Monday, December 24, 2012

Week 86

The Product: Bialys, Empanadas de Pina (Puerto Rico!), Jamaican Hand Pies, and Chocolate Shortbread Cookies.

Our Awesome Customers:  Many thanks to all of our customers who patronized us in 2012.  We could not be what we are without you.  Big thanks this week to Margaret F., Beth F., HM, Adam S., Annie, Harriet+1, Willie, Dave, Leah, Tom B, Joel&Megan et al.

Da Crew: Many thanks this entire year to all our crew and volunteers.  Thanks especially this week to Andy, SZ, Chef Matt, Jamie, and Val.

Andy modeling his vintage store throwback Y2K New Year's Eve sweater

Food Sighting of the Week: Man spotted on Chapel Hill Street pulling a half-keg on an open bike trailer (to a party at the Scrap Exchange as I later found out).

New Stand at Market: Shelly the mini-cheesecake lady set up next to us on Hunt Street with sweets and a big old gallon of milk set in ice from Homeland Creamery.  If you come by in 2013, give her a shout -- she's very friendly!

Coming in 2013: More blogging and baking, and always thinking about expanding our operations!  We're looking forward to trying more pumpernickels, maybe adding some vegan soups, and further perfecting our babkas.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Another Reason Why You Should Eat Kale for New Year's

Besides bringing prosperity to those who eat it on the first day of the year, did you know that kale is a good source of vitamins A, C, K, folate, iron and calcium? These vitamins and minerals are important for the healing of gastritis (stomach irritation).  So skip the Nexium, Pepcid AC, and Zantac on New Year's Day and instead head for the leafy greens and a hot plate of Hoppin' John.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Chocolate Walnut Bourbon Pie

Our crew member Val brought us this recipe.  It worked out magnificently.  Here is her description of where it comes from:

You can't call it Derby Pie. . . .There is a lady in Kentucky who will come after you if you call it Derby Pie.  She has a lock on the copyright. . . .So we call it Chocolate Chip Walnut Bourbon Pie. But really, we should call it "David's Pie".

My high school friend David works in the same building as the famous Old Ebbitt Grill in downtown Washington, DC. Over the past seven years, "OEG" (as they say) has become his "Cheers". You walk in and all the bartenders say, "David!" then proceed to pour his favorite seasonal beer.

In early November, I met David and his fiancee Molly for dinner at OEG. I found them in the crowded historic bar one day after the election. After complimentary drinks, we headed to our table. As a former server, I would love to have a job a OEG. No table is ever empty for more than 2 minutes. People wait like bees in the lobby. I could pay my rent in tips from one night's work. After an amazing dinner and glorious conversation, we were presented with dessert menus. David, of course, knew every dessert better than his best friend. He reviewed each one, then insisted on trying the Chocolate Chip Walnut Bourbon Pie. It was the best one. We talked about my pie making, my pie baking, and my pie eating. Molly chimed in that last year at Christmas, David bought pies directly from the chef. He took them home for the family. With my eyes all aglow, I asked, "Can you get the recipe?"  David blushed and said, "I will try".

I will tell you our version isn't exactly it. But it is very very close.

After dinner that night we took the elevator all the way up to the roof and walked out onto the blustery deck, pressed our faces against the bulletproof glass, and decided the Obamas were still celebrating in Chicago.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Best and Worst 2012

In the spirit of the countless "In/Out" lists that populate magazines during late December, I have assembled some of our own.  Take a gander and comment as cordially as you see fit.

[All opinions are of the author only]


New Food Truck: Porchetta
New Bakery: Loaf
New Cafe: Hummingbird Bakery
Triangle Twitter: Triangle Localista
New Food Stand: Monuts
Triangle Food Company Mascot: Esme (This and That Jam)
New Restaurant Space: The Cookery Front Room
Anticipated Opening for 2013: Cocoa Cinnamon
Food Blog: David Leibowitz
Jewish Pastry Pic: (Chocolate Rugelach via David Leibowitz)
Radio Food Shows: The Splendid Table; Taste Matters
New Cookbooks: Faviken; Bouchon Bakery
Celebrity Takedown: Pete Wells on Guy Fieri
Foodie Movie: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Internet Pie Pic: (Blueberry Anise-Hyssop Pie, Tarts by Tarts, DC)
Internet Food Videos:
Food Article:
Kitchen Gadget Purchases: OXO POP Container for holding compost; OXO Immersion Thermometer
Triangle Vegan Chef: Matt Props
Berenbaum's Hand Pie: Thai Peanut
New Products at Berenbaum's: French Coconut Tartlets; Bialys
Berenbaum's Customer Reaction: The woman at the South Durham Market who unapologetically dropped f-bombs throughout her multi-sentence praise of our tartlets.


PR Move: Durham Farmer's Market trying to boot the food trucks/stands from Hunt Street.
Restaurant Closing: That aspiring New York deli that tried to make it on 54 in Chapel Hill -- I already forget its name.
Opening: The Cupcake Bar, Durham.
Food Business Closing: TROSA Grocery Store
Moment for Locavorism: The day Reliable Cheese announced its closing.
Food Trends: Pickled Ramps; Extreme Foraging; International Destination Restauranting; "Rediscovering" Brisket
Berenbaum's Customer Reaction: Mr. M who tasted Ruch's Famous Kimchi, found it offensively spicy, and spat it into his hand and then threw it into the street.  This was also the best compliment imaginable for the kimchi, as kimchi that doesn't offend somebody's palate is probably weak tea.

Week 85

The Product:  Going against the grain of Jewish Holiday Foods, we made a "authentic" Stollen on Saturday.
Our Stollen was unlike the Stollen that you would find at other outlets this holiday season. We aimed to produce Stollen that was more like what you would find in 15th Century Saxony ( What that means is that the prior to the production of refined white flours, whole grain flours (coarsely milled whole wheat flour) was likely used. Hence, we used 70% wheat flour which is more hearty. Also, prior to commercial yeasts, natural starters/yeasts were used, giving a long rising time to the bread, and greater depth of flavor. We used a natural leaven, with just the slightest bit of commercial (fast-rising) yeast to assist in the rise.  The result was pleasing, and we received many compliments.  The only elements that I missed were the candied orange peel and candied lemon peel which I could not procure.

