Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

I Dream Of Bread-y

Cheddar Onion Buns

There’s been much baking going on around these parts lately, and between it and spring gardening I haven’t had much time for anything else.

That being said, I thought it would be fun to show you what sort of yummy stuff has been baking up around here.

Above, we have a gooey delicious tray of cheddar onion buns.  It might not look like it right now, but that tray is bursting at the seams with 36 tasty buns.

Pandoro

Next, an airy dome of brioche-like bread called pandoro with a light, lemony flavour and a delicate, tight crumb.

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Tittle Hee Hee

Loafy Boobs

The other day I made what is possibly the best tasting bread that looks like boobs that I think I’ve ever made.

Not that I’ve ever made bread that looks like boobs before, but, ah well, you get what I’m saying!

Marvel at the beauty that is brioche a tete above.  Aren’t they just the yummiest looking things you’ve ever wanted to rip into?  Well, since we don’t have taste-o-vision here, you’ll just have to take my word for it, but suffice it to say they didn’t last very long.

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Isn’t She Lovely? Isn’t She Wonderful?

Challah!

This is a 6 strand braided challah, doubled over to technically make it a 12 strand.

Isn’t it beautiful?  I made it all by myself.

That is all.

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I Came, I Saw, I Ramp-ed It Up

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Ah, ramps.

What has this year been debated as one of foraging’s most overrated bounties are nonetheless one of my most cherished harbingers of spring.

There’s no doubt that I also adore other seasonal offerings like fiddleheads and asparagus, but in my overall stratosphere they aren’t really locally accessible just yet.  Ramps typically come first, signalling my springtime appetite to perk itself up a bit.

And so, I continue to content myself with ramps until others come along, their pungent edible bulbs so funkily sweet and tender.

As I mentioned on Monday, my first ramp preparation of the year was a fragrant ramp butter mixed into a batch of saltwater potatoes.  Delicious as it was, I was confident that even better dishes were yet to come, I just wasn’t certain what those dishes would be yet.

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You Don’t Know Gorp

Granola

Until about 6 months ago, I never really understood all of the hoopla about granola.

Granola bars are alright I suppose, but even they aren’t something I ever get a craving for.  Granola always seems too sweet, too greasy, too dry or too flavourless to merit any time in my mouth, not to mention that I’ve often associated it with old people, specifically my dad.  For lack of a better explanation, it just reeks of aging hippies crunching on tofu, muesli and bean sprouts, which I know is a very stereotypical thing to say, but the mind thinks what it wants.

But, about 6 months ago, Pierre Lamielle (of Kitchen Scraps fame) changed all of that.

You see, I was reviewing his cookbook during my stint at Taste T.O. and one of the recipes I opted to test was his granola ratio.  Once I got over the concept of granola having a set recipe, I freed myself up to start making a concoction I could actually enjoy.  Since then, I’ve been making a batch of granola every 2-3 weeks to keep the Everyman and myself in crunchy breakfast heaven.  In my case, it’s served over a thick, strained whole yogurt, but the Everyman prefers to eat his nut-free version plain.  Our versions are nearly identical, but in his the omission of nuts is replaced by extra raisins and the occasional bittersweet chocolate chip.

This gorp is so hunger-inspiring that you might even want to try making some yourself.  My version (replete with alterations and substitutions) is detailed below, but you can also find the original in the Kitchen Scraps cookbook.

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The King, In Cake Form

King Cakes

Several months ago, the Everyman and I took a shine to a British cooking show called Come Dine With Me.

Come Dine With Me’s premise is to get 4-5 strangers together and let each of them host a dinner party over the course of a week to compete for a $1000 prize.  The guests at each dinner party secretly vote on how each other has done once the parties are over, and whomever’s party has the highest score at the end of the week is the winner.  As you can imagine, hilarity often ensues.

One of the segments of the show that occurs with some regularity is the wandering around the house bit.  While the host is busy assembling appetizers, the guests are typically left to roam free around their house, being nosy and poking into private things.  It was during one such segment that the Everyman and I saw a guest pull an Elvis cookbook off one of the host’s shelves.  I’m not sure what it was about the book that captivated him so much, but the Everyman was absolutely enthralled by it.  At that moment I secretly took it upon myself to try and find him a copy.

After a few weeks, I managed to surreptitiously find Fit For A King in England (it’s long since been out of print) and presented it to him on a recent weekend.  Little did I know at the time of purchase that he had no intention of actually cooking from the book, but rather thought it was an interesting coffee table curiosity.  Generally speaking, I didn’t intend to cook anything from it either, being that Elvis wasn’t exactly known for his healthful lifestyle.  Then, one day when the Everyman was paging through the book reading me tidbits of various recipes, he came across one for peanut butter buttermilk bread.  I was immediately intrigued by the idea, and filed it away in the back of my mind for later.

