...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Food journal number 37: roast beef and homemade bread

Two weeks ago, flaskfilé (pork loin fillets) was on sale in the local grocery. I wanted to consult the cookbook before I bought one, but after a few days of trying to decide what to do with it – I obviously took too long – the pork fillets weren't on sale anymore when we got back to the store.

On the other hand, there was cheap Brazilian entrecôte. Since beef probably wouldn't be as cheap once the EU stops beef imports from Brazil (to support EU farms), we just couldn't resist buying our piece of "farewell Brasse-beef". The happy Brazilian cow had to be prepared in a manner worthy of the cause of course – which is why we decided that it should be roast beef (rostbiff).

...in nothing less than classic roast beef pink!

Besides, it's a weekend, so we have time for more complicated "experiments". Neither of us here have cooked a roast beef before, so there was a lot of cookbook-reading and internet-surfing in anticipation of the weekend (The beef was frozen anyway). In the end, we decided:

a. That our roast beef should be medium rare. No grey and sad-looking well-done roast beef for us.
b. that, because our beef was just almost under a kilo, its inner temperature should be 55 C instead of 60 when taken out of the oven (this was recommended by a classmate of Marcus whose parents own a cow farm).
c. to buy special equipment for the purpose: a meat thermometer, and some plain cotton string to tie the roast beef with. According to the cookbooks, binding the beef makes the meat more compact and juicy.

(note the thesis-like formulation of this entry. I can't help it lately!)

1. So first you remove the beef from the refrigerator and make sure that it is in room temperature before you begin. It takes about an hour. When the time is almost up, preheat your oven to the highest temperature possible – usually that's 250 degrees C. You'll be turning down the temperature later when it's time to put the meat in, but this is a precaution so that the oven temperature won't drop too much when you do.

2. Pat the meat with olive oil and rub it with salt and pepper. Be generous; the meat is big and you want it to taste like something. The rule of thumb here is probably to salt and pepper more than what you think is enough. It won't hurt – I promise you that in the times we've cooked steaks, more salt and pepper resulted in better-tasting steaks. After the meat has been seasoned, take a string (plain cotton string takes heat up to 250 degrees) and tie the meat as you would a bundle of twigs.

3. In the meantime, heat a pan with some olive oil in it. Cast iron is probably best. When the oil sizzles, take the meat and brown it all around to seal it. It takes a couple of minutes per side. Afterwards, transfer the meat into a roasting dish lined with onion rings. The cookbook actually recommends a glass dish, but I've been to sites where they use the regular metal ones so that's what we used.

4. Stick the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat. In smaller meats like ours, it has to be inserted diagonally for this to work. Don't worry if you don't have a meat thermometer; there's another way of checking the doneness of the beef. Place everything in the preheated oven and lower the temperature to 175 degrees C. As a rule, it takes 1 hour per kilo of meat in order for the center of the meat to reach the desired temperature. Ours was a little less than, so as expected, it reached a 55-degree inner temperature in less than an hour, ca. 50 minutes. According to another site, the following inner temperatures indicate the desired doneness. Medium rare is of course the classic way of cooking roast beef:

49°C to 52°C for rare
55°C to 60°C for medium rare
63°C to 66°C for medium
68°C to 74°C for well done

But as I said, if you don't have a meat thermometer, there's another way of checking for doneness. We did this to make sure that our meat was on the medium rare side. Simply get a barbecue stick and make a hole through the meat. When you take it out, red juices would indicate rare, pink would indicate medium rare, and clear – or the lack of juices – means it's well done.

5. After it reaches the desired doneness, take out of the oven and cover with foil for about 20-40 minutes, depending on the meat size. It supposedly makes the meat easier to cut, and the meat also becomes more juicy this way, so we heard. After this waiting time, cut the meat into thin slices and enjoy with potatoes, potato salad or bread! Ours became this roast beef sandwich with potato salad and roasted onions. Tomorrow, we plan to have it with gravy (the beef "sweated" after its 30 minutes under the foil. I'll puree the onions and turn everything into gravy).

Now for the bread...

Because of the possibility of making roast beef sandwiches as picnic / lunch box food, I also decided that the remaining flour we have here at home will not go into making unhealthy sweet pastry, but into making bread loaves. This simple bread recipe is nicknamed "Italian bread" in our cookbook and pretty similar to the recipe we use for pizza bottoms (except this one has no oil). We could have settled for other bread recipes too, but plain white bread seemed best to toast and make into roast beef sandwiches. We think so, anyway. But since I had leftover flour with wholemeal (Kärnvetemjöl med Fullkorn), the bread didn't turn out quite so plain after all but now has some kind of a health twist. It also turned out a bit denser than I imagined it to be (maybe because of the wholemeal and added fiber?), but it's really really good toasted. Here's the recipe for that:

25 g yeast
6 deciliters (2.5 cups) water in body temperature
2 t salt
ca. 1.5 liters (6.3 cups) flour – of which I used 5 dl (2 cups) of flour with wholemeal. Will probably use less or none at all of wholemeal flour next time to make a plain and honest white loaf.

1. Crumb the yeast with your fingers into a big mixing bowl and stir some of the water into it until the yeast dissolves completely. Then add the rest of the water, salt and almost all of the flour. Knead vigorously until the dough just stops sticking to the sides of the mixing bowl. Cover and let rise for an hour.

2. After an hour, move the dough onto a floured board, and form them into loaves, kneading them with the remaining dough. The recipe is good for 2 to 4 loaves (I settled for two but I might make 3 out of it next time). Use a knife to cut two lines lengthwise on the surface of each loaf. Cover the loaves and let rise again for 30 minutes or until the loaves have roughly doubled in size.

3. Optionally, you can brush them with a bit of water before baking. This will make the surface crisp.

4. Bake at 225 to 250 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes at the lower part of the oven. It was recommended that you put a pan with a small amount of water at the very bottom of the oven to make the surface of the loaves even crispier.

The ingredients turn into bread. Modern day magic!

If you haven't tried baking your own bread, I recommend you try it! It's actually really simple, and I think that with practice it just gets easier and the results get better. A lot (I mean a lot) of Swedes bake their own bread, not to mention their own buns and cinnamon rolls. It might have something to do with them being generally health-conscious – i.e. you never know what preservatives are in your bread. Even I look at packaged buns and rolls with suspicion nowadays – but it's also quite relaxing to knead, and you feel a sense of achievement when the ingredients turn into something quite different altogether. Even seeing the dough rise makes you feel like you're actually creating something in the kitchen. Makes me want to give a goofy grin ala-Neil Buchanan in Art Attack and say: "Try it yerself!"


Blogger pj said...

I love the pinkness of the roast beef--it's perfectly cooked. Good job, Joy & Marcus!

And, coincidentally, my dad has started baking our own bread, too :P the price of flour here has gone up dramatically though, so he can't do it all the time. :(

3:26 PM

Anonymous Lara said...

you're a professional! hats off, joy!

3:58 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Haha, thanks guys! Sometimes I think that it would have been fun if I just decided to enter culinary school. Maybe I would have even been employed by now. Haha! ;-)

Yeah PJ... I didn't think about the flour prices there. Huhu :-( Maybe you can get cheap flour wholesale for Chipper cupcakes? By the way, do you have these silver-colored sugar balls for decoration in the Philippines? Kung wala, I'll give you some when I next go there, they're nice Christmas pastry decor. :-)

4:54 PM


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