English toffee, sriracha, and espresso beans wrapped in a layer of chocolate.
Since touring our local Waste Management Facility and learning that they have a special process to recycle, compost and efficiently deal with them, I do feel a little less guilty about all the paper cups I use. But only a little.
No contest: spicy every time.
Born April 2016… died September 2017. Sigh. For those who have been refreshing this page DAILY to read the next chapter in my sourdough bread making saga, I’m sorry to say it ended in tragedy. After a limp, bread-weak summer, we watched Homer the Sourdough (sour… d’oh!) starter goopify himself in the fridge. I’ll blame myself. It was largely neglect, and lack of due care and attention. But I hadn’t invested as much energy in the poor guy as I should have despite providing dozens of mixed-result loaves since we’d hatched him over a year ago. As far as starters go he was pretty solid, though I was never entirely, one-hundred-percent satisfied with his effort. I’m sure that was all my bumbling, novice opinion however and with a year and a half of sourdough experience upon which to draw I’m posting today as a marker in time of the bumbling counter-redemption. Last night I washed out Homer’s cage and set the trap for a new culture… and hopefully my yeast-hunting excursions will be fruitful. I should know by the weekend. My second-born starter may be announced in mere days. Stay tuned and feel free to suggest a name in the comments.
I’ll admit that I have uttered the words to a few people that I didn’t think I NEEDED any more cast iron.
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to buy anymore. Rather, I think I have reached a point where I have a complete set. I’m not missing anything obvious to imply that I’ve got all my cooking bases covered as far as meal preparation goes. A small variety of skillets and pans. A couple deep dishes. A flat grill. A dutch oven. I’m not actively looking for any additional pieces to complete my hypothetical so-called “set” of pans.
But, that said, if I find something interesting…
…like, say, a cast iron waffle iron…
…I might definitely be tempted to add it to my collection…
…which might have… already… happened.
We have this epic five day camping backpacking camping adventure planned for an undisclosed date later this summer. Mountain trails, lightweight gear, dehydrated food, water purifiers, and rugged boots: that type of trip.
We used to do more of that… pre-parenthood. With Claire creeping up on double digits, we’re tenuously giving it another whirl this summer again after a ten-year hiatus.
Thus, we’ve been haunting camping outfitter stores, the kinds of places that sell lightweight gear, dehydrated food, water purifiers, rugged boots, and cast iron waffle grills.
There seems to be roughly three quality levels when it comes to cast iron: the high end, finely polished, kickstarter exclusives or enameled stuff which costs hundreds of dollars is on the top end. I don’t own any of this. (Not yet, anyhow.) Then there is the middle ware, the stuff that comprises the bulk of my collection, which is quality, durable cast iron that comes rough from the forge, pre-seasoned and basically ready-to-use but ripe for some TLC if you’re into that. This is firmly in the middle of the price and quality range. On the bottom end are the camp quality pieces. These are usually forged overseas, or generally rough, a few burrs or cut marks still visible, rarely ready-to-use without a few hours effort, but at a level of toss-it-in-the-fire-to-burn-off-the-marshmallow level of cast iron. You find this at outdoors stores, cheap at the big box hunting supply place, that kind of thing. I’m not afraid of a owning a few of these — and I do — but I wouldn’t make them primary parts of my set.
The new waffle iron is firmly in the camping category.
So, rather than buy the all-important backpacking gear we went to shop for, I left with an “I’m not taking this up a mountain” cast iron waffle iron.
It’s more of a weekend camping-at-the-lake piece.
It didn’t come seasoned. It came waxed (to prevent rusting) and with a rough (but confusing if this was, say, your introduction to cast iron seasoning) explanation of how to achieve peak waffle with this apparatus.
I got it home, washed it, burned off the layer of paraffin (resulting in billowing smoke in my kitchen), seasoned it in a first hot-oven round (resulting in billowing smoke in my kitchen), and then cooked a batch of waffles (resulting in a a million waffle fragments scraped from a not-quite-seasoned-enough waffle iron). That same night I cleaned it up again from the waffle detritus and then I seasoned it one last time in a hot-oven (yes, resulting in more billowing smoke in my kitchen).
The cast iron which had a soft, silver pewter color when I bought it, was now somewhere between a burnt copper hue and a gunmetal grey sheen.
I was warming up the barbecue for burgers last night and, realizing that I was going to need to run a few more trials with the waffle prep. I could imagine how many frustrated campers haul this thing out the woods, prop it over a campfire for the first time fresh from the store labels and wax still dripping from the piece, and then proceed to try and cook breakfast on an unseasoned pair of waffle plates. As an unofficial cast iron evangelist, I can tell you that they would be sorely disappointed. Cast iron can be an amazing cooking tool, but raw it is virtually useless. The seasoning process is a smokey, slow, nurturing effort where oil is carbonized to the steel leaving a surface that is charred black and as non-stick as any buttered Teflon.
I was warming up the barbecue for burgers last night and mixed up a quick batch of waffles. I filled the waffle grates with oil, swooshed it around, then flipped them face down to try another impromptu seasoning. Smoke filled the backyard. Flames touched the skies. The irons were so hot the industrial strength oven mitts gave me just barely a few seconds of handling time to flip and ready them for batter.
