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How much vital wheat gluten to use in whole wheat bread?

Well, if you ever add "too much" -- however much that is -- I suppose eventually you'd have too much gluten getting developed. So, too much gluten means too strong, means a denser loaf. You might be able to search the archives over at www.thefreshloaf.com for some posts about vital wheat gluten. I use Bob's Red Mill, but I'm not sure why there's such a big difference between the amounts.

May 19, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking

There is no joy in Mudville ... or what's the point of only cooking-by-recipe?

Oooh, I love bashing ... I mean discussion. Seriously though, I've wondered about this same thing. I always watch the Food Network, where they bash cooks that don't exhibit enough creativity. In my mind, the point of cooking (and source of enjoyment) is being able to cook a dish masterfully. And that's it. There's no shame in following a recipe.

Then again, it's nice to be able to walk through a farmers market and pick out a selection of ingredients that you can put together without a recipe. BUT, the goal is putting some delicious on the table, not being able to pat myself on the back as an artist. I would say that if a person doesn't get much satisfaction out of following a recipe, then go for the artistic/winging-it style of cooking.

In terms of culinary achievement, I can't think of anyone that's achieved more than the prototypical Italian grandmother. Dang it, that old lady can cook up some pasta. But then of course, she's doing the same thing that every other old Italian grandmother does -- has she achieved something noteworthy? I think so. In a time when most people get their meals out of a box or a drive-through, I think we can allow following recipes.

May 19, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking

How much vital wheat gluten to use in whole wheat bread?

The directions on my package tell me to use a tablespoon per cup of flour, so that's what I've always done. I like the results. What directions are telling you to do only a teaspoon?

May 19, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking

Trussing needles

I'm looking at adding a trussing needle to my stock of tools in the kitchen, but I'm finding that there are a couple variants. First there's the issue of whether it should be curved or straight. After that there's the issue of length -- which seem to be either 7.75 or 10 inches.

Anybody have any ideas or experience with trussing needles?

May 19, 2010
nstoddar in Cookware

Why was my pan-fried medium-rare ribeye steak moist but chewy?

$21 a pound, huh? I'll have to remember to do that the next time I win the lottery. All kidding aside, is it possible to get a nicely marbled steak with grass-fed and -finished beef? Or will everything be chewy?

May 06, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking

Mahi Mahi in Fish Tacos?

I think we usually do it with halibut.

May 06, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking

Early strawberries in MD

Do you have any references for what's allowed under organic certification regulations? I'm not doubting you. I'd just really love to see that.

May 06, 2010
nstoddar in Washington DC & Baltimore

ground lamb ideas?

I second the lamb-burger option. We had them a few nights ago -- just mixed with some worchestershire, dijon, red wine vinegar, salt & pepper, fresh thyme, garlic, and a sprinkle of pepper flakes. All I can say .. life changing. I'm about ready to kidnap the next lamb I see.

May 05, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking

Add salt to bread dough???

This is probably too late for you, but I hope your bread turned out. I've been going through some bread books, which say that since salt kills yeast (before it's had a chance to "activate"), that it should be added later in the kneeding anyways. In my usual routine I mix the flour, salt and water (activated with sugar/honey and allowed to sit until foamy), oil if it's going in. Then I kneed (actually in the stand mixer) until it comes together about a minute or two later. Then I let it sit for about 15 minutes to help the flour absorb/distribute water. Only after that do I add the salt. I just sprinkle it on and continue the mixing.

In your case I would have just sprinkled on the salt and kneeded for a while more until it felt incorporated. Unless you're the Hulk, I don't think you would over-develop the gluten, so no worries there.

I think, technically, there's something about the way that salt inhibits the yeast that makes it rise more slowly that it would without salt. That "slower-ness" means more flavor, as well as bringing out the flavors of the flour, etc. So, it's more than taste ... I think.

May 04, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking

What's for Dinner XXIX [old]

The wife's making some lentil-surprise tonight. Either a lentil-loaf or lentil-burgers. I think it will be the lentil-loaf. Not bad actually, but last time it had some issues falling apart too easily.

May 04, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking

Sealing Chicken Kiev

Yeah, I've had the same problem in the past while trying to make stuffed roulades.

May 04, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking

Baltimore crab cake

Yeah, "accidentally" getting some mustard on the lips is good. Almost feels like you're getting away with breaking the law.

