Frost on the pumpkin means baking and cooking classes at Bull Brook Keep

What better way to warm up your kitchen – and light up the faces of family and friends – than with the aromas and flavors of freshly baked artisan breads, and luscious grass-fed beef, lamb, pastured pork or pasture-raised chicken?!

Lovely crispy crust

Lovely crispy crust

Yes, you can bake hearth breads in your home oven and with your busy schedule. Get your hands in dough and learn how to use time, temperature and hydration (the amount of water in the dough) to bend the baking process to fit your schedule.
Each class is limited to 4-6 students. Beverages, samples and hearty lunch provided. Cost: $48.50/student (plus small credit card fee).

  • Classes based on poolish (a bubbly, batter-like yeast starter used to make focaccia, ciabatta and pizza), Oct. 29 or Dec. 10. For details.
  • Classes based on French Sourdough (a mild, versatile country bread), Nov. 19, or Dec. 17. For details.
  • Cooking Grass-fed Beef, and pastured Pork and Chicken
    Pastured meats tend to be lean, which is why it’s so important to cook them properly. You don’t want to dry out your roast, or toughen a steak. In our meat cooking class, we’ll look at two approaches for great taste, tenderness and high nutrition: low and slow, and fast using a pressure cooker to make delicious short ribs or beef stew, fall-apart chicken or bone broth, to name just a few dishes.

    5-7-hr flamed-brandy chuck roast

    5-7-hr flamed-brandy chuck roast

    Each class is limited to 4-6 students. Beverages, samples and a hearty, meaty lunch provided. Cost: $49.25/student (plus small credit card fee).

  • Cook delicious pastured meats fast & slow, Nov.1, 1-5PM, for details.
  • li>Cook delicious pastured meats fast & slow, Dec. 3, 11AM-3PM, for details.
  • Ya gotta have heart!!

    Americans love their flame grilled steaks, simmering pot roasts, and juicy burgers. But what about the rest of that 100% grass-fed steer? What do you do with the heart, liver, tongue, oxtail, shank bones and other lesser known cuts? Today, we’ll focus on the heart because it can become a favorite.
    The heart of a full-grown beef steer can weight four or five pounds.It’s the most lean cut of meat in the cow. It’s also a muscle that’s worked constantly since conception. Lack of fat and constant use can make any muscle tough if not cooked correctly. Fortunately, there’s a great recipe and approach that makes for a luscious stew of tender morsals.
    I adapted this recipe from Jennifer McLagan’s “Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal.” I’ve tapped the unique cooking powers of a stove-top pressure cooker to yield tender beef and a savory sauce. It’s a hearty meal when served over hot rice and with a side of steamed carrots. I washed my dinner down with home-brewed kombucha.

    Moroccan beef heart stew with brown rice and home-fermented kimchi.

    Moroccan beef heart stew with brown rice and home-fermented kimchi.

    Here’s a recipe for a 4 lb. heart. If you have a cut of heart that’s smaller, simply reduce the other ingredients proportionally. Or, you can make the full recipe for the sauce – it’s delicious on eggs, polenta, rice or baked potatoes. Here’s the recipe:
    Braised Heart

    Audio

    Chefs for sustainable food – James Beard Foundation VP Kris Moon on the new Impact Programs

    We all know that chefs can cook, some of them extraordinarily. And we know that what they cook can reflect and flavor local culture. But did you know our chefs can – and increasingly do – play a role in redesigning a more sustainable, healthful food system in America?
    I really enjoyed this conversation with Kris Moon, Vice President of the James Beard Foundation because the foundation’s Impact Programs spotlight and promote chef-led efforts to rebuild a more nutritious and regionally-sourced food system in our country.
    Experienced and trained in restaurant management, nutrition and major networking events, Moon is leading programs true to the values and heart of the foundation’s namesake, James Beard – the chef and cookbook author who was lovingly regarded as “America’s favorite chef.”
    I hope you enjoy this Deep Roots Radio conversation.
    Sylvia

    Connecting the dots between what we eat and how its grown

    Connecting the dots between what we eat and how its grown

    Baking French sourdough without $$$ artsy extras. Some alternatives.

    I’ve been baking bread a long time, and I’ll admit it – I love the equipment and gadgets that come with artisan baking. Thing is, those extras can add up to some serious change. Can you bake great French sourdough without a $35 willow banneton, a $15 lame, or pricy organic rice flour for dusting a linen couche? Can you get a high, lofty loaf without the aid of a steam-capturing dutch oven. And what about those large plastic buckets used for the first (bulk) fermentation? Nobody gives those away.

    Lovely crispy crust

    Lovely crispy crust

    I didn’t have any of these things when I first started baking bread. Now, I’ve got all of them. I was brought up short recently when one of my baking students said she was “disenchanted by the expensive extras” needed to produce the deep brown crust and open crumb of French sourdough.

    And so, this challenge to myself: to share lower-cost alternatives.

    Here we go!

    Options for the first rise aka bulk fermentation

    Options for the first rise aka bulk fermentation


    The first rise (bulk fermentation). I use plastic buckets, and if you’ve got one, great. If not, use whatever you have on hand that’s big enough to contain your dough as it rises, and that’ll let you see its progress. Any large bowl or metal pot will do. Caution: make sure whatever you use is food grade. Don’t use a container that once held toxic substances.
    To keep dough surface moist. You want to make sure the dough’s surface stays moist and pliable. I use elasticized plastic caps purchased at my local grocery store. I like them because they’re sturdy enough to reuse 4-6 months. That said, you don’t need them. Use plastic wrap. Re-use the food-grade plastic bags your veggies/fruits came in. Be sure to lightly oil the surface facing the dough so that it won’t stick to it.
    Bannetons and towel-lined colander

    Bannetons and towel-lined colander


    For the second rise. I just love willow and wicker baskets for raising the shaped loaf. (They’re called bannetons or brotforms.) But are they required? No. Instead, line a colander or bowl with a really well-floured towel (sack or other close-weave, not terry). Don’t have an extra towel? A clean old cotton shirt or sheet will work. Cut it to a generous size, and flour it like crazy.
    Knife, commercial lame, and a DIY version

    Knife, commercial lame, and a DIY version


    Scoring your loaf. We score, or slash, a loaf so that the crusts rises without tearing the loaf. Lots of bakers use this step to cut a signature design into each loaf. A lame is the professional baker’s choice, but you don’t need to spend big bucks. This short video demonstrates how you can assemble your own in about 10 seconds.
    I’ve also gotten good results with sharp knives, especially those with very small serrations. The objective is to create clean slashes; you don’t want to drag your knife or razor through the dough. Have fun!
    Parchment paper. You need some way to get your risen loaf from the form (banneton or towel-lined colandar/bowl) to your hot oven. Some people sprinkle coarse cornmeal on a peel or cooking sheet. I don’t because any cornmeal sticking to the loaf burns during the bake, and I don’t like the char taste. Parchment paper is a “must have” for me.
    Metal peel, a curl of parchment paper and some old sack towels

    Metal peel, a curl of parchment paper and some old sack towels


    A peel. – I use a metal peel to transfer my scored loaf into the oven. I used to use a wooden one but found it a bit clumsy. A cookie sheet works.

    Baking. Baking bread in a dutch oven has become wildly popular because the enclosure captures steam rising from the bread during the first 20 minutes, an environment that encourages fast expansion, and thereby, a loftier loaf. It’s a home-baker’s way of approximating the steam-injected space in professional ovens. Does it work? Yes. Is it required? No.
    (If you do decide a dutch oven’s the way to go, however, use whatever’s in you kitchen now. Or hunt down an inexpensive buy at your local thrift store or garage sale.)


    This non-dutch oven alternative has two components: the surface you’ll bake on, and a way to add steam to the hot oven.
    1) Before you turn on your oven:
    Place an old, beat up cake or pie tin on the oven floor. You’ll use this tin to add steam to the oven. This will corrode the tin, so consider it for this use only.
    Place a pizza stone, old cast iron griddle (smooth side up) or cookie sheet in the oven.
    2) Pre-heat your oven to 500 degrees F.
    3) Put your peel (or an extra cookie sheet) on a flat surface. Cut a sheet of parchment paper larger than your risen loaf. Place the parchment over the dough while it’s still resting in your form. Invert your risen loaf,, with the parchment, onto the peel.
    4) score the loaf and spray with water
    5) Open the oven door and pour 1/2 c of water into the pan sitting on the oven floor. BE CAREFUL of the very hot steam.
    6) Spritz the oven walls with water, quickly.
    7) Slide your love(s) onto the pizza stone, griddle or cookie sheet.
    8) Close the oven door. Wait 30 seconds, then spritz the oven walls again. BE CAREFUL not to drip water on the glass of your oven door or to spray water on oven bulbs.
    9) Bake as directed.

    Interested in baking sourdough? Drop me a line, sylvia@bullbrookkeep.com. I hold hands-on classes for small groups of 4-6.
    Sylvia

    Hearth breads made with poolish. Say, what?

