Required Reading: Two sites of notes

There are a couple of websites that have caught my attention recently, one that focuses on baking and another that focuses on food geekery. I know of both of these sites through twitter interactions with their respective owners, and I am quite pleased to have found them. The first is a site called Bowl of Plenty. The high concept is, "I like food. I like data. I like to put the two together." What caught my attention was a couple of posts where the writer, whose name and gender I do not know, made some almond butter. As part of the process, a series of photographs were taken of the food process to show how the almond butter changed in texture.
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That is a small sample, and there a little over twice that number of photos for just that entry. Here's a detail shot:
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That's some great information. But even better than that is the article on baking powder. If you've read Bakewise, you know that Shirley Corriher goes into quite a bit of detail on the workings of baking powder, the different types, when they act, etc. This article looks to be at least as extensive, and perhaps a bit more so. It warms the heart and shames me for my lazy ways. The second blog is Pastry Methods and Techniques. This is written by Jennifer Field, who is keen to get the world to understand that baking and cooking are not as difficult as people make it out to be. We are like-minded on that score, and consequently are working together on a secret-project-that-you'll-find-out-about-when-we're-done-and-not-before. Pastry Methods and Techniques will teach you things from how to make your own puff pastry and various styles of pie crust to why salt is important in sweet foods as well how to throw together a dessert in nearly no time. What? Yes, I said make your own puff pastry. Even Alton Brown skipped that, but she is not afraid, and she doesn't think you should be, either. Jennifer also shames me by the quality of her posts, and shows me up to be the slacker I am. So go there as well to learn all kinds of interesting things, and not just about baking.

The Food Geek on Fine Cooking…dot Com!

No, this isn't a rehash of the earlier post about being in Fine Cooking Magazine. Though, it can be restated, I am being published in Fine Cooking Magazine. So you know. Run out and get a subscription. Tell them I sent you. No, aside from that, I also have a weekly blog on FineCooking.com. The official title is Kitchen Mysteries with The Food Geek, and the first article is Toffee Troubles. Kitchen Mysteries is the equivalent to the local Food Mystery. In a nutshell, I take questions from readers (preferably through Twitter, but feel free to you my contact form or email me if you know my address) and answer them. Ideally, I'll answer them correctly and fix whatever problem has been plaguing one of you. If not, I expect that my incredibly smart legion of readers will chime in and show me how much I have left to learn (preferably in a nice way, but it's the Internet, so I'll understand if it's otherwise). So, please, read, comment, favorite, digg, whatever it is you kids do these days. I look forward to making many more of these.

FoodPairing is now 200 times better

I've written about FoodPairing before, which has always seemed like a great and useful kind of site, but I've never used it. As a brief introduction, FoodPairing gives a graphical representation of which foods go well together, and which foods can be substituted for other foods. It is a beautiful site, and suffered from only one flaw, which was that I could never quite understand what the graphs meant. Did this line mean that it was a pairing, and were these other lines substitutions, or did it work the other way around? Would each of these things pair with the other, or was it a one-item-only sort of thing? Very confusing. Now, however, everything is different. The FoodPairing folk have made two changes that have completely revitalized the site and will make it the reference I have always dreamed of. First, they have separated the what fits well with… graphs from the What can replace… graphs. Not having them do double duty makes them so much more readable. Second, and most importantly, they wrote a section on how to use the FoodPairing site and graphs. Instructions make all the difference. So run run run to FoodPairing and learn to use a combination of rosemary, peppermint, and sage to replace basil, or learn that chocolate pairs well with cheese. Run!

Illustrated Tour of Alinea Dinner

Lucy Knisley, whom I will admit to knowing absolutely nothing about aside from this thing I am about to describe to you, has mad a comic about her visit to Alinea. You should go read it, as it is a lovely tour, and then you should do as I want to and make a reservation to go there yourself. If this intrigues you, then you should (shameless Amazon Associates link) by a copy of Alinea, the book.

FN Crazy

FoodVu is a food site with a definite video bent. They host a number of different styles of short-format, food related video, including instructional and humorous videos. The flagship video series is The FN Crazy Show, which explores what's happening at the Food Network. Not to be confused with FN Dish, which is a Food Network-owned blog that occasionally intersects the television network. The FN Crazy Show follows Food Network shows, people, and trends in a way that shows they really do enjoy aspects of the Food Network, but it's the flaws that make for good copy. There's an underlying plot to the series of videos, generally having to do with a power struggle around the hosting of the series. Speaking of hosting, the show's primary host, Sarah East, is adorable, which is a French word meaning, "adorable." Oh, wait. Those actually look the same written out, don't they. Sigh. The delivery is fast and punchy, much like an older film where they wanted to fit in a lot of dialogue in a short space, and imitated in more modern times by The Hudsucker Proxy, Pushing Daisies, and The Middleman. Given the choice between delivering meaningful insight or making a joke, FN Crazy will go for the joke. That is not a criticism; the show is funny, and there are plenty of commentaries hidden in there, but if you're looking for a video show that's trying to change the fundamentals of inequality in society, this is probably not the one for you. So: I certainly recommend.

