Southern Baking with Cheryl Day | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

JOIN! 12 Weeks for $1

Episode 528
October 21, 2021

Southern Baking with Cheryl Day

Southern Baking with Cheryl Day

Cheryl Day—cookbook author and co-owner of Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia—reveals her tips for perfect biscuits, cakes and cookies. Plus, Beejhy Barhany tells us about dabo, the Ethiopian milk and honey bread; Alex Aïnouz explains how to stir-fry the Cantonese way; and we learn how to make Umbrian Lentil Soup.

This episode is brought to you by MasterClass, All-Clad, and Matter of Fact.

Questions in this episode:

"My husband and I love cooking, but we have one persistent problem in the kitchen: Garlic skins seem to get strewn everywhere! Is there a way to prepare garlic that isn’t so messy?"

"I routinely make seltzer with an at-home seltzer maker, and often put lemons or limes in it for flavor. I've noticed that on the second or third day after making it, the seltzer starts to taste very bitter. Do you have any suggestions for how I could avoid this?"

"I recently purchased a hot Hungarian wax pepper plant, but I have absolutely no idea how to use the peppers. Any ideas for recipes I can use them in?"

"I really enjoy making grilled pizza, but my dough is always inconsistent. What am I doing wrong?"

Cheryl Day

Chris Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Bakery cookbook author Cheryl Day may have grown up as a California valley girl. But with summer trips to visit her grandmother in Alabama, she always had a deep love for the South. In 2002, she opened the back in the day bakery in Savannah, Georgia, in a neighborhood that was yet to be up and coming.

Cheryl Day: We started out by really getting to know our neighbors. There's a barber shop, Boys to Men barber shop that's been there, gosh, over 30 years. And we befriended them and started testing out recipes. And once they fell in love with our biscuits and our cinnamon buns and realized that we were wanting to be a part of the neighborhood, they started coming over and that was really the start up our business.

CK: Also coming up, we make Umbrian lentil soup. And Alex Ainouz tells us by teaching himself Chinese was necessary to learn how to stir fry the Cantonese way. But first, it's my interview with Beejhy Barhany. In the 1970s Beejhy’s family along with 300 other Ethiopian Jews left Ethiopia on foot and headed to Israel. During their journey, the group brought in the Sabbath with dabo, the Ethiopian milk and honey bread. Beejhy welcome to Milk Street.

Beejhy Barhany: Thank you for having me.

CK: Pleasure. You were born in the 1970s 1976 in Ethiopia. And when you were just for your family traveled 500 miles by on foot to the Sudan, you wrote that you didn't leave because of economic hardship or anything else. It was really for religious reasons. Could you describe that process?

BB: So, for the Ethiopian Jewish community, ancient Jewish community that been practicing Judaism for 1000s of years, and that was something that we've been dreaming for years to return to the Holy Land and unify with our brothers and sisters from all over the diaspora. So, when the moment came, and the elders of the community decided that this is the moment in time to make the Iliad emigration and basically take a journey, a walk over a couple of weeks in order to fulfill a prophecy, which is just the beginning walking from Ethiopia to Sudan. I mean, it's really unheard of to just leave everything your had and your friends, everything and it just go because you strongly believed that you need to live among your brothers and sisters that practice the same faith so you can practice your religion freely is beyond comprehension.

CK: This notion of 300 people getting up walking hundreds of miles over a period of weeks it just seems it seems it seems like a biblical story of course obviously.

BB: It sounds it's kind of sometimes me when I recollect, and I see is hard to fathom you know the devotion of ages a whole village get up and go it just showcase it the determination and devotion

CK: So, let's come to the bread dabo it's not a bread I'm familiar with it's a very rich bread, honey and milk and egg and butter. So could you describe it because I think a lot of us are familiar with so the typical Ethiopian flatbread injera, but but this is something quite different.

BB: Right, I mean, what many people associate Ethiopian cuisine with is the flatbread injera, which is made out of F gluten free super grain, native to Ethiopia. But dabo is the equivalent of hallah. We make it especially for Shabbat. You can make it sweet, you can make it with honey, you can make it without yeast, they can make it without eggs. My kids like to dip it in a little bit of honey on top of it or drizzle some honey in it. So, this is how we in my household. We welcome Shabbat with our special daba bread.

CK: You also talked about making this bread during your trek to the Sudan. Did you find ovens where you could use to bake bread, or you've just baked it on stones or how did you bake bread in the middle of the desert?

BB: Very simple actually. If you have a pot, you can bake it in that end to rise nicely as long as you collect word outside which nature will provide you. You put fire and then you basically have water little bit of salt and your flour you mix it nicely and you let it sit for a couple of hours to rise a little bit. And then you take your dough, put it in a pot, that's the best oven you will have in the desert.