One of our bike delivery customers followed up with an email after tasting the Stollen:
"OMG -- this is THE best stollen I've ever had, quite similar to the ones I enjoyed a couple of years ago when visiting Germany right before Christmas.  Great texture, nice subtle sweetness...  I've frozen the other two for Christmas morning."

60 pounds of Stollen dough, filled with brandied raisins and almonds, butter, and eggs

Customers from Awesometown: Madrienne and Mark, Kevin and Esme, Joel and Megan et al., Adam and Chris, George, LD, the Stock-Hoffmans, JB et al., RML, Claire and Mike.

Mmm...Stollen.  RML with his giveaway.

The Infamous Crew: Mant thanks as always to Jamie, Chef Matt, Val, Andy, and SZ.

Brunnnncccchhh: Chef Matt's Vegan Brunch Sunday morning at Ninth Street Bakery was a big hit.  Here is a pic of the line going out the door.  I look forward to seeing more of these!

Berenbaum's Holiday Party: Thanks to all who made it out Sunday afternoon/evening for an epic 2nd Annual Berenbaum's Holiday Party.  The house was filled with tots and babies large and small, crew members, patrons, and friends.  We consumed or gifted four quiches, eight Chocolate Walnut Bourbon Pies, two Pumpkin Pies, numerous tartlets and vegan hand pies, pan con tomate, raw bok choi salad (greens bartered from Lil' Farm), and ten Stollen served with house Tangerine Marmalade.  Ben F. brought a wonderful pint of spiced bread and butter pickle slices, Annie S. brought awesome homemade caramels, and Lindsay P. brought an inspired Elderberry Ginger Tea Kombucha.

The Holiday Table

This week: Last weekend of the year, I am thinking of bringing it all back -- bialys!

Thursday, December 13, 2012


This holiday season I've seen a lot of latke articles and recipes pop up.  Most things I would consider blasphemy.  Here are some pointers from this side of the stove:

  • Hand-grate the potatoes using the fine-grate side of your box grater.  NOT THE COARSE GRATE SIDE; NOT THE FOOD PROCESSOR.  You can taste the difference.
  • DO NOT USE FLOUR.  Use matzo meal.
  • DO NOT ADD A THOUSAND EGGS TO THE MIX UNLESS YOU WANT A FRITTER.  You only really need 2-3 eggs for five pounds of potatoes.
  • You can use pretty much any kind of potato you want, but I prefer ordinary white potatoes.  Hook a farmer up and buy them at the farmer's market.
  • Don't forget the onion.  About 2 medium-sized onions, again fine-grated (you gotta cry a little bit), per 5 pounds potatoes.
  • You don't need a ton of salt.  Hold yourself back here.  About 1.25-1.5 tablespoons per 5 pounds potatoes.
  • The order: peel potatoes; grate potatoes (push the potatoes under the potato liquid so they don't oxidize too much); peel onions; grate onions and add to potatoes; drain potatoes and onions (some people say not to drain completely or to reserve the potato starch at the bottom of the bowl); mix in eggs; mix in salt; mix in matzo meal.  Fry small latkes in hot oil so that they don't fry for more than 6 minutes total - if it's taking longer, you can turn up the heat slightly, but don't burn them or leave the middle uncooked.  Remember that the oil temp will decrease as you throw more latkes into the pan.
  • It's important that you are both self-deprecating and secretly egotistic about your latkes.  Otherwise you'll never bother next year.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Week 84

The Product:  This week, we had Caramelized Banana Sweet Vegan Hand Pies, Smokey Mushroom and Leafy Greens Savory Vegan Hand Pies, Chocolate Babka, and Cinnamon Raisin Babka.  When Chef Matt originally asked me what I thought of a banana hand pie, I admit I was unsure how the flavor profile and texture would work.  But trusting Matt's intuition has always been a wise move -- the starchy sweetness of the pies combined with a light spice mix made it great.  Also, the Smokey Mushroom and Greens is fast becoming a fan favorite (behind the Thai Peanut?).

Da Crew: Profuse thanks to our spunky hardworking crew: Jeff, SZ, Chef Matt, Andy, and Val.

Customers From Awesometown: David L., Aaron, LD, JCD.

Zabar's Coffee: For a limited time, we will be serving quintessential "New York Street Coffee", a light nutty easy drinking roast from Zabar's.  Not as local as our usual (and great) coffee from Jessee's (Carrboro), Zabar's house roast reminds me of the way Dunkin' Donuts coffee used to taste before they became a mega-corporation and franchised the business outside of Massachusetts (it's now more watery and less flavorful).  If you are drinking light roast (which seldom happens here in the Triangle), I highly recommend some kind of dairy/nondairy creamer, plus sugar if you swing that way.

Track of the Week (Selected by Chef Matt):  We saw this show Saturday night at Motorco with Chef Matt and friends.  Lee Fields destroyed it.

Bonus Track of the Week Celebrating Chanukah, Festival of Lights: 

Coming This Week: Pints and half-pints of honey harvested from Old West Durham!

Brunchification: I know Chef Matt is going to be pissed at me for upping his Vegan Brunch next weekend (he's trying to do a "soft-opening"), but I would be remiss in not cataloging this event in the annals of Berenbaum's family history.  Let's hope it's a fantastic success.

Monday, December 3, 2012

On Mission Chinese

"Mission, by contrast, adheres to no discernible set of rules and has to be experienced to fully appreciate its complicated appeal."

"'Sichuan peppercorns,” GQ’s Brett Martin astutely observed, “are essentially drugs.'"


Week 83

The Scene: The first day of Winter Market is always special.  We get another two hours of sleep (markets open at 10AM instead of 8AM), the air is crisp, and the customers are generally our regulars as the DFM now lacks its spring/summer fruits and vegetables (e.g. tomatoes).  The sun came out and no jacket was needed despite it being the first day of December.

The Product: We brought Pumpkin Chai Hand Pies, BBQ Tofu Hand Pies, and Irish Soda Bread.

Our awesome patrons: Anna, EC &SMG, Marybeth and Allen, HM, Annie&Andy&Miriam, Alila, Charles and Fantine, Leah, Ian, Milton, Franklin & Frances, Erik.

Da Crew: Many many props to our crew: Andy, Val, Chef Matt, Jamie, SZ, Sara & Jeff.  Extra thanks to Chef Matt who prepared our vegan fillings despite the passing the day before of his beloved dog, Miles, RIP.

Berenbaum's Holiday Party: We will be hosting the 2nd Annual Berenbaum's Holiday Party this year at my house on December 16th.  We do this to express our gratitude to customers, friends, and staff who have made 2012 a great year.  Please email me at berenbaums at gmail dot com if you would like an invite with time and location.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


While in Boston for Thanksgiving, I visited Sofra (menu), a Middle Eastern cafe/bakery on the outskirts of Cambridge, MA.  Situated in an otherwise nondescript part of town, Sofra overwhelms the senses with an assortment of baked, prepared, and cooked-to-order items.  We tried the lamb schwarma, oatmeal fig cookies, shakshuka, semolina pancakes with pumpkin preserves, and stuffed sausage flatbread.  All were very very strong.

Having thought at length about the construction of the bakery/cafe, Sofra got so much right that I would call it revelatory (another similar cafe that comes to mind would be Flour Bakery).  Seating for 15-20 was in low informal tables with stools.  There was a stand-up bar for quick mezze noshing.  They filled in their countertop display with baking racks of pies, cakes, spice mixes, preserved and pickled goods, and premium grab-and-go snacks liked cocoa-covered hazelnuts.  The cafe was bustling and busy, with about 400 sq. ft for the cafe area and 400-700 sq. ft in an open kitchen where eight or nine bakers/cooks jockeyed for space.  Perhaps most importantly, there was a sense of expectancy among the customers awaiting their food that created a good vibe, akin to a surfer watching for a wave to crest.

On the non-pleasures of good eating

At a certain point that I wish was more rare than it is, eating becomes more cerebral exercise than gustatory enjoyment.  Like a fine wine taster who never smiles, our food fetishization movement has improved the general quality of food depth and breadth in America, but has also produced a rising number of palates that are benumbed by over-tasting.  Exhibit A would be chef Jonathan Benno in this video claiming to have eaten "one of the best meals that I've ever had" (at Neta) while being entirely solemn bordering on funereal.  If the future of food consumption is filled with silent somber contemplation, does this defeat the purpose of breaking bread with anyone but yourself?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Week 82

The Product: "Pecan Pies so good Martha Stewart wet her pants a little bit."  Also, the Savory Red Dragon Hand Pie (Tofu, spicy fermented black bean sauce) was a real attention-grabber and had flavor to match.

Da Crew: Many thanks to our ever-fabulous crew for going above and beyond the call of duty: Andy, Chef Matt, Ali R., Sara & Jeff, Matthew & Nancy.

Our awesome customers: Marybeth and Allen, AS, Steve, William, Beth, Alaila, Lailitree, the Stock-Hoffmans, SMW&EB, SMG&EC, Chris, Jennifer S. & her mom, Kevin & Esme.

Hand Pie Cuteness

Giveaway winner Jennifer S. and her Mom

This Week: Everyone is taking off next weekend for Thanksgiving, but we will be at the South Durham pre-Thanksgiving event on Tuesday from 3-6:30PM.  Please use this sheet if you would like to pre-order a pie (for pickup in Downtown or at the South Durham Market):

Track of the Week:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Chef Matt has a blog!

Check it! And add it to your RSS.........

Week 81

Thanksgiving on the way: Thanksgiving is almost here.  We got pies just for you:

The Product: Chef Matt hooked us up with some Smokey Greens and Mushroom Hand Pies.  Very popular.  The Pumpkin Chai Sweet Vegan Hand Pie Part II was strong too.

Da Crew: Big up big ups to Ali R., Chef Matt, SZ, Andy, Sara & Jeff, and Jamie.  Ali R. and Andy get the Berenbaum's Green Beret award of the week as they rolled nearly forty pounds of pie crust by hand (the Ninth Street dough sheeter was broken).

Shouts to our customers: AS, Aaron, HM, Elizabeth&Elisabeth, Jeff B., Ian et al., Leah.

Phrase of the Week: "Fiscal Cliff Diving"

Track of the week (selected by Chef Matt):

Sunday Sunday Sunday: Sunday the fun continued at Fullsteam Brewery for the Sweet Relief Bake Sale for Hurricane Disaster Aid.  We donated 25 hand pies and local folks really brought out some awesome treats.  There were rochers from Katie of Rose's; Nutella cookies from Kelli of Toast; handmade Moonpies; Whoopie Pies, Cheese straws; and Caramels from Burgeoning Baker; Mince Pies and Apple Caramel Pies from Shoofly Pies; Jam from This and That Jam; Black and White Cookies and Taylor Ham and Egg Sandwiches from Guglhupf; Duck Pastrami Sandwiches from G2B and a whole bunch more.  I heard they raised over $2,500 so good on 'ya.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Happy as Pie: Thanksgiving Pre-orders

We typically don't do full pies, only tartlets, but Thanksgiving is calling our name.  We rolled out some of our favorites (Chocolate Chess, French Coconut, Pecan) for you to enjoy.

Here is the order form:

Suggested price: $16-20.
Four pick-up times/locations.

Questions? berenbaums at gmail dot com

Madeleine Studies

Ali R. sent me this amazing article from Slate.  In it, the author, Edmund Levin, attempts to reverse-engineer Proust's madeleine.  Having done a lot of experimentation on the madeleine myself (and I'm still tweaking the recipe), I thought I would weigh in.

Here is the primary document, from Remembrance of Things Past:

She [Marcel's mother] sent for one of those squat plump little cakes called "petites madeleines," which look as though they had been molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell … I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure invaded my senses …

And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray … when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Leonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane …. and the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, town and garden alike, from my cup of tea.