This past weekend I decided to revisit the idea, but instead of baking it as a bread I opted to make a dozen mini cakes.

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Bait And Switch (Or Why I’m Not Above The Occasional Culinary Subterfuge)

Parsnipity Spelt Cake

Sometimes I come across strange recipes on the internet that I just can’t help but test out in my own kitchen.  I become inordinately fascinated by these culinary oddities, with a fixation that won’t be satisfied until I taste them for myself.  Of course, in order to get the Everyman to try many of them, I generally have to leave out certain salient details that might give him pause.

Case in point would be when this particular recipe popped up in my RSS, gleaned from the Serious Eats column The Crisper Whisperer.  I’m sure that by the time he finishes reading this post I will have received a call or an email about this particular cake and his personal thoughts on it, but when he asked me what it was last night I simply uttered “spice cake”.

Over the years we’ve all come to acknowledge carrot cake, sweet potato pie and zucchini muffins as relatively commonplace dessert-type offerings, but up until this point I’d never seen or heard of a parsnip cake before.  Between the fact that I was vaguely intrigued and disgusted by its very existence, and the fact that I had a half bag of parsnips lounging around our crisper not getting any younger, I decided it had to be done.

Just Batter

The recipe began simply, calling for all the usual suspects that come to a batter party (flour, sugar, eggs) but I immediately began making changes and substitutions.  Where there was once flour I replaced it with spelt, and a cupful of allergenic walnuts became a measure of porridge oats, while white sugar was traded for brown.  Then, just because I felt the guilt of attempting something healthy (yes, I suffer from the opposite form of guilt, not for eating badly, but from trying to eat too good) I threw in a small handful of dark chocolate chips – just because.

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The Resurgence Of No Knead Bread

Crusty

I’ll be honest.

I’ve been categorically ignoring the whole no knead bread trend since I first heard about it back in 2006.

It became quite the internet sensation at the time, died down and now seems to be making the rounds again, due at least partially to Cathy Erway’s new book about not eating out for 2 years, I assume (which includes her riff on the recipe).

As someone who loves cooking and food as much as I do, I can say with alacrity that I’ve often thought of no knead bread as the lazy person’s shortcut, aka baking for dummies.  If you asked my mother, she’d probably cluck her teeth and mutter something under her breath about it being the cowboy way.  Beyond that, even though I start by mixing 90% of my breads in a stand mixer for at least part of the process, I can’t imagine giving up the interaction with the elementalness that is bread just to make life “simpler”.

But, when I saw Erway’s recipe for parmagiano, peppercorn and potato no knead bread, I made an exception and decided to try it.  At the time I had no knowledge of what made her recipe differ from the standard no knead bread, so I followed everything to the letter except for 2 things.  I subbed in a cup of whole wheat flour to surreptitiously improve its healthiness and instead of cracked black peppercorns, I mixed up a blend of 5 different ones that I’ve had lurking in the kitchen, including Muntok, Sarawak, Malabar, Tellicherry and Moula peppercorns crushed in a tea towel with a mallet.

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Tomato Slippers

Delicate Slippers

Aside from my timtana experiment last week, I haven’t really done a whole lot of bread baking yet this year.  I’ve been more than a little preoccupied with work, planning our vacation and things of a more pastry-ish nature, so when I decided to make bread again this week there was a fair amount of anticipation on my part.

I once read that the word ciabatta loosely translates to mean “carpet slipper” in Italian.  Given their delicate dough and diminutive stature I can’t really say I’m surprised, though I’m not sure what about carpet slippers is supposed to make them sound appetizing or appealing, despite the fact that they are.

Coincidentally those small, squat rolls are some that I enjoy preparing (and eating) quite a bit.  Of course because I am merely an honorary Italian, I make no bones about putting my own little twists into the bread that I’m baking, and on Family Day yesterday I decided to enhance the ciabatta with a healthy dose of homemade tomato conserva.

Aerated Biga

I began the night before by mixing up a biga (sourdough starter) by combining flour, water and a small amount of yeast and then letting it ferment on the counter.

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You Choo-Choo-Choose Me?

The Big Whoopie

I know, I know.

That clichéd Simpsons line has been popping up in stories all over town this week but I really do love the Simpsons and specifically enjoy that episode.

We’re not really fans of the big “V-day” here at Foodie and the Everyman (which I tend to refer to in my head as venereal disease or victimized delusions day, for no particular reason).  In fact, when the Everyman and I first started seeing each other, it was only a few weeks before V-day (and my birthday which is one week after) and we both agreed about how ridiculously stupid it is.  So generally speaking, we don’t tend to celebrate it.  I prefer to think that the person I’m with is going to do nice things for me all year round instead of being bludgeoned into submission by some industry’s made up excuse for a spending spree.