    Why is it that the hearth breads taste so good? Why do they have those wonderful brown crusts that crunch and shatter when you bite into them? And those holes! When you slice or tear them, their interiors are filled with large glossy holes perfect for holding butter and olive oil and tapenades. Why can’t you make them at home? Do you really need a wood-fired oven?

    Hold on…let’s get rid of the myth first. You can bake hearth breads in your home oven. It’s not rocket science, but like anything worthwhile, hearth baking takes a bit of planning and time. Fortunately, however, you’re not chained to your kitchen. On the contrary; you use time, temperature and wet doughs to bend the bread-making process to fit into your schedule.
    One strategy is using a pre-ferment – a portion of the total dough that’s mixed hours ahead of the bake. Why? Because a long contact between the water and flour helps free up more of the starches, sugars and proteins that help create great flavor. A pre-ferment also gives the loaf a longer shelf life.
    One type of pre-ferment is called a poolish. (Some bread experts believe the term is of Polish origin, hence the name.)

    Easy to make poolish starter (pre-ferment)

    Easy to make poolish starter (pre-ferment)

    It’s an easy-to-make batter made with flour, water and a tiny bit of yeast. You make it 4-16 hours before making the final dough. During those hours, it ferments on your kitchen counter or in your frig, a cold closet or in a chilly root cellar. The colder you keep it, the longer you can extend this process. You can tell it’s ready to use when the thick batter’s filled with bubbles and smells sweet.
    When you’re ready to bake, you combine the poolish with the rest of your flour, additional water, sometimes a smidge of yeast, and salt to make up the final dough.
    Focaccia with herb oil and freshly cracked salt

    Focaccia with herb oil and freshly cracked salt

    Loaves made with poolish include ciabatta, pizza, focaccia and other rustic breads.

    Learn to make hearth breads using poolish at my hands-on class Tuesday, February 16 at Bull Brook Keep. I’m also holding a class on sourdough breads February 20. Classes are limited to 5 students. For details and to sign up, click here.
    Sylvia

    When it’s too hot: Get ready…set…ferment!

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    It feels like 150 degrees out there; way too hot for picking beans, weeding beets and thinning carrots. And the thought of putting huge pots of water to boil to blanch greens and can veggies is crazy-making. But that’s what summer’s about, isn’t it – enjoying what you can now of the fruits and veggies from your garden, CSA box or farmers market, and preserving the rest for the much cooler days we know are ahead.
    Fermentation is a great way to preserve veggies without heating up the kitchen. For example, yesterday – when it was 84 degrees – I put up kimchi (think of a very spicy Asian version of sauerkraut) and swiss chard stems. It was easy.
    What is fermentation, you ask? It’s a method of preserving foods that’s been used for thousands of years by cultures the world over.
    In a nutshell, and at its most basic, what you do is submerge your chopped, sliced or whole veggie in salted water (a brine) and then let the action of anaerobic bacteria do their work to “sour” the food. The beneficial micro-organism harnessed for this work is lactobacillus bacteria. That’s why this process is sometimes referred to as lacto-fermentation.
    By the way, although the terms sound similar, lacto-fermentation has nothing to do with milk and lacto-intolerance. Instead, lacto refers to the lactic acid produced by the bacteria which acidifies the food, releases additional nutrients from the veggie, and keeps it safe to eat. Think of sauerkraut – fermented cabbage. Fermented foods can be ready to eat in a handful of days or after several weeks, and then stored for months more. Key to this process is constantly keeping the veggies submerged.

    Napa cabbage kimchi and swiss chard stems ferment

    Napa cabbage kimchi and swiss chard stems ferment


    Oh, and what did I do with the chard leaves I stripped from the stems? I blanched them in boiling water for two (2) minutes and then plunged them into ice water to stop the cooking and ready them for the freezer. Again – easy.
    So what’ll it be this weekend (after it cools down enough to head out to the garden)? I think I’ll pick green beans to ferment with a brine and a variety of other spices. Fennel? Caraway? Dill? What will work best with my grass-fed beef burgers, pot roasts and steaks?
    Here are some of the books I’m using to build my fermentation skills:
    – The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor E. Katz
    – Fermented Vegetables, by Kristen K. Shockey & Christopher Shockey
    – The Kimchi Cookbook, by Lauryn Chun
    – The Nourished Kitchen, by Jennifer McGruther
    – Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning, by The Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivante
    What are you fermenting?
    Sylvia