A cake with that kind of density is more like a cookie than a cake.  Some modern madeleine eaters treasure the cake for it's softness, but I would assume that the cake as it was during Proust's time of wood-fired ovens was harder, hence the need to dip it in the tea to soften it.  Because choux pastry is so laden with butter, to bake it consistently at high heat (400-425 degrees) and retain its soft texture without burning it, you need an extremely precise oven (i.e. gas-fired or electric) and constant temperature, which is difficult to attain with wood fire.  Hence, the cake must have been baked at a lower temperature (300-350 degrees) for a longer time, thereby explaining the dense/dry/crumbly crumb that Proust so enjoyed.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Week 80

The Product: Rave reviews this week on Chef Matt's Shepherd's Pie Savory Vegan Hand Pie.  The Plantain Chips he made were bomb too - perfect combo of sweet, spicy, and salty.

Da Crew: As always, many thanks to our fantastic, hardworking crew: Chef Matt; SZ; Ali R.; Andy; and Jaime.

Shouts to our customers: Marybeth and Allen; Ian Et al.; the Stock-Hoffmans; Billy.

Track of the week (Selected by Chef Matt):

Friday, November 2, 2012

I Read Mitchell Davis' Dissertation...

...So sprinkle some confetti on me! Having written an unpublished dissertation, I know from experience that no one save for the author reads dissertations, even dissertation committee members, spouses, friends, and admirers. If you are thinking about gaining a PhD, be prepared for the fact that your dissertation chair will likely not think about your dissertation as an intellectual product, but only as a laundry list item that needs some stylistic critique and armchair quarterback-, backseat driver-type comments.

Yet after a brief email exchange, I was motivated to read Beard Foundation Executive Vice-President Mitchell Davis' doctoral dissertation in Food Studies.

His thesis goes like this: Food, like other cultural products, exists within a discourse that is both structured and structuring (Bourdieu). People are affected by food enough to write about it and food writing affects what chefs cook, and what diners believe about what they are eating.  Davis' paper provides a history of the food writing industry, especially New York food criticism, and in particular food writing at The New York Times.

Davis finished this monograph around 2008, and reading it in 2012 gives one the sensation of looking at the last fifty years of American food writing as a prelude to our current moment of a Food Network Society.  The dissertation creates a theoretical framework for what (I hope, at last) is the zenith of American food fetishization circa 2011-2012 (can it get any more crazy than it is?).  It is as if as Mitchell Davis created his theories, the gustatory landscape was self-propagating his conclusions an an exponential rate.  The unanswered question, of course, is, what was the revolution that could condense 50 years of food writing into a hyperfestishization of food in 2011-2012?  We have certainly been building up to it in the years after the downturn of 2008 (did the recession increase our awareness of what has value in the world (i.e. food?); are more smart people underemployed now and as a result turning to the previously "dirty" industry of food service?).  But if gastronomy writ large (and especially food writing) is some kind of complex system, the system has reached a threshold state and proliferated, pollinating and expanding exponentially.

Though Davis' restaurant review analysis is thorough and edifying, I would enjoy the opportunity to counter his thoughts (collected in the last twenty pages) on American cuisine.  This question is frequently brought up on his very fine podcast, Taste Matters: What is American food?  Though many would ascribe American food to our ideology, traditions, aesthetics, and general "American" disposition, I would argue that deep structures and regional tastes exist in and apart of our cultural production.  What I mean is that on some kind of biological level, our palate and other sensory organs differ in such a way that American tastes can be defined, even when accounting for regional differences.  The palate, like the psyche, is symptomatic of pathological behaviors of taste.  What could be the cause of this I don't know (the water?).  But I do know that specific attributes of American food demarcate it from other international foods in such a way as one could compare and contrast: the density/lightness; the colors; the blandness/piquancy; the flavor combinations; the degree of saltiness; the oiliness; the brightness; the char; the consistency/inconsistency of the flavor palette (do the flavors come through like notes or like a chord?).  This is a difficult question to attack, but I think Pandora has already done a pretty good job of it with regards to music -- why not food?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mr. Pumpernickel

Even for someone who has eaten a lot of pumpernickel bread, this recipe has eluded me, hopefully only till now.  The problem has always been the color more than the flavor.  Even using dark rye flour, it seemed beyond me to replicate deli pumpernickel.  I would see on the back of packages that commercial bakeries used "caramel coloring", which I assumed was food coloring.

And so I tried molasses to color the pumpernickel.  I would not use coffee or cocoa powder to color (as prescribed by some internet recipes), as those tastes would do damage to the flavor of the final product.

Finally, I googled "caramel color" to find that caramel color was originally (prior to becoming a toxic industrial process) burnt sugar syrup.  To make your own, here is a recipe to get you going.  I hope the use of it in my test batch this weekend will result in the right color, along with a hint of the nutty sweet taste characteristic of good pumpernickel.

Bonus Question: What is the etymology of the word pumpernickel?

[As an addendum, I was reading Jeffrey Hammelman's Bread, wherein he states that true pumpernickel is traditionally bread that is left to bake in covered loaf pans overnight in a cooling hearth oven.  In this manner, the bread sugars actually break down and caramelize to the point that the whole loaf is black but not burnt when it comes out in the morning.  He states that the bread was fed to babies and the infirm for this reason because these sugars are easy to digest.  That may also help explain the etymology of the bread's name -- "Devil's Fart".]

Monday, October 29, 2012

Deconstructing Chad

So while the American food economy continues to move in hyperdrive, some might have missed what I would consider nothing short of a Kuhnian Revolution in bread baking.  That event would be Chad Robertson's Tartine Country Bread Recipe, published in Tartine Bread.

Here, for the first time, Robertson replicates the process used by French bakers prior to the widespread use of commercial fast-rising cake yeasts in the 1930's.  Bread baked without commercial yeast has deeper and more complex flavors, yielding a superior loaf.  Until now, breads baked with only natural yeasts suffered because the starter was typically refrigerated prior to use, yielding more lactic acid (sour) than acetic acid (sweet, tangy).  In Robertson's recipe, the starter and leaven are never refrigerated.

