Sodium citrate

Posted in cheese, dairy, information, recipe on September 5th, 2019 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

Is a moderately expensive substance to buy.

But why would you buy some anyway?

Because you can turn any cheese into melty cheese. How’d you like a slab of “processed cheese” that melts just like those cheese slices, but it’s made from an actual cheese? Sodium citrate does it. It’s also used in molecular gastronomy, but I don’t do that. Yet… 😉

But why would you buy it.. when you can make it? Well, I am a cheapskate. So I made it.

I provide weights in metric first. Accuracy is important in this recipe so please use metric if you can.

  • 125g (1/2 cup) water
  • 97g (3.42oz) sodium bicarbonate / bicarbonate of soda / baking soda
  • 74g (2.61oz) citric acid
  • Add the citric acid to the water. Stir till the citric acid is dissolved. Warning before adding the baking soda – it will fizz like mad. Make sure the pot you use is a large one.

    Add the baking soda. Stir thoroughly while it’s fizzing. Once the foam dies down, it will fizz gently for a while – possibly over an hour. Keep an eye on the pot, and stir from time to time if you start seeing any cloudiness.

    Once the fizzing has died down, heat the liquid on medium-high until it comes to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and keep stirring. You want to cook off all the water. Stir constantly, you want to break up the crystals as they form.

    Once all the water is cooked off, you’re left with what looks like slightly odd shaped salt. That’s your sodium citrate.

    The thickness of the cheese product will depend on the ratio of liquid to cheese. If you weigh the cheese and then add the liquid as a percent of the weight you will get:

  • Cheese plus 0% to 35% liquid – firm, moulded cheese, cheese slices
  • Cheese plus 35% to 85% liquid – thick and flowing cheese sauce, good for dips and quesos
  • Cheese plus 85% to 120% liquid – thin cheese sauce, cheese foam, fondues, mac and cheese
  • Cheese plus 120% liquid or more – continues to become thinner and thinner.
  • Add sodium citrate at 2% to 3% of the combined weight of the cheese and the liquid. As a specific example, to make a tasty cheese slice:

  • 400g/14oz aged cheddar, shredded
  • 140g/5oz water
  • 15g/0.53oz sodium citrate
  • Add the sodium citrate to the water, stir while heating over low-medium until it’s dissolved, add the shredded cheese and stir until the cheese melts. Quickly transfer to a plastic wrap lined mould and refrigerate until completely cold. Slice thinly and melt over your burgers!

    Further customisation – instead of cheddar, why not try blue? Or pepperjack/blue cheese blend? What about the liquid – again, let your imagination go wild. Water, milk, cream, stock, beer, what do you want to add? What will go with your final dish?

    Since sodium citrate brings a salty, sour taste it’s important to use appropriate proportions while keeping the flavour of the dish in mind. But with it being so cheap to make, you can experiment to your heart’s content.

    Final note – a double batch of this yields 231g, or just over a half pound of SC. This should keep you in experimental materials for quite a few batches!

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    Chai

    Posted in Indian food, recipe on August 31st, 2019 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    Chai is a spiced tea blend from India.

    The correct name for chai is… chai. Saying chai tea latte is saying “tea tea latte”. So stop calling it chai tea, it sounds silly 😉

  • 0.5″/1cm piece of cinnamon bark
  • 9 whole cloves
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 5 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • half whole star anise
  • 0.25 tsp ginger powder
  • pinch of nutmeg or mace
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp Assam tea leaves
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup milk
  • Add the whole spices to a saucepan. Add the water. Bring water to a boil then take pot off heat. Allow whole spices to steep for 30 to 45 minutes. Once whole spices have steeped, add the milk and bring water, spice, and milk mix to a boil. Take pot off heat. Add ground spices, sugar, and tea. Allow to steep for 5 minutes.

    This recipe doubles very easily, which is just as well because you’ll probably drink the whole batch in no time!

