Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mellow yellow

My favorite color is green.  But when I'm feeling stressed or down in the dumps, I really like yellow, especially yellow flowers.  They're great for cheering me up.  Daffodils are my favorites, but I love yellow tulips as well.  And yellow roses smell the best (and were my mom's favorite, part of why I love them).  Besides flowers, another thing that often makes me feel better is baking.  It's fun to make things for us to eat or to give to others.  

It also helps to have others to pull me out of whatever funk I've fallen into.  That's actually what prompted me to make this bread.  I was stuck at home with a sick kiddo a couple weeks ago, and my friend Kayte suggested (via Twitter) that I make bread with her, since I was home anyway.  Besides my bread baking adventures with the BBA Challenge, I've joined a new group, called the Mellow Bakers.  It was started by Paul of Yumarama, in part because he finished the BBA Challenge and was looking for something new to do.  The forum includes information on the start of the group, as well as boards for the monthly breads.  The recipes are chosen more or less randomly from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread, three each month.  The great thing about this group is the whole "mellow" part--members are welcome to do as many or as few breads as they like.  You can blog about them, or not.  Everyone is encouraged to share their experiences so we can all learn from each other, but it's a very laid-back environment.  In other words, perfect for someone like me, who wants to bake more bread, but isn't always sure when or how much time I'll have to do it!
So far, I baked one of the April breads (Rustic Bread), but haven't had a chance to blog it yet.  I want to bake the other two (Bagels and Light Rye), but haven't had time.  When Kayte asked me about baking something, I was already thinking about mixing up the preferment for one of May's breads, Corn Bread.  It definitely helped to have her give me a bit of a push, though.  (Kayte's baking along with the Mellow Bakers unofficially for now.  I'm trying to convince her to be "official" since we are mellow, after all.)  I was feeling frustrated with the whole dilemma of balancing work with the needs of my children.  The prospect of baking--a yellow bread, no less--with a friend, definitely cheered me up.  

The dough is pretty straightforward to make.  It uses a poolish to add flavor.  So before I went to bed (around 11:00pm), I mixed together equal weights of water and flour with a little bit of instant yeast.  Things tend to rise quickly in my kitchen, and by about 7:00am the next morning, the poolish was threatening to escape its container.  So I stashed it in the fridge until I was ready to bake later that morning.  To compensate for the cold preferment, I warmed the water a bit, but I probably didn't need to.  Across the board, my times were shorter than those indicated in the book, which is typical of my kitchen--my bulk fermentation was 45 minutes, fold the dough, then 35 minutes more.  I shaped the dough into two batards.  I love the shaping diagrams in this book--they've helped me a lot!  Rather than trying to transfer them from a linen couche, I place the loaves seam-side down on a sheet of parchment paper on the back of a sheet pan.  The loaves proofed for just under an hour.  (I started preheating the oven after the first 30 minutes.)  After slashing them, I slid the loaves onto my baking stone, parchment and all, then poured hot water into a steam pan (the bottom of my broiler pan, placed on the floor of my oven).  I rotated the loaves after 20 minutes, and baked them for a total of 28 minutes, at which point the internal temperature was 198F.

The verdict?  I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I really like this bread.  It has a lovely color, and I like the texture of the crust.  It's not my favorite for things like sandwiches--it seems a bit dry to me--but it makes excellent toast.  It smells a little bit like popcorn when you toast it. =)  It also worked well as makeshift pizza. =)  Brianna liked it well enough to ask for some in her lunch (always a good sign).  If you'd like to try this bread for yourself, I highly recommend that you get a copy of Bread for yourself.  And if you like bread baking at a mellow pace, join in the fun over at the Mellow Bakers forum.  You can read about the other members' adventures with Corn Bread there.  

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Worth a thousand words

This is the perfect mug for this morning, when I've been up more or less since 3:30am.  Sorry, guys, no TWD here today.  Just wanted to let you know I haven't fallen off the face of the earth.  I might get some sort of blog post up later, since I'll be home with the small one today.  Yep, looks like Gillian now has what Brianna had last week.  We'll be heading to the doctor later to double-check.  And then there will be naps...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Berry good...with chocolate

I had every intention of getting this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe and post done early.  Then life got in the way.  My older daughter, Brianna, has been sick since last Thursday (with what we think its strep--what fun).  So the past four or five days have mostly been spent tending to her and juggling schedules with my husband.  The funny thing is, the only reason I managed to get this done at this point is because I ended up staying home from work again today.  Otherwise, I'd be lucky to get this posted by this weekend... =)  

This week's lovely selection comes from Cooking with Cristine.  It's hard to believe that there are still people who joined the group almost two years ago are just now getting to choose recipes.  Just like it seems crazy that I've been doing this for over two years.  Cristine made a great seasonal pick, with the Quick Classic Berry Tart.  A number of people questioned the "quick" part of this recipe.  Once you have the components ready, the assembly of the tart does go quickly.  But it does take some time to get everything ready.  Fortunately (especially for me, the way the past several days have been), different parts can be made ahead of time.  The tart consists of a buttery, crisp tart shell, some pastry cream, seasonal fresh fruit, and a glaze.

I could tell that Brianna was feeling at least a little better when she showed some interest in the tart.  Once I described to her what I was making, she only had one question--"Can you make the filling chocolate instead of vanilla?"  Since that was the first food-related request she'd made in several days, I decided to go with it.  I knew the extra pastry cream wouldn't go to waste. =)  One advantage of the chocolate cream is that it uses only 4 egg yolks, rather than 6, since the chocolate thickens it as well.  I already have way too many egg whites in my freezer, and will have more now that we're getting into serious ice cream season.  (I need to make something to use some of them up!)

I've made Dorie's pastry creams a number of times, so it didn't take me long to get this one done.  I made it Monday night, and put it in the fridge to chill overnight.  (with plastic wrap on the surface--I hate skin on top of things!)  My original plan was to try to get the tart crust baked before work this morning.  But then I ended up staying home with B again, so I didn't have as much time pressure as I expected.  I mixed up the dough in the food processor, patted it into my new rectangular tart pan (more about that in another post), and stuck it in the freezer while we took Gillian to daycare.  When we got back, I baked it, letting it get a nice, dark golden brown.  Then this afternoon, I assembled the whole thing.  I put the pastry cream in the tart shell and topped it with whole raspberries and quartered strawberries.  Actually, B did the strawberries--she's definitely feeling better than she was.  (and isn't contagious anymore after four days of antibiotics)  Then I glazed it with some raspberry jam that I heated in the microwave and thinned with a bit of water.

The verdict?  Well, the different parts are certainly good.  We've had the tart crust a number of times, and love it.  And anything resembling chocolate pudding is always popular in this household. =)  Plus how can you go wrong with fresh strawberries and raspberries?  As for all together, it's very good. Gillian gave it two thumbs up--"Mommy, this is so good!" Brianna wasn't as enthusiastic about the crust, but loved the pastry cream and fruit.  I liked the whole thing, with the different flavors and textures.  I love chocolate with both raspberry and strawberry.

If you'd like to try this one for yourself, Cristine has the recipe on her blog.  And you can find the chocolate pastry cream recipe here.   Don't forget to see what everyone else did with this week's recipe--you can find links here.  

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

We all scream for ice cream

The calendar may say that it's just the beginning of May, but it's definitely starting to warm up.   For Tuesdays with Dorie, we're getting into the time of year when fruit recipes and frozen treats become more popular.  This week's selection comes from Becky of Project Domestication, and she picked Burnt Sugar Ice Cream for us to make.  Of course, lots of people like to eat ice cream year-round, but it gets more attention during the warmer months.  I’m spoiled—when I bought my current ice cream maker, it came with an extra freezer canister.  I keep one in my freezer all the time so I can make ice cream on short notice--as soon as I take the canister out, the other one goes in.

I've actually made this ice cream before.  The first time I made it was as part of a Daring Bakers challenge, back in February of last year.  I’m kind of surprised that I haven’t made it since, but that’s probably because I’ve been too busy trying out other flavors.  More recently, I made the Caramel Ice Cream recipe from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home.  The ingredients for the two recipes are pretty much the same—sugar, water, cream, milk, egg yolks, and salt.  Dorie’s recipe also includes vanilla.  Where the two differ is in the proportions.  The Ad Hoc recipe uses a 1:1 ratio of cream to milk, whereas the TWD recipe is 1:2.  The Ad Hoc recipe also uses a significantly higher proportion of egg yolks—5 yolks for 2 cups of liquid, versus 4 yolks for 3 cups.  The question is, is it worth it to make the richer recipe?

To even the playing field a bit, I adjusted the liquid in Dorie’s recipe, using 12 ounces each of milk and cream.  I also increased the amount of salt from a pinch to ½ a teaspoon of kosher salt.  I did want to try the vanilla, so I warmed the milk and steeped a vanilla bean pod in it.  (I started to scrape the seeds out and rub them into the sugar like I usually do, then realized that might not be the best idea if I was going to then make caramel with the sugar.  So that vanilla sugar is now earmarked for next week’s pastry cream. =)  And there was still enough in the pod to flavor the milk.)  I usually add a bit of corn syrup to the water and sugar as insurance when making caramel, but forgot to do that this time.  It seemed okay, but the caramel seized up a lot when I added the liquids to it.  About 5 minutes of heating and whisking took care of that problem, though.  Then I carefully tempered the hot caramel mixture into the yolks.  Since the mixture was already quite warm, it didn’t take long at all to heat the custard to over 170F.  Once it was done, I strained the mixture into a bowl sitting in an ice bath and stirred to cool it down.  Once it was pretty cool, I put it in the fridge to chill completely before churning it into ice cream.

So, the verdict?  This ice cream is very good.  But my memory of the Thomas Keller ice cream is on a whole different level.  The flavor is similar (and I liked the vanilla bean addition), but the extra yolks give the TK ice cream an incredibly smooth texture.  The TK ice cream isn't something I’d make all the time, but it’s really worth it to go with the extra richness.  My girls aren’t as excited about caramel ice cream as Jamie and I are, so I dressed it up a bit for them.  Strawberries have been everywhere lately and I had some that really needed to be used, so I made a cooked strawberry sauce.  I was surprised at how tasty it was with the caramel—I didn’t expect the flavors to work that well together.

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe also turned out to be a great reminder that I've been meaning to write about another subject--my Adopt-a-Blogger buddy, Lindsay.  I've been meaning to introduce all of you to her and her blog.  Her blog is Scoop Adventures--yes, you guessed it, it's all about ice cream!  She includes recipes for ice cream (and other frozen desserts), as well as reviews of ice cream and places that serve it.  I asked her some questions so we can all get to know a little more about her:

How long have you been blogging and why did you decide to start?
I have been blogging since July 2009.  I decided to start my blog so I could share my thoughts and adventures related to ice cream.  Before I started the blog I had already visited many ice cream shops, so I wanted to share that experience with others.  Plus I was about to embark on the task of learning to use my new ice cream maker and making recipes, so why not write about it?

How did you decide on the theme for your blog?
I think I kind of described that above.  I love ice cream so that was easy.  There is also more info on my About Me page.

What are some of the blogs you like to read?
Oh, there are several!  I love the blogs with pretty food pictures and helpful tips.  Some of my favorites are listed on the side bar of my blog.  I really enjoy reading Tartlette, Running with Tweezers, Gluten-free Girl & the chef, use real butter, to name a few.  There are definitely more.

What is your favorite food and/or cuisine? (that you either like to eat or make)
Well the easy answer would be ice cream.  But I also enjoy many desserts, especially those featuring fresh fruit.  Other than dessert, I enjoy Asian flavors such as Thai and Indian cuisine.  My favorite dish of all time is probably my mom's lasagna.

What do you eat when you just can't decide what to make for dinner (or just don't have the energy for it)?
Usually spaghetti, or we order pizza.  My favorite quick meal, especially when my husband is out of town and I don't feel like cooking too much, is Mac & Cheese with tuna fish mixed in.  Sounds weird but its awesome!

What is your favorite kitchen gadget?
My zester.  Couldn't live without it.

What piece of kitchen equipment is at the top of your wishlist?  
Sounds silly, but a good candy thermometer...still don't have one.  Another item I'd like is a Foley Mill.  Nothing fancy. I'm fortunate to have a lot of kitchen gadgets already.

Who is your favorite cookbook author and/or favorite cookbook?
This is a tough question.  The cookbook I reference the most is Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.  Many of my recipes for ice cream as variations of his recipes.  He provides excellent inspiration.  My favorite "food" cookbook right now is Martha Stewart's Cooking School.

Share a couple of interesting non-blogging facts about yourself...
Blogging is not my full time job (but I'd like to keep that a secret).  I love to spend time with my husband and two cats, enjoying the warm weather in New Orleans.  I actually love everything about food and enjoy going out to eat and trying new things.  In my spare time, I run and bike...I always say that I run to eat. :)

For more information and some great ice cream recipes, head on over to Lindsay's blog!  For the Burnt Sugar Ice Cream recipe, check out Becky's blog.  And to see what everyone else thought of this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, check out this week's links.