Back from Christmas break

I just got back from a little road trip, after taking the week off for Christmas. And while I was passing through Michigan, I was able to pick some favorites to bring back with me. With the two major items, being Better Made chips and Vernors. Also when I was swinging through Kalamazoo I stopped by the Meijer on South Westnedge Ave and picked up a couple of flavors of Jays Chips, since I haven’t had Jays Chips in a while (excluding Krunchers.) Hope everyone had a great Christmas, and I’ll try to get these new items posted as soon as I can.

Pita Bread Recipe – v2 & v3

After making pita bread with the original recipe, I noticed that the pitas would get very tough, almost leather like once the pita’s had cooled from baking. So I started flipping through this old bread baking book that I own for some problem solving help. And in the bread books recipe for pita bread it mentioned that if your pitas are very tough after baking, that it usually means that the bread has too much gluten. They recommended that the easiest way to correct the issue is that instead of using all high gluten/bread flour, to go with a 50/50 mix of bread flour and all purpose flour. So for version 2 of the recipe, I went with the 50/50 mix and kept anything else the same. Well this batch of 50/50 pitas still turned out tough. So after that little experiment failed (as well as the books advise being total BS), I was pretty much out of idea’s on why my pita’s were coming out tough.

About a couple of months ago, I was doing some cooking for my sisters Halloween dinner party, and one of the dishes that I had to make were pizza shells for “candy corn pizza wedges” (don’t ask.) I used my normal pizza dough recipe, but the flour I used was a super high gluten flour from Cargill that my sister had on hand. Since the wedges were going to be baked a second time so that the cheese could melt to make the wedges look like candy corn. Instead of fully baking the dough, I just blind baked the pizza shells for 3 minutes instead of the usual 5 minutes.
Well that ended up being the key, as to why my pita’s were turning out tough. But the more that I thought about it the more it made sense. Since with a longer baking time, it will make the bread drier (think about how soft under baked bread can be.) So with a 5 min bake time, I was baking more of a pita cracker (or pita chip) instead of a soft pita bread. So for v3, the only change was reducing the baking time from 5 minutes to 3 minutes on the original recipe.

One other change for v3 is that after I rolled out the pitas, I gave it a little extra time (5 to 10 minutes) of relaxing/rising time before popping the pita in the oven. One other thing that I still need to work, but that I’ve mentioned in the past, is not to roll out the pita too thin and basically working all the air pockets out of the dough. But both of these are just minor techniques that I need to keep working on with future batches of dough.

Side Note: I’m not posting any pics with this post, since the pitas pretty much look the same on the outside as the pitas in the original recipe.

Review – Sheeder Cloverleaf Dairy – Whole Milk

I’ve been wanting to try this Sheeder Cloverleaf Dairy milk for about the last 6 months, but for some reason I just couldn’t pull the trigger to buy a bottle. But this last time that I was at the grocery store I needed to pick up a 1/2 gallon of milk (I’ve come to realize that I don’t drink enough milk, to finish a gallon before it expires). After checking the prices and expiration date for the milk on display at the store. A 1/2 gallon of regular milk in the plastic jug was $2.14, while the Sheeder stuff in a 1/2 gallon glass bottle was $2.89. So for $0.75 extra I’m willing to give it a try, and as an added bonus the Sheeder milk didn’t expire for an extra week compared to the milk in the plastic jugs, which gives me more time to finish the bottle.

Well I’ve got to tell you, this milk is pretty damn good and worth the slightly higher price compared to generic milk. But I just can’t put my figure on what makes it taste so good (vat pasteurization, “grass based” feed, hormone-free, glass bottle, etc.) The only way that I can explain it is to say “once it touches your lips”. To me it almost seemed like the Sheeder whole milk has a higher butter fat content, because after I was done drinking the milk and I almost had a lingering milk taste in my mouth which I’ve never experienced before. Plus while I was drinking the milk I was picking up some kind of grassy/grainly flavor. I couldn’t pin down exactly what it was, but it was a nice undertone to the milk.

JRR mentioned to me one time a long time ago that once you try some of that small batch, grass feed milk, you can’t go back. So you better put if off for as long as possible. And you know what, he was right. I’m definitely not going back to drinking generic whole milk.

Here is a link to an article about Sheeder on Market to Market.

Winter is now here – December 2009

Man did it snow last week, so much so that work was actually closed on Wednesday for a “snow day.”

When all was said and done, we got just under 16″ of snow in total. This of course isn’t taking into effect the high winds while it was snowing, so there were drifts on my front sidewalk that were just under my knee. The only upside to all this snow, is hopefully we’ll have an awesome ski season this year. I guess we’ll see over the coming months.

Digital Camera Repaired – sort of

Well I was able to fix the lens cover on my digital camera, but only after about 4 hours of multiple assembly and dis-assembly cycles. But as with everything, when one thing is fixed something else breaks. And while re-assembling the camera I ended up nicking a spot on the flat cable that connects the LCD display to the motherboard. So now the screen is totally jacked up on the camera, but everything else was unaffected. So I’m back in business, though not at 100%.

Personally after 11,000+ photos taken with this camera, I think that I’ve more then gotten my monies worth out of this camera. So now the hunt begins for a “parts” camera on ebay, to replace the LCD or cable (if it isn’t hard connected to the LCD panel). Wish me luck.

Easy Caprese Salad Recipe – v1

This is kind of a late post, since I made this caprese salad in October. But I guess better late then never.

If you don’t know how to make a salad, then you should have no problem in making a caprese salad since it only has seven ingredients. And those ingredients are fresh mozzarella, a tomato, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil, kosher salt and pepper.

And putting it all together is just as simple as the ingredient list. Slice the tomato and mozzarella into ~1/4″ slices, and arrange on a plate or platter alternating between the tomato and mozzarella. Finally top with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil, kosher salt and pepper. And that’s it! How much more simple can you get? (Other then getting a bag of mixed salad greens and topping it with bottled salad dressing.)

Side note:
1) Since I didn’t want to get fresh basil from the grocery store. I just used some of the basil that I dried from my garden.
2) If you have some nice salt (black salt, red salt, etc) by all means use it. I just happened to use kosher salt, even though I had some red salt on hand but forgot to use it.
3) For the olive oil, I used some extra virgin olive oil that JRR got for me a while back.

Digital Camera Broken

Somehow the freezing cold temperatures from standing outside this past weekend in Chicago, ended up freezing the automatic lens cover open on my Nikon S52 digital camera.

I started to take apart the camera to repair the lens cover this week, but ended up breaking one of my precision screwdrivers while taking the camera apart. So until I can dig myself out of the snow and pick up a new set of precision screwdrivers to finish taking apart the camera. This repair project will be on hold for the time being.

In the mean time enjoy some of the final pics from Hot Doug’s before my camera broke. Because it might be a while before my camera is repaired.

Side notes:
One of the hot dogs is a Chicago dog (fried and grilled) with everything on top.
And the other dog is a Ribeye Steak Sausage with Chimichurri, Crispy Fried Onions and Oregon Smoked Blue Cheese.
Both were excellent, especially with a side of duck fat french fries.