Tasting Georgia – Sharing A Culinary Journey

Tasting Georgia – Sharing A Culinary Journey

Discovering Tasting Georgia
IACP Conference
Last year, I joined the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) in order to meet colleagues from around the world and to share experiences.  IACP offers loads of resources besides networking opportunities.  For example, it organizes webinars and other knowledge-sharing activities to help its members become better culinary professionals.

At this year’s IACP conference, I discovered so many wonderful cookbooks.  General cookbooks, regional cookbooks, thematic cookbooks, all kinds of cookbooks.  Well, identifying and promoting ne…

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Sourdough Pizza Crust – Healthy and Homemade

Sourdough Pizza Crust – Healthy and Homemade

Who Doesn’t Love Pizza?
Pizza can be found all over the world.  Thin crust pizza, deep dish pizza, round pizza, square pizza, all kinds of pizza.

What distinguishes a good pizza is its crust, sauce and choice of toppings.  The way the pizza is baked also influences its flavor and texture.

I will write more about each of these components in a separate post about pizza making.  Here I will focus on pizza crust, and more specifically on sourdough pizza crust, and the way it acts as the foundation for your pizza.

 
Selecting Your Pizza Crust
Yeast Pizza Crust
For years I’ve made …

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Sourdough Pancakes – Sweet or Savory

Sourdough Pancakes – Sweet or Savory

Sourdough Pancakes Prepared in 5 Minutes
If you have sourdough starter, you can make sourdough pancakes in 5 minutes.  Once made, sourdough pancakes can be eaten on their own, like ordinary pancakes. Or you can use them to replace bread in various savory toast or sandwich options.  Sourdough pancakes are so versatile and an easy way to use up excess sourdough starter!

Did I mention that sourdough pancakes are vegan?  Well, they are vegan, as well as dairy free and essentially fat free.  In addition, the Basic Sourdough Pancakes require only one ingredient:  sourdough starter.  Nothing more…

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How to Make Authentic Speculoos Cookies

How to Make Authentic Speculoos Cookies

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Seasonal Traditions Help Mark Time
My family has several recipes that help us celebrate the passage of seasons and holidays.  We feel bound by tradition to make theses dishes each year.  For instance, we prepare Speculoos cookies for Thanksgiving and St. Nicholas Day.  Below are other seasonal traditions in our home:

In the winter, we prepare French Onion Soup and Belgian Beef Carbonnade.  In Belgium and France, French Onion Soup often helps celebrate the New Year.  It’s perfect in the middle of winter after a night of celebration.  The soup is served in the wee hours…

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Roasted Beets and Fennel on Pasta

Roasted Beets and Fennel on Pasta

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How an Accident Became a Favorite Dish
Sometimes it’s hard to find inspiration for meals when you’re cooking for yourself.  Why spend a lot of time to prepare a dish that you’re probably going to eat quickly?

Well, this past year I’ve made Roasted Beets and Fennel on Pasta several times.  It started off as an accident.  One day I wanted to make a meal that required little effort with the ingredients in my refrigerator.  And this dish was the happy result.

 
Red Beets
I usually have red beets in my refrigerator, as I love them prepared so many ways.  I’ll throw…

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Salmon Lasagna With A Butternut Squash Option

Salmon Lasagna With A Butternut Squash Option

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Salmon Lasagna for a Special Family Meal
Mother’s Day
Last Mother’s Day, I invited my family to my home for lunch.  I planned to make roasted baby back ribs, one of my mother’s favorite dishes, along with cole slaw, and baked beans.   Unfortunately, my father became hospitalized so we postponed our family lunch.

 
A Daughter’s Visit
Planning the Meal
Recently my daughter came to Los Angeles to visit my family and me for a month.  I therefore rescheduled our special family meal for her last Sunday here.  Since my daughter is also a food blogger, writing at Eat w…

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English Toffee Made at Home

English Toffee Made at Home

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What’s the Difference between English Toffee and Almond Roca?
English toffee and Almond Roca are pretty much the same thing.  While English toffee describes a hardened caramel topped with chopped nuts and chocolate, Almond Roca refers to a brand name for the same treat.

