Monday, January 30, 2012

Week 43

The scene: We had another food truck pow-wow at the DFM on Saturday.  Monuts, BikeCoffee, Cafe Prost, Onlyburger, PiePushers, and Jeep's Kettle Corn were all in attendance.  Unseasonably balmy weather made for a pleasant, busy morning.

The product:  Both the French Bread and the Potato and Onion Bread came out well.  We have found from prior experiments that our starter needs to be fed every six to eight hours to retain maximum freshness without becoming too sour.  This is quite a chore, but AR took it on and did a great job with it.

The hearth oven was already running at our production house, so we were able to use it for the first time (we ordinarily use large convection ovens that can hold up to one hundred loaves at a time; the hearth oven takes 3-4 hours to heat up so we usually don't use it).  The hearth's added heat intensity (the loaves bake between two 500-degree brick slabs separated by twelve inches of space) gave the bread a deep carmelization and a more artisinal crumb texture.  If I did it again, I would bake the loaves for slightly less time -- we found that the center of the hearth was significantly hotter than the front and we could get better results there without the loaves drying too much.

The crew: Many thanks to AR, RML, RG, and SZ for helping out.  AR has been really helping me a ton in the kitchen and with product development.

Our awesome customers: Adam and Heather, Jamie, Meg, Joel+2, Roseanne, Amy T.

This week: Back on the donut train!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Week 42

A rainy day could not stop Berenbaum's on Saturday.  We perched under Bob's awning on the opposite corner and managed to sell out of our challah and sold or bartered 45 of 55 whole wheat breads.

The product:  In addition to the regular-sized challahs, we made two awesome bar/bat mitzvah challahs (one 4-strand 4-pound challah and one 3-strand halo challah).

Our customers: I didn't get to interact with too many customers as I was out making the deliveries in Watts Hillandale and Old West.  But RML did manage to get this pic of AR and our giveaway winner, Cheryl K.

AR and Cheryl K.

The crew:  Thanks to AR for a productive early morning of challah braiding.  We have both started a new book on Deleuze, so please let us know if you would like to get in on this mini-reading group.  Thanks to RML for toughing out the bad weather -- sorry I didn't have more time to hang.

This week: I heard through the grapevine that AR may be working on a new levain recipe!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How Price Confers Value

 One of the criticisms we get is that because we do not price our goods, we do not value our goods (which of course is not the case).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Thomas Keller of The French Laundry in this interview defends his $270 prix fixe meal by saying that diners see reasonable value in the dishes they are served.  As much as I admire Thomas Keller's approach to cooking, that response sidesteps the question of exclusivity and the stratification of diners by income and class.

(Skip to 1:10) 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Week 41

The scene: Our little corner at the Durham Farmer's Market has become quite the hotspot.  BikeCoffee, Kona Chameleon, Boxcarr Farms, Piepushers, Onlyburger, and Monuts were all within 50 feet of each other.  It would be fun if that corner became the location of a weekly food rodeo.

The product: Favorable reactions were received on both the Sweet Poppyseed Babka and Pain au Levain.  Later in the day, the Pain au Levain made a great schmear vehicle for some bartered Celebrity Dairy herbed chevre.  When we make these recipes again, I would add more egg to the Babka, decrease the hydration on the sweet poppy filling, and build the Pain au Levain starter for about another 12-24 hours.

Our awesome customers: EC & SG, Barbara, Rafa, Jennie, Marybeth, Alex K., Frank, Kara.

Our lucky giveaway winner, Alex K. (right)

The crew: Big up to AR who helped me mix the dough, roll the babka, and form the loaves starting at 5AM Saturday on no sleep.  Also big up to RML, whose fashion smarts do not go unnoticed by our well-heeled clientele.  Thanks to RG for running our deliveries out to Watts Hillandale and Old West.

This week: I'm working on almond biscotti and maybe another bagel lab (this will be iteration #8).  By the way, if you are looking for fine Italian ingredients, I would recommend CapriFlavors in Morrisville.  I went for the first time and picked up tipo "00" semolina flour for pasta-making, durham wheat flour for pizza, and a big can of delicious imported cherry tomatoes for saucing.

Monday, January 9, 2012

"When you put your hands in the dough, then the dough is good"

I love watching this old hand make his pizza dough:

Week 40

Thanks to all who came out and supported us on Saturday.  We had many new customers come through due to the Indy article.  The weather was 65 and sunny and sales were like a day in June instead of January 7th.

