Monthly Archives: January 2012

Street Tacos – Barbacoa Beef

Some friends made street tacos for us a while back, and we fell in love!  ‘Street’ tacos are one item in a long list of ‘street foods’ that are becoming popular in restaurants across the U.S.  In our kitchen, street tacos consist of hand-made small tortillas (sometimes corn, sometimes wheat) with the following fillings/toppings:  some kind of slow cooked meat, fresh pico de gallo, queso cotija, avacados (or guacamole), sour cream, pickled red onions, and homemade beans (pinto, red, or black) on the side.

We’ll try to get to each component of our beloved street tacos, but for now let’s focus on barbacoa beef.  The original recipe I tried can be found here.  It’s a Chipotle Mexican Grill barbacoa knock off recipe and it’s quite good.  I’m posting with the changes I’ve made.

Barbacoa Beef

1/3 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar

4 Tbsp Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice

6 Chipotle Peppers canned in adobo sauce

1 Yellow Onion

7 Cloves Garlic

6 tsp Ground Cumin

7 Sprigs Fresh Oregano (Leaves plucked, discard stems)

1 1/2 tsp Black Pepper

2 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp Ground Clove

2 Tbsp Honey

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

3-4 lb Beef Roast (we used a shoulder cut)

3 Dried Bay Leaves

5 Juniper Berries slightly crushed

1 Cup Chicken or Vegetable Broth

1/4 Cup Dry Vermouth

Cut roast into larger chunks, salt and pepper.

Combine first eleven ingredients in a food processor.  Blend until smooth.  Add this sauce to crock pot along with Bay Leaves, Juniper Berries, and Broth.  Turn heat to high.

Heat Olive Oil in large pan.  Lightly brown roast pieces and transfer to sauce mixture.

Deglaze pan with the Vermouth and add this to crockpot.  Stir to cover beef with sauce.

Cover and Simmer meat until tender and easily torn apart with fork (this takes us about 5 hours), adjusting heat during cook time as necesasry.  To reduce sauce, turn lid on crockpot a little for last hour or so of cook time.

We increased the amount of several of the ingredients…we wanted a bit more ‘pop’.  We also added the honey and vermouth for a little sweetness in an attempt to offset the heat/vinegar acidity a little.  You could definitely increase the heat of this dish by adding more chipotle peppers or some other hot pepper.  I think it would probably be good with some roasted red bell peppers (a little sweet and roasty would probably compliment) as well.  Stay tuned for the whole enchilada street taco!  Up next Beans…

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Almost There aka Bread # 3

This one turned out pretty good.  I still want to work on getting an airier interior, but this is the best looking bread I have achieved so far.

Bread #3

Sponge:

1 1/2 Cups (213 g) Bread Flour

1/2 Cup (68 g) Whole Wheat Flour

1 1/2 Cups Water, Room Temperature

1 Cup Yeast Starter

Dough:

1 3/4 Cups (217 g) All Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup (71 g) Bread Flour

2 1/2 tsp (14 g) Kosher Salt

So the night before baking, I mixed up the sponge by combining the flours in a bowl and then adding in the starter and water.  I gave it all a good stir, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in a moderately cool room (50-60 F).

8 – 12 hours later and there were bubbles!

Now, add in the rest of the ingredients and stir them around.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for about 20 minutes. Until it has a nice soft, smoothness.  Shape the dough into a ball and put it in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, to rise for about 2 hours.

Now that that rise is over, lightly reshape the dough.  I diverge from my typical MO, pressing down the dough and only gently reshaping it into a baton.  A friend of mine who makes some really nice bread, told me that he has been getting better results with the oven spring and a more airy texture by just punching down the dough and popping it in the oven.  So I’m giving it a go, granted I’m still handling the dough a bit more than I think he did.  The dough is not quite as firm as I’m used too.  I’m fighting the urge to not just throw some more flour on it and start kneading again.  With a wetter dough, the rise seems more outward rather than upward.  (I find this to be true of myself as I age and drink more beer…)  This is why I’m reshaping it a little; I’m trying to encourage a little upward mobility.  I’ve read that a wetter dough can make for a more complex crumb, granted a dough that is too wet will not rise.  Since, I’m baking at altitude, a little extra moisture helps overcome the dry climate.  Anyway, here it is on my makeshift peel:

Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for an hour.  Preheat the oven to 450F with a pizza stone for 30 minutes.