Brown & Haley Co. from Tacoma, Washington has been making  Almond Roca since 1914. In the United States, Almond Roca has become synonymous for English toffee.  Almost everyone grew up eating toffee wrapped in gold foil out of their instantly-recognizable pink tins.   In our home, we offered either Almo…

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Trustworthy Sourdough Bread at Home

Trustworthy Sourdough Bread at Home

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Sourdough Bread is My Favorite Type of Bread

Over the past twenty years I've made dozens of loaves of bread.  Quick breads, yeast breads and sourdough breads.  Not all breads have turned out perfectly.  Yet, the process of making bread is always enjoyable.

As the name suggests, quick breads do not require time to rise.  Generally you add baking soda or baking powder to the recipe so your baked goods will rise in the oven.  Sometimes you need to add an acidic agent, such as buttermilk or yogurt, to help the baking soda work properly.

Yeast breads use either dry yeast or cake yeast to encourage the dough to rise.  When using yeast, the rising time will not be very long.  Usually one or two hours for each rise.  Even less time for each rise if you use instant dry yeast.

My favorite type of bread, however, is sourdough bread made from a sourdough starter.  Learn how to create, maintain and use sourdough starter with A Basic Sourdough Starter Guide.  Sourdough bread requires more care and patience, yet does not take more active time than quick or yeast breads.  Like for yeast breads, sourdough bread requires you to mix and knead the dough before letting it rise once or twice.  The dough nevertheless needs more time to ferment.  During this fermentation time the sourdough starter will turn the flour and water into a mouth-watering delight.  You can meanwhile go about your other business.

See A Guide For Making Bread at Home for a useful description of the bread-making process.  This guide will lead you through the various steps of making bread as well as familiarize you with some of the vocabulary used.  It will definitely supplement the information you will find in this post.
 

Finding a Trustworthy Sourdough Bread Recipe

The past few months I've tried several recipes for sourdough bread. For example, I followed a couple recipes from Nancy Silverton's legendary book Breads from the La Brea Bakery as well as another recipe from Moro:  The Cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark.


 

Through these experiences, I have developed this trustworthy fail-proof recipe for you.  It skips some of the steps mentioned in other recipes for shaping and proofing.  Yet, you will not notice the difference and will be pleased to save the effort.
 

Ingredients of Sourdough Bread

This Sourdough Bread recipe calls for 75% organic hard unbleached wheat flour (aka bread flour) and 25% organic high extraction wheat flour (aka brown flour), along with the sourdough starter, water and salt.  That's it!  No fat or sugar added.  Five main ingredients for a bread whose flavor is the right amount of tangy, especially when toasted.  This bread is also fairly light and airy while having a medium density.

Definition of flours

Do not be intimidated by the name for the flours used.  Hard unbleached wheat flour is made from hard red winter wheat, which is great for bread recipes as it's higher in gluten.  It is basically a bread flour that has not been bleached white.  Bread flour, like other white flours, are usually made from whole wheat grain, yet have been processed to remove the bran and wheat germ.  Whole wheat flour is also made from the whole wheat grain, but keeps the bran and wheat germ.  As a result, whole wheat flour is higher in fiber, thus more nutritious and heavy than white flour.

Between whole wheat flour (which contains all the bran and germ) and white flour (which has sifted out the bran and germ) lie several types of brown flour.  Each type indicates the level of ash that remains in the flour after being processed.  The ash in flour comes mainly from the bran, with some coming from the germ or even the endosperm.  Whereas Type 50 flour (white flour) contains about 0.5 % ash, Type 150 (whole wheat flour) contains between 1.5% and 2% ash.  The number given to each type expresses the level of ash remaining in the flour.

The term high extraction refers to a higher level of ash remaining in the flour after being processed.  I've been using Type 85 flour, which is considered to be high extraction flour lying somewhere between white and whole wheat flour (Type 150).  It retains much of the nutritional value of whole wheat flour, yet contains less bran.  Consequently, products made with Type 85 flour will be lighter than products made with Type 150.

