Friday, May 15, 2009

Testing Bittman's flatbread.

The most underrated food celebrity in the many-starred food celebrity universe: Mark Bittman. Not only does he write excellent cookbooks, make hilarious TV series which may be airing on your local PBS station, and often dress like a parody of a Frenchman, but he's also, thankfully, all over the Internet.

In April, Bittman did a great video demonstrating an easy flatbread recipe (go check it out, at least for the brilliant opening sequence), and Jon and I didn't get around to trying it until tonight.

In the basic recipe, Bittman suggests using whole wheat flour - although in the video, he suggests adding a bit of corn meal. For extra fanciness, he suggests adding light coconut milk in place of water, and even curried cauliflower - which seems like we're venturing pretty deep into uthappam land.

Anyways, we're gluttons so we obviously had no light coconut milk around. We also happened to be out of regular whole wheat flour, so instead, Jon improvised a blend of whole wheat pastry flour (less gluten) with bread flour (more gluten), plus some semolina for tastiness. Here is the rundown:

Mark Bittman is likely NOT lying to us when he says this flatbread recipe is easy and good.

  • 0.25 C semolina flour
  • 0.25 C whole wheat pastry flour
  • 0.5 C King Arthur bread flour
  • 1 can (14 oz) of coconut milk (full-fat!)
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Oven-safe pan

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In mixing bowl, whisk together all the ingredients - dry stuff first.

3. Heat olive oil in pan. Once pan is hot, pour batter in, then put the whole pan in the oven. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour.

Results and Analysis
This is what it looked like fresh out of the oven:

Then, Jon exercised his flipping skills so we could admire the flatbread's purportedly more attractive bottom:

I will not impose value judgments on the attractiveness of our breads. ALL of our breads are beautiful to me, top, bottom, and all-around. An edge shot:

This bread was easy, and tasty, and, indeed, flat. The biggest bummer was that it took 50 minutes to bake. Also, perhaps because we used full-fat coconut milk, it was a tad underdone on the inside while still nice and crisp on the outside.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Breads of novelty.

During the Glindster's second stop at our nameless Baltimore abode, three kinds of bread were made. One unfortunately escaped photographic documentation, which is really too bad because it took novelty bread to the next level. It involved scalded milk, browned butter, toasted flour, and burnt sugar -- plus lots of magical gluten (some might say, too much magical gluten.) We called it the Lindley Loaf, and it showed amazing staying power, as well as the ability to make Eric ill-at-ease.

Eric also made us English muffins - which we enjoyed in the form of eggs florentine, with Eric-made hollandaise sauce. (Were you even aware of it: hollandaise sauce is like warm mayonnaise! Delicious.) Needless to say, it was amazing:

In accordance with the Meal Plan we drafted on Eric's arrival, we made bagels on Sunday. We were also supposed to celebrate Hunter's Southern heritage with our wildly offensive caricature of what we thought that meant, breakfast-wise, but instead we showed some uncharacteristic restraint.

This is what the bagels looked like before boiling: moist, gleaming and naked:

This is what they looked like after baking:

They were nearly perfect in texture, and very neutral in taste. I think Eric used honey instead of malt? We suspect that malt might have made them more bagel-y. Anyways, they were excellent media for sandwiches of all sorts, or strawberry cream cheese.

Recipes for both the English muffins and bagels from the inestimable Bread Baker's Apprentice.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Perfect Day for Banana Bread

Doesn't anyone post on this blog anymore? Answer: I do I do!

What makes a perfect day for banana bread? Is it shell-shock? Suicidal tendencies? Possible pedophilia? No, no, and no! A perfect day for banana bread is when you have nearly rotten bananas that you need to use up.

Wait until you have approximately 5 bananas that are too ripe to be at all enticing. Two of these bananas will be totally rotten, to the point that they're a gooey mess that leaks all over your microwave (you never knew bananas could do that!) unfortunately destroying your portrait of Barack Obama, which was sent to you by your congressional representative, along with a note stating that he went to the inauguration and you didn't, probably because you live in his district and are therefore impoverished. But this is okay, because (a) The initial humor of the Barack Obama portrait had worn off, and now it just seemed creepy, having his image stare down at you from the top of your refrigerator, and you realized your friends laughed nervously when they saw it, wondering if it was some kind of shrine, and if you might be the kind of friend who would pester them to join you in phone-banking during the next election; and (b) You only need about 3 bananas to make this recipe!

You will use a recipe taken mainly from, except you will add cinnamon and walnuts, because that sounds like a good idea. These are your ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened (except you never leave the butter out to soften ahead of time, so you put it on top of your oven to get some heat from the pilot light. But this is a delicate process, and you will almost certainly leave it a little too long so that a melty stream of it will curl around the top of your oven.)
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (You know all about those bananas.)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9"x5" loaf pan. (Except you don't have a loaf pan, so you use a 9"x13" baking pan, which you block off at the 5" mark with a piece of foil, a technique that works sometimes, but not particularly well with bread, which pushes back the foil as it rises, so that instead of having a loaf shaped bread, you will end up with a funny square-shaped bread, but that's okay.)

2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl (except you use a medium-sized sauce pan, because your mixing bowls are in your parents' attic in San Jose, California, and while you could just buy new mixing bowls here, you keep putting it off because you believe that one day soon, you'll go there and actually bring back the mixing bowls, along with your backpacking backpack and your copy of Salinger's Nine Stories, which you just remembered you want to reread, after contemplating the title of this post) cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then the banana.

3. Stir in the flour, baking soda and cinnamon, then the walnuts, stirring just until combined. (! Stirring more messes with the density of your bread !) (So you've heard.)

4. Plop into your prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the pan, cool and eat up. Refrigerate or freeze to keep.

Serving suggestion: You will finish baking this bread at approximately 12:15 at night, at which point you will eat little pieces of it while it is still too hot to handle. You will do this because there is something deliciously decadent about completing a baked good in the middle of the night. You will then play online boggle and create bad video art. When you wake the following morning, you will try to decide if you want cream of wheat or toast for breakfast, and then you will remember with great joy that you have an amusing square of banana bread in the fridge. Your breakfast will thus look something like this: