Saturday, March 31, 2012

To slash or not to slash?

I baked two loads of basic French bread at home this afternoon. About eight minutes into the oven, I realized that I forgot to slash the tops of the loaves. It was too late to do anything but wait.

The crust forms almost immediately once the bread goes in the oven. Moisture in the bread turns to steam. This, along with carbon dioxide trapped in the loaf's gluten structure, gives bread it characteristic oven spring.

I usually make five diagonal cuts in each 14- to 15-inch loaf. The slashes give a place for steam to escape as the bread cooks. Slashing also adds decorative appeal to the loaf.

The first loaf tore in two places along the top. Two seams on the second loaf split during baking (visible in upper right corner of photo). This loaf is the better looking of the two.

Though these aren't my best looking loaves, they do taste good. We will eat one. I'll take the other one to the church assembly tomorrow and share it with someone.

And next time? I slash!

More seagoing scones and recipe

YOKOSUKA, Japan (March 27, 2012) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman James Kevin, assigned to the U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), makes scones at Fleet Activities Yokosuka's (JPn) Jewel of the East Galley. Kevin is receiving mentorship under the Adopt-a-Ship Program, which provides Sailors an opportunity to train with an executive chef to hone their culinary skills.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andrew Ryan Smith.

Here's my scone recipe. It's adapted from the 4th edition of Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2005). I'll have more to say about the recipe format is a few days.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Seagoing scones

YOKOSUKA, Japan (March 27, 2012) -- Certified executive chef Darryl Espinoza teaches Sailors how to make scones at Fleet Activities Yokosuka's (Japan) Jewel of the East Galley. Espinoza volunteers with the Adopt-a-Ship Program, which enables him to visit Navy ships and installations worldwide and provide Sailors training to hone their culinary skills.

U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andrew Ryan Smith.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A warm welcome 'home'

Each time I return to work after and extended breather (usually vacation), I relearn how much the residents appreciate my work at Bridges. As the chef for a drug and alcohol recovery house, I've grown into one of the most popular staff members. This is, naturally, because I'm the guy who prepares the meals and keeps the cupboards stocked.

Each resident greeted me in turn as I walked in the back door last Monday. After a week in Oregon, I returned refreshed. The conference gave the opportunity to recharge by culinary batteries. I came home with ideas on how to incorporate fresh bread into the diet.

They were happy to see that Debbie and I had arrived home safely. With rare exceptions, the residents who cook in my absence don't share my ability to cook flavorful meals. They knew that their "meal ticket" had returned to work.

I've learned that I can make a difference in the lives of women who struggle with addiction. Gentle advise often flows from my lips. I leave the serious counseling to our therapist and AOD (alcohol and other drugs) counselors. I teach by example, showing the women how to work.

My warm welcome "home" helped me overlook a few misplaced pots and plans. Nor did I dwell too long on the menu changes in my absence. In the end, the resident cooks did a good job feeding the house, a daunting task for those unaccustomed to feeding 25 each day.

Now that I'm back to work, I'll work on expanding the baking program. I should be able to replace purchased rolls and buns with fresh baked bread. It'll take one or two weeks to work several yeast doughs into my weekly routine.

Then in October, Debbie and I fly away to Texas for Kent Rollin's Chuck Wagon Cooking School, where we'll wrestle Dutch ovens and Bertha (Kent's woodstove) from oh-dark-thirty until the stars appear. After a week in a teepee on the Red River in fall, I'll be the one who's ready to return to work!

In the first photograph, chefs gather 'round the dining table at Canby Grove Camp in Canby, Ore., for a cup of coffee and fellowship on the final day of the Christian Chefs International conference. The next photo shows me demonstrating the versatility of the Mair lid lifter. I gave a presentation on Dutch oven cooking to the chefs at the conference.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mess cook

Two things come to mind when I view this photograph:

As the the Navy's sea going cooks and bakers, culinary specialists have to appreciate the support from the so-called mess cooks, or food service attendants. FSAs, like CTSN Hale, are junior enlisted men and women that are assigned to the galley for 90 days. They wash dishes, clean the galley and assist with basic food preparation tasks.

My second thought? What happens to those artfully arranged whisks and spoons when the
Shiloh hits a wave?

YOKOSUKA, Japan (March 12, 2012) -- Cryptologic Technician (Technical) Seaman Jake Hale assists the culinary specialists in the galley aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67).