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    Pilau Rice

    Posted in curry, recipe on August 28th, 2019 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    Pilau rice is one of the base dishes for any curry. But here I need to draw a line between restaurant style pilau rice, and traditional pilau rice. Restaurant style is a lot quicker – and cheaper – to make.

    This recipe makes 4 to 5 portions to serve with a nice curry, or a base for a very large pot of biryani.

  • 350g/12.3oz basmati rice, well rinsed, soaked for 30 minutes, drained
  • 650ml/22oz water
  • 1.5tsp cooking oil
  • 0.5tsp salt
  • 1.5tsp ginger/garlic paste (*see note*)
  • 0.75 cinnamon stick
  • 9 whole green cardamom
  • 6 Asian bay leaves(*see note*)
  • 7 cloves
  • 1.5 star anise
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 0.75 tsp turmeric
  • Add all ingredients into a pot. Stir just to combine. Cover pot. Put over medium high heat until the water boils. Turn heat down to low and cook for 15 minutes. Once the time is up take off the heat and gently fluff the rice with a fork.

    Serve immediately.

    INGREDIENT NOTE
    Asian bay leaf – called tej patta, this is a different thing from the European bay leaf. European bay is a laurel, tej is the leaf of the cassia plant that provides most of the cinnamon crop. The tej leaf has 3 veins on the underside and smells slightly of cinnamon.
    Ginger garlic paste – you can make it yourself from scratch with equal weights of ginger and garlic with just enough oil to make a pourable but thick paste. I buy it from a local Indian/Pakistani grocery supply store because they sell it way cheaper than I can make it.

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    Gluten free blueberry muffins

    Posted in gluten free, information, recipe on June 25th, 2019 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    When you have a load of nice local blueberries, one feels obligated to bake with them.

    DRY INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups gluten free flour (recommended: buckwheat, but use whatever you have on hand)
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum (omit if your GF flour blend contains it already)
  • 1 cup fresh, frozen or canned blueberries
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • WET INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup fruit/vegetable oil(e.g. avocado oil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • STREUSEL TOPPING

  • 1/4 cup GF flour
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • If using canned blueberries, drain them in a strainer. Rinse fresh or canned blueberries with cool water, and discard any crushed ones. Do not thaw frozen blueberries. Pull off any stems from blueberries.

    Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, adding the blueberries last. Stir thoroughly to mix all ingredients.

    Mix wet ingredients in a small bowl.

    Pour wet ingredients over dry and mix thoroughly until all the dry is mixed and wet.

    Heat the oven to 400°F. Spray just the bottoms of 12 regular-size muffin cups with the cooking spray, or line each cup with a paper baking cup.

    Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, dividing batter evenly. Sprinkle evenly with the streusel topping. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. If baked in a sprayed pan, let stand about 5 minutes in the pan, then remove muffins from pan to a cooling rack. If baked in paper baking cups, immediately remove muffins from the pan to a cooling rack. Serve warm or cool.

    WHAT IF I AM NOT GLUTEN FREE?
    Start preheating your oven before you mix any ingredients. Instead of the first 2 ingredients just use plain / all-purpose flour, likewise for the streusel topping.

    THIS COMES OUT TOO SWEET, WHAT CAN I DO?
    In the streusel topping substitute a good quality cooking oil such as avocado oil or regular (not extra virgin) olive oil. If you use a finishing sugar or other large grain sugar you get a nice crunch on the top as well as an almost savoury edge from the fruit oil.

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    Gluten free flour blends

    Posted in gluten free, information on June 25th, 2019 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    One of the frustrations with gluten free baking is that you suddenly have to deal with multiple different flour blends depending on what you are making. They usually involve ingredients that can be hard to come by or that are expensive.

    And let’s not get into how much more expensive the GF flour blends are than regular flour. It’s not good for my blood pressure.

    I have, however, pretty much decided that my GF pudding flour blend is fantastic, if you bear in mind the rules of GF baking.