Okay, now it’s ready to go in.  I shake the “peel” a bit to loosen up the bread and make a slash down the center.

I spray a little water, from a spray bottle,  onto the sides of the oven to build up steam and then slide the soon-to-be bread onto the stone.  It bakes for 5 minutes and I spray the oven walls again.  Note: When spraying the oven use caution that you do not spray the light bulb in the back of the oven.  Some oven models have protective coverings on the bulb and some do not.  Mine does not.  During one baking experience I hit the bulb and it exploded.  Little glass pieces flying everywhere.  Luckily no one was injured, but it did make a mess.  An alternative method of introducing steam without spraying is to add an empty pan to the oven during the preheat.  Then bring a couple cups of water to a boil and just before sliding in the dough, pour a cup or two of hot water into the hot pan.  Presto Stem!

After 15 minutes of baking, lower the temperature to 350F and continue baking for another 20 minutes or so…

Ding!  Bread is done.  It looks nice and brown, and sounds somewhat hollow like a drum when tapped on the bottom.  You could also check the internal temperature.  It should register about 210F.

Allow it to cool completely before cutting into it.

So with this loaf, I feel I could have baked it another five minutes.  It was not doughy or anything, just a little moister than I think it needed to be?  Maybe that is nitpicking…

The bread tasted really good.  A light sourness, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a sourdough.  Good crisp crust.  The crumb was nice.  It needs to be lighter with more and larger bubbles.  Especially, in the lower center of the loaf.  Texture was a great balance between soft and chewy.  I’m looking forward to Bread # 4!


The Revolver

I ran across this drink while trying to figure out what to do with my newly created coffee liqueur.

The Revolver was created by Jon Santer of Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco.  The next time I happen to be in San Fran, I will definitely be stopping in.  I’m not exactly sure how the drink came about, the inspiration behind it and what not, but if you’re out there Jon, would you care to comment?  Otherwise I shall be forced to come up with an outlandish story…

The recommendation is to use a rye-heavy bourbon such as Bulleit, Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare.  Honestly, I think, any bourbon would probably work, but the rye edge gives the drink it’s spicier character which balances the rich sweetness of the liqueur and helps to bring out the earthy coffee tones.  You could use Tia Maria (that’s what Jon used) or other coffee liqueurs, if you did not make your own.  For the bitters, I used Scrappy’s Orange Bitters which have a bright, sharp zip to them.  Fee Bros would be a second choice.  Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6 would work, too, but  think the fresh orange quality of those other bitters helps tie the drink together more so than the spicier Regan’s would.

The Revolver

2 ounces Bourbon

1/2 ounce Coffee Liqueur

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Combine with ice in a mixing glass and stir, about 40 revolutions.

Strain into a cocktail glass.  Garnish with an orange peel, flaming optional.

(How to Flame a Citrus Peel coming soon…)

I tried one version of the Revolver with a flamed orange peel and one without.  The caramelized sugars of the peel brought out the creamy caramel notes in the liqueur and bourbon which nicely smoothed and rounded the flavors.

The ashiness of the coffee liqueur still came through (see coffee liqueur #1).  It wasn’t undrinkable or anything, but I felt that it took away from the sweet balance in the drink.  A round 2 with the coffee liqueur is going to happen.  And soon.

To compensate for the ashy liqueur I made:

The Revolver 2.o

2 oz Bourbon

1/2 oz Coffee Liqueur

1/2 tsp Sweet Vermouth (Noilly Prat)

3 dashes Orange Bitters

2 Orange Peels

One of those orange peels was added to the mixing glass along with the vermouth and bitters.  I gave it a light muddle, to press out the oils, not to pulverize.

Then added the bourbon and coffee liqueur, filled with ice and stirred.  Strained out into a cocktail glass and garnish with the other orange peel, which got a little flame treatment as well.