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Declan Barnes.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dutch oven bread revisited

By the time I competed in the Winter Camp Cookoff in Colusa, Calif., in January 2005, I had baked this bread numerous times. Each time, diners told me how much they enjoyed it.

On one occasion, the bread helped secure an invitation to a three-day barbecue. When I learned of the October 2009 Oinktoberfest in Oroville, Calif., I said that I would "work for free pig."

"If you would like to come to Oroville this Saturday with one single Dutch oven and make one loaf of bread like you made ... for my 50th birthday," said Leonard Sanders, chef-owner of Chuck Wagon BBQ Co., "we will feed ... all the pork that you can eat." I obliged.

I modified the recipe each time I baked the bread. One year pesto stood in for the oil in the recipe. At other times I added sundried tomatoes and rosemary to the dough. And the recipe easily converts to a whole wheat bread by substituting whole wheat flour for the white flour.

Sometime in early 2009 I converted the recipe to weight measures. Pre-weighing the dry ingredients into a zipper-top bag saved the trouble of carrying a scale to camp. After kneading the dough some 250 strokes, it would proof in the Dutch oven. In three hours time with little effort, everyone enjoyed bread that's much better that store-bought.

Then last week, I learned in the baking seminar that my 250-stroke kneading process overworked the dough. The seminar refreshed my baking skills. Under Chef Jim Krieg, former chef/instructor at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academe of Portland, Ore., I was able to observe the qualities of a well developed dough. The chefs were able to feel the dough at each stage of the process.

My planned Dutch oven bread gave me the perfect opportunity to test the techniques I learned. I mixed the ingredients Wednesday morning and let the dough rest 15 minutes before the first knead. This allowed the flour time to completely absorb the moisture.

I also rested the dough 15 minutes between the first and second kneads. A 15-stroke knead, 15-minute rest and final knead of 10 strokes was all the dough needed. The dough fermented (first rise) in an oiled bus tub for nearly two hours. The cool kitchen (around 70 degrees) helped control fermentation.

After lunch, I punched the dough and divided it into 10 pieces. Five rounded balls were set in each 14-inch deep-style Dutch oven. I proofed (second rise) the dough during my Dutch oven workshop in the afternoon. I baked the bread as soon as my class concluded.

The bread was one of the hits of the evening. A nice open crumb with larger holes pleased the diners. I'm glad that I decided to bake two Dutch ovens of bread. The 35 diners devoured all of the bread. There were no leftovers.


This recipe uses a 14-inch deep-style Dutch oven. Cut the recipe in half for a 12-inch deep-style Dutch oven. I prefer using deep Dutch ovens for the bread. Their five-inch depth and narrow base pushes the dough up as it rises. It gives you a taller loaf.

25 ounces bread flour (bakers percent: 100%)
1-1/2 ounces sugar (6%)
1/2 ounce instant yeast (2%)
1/2 ounce salt (2%)
2 ounces vegetable oil (8%)
4 ounces eggs (16%)
15 ounces warm water (60%)
YIELD: 3 pounds dough

Mix flour, sugar, yeast and salt together in medium bowl. Mix eggs with oil, then whisk in water. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix to hydrate flour. Rest dough 5 to 15 minutes. Knead by hand 15 strokes. Rest dough 5 to 15 minutes. Knead second time by hand 5 to 10 strokes, but more gently.

Cover and set in a cool place. Let dough rise until double in size, about 1 to 3 hours. Gently punch dough down and fold. Rest 15 to 30 minutes. Divide into 5 (9.7-ounce) loaves. Gently shape into rounds or loaves.

Place loaves in greased 14-inch deep-style Dutch oven. Let rise 30 minutes. Bake with coals for 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove bottom coals after 15 minutes. Finish baking with top coals only. The internal temperature of the dough should reach 180 degrees.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bread baking at Tall Timber Ranch

Victoria FitzKnapps, former food service director at Tall Timber Ranch near Lake Wenatchee, Wash., shows the bagel rolling technique in this brief video. Chef Victoria attended Chef Jim Krieg's baking workshop last year in Oregon. We leaned this technique at the workshop last week in Canby, Oregon.