I will say in advance that this recipe is nearly impossible for the home baker to replicate, and for those who could replicate it, it is way too onerous to produce regularly.  But for someone that is interested in a challenge, here are my notes below.  I would add that adding a tiny pinch of instant yeast in Step 4 will double the speed things take for steps 5-14 without degrading the final flavor significantly.  The most helpful thing to me in this recipe was to discover that I could maintain a starter outside the fridge with only one daily feeding.  Previously, I had not used a kitchen scale and as such the starter would typically ferment too fast and die back too much before I could get to the next feeding.  In my most recent tests with this recipe, the starter maintained its strength well with daily feedings.  If anyone would like to inherit a bit of starter to get going, I would be happy to share so you can skip the first five days or so of the recipe.

Here I walk you through through the recipe.  Download the images to view the text cleanly.
Recipe reproduced via:

Week 79

The product: This week we had Sweet Apple Caramel Vegan Hand Pies (1st time!); Jamaican Jerk Tofu Hand Pies; Ginger Cookies (we sold out quickly due to many pre-orders); Vegan Walnut Spread; Brown Sugar Granola.  Many thanks to Chef Matt for coming up with a great recipe for the vegan apple pie filling.

Our awesome customers: Ilya & Dara, Marybeth and Allen, HM; Adam R., Ian et al.; Beth; Harriet; Claire +1; Bonnie & Marv.

FFFFound on Club Blvd during my bike route, Wildstyle Jack O' Lantern: 

Da Crew:
Big up big ups to Ali R., SZ, Chef Matt, and Andy.

Cafe Update: In case you missed the FB post, we now have our savory hand pies stocked at three UNC campus cafes: Daily Grind; Global Cup Cafe; and Friends Cafe.  Thanks so much to our man Rick B. for making those deliveries happen and for owner Jane B. for taking us on!

Pour Overs: Fad or no, we have decided to start pouring pour-over coffee at the South Durham market.  SZ found a 1972 camp stove that boils the kettle, so check it out next time you're there.  We use Jessee's Costa Rican Coffee (Carrboro).  Many thanks to SZ for making this fun venture happen.

Track of the Week (Selected by Chef Matt), complete with freaky Woman Without a Face Halloween masks:

Lomo on the Outs?

Quick report on LoMo.  Excitedly, we supplied LoMo with product the first month or so of its existence.  Then they stopped ordering.  Then their payment was 2 months late.  And then, another vendor friend of ours had trouble collecting payments.  And then, a friend of ours applied for a job there, was told that there would be a job driving the truck, and then after a lengthy interview process was offered a job washing the truck for $8.00/hr.  When he asked about driving the truck/selling, they told him that they might be buying a second truck in the future, at which point his wage would be $10.00/hr, but after his run he would need to clock back in at $8.00/hr to wash the truck, which seems demeaning.  Has anyone else, vendor or customer, had an experience like this with LoMo?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Week 78

The Product: Here is a little background on Chef Matt's Mediterranean Walnut Salad that we did this week.  From the Chef himself:

As a vegan a food lover I'm kind of at odds with all the super-processed, faux meat stuff.  I'm not inherently opposed, but do try and avoid it for the most part. Replicating the flavors is more important to me than the texture so that's kind of the inspiration for the Walnut Spread aka the Vegan "Tuna" Salad.  Walnuts and sunflower seeds soaked in salt water and nori seaweed overnight (and then pulsed in the food processor) make the base. Add some silken tofu, lemon, celery, onion and a few spices and the flavor is remarkably similar to the tuna salad a lot of us grew up on. My non-vegan girlfriend is my test audience - before it gets to the public it has to pass her test run - and this one passed with rave reviews. I've learned that the key to successful vegan food is hitting on all the flavors our palates love (fatty, sweet, salty)...and in that way appealing to vegans and non vegans alike.

Our awesome customers:  Leah, Scott, AS, the Scott family, EC & SMG et al., Dan, Sarah&Fam, Stacy R.

Da Crew: As always, many thanks to our steadfast crew: Sara, Jeff, SZ, Chef Matt, Ali R., Jamie, and Andy.  Many thanks to Ali R. for digging a great pumpkin pie recipe.

Words of the Day: Self-employment; pumpkin pie.

Fashion Statement of the Market: Fall Boots are officially here.

Track of the Week (selected by Chef Matt):

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Week 77

The Product: This week, we did Sweet Poppyseed Babka, Thai Peanut Savory Vegan Hand Pies, French Coconut Tartlets (best yet - word of mouth spread quickly throughout the market and we had people coming up saying, "I had to find out where that coconut custard pie came from"), and Thai Peanut Rice Noodle Salad.

Our Awesome Customers: Josh and Morgan. Otis+1, Gina&Allen et al., Beth F.,  Melissa T., EC&SMG&Joanna&MC, Aaron, Susan, Steve, Nate&Amanda&Elizabeth, Adam S.,  Frank S., Ian et al., RML, Annie&Andy&Miriam.

Da Crew: Many many thanks to Chef Matt, Andy, Ali R., Jamie, and SZ.  We had a beaut of a day to share together Saturday.  The market was lively with the feeling of Fall.  Also, thanks to Chef Matt, we now have our own tunes at the stand; check out the opening song.

Adieu, Adieu: We have received many comments from customers that miss RML's aka Rufus' presence at the market.  Rufus has served with the stand since the Spring of 2011.  At first, Rufus would just come to support us as a friend and hang out and buy a dozen donuts for his peoples, but soon he began to grab the tongs and wax paper and start serving our customers in our times of overwhelmedness.  Then, Rufus came through every week until it became a thing and he rarely missed a weekend.  A year-and-a-half later, Rufus is moving on to other Saturday morning rituals that hopefully don't require him to wake up at 6AM.  Take care, Rufus, there will always be a red velvet donut here in our hearts especially for you.

A very Kanye RML

Track of the Week (selected by Chef Matt):

Coming up: Bialys are back!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Roasted Acorn Squash Soup.  Halve squash and place in center of each half generous olive oil and brown sugar.  Roast at 425-450 until squash is very tender and surface is caramelized, 1-1.5 hours.  Allow to cool, scoop out the squash, and add to stockpot along with vegetable stock and spices.  Puree to desired consistency and serve.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Knives Out

I had new edges put on my knives by Kitchenworks.