Buying Bread Flour

Most supermarkets carry bread flour in their baking goods section.  Popular brands, such as King Arthur Flour and Bob's Red Mills sell bread flour at stores across the United States as well as via their websites.  I love Central Milling's Organic Artisan Bakers Craft Plus, which is malted hard unbleached wheat flour.   The slight addition of malted barley enhances the taste of my homemade sourdough bread and helps the dough rise even better.  Central Milling offers a wide selection of flours and grains via their online store and at specialty stores nationwide.  I've purchased the flour directly from Central Milling as well as at my favorite neighborhood butcher shop, McCalls Meat and Fish Company.  The price ends up being the same.

Substituting flour made from other grains

The higher the extraction your flour is, the more dense your bread will be because of the extra fiber from the bran and wheat germ.  However, substituting some oat or spelt flour for up to one-fourth of the bread flour (hard unbleached wheat flour) will give the sourdough bread a different texture.  Oat and spelt flours, for instance, tend to make the bread more soft and tender while giving it nutty overtones.

Likewise, substituting some of the Type 85 flour with flour milled from other grains, such as rye flour or buckwheat flour, will influence your bread's taste.  Personally I enjoy substituting about one-fourth of the Type 85 flour with rye and/or buckwheat flour to give my bread a flavor that has more depth.

While buckwheat and oat flours are gluten free, spelt and rye flours contain some gluten, yet less than in wheat flour.  As flours containing no or little gluten reduce the rise and elasticity of your bread, I recommend substituting only up to one-fourth of the total wheat flour indicated in the recipe with flour made from other grains.

Use this recipe as a starting point to practice your bread-making skills.  Later, maintain the same general proportions when substituting in other flours to try new combinations.  You might need a little more or less flour than indicated in the recipe, depending on the humidity in the room and in the flour.  After making bread a couple times, you'll develop an instinct to know how hydrated you want your dough.
 

Time and Patience will Improve Your Sourdough Bread

Waiting patiently during the entire bread-making process will probably be your hardest task.  This recipe requires between 24 and 36 hours from start to finish.  However, you will only need to work about 30 to 40 minutes of this time to produce a full-flavored and super tasty sourdough bread.  You might want to skip steps or shorten the time needed for fermentation or a rise, but please resist.

The longer the dough ferments, the more complex and sour your bread's flavor will be.  Be careful though not to let the dough ferment or proof too much time.  Otherwise your bread might become flat when baked, as it won't have the spring necessary to rise a last time in the oven.  In short, as long as your dough is hungry it will continue to ferment and grow in flavor and size.  When it stops feeding, it will become less active and more lethargic.  There is, therefore, a limit on how long your dough can ferment or proof without needing to be fed more flour and water.  Remember your dough is alive and will only stop its activity when baked in the oven.

If you start making sourdough bread on a regular basis, you will not even think about the time it takes.  For instance, you will create your sponge (the first mixing of the sourdough starter with water and flour) before going to bed.  Then you will knead in more flour and salt in the morning before leaving the newly formed dough to rise for the bulk fermentation (first rise). Later in the afternoon or early evening you will shape and proof your bread (second rise) a couple hours before putting your dough in the refrigerator to ferment slowly overnight.  The next morning you will bake your dough in the oven.

Below is a timetable for the entire sourdough bread-making process.

 

Sourdough Bread Making Timetable-min

Enjoy the warmth and comforting smells while your bread bakes (between 45 and 60 minutes, depending on its size).  Let it then cool for an hour before tasting it.  Below you will see some ways I've enjoyed my sourdough bread.

Sourdough bread slices with 3 toppings
Toasted sourdough bread with honey, cherry jam and tomatillo jam

 

Sliced Sourdough Bread honey
Sliced Sourdough Bread with honey

Once you try your sourdough bread, you will be hooked!  You will immediately start planning your next loaf!


 

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Healthy Vegan Protein Granola Bars

Healthy Vegan Protein Granola Bars

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Why Should You Make Granola Bars?
Choices on the Market
It’s amazing how large the choice is for nutritious food bars in the United States.  Almost any grocery store, drugstore, hotel lobby, fitness center, or other establishment selling snacks will have a variety of food bars for sale.  For instance, there are fruit bars, nut bars, protein bars, granola bars, fitness bars, and many other types of bars carrying different names available to purchase.

