Bread Insanity: Baking Bread on the Grill

I have Bread Insanity. I hope it isn’t contagious.

Ever since last August  I have made all of our bread. Today, we are completely out so I need to make some.

This is the hottest record-breaking heat wave this area has seen since the 1800’s. Today it is 105°F outside with at least 80% humidity or more. I decided not to run today because of the heat, why do I decide to bake bread?

I need to make bread but certainly don’t want to crank my kitchen ovens up to 450°F for an afternoon on the hottest day of the year and the hottest day of June ever recorded here.

So I decided to bake the bread on the grill. Brilliant!

We have a wonderful workhorse of a grill that is over 10 years old. It is stainless steel and cranks 60,000 BTU‘s. Sweet.

I have learned to control the heat chamber like an oven so , bread gets to be baked outside today.

I have never done this before so it will be interesting how it turns out.

Up goes the umbrella to provide the courtyard with shade.

Tea and Thermometer while watching the grill waiting for the bread to bake.
105 F outside; hottest June ever recorded here. The grill set at 450 F raises the temp in the courtyard just a wee bit.

A clean table-cloth is placed on the table, fresh big glass of iced tea is poured and ready to sip with a straw. (Sip with a straw and you get the coldest part of the drink)

Bread is rising; grill is heating.

I have two loaves: one a traditional artisan loaf baked free form and the other in a cast iron pot.

Dough rising in a cast iron pot

I wonder if the heat retention of the cast iron will have any influence on how the loaf bakes.

Since it is so warm out, I leave the loaves on the table, covered, to rise in the warmth. Which happened quite quickly today.

After the grill had warmed for about 10 minutes, the first loaf goes in. The sheet pan fits.

No window to peek in like the oven has.

Timers start. 30 minute countdown begins, then temp to see if it has reached 190°F internally.

I realize I can’t go inside for very long because I need to monitor the temperature and keep it steady at 450°.

Grill temperature nearly there

Sweat. Drink tea, sweat more drink more. I am drinking un- sweet tea with lemon and mint to keep hydrated. Ugh, it sure is hot.

The only running I have done today is to the ladies room.

Damn it gets hot out there quick!

The courtyard is maintaining an ambient temperature between 118°F and 125°F with no air movement. Ek.

Outside temperature in the courtyard

Drink more and wonder about this idea of baking bread on the grill on the hottest day of June ever recorded here.

It must be Bread Insanity. There is no other explanation.

I wonder if I could grill a pie?

First loaf done!

Second loaf done! This is the one in the cast iron.

Finished loaves cooling

Cooling loaves

Ready to eat

How To: Saffron ‘Aioli’

Dear Tyler,

When I had the restaurant, we used this recipe instead of plain mayonnaise for lots of things.

You loved it then, as I’m sure you would now.

Low fat or lite mayonnaise will fine for this.

I prefer and highly recommend Duke’s brand from an old southern family recipe and family run business.

Besides being family run, they make a darn good mayonnaise.

Here is how to turn Saffron Aioli into one great condiment that flavors everything very well.

Use it anywhere you would mayonnaise.

About the ingredients:

Saffron is the stamen of the crocus flower. The best quality comes from Spain and all stamen are hand-picked.

It is one of the worlds most expensive spices.

Saffron is coveted for the lovely yellow color and the exotic scent and flavor it contributes to the dishes wherever used.

I’ll do a post on Saffron later.

Aioli refers to garlic flavored mayonnaise.

However, a true Aioli is crushed garlic with olive oil. Some recipes ask for an egg yolk to assist with the emulsification of oil and garlic. Making it correctly is hard and the mixture is temperamental.

It takes a long time to make real aioli which is why mayonnaise has become a common substitute.

Yes, we will use mayonnaise in this recipe.

Saffron Aioli

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2  Tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon each, minced garlic and minced shallot (use the microplane)

1 cup mayonnaise of your choice – I prefer Dukes.

Just don’t pick “miracle whip”!