"There is not a better bagel available than the one fresh out of the oven the day you are going to eat it," Victoria said in a May 2011 blog post. "The crisp crunchy exterior breaks open to a chewy, flavorful center."

Victoria wrote this on the Tall Timber Ranch blog last year:

"While many people are trying to reduce the amount of bread in their diet, I am trying to increase the quality of the bread we eat here at camp, so that those couple servings of bread per day can be a delicious experience, not just a calorie delivery system. To this end, I was able to participate in a Baking Intensive class last week. For three days seven camp chefs were tutored under the guidance of Executive Pastry Chef, Jim Krieg, CCE, CECP."

The workshop motivated Victoria to bake as much of her bread from scratch last summer at the camp. The intense three-day workshop gave Victoria the technique and recipes to produce an array of breads, rolls and pastries.

As summer approached, she planned to bake ciabatta rolls for sandwiches, hamburger buns for cookouts and a weekly run of bagels for breakfast. Focaccia and French bread would be baked for "some of our dinners."

"The baking went great," Victoria said in a Facebook message. "Bread was awesome and saving were great." On average, the ingredients to produce a loaf of fresh bread cost her about 60 percent less than purchased bread.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pozole verde

I began my pozole verde for the Christian Chef International conference on Tuesday afternoon. I used the afternoon break from the conference agenda to work on my mise en place for a special Dutch oven dinner on Wednesday. I needed the extra time to get ready for the meal on the next day.

My first task was to rip the husk from three pounds of tomatillos. Quartered tomatillos went into a sauce pan with chunked jalapeno chile peppers and cilantro stems. After simmering for 30 minutes, I pureed the sauce and strained it into a storage container. I would fry the sauce on Wednesday.

Next a pound of green pumpkin seeds went into a large dry skillet (no oil). I gave the seeds a light toast and moved them over to the food processor. I set the ground pumpkin seeds aside for use in the finished soup on Wednesday.

At noon on Wednesday, I set five pounds dice pork butt, four large quartered onions and two dozen cloves of garlic into a gallon of water. I set the stockpot over a burner and simmered it all afternoon.

About 45 minutes before dinner I added the contents of a drained #10 can of hominy to the soup base. The salsa verde from Tuesday quickly followed as did several bay leaves and a handful of dried thyme. The soup was ready to serve after it had simmered for 30 minutes.

Around 35 conference attendees and camp staff devoured the two and one-half gallons of soup. You could say I was a "happy camper." A clean soup pot and happy diners gave me a broad smile!


Individual tastes and makeup of each group will determine the condiments needed for the pozole. These amounts are based on the tastes of the residents at work.

Soup base:
2 quarts water
2 large white onions, cut in half
1 head garlic
1-1/2 pounds pork shoulder, diced

Chili verde sauce:
4 ounces pumpkin seeds
1 pound fresh tomatillos, husk removed and quartered
2 jalapeno chile peppers, seeded & chopped
1 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Finish soup:
3 (#2-1/2) cans hominy, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 bay leaves

2-3 bunches radishes, sliced
1 white onion, chopped
10 limes, cut in quarters
1 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 head cabbage, shredded
3 jalapeno peppers, minced

TO PREPARE SOUP BASE: Pour water in 12- to 15-quart stockpot. Add onion, garlic and pork. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Simmer 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until pork is tender.

TO PREPARE CHILI VERDE SAUCE: Place pumpkin seeds into an ungreased skillet and heat through over medium heat, shaking pan from time to time, until they begin to pop around and swell noticeably; do not let them brown. Cool; grind them finely in a spice grinder or blender.

Set tomatillos into a pan with 1-cup water. Cook over medium heat until soft and mushy - about 15 minutes (there should be hardly any liquid in the pan; if there is, drain them). Transfer mixture to a blender bowl. Add chopped cilantro, fresh chiles, and 2 cups water and blend until smooth.

Heat oil in a heavy pan and press blended ingredients through a fine strainer. Fry over fairly high heat, stirring from time to time, for about 5 minutes.

Stir in the ground seeds and cook for 10 minutes longer, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan until the broth has thickened slightly and is well seasoned - about 10 minutes.

TO FINISH SOUP: Remove pork and shred. Return meat to pot with chile sauce, hominy, oregano and bay leaves. Continue cooking to blend flavors. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and chile sauce.