CK: So, let's talk about your restaurant in Harlem. I guess a lot of Ethiopian food is by definition vegan, but let's just go through some of the items on the menu and and how you prepare them. So, what what would be three or four classic dishes that you prepare there?

BB: Okay, so you know Ethiopian cuisine is very much diverse going from nice and spicy red lentils to a bright yellow split peas cooked with turmeric, ginger and garlic and onions sauteed for a while. We're talking about delicious vegan collard green, or cabbage, carrots, and potatoes, which would sprinkle a lot of turmeric on that beside behaving the Ethiopian dishes, of course, we have smoked salmon lox, which scrambled egg on a bit of injera. So, you know, we celebrate the many places, people that I've been touched of, and now they become part of me. So that is the menu of Tsion cafe. On top of, of course, the base always will be the Ethiopian as the foundation. But as we grow and explore the beauty of Jewish diaspora cuisine, we always wanting to add and celebrate each one of them.

CK: I don't know if you're the kind of person that looks backward. But if I look backward, on your life from Ethiopia in the 70s and the March the Sudan, and Israel ending up in Harlem, and do you ever look back over that, and think that that was, that's a pretty amazing journey?

BB: It is incredible. And I think it just started, I have a whole way to go. I feel like I'm not done yet. It just, you know, it's just somewhere in the middle. There is so much to explore and celebrate, and being black, Jewish woman, Ethiopian, and now I'm a New Yorker. All of those thing’s kind of empower me and really want me to keep sharing and highlight how important is African cuisine and how do we celebrate it? So, the work is not done yet, Chris, we have a lot to do.

CK: Beejhy thank you so much. It's been an honor and a pleasure having you here at Milk Street. Thank you.

BB: Thank you for having me. Have a blessed day.

CK: Beejhy Barhany, the chef and owner of the Tsion cafe in Harlem. Now it's time for my co-host Sara Moulton to answer some of your cooking questions. Sara, by the way, is the author of Home Cooking One on One also star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television. Sara, how are you?

Sara Moulton: Chris, I'm great and I'm ready to go. Welcome to Milk Street who is calling?

Caller: This is Carol from Crane Hill, Alabama.

SM: Hi, Carol. How are you?

Caller: I am great, Sara and how are you?

SM: I’m very good, and I'm very interested to know what we can help you with today.

Caller: Well, my husband I love to cook and it's one of our joint activities. But our biggest issue in the kitchen not only are we a little messy, but we have garlic skins floating around our kitchen constantly. They seem to explode, it’s really a mess. And we'd love garlic.

SM: How many cloves do you work with at once let's say a head of garlic, what percentage of that head of garlic do you work with at once?

Caller: Oh, I'd use anywhere from three to five.

SM: Okay it would be better if you use the whole head at once. Put the whole head of garlic in some warm water. Submerge it for about five minutes and then break it apart. I think that when the garlic is wet, the peels won't, you know float around the way they do. They'll just peel off like a wet peel and that will work much better for you. But if you do the whole head and then you break it into the cloves, and it looks like the inner clothes are still pretty dry. soak them in water for five minutes and then go ahead and peel the whole head and then you're good to go for a couple of days. What I've taken to doing recently is preheating the oven to say 400 cutting off the tops of the garlic and then sprinkling it with olive oil and salt wrapping it in foil and roasting it until it's done and then squeezing it out and freezing it and ice cube trays. Okay, now let's hear what Chris has to say.

CK: I would use it first of all, a Chinese cleaver. They're great for dealing with garlic, I cut off the head down about 20%. So, the top of the cloves are cut, then you can put it on the counter and whack it with the broadside of the cleaver and that'll break off the clubs. And then you can remove the skins really easily by just crushing them lightly with a broad flat side of the cleaver. And you can do a whole bunch of cloves at one time. And that's a really easy way to get skins off. But I think a Chinese cleaver is the answer to garlic mania because it makes it so much easier than a typical European knife.

Caller: All right, well, that's a good idea. I have not thought about that. Or the water bath Sara so we will hope for better results in our kitchen floor soon.

SM: Okay, Carol, you have fun cooking with your husband. That's great that you cook together.

Caller: Yeah, it is fun. Thank you all so much for taking my call

CK: Take care.

SM: Okay, bye. Bye.

CK: Bye. Bye. This is Milk Street Radio if you need a hand in the kitchen, give us a ring anytime. Our number is 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who is calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Annie.

SM: Hi, Annie. Where are you calling from?

Caller: I'm calling from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

SM: Okay, well, how can we help you today?

Caller: I usually make seltzer at home using you know one of those home seltzer makers

SM: Yes, good for you.

