About Mastering and Enjoying Home Cooking. Drink, Cook, and Live Well!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Arabica Coffee – Where is the “Good Stuff?”

Arabia & Africa.
Highly distinct coffees that include coffees from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimba­bwe and Ethiopia. Grown at the perfect altitude in rich black soil and the almost foggy evenings with hot days produce a coffee of legendary stature.
The Americas:
These coffees are grown in an almost perfect atmosphere bearing highly aromatic and well-bal­anced coffees. coffees of the America’s includes coffees from Colombia, Mexico, Brazil (grows roughly a third of the world's coffee), Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Panama and Guate­mala.
The Pacific:
 Great coffees are grown in the pacific. These include coffees from Sumatra, Java, Indonesia, Viet­nam, and Kona Island in Hawaii, Papua New Guinea and Sulawesi.

Most people prefer the flavor of Arabica coffee best, which includes me. While I live modestly, my wife and I treasure a fine cup of coffee. Truthfully, one does not always get good value buying coffee willy-nilly. Most supermarkets do not carry the best coffee values. It is great to buy from a coffee specialty store where you can taste a brewed sample. Additionally, you can get recommendations from a friend. Online stores need to be reputable less you land on a site that buys and resells stale coffee. A good cup of coffee can never come from stale coffee. Whole bean is the best choice. If buying a pig in a poke, buy one pound to test, less you end up with a cupboard full of lousy coffee beans.

For thirty-five years, we buy Peerless Anniversary Blend, which is described on the Peerless website as: “In honor of Peerless Coffee & Tea's 80th Anniversary, George Vukasin, Jr developed the 80th Anniversary Blend. A unique organic coffee combining Arabica beans from four award-winning estates, all Italian roasted for a rich, velvety, smooth flavor.” see www.peerlesscoffee.com This company is rated number 1 in the Bay Area and, for my money, is a real bargain.

Making Great Coffee at Home

Great coffee deserves to be made with good water. Most drip makers include a carbon filtration system in the water path. Use great water - its a must.

A drip coffee maker is good and finely grinding freshly roasted beans certainly helps keep flavors intact. A pinch of salt to the grindings often improves the flavor of coffee. A fine mesh insert is more affordable than buying paper filters and works a little faster as well.

French press coffee maker works exceptionally well for world best coffees and can make a good and strong cup of coffee from even not the greatest of coffee. The press pot was invented by the French in 1850 hence its name. The French press lends itself nicely to a ritualistic preparation at the dining table. Great coffee deserves a bit of fanfare but since very hot water is involved, do not have any fumble fingered guest attempt the process. The anticipation and the aromas that come forth heightens the experience for me. It is sort of reminiscent of the older days of the MaƮtre d' and the times when service in a palace of fine dining was at its zenith and the staff would dote on their patrons ---- sigh.

A French press consists of a narrow cylindrical beaker usually made of glass. It has a lid and a tight fitting plunger having a fine wire mesh acting as a filter. Coffee is brewed by placing the coffee in the beaker, replacing the plunger, and pouring in near boiling hot water, leaving to brew for a four minutes, then gently depressing the plunger, trapping the coffee grounds on the bottom. Rich coffee is poured off the top.

A French press is relatively cheap when compared to an espresso machine. Grinding the coffee finely helps with high extraction and hastens the process for those who might otherwise be a bit impatient. Thicker grind will mean less sediment. The manufacture Boden and Mr Coffee makes many French presses which are simple and affordable. Very many fine establishments that serve premium coffee often serve it from a French press.

The finer the grind, the more extraction, and the more solids end up in the coffee. Finely ground coffee requires a fine filter. The proportion of coffee to water depends on how strong you like your coffee. To start with try 2 tablespoons of coffee to 6 ounces of water and adjust according to how it tastes.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Browning Food Enhances Food Flavors

No matter if you are a chef, baker, coffee roaster, malting beer, toasting chocolate, browning imparts an incomparable flavor to food. “Maillard reaction” (may-yar) named after French chemist Louis Camille Maillard who was focused on protein synthesis in 1910. The Maillard reaction results from a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, usually with heat. In the process, hundreds of different flavor components are formed. Some of these further break down forming additional flavor compounds. Each type of food has a very distinctive set of flavor compounds that are formed during the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction happens noticeably around 309 °F.  Significant browning of food does not occur until all surface water is vaporized. If you are roasting at a lower temperature, these complex flavors do not develop as the Maillard reaction does not occur.

In many recipes, a roast may start at 400 F + initially which is held for 10~15 minutes then the heat reduced to the eventually roasting temperature to finish. Hence, a roast with a lot of connective tissue is cooked long enough to break down and become tender but the most flavors are still achieved.

Caramelization is an entirely different process from Maillard browning, although the two processes are sometimes similar in taste. Caramelisation is the browning of sugar or foods high in sugar, and can be thought of as a thermo chemical decomposition and does not involve amino acids. Caramelization is occurring in the sugar of your barbeque sauce on the grill. If excessively heated, carbon ultimately forms. Are we there yet? Heat and time may also transform the food from a collection of complex molecules to simple carbon reside and water vapour, which is not the objective, and even my dog, Macho who is a consummate epicurean (he eats everything) would turn up his nose at the ash residue. Therefore, if you are alone minding the store, you cannot go out back for a constitutional and newspaper read. If the thin crust pizza is perfect at 5 minutes, what is it a 6 ½ minutes?

Browning the meat and the vegetables can be a good way to enhance hearty stews, stock and soup. Add meat and cut vegetables to a shallow toasting pan and roast of high, turning pieces with thongs until meat is well browned. Maillard browning occurs in the meat and caramelization in the carrots.

In Asian cuisine, the use of very high heat under the wok can achieve Maillard browning not only in meat but also to the rice or wheat noodles if they are added without a liquid and tossed. This imparts a meaty character to the noodles. In my cookbook, Beef Chow Fun is cooked in this “dry style” to get this effect.