The goal here was to better utilize the coffee liqueur I made by boosting the sweetness and the orange-y essence.  Taking a note from one of my favorite cocktails, the Manhattan, I felt the vermouth would provide enough sweetness while contributing to the overall complexity of the drink.  It is a small enough addition to almost fly under the radar, but large enough to move the drink in the direction I wanted it to go.

The muddled orange peel and additional dash of bitters were enough to successfully connect with the hint of orange peel in the liqueur and to really make the aromatics pop.

I think succeeded in making the other elements of the drink more diverting and only, lightly masking the ashy finish. There was an awkward bitterness in the finish, not ashy, but distracting.  Still not quite there.

24 hours later – I made both of these drinks again, just for the photos…  This time we liked the first rendition of the Revolver better.  The ashy quality from the night before was more subdued.  Not really sure why.  The first time through we used Bulleit and this second time we used Eagle Rare.  That might have made the difference.  I also did a better job on flaming the peels.  On version 2.0, that odd bitterness was still there like a sore thumb.  We found it more unpleasant then the new, less ashy version of 1.0.

Let’s revisit this when the new coffee liqueur is ready.


A Bit Ashy aka Coffee Liqueur #1

We read a recipe in Imbibe Magazine (Issue 33 Sept/Oct 2011) about making your own coffee liqueur and we were itching to try it.  Here is what we did, with a slight variation:

750ml of Aged Cachaca (we used Ypioca Cachaca Empalhada Ouro)

375ml of Spiced Rum (Captain Morgan 100 Proof Spiced Rum)

1/2 cup Water

6 oz Coffee, Coarsely Ground (we used a full city+ roasted Sumatran)

Peel of one Orange

Peel of half a Lemon

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 1/4 cup Turbinado Sugar

You will need a jar or container with a lid that can comfortably hold all of the coffee,  the booze, and the water.  Since this is basically cold brewed coffee, it occurred to me that the glass decanter from my Toddy would be the perfect size to hold it all.

Combine everything except the sugar in the glass jar, cover and let steep for at least 24 hours.  Giving the jar a shake whenever you think about it.  I ended up letting this infuse for 48 hours because I didn’t get around to it the day before.

Next you’ll want to strain out all the bits.

I lined a canning funnel with a Chemex coffee filter and poured the liqueur through into a Mason jar, trying my best to keep as much of the coffee as I could in the jar.  This took awhile, but it worked.  In the future I think I will purchase some cheaper more porous filters and see if it speeds up this process any.

Now pour the stained liquid into a medium saucepan, turn the heat to medium and bring the liquid to a simmer.  Be careful not to boil it or you risk losing some of the kick as well as denaturing the flavor of the coffee.  Turn the heat down and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes.  You are looking to reduce the liquid by a quarter or so.

Remove from the heat.  Add in the sugar and stir it around to completely dissolve.  Let this cool to room temperature.  Then strain it again into a clean mason jar.  I skipped that step.

The resulting coffee liqueur will keep refrigerated for up to a month.

Now for the part where we taste it and consider what to do differently next time.  This is a heady, full flavored cordial.  Not as sweet as Kahlua, but still with a nice syrupy quality.  The initial flavor is nicely coffee sweet with noticeable fortification from the cachaca.  The peels come through mid taste contributing a refreshing, light citrus complexity.  I think next time I will leave out the lemon and just use the orange peel to get a cleaner orange flavor, then we’ll see how much the lemon added.  Also, I will use a split vanilla bean rather than extract.  The vanilla flavor was pretty subtle, noticeable, but subtle.  Not sure I really want to change that level of vanilla per se, but maybe the quality of it.  I think the bean would contribute a more “authentic” vanilla flavor.

The overall flavor of the liqueur was pretty good.  It was the finish that I really didn’t care for.  It was too ashy and harsh, similar to the sensation of just having smoked a cigar.  For common cocktail use, it got in the way and just wasn’t pleasant.  Why the ashy harshness?