I guess the Maryland government is specializing in what each department is good at. The DNR is responsible for making sure there are lots of fish and crabs around for us to eat. And the DOE is responsible for telling us not to eat it. See? Perfect government.

May 04, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking

Early strawberries in MD

Thanks for the heads-up. I'll have to talk to the people this Sunday and see what they say. Does anybody know if the Agriberry company uses growth enhancers? They're from VA.

May 04, 2010
nstoddar in Washington DC & Baltimore

Sealing Chicken Kiev

Good question. I guess it would help if I'd ever actually made chicken Kiev. I imagine it would be fine. It always lasts for a long time being roasted in the oven.

May 04, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking

Skillet Asparagus

I love the thick spears. In our house we trim them with a paring knife and cut off the bottom inch or so, and everything's fine. I don't think I've ever ran across an overly-woody spear after being trimmed.

May 04, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking

Skillet Asparagus

Ah, so you're covering the asparagus. I guess that explains why they cook before the butter burns.

May 04, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking

Sealing Chicken Kiev

Is there any reason why a person should use toothpicks instead of butcher's twine?

May 03, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking

What to do with 3 pounds of strawberries?

Are they holding together enough for a strawberry rhubarb pie? Oh--with 3 pounds you'll probably have to make a few of them. How about a puree that's drizzled over some nice vanilla ice-cream?

May 03, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking

What's for Dinner XXIX [old]

On the menu tonight .... swiss chard gratin (from one of Jacques Pepin's books). It should be nice. We got some killer swiss chard at the market yesterday. The greens we had last night; now it's just the stems waiting. Oh, I assume we'll also have some sort of entree. :)

May 03, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking

Skillet Asparagus

Interesting. How high do you put the heat? I'd be afraid the butter would burn long before the spears were done. In our house we usually trim (if thick enough) the spears, toss in some olive oil and roast for a couple minutes in a high oven.

May 03, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking

JFX Farmer's Market 2010

Do you know anything about these Agriberry folks? Their name sounds very ... chemical/fake/something. I figured that they were growing them in greenhouses or something like that. I posted another top-level post about the strawberries. I thought they might be grown a long way away, but maybe they really are local. There were a few selling strawberries though--maybe from all the southern-most counties + VA in the case of Agriberry.

May 03, 2010
nstoddar in Washington DC & Baltimore

JFX Farmer's Market 2010

I must have bought our asparagus from Pea-guy. (Was he the only one selling by the pound -- 2.79/lb I think?) I didn't even realize it was him. We don't usually buy our peas/beans from him, instead opting for whole lima beans on the other side. The asparagus looked great though. It's still in the fridge waiting to be devoured though. I'm not sure if he had strawberries when we rolled through though.

May 03, 2010
nstoddar in Washington DC & Baltimore

Early strawberries in MD

The wife and I went to the Baltimore Farmers Market yesterday (5/2) and saw a few vendors with strawberries. This is supposed to be a producers-only market, so I'm very confused. Strawberries (supposedly) don't really come into season in Maryland until middle-to-late-May. Did the warm weather we had in the last month or so cause things to get speeded up? Anybody hear anything about whether we're actually seeing local strawberries?

I'm originally from California, where strawberries are the size of baseballs. So the fact that these strawberries actually looked quite good and large makes them suspect. I imagine that if they were just picked early, they'd be smaller. I might have to harass a few of these guys next week before I plunk down some cash to buy some for my strawberry and rhubarb pie recipe.

May 03, 2010
nstoddar in Washington DC & Baltimore

Baltimore crab cake

The Maryland Department of the Environment recommends you NOT eat the mustard (depending on where in MD your crabs are from). I suppose you could be paranoid and always ask your fishmonger/crabman where the crabs came from exactly. Good luck with that. I'll have to ask my wife about the mustard though--I'm fairly certain she doesn't miss it in her crab cakes, and there's nobody more Maryland than her. I admit that I love the taste of mustard while I'm hacking away at a pile of steamed crabs, but after reading the MDE's recommendations, I'll pass from now on.

http://www.mde.state.md.us/CitizensInfoCenter/Health/fish_advisories/index.asp
http://www.mde.state.md.us/assets/doc...

May 03, 2010
nstoddar in Home Cooking