Food Timeline

Serious eats asks:
How long before The Food Timeline makes the rounds on all the blogs
And I say that I'll do my part right away. The Food Timeline is a, er, timeline of food. Food history, rather. It's a series of links organized by time, telling us important tidbits and giving us a chance to understand the context. For example, I did not realize that the koolickle (Kool-aid Pickle) is a recent invention (2007 from all accounts), nor that Peanut Butter cookies were invented in 1933 by the Pillsbury Flour Mills Company. Pre-history, apparently, involves water, ice, salt, shellfish, non-shell fish, eggs, mushrooms, insects, and rice. From there we find that the first real non-whole foods are bread, beer, and soup. All of which are related, if you think about it, and can easily make a whole meal. In any case, like the medieval recipe translations, this looks to be a quick stop for anyone wanting to learn about the history of food. Because it was created by a reference librarian and IACP member, there is even information in the "About this site" section about citing the site. It is properly copyrighted and not creative commons, so be sure to cite properly if you use information from the Food Timeline.

Alltop Bacon: All Bacon, All the Time

Automated bookmarking site Alltop, from Guy Kawasaki, has added a new channel: bacon. Because bacon makes everything better, Alltop is now instantly better. So if you feel you don't have enough bacon in your life, visit the Bacon Channel on Alltop. It looks like it has 18 bacon-specific newsfeeds, for roughly 90 bacon stories at any given time. There look to be bacon recipes, bacon podcasts, bacon reviews, and bacon songs. Update: Yeah, that's what laziness gets me. Guy Kawasaki dropped by and commented below, so I'll clarify what he's, um, clarified. Also: spelling error fixed. Alltop is created by people going about and finding a bunch of links to sites that follow a common theme. The automated bit is that it uses the RSS feed to grab the most recent stories from each site. It displays the headlines, and has some fancy technology to show you previews of the sites or the stories when you roll over them. Guy (and, I presume, his other editor or editors at this point) use personal knowledge along with the power of the internet to find their sites. I've seen a call for blogs of interest on twitter from him, and he is instantly deluged with what must be 200 billion or so recommendations. It's a good blend of technology and editing, in a compact form. If you're looking for some sites to follow, or you just don't use RSS or its related formats, then Alltop is a handy site to visit.

Seasonal Ingredient Map

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Seasonal Ingredient Map: "Epicurious has created a handy, interactive map of seasonal produce by state. Select a month, hover over a state, and a list of in-season ingredients is displayed with links to the ingredient descriptions and recipes....

I was looking for one of these a couple of years ago, and this one seems pretty good. It does a little grouping, I've noticed: when it says that this month is good for spinach in Virginia, it really means leafy greens in general (we get quite a bit of kale, mustard greens, and the like as well). With that minor quibble, it's a lovely tool. I am actively working to become in tune with seasonality, and we are attempting the noble goal of eating a family's share of CSA vegetables between the two of us (and whichever guests we happen to have over). While this tool won't change much by way of what we do, it will be nice to know what to expect when, and hopefully reinforce the memories of which point of the season we get which fruits and vegetables.

(Via Required Eating.)

Baking pan conversions...yay!

Baking pan conversions...yay!: " Have you ever run into this problem? You find a great cake recipe, but you don't have the size of cake pan that it calls for. Or you want to try that cake batter in an odd shaped cake pan. Well here is one way to solve this quandary. Check out the cake pan conversion chart over at allrecipes.com. The chart is pretty extensive. The only problem is that it only lists conventional sizes of cake pans. This is offset by the fact that it also gives volume amounts for each size. So if you are using an odd shaped cake pan, you should be able to determine how much batter you'll need for it."

(Via Slashfood.)

blog.khymos.org >> Blog Archive >> Foodpairing website launched

blog.khymos.org » Blog Archive>> Foodpairing website launched: " Groovy! Foodpairing website launched The long awaited website on foodpairings has now been launched, and they've also registred the corresponding blogspot name (which isn't online yet as of today). The beautiful photos, great design and easy maneuvering makes it an excellent place to start if you are looking for some new and perhaps surprising combinations of foods. The foods are grouped into categories such as cocoa (?), dairy, fruits, meat, sea food and vegetables. One of the vegetables listed is cauliflower, and clicking it reveals that the topic of TGRWT #7 (caramelized cauliflower and cocoa) is one of several possible combinations. This is how it is displayed (an important detail is that the shorter the distance between the names, the more flavours they have in common). As an added bonus interchangeable herbs and spices are also listed."