Caller: I like to add, yeah, and I like to add a lemon or lime to flavor it. I usually add one or two per like one liter bottle, one or two wedges. And it tastes good the first day but after about a day it starts to taste a little bitter. So, I was wondering if there was anything I could do to avoid this?

SM: Yeah, it's really very simple. When you add the lemon or lime you add slices or wedges or something like that?

Caller: Yeah, just wedges. Okay, here's

SM: Okay, here's the thing on any piece of citrus, the zest, which is the colored part, just the outside most outside part has all the citrus oil in there is really got full of flavor. What is right underneath it, that white part, also known as the pith, is quite quite bitter. So that (okay) is your problem. So, what you need to do is go ahead and flavor it, but just use the very outermost peel, no white part at all.

CK: Can you just use the juice?

SM: Well, you could certainly use the juice. I mean, I like the flavor of the oil in the zest. I love lemon zest for everything. And I use zest where I wouldn't use juice because it's got a different flavor. But you're right Chris, you could I mean when they make limoncello which is the sort of Italian how do you really feel about limoncello Chris?

CK: I've been there, I’ve been to Amalfi. I've had limon..

SM: Anyway, they just use the peel and that's the same reason we just discussed but Chris, did you want to say something nice here?

CK: No, I just like to say if you want the world's worst hangover drink a lot of limoncello because it's sweet.

SM: All these Italians are now mad at you.

CK: Well, no, I love Italy. I love the cooking of Italy. I love the Italians. But limoncello is one of those sweet liquors that's come on have you had limoncello?

SM: Yes

CK: and?

SM: In Amalfi

CK: and you liked it?

SM: I loved it

CK: Okay,

SM: So, there you go. Any rate Annie that is not your problem. Just ignore him. Just use the zest meaning the colored part.

Caller: Okay

CK: You know and next week we do the show I'm going to bring a big bottle limoncello l and give you shots.

SM: Well, it’s about time you brought some cocktail, okay then Anyway, Annie, thank you

CK: Thanks for calling. Yes.

Caller: Thank you very much. Goodbye.

CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next we're chatting with Cheryl Day from Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia. That's right up after the break. This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host Christopher Kimball right now it's my interview with baker and cookbook author Cheryl Day from Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia. Her latest book is Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking. Cheryl, welcome to Milk Street.

Cheryl Day: Chris. I am so excited to chat with you.

CK: I came down to visit you a while back and had a fabulous day.

CD: We did we're still talking about it in Savannah.

CK: And all I can say in Savannah at Back in the Day Bakery when you slice a piece of cake, you slice a piece of cake. you don’t fool around.

CD: We don’t mess around.

CK: So, this is a weird question, but I was doing some reading. And somewhere the term valley girl came up. And I'm going like Cheryl Day valley girl, and I know you grew up in LA, but a lot of time in the south. But so, are you a valley girl?

CD: I am a valley girl. True story. Yeah, I grew up. I spent a lot of my youth in Sherman Oaks California. So that officially makes me as valley girl as you can get.

CK: I know you; you also have deep roots in Alabama.

CD Right. Absolutely. It's this juxtaposition of southern California meets the American South for sure.

CK: I'll take the American South any day and I guess you would do because you live in Savannah. (Right) So let's talk about your ancestors. Because I know in your bakery, there's some just wonderful pictures of your parents and other people there. So, let's go back to Hannah Kwame Grubbs who was born in Alabama in the 19th century. So, who was she?

CD: Hannah Kwame Grubbs was my great great grandmother. And yes, she was born enslaved. It's still a little sketchy as to the exact date. I'm still discovering all sorts of things about her now. But yeah, she was born in Alabama and started a legacy of bakers in my family.

CK: And I think you said she cooked for a politician at the time you think,

CD: Well, she lived until she was well over 100 years old. So yes, after slavery, she worked for a famous politician in Alabama and was with his family for many, many years. But she was responsible for doing all the cooking in that household.

CK: And then your great grandmother, I guess her daughter Queen also was a cook, but she opened a general store in ____, Alabama.

CD: That's right. In fact, I'm still a little salty. Over the fact that there were so many Queens, ladies named Queen in my family, and they did not pass it on to me. Yeah,

CK: Yeah, you mentioned that you're it's funny because that was one of the first things we talked about when I visited you. That that sticks in your claw, as they say, right.

CD: It does. I would have loved that name.

CK: So, let's go back. You came to Savannah; you start a bakery. I know you tried out recipes in a barber shop. Just tell us the origin story of the Back in the Day Bakery.

