Published on May 14th, 2011 | by Rita0
Bugs In The Kitchen?!
Bugs and food. It’s not a combination that most people go in for on any kind of regular basis, or intentionally, unless you’re Andrew Zimmerman. I’ve got a couple of different kinds of bugs today that may make you want to head right out and get some for your kitchen. Don’t believe me? Read on, dear friends!
Most people don’t think of yeast as a living organism, but it very most definitely is. I’ve got a friend who has several failed attempts at brewing beer under his belt, because he has failed to pay attention to the temperatures at which yeast thrives. Personally, I’ve ruined more loaves of bread than I’m going to mention here, and likely for the very same reason. Recently though, I’ve decided that I’m done with my failed bread streak, and set out to make good bread, and not just on a fluke. Enter King Arthur Flour, and several tools to make my entire bread (and cake) baking experience a positive one!
I started out with a bag of Chakki Atta Indian Flour, a bag of SAF Instant Yeast, water, salt, sugar and my shiny new Giant Spatula. With the aid of a talented bread baker, who was willing to walk me through the steps of bread baking, we set off. After much kneading, pulling, pushing, rising and baking, I had two loaves of gorgeous crusty light and airy bread. The secret? Good instruction, lots of patience, and excellent ingredients.
I tried bread with many different kinds of flour for several weeks, and kept coming back to the Chakki Atta flour. It’s a finely ground hard durum wheat flour, and while it’s commonly used in Indian food, particularly in naan. I found that the high gluten content, and the lovely nutty flavor was perfect for Tuscan-style bread as well. Because of the high gluten, the dough is also ideal for flatbreads and anything that has to be stretched thin, as it will do so easily without breaking or tearing. At $7 for a 3-pound bag, it’s perhaps a bit more expensive than regular AP flour, but well worth the cost.
Having good, reliable yeast is also a key to making good bread. The SAF Red Instant yeast that I have been using is a top-seller at King Arthur Flour, and with good reason. There is no need to proof or dissolve this yeast, you simply add it in with your dry ingredients, and it works as it should, every time. It comes in a 16oz. brick, for lack of a better word, and at $6, this yeast is roughly 75% cheaper than any single packet of yeast on the market. Store it in an airtight container: for 6 months at room temperature or in the fridge; or for a year or longer in your freezer.
The giant spatula is a thing of beauty, really. Not only is it useful for moving bread dough that is slightly sticky, it’s also lovely for moving pie crust, and cake rounds. It’s 8×8” square, and has an angled, easy to grip handle. I’m always a fan of utensils that serve multiple purposes in the kitchen, and this one fits the bill nicely. It’s easy to clean, as it’s dishwasher safe. The $13 price-tag pretty much seals the deal for me. You really can’t beat products that are multi-functional, high quality and affordable.
Having less to do with bugs, or bread, I also tried out the Unbleached Cake Flour from KAF, and am happy to report adding cake as a success to my list of baking accomplishments. While the Chakki Atta flour is high in gluten, cake flour is very light, and intentionally low in gluten. When you want chewy, gluten is a lovely thing, and when you want light and delicate, you definitely should go with cake flour. As an aside, I also learned that when doing cake (and waffles), it’s almost universally a good idea to separate your eggs and beat the whites to a place in between a soft and stiff peak, and then fold them back in to the batter. Every time the result is a lighter end product.
What better way to serve up your fresh bread or cake than with a mug of coffee or tea? Remember what I said about the bugs? Ants on My Mug and Plate from Bailey Doesn’t Bark may make you rethink your stance on ants in your kitchen. I’ve seen this type of design in several coffee shops and restaurants, and it’s amusing. In my own home I’ve gotten a wide range of responses to this particular set. Reactions range from horror to adoration, and pretty much everything in between. BDB prides themselves on ecologically friendly production practices. For me the $80 price tag smarts a bit, but if you’re looking for tableware that is sure to garner some sort of reaction, this is certainly one way to go.