But… waffle success.
We actually made a half dozen barbecued waffles in the backyard, and my new irons are scarred black with a perfect seasoning ready for the wilderness… or at least a campsite by a lake a in a few weeks.
Every couple of years I do a coffee reset: I go cold turkey for a month or so and forego my ritualistic morning beverage, limit my caffeine to light teas, and struggle back to a baseline in an attempt to whatever levels help to de-jitter, de-stimulate my brain. It’s not anything magical: it’s just a biological balancing that I do when I hit a threshold of some personal bar of too-much-daily-intake. It’s been thirteen days as of today. And what I’ve learned in the last twenty-four hours is that a coffee reset and a daylight saving time switch do not mix. Glaaaaaaah!
I had a dream last night that I stood in line for a very long time for a bag of Doritos. My subconscious is trying to tell me something.
Alcohol… Blasphemy! I know, but I’m already kinda on the fence, and I only really drink socially anyhow.
Ok, so I possibly, accidentally, maybe did something right. Or maybe I’m just figuring this breadmaking thing out. It is shortly after midnight and I’ve stayed up late baking a loaf of sourdough that I’d timed a bit wrong: it was ready to bake when we got home from movie night. Ugh. And I was going to call it an early night, too.
I made this up as a full recipe because I was planning on bringing it to a party tomorrooooo– well, I guess later today — and I wanted a generous loaf. Usually I do a 2/3 recipe because we just don’t eat it fast enough… but, y’know… sharing.
It was also baked in the new dutch oven: the seven quart cast iron behemoth, preheated and smoking (literally) hot baked this sucker up so beautiful that when I set it on the counter to cool, the symmetry to the picture on the cover of the recipe book couldn’t escape my interest.
I just hope it tastes good too.
You forgot about my sourdough experimenting, didn’t you?
I don’t blame you. I nearly did.
With the kitchen in disarray for a couple months, making bread on a regular basis kinda fell by the wayside. Homer (my starter levain) hung out in the fridge and I offered him up a couple irregular feedings, but there was about a month there when we didn’t even have running water, so I kinda crossed my fingers and hoped for a quiet hibernation.
After our holiday tour ended and we got back home, I began anew this morning my efforts to revive my poor starter from his winter slumber. He was a little crusty on the top, but I warmed him up and stirred him gently. A fresh dose of flour and water, and a couple sets of crossed fingers later, I’ve been checking in over the course of the day to see how he’s faring.
I also tried to make a loaf of bread from the recently woken levain… which went about as well as you’d expect from anything you wake up and demand go to work for you.
While Homer has spent the day churning away on the countertop, and right now after a solid 12 hours of action seems to be ready for another feeding, my bread on the other hand… I’m going to proof it overnight, but I’m not holding out much hope for a fresh-baked morning loaf at this point: I’m just hoping it doesn’t revolt and take over the kitchen while I’m sleeping.
Running. (revved back up in 2017!) Bowing. (some beautiful music!) Cooking. (in a new kitchen!)
Ah, holiday baking. Two of the fourteen pillars of a successful holiday season. Karin has been lamenting the fact that our kitchen, still mid-renovation, is going to miss it’s prime usability test in time for making any real progress baking cookies for Christmas this year.
Insert sad face here.
Simply: store-bought cookie dough, a waffle maker, and a few minutes of time. It’s not freshly-baked ginger snaps or colourfully decorated sugar cookies, but it was some quality time in the kitchen with Claire.
So I bought the ingredient: a tube of chocolate chip cookie dough from the refrigerated aisle of the local grocery store. Three bucks.
I summoned Claire to the kitchen, explained the plan, and we plugged in the trusty belgian waffle iron, setting it atop the stove (because the countertops are still in a workshop somewhere waiting to be delievers and installed.)
Claire helped me slice the tube into finger-width chunks, and we waited for the iron to heat up with giddy anticipation.
A few minutes later we were dropping a couple of the raw cookie dough slabs onto the hot iron and getting ready to divvy up the spoils of our efforts.
In short, the results were not quite as awesome as promised by the internet.
I have some theories about this, mostly around the idea that the store-bought dough is a little too oily to work in this scenario and result in… well.. a giant waffle iron shaped mess.
The cookies liquified.
The dough gooped into a puddle shaped blob on the bottom of the iron and then cooked into a form more resembling a burnt, crumbled granola-like substance.
Verdict: Fail… and Claire bailed on me to go back to watching TV.
Ultimately, I gooped the remaining dough into one giant attempt at a hail mary of waffle cookieness… and it almost… almost barely, but not really, kinda worked. I cooked the dough until it seemed cooked, but then unplugged the iron and proceeded on my (monumental) cleanup efforts, letting the iron cool before I extracted the final-final result from the settled iron.
A single pair of waffle cookies, slightly burnt on the bottom and — after twenty minutes of further rest and cooling — as hard and delicious as the scraps of drywall I still have laying around in my garage.
In short: I think we’ll be waiting for the countertops before we attempt any more — uh — baking. And when it comes to my waffle irons, I’ll be sticking to waffle batter for a while.