Archive for the ‘#chemicalexperiments’ Category

#chemicalexperiments — Cream

Monday, June 18th, 2018

So it has come to this. Let’s talk about a stuff one usually finds in sweets: various kinds of cream (and my experience with it).

I can divide the cream I’ve encountered or made so far into three categories:

  1. Swedish cream;
  2. Lazy cream;
  3. Custards.

Swedish cream is very easy to make: whip cream, optionally sprinkle cinnamon on top. It’s found in virtually every Swedish cake and serves as a base for some other cream variants. In Germany it’s common to use Sahnesteif—essentially a mix of starch and dextrose—that makes whipped cream stay thick and not runny longer.

Lazy cream is essentially a mix of some dairy product with powdered sugar and maybe something else for flavour (I use lemon juice): it can be butter, mascarpone, quark or something else. You simply mix those two ingredients together and use immediately. I believe the other term for this kind of cream is butter-cream.

And custards is the trickiest one since you have to cook it. It’s essentially a mix of egg yolks and milk with some thickening agent (can be starch or less commonly gelatine). When making it you have to keep in mind that if you simply put yolks into the hot milk they’ll curdle and you’ll end with a very runny omelette so you have to be extra careful and mix them (first you mix yolks with sugar and starch) by pouring a thin stream of one ingredient into another and mixing (some say you should first add some hot milk to yolks and then pour the mix back to milk, others claim it’s enough to pour yolks into milk). Afterwards you have to let it cool in a sealed container and maybe mix with whipped cream. It can be used in tarts, cakes, smaller pastry or eaten as it (preferably with something else though like berries or biscuits).

There’s a variation of it called Bavarian cream which you make by mixing yolks and milk, adding gelatine and mixing with whipped cream after it’s half-set (and then waiting even more hours until it’s fully set). The result is good as a standalone dessert but I heard it can be used in cakes too.

Overall I find all those cream varieties good but it’s better to eat them with something else and in moderation (or you’ll end having my shape).

#chemicalexperiments Dough and Pancakes

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

Since I don’t have any urges to work on NihAV at this moment (big surprise, I know) I’ll talk about cooking instead.

Since I don’t know how to cook and never had any kind of culinary education, I divide dough into three main categories: puffy (the one that expands while baking), non-puffy (the one that keeps about the same volume) and runny (usually used for pancakes but we’ll talk about them later).

Non-puffy dough is the easiest to make: just mix flour and water (take either boiling water or very cold water for good results). Ideal for simple filling dishes like вареники or Karelian rice pasty (I made both and shall probably make again). The next level is to make so-called shortcrust pastry which is used for pies, quiches and such. Here you usually mix flour with some fat and/or filling (called shortening).

And there we have a variety of what to use for shortening:

  • classical recipes use butter—I’ve cooked stuff using it and it works fine except that it takes too much butter to my liking;
  • French people obviously prefer margarine (since it’s their invention)—I see no reason to try it;
  • Brits prefer some weird animal fat called suet—I feel queasy just thinking about it so it gets definitive no from me;
  • USians use chemically processed vegetable shortening; I’ve tried it once: ordered a can of Crisco shortening, followed the recipe for pie crust and the result is bad. I’d stick to other two recipes listed here. Fun fact: while searching for it on Amazon most offers were from sex shops where it’s apparently offered as a lubricant. I can see why—that stuff is sticky and slick and not fit for baking. Also since one of the sellers offers it along with various sweets (and what passes for them in the USA) I’ve ordered some of those and tried it—I was not impressed by that stuff either.
  • and finally there’s German variant that I find very good called Öl-Quark Teig (dough made from oil and quark—in this case lean homogenous cottage cheese). You mix flour with several spoonfuls of oil (you can choose different oil for different flavouring of course, which is a nice feature) and magerquark (lean homogenous cottage cheese) and that’s all! You can add an egg and/or baking powder too but it’s fine as is too.

Puffy dough is the trickiest one—the puffiness comes from bubbles in the dough and it takes extra effort to do that. The easiest way is simply to add baking powder (or baking soda reacting with vinegar) to the dough, the other conventional ways are to prepare yeast (cultured or uncultured, either way it takes time and some effort) or make bubbles from eggs which requires some skill that I lack (so I stick to baking powder). There are two recipes that work for me: mixing flour, eggs, butter and sugar (aka the usual cake mix) or öl-quark dough with sugar, egg and baking powder.