CD: So right the neighborhood that we're in it's it's been point, the Starland district. But basically, it's part of the historic district. And at one time, it was a thriving business community. The first grocery store in Savannah was owned by a Jewish family and it was across the street from the bakery for many decades. And then the the neighborhood kind of took the turn, as happened, you know, a lot of times in the 70s or what have you, and it became very transitional, as they say, and it was pretty much a place that no one in their right mind would want to open up a business. Apparently, (CPK: except for) except for Griffin I who we had grown up in large cities. And he's from Minneapolis, I'm from Los Angeles and we really just saw such great potential in this neighborhood. And we started out by really getting to know our neighbors. There's a barber shop Boys to Men barber shop that's been there gosh, over 30 years. And we befriended them and started testing out recipes and once they fell in love with our biscuits and our cinnamon buns and realize that we were opening a business that was wanting to be a part of the neighborhood. They started coming over, and that was really the start of our business. So yeah, I just think of ways to just really make a human connection. And I think that I know it's important.

CK: You talk about cookbooks actually were fronted, if you will by mostly white women. But as you say, history is written by the victors. And so, so many of those recipes obviously came from black cooks (CD: right) and they ended up in books where they really didn't get any credit. Do you think that was especially true in the south or that's across the country or what's your experience with that?

CD: Well I mean, I think that it's definitely in the south that's obviously my wheelhouse but I know for a fact that it has been the case and other parts of the country as well in fact it's come out now that one of the first black woman that wrote a cookbook she was in Michigan but I mean I think that definitely you know, a lot of recipes came through the south and yeah, unfortunately if you couldn't read or write I mean, how are you going to tell that story but they were the ones in the kitchen making the food so I guess I am making a very bold statement and making sure that I pay homage to these women

CK: So, before we get to recipes with some of these recipes are fascinating, but let's talk about baking rules. (Okay) the one thing that people get wrong more than anything else in baking is the temperature butter, right? Because it doesn't cream if it's over 70 degrees. So, I've been trying to explain this to people for a long time. But if you don't have a thermometer like an instant read thermometer, how do you tell people when the butters have the right temperature for creaming

CD: So I tell people it should have an indentation it looks not greasy, but it's a little bit pliable because it really does make a difference however I have to say and I know this is a conversation that's very controversial whether you can start with with cold butter but I have discovered over the years that you actually can start with cold cubed butter right but you then have to get it up you know to temperature so the only reason why I use that technique sometimes is because in Savannah, Georgia it's often very hot and in the summer it's extremely hot and sometimes it's almost like a reverse method that you you know that you use to get the butter to the proper temperature rather than getting it to software it's melty and then you're better is not going to do be able to do its job.

CK: And the question that we actually talked about when I was there, but which I think I told you one of my kids used to bake for a living yes and she called me all the time ago dad how do I know when it's done? (Oh, yeah) And I I have about 68 different answers to that question. I'm bet you do but but what are your half dozen answers?

CD: I think as a baker if you make things time and time again it really is about standing there and watching and seeing what happens and making notes and seeing you know does it rise does it fall so for cookies, that's kind of my technique for cakes, I definitely depends on the type of cake you know, there's a theory that it does need to come out clean. I think you don't want a cake to be wet, but a little tiny bit of crumb is fine because again it's going to continue to bake Another way is touching the top to make sure that it does bounce back if you're watching it you'll see that when it's baking it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan domes and then you're just kind of it's this tactile baking is very much about you know touching and feeling and looking and it's it's using all of your senses.

CK: Well, I think you said to me that like 30 seconds in baking’s an eternity, right? I mean, I think people don't realize that like a minute is a long time, right? Especially for cookies.

CD: Yeah, a minute is like a lifetime. A minute can be burnt, right

CK: So, let's talk about biscuits. This is like talking about hummus in the Middle East right. if you want to get into a fight, tell people you know the best way to make a biscuit a southern biscuit. So, they're, you know, layered biscuits. There kind of, you know, white lily flour cakey biscuits there. All sorts of biscuits, cream biscuits, you have a bunch of them in your book, is there a particular style that you think is the southern biscuit or there's just a lot of styles? Well, there's

CD: Well, there's a saying I think I said in the cookbook is how many grandmothers are there, that's how many biscuits there are. I mean, you know, there's just so many methods, I think I have four. And I could have gone on and on. And I love them all. And it just kind of depends. There's one method that is really simple, and you don't have to cut the biscuits. And I think a lot of folks that are novice bakers love to start with that recipe. I call it a biscone at the bakery, but it's like a cat head biscuit. That is really simple to make you mix it into one bowl, and then you scoop it out and you're done.

CK: So, it's an it's a drop biscuit, essentially?