And for the most part the Everyman does and so do I.  Though he doesn’t often bring me the “traditional” gifts of chocolate or flowers, he does regularly indulge me in other ways, such as expanding my love of restaurants and travel.  In fact, just last week he told me I could start planning our next vacation to wherever I wanted to go, and to me that’s more romantic than a February 14th drugstore chocolate sampler any day.

But because we both love to eat, we did go out for dinner on V-day one year (to Mistura) but like that article in the Globe earlier this week, I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a worthwhile experience (though it was one of the last times I ate lobster before I got sick).  The whole time we were there the service was so rushed and you could tell the meal had been hastily prepared.  At the end of the night it was apparent that their main objective was maximizing bums at tables and gross consumerism is just so sexy, you know?  So, we just don’t bother anymore.  If the Hoof wasn’t constantly overrun with hipsters, I’d probably have gotten on board with going there for an anti-V-day meal, but it’s packed every night of the week anyway, so that was pretty much out of the question.  I don’t enjoy busy restaurants on a good day, so amplifying that by adding a “holiday” to the mix makes it even less appealing to the both of us.

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A Flour By Any Other Name Could Still Be As Sweet

A First Look At Timtana

A couple of weeks ago, I entered and won a contest over at Kitchen Therapy that netted me a free bag of a new gluten free product called timtana.  Timtana is a milled all purpose flour ground from timothy grass, which is completely gluten free but full of lots of good for you nutrients like fibre, protein, calcium and iron (you can read more about it over at Kitchen Therapy if you’d like).  A company called Montana Gluten Free graciously provided the bags of flour for the Kitchen Therapy giveaway.

As I’ve previously mentioned, my mother in law is allergic to wheat, so I often keep an eye out for new developments in gluten free products, and have a whole drawer in my freezer devoted to the various alternative flours that I use when baking for her.  Over the years I’ve found that while gluten free baking is not easy, once you know what you’re doing improvisation is possible.

A 3 pound bag of timtana flour arrived at my door a little over a week ago, and has been sitting on my counter waiting for inspiration to reach out and strike ever since.

While an original idea has yet to take shape, in the interim I decided to use Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio app and the basic bread dough formula for a first pass.

The proportions are simple and include 3 parts water to 5 parts flour, plus a little bit of salt and yeast thrown in for good measure.  Because timtana is gluten free, I also opted to toss in a bit of xanthan gum (the gluten free baker’s friend) for some extra leavening power.

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An Unorthodox Usage For Lard

Chews

As you may recall, one of the things I wanted for Christmas was a bag of Chris Cosentino’s Boccalone lard caramels (amongst other things).

After the holidays I was able to cross a few things off that massive list (I Know How To Cook, the dough press, a scraping beater, a rolling pin and the spice storage solution, specifically), but I was still no closer to tasting those caramels.  As I probably mentioned at the time of writing, unless I get myself (or someone I know) to California (which is highly unlikely) I don’t have much chance of partaking of them any time soon, either.

You may also have noticed that this past weekend I rendered down the better part of 10 pounds of pork fat into lard, the majority of which has been earmarked for sealing the prosciutto.  Even after taking that into consideration, there was still a fair amount of fat left over.  Some I planned to freeze for another day, but it occurred to me that I had enough of a surplus to sacrifice a little to a lard caramel experiment.

When I first read about these fancy lard caramels, I assumed there must be some magical twist to them.  Further research revealed that wasn’t the case, and in fact the only thing unique about them (compared to other caramels) is the fact that the lard supposedly comes from Cosentino’s restaurant.  Beyond that, everything I read indicated they’ve employed a fairly standard caramel recipe.

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The Best Damn Cookie In The Universe

Ubercookie

Last night when I got home from work I was itching for a spectacular batch of cookies.

You see, the Everyman and I visited Sweet Flour Bake Shop on the weekend to make customized cookies, but the ones I made for myself just didn’t satisfy my cookie craving.  There was nothing wrong with them per se, I just didn’t figure out that they weren’t what I wanted until after we’d already left, negating my ability to correct my mistake with more cookies.

Since then I’ve understandably had cookies on the brain.  But, I had a very particular cookie in mind.  I wanted something akin to what I remember the Chewy Chips Ahoy from my childhood to be like, only not full of preservatives and trans fats.

Surprisingly, I don’t often (read: never) make plain chocolate chip cookies, so I was a bit stymied by the prospect of finding a place to start.  Usually I am seduced by wonderful additives like oatmeal and peanut butter, etc and never make it to the good old fashioned triple C (chocolate chip cookie).

But last night nothing else would do, so I hauled out all of my recipes and cookie books and started poring over my options.

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