Add the vinegar, honey, saffron, shallots and garlic to a small saute pan.

Cook the mixture down until it remains separated when a spoon is drawn through the mixture on the bottom of the pan as shown.

Cool the mixture and add it to mayonnaise

Stir it in thoroughly. The longer the saffron sits in the mixture, the more color will dissipate. Stir it in before using to evenly distribute the flavor and color.

Saffron Aioli

Store this Saffron Aioli in the refrigerator and use within a month. Use the expiration date of the mayonnaise used as your guide.

As the aioli sits, it will become more yellow. Stir the color in so there is uniform color and saffron flavor.

It is delicious!

You can use this as a dressing for steamed vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and asparagus.

If you are one to put mayonnaise on your french fries, try this instead. ;)

Yes, you can leave out the shallots, but you have eaten them and liked them.

Make Saffron Aioli in small batches so it is fresh.

I’d like to know if you remember the flavor when you taste it!

Study well.

Love You,

Mom

BTW: You can purchase a small amount of Saffron in local stores. The quantity you buy is so small it is usually packed in small bags or vials  inside much larger packages to deter theft.

Why theft? Because it is pricy and very small.

I sent you some in a small plastic bag and inside a small mason jar. (The smallest one!) Keep it in a dark cabinet away from the heat of the stove, top of fridge or dishwasher.

It will last a long time, if you keep it sealed and in the dark.

When you use it, you only need a small pinch. Just a a few stamens, 5or 6 are enough for a cup of aioli.

XO

How to Cook Salmon

Dear Tyler,

There are many ways to cook salmon. I am going to suggest one or two simple methods here to get you going.

I like to cook extra when salmon is on the menu because it makes great salmon salad, like tuna salad. When you were little, the first time you have salmon salad, you came home from school and told me it was the best tuna fish sandwich you ever had.

So you will like salmon as a salad, if you don’t recall.

To make the salmon salad, I used Saffron Aioli, which will be the next posting for you.

To address the salmon:

The easiest way for you to cook it is to  start by rinsing the fish under cold water. If you have a large piece, cut it into pieces about 1″ thick, or as thick as you want your portions to be.

Feel along the flesh to locate pin bones. If you find some, pull them out with needle nose pliers.

Pat it dry with a paper towel.

Rub your fingers over the fish to feel for any “pin bones”. Pull these out with a pair of needle nose pliers. They are hard to get out, that is why we use the pliers. If you don’t have pliers, try to pull them out with your fingers, being careful not to destroy the flesh while doing so.

Be careful not to destroy the flesh as you remove the pin bones. If can be pulled apart easily. Look carefully, see how this part of the fish looks ‘damaged’? It isn’t all smooth and together like the rest of the fish.

If the skin is still on, don’t try to remove it. There is a technique I will need to coach you on later and that will be done in person. The skin will be very easy to remove after the fish is cooked.

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. (When the light goes out, the oven has reached 350°F) Pre-heating the oven may take up to 5-10 minutes depending on your oven. Plan ahead.

Oil an oven proof dish so the salmon won’t stick.

Season the fish with at least salt and pepper. You don’t have to use much, but a pinch will make all the difference. Use your favorite.
Notice the cut portion size.

Season the fish with your favorite seasonings. Salt and pepper are just fine, add a squeeze of lime or lemon; drizzle with a bit of olive oil.

Place a saute pan on the heat and get the pan hot. Add a small amount of oil to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin-film of oil. You can brush it on or pour it and tilt the pan to get the bottom coated.

Place the salmon in the pan, top serving side down first. Sear it until it is golden brown. If the fish is ‘sticking’ to the pan, wait a minute or two. When the salmon is ready to turn, it will release on its own.

Using a metal spatula with slots in it, to turn the salmon over.

This tool is called a fish spatula –  but it is useful for much more than fish!

Place the pan in the oven to finish cooking the fish while you get the rest of the dinner ready.