    I recently bought Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts. The recipes are fantastic and this book deserves a place in the gluten free baker’s library.

    She also provides the recipes for her 2 main flour blends. One of these is responsible for me crying, because it made a sandwich bread that tasted and felt like bread, not weirdly plain pound cake! That same bread flour blend is responsible for the amazing blueberry muffin recipe I’ll be posting shortly.

    Go have a poke around Annalise’s website. It’ll be time well spent.

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    Gluten free blueberry coffee cake

    Posted in gluten free, information, recipe on June 16th, 2019 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    Thanks to my friends at Bear Mountain Blueberry Farm I have 1.5 gallons of lovely blueberries to play with. What better way to start using them than by making a blueberry coffee cake?

    INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups gluten free flour
  • scant 1 tsp xanthan gum (omit if your GF flour blend already has some)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • TOPPING

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans or similar (optional)
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, xanthan gum, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Gently fold in blueberries. Get a separate bowl, put the egg, milk and butter in then whisk together. Mix into the dry ingredients, careful not to mush the blueberries. Pour into a buttered/oiled 8-in. x 8-in. baking pan.

    Make topping to sprinkle over batter (put on last).

    Once you have everything apart from the topping mixed, start preheating the oven. This will allow the xanthan gum to set before baking. Bake at 425 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until top is light golden brown. Can be served warm or room temperature.

    WHAT GLUTEN FREE FLOUR CAN I USE?
    Pretty much any of them. There are 1-to-1 substitute blends in the stores, you can use my pudding flour, or you could use a flour made from a psuedocereal. I used millet flour and it turned out nicely – next time I will try buckwheat flour to see if the nuttiness in the buckwheat comes through.

    WHAT IS A “PSEUDOCEREAL”?
    A pseudocereal is a seed grain that isn’t a grass, but that is used like it’s a cereal. Millet, buckwheat, and quinoa are 3 examples of seeds that are used like a cereal. They do not contain gluten.
    A cereal is a grass derived grain such as wheat, rye, barley. They usually contain gluten.

    WHAT DOES “SCANT” MEAN?
    You want to have a concave surface instead of a flat or convex surface. If you force me to guess, I’d say about 0.8 tsp? But I will not judge you if it’s 0.7 or 0.9 tsp… only your tastebuds will!

    WHAT IF I AM NOT GLUTEN FREE?
    Use plain/all-purpose flour instead of the first 2 ingredients. Start preheating the oven before you start mixing.

    TOPPING VARIATION
    I made the topping with raw sugar, which comes in larger, crunchy sugar crystals. It made for a nicely crunchy topping.

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    Gluten free baking

    Posted in information on February 23rd, 2019 by stuart — 2 Comments

    While making scones recently with my gluten free pudding flour, I realised that I am finally getting a grasp on some of the differences between baking with wheat, and baking without wheat.

    1. Know your flour. Each gluten free flour blend is slightly different, especially if you make your own. You will need to experiment several times with each blend to grasp it characteristics.
    2. Liquid. Be prepared to add up to twice as much liquid as you would do with wheat flour.
    3. Cooking time. Because of the extra liquid, you may need to add cooking time. This will have to be an experimental approach. Any small children (or teenagers) in your family are usually happy to help dispose of the failures!
    4. Leavening. You may need more leavening as there is no gluten structure to help lift the dough, and the binding agents (such as xanthan gum) have different characteristics to gluten.
    5. Thrash the dough. No, seriously. Wheat baking has taught you to just mix till it comes together: gluten free baking needs the dough to be thoroughly thrashed otherwise the complex mix of starches, flours, and gums may not come together and thus fail to rise, or you may end up with an oddly “gritty” texture.
    6. Resting time. I have no anecdata to back this, but it seems to depend on what you are making whether or not you need to rest the dough after soundly thrashing it. My gut feeling is that no resting time is needed except for pie dough, but my GF pie dough experiments have not filled me with confidence.
    7. Texture. I have discovered that the flour mix frequently results in a much more delicate, airy texture in quick breads and bakes and has resulted in a change in preference decisively towards the gluten free flour blend.

