A journey...

...to discover...

...the heart...

...and soul...

...of a baker.

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