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Wednesday
Sep052012

COFFEE . A CHEMEX METHOD

Hey there. This is Hugh. Please proceed accordingly...

About a year ago we did a post about how we brew French Press coffee. Unfortunately, in the inexplicable way of the internets, that post no longer exists. You can still find the video over here, but the bits of information found in the post are no longer with us. That being said, I'll recap a few of the pertinent points in this entry, but the good (no, great) news is that in just a few weeks, there will be a new and incredible coffee resource available. We are lucky enough to have some wonderful friends at 10 Speed Press, one of whom sent us an advance copy of the forthcoming Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee book (Thanks Ali!) by James & Caitlin Freeman, and Tara Dugan, and oh man, is it something. If you take your coffee seriously, you need this book (and if you don't take your coffee seriously, you need this book).

I've been earneslty experimenting with a few different brewing methods for about 3 years nows, and it's only been in the last couple weeks, since diving into this book, that I've been consistently happy with the cups I've been brewing. Our coffee up to this point has been pretty good, occasionally really good, but until recently I often couldn't understand why that distinction was presenting itself. Now I do. I think that this largely comes from the holistic view of the coffee process that I've been introduced to in the pages of this book. James and Caitlin have given me a better idea of how and why coffee is grown, why the art of roasting is truly an art, how to better understand and adapt my brewing methods, and quite a bit more. I could go on and on about the book, but seriously, you should really just preorder a copy. Your coffe will never be the same.

Ok. So. The Chemex.

Pour over is Sara and my standard, day to day brewing method. It's a simple, honest process. Approachable enough that even if you've never manually brewed coffee before you can end up with a solid cup your very first try and it's elegant enough that you can spend every morning for the next few years perfecting the execution. Simplicity. Elegance. Perfectly paired ingredients.

What you'll need for this particular method:

  • Cool, filtered water
  • Well and freshly roasted coffee beans (try Blue Bottle, Stumptown, Sightglass)
  • A decent grinder - important to ensure consistent particle size (we use a Capresso Infinity)
  • A Chemex & oxigen cleansed filters
  • A swan-neck kettle - you don't need one, but using one will allow you much more control and precision while pouring (we use a Hario Bouno)
  • An instant read, digital thermometer
  • A gram scale
  • A timer
  • Scissors

The Method (I get kind of wordy, here, sorry, but for those of you who care, hopefully there's something new in here for you. For those of you who don't, the video hits the basics). You'll often find that brewing instructions give all measurements in gram weight, this is for a number of reasons, but most importantly, it allows for consistency and easily defined ratios. This method calls for a 1:10 ratio of coffee grounds to water, so you'll be using 30 grams of coffee beans to yeild 300 grams of brewed coffee (about 10 fluid ounces).

Fill your kettle with approximately 700 grams of water. You'll be using a portion of it to rinse the filter, and part of the water will be absorbed by and remain in the filter and coffee grounds at the end of the process, so you'll need the extra. Start your water (we use a Capresso electric kettle as it brings the water to boil quicker).

Prep the filter. I like to round off the top of the square Chemex filters so that they match the profile of the Chemex itself. This allows me to position the spout of the kettle as close to the ground as possible which makes controling the pour considerably easier. Open the filter and place it inside the Chemex, with the three-walled side of the filter centered over the pouring groove in the Chemex.

Once the water is up to a boil, rinse the filter. Chemex filters have quite a bit of paper mass, so thoroughly rinsing before you brew in them helps wash away the otherwise papery taste they can impart. If you fully remove the filter at this point, you'll have a dickens of a time getting it reseated correctly, so just peel back part the filter and empty the water.

Measure 30 grams of beans then grind. This part takes some experimenting. The basic idea is that a finer grind results in more surface area which results in more extraction. If the water pours through quickly and you get a weak, tasteless cup, you'll want a finer grind; if the water stalls and you find a bitter, over extracted cup, grind a bit courser. For ballpark purposes, in our grinder, the finest being a 1 and the coursest being a 10, I grind at about a 2.5 for Chemex. All grinders are different though, so experiment until you get it dialed.

Add the grounds to the filter then gently groom them until you have a level surface. Try not to compact any part of the grind bed while doing this. Set the whole assembly on the scale and tare.

Prebrew. With the water at 200° (up to 205° for a fresh, light roast, and as low as 190° for a darker roast) add just a small portion of the water to the grounds, about 60 grams in this case, as coffee will hold about twice it's weight in water. You want to add as little as possible while fully saturating the grounds.

