Cook With Internet Shaquille

I admire folks who have a intuitive grasp of their medium. An example would be the YouTube chef who goes by the nom de guerre, Internet Shaquille. He posts pithy, frugal and to the point cooking videos covering everything from hummus to coffee.

I’m partial to his take downs of expensive pre-made meals such as smoothy purveyor Daily Harvest,

and Scam Like Me, Get Blue Apron for Free.

He’s also got some solid advice on how to make a restaurant quality burrito at home.

So let that YouTube algorithm lead you down the Internet Shaquille hole where you’ll learn to make a BLT rather than storm the capital.

Art and Grains

Posting has been light at Root Simple in the past few weeks because of a devilish case of acedia or, perhaps more specifically, what Mark Fisher called “depressive hedonia.” Fisher says,

Depression is usually characterized as a state of anhedonia, but the condition I’m referring to is constituted not by an inability to get pleasure so much as it is by an inability to do anything else except pursue pleasure. There is a sense that ‘something is missing’ – but no appreciation that this mysterious, missing enjoyment can only be accessed beyond the pleasure principle.

In my case depressive hedonia manifests by way too much scrolling of social media feeds in search of novelty and outrage.

Which is why I want to shift the focus to people who’ve managed, in this pandemic, to focus on practical and creative tasks. First off is Roxana Jullapat, who owns the must go to East Hollywood bakery and cafe Friends and Family. Roxana has a new cookbook out called Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution. Just in time for Easter she has posted a recipe from the book for hot cross buns with marzipan crosses.  Roxana was a big supporter of the Los Angeles Bread Bakers, a meetup group that I co-founded. It’s been a rough year for restaurants, so consider picking up a copy of her book or, if you’re a local, getting some takeout.


Meanwhile, friend of the blog Federico Tobon is launching a new zine, has completed 100 days of small drawings, and is making amazing little animated sculptures that you can see in his Instagram and TikTok.

He’s got an interesting technique for creating a 3d illusion in 2d images that he explains here. Sign up for Federico’s newsletter for some joy in your inbox.

One last thing about Federico. This tweet of his ends up in my Twitter notifications periodically:

Obviously, I need to follow this advice!

A Simple and Life Changing Bagel Recipe

Based on Jeffrey Hamelman’s recipe in Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes

453 grams (16 ounces) bread flour
263 grams (9 ounces) water
9 grams (.3 ounces) salt
2 grams (.07 ounces or approximately 3/4 teaspoon) active dry yeast

Malt syrup or molasses for boiling

Optional: sesame, poppy, flake salt or other seeds for topping.

Yield: 6 bagels

1. Throw all the ingredients except the malt syrup or molasses into a stand mixer and mix on the first speed for three minutes. Turn up to second speed and mix for an additional 6 minutes. If you don’t have a mixer you can knead. Dough will be very stiff.

2. Bulk fermentation: 1 1/2 hour in a covered bowl at room temperature.

3. Divide the dough into 113 gram pieces and shape into bagels. Here’s how you do that:

4. Place shaped bagels into a covered container and put in the refrigerator overnight.

5. The next day, take the bagels out of the fridge and check to see if they are ready to boil and bake. Put one in a bowl of water. If it floats you’re ready to boil your bagels. If it doesn’t float leave the bagels out at room temperature until they pass the float test.

6. Preheat your oven to 500ºF (260ºC). Put a big pot of water on the stove to boil. Add enough malt syrup or molasses to make a dark tea colored water (around a 1/4 cup). Once the water is boiling place two or three bagels in the pot and boil for 45 seconds. Flip halfway through boiling. If you’re adding seeds let the boiled bagels cool on a rack for a few minutes and dredge them through a plate with your sesame, poppy or other seeds.

6. Placed the boiled bagels on a baking sheet and bake for around 15 minutes at 500ºF (260ºC). Shoot for a light golden brown.

If you have a large mixer you can double this recipe to make a dozen bagels.

Deep Bagel Thoughts
Why did it take me so long to getting around to making bagels? It turns out bagel baking is much easier than the sourdough loaves I sometimes attempt. These homemade bagels are soooooooo much better than store bought or even bagels from specialized bagel bakeries. Why? First off, the boiling step gives you that perfect chewy bagel not found in supermarket bagels. But as Hamelman notes, hand shaping also gives you a better texture than commercially made (extruded) bagels. It may sound like hyperbole but I mean it when I say that this recipe has the best ROI of any baking project I’ve ever attempted.

Trust me, these homemade bagels will open your third eye.

Browned Butter Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients

14 Tbsp/200 g unsalted butter
1/2 cup/100 g white sugar
3/4 cup/150 g dark brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
1 large egg
2 cups/255 g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup/240 g peanut butter

1. Preheat your oven to 375º F.

2. Here’s the secret of this recipe: brown the butter! Put the butter in the pan and brown it. Do this carefully. You have to use your nose and eyes to make sure the butter is browned and not burnt.

3. Mix the sugars, salt, vanilla extract, eggs and peanut butter in a bowl. Allow the browned butter to cool for a few minutes and add to the mix.

4. Mix in the flour. Do not over mix or you’ll develop the gluten and end up with a disagreeably chewy cookie.

5. Form the dough into balls, spread them out on a baking sheet and compress with a fork. Sprinkle some sugar and sea salt on top of the cookies.

6. Here’s the second secret of this recipe: don’t over bake! You want a moist, not hard cookie. Depending on your oven you’ll probably bake somewhere between 8 and 10 minutes.

This cookie is a pandemic accident. I set out to make Josey Baker’s chocolate chip cookie which is based on a recipe in Cooks Illustrated. What makes that cookie so good is the browned butter. I made my dough and went for the chocolate chips only to discover that we had no chocolate chips. Not wanting to risk the ‘rona with a run to the market, I reached for a cup of peanut butter and dumped it in. Success!

Don’t Worry About the Boule: Bake Bread in a Loaf Pan

In the frivolous, pre-pandemic before-times I slacked off on my bread baking. At the beginning of quar, I prepper-panicked, hastily re-started my starter and fired up the Mockmill 100 grain mill.

Baking with a sourdough starter puts you on a collision course with the unpredictability at the heart of the “natural” i.e. non-internet world. For me the unintended randomness of my loaves came down to the discovery that I was using too course a grind with the mill. Thereafter, my loaves improved.

Even after that simple fix, I still get can get distracted by chores and forget to shape the dough in a timely manner, thus leading to what looks more like a pancake than an Instagram worthy boule. But if you’re not making bread for the ‘gram, you don’t have to do a boule or batard unless that really floats your boat. There’s nothing wrong with baking in a loaf pan. Sometimes it’s kinda nice to have a square loaf for sandwiches anyways.

The pan I have is a Pullman pan made by USA Pan. It’s square and has a lid. The lid is especially handy in that you can do the first 20 minutes of the bake with the lid on, thus sealing in the moisture which helps with loaf spring. You don’t need the fancy Pullman type with the lid but if you’re going to buy a pan I’d suggest getting a Pullman. I use a bit of olive oil to keep the loaf from sticking. If you don’t have a Pullman pan, you can cover any loaf pan with a piece of aluminum foil for the first part of the bake.

You have my permission. Bake in a loaf pan.

Lastly, I’ve been fielding some emails about what kind of mill to get. The Mockmill 100 has served me well. I’ll do a full review sometime in our quarantine part II future. If you’re curious about my bread recipe, I use Josey Baker’s 100% whole wheat recipe (with a higher hydration) that can be found in his book.