Validation for this kitchen geek

For three months I’ve been enjoying my new kitchen in deeply gratifying ways. It transformed my Thanksgiving experience (referred to as “The Super Bowl of cooking”) due to my increased refrigerator, freezer, countertop, cooktop and oven capacities. The new island configuration without the previous wall completely transforms my interactions with my children, family and guests.

I still bake challah every week, but now I have more refrigerator space for the dough to rise Thursday night. I tried baking the loaves in my new steam oven last week and they were extra moist. Next week I’ll try using the oven’s thermometer probe on the challah. Confessions of a kitchen geek. The kitchen was always the hub, but now it is open and accessible, and I reside in it with tremendous gratitude.

Today’s Harold McGee article on heat in the NYTimes provided me with a new level of validation.

There are many favorite additions to the new space that I love, but among my absolute favorites is my induction cooktop. It’s a two-burner, thin black glass thing that resides right next to my five-burner gas cooktop. I use it as much as the gas, if not more. I’ve never seen water boil so fast. I have never experienced such direct, precise cooking control. It’s hard to burn things. I use it for puddings, making yogurt, or blasting food with high heat. I think of it as my MRI in the kitchen, which I discussed here long ago in the summer. Someone commented that induction cooktops do not kasher easily, especially for Pesach. That is unfortunate, because it seems like such a safe heat source, and very easy to keep clean.

The Harold McGee article was about much more, of course. I relish his clear writing and his wit. Perhaps that’s why I was so thrilled to see my new beloved induction cooktop receive a small mention by him.

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5 Responses to “Validation for this kitchen geek”

  1. bsci Says:

    The challenge of kashering induction burners is that the burner will never get hot without a pot placed on top of it. Still there is a very easy solution for kashrut purposes. Put anything on top of the burning that isn’t ferromagnetic and can withstand heat. If you place a thin piece of glass or ceramic on the burner, the magnetic field changes would still reach the pot, but there would be no direct contact between the burner and the pot. To get really extreme, use high quality insulators so that the actual burner surface doesn’t even heat up.

    I hadn’t heard much about induction burners compare, but I’m curious how they total efficiency compares. If they use more energy to run, but twice as much heat reaches the pot compared to gas, which uses less total energy to do the same task?

  2. Anna Stevenson Says:

    steam oven! ooh i’m so jealous!
    i’ve taken to throwing a 1/2 cup of water against the edge of the oven when the bread is cooking to get the steam, and sometimes i’ll just put a pan with an inch or so of water in it on the bottom shelf….
    but a real steam oven! i dream of this, one day! if all goes right, i’ll run a CSA farm that also has a bread share, and we’ll have an oven like this. you must tell me how you like it!
    the kitchen sounds wonderful — hope you continue to have many wonderful meals made in it!

  3. Tanya Says:

    I’m glad you’re so excited… but I’m afraid I need more details? Challah rising in the fridge overnight? Explain, please.

  4. Leah Koenig Says:

    Tanya – here is Phyllis’ challah recipe (which I’ve used many times with great results). It addresses your question about dough rising in the fridge near the bottom:

    Phyllis’ Challah (If possible, use all organic ingredients)

    5 c flour1
    1 package dry yeast
    1/3 c sugar
    1 c warm water
    2 tsp kosher salt
    1/4 c neutral oil, e.g. canola
    2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
    1 egg, beaten with pinch salt for egg wash

    Measure dry ingredients into large mixing bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon, and make a well in the middle.

    In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk yeast into warm water. Whisk in 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk and oil.

    Pour wet ingredients into dry (into well in center), and stir with wooden spoon. Dough should be soft and sticky. Turn onto floured surface and knead briefly with a little extra flour to prevent dough from sticking to hands.

    Put ball of dough back into large mixing bowl and coat with a little oil to prevent sticking. Cover with saran wrap and let rise about 1 hour until doubled in size.2

    Punch down dough, turn onto floured surface and knead till smooth, about a minute. Divide dough with sharp knife in half, then divide each half into 3. Roll each of 6 lumps into a cylinder, 8-10 inches long.3

    Place each cylinder on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Braid 3 strands from the middle to each end. Pinch ends together and roll under. Repeat for second loaf.

    Cover both loaves with oiled saran wrap (re-use from previous covering). Let rise at least an hour, preferably in a warm spot, until doubled in size.4

    Preheat oven to 400F. Brush loaves with egg wash using a pastry brush. Put in middle third of oven and set timer for 15 minutes. Loaves are done when deep golden brown. Depending on oven, this usually takes about 20 minutes but can be shorter if it is a hot oven. I start watching after 15 minutes, checking every 2 minutes or so.

    *I add 1/4 – 1/3 c ground golden flax seed to the measuring cup.

    *If in a hurry, I shorten this rise time to as little as 10 minutes. Dough can also be prepared the night before, e.g. Thursday night and placed in refrigerator. Second rise will take considerably longer if dough was refrigerated. (Leah’s note: I often put the refrigerated dough on top of a warm oven for the second rise – it still needs about 2 hours to warm up.)

    *If you want one really big loaf, don’t divide dough in half, just divide in thirds and roll pieces into 10-12 inch cylinders.

    *If the loaves have not risen enough, the challah will be very dense. This rise time cannot be rushed, and in colder rooms sometimes needs over 2 hours.

  5. Phyllis Bieri Says:

    Tanya — Several bread-making sources say that bread tastes better and more nuanced if it has a longer time to “proof.” Maggie Glezer, whose recipe for Czernowitzer Challah I now use, recommends an overnight first rise.

    One Thursday evening I decided to make the challah dough because I knew I had a very busy Friday. Finding room in the fridge can be difficult for the double recipe I make (7 1/2 cups of flour), but after my kitchen renovation I have room.

    Problem with refrigerated dough is it takes a lot longer for the second rise. If you can find a warm spot, good. I found my steam oven at 85 degrees with 30% humidity worked perfectly. Think Miami in July.

    Maggie Glezer’s recipe for Czernowitzer challah is on I haven’t changed it a bit. You don’t have to wait 20 minutes for the first yeast slurry part. Sometimes I rush that, or let it go for a while if I’m distracted. In contrast to the recipe I formerly used that Leah printed, the Czernowitzer dough has more oil, slightly less sugar, and one egg yolk less. The dough winds up being a bit more pliable. I braid it in two rather large 4-strand loaves. Or you can make the single recipe and have two cute little loaves.

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