So, Obviously this is very cool. As mentioned on Khymos, it's a good place to start, and is certainly very interesting. If you read the full post, you'll see a couple of concerns with how well the pairings will work in some circumstances, depending on how significant the commonalities between the ingredients are. Naturally, I want more more more. I want to be able to click on, for example, cinnamon, see that it links to geranium, and then be able to click on geranium to see what that links to. I'd like to be able to select two items and see what other things they have in common and the relative strengths of the links. I want all of the food knowledge of the universe instantly downloaded into my brain so that I...oh, sorry. Got a little far in. Anyways, this is very cool, and I look forward to giving it a try.

Bacon of the...Month, you say?

Bacon of the MonthIt's hard to watch more than a few episodes of Molto Mario before you hear him start talking about artisanal bacon. Although there's not much more that absolutely needs to be read than the words "artisinal bacon", there are words that want to be written, so be written they shall. Pork, while a lovely meat product, is honestly a rather terrifying industry. The efforts that the large pig farmers (perhaps manufacturers would be a more evocative term, if not entirely accurate) go through to remain profitable are not pretty. Add onto that the need for pork to be a low-fat product, betraying it's tastiest of beginnings, and it's just enough to make a person sad. However, there are a few mavericks who dare to dream, and dare to make. And what they make is bacon. Bacon from pigs grown outside the system, bacon prepared with love, and bacon prepared in a way completely differently from the kind that you find on the grocery store shelves. Bacon that tastes, perhaps, a little like heaven, if heaven were edible. The Grateful Palate make it possible not only to buy this bacon, which is as much as a person could dream for, but to arrange that you receive, on your doorstep, a different artisinally crafted slab o' bacon each and every month. For real! I'm told that there are some bacons that are not, shall we say, as suited to everyone's tastes as others, but it's still supposed to be well worth the investment. "Wait!" you cry in horror. "Do you mean to say that you, The Food Geek, have never received artisinally crafted pork products on your very own doorstep on a regular, perhaps monthly, schedule? How can this be?" I reluctantly agree that this is a sad state of affairs, but what can one do? Perhaps one day I will make the leap, or the leap will be made for me. In the meantime, I will just dream porky dreams.

Maillard Reaction Filk

This entry is extra-geeky, so be warned. I was playing with Google Books' full-text search feature to find information on the Maillard Reaction, and I discovered that someone made a song about the Maillard Reaction. It's sung to the tune of "On Top of Old Smokey." It starts: "The sugar and protein / all reacted till brown / I now had a mixture / in which protein was bound" and continues for about 18 more stanzas. It was published in 1990, and I'd be interested in discovering how Ted Labuza, the songwright, feels about having his song easily discoverable by the masses, or at least the masses who are interested in the Maillard Reaction. This book (which is available through amazon for $189, and so is a little out of my price range), appears to have been published for or in conjunction with the 4th International Symposium on the Maillard Reaction. The 9th International Symposium on the Maillard Reaction is in Munich in September of 2007, and I may just have to see if I can find some way to make it to that. My concern is that it would be very expensive and way over my head, but come on, how often do you get to go to a symposium, in Munich, about the Maillard Reaction? Not very often, I'd be willing to wager. You can also go to the International Maillard Reaction Society home page. The IMARS "was established in 2005 in response to a growing recognition of the role reactive carbonyl compounds play in food technology, nutrition and tissue aging in biology and medicine." That's seven kinds of cool (for the appropriate definition of cool, of course). So, you may wonder, what's the deal with the Maillard Reaction? Why are there societies, symposia, and songs about this chemical reaction? Well, it's very complex, first. Second, it affects not only food, but medicine. There aren't many chemical reactions that are so important to both fields that we have so much to learn about. It controls some reactions specific to Diabetes, and causes Diabetics to age faster. It makes toast tastier than bread. It's just very interesting. What's also interesting is Google and Amazon's various full-text search of books. I was able to do a search on this subject and discover something entirely unexpected out of it. Sure, I knew scientists were a little odd, but I didn't know that it would lead to a song about the Maillard Reaction. There's a great deal of information we have access to, and we're only just starting to figure out what we can do with it. It's the sort of thing that makes me excited for the future.

Measurement conversions made easy

Although a good number of you will have memorized several measurement conversions in your time, I find that there are times when I don't want to have to, for example, convert cups into teaspoons, or what have you. The calculations aren't terribly difficult, but I'll have to find out what the conversion factor is, do the math, blah blah blah. There's an easier way, and that way is Google. Google has a handy conversion calculator built-in, if you know how to access it. So, when I had to find out how many teaspoons were in a half cup last night, I just typed into google teaspoons in a half cup and it told me "24". If you have any normal google accessing program, like Safari's Google bar, or Google Desktop, or what have you, just put it in, and it'll give you your answer in a jiffy. Sure you have to have internet access that's easily accessible, but I do, so I take advantage of it. Other conversion searches of more or less use: And so on.