Friday, December 11, 2015

Slingshot Coffee offers a different sort of big-box relief for December

We all know that winter is coming, but gray skies and dropping temperatures have little impact on consumers who prefer a glassed of chilled coffee to a mug of hot java.

Jenny Bonchak of Slingshot Coffee Company is counting on those dedicated fans from Massachusetts to Florida to make the Raleigh's business' seemingly off-season debut—a new, 64-ounce container of cold-brewed coffee, with its own tap—a success. Packaged like boxed wine, Slingshot's new format holds four times as much coffee as their 16-ounce bottle. And at around $15 for the box and $4-5 per bottle, it's value packaging that will a stay fresh for up to six weeks. 

"Who wouldn't want their own personal Slingshot tap in their refrigerator?" says Bonchak, who launched the company in 2012 and is on track to produce as much as 10,000 gallons of cold-brewed coffee this year. "Bottles are great to grab on the go, but the box creates an option to enjoy at home."

Bonchak and her husband, Jonathan Bonchak (formerly of Durham-based Counter Culture, whose beans Slingshot uses exclusively), spent a lot of time this year considering options for selling a larger-capacity version of Slingshot. She believes they currently are the only producer of cold-brewed coffee in the U.S. packing their product this way for home use.

While boxed wines still carry a certain stigma of cheapness or low quality, Bonchak says they opted for the format for several reasons. Notably, it preserves the fresh taste of their high-quality brew for an extended period. With the exception of the hard plastic tap, the package is entirely recyclable, too.

This marks the second major product introduction this year for Slingshot, which collaborated with Durham Distillery to create Damn Fine Coffee Liqueur. It would seem that a boxed version of Slingshot's popular Cascara Tea—referenced this week by NPR's The Salt, which examined the growing popularity of the beverage—would be the obvious next step. But Bonchak says they are in no hurry.

"We're just focused on getting the Slingshot box into stores and filling holiday orders," she offers. "We're still a really small team. We'll take things on step at a time."

The boxed option, meanwhile, will be available starting today at local Whole Foods stores and many independent retailers, as well as online through the Slingshot website. Orders guaranteed for Christmas delivery will be taken through Dec. 11. 

This post first appeared in Indy Week.

Durham's Loaf helping to launch new Bien Cuit bread cookbook

Apricot Buckwheat Bread (photo courtesy Loaf)
Ron Graff was surprised when he received an email from Zachary Golper, owner of Brooklyn's renowned Bien Cuit bakery.

"We knew of them, but I don't think they knew ofus before reaching out to the Bread Bakers Guild of America," says Graff, owner of Durham's Loaf bakery. Golper was looking for top artisan bakeries nationwide to help promote the release of his new book, Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread, by baking and selling featured loaves well outside of Brooklyn.

Having just received a fresh supply of North-Carolina grown buckwheat from Carolina Ground—and with the blessing of his staff—Graff agreed to produce Golper's Apricot Buckwheat Bread recipe. 

"It was a fun convergence of things, and customers really like it," Graff says. The bread will be available only through Saturday. "It created a great opportunity for us to use buckwheat flour, which a lot of people are not familiar with."

Graff credits the long fermentation for the loaf's deep flavor. A tweak on the recipe to eliminate butter will likely put the bread into Loaf's long-term rotation. "Unless we label something as having cheese in it, all of our products are vegan," Graff says. "We'll be happy to offer a recipe inspired by Bien Cuit for our customers."

Graff is impressed with the book, too, a stunning production that would be at home on the coffee table of any cookbook lover. Appropriately, The Art of Bread has earned rave reviews from numerous critics for its clear, step-by-step instructions for baking fermented breads at home, even landing on best-of lists at Bon Appetit and Epicurious. Its innovative design allows the book to open flat, too.

Golper offered a recipe from the book for INDY readers as a taste of what to expect in the The Art of Bread. Its length may seem intimidating, but the process is broken down into clearly described steps. Additionally, techniques used in this one are cross-referenced with other recipes throughout the book.

Excerpted from Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread by Zachary Golper and Peter Kaminsky (© 2015, with permission of Regan Arts).

Makes 4 small loaves

Through much of Europe, especially in antiquity, chestnuts were an important source of  starch and protein before the introduction of wheat and, later, potatoes. This is not the  cheapest bread in the book, simply because a can or jar of peeled chestnuts costs more than typical baking ingredients. However, you might find it a bit of a pain to roast and peel chestnuts. (I definitely do.)

If you purchase peeled chestnuts, it becomes a simple dump and stir process. As in the Hazelnut Bread, for this recipe I use a nut puree with milk, which ferments, I incorporate chunks of the featured ingredient (in this case, chestnuts) into the dough to create islands of contrasting texture and flavor in the finished loaf. As for the currants, well, those seemed appropriate for a holiday-themed bread. Come to think of it, while I'm doing this mini inventory of the inspirations for this bread, they’re informed by an impulse similar to that behind my Raisin Walnut Bread, only sweeter and with a softer crumb. 

50 grams (1/4 c + 2 tbsp) white flour 
5 grams (11/4 tsp) granulated sugar 
1 gram (generous 1⁄8 tsp) fine sea salt 
0.2 gram (pinch) instant yeast 
44 grams (2 tbsp + 2 1/4 tsp) cold whole milk 


150 grams (1/2 c + 2 tbsp) chestnut puree 
350 grams (11/4 c + 21/2 tbsp) cold whole milk 
0.2 gram (pinch) fine sea salt 

grams (31/2 c + 1 tbsp) white flour, plus additional as needed for working with the dough, 
and for the linen liner and shaped loaves 
40 grams (31/2 tbsp) granulated sugar 
15 grams (21/2 tsp) fine sea salt 
5 grams (11/2 tsp) instant yeast 
60 grams (31/2 tbsp) cold whole milk 
45 grams (2 tbsp) Grade A maple syrup 
150 grams (1 c) coarsely chopped roasted chestnuts 
75 grams (1/4 c + 31/2 tbsp) dried currants 

Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a medium storage container. Pour in the 
milk. Mix with your fingers, pressing the mixture into the sides, bottom, and corners until all 
of the flour is wet and fully incorporated. This starter is best if covered and left at room 
temperature for 6 hours, then chilled in the refrigerator for 6 hours.But if the timing is better, you can also leave it at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours and then move it to the refrigerator to chill for 9 to 12. 

Whisk the chestnut puree, milk, and salt together in a medium saucepan and heat, stirring 
often, until steaming but not simmering, about 164°F (73°C). 
Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Whisk again and refrigerate until ready to use.

Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl. 

Whisk the chestnut milk, then pour about one-third of it around the edges of the starter to release it from the sides of the container. Transfer the starter and chestnut milk to an extra-large bowl along with the remaining chestnut milk, the milk, and the maple syrup. Using a wooden spoon, break the starter up to distribute it in the liquid.

Add the flour mixture, reserving about one-sixth of it along the edge of the bowl. Continue to mix with the spoon until most of the dry ingredients have been combined with the starter mixture. Switch to a plastic bowl scraper and continue to mix until incorporated. At this point the dough will be very sticky to the touch and have an almost gluey texture. 

Push the dough to one side of the bowl. Roll and tuck the dough, adding the reserved flour mixture and a small amount of additional flour to the bowl and your hands as needed, until the dough feels stronger and begins to resist any further rolling, about 16 times. Then, with cupped hands, tuck the sides under toward the center. Place the dough, seam-side down, in a clean bowl, cover the top of the bowl with a 
clean kitchen towel, and let rest at room temperature for 45 minutes. 

For the first stretch and fold, lightly dust the work surface and your hands with flour. Using the plastic bowl scraper, release the dough from the bowl and set it, seam-side down, on the work surface. Gently stretch it into a roughly rectangular shape. Fold the dough in thirds from top to bottom and then from left to right. With cupped hands, tuck the sides under toward the center. Place the dough in the bowl, 
seam-side down, cover the bowl with the towel, and let rest for 45 minutes. 