Total cooking time for salmon is in the general area of 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, the accurate temperature of the oven and how long does the salmon stay on the burner or in the oven.

Safety Hint!

Only place pans in the oven that have oven proof handles! If the handles are plastic or other than metal, they cannot be put in the oven. Check your pans to see if the handles are oven proof before you put the pan in the oven.

Continue to cook the fish until it is no longer raw in the center. You can eat salmon medium rare and even raw, but I would advise buying “Sushi Grade” salmon if you want to eat it less than done.

Sushi grade will cost nearly double. It goes through a freezing process to kill any parasites that won’t be killed by cooking.

If you want to cook some rice to go with the salmon, plan on cooking that just before you start the salmon. It will take about 20 minutes for basmati rice; 50 to 1 hour for brown and heavier grain rice.

While the salmon is cooking, steam some vegetables. In the photo, I chose “Romanesco” which is like a green cauliflower but the florets form a very interesting logarithmic spiral  growth pattern.

English: The fractal shape form of a Romanesco...

English: The fractal shape form of a Romanesco broccoli. Français : Une tête de chou Romanesco et sa forme fractale. Photo prise avec un appareil Canon D-60 équipé d’un objectif 18-135 mm IS de même marque.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It tastes a bit like a mix between broccoli and cauliflower. Sometimes called Romanesco broccoli or Roman cauliflower, this vegetable has been around since the 16th century.

Since you like broccoli, look for this too. I am sure you will love it just as much. I like it for the wonderful oddness of it all. To me it is just a marvel!

Cook it the same as you would broccoli.

Other ways to cook salmon:

Another way to cook your fish is to wrap it all up in a tin foil bundle and bake it at 350°F for 10 -15 minutes; until it is done.

Squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice over the salmon, plate it and gobble it all up.

Or

Place the fish on a sheet pan or oven proof dish and instead of sauteing it in a pan, simply place the dish in a pre-heated oven and cook for 10-15 minutes or until done.

The fish is cooked in all cooking methods when it is no longer dark salmon color in the center, it flakes easily and it reads 145°F on an instant read thermometer.

Cold salmon is delicious too.

It will flake easily when done.

When thinking about what seasonings to choose for salmon, remember salmon has a salty profile with a tinge of sweetness. Sweet vinaigrette such as raspberry vinaigrette or honey Dijon vinaigrette make a great sauce for salmon.

Mix white balsamic (or dark balsamic) vinegar with Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Add olive oil to smooth it out and use that as a sauce. Adjust quantities to taste. You don’t need to make a lot.

Whisk it all together and voila! For raspberries, use melted raspberry jam (seedless) or mash some fresh or thawed frozen berries through a wire mesh strainer to get the pulp without the seeds.

That’s another post!

Let me know if you have any questions.

Bon Apetit!

Love,

Mom

How to: Egg White Omelet

Dear Tyler,

You asked: How do you separate eggs to make an egg white omelet?

There are two ways to do it manually and one way to do it while shopping.

Shopping: buy egg whites in a carton like you do milk. What? You don’t buy milk? Then just buy the whites that come in a carton package just like cream or half and half does. You won’t need to separate or waste the yolks.

To do it manually, follow these directions.

To separate yolks from whites, you will need:

  • A raw egg or two or three etc.
  • A bowl to catch the whites
  • A bowl to put the yolks in
  • Trash for the shells

Step 1:

Crack the egg on a flat surface.

Why a flat surface? Between the shell and the actual egg is a membrane that protects the egg. It is attached to the shell. When you crack the egg on a flat surface, the membrane merely splits yet remains attached to the shell.

When the egg is cracked on the edge of something like a bowl or counter edge, the membrane gets torn and separates from the shell allowing shell fragments to get into the eggs.

If this happens, use a large piece of egg-shell to scoop out the fragments of shell.

Crack the egg, separate the shell . . .

Catch the yolk between your fingers.
Allow the whites to fall into the bowl below.

Whip the egg whites for 2-3 minutes. Build some volume to create a fluffy omelet.