Corned Beef

I'm brining a brisket for corned beef.  The first time I did it, I didn't salt the brine water enough. If you do it at  home, you are going to salt the water way way beyond what you think is necessary.  The water to salt ratio should stand at 6 to 1 by volume.  An egg will suspend in the water, as will the brisket (kind of like swimming in the Dead Sea).

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Week 76

The Product: Our friend and co-worker Val made it happen this week by contributing an awesome Pecan Pie recipe....choice ingredients (brown butter (nutty and rich), honey, vanilla, cinnamon, and brown sugar) made for a tartlet to remember.  Also, Chef Matt developed two new products this week: 1) A new pie filling -- Jamaican Jerk Tofu == the dopeness and 2) Hummus -- garlicky and thick -- the best homemade hummus I've ever had.

Our awesome customers: Shouts to Annie&Andy&Miriam, Scott, Frank S., Belinda, Chris.

Da Crew: Mad shouts and thanks to Chef Matt, Val, Andy, SZ, Jamie, Sara, and Jeff.

South Durham Market: Our South Durham Market has been kind of slow, with less foot traffic since the "Grand Opening".  Anyone have any connections to Woodcroft or other surrounding communities that might like to frequent this market?

Track of the week (selected by Chef Matt):

You know you're a foodie when... finally break down and buy an immersion thermometer.  It makes roasting things about 100 times easier, and you can do cool things like sous vide and David Chang's soft-cooked eggs.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

Week 75

The Product:  Ali had had a hankering for Hoosier Pie aka Indiana Sugar Cream Pie so we made that happen this week (big up for testing the recipe!).  Also, we brought back the Chocolate Babka after weeks of special requests.  Lastly, Chef Matt experimented with a Cold Peanut Noodle Salad which I thought came out well and am looking forward to more experimentations. 

Our awesome customers: Karen, Emily&R&SMG, Annie&Andy&Miriam, HM, Adam&Lindsey, Josh, Amos&Nathan, Natalie&Harris&Madeline.

Giveaway winner Andy S. with his babka

Da Crew: Many thanks to JW, Chef Matt, Andy, Ali R., and SZ.  Extra big ups to 1) Chef Matt for developing the Cold Peanut Noodle Salad 2) The whole standworking crew for toughing it out in the rain.

Track of the week (selected by Chef Matt):

Friday, September 28, 2012

Zones of Indiscernibility

I have been listening lately to Beard Foundation Vice President Mitchell Davis' very good podcast, Taste Matters.  I too have thought frequently on the structure and composition of taste, and would contribute this: taste is put into action via an organ structure that responds to both consistency and inconsistency.  What I mean is that often we are aroused to tasty food when what we are tasting is both clear and unclear (e.g. a blend of eleven herbs and spices).  What makes Coke coke-like and RC Cola a pale imitator?  Having cooked a lot but never having worked in an industrial food lab, I cannot tell you what you are tasting when you taste Coke, it is simply Coke.  Likewise, salt is essential to a soup -- without it you have flavored water -- but a good soup will not taste salty -- why is that?  It is because of what I would call, borrowing from Gilles Deleuze, taste's zone of indiscernibility.  At a certain point, not salty and too salty are obviated by an indiscernable zone that is perfectly salted.  I believe that all food operates in this way, the purest example being umami (deliciousness).  Take a drop of soy sauce on your tongue, and the palate reacts purely to this otherwise indiscernable fermented liquid bean paste.  Another example (for me) would be Pepperidge Farm Cookies.  Pepperidge Farm Cookies have gone through decades of testing to arrive at the perfect amount of sugar, the perfect amount of salt, etc., to the precision of production of a Porsche car body.  That is why when you taste a Chessmen or a Milano, what you are tasting is almost ontological in nature.  For our part at Berenbaum's, the recipes that we stick with also obey these rules: they go through weeks of testing, modifying the salt or hydration content by as little as 2-3% (which might come out to 10-15 grains of salt in your home recipe) in order to find the zone of indiscernibility where the product really moves the palate.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

All You Can Hold For Five Bucks

I recently read this foodie article in the New Yorker from 1939 (reprinted here).  Coincidentally, I just saw yesterday that Bull City Burger and Brewery is doing their own beefsteak.  Looks intense!


We have a running joke among the bakers that whenever products are looking excessively handmade, they are not only rustic, they are "artisinal as a _________".  With that in mind, here is a t-shirt/poster that will probably never be made:

I think I could go on about the word "artisan" and its overuse/misuse, but I suppose that would be superfluous at this point.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Week 74

The Product: The most accurate source of feedback for our baked items comes from Rick B. who works at Ninth Street Bakery (our commissary).  If the product puts a smile on Rick's face, chances are 95% sure our customers are going to dig it.  The Vanilla Buttermilk Tartlet passed the "Rick test" Saturday with flying colors, so I know we were in good shape.  The custard was rich and sweet, and the crust soft and flaky.

Our awesome customers: Adam, HM, Dave and Nancy, Loren, Aaron.

This week's giveaway winner, Loren P. with her bagged winnings (two hand pies)

Ninth Street Bakery Patio: After years of work and perseverance, Ninth Street (our commissary location and my ex-employer) finally has their outdoor deck/patio/beer garden up and running.  Friday night, while we were baking away, the pizzas (made with baker Brian's special dough recipe (using real deal sourdough starter built up into a poolish)) were coming out so fast so furious from the hearth oven and the conga drumming could be heard throughout Five Points.  Check the clip:

Rich Baker, Poor Baker: This weekend, the weather (being so pleasant and balmy) must have driven some customers to the outdoors because market vendors noticed a decrease in traffic, especially at the South Durham Market.  So in times of having one too many tartlets on our hands, I turned to what got us into this game in the first place -- bartering.  In return for our tartlets, we received a bounty: peppers and eggplant from Piedmont Biofarm; beans from Lil' Farm; pecans from Walters Unlimited; eggplant from Hurtgen Farms; peppers from Sassafras Fork Farm; Hunkadora goat cheese from Prodigal Farm; Raw Milk Cheese from Hillsborough Cheese Co.; pea shoots from Four Leaf Farms; spicy pepper jelly from Ladybug Farms; acorn squash from Green Button Farms (smooth website!); a pumpkin from New Oaks Farm; and goodwill and tidings from the Farmer Food Share.  Sweet stuff, thanks to all, you make me feel rich.