     

    The key takeaway from my experiments is that flexibility is needed. You may wish to enlist experimental test subjects willing participants in your tests. Small children and colleagues are usually happy to help you in this endeavour!

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    Tomato Ketchup

    Posted in information, recipe, sauce on January 10th, 2019 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    Home made tomato ketchup is always demoralising. You spend a whole day, and a load of not-cheap ingredients, all to make something which is almost as good as you can get in the store.

    Then I discovered this recipe. It actually makes sense how it all comes together, and it’s delicious. It’s not the same as store bought, but it exists in a different place on the same plane. Enjoy!

      • 5lb / 2.25kg ripe tomatoes (or equivalent in canned, crushed tomatoes – two 28oz/795g cans)
      • 1 onion
      • 6 cloves
      • 4 allspice berries
      • 1 oz / 25g fresh ginger, sliced
      • 6 black peppercorns
      • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
      • 1 parsnip, peeled, quartered, and roasted OR 1 celery heart
      • 2 tbsp light brown sugar *
      • 4.5 tbsp / 65ml raspberry vinegar *
      • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
      • 1 tbsp salt

    Peel and seed the tomatoes (or open the can!) and place in a large saucepan. Peel the brown papery leaves from the onion, leaving the roots and the tip intact. Stud the cloves into the onion and place in the pan.

    Put the allspice, peppercorns, and ginger into a spice bag or tie them into a small bag of cheesecloth and place into the pan. Add the roasted parsnip to the pan with the sugar, vinegar, garlic, and salt.

    Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce to low heat and simmer for about 1.5 to 2 hours, stirring regularly, until reduced by half. Remove spice bag. Blend until smooth in a food processor or with a handheld blending stick, then simmer for another 15 minutes. Store in the fridge.

    * I ended up doubling both of these to get the taste I was looking for. By doubling these it has also increased the shelf life. I would not recommend boiling water bath processing this recipe as it has not been checked by the USDA. The raspberry vinegar was a pest to acquire – you can make it yourself with raspberries steeped in vinegar, or you can try it with other vinegars such as malt, cider, wine, balsamic….

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    Gluten free pudding flour

    Posted in information, pudding, recipe on November 3rd, 2018 by stuart — Be the first to comment!
    I recently discovered that I can’t eat wheat, which is a major downer when making pudding. After a lot of poking around and trying out various flour substitute recipes from various gluten free sources, I found this recipe:

    • 700 grams cornstarch
    • 500 grams tapioca starch
    • 300 grams white rice flour
    • 200 grams brown rice flour
    • 200 grams nonfat milk power
    • 100 grams potato flour
    • 20 grams xanthan gum

    This does, indeed, make a wonderful substitute for wheat flour. However… however, there’s a lot of weird ingredients there. They are also quite costly. I wasn’t going to let weird and expensive get in the way of making pudding, now was I?

    So let’s break this list down.

     

    • 700 grams cornstarch

    OK, this is a dirt cheap and common ingredient.

     

    • 500 grams tapioca starch

    OK, not cheap in your local grocery store.

     

    • 300 grams white rice flour

    Not readily available, and certainly not cheap.

     

    • 200 grams brown rice flour

    .. what the what now?

     

    • 200 grams nonfat milk power

    OK, back on normal ground.

     

    • 100 grams potato flour

    … you’re kidding, right?

     

    • 20 grams xanthan gum

    You’re definitely kidding now, that doesn’t even exist, does it? … it costs HOW MUCH?!!?

     

    OK, time to take a deep breath and break down the weird and expensive stuff. The ingredients break down into 3 categories: whole grain flour, starches, and support ingredients.

