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Friday, May 11, 2001


today's the day to continue with the starter from the pain de campagne rustique. it's only 10 minutes work!

depending on how long you've let the starter work and the temperature of your kitchen, the original "step one" starter could now have a hard, dried-out crust. this has to be removed before you continue. also, give the starter a good sniff. since we used rye in the starter, which naturally ferments well and gives good flavor to the bread later on, it will have a somewhat more intense smell than a starter based on whole wheat alone. make sure you're happy with what you've got before you continue.

you need at least 1 tablespoon of tangy-smelling, active starter to proceed. of course with the amount of flour that we started with, even if you have to trim off a great deal of hard crust, you should have more than that. if you think the starter is active, but has too strong or sour a smell, throw half of it away -- this will reduce the amount of acid already in the starter while preserving enough yeasties to get you to the next stage.

remember, all you need now is a tablespoon or two of living starter. if, however, the starter really stinks repulsively, you may want to start all over again. or you can forge onward in the hope that the yeasties will outgrow the beasties in this second step. here are the ingredients for step two:

5 oz (by weight) flour
5 oz (by weight) less-than-lukewarm non-chlorinated water

place your trimmed, "step one" starter in a large clean bowl, and stir in the all the water. thoroughly dissolve the step one starter in the water, stirring as gently as possible. some people use 90 degree water; others use 65 to 70 degree water. i usually use the cooler water, personally. stir in the 5 oz. flour. this can be whole wheat flour, unbleached white all-purpose flour, or a mixture of the two.

again, cover this dough with plastic wrap and return it to its rising place. let it develop for 24 hours. if however the weather is warm, do check it at 4, 8, and 10 or 12 hours! if you find it growing absolutely out of control, try mixing in 1 teaspoon salt, which will slow down the yeast action considerably. just remember to subtract that salt from the amount you add to the final dough.

tomorrow we'll continue with the bread, and then chat more about where in new york and brooklyn you can find truly fresh coffee. i do hope to introduce you soon to burdick's charming handmade artisan chocolates in the shape of tiny cute mice and baby bunnies, perfumed with fennel, lavendar, lemon verbena, and other old-fashioned flavors. . . we enjoy them here thanks to john at two for the pot.

tomorrow will also feature a pilgrimage to eli zabar's vinegar factory in search of lovely fresh-roasted coffee suitable for iced. . .unless the bread takes an unexpected turn!

posted by fortune elkins | 11:16 AM | top | link to this |


Thursday, May 10, 2001


this morning i made iced coffee with the beans from caffe d'arte. and it was heavenly.

i didn't use the vac pot, which i keep at home. instead i marched proudly into my job with the freshly ground beans in my hot pink longchamps bag and made it in a french press that i keep at my desk. the result: pure wonder. the coffee has pours like wine, with a deep brown-purple color exactly like an italain eggplant. mixed with milk and ice, it's light and refreshing. i don't use sugar in my coffee, and this certainly didn't call for any.

again, i highly recommend the coffees of maurizio cipolla! between this and the mexican altura from the vinegar factory, i'm set for the summer.

but what about brooklyn? i'm determined some time this weekend to get back to d'amico's coffee in cobble hill, buy some coffee and talk to them about their roasting. look for this info soon! there are many underexplored resources in our fair brooklyn; let's see if d'amico's is one of them!

posted by fortune elkins | 11:36 AM | top | link to this |


Wednesday, May 09, 2001


as promised, today i'm starting a pain de campagne rustique, a bread made with natural leavens.

many recipes for this kind of loaf start with a firm dough. however, i prefer a more liquid starter, one of equal parts flour and water. i start with 4 oz. flour. and i mean oz., measured by weight on a scale. i can't emphasize this enough -- weigh all of your ingredients, even the liquids! get yourself a nice scale if you need one. there are many kinds at many price ranges.

so here's my starter recipe:

2 oz. organic rye flour
2 oz. organic whole wheat flour (neither bread nor pastry, just regular all-purpose whole wheat)
4 oz. water

i advise that you don't use tap water, which has chlorine. and that might inhibit the natural yeasties we are trying to capture from the air. i personally use evian or volvic water. don't laugh! some believe you should make this starter in a non-metal bowl with a wooden spoon, as well. many have told me it doesn't make any difference, so see what works for you.

i beat this mixture together for a quick 200 strokes in a medium bowl and then cover with plastic wrap. put it in a warm-ish (somewhere between 65 and 80 degrees) place for 24-48 hours. in the winter, it will definitely be 48 hours. in the summer, in nice warm humid weather, however, it could be as little as 24 hours.

how do you know when it's ready? the starter will have risen slightly, or even doubled. it will have a light froth on top, and be filled with tiny bubbles throughout. if you were to stir it gently, you might even see a heavy layer of liquid on the bottom, known as "hooch." the starter should smell tangy, like buttermilk, or a wet dog, but in a pleasant way.

if it smells horrible, then you've caught some nasty beasties with your good yeasties. at this point, most people toss the starter and try again. this isn't always necessary, since most of the time but not alwaysthe good yeasties will engage in a darwinian struggle with the nasty beasties and win. on a few occasions, the yeasties will lose. so the choice is yours. if it smells bad -- your entire kitchen will just stink unbearably -- you can take the safe route and toss the starter, or trust in darwin and continue on. you might say it's a test of non-faith. . . .

posted by fortune elkins | 12:07 PM | top | link to this |


Tuesday, May 08, 2001


a young woman's thoughts turn to chocolate on these cooler spring days!

not only will i start some bread tomorrow, i'm thinking about buying some chocolate. ordinarily, i would have schlepped into mall-hattan and dropped a kidney to buy chocolate at dean & deluca. don't protest -- i'm well aware of the existence of the kitchen market, which is almost as expensive and even snobbier. (their chocolate selections aren't listed on their website.) but lately the charming coffee store down the street (at atlantic and clinton), two for the pot, has taken to carrying scharffenberger and callebaut chips. so convenient.

i also have delighted in the dusty back shelves of the famous economy candy, on the lower east side, where you can get name brand chocolate -- valrhona, cluziel, cote d'or, lindt, callebaut, scharffenberger and many others -- at discount prices. the only problem is storage. i'm not always happy with the condition of the chocolate at economy. even allowing for just average photography, you can see from their website that bloom and condition can be less than optimum, as in the pictures of the chocolate wafers.

i'm well aware that not everyone across the country has the option of hopping on the subway and choosing from 4 stores for chocolate. i've heard a lot of good things about the boutique chocosphere in portland, oregon. i haven't bought there myself, but the prices are somewhat less than dean & deluca, although the shipping costs can be serious.

still, if you want to feature a high quality chocolate in your torrone or tart and live far from a fancy store, chocosphere's bulk options could be helpful to you. by bulk i don't mean discount, but rather in chef and caterer's sizes -- 1 and 2 kilo lots! they also carry some chocolates, like nirvana, that are very hard to find. not even dean & deluca carries them regularly. so check them out. and if you have a really super recipe for fudgy, dense chocolate brownies, send it my way, will you?

posted by fortune elkins | 10:40 AM | top | link to this |

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