Category Archives: Food

a food theory…

I’m developing a theory about food and obesity. there’s already a theory out there regarding the body’s ability to identify which nutrients it lacks and develop a craving for the food stuffs that will satisfy that nutritional need.

the difficulty comes when all the foods you eat are ‘nutritionally balanced’ or ‘vitamin packed’.  your body can subconsciously take note of what need was satisfied when you ate a particular food, and later on when you need that particular nutrient you will crave that food stuff.  this is explanation that is given for why, as a stereotypical example, pregnant women are claimed to crave ice cream and pickles.  over time, when you are a child and trying new foods, you develop a library of physical sensations that you use as an adult to drive how you behave.  if you ate a  wide variety of foods as a child, you can identify the reactions that you had, and when your body feels like it’s lacking something, it can go back through the physical memories to find the food that satisfied it’s current need.

anecdotally,  there was a day not too long ago where I had an uncontrollable urge for spinach.   Continue reading

things to do with flour

I find it interesting to look at baking recipes and deconstruct them. During the times when I found myself with the least funds, I made it a bit of a mission to figure out just how far I could go with a bag of flour. it turns out you can go a surprisingly long way…

flour and water
pasta. very simple, make a pile of flour, dig a well into the middle of the pile, add water and begin to stir with a fork. as you stir, flour will begin to be picked up by the water, and as you continue, the mixture will become firmer and firmer until you have a dough. remove the dough from the rest of the flour and knead it a bit until velvety, then wrap it up and rest it for a while. when it’s settled, roll it out and cut it into noodles. cook in boiling water for a couple minutes and voilá, dinner. additionally, if you use more water and end up with a kind of soup, just leave it alone, somewhere warm, for a few days and it will start to bubble. add a bit more flour to thicken it up a bit and let it bubble for a while longer then bake. tada! you’ve made sourdough bread. yeast doesn’t have to come from a jar of packet.
flour, butter, and water
pie crust. simple concept, possibly difficult execution. use a couple of knives or a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour. when the butter is all granular, (no piece bigger than a small pea,) add just enough water to get the powder to hold together. the objective here is to add the water and mix it in without causing the flour to develop any gluten it might have. gluten free flours actually win out here… food processors are good for this, but they tend to cut the butter too finely for my tastes. Also puff pastry. actually, between pie crust and what’s generally called mille feuille (thousand leaves) there seem to be an infinite number of variations that all end up doing roughly the same thing. which is to use butter as a way of separating thin layers of flour from each other. I did a more detailed look at puff pastry a couple of months ago.

coming soon, we’ll add an egg…

flourless chocolate cake

  • 1 1/3 oz chocolate, semisweet or darker (tried the 99%, was a bit too dark…)
  • 2 2/3 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/6 cup of cocoa powder.

melt chocolate and butter together, (in double boiler if you like) and stir until smooth, remove from heat.

beat egg and sugar together until the mixture is significantly lighter. 4-8 minutes with electric mixer. somewhat longer if you are doing it by hand. (n.b. beating by hand will expend *just* enough calories to justify eating this…)

by this time the chocolate should have cooled somewhat, but still be pourable. needs to be cool enough not to cook the egg.

stir the chocolate/butter mixture into egg/sugar mixture. if you used a double boiler, be careful not to spill any water into the mixture.

sift the cocoa powder over the mixture and fold it in until just dampened.

pour into well buttered cake pan, ramekin, or cupcake tins. the recipe as written should make 2-3 cupcakes.

bake at 375º for 17-23 minutes (less time means more pudding like…)

recommend eating it warm, with ice cream.


(interesting variation to try would be to separate the egg white, beat until stiff and fold it in just before the cocoa powder. should probably make a decent soufflé, if anyone tries it, let me know…)

update: a little bit of orange zest is a welcome addition, also tried the beaten egg whites. didn’t rise quite to the heights I was hoping, so probably more trouble than it’s worth.

simple puff pastry

if you don’t have the time-life series of cookbooks, this episode of Baking with Julia is a good primer for puff pastry, (the kind without yeast… we’re not talking about croissants here.)

the basics are this, 4 parts flour, to slightly more than one part water. pastry flour for preference, though cutting your all-purpose with cake flour works out the same. (3 parts all-purpose to 1 part cake is a good ratio) gluten is not really your friend here, so I suspect this would work well with gluten free flours. I did an experiment recently attempting gluten-free croissants, it wasn’t entirely successful, but it was better than might have been expected…

blend the flour and water (and a teaspoon of salt) very thoroughly. (this is a good time to use a cuisinart or equivalent.) make it into a ball, wrap it under a damp towel in the fridge and let it rest for a while. say 1/2 hour…

take roughly the same amount (by weight) of cold butter as the flour. pound it flat. this is a key point, softening the butter by pounding ‘fractures’ the butter and makes it workable without letting it melt. if the butter warms, you’re screwed.

roll out the dough big enough to lay the butter on top of and wrap the butter in the dough. roll it out, trying to keep it in a pretty neat rectangle. then fold it in thirds. wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 1/2 an hour.

this process of rolling out and folding in thirds needs to be done 6 times in total. and it needs to be kept cold so the butter doesn’t melt. usually you can get a couple of turns in before rechilling, but when in doubt, chill it for a while.

lastly, when the last turn has been done and the dough is chilled, roll it out and make the pastry you want to make. if you’re making palmiere or similar, you’ll want to chill the pastries one last time before baking. you can even stick them in the freezer for 10 minutes.

bake at 400F for 6 minutes or so for cookie sized pastry. turnovers and the like need 450F for 17+ minutes