Well-known and newer brands compete strongly for this high-end market dedicated to people active in sports, craving a nut…

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A Basic Sourdough Starter Guide

A Basic Sourdough Starter Guide

What is Sourdough Starter?
Sourdough starter is a mixture customarily made with flour and water, yet can include other ingredients, such as organic grapes or figs.  It captures the wild yeast present in flour to create a rising agent to be used in baking.  It therefore replaces cake yeast, dry yeast, or other forms of baking yeast.

You may replace sourdough starter for yeast or other rising agents, such as baking powder, in any recipe.  You may need to play a little to find the right amount of sourdough starter needed, as much will depend on your starter’s potency.  The result might not be…

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Super Foods to Keep Health Well

Super Foods to Keep Health Well

What Super Foods to Eat to Stay Healthy
We all wonder what we need to eat to stay healthy.  Everywhere we look there’s advice on a new diet to follow, the latest foods to eat to live forever, and the required physical exercises to do to stay in shape.

All this information can be a bit overwhelming and confusing.  Fortunately, here’s an infographic created by Susan Conley at Cook the Stone summarizing a list of superfoods to add to your diet, along with their health benefits.

 

 

 

Click the infographic above to discover more images depicting the health benefi…

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Restaurants in Los Angeles – Reviews of Places to Eat

Restaurants in Los Angeles – Reviews of Places to Eat

A Running List of Places to Eat in Los Angeles
Lately I haven’t been able to write my restaurant reviews as frequently as I eat out.  So many of the places I haven’t reviewed in the past are really worth mentioning on my blog.   Some may be even better than restaurants in Los Angeles I’ve reviewed at greater length.

So here you will find a running list of places where you can eat and drink in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area.  These reviews will not be comprehensive, but rather summaries to share my experiences to help you find new places to try.

Read Explanation of the Belgian Foodie …

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A Guide For Making Bread at Home

A Guide For Making Bread at Home

Is Making Bread a Chore or Passion?
I’ve been making bread for more than twenty years.  Not continuously, yet periodically in long spurts over the years.  As you might have noticed from my other recipes on this site, I love making all kinds of dough for pastries, pasta and bread.

Friends often ask why I bother to make my own bread.  Isn’t it time consuming and difficult?  Yes, I respond, it takes time and requires a certain amount of skills.

Nevertheless, almost nothing feels more rewarding than making your own bread.   After making bread a couple times, the feeling of reward will turn …

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Explanation of the Belgian Foodie Rating System for Reviews

General Comments about My Ratings
 
Rating Scale
In all my reviews, I give ratings on various elements on a 1-to-5 scale.   One is the lowest rating and five is the highest.  Below is a short description for each number of stars:

1 star:  Awful, below all expectations
2 stars:  Needs serious improvement
3 stars:  Average, satisfactory, in no way exceptional or standing out
4 stars:  Very good, well above average
5 stars:  Outstanding / extraordinary, absolutely perfect

Keep in mind that I rarely give between 4.5 and 5.0 in any criteria since there’s always room for …

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Tlayuda LA – Family Latin American Restaurant

Tlayuda LA – Family Latin American Restaurant

Why You Should Visit Tlayuda LA
A few weeks ago my son and I enjoyed a yummy Oaxacan supper at Tlayuda L.A. in East Hollywood (Los Angeles).   Recently I returned there for lunch with my brother.  He’s an aficionado of Latino cuisine and had never been to Tlayuda LA.  He was excited to discover it.

Tlayuda LA enjoys one of the best ratings for Mexican food in our area.  More precisely Tlayuda LA’s cuisine is primarily Oaxacan, thus automatically making it also Mexican and Latin American.  You will therefore find Tlayuda LA under listings for all three cuisines.

Tlayuda LA Restaurant
  • Location
  • Atmosphere
  • Food
  • Service
  • Price / Quality Ratio

Summary

Tlayuda LA in East Hollywood offers reasonably-priced tasty home-style Oaxacan food served with a smile in a cheerful atmosphere. The two sisters who run Tlayuda LA welcome customers with a smile and a friendly greeting. If you try this restaurant, you will surely return often.

4.2

* Read this …

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