Last week, my favorite baking source had a sale. Free shipping. And when flour comes in 3 pound and 5 pound bags, shipping gets pricey in a hurry if I don’t wait for this to come around.
I bought quite a bit of several different kinds of flour, as I’ve found a few new recipes that I want to try. I feel the need to branch out a bit, and with the warmer weather arriving, I’m hoping to feel a bit more like doing -stuff-.
I also bought a couple of specialty baking pans…a scone pan (because I’m a little tired of glumpy-looking scones) and a popover pan. The popover pan even came with a free box mix to try. I was a bit doubtful, but I decided to give it a try tonight.
I added in a bit of grated Grand Cru cheese to each one, just for a bit of flavor. They popped amazingly well, but despite that, they were a bit heavy on the inside. Next time, I’ll use my tried-and-true recipe.
Still worth it, though.
Tags: Bread, Food
Even having to go to work…
One of our (mine and my guy’s) favorite restaurants does grilled cheese. And when I say it “does grilled cheese”, I mean that it puts two slices of thick bread around just about anything you can think of, adds some cheese in there, and puts it on a grill. Bacon and eggs? Sure. Want to add a burger patty? Done. Pierogies and sauerkraut? You got it. Meatballs, fried mozzarella wedges, and marinara? Absolutely. (You get the idea.)
We’d been there earlier in the month, and we wouldn’t usually have gone back again quite so soon. A half a sandwich and some fries is plenty enough for a meal; the second half sandwich is a meal for later. But February was an odd month. Instead of the usual “monthly special”, they had 4 different monthly specials, each one only for a few days. The last 5 days of the month were devoted to a bacon lover’s dream.
The sandwich was called “The 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon Melt”. And yes, it had 6 types of bacon in it. Two types of cheese. Tomato and lettuce. All between two slices of thick bread. And then grilled. It was amazing.
And perhaps the best part was that I had the second half to take to work with me.
Categories: Cooking, Health
Tags: Bread, Food
This baking thing is getting expensive. First the butter dish jumps out of the fridge. This time, as part of the clean-up, I put the paddle and dough hook for my stand mixer into the dishwasher. They’re metal after all, right? Why shouldn’t they go in the dishwasher! Well, apparently they shouldn’t. When I took them out after the cycle had run, they were heavily oxidized, to the point that even after scrubbing them clean and washing my hands for several minutes with the scrubber, not only was the scrubber ruined, my hands were still slightly discolored. The two pieces sort of look ok, but I’m not sure I trust them with food anymore. I’ve already ordered new ones, and I won’t be doing anymore baking until the new ones get here.
But the bread came out pretty good. It didn’t rise as well as I could have hoped, but I think I know why and can fix it for next time. I made what the recipe calls “Italian Easter Bread”. It has 3 kinds of cheese in it (all Italian cheeses) as well as cracked black pepper. It’s a rich bread with a bit of a bite to it.
This is after the dough attempted to rise. It more flattened out a bit without so much vertical rise, so the bread came out a bit heavy, but still very yum.
And after baking, the little loaves were nicely brown with little bits of gooey melted cheese running all through the bread. And the house smelled like toasted cheese for hours!
I just need to stop sacrificing things in order to get my baking done, or this isn’t going to end well.
Last night started my first attempt at baking something from scratch since finishing my baking course. Of course, there had to be a casualty along the way.
This used to be the lid to my butter dish. It decided to jump from the top shelf of the fridge and left a nice gouge in the floor. These are just the largest of the chunks. The shards that went flying were small and numerous and took quite a while to clean up. It’ll be a few days before I’m comfortable walking barefoot in my kitchen again.
Today went better, though. I was fully prepared with the dough and the filling.
After rolling out the dough, layering in the filling, attempting (with more or less success) to roll the dough up and cut it (using a secret weapon of dental floss!), I had rolls in pans that were pre-filled with the pecans and caramel in the bottom.
Then after a little bit of time to rise and some time in the oven, there were CINNAMON ROLLS!
The house still smells wonderful. Next time, though, I think the rolls need a bit more of the caramel in the pan to start, and I want to make an icing for the top. But these are very yum for a first attempt.
All projects require materials. If you desire a good outcome, it is wise to start with good quality materials. One of the things that bread class taught me is that there is a huge difference in the quality of flour available on the market.
I could walk into my local market and pick up a 5 pound sack of flour off of the shelf. I could get lucky and get one that is relatively fresh, or it might be one that has been on the shelf for 6 months or more. It might be the right time of year for the protein in the wheat to be high enough to make good bread, or the protein might be very low and my bread might not come together well at all.
I could buy yeast off of the shelf and hope that it was well cared for along its journey to the store so that it didn’t die before I ever got my hands on it.
I could attempt to find a good 7- or 9-grain flour in the store, or drive from store to store hoping to find a multi-grain flour at all.
Or I could solve the problem ahead of time and lay my hands on a supply of good quality flour…bread flour, wheat and rye flours, multi-grain flour, even wholemeal flour to make Irish brown bread…and yeast, powdered cheese, and really good cinnamon. And have it show up on my doorstep, ready for me to start making bread.
I can’t wait!
So after a week of class, my freezer has an entire shelf that is full of various sorts of bread. Most of them, I got to try at least a couple of bites of during the week, but some of them are still a mystery. They’re all labeled, but I’m going to have to keep notes to remind myself of the ones that are worth making again.
One of the best things about a 5 day class was seeing how my abilities evolved over even that short of a period of time. My little French loaves on the first day? Heavy and gummy inside. By Friday? Light and airy, full of the proper sort of air holes, well-risen, and with a nicely browned crust. And I was able to spend some time getting my lower oven at home set up properly to bake the bread. There are tiles in there now to even out the temp as well as a pie plate with some nails for the production of proper steam for a good crust.
So the final tally of breads made:
— French bread (I lost track of how many times) (both regular loaves and the longer baguettes)
— Honey whole wheat bread (several times)
— Popovers (sweet and savory)
— Pizza dough (also used for calzones)
— 7-grain bread
— Ciabatta (several times)
— Brioche (two different methods using the exact same ingredients; used with sweet and savory filled braids)
— Sweet bread dough (used for sticky buns and braids with lemon ricotta filling)
— Roasted red pepper bread
— Olive rosemary bread
— Italian Easter bread (has three different cheeses and black pepper in it)
— Pain de campagne (rustic multigrain bread)
— Black Russian rye bread
— Biscuits (yum!)
— English muffins
— Dinner rolls
— Bread pudding with sabayon
— Tuscan bread soup
— Caesar salad
Totally worth getting up early for an entire week. And some of my friends are much in agreement, too.
The things I find to do with my “free” time…
I completely rearranged my overnights for June so that I could take an entire week-long cooking class this week. It’s “intensive bread-making”. 5 days, 40 hours. And I’m seeing this as vacation-time, because I’m not at work.
But it’s fun! Hard work in one way, because it’s different from my usual 8 hours on my feet, and it’s getting up way too early by my standards. But there’s something awfully fun about getting my hands dirty with bread dough and seeing something come of it.
Of course, this “something” is turning out to be way more bread than I can eat. So I’m handing out bread like it’s candy! And freezing bunches of it for later eating, too. (Part of me thinks that this class may not have been such a great idea after all, in terms of some of my long-term goals, but I figure I can make bread, eat what I want, and take the rest in to feed the crew at work!)
So far, in just 2 days, I’ve learned to make:
— French bread
— Honey whole wheat bread
— Pizza/calzone dough
— 7-grain bread
and there’s still 3 days more to go.