CD: Yeah, essentially, it is a drop biscuit. I mean, so super simple to make. And then the one that probably I think for my new cookbook, it's like buy the cookbook for the flaky buttermilk biscuits but stay for the chocolate cake is you know one that is more complex, you're going to be you know, mixing it, you're going to be cutting it, your kind of be stacking and folding it. And that's how you get that very flaky, layered biscuit.

CK: Cold oven pound cake I ran across this years ago, but I noticed you have that in the book. So, you actually put that into a cold oven. Right?

CD: Yeah, and I mean, people look at me like, wait a minute, how do you bake a cake in a cold oven, but it starts in a cold oven, then you turn on the oven, and I like to just stand there, turn on the light and stare at it and it slowly rises, so it doesn't get dried out and the texture of it is just sublime. I think it's just delicious.

CK: Didn't someone tell you when you first moved, your cupcakes weren't sweet enough, right? Yes,

CD: Yes, yes, absolutely. I used to when we first opened, I was determined I was making an Italian meringue butter cream on my cupcakes. And they were not well received at all.

CK: How? How does a southerner tell you they don't like your cupcake, is it subtle?

CD: I didn't think it was that subtle actually, it was kind of like, you know, what do you use exactly. And you know, there's the old saying, bless your heart. And if you live in the south, you know what that means?

CK: Recipes. You talk a lot about how recipes were passed down. They were cherished, especially I think in the south, but also, I know in New England, I have recipes that were passed down to me. Could you just talk about that that just seems like such a personal and wonderful thing and probably isn't done very much anymore?

CD: Yeah, I think I've always said that bakers are the sweetest folks on earth. And you always want to know the best Baker in your community. You're whether it's your aunt or a neighbor, or someone that you go to church with. And I know that back in the day, it was a big tradition that folks would share a recipe or often they would have these, like showers where they would gift recipes to the bride or I don't know, I just think it's just a wonderful tradition that I wish we still would do. I actually still do that. I have often gifted a wedding cake or special cakes for occasions and often sad occasions because I think it's just again, it's just such a human connection. That is very important, especially in these days.

CK: So we started this conversation with your beginnings in LA and also in Alabama. Could you give us I mean, I could go on forever about small-town Vermont, because that's my background, but could you go and just explain to us what you deeply love about where you live now. I mean, that makes it so unique. Yeah, I

CD: Yeah, I love just the fact that I can hear myself think when I walked down the street, I like the fact that people look you in the eye and say hello and in you get to know people, but I just love the pace. I think the pace fits with me at this point in my life. It's just the slower pace and I rather enjoy it

CK: Was the move from LA for you in easy transition because you obviously had a lot of family in Alabama for generations or did you feel right at home? Or did it take a long time to immerse yourself in Savannah?

CD: No, I did not feel right at home. I did not that's why when we open the bakery, we wanted to let folks know that we were here to stay and we weren't just coming in you know, we wanted to be an integral part of the community and, but it definitely took time. I mean, when we first opened, we'd get looks from people trying to figure out you know, they would say very subtly, you know, oh, are you from here? But I talked you know, I called everyone you guys and I talked a little funny, but so yeah, it definitely took a while but here I am.

CK: Cheryl, great to visit with you again. Love your food and love your new cookbook. Thank you.

CD: Oh thanks for having me.

CK: That was baker and cookbook author Cheryl Day from Back in the Day bakery in Savannah, Georgia. Her latest book is Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking. You know, Cheryl told me that with the advent of COVID, she and her husband Griff decided to cut back on business and make more time for other things in life. You know, we always talk about time well spent as if time can be spent foolishly. But what if indeed, you can't spend time, time is simply a way for humans to try to understand existence. In that case, every moment is perhaps infinite and by living in the moment, you never really run out of time. You're listening to Milk Street Radio, it's time to chat with J.M. Hersh about this week's recipe. Umbrian lentil soup. J.M, how are you?

J.M. Hirsch: I'm doing great.

CK: So today we're talking lentil soup, something you can find not all over the world, but over a good part of the world. I had it in northern Israel cooked with pasta. But you had this one in Italy and it's a little different than anything I've ever had before.

JM: Yeah, you know, and I got to tell you, I'm generally not a fan of lentils. But this lentil soup blew me away. I loved it. And it was so simple. Of course, it starts with great ingredients we’re in Italy, and I was working with a home cook Silvia Buitoni. And yes, it's that Buitoni family although they no longer own the pasta company. And you know, we were just outside of Perugia, and she wanted to introduce me to kind of the really rustic cooking of Umbria the region we're in. And Umbria is known for its lentils, it's castelluccio lentils, they are small kind of greenish gray and much like lentils you deploy from France. They hold their shape really well when cooked.

CK: So, these are all the usual suspects, you'd find you know, carrots, onion, etc.

