishes that we all have tasted but can't quite describe. Always a supporting cast member that allows the whole company to shine. What happens when it becomes the star in a cookie?

Pulverized Bay Leaf

Snickerdoodles are simple. Aside from butter and sugar, the driving flavors are cinnamon in the coating and vanilla extract in the base dough. Grinding dry bay leaves into a powder to do a swap was the easy part.

Bay Leaf Rum Extract

The bay extract required a little patience. 125ml of white rum and 12 dried bay leaves got a pressure infusion treatment in a cream whipper then sat for 2 months. The final flavor was quite medicinal, bay leaf bitters.

Ground Bay Leaf Sugar Coating

With the flavor agents sorted, one for one swaps were all that was necessary to execute the recipe.

Bay Leaf Snickerdoodle

The aroma immediately after baking was buttery with a clear floral note. The flavor of the cookie was well... indescribably good.

Sumac Snickerdoodle

Next time you bake think twice about reaching for cinnamon or vanilla. Use a spice that you enjoy in a completely different context. There's a whole world of flavors out there waiting to be rediscovered in your favorite comfort food. 

As always, please share your investigations to keep the ideas bouncing.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Leftover Chicken Stuffing Gougeres

Stale bread hanging around often becomes breadcrumbs. If a little ambition takes hold, stuffing or dressing isn't far from reach. Leftover stuffing breadcrumbs were inevitable...

Chicken Crackling Topped Stuffing Gougere

A flavorful breading makes all the sense in the world and you've already made that connection. Water is to stock as flour is to stuffing breadcrumbs. Why not treat them as a flavor concentrate to enhance a savory baked good? I couldn't help but test gougeres, AKA cheese puffs.

For the pate a choux, I replaced one third of the flour with processed pan dried leftover chicken stuffing. The use of stock instead of water also needed to happen. Cheese was cut in half in efforts to allow the chicken flavor to come through. 

Leftover Chicken Stuffing = Beautiful Breadcrumbs

Prior to baking off the cheese puffs, I wanted to add a crunch factor. Topping them with the breadcrumbs was my first thought, but I knew they would probably burn. I figured a little fat is all I needed to temper the heat. A tiny piece of leftover chicken skin over the middle of the crumbs was the answer. The crumbs were basted by the slow release of fat from the skin as it crisped up. In the end, a beautiful crackling was a perfect compliment to what I would describe as an amazing chicken pot pie gougere.

Cooking is all about getting the most out of the ingredients you have on hand. Leftovers are no exception. Phoenix food.

As always, please share your investigations to keep the ideas bouncing...

Friday, March 27, 2015

Crunchy Cornmeal Crust for Cookies

I recently caught @srealsimplefood's post on barley chocolate chip cookies. Knowing her history of wonderful ideas and well thought out recipes, I had no doubt they would be delicious. I also couldn't resist spinning my own version.

Barley Teff Chocolate Chip Cookies with Plantain Miso

One key to a great chocolate chip cookie is the combination of textures. Each of us has our own favorite balance between chewy and crispy. Aside from the main event, folks have added cornmeal for a micro crunch accent.

The recipe called for barley flour and I didn't have any on hand. Fortunately, I had a bag of barley and a food processor with a milling blade. If you've spun grains before, you very well know that you get to a point when there's a small portion of bits that aren't quite flour.

Barley Teff Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough with Miso

As I stared at the coarse barley meal sitting in the fine mesh strainer, I had a light bulb moment. This stuff was no different from the khao khua, toasted ground sticky rice, crunch I've enjoyed on larb gai before. It went right into the dry mix.

Coarse Ground Barley Bits Embedded Cookie Bottom

Of course, I couldn't wait until they were fully cooled. I broke one in half and looked inside. The evenly distributed specks of barley looked like the night sky. The balance of the external crispy shell and internal chewy core was delicious. The micro crunch of the grain bits was a nice accent.

Cookie Dough Ball Rolled in Cornmeal

I pulled that idea thread and started thinking about the crunch of a pizza crust. I couldn't help but roll cookie dough balls in cornmeal and bake them off. The bottom crust of the cookie developed a serious crunch that was an amazing compliment to the chewy core. I'm not sure I can go back to the standard now. This method definitely deserves further investigation.

Cornmeal Crusted Cookie Bottom

Next time you experience a texture that you enjoy, don't be afraid to inject it elsewhere. Even better if it ends up using a by-product that you would otherwise throw out.

As always, keep the ideas bouncing...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Chewy Caramel Popcorn Potential

Inspired by @maxfalkowitz's tweet a while back about buttered popcorn caramels, I investigated some possibilities.

Huge Chewy Caramel Popcorn Ball with Coffee Dust

We all know and love caramel popcorn. Aside from the obvious flavor charm, the butterfly and mushroom shaped puffs have awesome texture. The crispy crunchy thin candy coating over all the nooks and crannies is what makes us come back for more. So why mess with a good thing? Because that's what we do here.

Chewy Butterscotch Popcorn with Sumac

The first attempt was a chewy butterscotch coated popcorn. I took the final candy temperature to the soft-ball stage. It tasted fine, but the candy drowned out the delicate popcorn. The bite was too compliant so hard-ball stage needed to happen. Also enrobing was clearly not the way to go. Then I began to think about how to change the ratio.

Popcorn on a Thin Sheet of Caramel

The answer was simple. Create a thin layer of caramel for the popcorn to rest on. It only made sense to form a roulade. I was imagining a pinwheel slice lollipop or even squeezed onto a scoop coffee ice cream. I put it into the freezer to harden it up a bit to make it easier to cut.

Chewy Caramel Popcorn Roulade

The balance of caramel to popcorn worked nicely. The candy was still cold when I tasted it and the brittle to chewy transformation was a bonus. The only issue was the roulade not holding together when it was cut. Next time...

Sticky Caramel Popcorn Spirals

Sometimes experiments take a lot more iterations than you'd like. Fret not! There are always discoveries along the way that will be more interesting than what you originally intended and expected. That's the beauty of the creative process.

As always, please share your investigations to keep the ideas bouncing.