Runny dough (is it called batter?) can be made by mixing flour with a lot of liquid and some eggs and then used to make pancakes. Since it’s the only thing I’ve done with it so far let’s talk about them.

There are several kinds of pancakes that I know and tried so far:

  • French-style thin pancakes (aka crêpes) that are better eaten fresh with something rolled in;
  • Dutch laughably small pancakes (that have a name almost like an Australian word for gay—probably the words have the same origin);
  • common pancakes—thicker than crêpe, plain, good to eat with something on top or with some filling rolled in;
  • slightly thicker pancakes with something embedded in them (like bits of ham).

And of course Sweden has nice varieties of pancakes in wide range: ordinary pancakes, pancakes with bits of ham, pancakes with potatoes (I tried those and approve) and pancakes for people like me who can’t do anything right with their hands (including flipping pancakes)—ugnspannkaka, i.e. pancakes baked in oven. Obviously that one is much thicker than the rest but it’s easy to make (even I baked some) and it can embed various stuff too which makes it interesting (bits of ham, fish or even fruit). Also this way you’re more likely to end with rectangular pancakes which I find to be a nicer and more versatile shape than usual round ones.

I forgot to mention one local thing—in Baden-Württemberg they have plain pancakes shredded into thin stripes, dried and then they add it to the served soups. It’s called Flädle and you can buy it in every local supermarket (even Aldi). It’s a nice addition to a soup IMO.

Okay, now back to doing anything but coding.

#chemicalexperiments — Lasagne

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

Let me start with a bit of history.

Normal don’t care much how to eat their pasta—they simply cook it, add whatever they have (even mayo probably or nothing at all) and eat it. Italians are different, they select pasta sauce first and then decide what pasta will go fine with it. In case of meat sauce (or ragù as locals call it) Italians considered that wide plain pasta would go best with it for some reason. So they competed who can use the wider noodles and the guy who simply took the whole plates won. But it was a bit inconvenient to cook them and then mix with sauce so they’ve switched to oven baking the whole thing in sauce instead. And that’s how lasagne was born (probably; Italians have a completely different story to tell but they always do).

Since I’d better avoid meat entirely, I decided to cook my own version with various components (in several tries too) and here’s my short summary:

  • it’s better to use thick sauces;
  • tomato sauce is a definite must, it adds flavour;
  • cheese sauce is good mostly for the lowest layer (to lay lasagne plates on it) and for pouring on top;
  • ricotta and Quark make fine layers too, you can even mix them with some vegetables;
  • sliced boiled eggs would make a nice addition to a layer with tomato sauce;
  • mozzarella is better avoided since it will result in hard chewy chunks contrasting with the texture of the rest of the dish.

Overall, it’s nice dish, would bake again.

#chemicalexperiments — Cheese Cakes

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

This is rather controversial topic because different countries recognize different kinds of cheese let alone what can be made out of it so what bears the name “cheese cake/pie” in one country might be not recognized as such in another.

So, cheese. Depending on country you have either one or two categories of cheese recognized: so called cottage cheese (or Quark/kvarg in Germanic language countries) and the rest of hard or semi-hard products made of milk. There’s also Italy where some cheeses (like mozzarella, provolone or scamorza) are considered to be pasta but that’s Italy and it doesn’t deserve second mention in this post.

Cottage cheese can be also divided into two categories: grainy and homogeneous mass. The first kind is more common in Eastern Europe (I’ve seen it in Ukraine, Czechia and Hungary for example; it can be also found in Germany but only in rather small packaging and runny), the second kind is more common in Germany.

The conventional hard or semi-hard cheese can be made into a pie usually by grating it, mixing with cream and eggs or sour cream and baking.

And of course there’s USA where what they call cheesecake is made (if you believe Wickedpedia) from either cream cheese (i.e. product where cheese-making process was terminated halfway) or ricotta (made from whey instead of milk, so not a cheese either).