For the second stretch and fold, gently stretch the dough into a rectangle, scatter the chopped chestnuts and the currants evenly over the top, and press them gently into the dough. Roll up the dough tightly from the end closest to you; at the end of the roll the dough will be seam-side down. Turn it over, seam-side up, and gently press on the seam to flatten the dough slightly. Fold in thirds from left to right and then do 1 roll and tuck sequence to incorporate the chestnuts and currants. Turn the dough seam-side down and tuck the sides under toward the center. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with the towel, and let rest for 45 minutes. 

For the third and final stretch and fold, repeat the steps for the first stretch and fold, then 
return the dough to the bowl, cover with the towel, and let rest for 30 minutes. 

Line a half sheet pan with a linen liner and dust fairly generously with white flour. 

Lightly dust the work surface and your hands with flour. Using a bench scraper, divide the 
dough into 4 equal pieces. Press each piece into a 5-inch (13 cm) square, then roll into a loose tube about 5 inches (13 cm) long. Let rest for 5 minutes. Press each piece out again and then shape into a very tight tube about 8 inches (20 cm) long. Transfer to the lined pan, seam-side up, positioning the loaves across the width of the pan, rather than lengthwise. Dust the top and sides of the loaves with flour. Fold the linen to create support walls on both sides of each loaf, then fold any extra length of 
the linen liner over the top or cover with a kitchen towel. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator and chill for 14 to 20 hours. 

Set up the oven with a baking stone and a cast-iron skillet for steam, then preheat the oven to 480°F (250°C). 

Using the linen liner, lift and gently flip the loaves off the pan and onto a transfer peel, seam-side down. Slide the loaves, still seam-side down, onto a dusted baking peel (see Using a Transfer Peel and Baking Peel, page 311). Score the top of each. Working quickly but carefully, transfer the loaves to the stone using heavy-duty oven mitts or potholders. Pull out the hot skillet, add about 3 cups of ice cubes, then slide it back in and close the oven door. Immediately lower the oven temperature to 410°F (210°C). Bake, switching the positions of the loaves about two-thirds of the way through baking, until the crust is a rich golden brown, about 40 minutes. 

Using the baking peel, transfer the loaves to a cooling rack. When the bottoms of the loaves are tapped, they should sound hollow. If not, return to the stone and bake for 5 minutes longer. 

Let the bread cool completely before slicing and eating, at least 4 hours but preferably 8 to 24 hours. 

This post first appeared in Indy Week.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Parlour continues its dessert flights series next week with East Durham Pie

There are few certainties in life, but this is sure: A really great slice of pie can improve almost any situation. Combined with an amazing scoop of ice cream? Now that's real power. 

The Parlour, Durham's ice cream mecca, will celebrate such a marvel at 6 p.m. Monday in a collaboration with East Durham Pie CompanyTickets for timed seatings are required for the event, which includes a four-part flight of desserts for $12. 

Ali Rudel launched East Durham Pie Company only in October. She learned her craft a decade ago while working at Four & Twenty Blackbirds, whose owners, Emily and Melissa Elsen, included her recipe for Salt Pork Apple Pie in their The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book: Uncommon Recipes from the Celebrated Brooklyn Pie Shop.

That recipe is a nod to Rudel's New England childhood. One of the pies she's making for The Parlour event, Maple Sweet Potato, also blends that experience with her current life as  Southerner.

"I sometimes feel like no one will ever see me as Southern. I moved to Virginia when I was 10, but it doesn't seem to count," she says. "I feel like this pie in a combination of north and south."

She'll also be making Ginger Apple Pie (which uses North Carolina-grown Stayman apples and local ginger) Malted Pumpkin Pie and Honey Bourbon Pecan Pie. Parlour will incorporate these into standalone ice creams and milkshakes. 

While a storefront shop is part of East Durham Pie Company's long term plan, Rudel currently bakes in her certified home kitchen. If you miss Monday's event, you can buy her mini pies at Respite CafĂ© and Cocoa Cinnamon, too.

This post first appeared in Indy Week.