Da Crew: Many thanks to our hardworking crew of Ali R., Chef Matt, Andy, Sara and Jeff, SZ, and RG.  Do the hustle!

Track of the week (selected by Chef Matt):

Monday, September 17, 2012

Week 73

The Product: Four months later, I feel like we are really hitting our stride with the tartlets.  I would say our Shoofly, Chocolate Chess, and French Coconut are as good as any you might find in a fine restaurant.  It has taken a lot of trial and error, but the crusts are buttery flaky, and the fillings deliciously moist.

Our awesome customers: AS, Patrick et al., Linda et al, Frank S., Gerard, Heather C, Nancy and Dave.

Da Crew: Many thanks to Chef Matt, Josh, Jason, Ali R., SZ, and Andy.  Extra big ups to Josh and Jason, local funk/soul connoisseurs, for pitching in as we were short-staffed.

Frank Stacio: Most Durhamites know Frank Stacio from his WUNC show The State of Things.  Frank has been a patron and supporter of Berenbaum's since the cold of Winter 2011 (when we started up) -- Frank always wearing his trademark grey woolen hat and puffy coat.  On Saturday, the tables were reversed as I got to try Frank's homemade sausage at the Cookery fundraiser and front room opening, which came out great (esp. with the fresh basil).  Many thanks to this public personality who takes the time to be deeply involved with the day-to-day of Durham and the Triangle.

Song of the Week (selected by Chef Matt):

Monday, September 10, 2012

Week 72

The "Grand Opening" for the South Durham Market was a smash.  The market was very busy and we had a lot of great conversations with folks about our bialys.  Many customers said that they had not seen bialys since decades ago in New York.  And our bialys stacked up well to their memories....I think the bialys could be improved by being baked in a hearth oven instead of a convection oven (for a harder, more textured crust), but overall, the interior crumb, flavor, and shape were great.  Also, the poppy seeds with the onions in the middle was a good improvement (we had just done onions last time).

The Bialys

Our awesome customers: Marybeth and Allen, Leah, Adam, Daniel, Linda et al., AS et al., Adam.

Da Crew: Many thanks to our fabulous crew -- you guys keep fascinating while you be updating: Ali R., Chef Matt, Andy, JW, and SZ.

New Stand: Add another one to the list.  The Sweetwater Ices guys have joined the Hunt Street lineup -- a duo of shaved ice aficianados with matching berets and trike-freezer-carts.  I haven't tried their product yet but am looking forward to some fancy flavors!

Prodigal Farm: We collaborated this week with Kat Spann of Prodigal Farm at the South Durham Market to schmear her herb or plain goat cheese on the bialys.  They were selling hot....we sold 39 of them by day's end, and were totally delicious.

South Durham Farmer's Market Policies and Procedures: We learned two weeks ago that after a misunderstanding, we cannot sell anything at that market sliding-scale for fear of "undercutting" other vendors, which of course is not the intent of our model and mission.  This will be brought up at an October all-vendor meeting where hopefully we can get the go-ahead to switch back to the old model.  It's extremely odd keeping set prices after doing sliding-scale for so long.  Sorry for the inconvenience to any of our customers who expect sliding-scale for their budgets.

Song of the Week (selected by Chef Matt):

Foodie of the Week:
Kent, with his anti-Kosher Epic Meal Time t-shirt

Friday, September 7, 2012

Pepperidge Farm Chessmen Rolling Pin

"They’re cookies...By their very nature, they are guileless and eager to please, and insofar as they play at sophistication, they do so with jauntiness, and without desperation."
"Just go ahead and put a Chessman, a Bordeaux, or a Gingerman in your mouth and start chewing. It might strike you as unremarkable at first. But soon the hard, crunchy cookie will turn into a pleasing goop that resembles melted ice cream or sweetened condensed milk. The flavor will make itself known gradually, growing more intense with time. The goop will get dense but you will be able to swish it around freely—an extraordinary feeling. In the end, it will feel like you are saying goodbye to something you’ve fought for."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Monday, September 3, 2012

Week 71

The Product: Pear Crostatas were the bomb.  Many thanks to my coworker Pam P. for those pears (she has a small farm in Person County).  The bagels came out a little too bready -- needs some more fine-tuning.

Our awesome customers: Suzanne&Josh, Josh+1, Scott, Adam, Fran, Heather C. et al.

Da Crew:  Many thanks as always to our crew, SZ, Chef Matt, Ali R., JW, and Andy.

Song of the Week (selected by Chef Matt):

Eats of the Week: Monte Enebro cheese purchased from Reliable Cheese, possibly the best soft goat's cheese I've ever tasted.  Go to Reliable and get you some!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Week 70

The Product: The donuts this week got a big hurrah.  The old fashioned were as old school as it gets and were a crime not to eat with some coffee or milky sweet tea.

Our awesome customers: Aaron, Josh, Suzanne+2, Leah, AS, Frank S., Nate & Amanda & Elizabeth, Tom K. et al.

Crew Additions: We had some new standworkers rocking it out this week -- big ups to Sara and Jeff -- hope to see you back soon!  Also, many thanks to our rocksteady crew: Chef Matt, Ali R., SZ, Andy, and JW -- you guys make it happen on late Friday nights and early Saturday mornings while the rest of Durham is partying, drinking, sleeping, and hitting the coffee -- big ups y'all.

South Durham Market: We're looking forward to the "grand re-opening" of the South Durham Farmer's Market on Sept. 8 (a promotional event accompanied with radio ad buys and print articles).  The duo from Rose's (slated to open a bakery/butcheria in Downtown) is going to do a demo so that should be fun.  Also, on my way to market this week, I took down all the food service establishments you have to pass after going underneath I-40 for a 1.5 mile stretch before reaching our little nook of organic sustainable artisanry: McDonald's, Taco Bell, Papa Johns, Food Lion, El Agave Mexican Grill, Wendy's, Subway, Bojangles, and Starbucks.  Thanks for making a difference by your choice of supporting a local market!