JM: She starts by creating a very simple flavor base, onion, celery, carrot, a little bit of salt, cook that in some oil until they've just started to get tender, and brown developed a little bit of flavor. Throw some garlic in. And then a trick that we love at Milk Street she throws in tomato paste and browns it. It's really bringing out those rich sweet umami flavors and the tomato paste. And then she adds water and the lentils, some rosemary of course, some red pepper flakes, brings the whole thing to a simmer. And what I loved about this, too, is first of all, it cooked in minutes, I should say but she didn't use as much water as you might think for soup. So, it ends up being I don't want to call it a stew but it's certainly thicker than you would consider typical soup. It came together in minutes. She serves it drizzled with a little bit more olive oil, of course, and sprinkled with some parmesan Oh, of course. And the result is really magical. Again, I don't like lentils. I loved this lentil soup.

CK: Every time you go to Italy, you discover things you never thought you'd discover, right? I mean lentil soup does not sound like a thrill a minute, right, we’ve done this before

JM: exactly.

CK: But, in fact, the basics are better than you remember, right?

JM: This is why we always go back to Italy because they continue to educate us about how if you take simple ingredients and prepare them in a simple way, but really let those ingredients shine. If you're mindful of contrasting tastes and textures and when you combine those ingredients, you're going to get an end result that far outweighs what you thought going into the equation it really just as ever. It blew me away.

CK: Umbrian lentil soup. It's a classic, but it's something that helps us understand a little bit more about the joys of Italian cooking J.M thank you so much.

JM: Thank you. You can get this recipe for Umbrian lentil soup at Milk Street

CK: This is Milk Street Radio coming up Alex Ainoux tells us how to stir fry the Cantonese way. We'll be right back. I'm Christopher Kimball and you're listening to Milk Street Radio. Right now, Sara Moulton and I will be answering a few more of your cooking questions.

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who is calling?

Caller: Hi, there, this is Marisa

SM: how can we help you today?

Caller: Recently, I purchased Hungarian hot wax pepper because I thought that sounded fun. And I have a decent sized pepper growing now, but I actually have no idea what to use it for.

SM: Oh, ok you mean you've got a plant and it's thriving and you're getting all sorts of peppers. Is that right?

Caller: Yeah. Okay, that’s right. I'd like to make hot sauces with the peppers. But I wasn't quite sure what flavor profile to really use with that

SM: Well, Hungarian wax peppers. They're usually harvested when they're yellow, although they can get red if you leave them on. And the longer you leave them on the plant, the hotter they get. But they're often confused with banana peppers, because they look alike. However, they are hotter than banana peppers. They're roughly the equivalent of a jalapeno. (Okay) so that sort of gives you an idea of what you're dealing with. As long as you harvest them yellow. If you take them till red, they will be hotter. You know, I think that you could use them in any recipe you would use jalapeno and they be very nice. And as for a hot pepper sauce, Chris, I think there was one recently in

CK: the Baja sauce. Yeah, I made that it's great with fish, grilled fish.

SM: Do you think that would work with this chili?

CK: Yeah, I've only had this once or twice, but it's very fruity. Which you know, is my big revelation years ago about chilies peppers

SM: Chilies are not just hot

CK: They're about flavor. So, they'd be great in mole, they’d be great in this hot pepper sauce. I have to say they'll go buying a plant before you know what to do with it. It's kind of like having kids because then you have kids you go like, what am I going to do with them?

SM: I mean really,

CK: it’s very similar. So good for you.

SM: Yeah. Wonderful. All right Marisa

CK: Thanks for calling. Yes,

Caller: Cheers. Bye.

SM: Bye bye.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you're stuck in a rut, give us a call at 855-426-9843. That's 855-426-9843 or you can email us at questions at Milk Street Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: hi this is Tim

CK: How can we help you?

Caller: My question is about pizza dough. I really like settled on this method where I can use my grill and almost get it like a woodfire oven kind of a situation (right) But I found that like when I'm making my dough, the results are really varied in terms of the consistency of the dough. It's equal parts all-purpose flour and double zero flour. A little bit of salt, some warm water, just under a teaspoon of active yeast. A little bit of olive oil and then yeah, I'd put it in my stand mixer with the dough hook. (Yeah) let that go for a couple minutes and you let it rest. Then you let it go a couple more minutes and then I let it sit for like three or four hours under a damp cloth.

CK: Why are you using all-purpose flour instead of bread flour. Let's start with that

Caller: That's the recipe I came across. And this one kind of came closest to getting this kind of nice springy dough,

CK: I would use bread flour. The other thing I find, and this is based on a recipe we got from Bari, Italy for focaccia. He uses a ton of yeast in his recipe. When I made it just two days ago, I used the whole package of yeast. How long do you let it rise after you divided it?