Allow the prebrew about 45 seconds (as little as 30 seconds for super fresh beans and up to a minute for a less recent roast), then gently begin to add water in small, concentric circles, in the middle of the grounds, being sure to keep the flow of water away from the sides. As the water level begins to "swell," pause for just a few seconds until the it drains back to the original level of the prebrew. Continue doing this, slowly adding water, while maintaining the same approximate level, until the scale tips 400g, which should take place at about 3:00 on your timer. Again, about 100g of this water will remain in the grounds/filter.

Just before the last of the water dissapears into the grounds, remove and discard the filter (around 3:30).

Pour. Enjoy. Hopefully with cookies.

Wednesday
Aug222012

GRILLED EGGPLANT WITH HERBED QUINOA

I'm not even sure where to start with the sentiments on this one, because the past week or two has sort of taken me under. I am not necessarily overwhelmed by way of responsibilities, but by emotion. I feel thrilled that the book is out next week, anxious about the feedback, excited to cheers with family and friends, insecure about my work, incredibly grateful for friends sharing recipes and compliments, timid in self-promotion, scared of speaking in front of people... it just feels like... a lot. That's all I can really say. I'm going to keep it short because honestly I'm not sure how to process all this quite yet. I've always been one to really feel things - to get swept up in emotion and feel like my heart has no callus on it. So maybe you can imagine why this season of cookbook release time feels like "a lot."

I included a number of links on the book page of friends who've so graciously posted recipes from the book. I am truly humbled. So many people who I admire are cooking my foods. I think that's crazy. I will be adding to that list, so you can keep up there if you wish. I updated the dates of events as well and would love to see your faces! Hoping this will be the last book related post out of me, I know I've mentioned it quite a bit :)

There isn't a lot of free time at the moment but I wanted to share a simple dish that seems to fit in with the pace lately. It's not fussy, tastes light while still having enough flavor to remind you that vegetables are just magnificent.

GRILLED EGGPLANT WITH HERBED QUINOA // Serves 6 as a side

I've been a big fan of the eggplant and za'atar combination since this pizza. If you don't have any, some dried thyme or a bit of oregano would be nice as well. The sumac in za'atar gives just a bit of smokiness that compliments the grilled flavor. You could use millet or another whole grain if you have something else on hand. The following gives you more eggplant to quinoa ratio, if you prefer it the other way, simply double the quinoa salad instructions.



  • 3-4 medium eggplants (maybe 2 larger ones, 4 smaller ones)

  • sea salt

  • extra virgin olive oil

  • za'atar seasoning

  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed

  • half of a small red onion, sliced thin

  • generous handful each of fresh basil, dill and cilantro

  • 2 Tbsp. capers, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

  • 2 tsp. honey or agave nectar

  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts


Cut the eggplants into 1 1/2'' rounds. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for 30 minutes to release water.

Add the quinoa to a pot with a pinch of salt and 3/4 cup water or stock. Bring it to a gentle boil, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, fluff with a fork, cover again and leave it to steam another 5 minutes.

Heat up your grill or grill pan (I LOVE this. Obsessed). Press the eggplants between a dishcloth or paper towels to absorb the excess moisture. Brush both sides with olive oil and grill for about 5 minutes per sides until you get nice dark marks and the texture seems pretty soft throughout. I like the softer texture that comes with covering them. Remove to a plate, drizzle a bit more olive oil and sprinkle with za'atar to taste.

To finish the quinoa, toss in the onions, all of the herbs, oil, vinegar, honey or agave and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to mix. Taste and adjust as you like.

Put the eggplants on a plate, top with the quinoa and garnish with the toasted pinenuts.

Thursday
Aug162012

PANTRY PEANUT SAUCE

This is the peanut sauce that was intended to be easy, quick, every day sauce and then things just kept getting thrown into the blender. Lots of finger dipping, tasting...more ginger! dip. add coconut! dip. more spice! What I have below is a general recipe, but you'll need to taste and adjust as you wish. I may have lost track of a half teaspoon here or there. We didn't want it so peanuty that it resembled more of a spread for toast than an asian sauce, so the coconut milk and bit of toasted sesame oil help rein that in (see note). We like lots of ginger, always citrus, just enough spice to warm your throat and poof, a great sauce that will be used for a number or quick dishes this weekend. The photo here shows it on a simple asian sandwich with seared tofu, cucumber, carrots and scallions but I also plan on using it as a dressing for a quinoa and kale salad or making some spring rolls packed with veggies with this on the side for dipping. However you wish, meals seem to come together quite quickly with a good sauce on hand.

