Saturday, October 30, 2010

Irregular posts

I'm sorry about the irregular posting these last few months. Life's been quite hectic and, while I've been cooking, I haven't had as much time to play as I would like. And I've had even less time to record what I've been playing with.

One of the reasons is I've gotten sucked into a big research project. I'm exploring how spices were used in the late medieval kitchen. One of my inspirations for this project was Tom Colicchio making a statement in his Top Chef blog about how medieval chefs would use spices to cover rancid/spoiled meat. That's like putting $30 gold braid on $2 cotton broadcloth -- doesn't make sense. Anyone with enough money to buy the spices would have enough money/resources to get fresh meat on a regular basis. So I'm looking at data from medieval household about how much spice they buy, how much is sent to the kitchen, how much is sent to the still room for perfumes and the like, how much is used medicinally, how much is sent to the creamery, and how much is given to visitors as gifts (lots and lots). I'm also looking at how many people are in the household so I can get an average of how much spice per person was purchased and used in the kitchen.

My preliminary results suggest that they weren't using that much more spice than the average American household and less than modern Indian households. When I say spice, I'm not talking about the herbaceous basil, oregano, etc. I'm looking at clove, cinnamon, pepper, etc. Salt and sugar are also excluded because they are used in a multitude of ways that are really outside the scope of what I'm interested in.

When I have more data and conclusions to post, you'll find them here. I'll also be posting recipes, but I don't know how often. Things are quieting down activity-wise, but winter is approaching with the waning energy that the cold brings.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dyed Pie Crust

The dyed pie crust didn't happen this weekend. But I learned a couple of very important things:
  • If you are going to dye a dough, don't add the to the dough after the dough is mixed. No matter how much you work it (and with pie dough this is bad), the dye does not get distributed evenly. In some situations, marbled pie dough might be the way to go, but this was not one of those situations. Next time: try mixing dye with the water the dough will be made from.
  • Wear gloves. Blue might have been the shade I wanted for the dough, but it was not the color I wanted for my fingernails. Fortunately food dyes are reasonably water soluble, so with many repeated handwashings, the worst of it came out. But I do still have traces of the dye around the cuticles and edges of the nails from last Wednesday's experiment.

That said, the experimental painting with the dyes worked okay. I need to get some food-safe brushes for applying the dye, a spoon just doesn't give light enough coverage. And I don't know what I want to do with the yellow dye; as a paint it looks more orange than yellow. Hmm, just had a thought: cake decorators thin their dyes with vodka so they can airbrush with them. Perhaps that will work for these dyes too!

I'm also going to look into a local cake-decorating store. Perhaps I'll find something a bit more appropriate.