I have two thoughts:

A)  I let the coffee steep too long.  I will try to be ready to proceed after the 24 hours next time.  That should help with the over-extraction issue which most likely added some bitter harshness.

B)  Coffee selection.  Admittedly, the Sumatran coffee is on the darker end of the spectrum.  It is kind of an earthy coffee anyway and I think, with the added roast flavor, it just got ashy.  So on round 2, I’ll go with something in the medium roast level.  Sumatran coffee could still be a good option, but I’ll have to roast it lighter next time.  I will probably use a different coffee.

C)  The cachaca was a decent option.  The spiced rum might have had a bit too much kick.  Maybe a “regular” strength spirit would temper the alcohol heat to a less burn-your-nose-hairs level.  I think I’ll try bourbon next time because I really like bourbon and in my head it seems like a natural fit.  Maybe a coffee with a peachy, stone fruit quality, since bourbon and peaches go so well together…  Kenya? Ooooo, this is going to be good.


Pass the Salt aka Bread #2

Recap from Bread #1, I wanted to reduce the chewiness and enlarge the air bubbles in the crumb (the inner bready part) while preserving the crisp crust and flavor quality.

So, without further ado, Bread #2:

2 cups Bread Flour

1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

1 tsp Kosher Salt (This was kind of an oversight, it really should have been at least 2 tsp.)

3/4 cup Starter #1

1 cup Water, Room Temperature

The goal of replacing some of the bread flour with all purpose flour is to reduce gluten which is what contributes to the structure of the bread. Bread flour is higher in gluten than all purpose.  Another way of adding gluten to the dough is through the act of kneading; the more you knead, the more you build gluten.  Not enough gluten and the bread does not rise and has a dense crumb.  Too much and the bread can become chewy and tough.  Since the previous bread was too chewy, I figure that by reducing the gluten, the bread would be less chewy.

So, anyway, combine the flours and salt in a large bowl.

I’m not sure what I was thinking.  Bread 2 was kind of a rush job and I had in my head that I only used 1 tsp salt in the last bread, but no.  Adding only 1 tsp of salt is definitely not enough.  Please start with 2 tsp.  You’ll be happier.

Once the flour and salt are satisfactorily mixed, stir in the starter and the water.  Stirring with spoon until it no longer makes sense to do so and then turning out onto a floured surface and kneading.  Add more flour as necessary to achieve a soft smooth dough.  I tried to do this less than last time, see gluten comments above, but I was also pressed for time so it worked out that I had less time to get the perfect texture of dough, as well.

Form into a rough ball and let it rise for about 2 hours in a bowl covered with plastic wrap.

Next, flour your hands and a peel or as is my case a wooden cutting board.  Reshape the dough…  I broke with the traditional boule here and went more of a rustic baton…at least that’s what I’m calling it.  If anyone knows the correct name of the shape, pass it along.  So, longer and a bit wider than the boule.  Place it on the floured peel dust the bread with flour and cover with plastic wrap.  I used the same wrap, just flipped it so the side with moisture was facing up.  This rose for another hour or so.  During this hour, I preheated the oven with baking stone to 450 F.

When it was ready to go, I made a slit down the center and slid it into the oven.  The dough was, I thought, a bit moister than the last one so I decided not to spray any water, this time.  I baked it at 450 for 15 minutes before turning it down to 350 for another 25 minutes.

Then it was done and I let it cool.

In summary, the crust is a bit thicker and crisper than Bread #1.  The texture of the bread is successfully less chewy, but as it turns out, it is not chewy enough, go figure.  The crumb is about the same as last time.

Also, as noted, the bread needs more salt.  It is very pretty looking for a loaf of bread.  Bread #3 coming soon…


Bread Yeast Starter #1

So I’ve tried this once before: mix equal parts flour and water, let it sit, and after a couple of days I had some bubbling.  As I kept feeding the starter, it got thicker, then started to dry out on top creating this leathery crust with a pinkish hue.  I tried removing it a couple of times, but couldn’t get all of it off so I  just started stirring it back in.  It smelled more perfume-y than sour and the resulting bread tasted decidedly reminiscent of grape nuts cereal.