Now, let’s look at real cheese cakes/pies I’ve encountered so far or even made myself:

  • Ukraine — there’s a traditional Ukrainian dish ??????? (if Cyrillic letters are not displayed correctly then ask Mike when he fixes it), patties made from grainy cottage cheese mixed with semolina or millet and flour and fried. Those I like and approve;
  • Germany — there are two similar variation of what is called käsekuchen(literally cheese cake). In both cases it’s mostly Quark (homogeneous cottage cheese) mixed with semolina and baked, in one case they’re also made more cake-like by mixing milk and starch and adding pieces of tangerine. This variation I bake myself time from time, it goes even better with a bit of sour cream (Schmand) or gräddfil on top;
  • Switzerland — there they have Chäschueche(essentially käsekuchen pronounced in Swiss German) which is obviously nothing like its German counterpart. Instead we have a small tart made from local chäs(semi-hard semi-sticky Swiss cheese with stinky rind) that’s rather savoury instead of sweet. I’ve tried them once, found them edible but not something spectacular;
  • Sweden — this country has ostkaka(literally cheese cake) which can be described as an interesting cheese that was too good to wait for it so it was baked instead of ripening all the way. Obviously I buy it when possible and eat with lingon jam, there’s especially good version available in Jul season;
  • Sweden — there’s not enough of it! Sweden also offers västerbottensostpaj(or simply västerbottenpaj) which is a quiche-like pie with filling made from the best cheese in the world (from Burträsk obviously) combined with eggs and cream (I should try gräddfil instead) and baked. I enjoy them both in Sweden and sometimes bake it myself (when I have The Cheese) because it’s worth it.

And an the end several fun facts:

  • German name for cottage cheese (Quark) is most likely the one that got into Finnegans Wake, from which it was borrowed later for certain physical term (though physicists playing stringed models refuse to acknowledge that concept);
  • in Czechia grainy cottage cheese (tvaroh) is sold in pressed triangles, if you wrap a cabbage leaf around it you can troll Japanophiles that it’s local onigiri (like I did once);
  • in Sweden they actually have different names for grainy cottage cheese (called “cottage cheese”) and homogeneous one (called “kvarg”);
  • and in Ukraine it’s all called simply “cheese” (maybe because hard cheese was not common in Ukraine, only hard cheese-like product sold in Soviet times).

Okay, back to doing nothing.

#chemicalexperiments

Friday, May 19th, 2017

Well, here’s yet another post nobody asked.

As a bog standard programmer I love organ music, hacking various stuff, and cooking Also it’s easier to satisfy my tastes and limitations that way too.

I’m not a skilled cook at all but I can make myself a semi-decent soup or bake something (casserole, quiche or pie). And here’s my short report on trying macaroni and cheese in three variations.

The first version was made after some recipe—cook pasta (I chose fusilli because it’s the only kind I had at hoof), make cheese sauce (essentially start with sauce thickener made from fried flour, add milk and melt a lot of cheese in it), combine together and bake in oven. Simple, filling and tasty. The only problem I found is that it thickens into a solid mass when cooled but it’s still enjoyable then.

The second version I tried was Kraft dinner. Just cook the pasta from the box and mix it with milk, butter and powder (from the packet inside the box) in still warm cooking pot. This version I found incompatible with me—not gross or allergy inducing, just after tasting one spoonful I could not bring myself to take another. Oh well, not a big loss.

And finally, käsespätzle. For this variation you take spätzle (the usual long thin variation sold in every supermarket here), mix it with cooking cream that has been boiled and with some cheese melted it, put the result into baking dish, sprinkle with more grated cheese and bake (I’ve also added chopped dried tomatoes because I had to put them somewhere). The result is tasty and more tender than the first variation. So I approve it too.

P.S. I don’t take pictures of what I cook, you want #opticalexperiments then and from a different person too.

A bit more about cooking

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Sometimes when I have an acute nostalgy I try to cook something from my homeland.

First time I made
Köttbullar (med potatis och lingonsylt självfallet). Too bad I could not do it SWEDISH STYLE! :-(. This time I tried to make Janssons frestelse. Jag hade inget burk ansjovis men bohusmatjessill i stället blev lagom bra.