The whites should be frothy. Season with salt, pepper, herbs or what ever you prefer. I always used “herbs de Provence”, salt and pepper.

Brush a non-stick pan with oil to leave a thin coating on the bottom and the sides

Pour the frothed and seasoned egg whites into a warm, oiled pan.
When you oil the pan, set the heat to medium. The pan should be warm before you add the seasoned egg whites.
Do not use a hot pan! Medium heat is all you need.

While the eggs are ‘setting’, shred some cheese or desired fillings over the egg whites.

As the whites begin to set, use a heat-resistant spatula to lift the edge of the omelet all the way around the pan.

The omelet should lift easy from the pan. Use your spatula to see if it lifts. If not let it cook a bit longer.
Remember Low to Medium Heat!

Life one side and fold it over the other

Fold it in half and serve right away.
If you let it sit around too long, it will “fall”.
Sure, it will taste as good, just not look the best.

Bon Appétit!

It may take some practice but once you get the hang of it, you will be able to whip out an omelet in no time!

The fillings can be anything you want or have on hand. Just be sure it is fully cooked.

The heat of cooking an omelet is just enough to melt cheese. So keep that in mind.

No raw meats, seafood etc. Cook it first, which is why left overs are great omelet fillings.

Let me know how it works out for you!

Love,

Mom

Blueberry and Lemon Tart

Lemon Blueberry Tarts

A delicious blueberry and lemon tart for Fathers Day!

The tart uses a pie dough made with vodka, a filling with lemon curd and cream cheese crowned with a pile of fresh blueberries.

What could be better?

Pie dough first:

Using vodka in pie dough creates a very flaky crust. The alcohol prevents gluten from forming in the flour as the dough is processed. Gluten is what would make the dough tough. Wonderful for bread, but not so nice in a pie crust.

This dough rolls out beautifully. One secret is to chill the dough for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Use a food processor for speedy results. If you don’t have a processor, use the two knife technique or a pastry cutter to blend the fat and flour, then again to add the vodka and water.

Pie dough ready to roll

Pie Dough with Vodka

English: A dough blender; also called a pastry...

English: A dough blender; also called a pastry blender. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • 2 -1/2 cups AP Flour or King Arthur’s white whole wheat flour
    • Measure it separately: 1 1/2 cups and then another 1 cup
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar (Optional)
  • 1- 1/2 sticks of butter cut into 1/4″ slices to ease combining
  • 1/2 cup Crisco or shortening (Or use all butter)
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup water

Method:

Add 1-1/2 cups flour to the bowl of a food processor. Add the salt, sugar (if using), butter and shortening to the bowl. Put the lid on and pulse until the mixture is about the size of peas.

Add the vodka and water, pulse to combine. Do not overwork which will make the dough tough.

Remove the dough from the bowl, separate into two pieces, flatten into discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and chill either overnight or for at least 2 hours.

Roll the dough, line the pastry dish (pie tin, tart molds) with the pastry.

Dock the crusts before baking

Dock the surface of the dough; cover each tin or mold with parchment, fill with rice or beans and bake at 375°F until the crust is golden brown.

Fill with pie weights or dried beans and bake

Cool the shells before filling.

Cool shells before filling

You can always buy pie crust if you don’t want to make it. You can even pie totally pre-made and cooked shells if you prefer.

Lemon Cream Cheese Filling

8 ounces cream cheese

Homemade lemon curd

Homemade lemon curd (Photo credit: Wikipedia) You can also buy it already made.

4 ounces lemon curd

1/4 cup confectioners sugar (powdered sugar; 10x sugar)

2 ounces heavy cream

2 sheets or 1/4 ounce gelatin powder (Bloomed in the heavy cream)

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Bloom the gelatin. Heat the cream and the gelatin in a double boiler to prevent scorching.  Set aside and keep warm.

Warm the cream cheese slightly in the microwave, it combines better with other ingredients when it isn’t cold. In the bowl of a mixer, add the cream cheese and lemon curd and confectioners sugar.

