Experimental Cooking Jive

A couple of days ago, I adapted an online recipe for “Sprite Zero Cake”, and pushed one of the resulting very springy, slightly bready, slightly sticky but perfectly acceptable cakes onto Delightful Boyfriend. The man in question inserted one into his face hole and declared it “all right”, because boarding school has destroyed his taste forever and what it hasn’t broken his staggering addiction to hot sauce has pretty much finished off.

Then I told him what was in it (no butter), and what I planned to replace next time to reduce the calories further (sugar replaced with sukrin), to which he made a face and said “It sounds pretty joyless to me.”

I believe I said something curt about him enjoying it before he knew what it was, but really the fun in these things is at least as much from the challenge as from the food itself.

On that note, welcome to further adventures in Teaching Myself To Cook. I’ve included some experiments, which I probably could just have looked up online, but as I prefer to find things out for myself by doing them, that didn’t happen. If you’re more reading-oriented these might be useful, I don’t know.

Raspberry & Vanilla Sugar “tea”.

I bought some raspberry powder on a whim a while back and it has made a sterling flavour addition to yogurt, fromage frais, and occasionally cream cheese ever since; I bought vanilla sugar on an even bigger whim and it makes terrific icing.

Night shift requires no further tea after about 4am in order to be able to sleep, and while I have decaf tea sometimes I want something hot that doesn’t even pretend to be tea. I hate herbal teas because they invariably taste of cardboard (pro-tip: stop bulking up your tea bags with hibiscus seeds, you asshats), rather than what they smell of.

Chiming with the Packetsu philosophy, I dumped 1/4 of a teaspoon of vanilla sugar and 1/2 a teaspoon of raspberry powder into a sachet and while the end result contained a certain amount of flavoursome sludge at the bottom, it was delicious and hot and tasted of raspberries and the sludge yielded another half cup.

Flour?

I acquired a sack of gram flour because I’d heard it contained fewer calories than wheat flour (which it does, marginally) and nowhere seems to sell it in smaller quantities than “sack”, so after a lengthy period of suspicion and indolence I have begun experimenting with how gram flour (made from chickpeas) holds up against wheat flour.

The major discovery was that gram flour takes up water much more effectively so you don’t need as much, or you end up with a very sticky dough. The obvious is that gram flour isn’t as elastic as wheat flour and it doesn’t rise as much, but makes a surprisingly good flat biscuit.

gram/wheat flour mix base with cumin, spinach powder, garlic, and black pepper.
gram/wheat flour mix base with cumin, spinach powder, garlic, and black pepper.

That by the way is a quail egg, to give you an idea of scale. This was a 2/3rds gram to 1/3rd wheat base, and the end result – cooked for about 15 minutes – was a firm, snappy biscuit rendered a little softer where the tomato paste was.

The results of further experiments with flour:

I had a hypothesis and I colour-coded my baking with food colouring. REAL SCIENCE.

(PINK)

Oven pancake (1 tsp gram flour, 1 quegg, 1 tsp milk, baking powder,
to scale up to a hen egg/suitable quantity of egg substitute use 1
tbsp instead of tsp) would make good topping for something but not
good base, a bit rubbery.

(BLUE)

plain gram flour base (1 tbsp gram flour, baking powder) does not
need much water – less than 1/2 a tsp – and needs to be spread
smoothly like a paste not a dough onto the baking tray/muffin hole.

(YELLOW)

gram/wheat (2 tsp gram, 1 tsp wheat) needs more water (1.5 tsp) and
rises more, is rougher on top than the plain gram flour, with less
water might make a serviceable dough.

All need salt.

I made a second attempt at pizza base dough:

you can make perfectly serviceable dough balls with gram flour
instead of wheat flour – a little denser but not perceptibly. (i
coloured the wheat flour with spinach powder this time to differentiate from the gram).
needs a different water ratio – 1 tbsp of gram flour takes 0.75 tsp of
water as opposed to 0.5 of a tbsp with 1 tbsp of wheat flour – but
you get a nice dough from that which makes 2 x mini dough balls
(then just scale up i guess) and also if you squash it flat and fry
it briefly in a reasonable amount of oil for a very short time on
each side: chapati.

The exchange there is from emails to Scientist Friend On Hiatus, who is also vegan and gluten-intolerant, and therefore likely to be interested in ways of making food that don’t egg or wheat.

Yesterday I made Traffic Light Mini Naan, coloured with spinach powder, tumeric (and garlic), and paprika. I remembered the salt. They were fantastic.

Baking Fail

Having succeeded in the Accidental Biscuit Pizza Base (which was pretty nice and a good way of eating pizza), I decided to have a go at some Deliberate Biscuits using a similar recipe. Wheat flour, gingerbread spices, and Stevia to replace sugar.

Let me say this: don’t do the thing with the Stevia. Use a sugar substitute intended for baking. What I got were rock-hard and all the spices had granulated into dark spots. I mean, they tasted okay, but they were very much not biscuits.

Parting Shots

Spending a lot of time on slow nights at work reading recipes which are of an increasingly paleo/gym lunatic variety, trying to find a balance between “author is mad and just listing health benefits no food can actually bestow” and “food is actually four million calories and being described as healthy because an apple looked at it once”, I wandered across some recipes for treats and the like which didn’t have the restraining factor of “I am trying not to consume more energy in a day than the ISS uses in a year”. Most of them, which might previously have appealed to me, now look thoroughly gross. Or, as described to a friend:

after changing my eating habits a lot of the things that I
previously considered delicious now taste greasy and disgusting (i
can’t actually say this on most social media for fear of being
yelled at for… changing my tastes? being entirely non-judgemental
about what everyone else is eating? i don’t know, but man people
will yell if you express a preference that is out of line with
theirs)

Which means that whenever someone talks about what a chore it is to replace, for example, Reese’s with raspberries, I just find myself a tiny bit alienated… and a tiny bit worried that if I mention preferring raspberries I’m about to get shouted at for being “smug”. I know there are people who will bang on and on about the benefits of eating nothing but raw food (I grew up with a borderline orthorexic); but the immediate response of “liar” or “smug cunt” to “actually I like X” is one of those modern tribalist things I really don’t understand.

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2 thoughts on “Experimental Cooking Jive

  1. The traffic-light naan sounds delightful and I want one.

    I remember, after a while (many years ago) of cutting down on sugar, sugary things became VERY very sweet. Which was nice, because then fewer things needed sugar, and when one was having a treat, it took less of the sugary thing to be satiated.

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