Song of the Week (curated by Chef Matt):

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Summer Vacay 2012: The Tally

We had a busy summer vacation on Cape Cod this year.  The Berenbaum household produced three blueberry pies, two batches of bialys, NuNu Chocolate Chip Scones, BBQ ribs, bluefish with mustard sauce, fried cod, two batches of chocolate chip cookies, a round eye roast, as well as salads with a lot of citrus dressing.  Other highlights included swims in Wellfleet's distinctive kettlepot ponds, a visit to Arnold's Clam Shack for fried oysters, a night out to one of the last remaining drive-in theaters in America, and a lot of Angry Birds.  Big shout outs to the whole Berenbaum's family, my sous chef MJB, as well as the Bennett family who showed us what wild Maine blueberry pie is really all about.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Week 69

The Product: We had a fun time with the bialys this week.  I had been doing some home testing previously, but after reading this article followed by this book, The Bialy Eaters by Mimi Sheraton, my interest went into high gear.  What I learned about bialys though the process:

1. The center should be entirely flat.  It (the center) should be crisp and you should be able to crack the bialy in two.  To achieve this, you flour the bialy after shaping the rounds, and then after it rises, you flatten the bialy and depress the center with the end of a rolling pin.  I don't think we depressed our bialys enough this time so they rose up a little big and puffy without a defined well in the middle (some folks call this non-bialy a pletzl or just an onion roll).
2. False-proofing: For most bread, you allow it to rise fully, and then throw it in the oven.  Bialys get their signature doughy chew (combined with that crisp crack in the middle filled with onions) from a lack of a true final proof.  As I said earlier, after the proofing stage, you flatten the bialy completely (we only slightly flattened, thinking it would not rise not much) prior to indenting the middle with a false hole using the end of the rolling pin.  The bialy then gets filled with chopped onion and goes right into the oven.  This lack of a final proof is why some bialys taste rubbery.
3. Oven temperature: The Bialy Eaters says to use a 500 degree oven, but I can tell from the bake off Saturday that you need to use a 450 degree oven or 400 degrees if you use a fan-assisted convection oven.
4. The Bialy Eaters tells me that Bialystokers (Jewish residents of Bialystok, Poland, where the bialy originated) used poppy seeds in addition to onions.  Supposedly, the poppies were dropped after the bialy immigrated to America because they're expensive.  After using only onions, I can see that adding poppy seeds would be an improvement and will be added next time.  Also, I believe the poppies might soak up some of the moisture from the cut onions.  Lastly, I do remember (and my father corroborates this) that I've had bialys with poppies in New York back in the '80s.
5. One bialy producer in The Bialy Eaters says he salts his onions prior to use to get out some of the moisture.  Maybe an experiment for next time.
6. Mimi Sheraton says that all U.S. bialy producers use sweet onions, which makes sense because they make you cry less when you chop them.  But the Polish didn't have sweet onions, having been grown first in the 1930s in Vidalia, Georgia.  So maybe one time I will try using ordinary onions, which when cooked, have more flavor than sweet onions.
7.  Kossar's (the most famous bialy-maker in America) recipe for dough: 7 gallons water. 2 pounds salt, 1 pound of yeast, 100 pounds of flour.  Our recipe was slightly more hydrated (i.e. more water).
8.  Our bialys were about 3.25 ounces each.

Our Awesome Customers: Leah. Karen, Annie &Andy&Miriam&Fam, Chris, Scott, AS, Patrick&Genivieve&Benjamin&Lucy, Jeff B.

Our Crew: Many thanks to our steadfast and hard-working crew: Chef Matt, Ali R., RG, RML, JW, SZ, and MJB.  Extra props to JW for holding down the Central Market stand for two hours solo.

Suggested Prices: It seems that the customers didn't bat an eyelash regarding our suggested prices (we didn't have any comments to my knowledge at the stand)...Which means that our loyal fans probably didn't notice and the newcomers found it helpful?

Song of the Week:

This Week: Donuts, finally?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Suggested Price

I think we've had a good run with the "no-disclosed-price" thing (although we have verbally suggested average sliding-scale prices and price ranges on request), but after using suggested prices at the South Durham Market (as requested by the Market Board), I see how we could simplify things at the stand and relieve our customers of some anxiety about how much they should pay.  Hopefully, we will not coerce or turn away anyone who wants to pay under the suggested price.  We'll see how it goes.  We're open to feedback so please comment if you have any thoughts on this.  As an aside, Panera states suggested prices at their sliding-scale locations.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Week 68

The Product:  The BBQ Tofu hand pies were a big hit.  The Chocolate Chess Tartlets were compared on multiple occasions to Angus Barn's (which I have not tried as yet, but is ranked as one of the best desserts in the country?).  The Chocolate Babka, as usual, gained more adherents to its chocolatey ways.

The Crew: Big ups to Chef Matt, RML, JW, SZ, RG, and Ali R.  Chef Matt, your hand pies are so awesome, not only do we sell out every week, but one of our cafe customers wants to make it a regular menu item throughout the week due to its popularity.

Our Awesome Customers: Belinda, Otis, Tiffany, Jonah & Susan & Joel & Mike, HM, JD, DH+1, 
Ashley C., Ben & Walter & Linda. Extra props to giveaway winner Ashley C. for commuting by bike and bus from Carrboro to pick up her babka.
Giveaway winner Ashley C. (left) pictured with JW

South Durham Farmer's Market: This week, I finally got to work the South Durham Farmer's Market (with SZ).  Traffic was a little slow due to the end of the vacation season, but the vibe was good...all the vendors were extremely nice, many bartered with me, and the patrons were impressed by the novelty and quality of our goods.

Recipe of the Week: Shakshuka (photo via David Leibovitz) made with bartered tomatoes from Maple Spring Gardens, Lil' Farm, and Piedmont Biofarm.  The key here is to simmer down your tomatoes and sauteed onions until it is quite thick, else you get poached eggs in tomato soup.  Here are some proportions to get you started.

Song of the Week (curated by Chef Matt):

This Week: Bialy?