Mix cream cheese, lemon curd and sugar

Combine until smooth.

Add the warm cream and gelatin, zest and lemon juice to the mixture, mix until smooth.

Fill each of the baked pastry shells with lemon cream cheese mixture, Chill until firm.

To serve, top with fresh blueberries.

Fresh Blueberries

Garnish with a dusting of confectioners sugar and cinnamon.

Use a 5-hole zester to get long thin strips; sprinkle with granulated sugar

Top it all off with a curl of lemon zest and fresh mint leaves.

Dust the berries with confectioners sugar with a small bit of cinnamon over the berries just before serving.

Lemon Blueberry Tarts

Olive Oil Winners

New olive oil, just pressed. It has a dense co...

New olive oil, just pressed. It has a dense colour at first; later, it clarifies by decantation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The winners of Theros Olive Oil are:

  • Terri S
  • Cynthia Boris
  • Manda
  • Arie
  • Denice M

Congratulations!

Please e mail your contact information to: SpoonFeast@gmail.com.

Include your shipping address and your phone so Theros can contact you to ship your bottle of amazing Greek Olive Oil!

Congratulations!

You are going to love this oil.

Thanks for participating.

Food Safety In the Refrigerator

Everyone needs reminders of how to handle food safely. As a professional who teaches food safety, I believe you can’t hear it enough. Small reminders and a bit of education can help save a lot of grief in preventing a multitude of food borne illnesses for anyone who handles food.

Do you know how to keep food safe in the refrigerator?

Current Contents of Refrigerator

Current Contents of Refrigerator (Photo credit: Natalie Maynor)

This post will outline the basic concept of refrigerator storage to reduce the chance of cross contamination.

The top of the fridge should be home to all ready to eat foods. Sandwich meats, cheese, leftovers get stored above raw products.

Some refrigerators have 2 bottom drawers. Designate one for raw meats and one for fresh produce. If you only have one large drawer, buy plastic storage bin that will fit on one side and designate that for meat storage. Keep all poultry separate from meat.

Raw meats should be stored in the following order

  1. Things that swim
  2. Things that walk
  3. Things that are ground-up walking around
  4. Things that fly or come from things that fly

This is called “The Swim, Walk, Fly System” of refrigerated storage.

To describe each category:

  1. Things that swim

    English: Sushi is a dish made of vinegared ric...

    Raw seafood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Raw fresh water and salt water fish, whole or fillets, shell-fish, shrimp, lobster, crab, mussels, oysters, etc.

If it is pre-cooked, it goes with the ready-to-eat category.

2. Things that walk

English: Veal shank used for ossobuco. Dansk: ...

English: Veal shank used for osso buco.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Raw beef, pork, veal, lamb, venison, boar, buffalo

     3. Things that are ground-up walking around

Raw Ground beef

Raw Ground beef (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Any raw ground beef, veal, pork, venison, buffalo: if it is ground up it goes below whole muscle meats.

      4. Things that fly or come from things that fly

Raw chicken fillet

Raw chicken fillet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All raw birds: chicken, quail, turkey, pheasant, squab, duck, and even though it does not fly, ostrich belongs in this category.

Raw eggs belong on the bottom shelf too. If one breaks, it won’t have the chance of dripping all over other things in the refrigerator.

Here is an interesting experiment to try with a raw egg:

English: The white eggshell has been removed b...

English: The white eggshell has been removed by soaking a normal chicken egg into vinegar for 48 hours. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course don’t eat the egg after.

Make it a habit to wash the drawers and shelves when they get soiled or sticky.

An open box of baking soda will help absorb strong odors.

After handling raw meats, poultry and seafood, be sure to wash and sanitize the knives, cutting boards, sinks and counter tops to prevent cross contamination.

Clorox Clean-up spray does a great job of this. Use gloves when handling to protect your skin.

That’s it for now.

I’m going to go soak an egg.