Tuesday, February 22, 2011
We seem to have A Thing About Tea. We are hopelessly addicted to loose leaf tea. We have done five big orders from David's Tea since early last fall, supplemented by Two Hills and Teaopia purchases now and then.
We're don't have sophisticated tastes. We probably couldn't definitively identify an assam vs. a lapsang suchong. We like weird herbals and party teas as much as traditional blends. But we do love the freshness and variety of boutique store loose-leaf tea. The cupboard currently contains fourteen different varieties of loose-leaf tea. You would have thought it was Christmas yesterday from the excitement that erupted when Chuck came home from the post office with the latest mail-order.
In this photo you can also see the three volumes that comprise our kitchen reference library. For curious and creative cooks, these are fabulous resources. First, the bible of kitchen science, Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen." If you want to know what copper bowls do to egg whites and why, or what "double-acting baking powder" really is, or why you need to punch down bread dough part-way through the rise, this book will explain it all. Next, "The Flavour Bible" by Page and Dornenberg, sort of like a thesaurus for flavours. Look up feta cheese, or figs, or garbanzo beans, and you'll find a huge long list of complementary foods and common and unusual combinations of flavours that include that ingredient. If you have a bunch of dried apricots, or a dusty packet of wild rice, or someone gave you an armload of mizuno and you want to experiment and make up new recipes which include your ingredients, this is the place to turn for inspiration. Finally, the book "Ratio," by Michael Ruhlman. This is pretty much devoted to baking, and to the basic ratios that most common baked recipes rely on. How many parts fat to sugar to liquid to flour to leavener in a cookie recipe? How does the ratio change if you want a chewy cookie rather than a crunchie one? What is it about the proportions that changes if you're making a quick bread, or a muffin? If you like to invent or radically modify baking recipes, this book helps you understand which proportions are required and avoid costly mistakes.