Caller: Three or four hours

CK Is it warm in your kitchen we do this I mean the dough is very relaxed and and easy to deal with.

Caller: I’m in Texas so it's usually a moderate temperature. Sometimes like after it's done that four hours, it's just like really soft and just really wonderful to kind of work with a form that with my hands and then kind of toss it on my knuckles a little bit. But other times, it’s like really springing back on me and doesn't want to hold a shape.

CK: So, you're letting the entire recipe rise. And then you are segmenting it into two balls and loving those rides separately?

Caller: Yes,

CK: and the total time is four hours for the entire process. The first and second part?

Caller: The first part, I spin it with the dough hook for like three minutes, and then you do a 15-minute rest. Then I spin it for three minutes again, and then it's the four hour

SM: Your weighing the flour or are you measuring the flour?

Caller: I’m measuring the flour though the recipe does have it by weight, Should I be doing that?

SM: Yes, you should. That might be the problem right there. Chris is actually the pizza expert but when you say sometimes it's very soft and sometimes it's very springy. I can only think that sometimes you probably have more flour, absolutely go with the weight not with the measure because nobody measures the same way every time.

CK: Also look at the hydration I mean I in general, a wetter Joe is going to give you a nicer pizza. The texture is better. I don't know how many grams of flour you had versus grams of water. But if you're around 60 or 65% you might want to punch that up and add a little more water. Okay, so if it's not flexible, you probably should just be adding some more water. The only last thing I would say is when I did it a couple days ago, I actually let the dough sit for hours. This guy in Bari Italy did the same thing. He let his dough rest for like six hours. My conclusion is if the dough is warm, like 75 degrees, which is really critical. It almost can't overproof you can let it sit when it's not easy to work with it probably hasn't sat long enough or it's not warm enough or it's not wet enough. So those are my totally confusing

SM: No that all makes sese

Caller: thank you so much.

CK: Yeah, good luck.

SM: Take care. Yeah. Okay, appreciate it.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio now it's time for some culinary wisdom from one of our listeners.

Caller: Hi, this is Anthony ___ from Montpelier, Vermont and I find that the 12 ounces of pasta called for most Milk Street recipes is the perfect amount for four people. Only problem is pasta in the United States is sold usually in 16-ounce packages. What to do with the extra four ounces. I find that that leftover pasta is the perfect amount to toss in at the end of the soup like a minestrone. Make sure that you wait till late in the cooking process and make sure that you pull the soup off the heat early enough because the pasta can absorb a lot of extra liquid after cooking. Happy cooking.

CK: By the way if you'd like to share your own cooking tip on Milk Street Radio, please go to 177 Milk slash radio tips. Next up it's French food scientist Alex Ainouz. Alex how are you and what's up in Paris?

Alex Ainouz: Oh, I'm good Chris how are you?

CK: You’ve been working hard I guess right?

AA: Yes, I’ve been working hard you know I'm always experimenting with new things, and I've been facing a problem

CK: I'm a father confessor

AA: Okay, so recently I really wanted to learn stir fry okay I had this interest deep interest for fried rice and fried rice can only be accomplished through proper understanding of the stir fry motion. I wanted to learn the Cantonese stir fry motion and there are no resources online for me to be able to learn that specific motion nothing

CK: I didn't know that there was a specific Cantonese motion. What is that?

AA: Well there is one, there is one first of all you need to understand the gears you use to make stir fry you know you use a wok, use a high pressure burner, but the Cantonese wok is very different from the classic wok so let me just describe it the Cantonese wok is usually wider, and it has short handles two short handles like eels on opposite ends, where the classic work that we are most familiar with has a long handle and is usually smaller. The reason why I wanted to learn the Cantonese version of this stir fry motion is that that that's the one that's used in restaurants. Most of the time I would say, and it looks cooler. Let's face it.

CK: Ah Well okay, so now we're getting to the heart of it here.

AA: Yeah that's that's the thing. I want to wear sunglasses in the kitchen. And I want to be an Oj Cantonese master chef. I mean, everybody has different dreams. These are mine. Exactly. So so I thought, What do I need to do? And then I realized, well, if that's a Cantonese thing, why do I go to where Cantonese people post their content? So, I basically looked for the Chinese equivalent of YouTube, which happens to be a website called Bili bili, I managed to find the food section, but there are like, millions of videos there. Then I was facing another problem. I just need to learn how to speak Mandarin.