Serve an 8-ounce ladle to each person. Set condiments out in bowls and let each person garnish his bowl of soup to suit his personal taste. Prepares approximately 1 gallon of soup.

Adapted from a recipe in The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy (2008 ed.). Kennedy uses about 20 sorrel leaves in place of cilantro. The recipe is a favorite of hers from Chilapa in the Mexican state of Guerro.

Rick Bayless uses this procedure: Simmer tomatillos in salted water until tender and drain. Add toasted pumpkin seeds, green chile, onion and herbs with broth from stockpot, then puree in blender. Push through strainer into hot skillet with lard. Fry sauce 7 minutes until thickened. Pour sauce into soup base.

Bayless uses two Mexican herbs:
(1) Espazate (pigweed or Mexican tea) - pepper, licorice flavor
(2) Haja santa - anise flavor; use fennel bulb tops in its place

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dutch oven meal at conference

I hosted dinner tonight at the Christian Chefs International annual conference. The meal was prepared in four 14-inch Dutch ovens and one 17-inch skillet. Fitting for the rustic meal, we served it on the fireplace hearth in the main dining room of Canby Grove Camp, Oregon.

The menu featured:

Pozole verde
Grilled chicken marinated in guajillo sauce
Mexican rice pilaf
Sauteed green beans with garlic
Spring salad with balsamic vinaigrette
Avocado yogurt sauce
Salsa ranchera de arbol
Dutch oven bread
Oregon mixed berry cobbler

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kitchen activity

Chef Ira Krizo prepares lunch yesterday (in black chef's coat) as Chef Jim Krieg explains the use of ovens in bread baking to those attending the baking workshop. Crust color, explained Chef Jim, has a lot to do with caramelization. The crumb is done when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. However, at that temperature the crust won't have good color yet. To achieve good crust color, you need to continue baking the bread to an internal temperature of about 180 degrees. The crumb is the soft interior portion of the load.

Where you've achieved good crust color, but the crumb has not completely cooked, turn the oven temperature down to 250 to 300 degrees. The crumb will finish cooking without burning the crust. In general, low sugar breads are baked at higher temperatures while high sugar breads and pastries are baked at lower oven temperatures, said Chef Jim.

The Christian Chefs International baking workshop concludes today. The intensive three-day seminar is being help at the Canby Grove Christian Center in Canby, Oregon. Activities continue this afternoon with a ServeSafe food safety class. The annual conference begins this evening with the keynote presentation by internationally known culinary and television personality Graham Kerr. The conference continues on Wednesday with workshops for chefs.

Chef Ira is the executive chef for the camp and conference center.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fermenting in bus tubs

Chef Jim Krieg uses plastic bus tubs to ferment dough. When producing multiple batches of dough, Jim uses an inverted sheet pan as the lid. Unlike round bowls, the bus tub provides a stable container for stacking multiple doughs in a higher volume operation.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Measuring flour

I'm taking part in a baking workshop at the Christian Chefs International annual conference. Chef Jim Krieg, a former culinary school baking instructor, is leading the intense three-day workshop.

In four hours this afternoon, 10 students prepared five doughs. We each prepared a personal pain ordinaire (basic bread dough). We will prepare a second pain ordinaire dough tomorrow as well.

Then in teams, the students mixed and formed bagel, donut, ciabatta and focaccia doughs. The focaccia was baked for our dinner this evening. We retarded the bagel, donut and ciabatta dough for tomorrow.

The workshop and conference are being held on the campus of Canby Grove Christian Center in Canby, Oregon. Chef Ira Krizo is the executive chef.

Here Chef Jim shows us the proper way to measure flour into a measuring cup. The average cup of bread flour weighs about 4.75 ounces, said Chef Jim. To measure, scoop flour into the measuring cup as shown in the picture. Do not dip the measuring cup into the flour. His cup weighed 4.85 ounces.

To show how dipping methods vary, Chef Jim packed bread flour into the measuring cup. It weighed 6.9 ounces. He lead us through this exercise to demonstrate why bakers preferred measuring by weight to measuring by volume. By contrast, my average cup of flour typically weighs 5.5 ounces.

The proper method for measuring will help the baker produce a consistent cup of flour. It is useful when converting a baking formula from volume measurement to weight measurement. The average pound of bread flour should measure in at aproximately 3-1/3 cups. Use this as a guide when converting recipes.