I scrapped it.

It’s time to try it again.  With some adjustments of course…

1/2 cup Rye Flour (used to boost sour flavor)

1/2 cup Whole Wheat Four

1/2 cup All Purpose Flour

1/2 cup Bread Flour

2 1/2 cups warm-ish Water

Mix it all up (I did this in a large Pyrex container).

Then cover with a damp double layer of cheesecloth.  Stir it up a few more times over the next two days.  After 2-3 days you should see some bubbles breaking the surface or your starter may have separated with a dark liquid layer on top.  From what I have read on other blogs, books, etc. that is alcohol which is a byproduct of fermentation and a good sign that you have active yeast in the starter.

From this point you’ll want to feed your starter by stirring in 1-2 Tbs of flour at least once a day.  I have been removing a half cup of starter, stirring in a 1/2 cup of warm water, and then 1/2 cup of all purpose flour in the morning and then giving it another stir with a spoon full of flour in the evening.  I keep the starter covered after the first couple days to keep it from drying out.  However, if it looks like you are not getting the desired yeasty activity, leave the lid off for a few hours, then stir it up and put the lid back on.  Occasionally, adding a spoonful of Turbinado or other sugar will help keep a strong fermentation going or juice up a tired starter.  If the starter starts to thicken pass the “pancake batter” stage, add a little more room temperature water.

When you reach a sourness that you like, you can cover and refrigerate it.  That will slow down the lactobacillus growth and keep for a couple weeks or so.  Or just let ride.  As long as you are feeding it and pulling out some of the starter each week to make bread you should not have a real big difference in the flavor from the starter.  If you choose the leave-it-on-the-counter method, but do not make bread on a particular week, I would then discard 1 cup or so of starter and replenish with 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup flour.  f it ever starts to develop mold or smell really awful, just discard it and start over.

Okay now it is time to try it out.  Bread #2 is on its way…


Bread #1

Let’s start with bread.  So far our efforts have not awarded us the perfect loaf, however, we have not given up!  Continuing the quest: Attempt number 1 (for blog that is).

Bread #1

2.5 cups Bread Flour (355 g)

.5 cups Semolina Flour (91g)

2 tsp. Kosher Salt  (11g)

1.5 tsp. Active Dry Yeast – rehydrated with 4 tsp Warm Water

1 cup Water, room temperature

I stirred the yeast into the 4 tsp warm water and let it stand for about 10 minutes.

While the yeast was acclimating, I combined the flours and salt.  When the yeast was ready, I added the room temp water to it, stirred it around a bit, then added the flour and stirred until the spoon was no longer effective.

At which point, I turned the dough out onto a floured surface and kneaded until soft and smooth.  (Sprinkle on some more flour if the dough feels sticky.)

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise, in a bowl, until doubled in volume, which for me was only about an hour.  Then I punched it down and shaped it into a boule.

I placed the boule onto a floured wooden cutting board (makeshift peel) and let it rise again covered with the wrap for another 1.5 – 2 hours.  About an hour into this rise, I put the pizza stone into the oven and preheated it to 450F.  When the bread was ready, I scored the top with a sharp serrated knife and slid it onto the stone, sprayed the oven with a little water from a spray bottle popped in the bread and set the timer for 15 minutes.

I sprayed the oven another time after about 5 minutes.  A little poofing happened in the oven (oven spring, they call it) but not as much as I would have liked.  When the 15 mins were up, I turned the heat down to 375F for another 25 minutes.

Then there was bread.

So the crust is a nice thin crisp crust which I am happy with.  The color is a  nice golden brown.  So far so good.  Cutting into it, the crumb is denser than I would like.

Now for the taste test…really nice depth of flavor, but the texture we decided is too chewy.

Next time, I’m going to try to keep the moisture level the same which I think should help keep the crust at the same level.  Cooking time and temp seemed to work okay for now, I’ll keep those the same (note that currently we are living and cooking at high altitude).  To soften the texture, I think we should replace some of the bread flour with all purpose flour and knead it a little less.  We’ll see how that goes.  Stay tuned…


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