The product: I made nearly double the usual amount of Mandel Bread and about 30% more Irish Soda Bread and we sold nearly everything.  We also dropped 24 individual-sized bags of Mandel Bread off at Reliable Cheese for sale.

Our awesome customers/family/friends: Joel +2, the Berenbaum clan down from Boston to watch their first Tarheel game at the Deandome (!), EC and SG, MC & SSS, Alex K., Ben & Ali & Esme, Marybeth +1.  I missed most of the selling because I had to run bike deliveries out to Watts-Hillandale/Old West.  If I missed you and didn't get to shout you out, feel free to comment on this post.  Our customer interactions are the highlight of our day.

The crew: Many thanks for RML and SZ for holding it down during the 2-hour sales block.  We did almost the same amount of sales in two hours that we typically do in four, so thanks guys, I admire your hustle!

The DFM app is in: Thanks to all who pledged their support and wrote letters in our effort to enter the Durham Farmer's Market.  If we get in (we should hear back in March), we will be at the Wednesday market starting in April.  There are no spots available for Saturday market this coming Spring/Summer season.

On the docket: I'm thinking about re-working the Sweet Poppyseed Babka recipe, Pain au Levain, and doing a Bagel lab this week.  I also put up pickled turnips, daikon, and beets for personal consumption -- I'm thinking about maybe doing a pickling day for the stand with root veggies that are now plentiful in winter.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"Why I Like Stinky Cheese," by Patrick Coleff

Pairing one of Patrick's Stilton cheeses (incredibly fresh, creamy with blue marble, roll-it-around-on-your-palate depth of flavor) with our wannabe Poilane bread the other week, I was amazed -- "I finally get stinky cheese," I said to myself.  But rather than try to explain my (newfound) affection for Stilton or Valdeon, I'll hand it off to a more reliable source, cheesemonger Patrick Coleff:

Let's play free word association. I say "cheese" and what's the first word you think of? For most people it's "stinky." These days, anything  other than cheddar or swiss has gotten a reputation for being strange and, shall we say, odoriferous. In my years as a cheesemonger, I've heard everything from fresh goat cheese to camembert to blue cheese described as stinky. So, when asked to write an article about stinky cheese, my first though was "I have to set up some definitions here."

Though there are many cheeses that have a strong odor (I once had a customer return the glorious Camembert de Normandie for stinking up his whole apartment), when I talk about stinky cheeses, I'm talking about one particular style of cheese called "washed-rind." These are cheeses that get a periodic washing during the aging process to encourage the growth of a bacteria called Brevibacterium Linens, or B. Linens for short. The wash is usually a simple brine solution, but sometimes alcohol plays a part, anything from Calvados to Marc. This bacteria is what gives the rind its distinct rusty color and old socks smell. That's no exaggeration either. B. Linens are actually the same bacteria responsible for foot odor.

You might ask why someone would want to eat something that smells like old socks. The first reason is that, of course, they don't taste like that. Instead, they often have very meaty, beefy and complex flavors. There's also a hefty dose of umami (or savoriness), much more than in any other type of cheese. 

I often tell customers that the bark is worse than the bite. A strong smell does not always indicate a strong cheese. In fact, one of the most well known washed-rind cheeses, Taleggio, has a distinctly mild flavor. Yes, they can get quite intense, but most are not.  Plus, in a food world where words like "barnyardy", "earthy" and "vomity" (yes, cheesemongers have, myself included, been known to use that word) are used, a little bit of "old socks" should be par for the course. 

If you are looking to give this variety of cheese a try, I recommend you start with something easy and accessible. There are plenty of folks out there looking for the stinkiest thing in the case, but that's not good introductory material. Taleggio or his water buffalo milk sister, Quadrello, would be a great start. There will be plenty of time to try Epoisses or Vacherin Mont d'or later. 

Washed rinds are one type of cheeses where I don't recommend eating the rind. Since it is washed in salt water, the outside can have a creek bed sort of texture and an overwhelming funky flavor. For pairings, I tend to recommend folks "think German." Dark breads, sausages, smoked cured meats, pickles, slightly sweet wines and (my favorite) really hoppy beers. All of these make perfect bedfellows with your newly acquired chunk of cheese.

                                                                            Patrick Coleff
                                                                            Reliable Cheese