Monday, February 20, 2012

Baking at the Improv Kitchen

Baking at the Improv Kitchen

(Disclaimer) I baked these tartlets while under the influence of powerful, mind-altering, cold medicine, the kind of medicine that cautions users against operating heavy machinery like Kitchen Aid stand mixers, and motor vehicles.   Consequently, I made a few mistakes/adjustments along the way.  Mistake Number One: I forgot to add the sugar to the crust; I added it after I had collected up the dough to chill.  Mistake Number Two (or what I prefer to call an improvisational baking technique): I eyeballed, rather than weighed, the six ounces of bittersweet chocolate from my various leftover bittersweet chocolate sources. (I don’t own a scale. Perhaps that will be my next baking investment.)  Mistake Number Three:  I forgot to buy the biscotti, therefore, omitted it. I’m sure the biscotti would have provided a nice textural contrast to the smooth filling, but the crust also provides contrasting texture.  I did, however, add the chopped white and milk chocolate to the filling, which delivered some crunch.

Regardless of my various mishaps, I found, this recipe is quite forgiving.  The only way to goof up these tartlets would be to put them on your driveway and cruise your car back and forth over them, and, given that I’m currently on cold medication and restricted from driving, that is not likely to happen.  The recipe is also rather generous. It produced a lot more dough and filling than required for the requisite six, four and one half inch tartlets.  I scored two bonus tartlets from my batch and still had a bit of dough and filling leftover. 

All in all, I had fun.  I shared some of my tartlets with family and friends, tried a recipe I would never have selected on my own, and enjoyed a decadent dessert with my girls on a President’s Day evening.  This recipe is awesome!  On a scale of one to ten, it is clearly a ten for hardcore chocoholics.  The crust is easy to work with (you need the extra water TWD bakers recommend), the filling is a cinch to prepare, and the tartlets release easily for the pans. The crust has a delicate crumb and the filling is silky smooth and intensely chocolate. This is a good recipe to tout out for company, in that, it is relatively easy to prepare and produces a restaurant quality dessert with minimal effort.  Go to TWD, or, better yet, buy a copy of Baking With Julia for the recipe.

Bake on!   

Monday, February 13, 2012

White Loaves Recipe Redux
The arrival of my dough hook prompted a Baking With Julia White Loaves recipe “do over.”  If you recall from my last post “ The Unhappy Hooker” I couldn’t find my dough hook and had to order a new one from Kitchen Aid.  As soon as it arrived, I felt obligated to take it out for a test drive, thus the White Loaves recipe Redux.  I made a few modifications to the recipe this time.  Based on my own experience and comments from other TWD bakers it seemed that the seven cups of flour, called for in the recipe, pushed the Kitchen Aid motor to the limits. Therefore, I cut the recipe in half and made one loaf  (actually two mini loaves), using three and a half cups of flour, instead of the seven cups called for in the two loaves. My Kitchen Aid hummed along beautifully with this modification.  I made one plain and one cinnamon swirl.  They came out beautifully.  This recipe is so easy I actually baked it twice in one week and the second time enlisted a four-year-old helper.  Here’s the picture of the loaves to prove it.   

You can find the recipe for White Loaves from Baking With Julia here:

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Unhappy Hooker  2/6/12

What began, innocently enough, as making my first recipe for TWD quickly escalated to what resembled a TV sitcom, the likes of which would rival an episode of I Love Lucy.  The recipe, “White Loaves” found in Baking With Julia was the culprit of this fiasco.  It was a basic white bread recipe that called for six simple ingredients water, flour, butter, salt, yeast, and sugar, things most home cooks, except possibly the yeast, have on hand. I measured and assembled the ingredients along the counter like a TV chef, proofed the yeast and sugar in warm water, and then the drama began.  What I thought was the dough hook for my Kitchen Aid mixer, no you cannot fit a square peg into a round hole, was a dough hook for some other dearly departed or long forgotten kitchen appliance. But, no problem, right?  Folks have been making bread without dough hooks and fancy appliances since the beginning of time.  Check out the Bible where you’ll find bread, leavened and unleavened, mentioned numerous times; the last time I looked, there was no mention of Kitchen Aid mixers or dough hooks in there.  How hard could it be to mix the stuff by hand?  After all, I’ve been to the gym.  True, that was years ago.  Yet and still, I have seen the inside of a gym.  

Incorporating the first three cups of flour into the liquid was a synch.  In the words of my daughter, Dawn, “I’ve got this,” I thought.   With each successive cup of flour, however, mixing became more difficult.   Frustrated but undefeated, I dumped my unincorporated dough blob into the mixer, covered the top with a kitchen towel and ever so gently turned it on.  Flour flew up through the towel into my face, up my nose, and turned me prematurely gray.  The counter top and the floor were covered with, what meteorologists would refer to as, a mild dusting.  The motor on the Kitchen Aid sighed in protest at the prospect of mixing the unyielding dough.  So it was back to the mixing bowl where after ten minutes of stirring and mixing, my upper arms were nearly as sculpted as First Lady Michelle Obama’s. After incorporating the butter into the dough and ten full minutes of kneading, both the dough and I needed the requisite 45 minute to one hour rest.

Alas, however, to my utter astonishment, after two risings, and a stint in the oven my two loaves turned out lovely.  Golden brown on the outside, with a tender crumb on the inside, my first two loaves of homemade bread turned out rather well.  Even though things got a bit hairy, I learned a few things from this experience.  First, there is an eight hundred number, similar to the Thanksgiving Turkey Hot Line, posted directly on your Kitchen Aid Mixer. I spoke to Kelly at Kitchen Aid, who informed me that for $14.95 plus shipping and handlings she could ship me the dough hook that fits my mixer.  I agreed to the terms since, I’ll need the dough hook for the next bread recipe.  Another thing I learned is that this recipe is practically foolproof.  Anyone with thumbs that can withstand a vigorous aerobic workout can make this bread. And last but not least, baking bread isn’t actually that bad. 

Here’s a picture of my bread.  There may be prettier loaves out there, but like any mother of a newborn, I have yet to see another loaf as beautiful as my twins.  You can tell from the picture they’re fraternal.    Peanut butter and Jelly, is what I call them, others may call them Lunch or Snack.  For information about the recipe go to TWD or better yet buy Baking With Julia and bake along with the group. 

On a scale from one to ten, one being low and ten being high, I give this recipe an eight. The bread is tasty, the recipe is easy to follow, and I will definitely make this bread again.  I prefer whole grain to white bread; otherwise this recipe would be a ten.  



Saturday, February 4, 2012