Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bread and cheese

I belong to the rapidly dying breed of snail-mail magazine subscribers. I am trying to modernize by following blogs, but there is little else that gives me a thrill like getting a real, glossy magazine in the mail. Given that we do most of our household business online now, if you took away the magazines and seed catalogs, there would be little left in our mailbox beside junk mail. My absolute favorite magazine issue of the year is the Saveur Top 100. It comes out in January, and basically is a random assortment of 100 food-related selections: recipes, techniques, geographic regions. Invariably, there are things I have never heard of and recipes I want to try. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Saveur is the single best source of food anthropology in the mainstream media. I am always surprised by the regional food-lore they manage to uncover. They cover some edible gardening topics as well -- from them I first learned of Armenian cucumbers and Sungold tomatoes, as well as how to preserve a wide variety of garden produce.

This year, my favorite selection was a recipe for Roasted Radishes. What? I never heard of this technique! Now I am counting the days until my soil is "workable" and I can get some radishes going in my backyard. I also was psyched to see a big review of the best kitchen supply store in Paris, since I am headed there shortly. Already I am scheming on how to wedge some copper cookware into my suitcase. In this age of terrorism, I assume I won't be able to bring back any new kitchen knives. Given my already unwieldy collection, this is probably for the best. Finally, this new issue turned me on to an artisan bread baking website, The Fresh Loaf. This ain't no Epicurious! There are some serious bakers on here. Saveur suggested trying one of the site's top-rated recipes, the buttermilk cluster. Now, I am not a big dinner roll fan - it smacks of hotel buffet to me, or a 1950's Sunday dinner. But these rolls are good. Really good. They are easy on the eyes as well -- check out the picture above. I will offer one caution to the cook: they are gigantic and filling. These are less like dainty dinner rolls and more like 12 individual loaves of hearty bread. But with soup and a salad, no one eating at your table will leave unsatisfied.

I found a good price on milk this week, so I also tried out a new recipe for Monterrey Jack cheese. I once owned a real cheese mold for pressing, but it disappeared when we moved from Rogers Park to K-Town. So here is the 1-pound size cheese mold I rigged from a tomato can:

I detached both ends of the can, using one end as a follower and the other end in place, but able to drain. The scheme worked decently, although the cheesecloth snagged on the can and bunched, giving me a less than perfect final shape:

I also made some ricotta from the leftover whey:

Usually, I add some more milk to the whey to increase the yield of the ricotta. I forgot, so only got a scant 1/2 cup - not enough for ravioli, as I was planning. I mixed what I had with some maple syrup until it was smooth, and my son was happy to gobble it up as a make-shift pudding. A lot of the homesteading books talk about giving whey to your kids to drink as a replacement for soda. But unless I trick it out with sugar and flavoring, I doubt my son would go for it. So I'll keep making ricotta, even if the yield is low. Anyway, the cheese has now air dried for two days, and I will wax it this afternoon. After a month or two in my cheese cave (a.k.a the 55 degree laundry room in my basement), I will test it out. I'll make some rosemary crackers for the occasion. It will be just the snack to have prior to facing the March chill and planting those radish seeds!

1 comment:

  1. You are amazing! - The bread is beautiful. And, I think I want to try the radishes. Thanks