CK: Yeah that'd be my natural inclination too

AA: So, I took my phone, and I installed Dual lingo. And I started practicing, you know, like, _____. But it didn't go super far. But I guess it went far enough. So that at some point, I was able to find the right wording Fān chǎo means stir fry, believe it or not, it took me a while to find that, a while Then I took these characters, and I typed in Bilibili and I found amazing content done by Master Chef from China. And I've never ever seen these guys in my life. One chef called ____. This guy, pretty relaxed, pretty cool. He taught me about the importance of the grip, when you're trying to do the Cantonese stir fry. Short handles, meaning that the leverage of your hand is tiny, but the leverage of the wok is enormous. So, there's a very specific way to hold the handle, you have to stick your thumb inside the handle, and to use a kitchen tower that is folded in a very specific way. And I was able at least to hold the wok properly. That was step one. Step two out of three I have discovered this guy called chef _____, this guy taught me how to rock the wok. You see, with a normal wok with the long handle you can lift up the wok pretty easily in the air. So, you could be stir frying, you know, Pan tossing in the air with a Cantonese wok, you cannot do that. So, this guy says that you need to use the stove. The edge of the stove is like a pivot point that you need to use any to slide the wok forward and backward. But also, downwards, and upwards.

CK: Can I ask kind of a dumb question?

AA: Yes.

CK: Why don't you just buy a wok with a long handle?

AA: Because I can't do that. I can’t do that.

CK: I’m just asking

AA: It's not my brain, my brain doesn't work like this, (okay)

CK: Your committed.

AA: Exactly I’m committed so and also, if you want to cook for a crowd, for example, Cantonese wok come in all different sizes where the northern style walks the one with the long handle, they only come in like, small to medium sizes, right? Okay. So basically, this guy told me how to rock the wok and how to, you know, get this movement, this back-and-forth movement inside my body. So, I practiced a lot and at some point, I thought I had it. But then I started having aches in my arm, my, my wrist was hurting, and my shoulder as well. So, I started doing research on this and there is, believe it or not, there was actually a video on by a chef called Zhi Hao, who talks about core strength and its importance in the stir fry movement.

CK: I thought you were going to end up in an acupuncture site.

AA: I could, I could,

CK: I thought this is where this was going to go,

AA: That was the second option. So, this guy basically tells us if I'm only using my arm, I’ve got no strength in the stir fry motion I should have been using my body. You got it Chris,

CK: I knew it.

AA: I should have called you instead of

CK: called me a month ago.

AA: I should have called you called me a month ago. Why am I installing all these apps on my phone? Anyways, this guy just does exactly what you just said. Use your body, use your back, bounce your whole body instead of just your your arm. It's it sounds a bit philosophical almost. But it does work. So, I've been using this advice along with the first two ones. And now I would say that I know how to stir fry not like a Cantonese master chef. But you know, like a Cantonese cook maybe

CK: Well, the only problem is now you have to make eight new friends and have them over because you're cooking. you're cooking large quantities, right?

AA: Well yeah, but I'm just cooking batches and batches. But in the end, I learned something, I think pretty valuable as a YouTuber. Yes, I'm based in France, I'm based in Paris. But my audience is not they are based everywhere in the US in the UK, in Asia everywhere. And I do my videos in English for that, because I love connecting with people from everywhere, then why? When I do my research, should I limit myself to available content only, like Westerner content only? I don't have to. I mean, whenever I'm working on an Italian recipe, I always go to IT. And I found so much more content. I mean,

CK: You mean, there's a whole other world beyond English YouTube who would have thought right

AA: Would have thought

CK: Yeah, that's actually a really good point, because you end up with the usual suspects, right? And these are often people who are not actually the experts anyway. Right?

AA: Exactly. So that's so from this day on, this is what I'm going to be doing. I'm going to have, you know, bookmarks in my browser, one for each Google in each country, and I'm going to be using them.

CK: Well, Alex for Christmas, I'll send you some bath salts for your arm. Because it's it's probably really sore right now. But it's a good point if you want. If you want the real goods go to the people who actually know what they're doing. Alex Ainouz thank you so much.

AA: Thank you so much.

CK: That was YouTube host Alex Ainouz. He's also the author of Just a French Guy Cooking. That's it for this week's show. If you tuned in too late or just want to listen again, you can download and subscribe to Milk Street radio on Apple podcast Spotify, wherever you find your podcast. To learn more about milk straight visit us at 177 Milk Street comm there you can download each week's recipe watch the latest season of our television show. Or you can order our latest cookbook which is Vegetables. You can also find us on Facebook the Christopher Kimball's Milk Street on Instagram and Twitter and 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week and thanks as always for listening.

Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH Executive Producer Melissa Baldino, senior audio editor Melissa Allison. Producer Sarah Clapp and Jason Turetsky. production assistant, Amelia McGuire, and production help from Debby Paddock. Additional Editing by Sidney Lewis audio mixing by Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The music by Toubab Krewe. Additional music by George Brandl Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX