Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My New Yahoogroup - Baking Savory and Sweet

I guess I just got sick of hearing my own voice complain about how there weren't any Yahoogroups for baking so I started one myself. Its called Baking Savory and Sweet and the address is http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bakingsavoryandsweet. We have quite a few members already and have had a mini flame war so that makes it all official.

I have begun referring to myself as a "moderatrix," which sounds far more interesting and dangerous than moderator. One of my listies conjured up an image of a baker in black leather whipping her dough into submission which I really like.

So now I'm a list owner. Onward to complete world domination...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A new crop of bread books just in time for my birthday

I'll admit it readily - I am a cookbook junkie. I don't often cook things from the cookbooks I own (case in point - The French Laundry Cookbook - gastroporn at its finest but not something you'd actually want to cook from) but I read them like novels and drool over the pictures. I recently freecycled a couple of boxes of cookbooks I knew I'd never look at again and, even though I am not a packrat in the rest of my life, I will admit to a pang or two when this lot left my house. Thankfully, two long awaited bread books have come to take their place.

Anyone who knows me knows my complete obsession with no-knead bread, particularly the version introduced by Mark Bittman of the New York Times and Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery. Since I first discovered this bread four or so years ago I have baked hundreds of loaves and taught the technique to more people than I can even count. Imagine my excitement when I read that Jim Lahey had published a book called "My Bread." I decided to give myself a birthday present and buy the book (along with "Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day" - more about that later).

My friends, it is everything I hoped for and more. This is a guy who is serious about his bread and it shows in every aspect of this book, particularly the obsessively concise directions and the "food as still life" photography. Since I'm the obsessive type myself, this book spoke to me loud and clear.

Some of the recipes sound so fantastic I can hardly wait for the weekend to bake, particularly fennel-raisin bread (candied fennel stalks combined with fennel juice, Pernod and golden raisins - I'm in heaven), carrot bread (carrot juice instead of water) and the various pizzas. My hubs and kids are a little bit over the whole homemade pizza every Friday night thing but this week they have no choice. How could you not want to make (and eat!) cauliflower pizza or fennel pizza or Pizza Bianca?

Now, on to the other book. I really enjoyed "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day," the first book from the authors, Hertzberg and Francois. The brioche in particular was spectacularly good and I like the idea of making a large quantity of dough and baking it to order over the course of two weeks.

What they've done with this book is use the same technique with various whole grain and even gluten free breads. I didn't expect to get quite as jazzed as I was for Jim Lahey's (they are a wee bit less serious) but I found myself getting pretty excited. I'm thinking brown rice bread or oatmeal date bread sound good as my first breads from this book.

Its going to be a busy weekend.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I haven't posted much lately, in fact, I've barely posted at all this year. I don't have much of an excuse except that life has definitely gotten in the way. One bright note in all of this is that we now have pizza night every Friday and, thanks to Breadtopia, I have come a long way towards the pizza crust of my dreams (thin, crisp and chewy a la Saviano's on Long Island). Hopefully we'll be grilling pizza this summer too - a rather different experience but a delicious one nonetheless.

But I digress. Any reader of this blog knows I've had a love affair of long standing with Jim Lahey's no knead bread. It has been my go-to ever since I first learned the technique and is still a standby when I need to produce bread the next day but there's always been the issue of "what if I forget or I don't know I'll need a loaf the next day?"

Enter "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day." I really didn't want to like this book because it seemed to want to horn in on the no knead movement and take it to the masses. Then, I caved. I heard the authors on "The Splendid Table" describing making brioche in just a few minutes and my curiousity got the better of me. I bought the book, made the bread and, well, drank the kool-aid.

The basic premise is that you mix up a big ol' mess of dough, refrigerate it and cut off a hunk whenever you want to bake. The dough lasts for two weeks in the fridge and by the end of the two week period has soured a bit for a slightly more complex flavor. The concept is simple and brilliant and I've ended up talking to about everyone I know about how to do this (after I spent the last three years bending their ears about Lahey's no knead technique).

This morning I went to the next level and used the brioche dough (and yes, it really is that simple - it took more time to melt the butter than it took to mix up the dough) to make sticky buns.


I'm not given to Valley speak or multiple exclamation points under normal circumstances but normal speed and punctuation really don't do these rolls justice. They are just that good. Even my sub-standard photography captures the insane amount of luscious caramel topping. I am still, almost twelve hours later, in awe of the deliciousness.

If you're a baker and you don't already own this book, buy it immediately. I mean it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Today's bread bakeoff

One of my coworkers and I have been talking baking for some time and I got her started on my beloved no-knead. Of her own volition (I'm so proud) she found the Artisan Baking in Five Minutes a Day website and has turned into a baking maniac. Talk about going from zero to sixty in 10 seconds! She's now baking just about every day.

At any rate, we decided, since we were both in the office today, that we'd do a "bread off" and each bring a loaf in for our coworkers to taste. Hers was a bit softer and less sour than mine; mine had a chewier crust and a slightly "holier" look but there weren't even any crumbs left after the ravenous hordes were done.

I'm so glad I've been able to convert her. Tomorrow, total global baking domination...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

And so another month begins

I have been the world's worst blogger, especially for someone who says she wants to get serious about this stuff, so I'm going to commit to blogging a bit more. I certainly don't want to get maudlin but it is amazing to me to think I've been baking for over 50 years! How the heck did I get THAT old?

More later...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Is it Reinhart?

Or is it me?

Oh, I think we all know the answer to that question, but it frustrates me nonetheless. I've been baking for a really, really, really long time (yes, I am that old) and never in my life have I had so many disasters as since I've taken up this BBA challenge. I'm starting to feel like a flour covered loser and my family is resisting eating any more of my failures.

Just to make myself feel better, I've baked three gorgeous loaves of my beloved no-knead bread (my stable bread-boyfriend who never lets me down) plus cornbread (not from BBA) and the best chocolate cupcakes I've ever produced, all in one week. I'm starting to regain my confidence, slowly, but I'm feeling a bit more like myself again.

Here's a picture of this morning's loaf, which I have to admit is just plain delicious. The girls have developed a new obsession with garlic bread so I think we'll be having that tonight along with our soup for dinner. Mom and Dad will have grownup grilled cheese (grated sharp cheddar with pepper jelly).

On the subject of cupcakes, before I forget, they are from Georgetown Cupcake, a precious little bake shop in DC where they sell upwards of 4000 cupcakes a day! They won the Washington Post's cupcake contest and having tasted the results, I can certainly see why. These cupcakes are simply spectacular - just don't overfill the cups or you'll get martian tops, which are a bit less lovely but still delicious. Here's the link to the recipe. Try it, you won't regret the calories one bit.

As for me, I may have the courage to pick up BBA again this weekend. Wish me luck.