Friday, 2 March 2018

it's toasted

The eponymous reaction was named for French chemist and pharmacist Louis Camille Maillard with the later collaboration of US Department of Agriculture fellow John Edward Hodge who described and established the chemical mechanism for it is the most common spell of kitchen-witchery, which we were heretofore quite in the dark about until being intrigued by TYWKIWDBI.

It endows baked, seared and roasted foods with their distinctive aromas and flavours. The process that leads to the production of hundreds of different and nuanced flavour compounds is the interaction of amino acids and sugars catalysed by reaching a target temperature—typically 140 to 180 degrees Celsius—flirting with the threshold of burning. French fries, stir-fry, malted beverages, Lucky Strikes, bagels, toast, roasted coffee and chocolate are some of the foods and drinks that owe their savour to the Maillard reaction.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

far, far away

Properly that little world of one’s own, the Universe of any given fantastic saga is called a paracosm. Though first minted during a study into imaginary friends that some adults felt were lingering too long into the socially formative years when school began conducted in the mid-1970s, the word has since come to embrace all connotations—the spectrum from shy and retreating to those with the gift for engineering civilisations apart that are at the same time archetypal and immensely creative.

Monday, 15 February 2016

soup-and-sandwich syndicate

For a few years, we’ve had one of those sandwich-makers to take camping with us, but having received a “panini-press” for the holidays, we’ve aspired to create some soup and sandwich combinations for indoors as well. Lately, we tried Cheese and Leek soup with egg and cheese toasts.

For the soup, ingredients for four bowls call for:

  • Salt, pepper, parsley, bay-leaves nutmeg for seasoning
  • 100 millilitre (about half a cup) of dry white wine
  • Six slices of wheat bread for toasting and for the croutons 
  • A heaping tablespoon of flour
  • Butter
  • 100 gram (4 oz) container of heavy crรจme 
  • 1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock from bullion 
  • Around 600 grams (about a pound) of leeks, washed, peeled and cut into thin rings 

For the toast:

  • Bread and butter from above
  • 2 eggs 
  • Sliced cheese (Gouda or Gruyรจre) 
  • Spinach leaves or lamb’s lettuce (Feldsalat

There’s no cheese left out of the cheese soup, of course, but that’s where it gets a bit tricky. In German markets, there’s Schmelzkรคse that’s made for soup and I suppose it’s like the pasteurized processed cheese food that’s available in the States, but looks some much less estranged from natural cheese and is much more appetising. In any case, use about 500 grams of your local-equivalent. In the soup pot, braise the rings of leek in butter for three minutes, dusting the leek with the flour afterwards. Introduce the white wine, vegetable stock with the bay leaves and allow it to cook on low heat for another ten minutes or so. Remove the bay leaves and breaking the cheese product of choice into small cubes, add that and the heavy crรจme to the pot and allow to cook for an additional ten minutes, stirring often and making sure that the cheese is melting. In the meantime, cut two slices of the bread into little cubes and braise them in butter in a separate pan (you can save the pan for the eggs) for about three minutes until crisp and set aside on a paper-napkin to dry. Prepare two eggs sunny-side-up and in your sandwich-maker/pie-iron/panini-press, make the toasts with the egg, cheese slice and leafy green filling—sort of like a croque-monsieur. Season the soup with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste and garnish with croutons and parsley.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

brototyp or bakers’ dozen

In Germany, there are over six-hundred distinct varieties of bread and some additional twelve-hundred permutations of baking besides. Not including beer-brews, which Germany might be more renowned for and enjoy actually a legal status that classifies and protects them as a liquid bread, these hundreds of different recipes and preparations are governed, unsurprisingly and meticulously, by a system of standards that codify traditional variations on a theme.

This process is illustrated in development of Brรถtchen—buns, rolls, which go by many regional names, including Weckeln, Weggla, Stollen, Kipfle, Bรถmmeln, Semmeln, and Schrippen with further distinctions for topping, what kind of seeds or grains they are encrusted with, and how the dough is rolled out and baked, -laibchen (round, like a little loaf), -stangl (like a staff that can also be twisted in a pretzel) or -hรถrnchen, with a shape like a croissant. Each type has specific percentages of what kind of grains comprise the dough, usually a given ratio of two or more different wheats and barleys. Small bakeries keep the lesser known and uncommon varieties on offer and local interpretation and nomenclature alive. I wonder if anyone has managed to catalogue ever type of Brรถtchen in circulation and unraveled the etymology. We don’t visit the baker’s like we ought to but I am resolving to do so more often and see what sort of heritage breads—and their unusual names (I am not sure if it’s just marketing or what, but one bakery offers what’s called “Sรผndlicher Weck”—sinful rolls, as near as I can guess), that I can discover.