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Posts Tagged ‘fermentation’

Fruit Vinegar

Pear Vinegar (infused with chamomile) and Concord grape vinegar (infused with lemon thyme) 

When people think of vinegar, salad dressings and pickles usually spring to mind. Rarely does one think of fruit. But after staring wistfully at the couple hundred apple cores left from Thanksgiving pies, I researched fruit vinegars to use these fruit scraps that would otherwise be resigned to the trash heap. There are many ways to make vinegar but the simplest method is to ferment sugar into alcohol which is then oxidized into vinegar. Fruit, ripe with sugar, quickly ferments into alcohol so exposing it to air often spontaneously results in vinegar, much like wine that was forgotten about for decades or more. And like wine, fruit vinegars can preserve the aroma and flavor of fruit well past their harvest months. Peach, cherry, pear, raspberry, Concord grape, apple…any fruit is fair game for making vinegar.

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Although fermented foods can be an acquired taste, they are much more common than people think.  Beer, cheese, wine (notably Champagne), and vinegar are all fermented foods. What we commonly think of as bread proofing is actually bread fermenting. Even cocoa, coffee, and vanilla beans are fermented to develop the unique flavors that we’ve come to prize. Fermentation used to be the province of households and communities but we have relegated this process to factory production. The techniques developed over thousands of years to make alcohol, preserve food and make it more digestible and delicious are becoming obscure and in danger of being lost to future generations. What is fermentation and why should we care?

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Sourdough Starter: the first few days of life. On the top left, you will see the cheesecloth holding the grape mash that I used to start the sourdough.

Sourdough Starter: the first few days of life. On the top left, you will see the cheesecloth holding the grape mash that I used to innoculate the sourdough.

Sourdough starters are unparalleled in their ability to coax flavor from flour. Even if you don’t make bread regularly, sourdough starters can be used in cakes, beignets and even bread pudding. No pastry kitchen should be without a sourdough starter and you can start one in less than two weeks. Once you’ve created your starter, all you need to do is feed it regularly to keep it active:.

 

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Chevre Cheesecake: Hazelnut Brittle, Concord Sorbet, Apple-Celery Paper

Chevre Cheesecake: Hazelnut Brittle, Concord Sorbet, Apple-Celery Paper

The Caribbean is not a cheese-centric culture so for much of my life, cheese existed in two forms: orange and white Cheddar. It wasn’t until I embarked upon my journey as a pastry chef (and by default, was in charge of the cheese program) that I began my cheese education in earnest. I already knew that I didn’t like the gamey, barnyard nuance of goat cheese (smelled like unwashed armpit), that I despised the piquant moldy flavors of blue cheese (salty, rotten milk and mold, yum), and sheep’s milk cheese…wait, sheep make milk?! The learning curve was going to be steep. And so I began to climb the curve and learn by tasting.

 

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Yeast: What is It?

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/2013/09/06/yeast-making-food-great-for-5000-years-but-what-exactly-is-it/

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Fermentation

Fermentation draws a fine line between fresh and rotten. And if you’ve ever popped the lid on a bulging tub of soup, you’ll know that fine line usually veers towards rotten. But in notable cases, like yogurt, beer, cheese and bread, fermentation makes food desirable to eat. In bread, fermentation refers to the metabolic action of yeast and of the many strains of yeast, the strain used to ferment bread is Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Although food chemists are stumped to explain what draws yeast to a simple mixture of flour and water, what is known is that fermentation develops flavor by encouraging yeast or bacteria to feed on flour and produce alcohol and carbon dioxide as digestive byproducts. The carbon dioxide is trapped and later leavens the dough as the alcohol evaporates during baking. While we ferment grain in order to leaven it, we also ferment grain to release the simple sugars trapped within the complex starch molecules some of which feeds yeast, but most of which flavors the dough and caramelizes to create the beautifully, burnished crust of baked bread.

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