PANTRY PEANUT SAUCE // Makes about 1.5 cups

I imagine this would last a good two weeks in the fridge without comprimising too much on flavor. Don't quote me, I don't see it lasting long enough to tell, but it's an educated guess.

  • 1 cup creamy, unsalted peanut butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
  • zest and juice of one large lime
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 2-4 Tbsp. light coconut milk or water, as needed*
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, optional

Add all of the ingredients besides cilantro to a powerful blender or food processor and run until smooth. Taste and adjust as preferred. Add the cilantro, give it another few pulses and keep in an airtight jar in the fridge.

* I used coconut milk for thinning because I had some open. It also helped cut the peanut butter flavor and made it a bit more savory. Water will work fine to thin, just expect the peanut flavor to be more forward. It will firm up a bit in the fridge, so keep that in mind while choosing your consistency.

Tuesday
Aug072012

AT LONG LAST

When you're on a swing, without a push start from the ground, you begin pumping your legs to get the thing moving. Leaning far back to move the swing forward, and then bending the knees back trying to generate some momentum. At first it feels like you're going nowhere, that people are watching you laboriously thrust yourself back and forth, barely off the ground. Awkward as it is, you are moving, you are gaining energy. We started this cookbook nearly two years ago, and in just a couple weeks it will be out in the world. It started with lots of work and food and research and mistakes and emails and more food - the pumping of our legs. With a blog, you get a response almost immediately, but you have to sit on a book for awhile before it generates feedback. That time that we've been sitting with it has made me anxious, so I'm thrilled to set it loose. We are no longer flailing our legs to get off the ground, we're moving, really swinging, on this ride of writing a cookbook. I have a big stack in our office for family and friends, copies are in the mail to my recipe testers, and there are a number on the desks of media folks. This is the part where you just allow the momentum to take you. And even if it's been years since you've found yourself on a swing, you know that feeling - once the cadence takes over, the woosh of speed, the moment of weightlessness, arcing back again - and the freedom of giving in.

Below is our homemade promo video. We improvised some material and Hugh did a fabulous job of teaching himself how to shoot and edit, if I do say so myself. It's so "us," incapable of taking ourselves too seriously,  and it makes me happy. 

Ten Speed Press also put together a great sampler of a few of the recipes from the book so you can get a taste of what's inside.

Tuesday
Jul312012

BLUEBERRY-OAT BISCUIT COBBLER

I'm guessing I'm not the only one who's been on a fruit bender as of late. My favorite is strawberries (the best of which have passed in my particular opinion), with cherries, peaches, nectarines and blueberries tied for second place, which means this time of year I am in fruit euphoria. Most of it is getting eaten raw, but in order to get my better half to really get into this goodness, it needs to make it's way into a baked good or dessert of sorts. I found this recipe while flipping through the recent Bon Appetit and the simplicity of it caught my eye. I reduced the sugar, added in some whole grains, and now have a wonderful cobbler that dishes up beautifully as dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but can also be excused as a breakfast treat with a dollop of yogurt on top.

BLUEBERRY OAT BISCUIT COBBLER // Serves 6

Adapted from August 2012 Bon Appetit
The magazine also suggests that this can be done in six 6 oz. ramekins which sounds perfect for having people over. I think this would work great with a mix of fruits too - maybe mix in some blackberries or peaches.

 

  • 1 cup plus 3 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour (I imagine spelt or quinoa flour would work)
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 3 Tbsp. plus 1/2 cup natural cane sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 5 Tbsp. chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2'' pieces
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 6 cups blueberries (about 2 lbs.)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon zest
  • vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt for serving

 

Preheat oven to 375'. Whisk 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup oats, 3 Tbsp. sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add butter, using your fingers and smush it in to make pea-size clumps. Gently mix in yogurt. Knead until biscuit-like dough forms, being careful not to overmix.

Combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar, remaining 3 Tbsp. flour, berries, juice and zest in a large bowl. Toss to coat. Pour into 8x8 baking dish (or ramekins). Tear biscuit topping into quarter sized pieces and scatter over berries.

Bake cobbler until juices and thick and bubbling and topping is cooked through and golden brown. 20-25 minutes for ramekins and 40-45 minutes for baking dish. Let is rest at least 45 minutes.