A journey...

...to discover...

...the heart...

...and soul...

...of a baker.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

An Apolgy To All (Including Myself)

I seem to have lost a lot of momentum here. It's kind of odd because I've done so much baking over the last few months. It's almost as if I'm baking faster than I can photograph and write about it.

I need to refocus on what I'm doing, what my goals are, and how I can best convey my progress to any and all who read this. Also? I really need to dump blogger for Word Press – and that will be a project in and of itself. (Actually, I think that last thing is one of the main reasons I've been procrastinating. Well, that, plus the many tasks I've had to complete as we make this apartment our home.)

I'll figure it out and finish a couple of things I have in draft form very soon. I mean, I need to tell you about the desserts I made for Passover, my forays into puff pastry, and my latest struggles with bread baking!

Thanks for your patience and support.

Currently Listening to: Sara Bareilles - Breath Again

Monday, March 28, 2016

2015 Into 2016 – The Answer To The Questions (Part The Third)

Let's see. Where was I? Right.

Appetizers! I made appetizers for a post-Christmas dinner with friends. Years ago, I first baked up some "Russian Pastries" for a Ukrainian violinist who swore they tasted just like what her grandmother used to make for her. (Thank you, Good Housekeeping Cookbook!) I love them but they're kind of a pain in the neck to make. Small rounds of dough, stuffed with a ground beef/egg/dill/relish filling, folded and crimped then baked. After a few dozen of these, you just get pooped. So, I decided a change-up was necessary, especially since I was going to be making bread for this same dinner. Add a small muffin pan, subtract the folding and crimping, et voila! Please to observe:

So much easier! And artistic!
Still bite-sized, still delicious but a heck of a lot easier to make! 

Detail of deliciousness.
True to form, I'll refine the process – pay more attention to how I seal the dough, maybe add an egg wash, bake a little longer for color. And totally make them in a puff pastry.* I need to work on making them look a bit neater and but I'm over the moon with the way these turned out. And they were devoured pretty darned quickly!

*Of course, I need to learn how to make puff pastry first.

What else? Michele-O-Mars! I bought a second set of silicon molds so that I can make what I consider a normal sized batch of these. 

Yes, they're pink. What of it?

My biggest problems, which I'm still working to solve, are tempering the chocolate to get a good shine...

Cool down, already!
...getting the cookies sized just right (they're not turning out uniformly round or thin enough)...

So close!
...figuring out how thick the chocolate dome needs to be (and the best way of coating the molds)...

Still a bit messy, yes?

...and finding the right piping bag for the marshmallow, a better way of filling it, and a better technique for actually piping the marshmallow into the molds. 

Mmmmmmm! Marshmallow filling!
Okay. So there are more than a few things I still have to work out with this. I'm getting there!

Well, at least one of them turned out the way I wanted!
Oh, and I need to learn how to pop them out of the molds a little better. 

I think I'm close to wrapping up the wrap up! I've actually started baking bread in the new kitchen, so I'll have reports on the new oven and work space next time. I'm excited!

Currently listening to: Said The Sky - Disciple (Feat. Melissa Hayes)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

2015 Into 2016 – The Answer To The Questions (Part The Second)

The Next Question: Are you going to play catch up with what you baked last December(ish?)

The Next Answer: Uh...yes(ish)?


I really wanted to make a decent pear tart, so I grabbed a bunch of Boscs from the farmers market and gave it a go.

Let's try these.

Partial success on this one. The oven was misbehaving – again – and I got some curdle in the custard. It tasted great, though! I'll have to make another attempt soon. I have so much to learn about making custard.


Bread! I baked lots of bread. Well, actually, I baked one loaf over and over again. A French Country Loaf from King Arthur Flour. I made it six times. "Six times," you gasp! "Why, in heaven's name?" Because the first time it was pretty good. 

Looked weird. Baked well!

I was nervous and slashed it a bit too deep. I actually eviscerated it! But it was mostly baked all the way through and it tasted great. The crumb was a bit dense. 
The second time, however, it was awful. 

Looked  pretty good. Awful bake.
It was raw inside, despite making sure it reached a good internal temperature. I should have known just by how heavy it felt when I took it out of the oven.

And so it went.

I made strides in my confidence at slashing and flouring the top but the the actual baking varied so much. It went from mostly done, to raw, to almost perfect, to really doughy. I partly blame the oven (which seemed to just leak heat like there's no tomorrow) but it mostly comes down to my own learning curve. I'm just at the beginning of developing my feel for bread.

My goal as a bread baker is to be consistently turn out a good loaf. To me that means baking a loaf that's got a great crust and a perfect crumb at least twice in a row before I screw it up. 

I've got a long way to go.

I'll try to finish up the recap next time.

Currently listening to: Andreas Vollenweider - Unto the Burning Circle and Dancing With The Lion

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

2015 Into 2016 – The Answer To The Questions (Part The First)

Question the first: Why haven't I posted since last year?

Answer the first: For the last two-and-a-half months we've been in the process of moving. From the latter part of December until just last week, we've been busy with finding a the right new place, finding the right moving company, packing up all the stuff (and we've got a lot of stuff), filling the new place up with boxes, cleaning out the old place (and carrying over more boxes), making almost a dozen donation runs to Housing Works, and slowly figuring out how we'll fit into this place. It's an exhausting endeavor and I hope we don't have to do it again for many years. 

The place we found puts us back on the West Side of Manhattan, just a stone's throw from the first apartment I rented after moving here in '89. Also? My office is in the kitchen! I'm sitting at my desk, facing the kitchen window(!) and writing in my baking blog. This is a dream come true that I didn't even know I had. I can't wait to get the rest of the kitchen set up. It's going to take a while though:

So many boxes....

Next question: What was the last thing I baked before we moved? 

Next answer: The last thing I baked in the old kitchen was a sweet potato pie at the beginning of this month. 

Best one yet!
I've been making this pie for a quarter century and this was the best one yet. But, after twenty-five years, I tasted it and began figuring out how to make it even better. I finally tasted, with a critical palette, exactly what spices needed tweaking and what spices I need to stop adding so that this pie can be spectacular and not just "good". I also finally began experimenting with the way I make the crust edges, too. The next one will be so much better!

I'll answer more of the questions you didn't ask in the next post. Right now I've got to find which box we packed the kettle in. Michele needs tea!

Currently listening to: Stephan Jacobs - Anywhere (Feat. A. Rose Jackson & Henry Strange)