    WHOLE GRAIN FLOUR (sort of)
    Brown rice flour, Buckwheat flour, Corn (Maize) flour, Mesquite flour, Millet flour, Oat flour, Quinoa flour, Sorghum flour, and Teff flour all work as “whole grain flour” for the purposes of this recipe.

    STARCHES
    Arrowroot flour, Cornstarch, Potato flour, Potato starch, Sweet (also called glutinous) rice flour, Tapioca flour, White rice flour, are all starches for this purpose.

    Wait, what about potato flour? If you have instant potato flakes and a food processor or spice grinder, you have potato flour!

    SUPPORT INGREDIENTS
    Dried milk powder is available in pretty much every store. Shop by price. Xanthan gum is more difficult, and expensive. It is there to be a thickener/binding agent to replace gluten. There are some other options for the thickener such as psyllium husk powder. These kind of ingredients can be found in health food type stores such as Whole Foods or Sprouts in the USA, or online at Amazon.com. Unfortunately there is no real substitute for these ingredients, and they are expensive. Thankfully you only tend to use a very small amount in each recipe. Shop by price.

     

    So, let’s break down the flour recipe.
    700 grams cornstarch + 500 grams tapioca starch + 300 grams white rice flour

    That’s 1.5kg of starches from different sources. Check out the starches list above to see which you can get for a decent price near you.

     

    200 grams brown rice flour – use whichever of the “whole grain” flours above you can source at a good price.

     

    200 grams nonfat milk power – shop by price.

     

    100 grams potato flour – no need to substitute this. You’ve got the potato flakes and food processor, right?

     

    20 grams xanthan gum – yeah, OK, that’s expensive. Bite the bullet and put it in, it’s only a couple of tablespoons worth.

     

    By percentages: 75% starches, 10% whole grain flour, 10% milk powder, 5% potato flour. Add your xanthan gum, mix thoroughly, and label clearly.

    So why should you, person who doesn’t have a problem with wheat and/or gluten, make up an exotic concoction like this? Because this mix makes the most ridiculously light and fluffy puddings, muffins that evaporate in your mouth, and allows your friends or family who do have wheat/gluten issues to enjoy some delicious pudding!

     

    PIE CRUST

    When using this blend to make a pie crust, the good news is you don’t have to worry about over-working and making a tough crust: no gluten! You do, however, need to work it a bit more thoroughly than wheat flour to make sure all the fat is fully incorporated into the flour. I have also found this blend to be a little more “thirsty” than wheat, so be prepared to add a little more liquid to make your pie crust.

    Mind you, if you’re making your pie crust with butter (as you should!) you’ll probably be OK on the extra liquid!

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    Spotted dick pudding

    Posted in British food, dessert, pudding on November 2nd, 2018 by stuart — Be the first to comment!
    Also known as spotted duff or spotted dog, the words “dick, duff, dog” all derive from the word “dough”. Any other suggestion comes from a smutty mind 😉

    Spotted dick is your basic steamed pudding. These ingredients will show up frequently here…

    SPOTTED DICK PUDDING

  • 8oz / 240g self raising flour
  • 4oz / 120g unsalted butter OR suet
  • 3oz / 80g caster / powdered sugar
  • *pinch of salt if using unsalted self raising flour
  • Beat together the butter and sugar until just combined (note: not the creaming method, just incorporation). Beat in the flour.

    Add

  • 8oz / 240g dried fruit (raisins, currants, sultanas, goldens, craisins, cherries….), soaked in brown liquor, then drained
  • to the batter.

    add up to

  • 160ml / 5.5oz cold milk
  • to the batter, just enough to bring it together in a somewhat firm dough.

    Place dough in a well buttered pudding basin and steam for 2 hours OR microwave for around 5-10 minutes, depending on the strength of your microwave. Microwaving time will really depend on your own experience with your micro – for me, about 5 minutes nuke then rest for a couple of minutes.

    Your duff/dick/dog is ready when it is just set. Serve with lashings of freshly made custard and a nice cuppa tea.

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