One of my favorite quotes, though I don't know who said it, is "Anywhere is walking distance if you have the time". While this is certainly true for me, especially in Summer, Winter laughs at me for being so housebound and passionately in love with my kitchen, that I hardly walk around the block. Pathetic, I know. While kitchen love does last me most of the year, waning only slightly when it gets so hot that I don't even feel like eating, snowy and cold February days remind me that you can pretty much make anything in the kitchen if you have the time.
While Alton doesn't trust the Elves to make his crackers, I don't trust the dough conditioners, preservatives, and packaged meats laden with chemicals that have enable them to have expiration dates 2 or 3 years from now. All are hallmarks of the packaged foods industry, and the more of them I can keep out of my house the happier I'll be. My Husband enjoys beef jerky, and while I do not, a project in the kitchen is something I'm always up for. A happy one at that, since I know my tinkering will be well appreciated.
Being the cookbook junkie that I am, I am in the habit of combing the new release shelves at the library each week after story time. A few weeks back, I found Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it by Karen Solomon
. Amid the amazing photography, and quippy writing, I found a recipe for beef jerky. It called for top sirloin or flank steak, but my extremely helpful Outpost
butcher recommended rump roast. I called him in advance, and he had 2 pounds sliced and waiting for me on Sunday when I stopped to pick it up. He didn't steer me wrong, since as you can see, it was beautiful. The finished product was hitting the highest marks, too - I know when I hear the fridge door open and shut and an audible "just one more piece", that my work here is properly complete.
The recipe called for 1 pound of meat, but I figured to double everything, since I knew dried meat wouldn't last long around my house - even without me eating any... Be sure to start your project 24 hours before you intend to dehydrate it, since it begins it's life in the refrigerator.
Beef Jerky (adapted from Karen Solomon)
1 lb. rump roast, sliced 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick
1 T. Kosher salt
1 T. tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
2 t. dark brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. dried chile flakes
1 t. cracked black pepper
Slice the beef as thin as possible, or have your most helpful butcher do it for you! Remove as much fat as you can, since "meat can be cured but fat cannot" (Karen mentions that the fat can go rancid in storage, but I doubt ours will last long enough for that to be a problem).
Press out as much moisture from the meat as you can. (I actually forgot this step). If you don't have an amazing butcher, you can pound the meat between sheets of paper towel with a meat tenderizer or rolling pin (or a sturdy mug - which I don' t know why any cookbook would recommend! Pounding with glass in the kitchen just doesn't seem like a good thing to do in my opinion...)
In a bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients, and toss together with the beef. Place a rack over a sheet pan, and lay the meat on it in a single layer without touching. Refrigerate uncovered for 24 hours - this shortens the drying process.
Preheat the oven to 150, or 170 if that is the lowest you can go (at 170, pop a wooden spoon into the oven door to keep it ajar), and dry the meat for 3-5 hours. Start checking at the 3 hour mark. I found that mine was done in 3 hours. You want to see the meat is cooked throughout, and that it tears into strings. Let it cool completely, before refrigerating up to 6 weeks.
With very little effort, dried meat fans can have a nitrate-free and much healthier snacking experience.
The day I made George's Cheese (Ball) spread, I knew I had to make bagels. Since I've been relying so heavily on my freezers and not so heavily on markets, I've had a bit extra in the grocery funds - perfect, since I've never made bagels up to the proper specifications that Cook's Illustrated recommended. I dropped my $7 on a jar of Barley Malt Syrup when I picked up the meat on Sunday, since this elusive ingredient was omitted from every bagel making attempt of mine in the past. NO more! 1 T. of this made all the difference in the feel of the dough, and in the end product, and I'll never make them again without adding it. I also baked them on the stone, so the crust was better than any homemade bagel I've made to date as well.
I will make a mention that before I was graced with my Professional KitchenAid, this was the dough that caused my old under-powered KitchenAid to work its way from the back of the counter all the way down to our newly finished kitchen floor when I was out of the kitchen attending to a baby Boy-O. A nicely shaped, deep indentation in the floor was my reward for not attending my mixer for the 10 minute knead time. While the new model didn't budge an inch, I'd recommend watching your machine, so that this doesn't happen to you. Cook's Illustrated does not recommend making this dough by hand, or doubling the recipe, due to the stiffness of the dough. It is a force to be reckoned with.
Resting under refrigeration for 12-18 hours, under plastic wrap.
Bagels (Cook's Illustrated method from The Best Recipe)
4 c. high gluten flour (after Googling, I used my King Arthur bread flour, which is higher in gluten than AP)
2 t. salt
1 T. barley malt syrup or powder
1 1/2 t. active dry yeast
1 1/4 c. lukewarm (80 degrees) water
cornmeal for dusting
Mix flour and salt in bowl of standing mixer.
Add yeast, water and malt syrup, and mix at lowest speed "until the dough looks scrappy", about 4 minutes. Increase speed to low, and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and stiff (but feels "pliable" almost like a play-dough), 8-10 minutes.
Turn the dough onto a work surface, and divide into 8 pieces, about 4 oz. each. (Yes, I weighed mine, since I'm crazy...) Roll them into smooth balls and let rest under a towel 5 minutes.
Form each dough ball into a rope about 11 inches long, and do not taper the ends. (I have marked the edge of one of my wooden boards that I use for doughs). If the dough is hard to get "traction" to roll, moisten your palms with a bit of water. Overlap the ends by about 1 1/2 inches and roll your hand through the center to seal the end. I actually dip the ends in water before doing this, and then pinch them together before rolling. Place them on a cornmeal dusted baking sheet (I lined mine with wax paper first). Cover well with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 12-18 hours.
20 minutes before baking, take them out of the fridge. Adjust rack to center position (with a baking stone if using), and preheat to 450. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Carefully lower bagels into water for about 35 seconds. You can try and keep them submerged, with a spoon or skimmer, or flip them after about 15 seconds like I do. You can fit 4 in your pot, if it's large enough, otherwise do 2 or 3 at time so they don't touch. Remove using a skimmer or slotted spoon to a rack, bottom side down.
Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet or a baking stone, and bake for about 14 minutes until golden brown. Use a tongs to move them to a wire rack to cool.
You can put a topping right on them when they come out of the boiling pot, since they are rather sticky. Cook's Illustrated recommends sesame seeds, poppy or caraway seeds, dehydrated onion or garlic flakes, and/or sea salt. I left mine plain, and could not wait to have lunch today and test my theory of George's spread on a bagel.
I couldn't decide though, and opted for Economy Spread and Spicy Guinness Mustard on one half and George's Spread on the other. Let me tell you, George's Spread on a toasted bagel will make you banish traditional bagel toppings forever! Delicious! Like the best veggie cream cheese you've ever tasted.
I mentioned to Talia in a comment last week that I don't think I'll ever buy graham crackers again thanks to last month's Daring Baker's Challenge. I think that now I've found a couple more items to add to that list. If I have continue to have time on my side, I'll be willing to wager that I can keep that promise. I find myself wondering what else I can make in the remaining weeks until most of the mornings are spent outside...