I think I’m having a midlife crisis. Continue reading → My Midlife Crisis: Part One
Last night, I was in the mood for garlic. I mean, REALLY in the mood for garlic. I love the stuff. So I decided to make some garlic bread.
Trouble was, I had no suitable bread. I’d have to bake some. And since I was already going to have to make the dough, rise it, bake it, and so on, I thought: why not bake the garlic right in?
So. I whipped up a large batch of French bread dough by kneading together 2 cups bread flour, four cups all-purpose flour, two packets (4.5 tsp) of active dry yeast, one tablespoon kosher salt, one tablespoon dried herbs, one teaspoon of sugar and two and a half cups of warm water (the water, sugar and yeast hung out in a measuring cup to get foamy before being added to the dry stuff). Let that rise for about an hour till it doubled.
In the meantime, I melted about a stick of salted butter and threw in just about a whole head’s worth of garlic cloves and cooked them till they looked like this: Continue reading → Garlic Bread (with a Twist)
There’s a challenge going around Facebook right now where people post black and white photos of their lives for seven days. The rules: no people, no explanations, and you’re supposed to challenge someone new every day.
Well, no one has challenged me. It’s a lot like being at the Snowflake Dance in seventh grade, which I attended by myself (technically I went with a couple girlfriends but they quickly abandoned me to do the Tootsie Roll in a throng of smelly boys), wearing my green velvet dress and matching Converse All-Stars (always one for a fashion statement), hoping to be asked to dance. Continue reading → Everyday Life in Black and White
A few months ago, I made a sourdough starter. I named him Fred.
Fred was a late bloomer. He was sufficiently fed and watered, kept warm and cozy in his infancy, but he failed to absorb much of the yeast he’d need to make a good bread, and his sour was never particularly strong. I refreshed him regularly, let him warm his dough in the summer sun, tried nourishing him with sugar and milk and even beer. Like the parent of any slow-developing child, I sought answers in books. Some made sourdough starting sound easy; if I couldn’t do it, I must be a fool. Others proclaimed it a daunting task, virtually impossible and best left to professionals.
For a while now, I’ve been baking like a maniac. It started because I was auditioning to be a contestant on a competitive baking show. I’m still not supposed to tell you which one or any details (reality TV is über secretive) but I will tell you that while I made it through several levels of casting, I was not selected. Continue reading → Baking, Sewing, and the Constant Need to Create
A year ago, I had no idea who Johnny Iuzzini was. Then I saw him as a judge on The Great American Baking Show (the US version of The Great British Baking Show, nee The Great British Bake Off). Okay, I still didn’t know who he was, but he seemed to be knowledgeable and he was pretty cute and worked well alongside my beloved Mary Berry. And then a few days ago I was at Barnes and Noble, browsing the cookbook aisle (as I so often do), looking for a baking book that was not just a compendium of recipes but something of a baker’s text. I thought I wouldn’t find one (how many books can people publish that are just a bunch of recipes for cookies?) but then the title caught my eye and lo! A cookbook by Johnny Iuzzini. And not only that, a teaching cookbook by Johnny Iuzzini. With tips and ideas and recipes I actually hadn’t heard before. Things that made me go, “OoooOoOooOh!” and run to the kitchen to try them. Things that make scientific sense despite their contrast to conventional wisdom. Plus quite a few recipes using tarragon. I LOVE tarragon.
I’ve only made one recipe out of the book so far–Spreadable Caramel–and several of his techniques within other recipes. And oh my god. If you’re a baker, you really need this book.
I’ve been trying to come up with some savory and festive recipes–I love to bake but there’s only so much sugar one can take, you know?–and I thought I’d make some bagels that looked like wreaths. Easy, right? I mean, they’ve already got the shape. The rest is a matter of flavor and decoration.
So… what’s green? Sage, I thought. Herbs. Make an herbed bagel. We had those at the bagel shop where I worked as a teenager and they were delicious. But they weren’t exactly green. Then I thought–green olives. As a topping. And to compliment the flavor, some paprika and chili powder in the dough. Red and green.
Whenever I visit my parents, I bake. Even if it isn’t super convenient. Even if we’re all dieting. For whatever reason, when I get in their kitchen (which isn’t even my childhood kitchen–the room was a laundry room when I lived here, and my cousin’s bedroom before that) I get the itch. Maybe because there are other hands to hold the children. Maybe because I want to feed my family. And maybe, just a little, because I want to show off and have my parents ooh and ahh over my skills.
Of course, they don’t always ooh and ahh. This is partially because I experiment. Either I try recipes I’ve never made before, or I make them up on the fly, or a little of both. I’m a renegade that way. Baking is a love and a challenge for me because my creative brain wants to overtake my technical brain in ways that don’t always work out in the oven. Most bakers will tell you STICK TO A RECIPE. I like to make mine up. But I also like to think I have enough technical know-how that I’m qualified to do so. This recipe, I think, is proof that I do. My dad says they’re like cotton candy with chocolate inside. My mom says they’re like eating sweet air. My brother said they’re weird, but you know brothers.
Chocolate Chunk Meringues
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
a moderate pinch of cream of tartar (put your fingers in that jar and literally pinch)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 bar 70% cocoa dark chocolate (I used Lindt), finely chopped (with maybe a few larger chunks just for fun)
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until frothy. Add one third cup of the sugar and whisk on high until soft peaks form. Gradually add the rest of the sugar about a tablespoon at a time, and whisk until stiff peaks form. Fold in your chocolate (the egg whites should encase the chocolate–start with about half the chocolate and add the rest in bits, as your egg whites might be slightly bigger or smaller than mine, and you might get more or less air into them). Using two spoons, spoon one- to two-inch globs onto your baking sheets. Bake at 325 for 20 to 25 minutes, until the outsides are firm but still white and they feel light and hollow. Cool completely. Enjoy.