Tag Archives: baking

The problem with food blogs

First off, the good: Delicious photos and creative recipes, which encourage innovation and experimentation. Fabulous, generous people. Easy enough. Nothing to regret there.

The problem: the baked goods! oh, the baked goods. While I doubt there is any blogger who bakes everyday, everyday there are many talented people baking many wonderful things. And so, the list of things to make grows considerably faster than there are reasonable occasions to make them. For instance, just in the last week these recipes caught my eye:

  1. Chiffon cake.
  2. Plum cake.
  3. Granola Grabbers.
  4. Blueberry Pudding Cake.
  5. Chai Cupcakes.
  6. Blackberry Flummery (although not a baked good, it’s still dessert).

And this happens nearly every week. In my ever continuing efforts to avoid a heart attack/diabetes/morbid obesity, I try to exercise some restraint. I can’t bake everyday. (Or can I? )

Enter the machinations of the Unstoppable Sugar Fiend (a/k/a my dear mother.) Here’s a short story to illustrate how dangerous she is:

The other day, I made these blueberry crumb bars. I had considered halving the recipe because 9X13 makes an awful lot of irresistible crumble servings. But that would involve using 1/2 an egg, which seemed like a waste, blah blah blah. I convinced myself to make the whole thing. Figured I could freeze 1/2 of it or something. Anyway, I made them, and each of the incredibly tiny portions were delicious. Only hours after it cooled, we had already made a huge dent in the 9X13 pan.

I thought I’d do the generous thing and give a big chunk of the remainder to our neighbors, who have 5 kids and had just returned from overseas on vacation. When I mentioned this to the Fiend, she gasped and clutched at her heart. She looked at me as if I had suggested that we eat the neighborhood children, instead of feed them. She was aghast, and she was not kidding. The crumble was just too precious to her.

The next day, after at least 1/3 of the crumble was gone–(Oh, Internet. It is so easy to lie to you. My better angel tells me that slightly more than 1/2 of the crumble had been dispatched)–she suggested that I make another one. That day. In fact, I only just managed to stop her as she was collecting her purse and heading out the door to buy more blueberries. I told her she was crazy.

I haven’t told her about the #2 above yet. Who could withstand the harrassment? But that is the recipe weighing most heavily on my mind at the moment. I have an 8X8 inch pan and peaches and other delicious stone fruits on hand (in the last week, the Fiend has purchased peaches, nectarines and plums in an attempt to encourage another tart). It feels like destiny.

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I crumbled.

I do not know why I can’t write this post.

Short story: I saw this recipe and filed it away as looking delicious and something I wanted to make soonish. With end of blueberry season fast approaching, I knew it would have to be soon. Enter Friday, when I had some time– and just slightly less than 2 pints of blueberries– on my hands. Opportunity was a-knocking, and I answered the call.

I made a few modifications to the recipe:

  1. I substituted 4oz neufchatel cream cheese for 4oz of the butter. (This was an idea I got from Madam Chow, and it worked wonderfully in the peach tart I made a little while back.) I thought it was an awesome modification to this recipe as well. I had intended to sub out only about 2oz of the butter. But when I saw that the cream cheese was not preventing the flour from crumbling nicely, I just couldn’t resist adding more. (It didn’t hurt that I had almost an entire opened package of the cream cheese left, which I was looking to use up.)
  2. I also subbed 1.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour for 1.5 cups of the all purpose.
  3. At the very last moment, I bailed on using the lemon zest in the crumble dough. I used the lemon juice on the blueberries, though. Someday I’ll get around to discussing my complicated relationship with lemon flavor.

Everybody loved the bars, and nobody seemed to notice the whole wheat or reduced butter. I’m sure the bars would have been more delectable with all butter and all white flour. But, they were still so good, the modifications didn’t feel like a sacrifice at all.

p.s. These photos are rudimentary and crass.  You should really check out the photos at Smitten Kitchen.  If they don’t make you salivate, you are probably not alive.

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Bread-Making and Nostalgia

Reading Badger’s other (unfortunately password protected) travel blog about her recent trip to climb Kilimanjaro had me thinking about a trip we took together to Machu Picchu. We hiked the 4 days along the Inca Trail, but the trip was fully supported. One of the greatest things about it was the food, which was always high-quality and fresh. And there is nothing like hiking all day to get the appetite up. One of the culinary highlights was tea time. This was usually just after we got into camp after a day of hiking. There would be a few hours after lunch and a few hours before dinner and we needed something to tide us over. The group would be tired and maybe a bit sore, but we’d descend on the tea-time snack. The porters and guides would set us up with some tea (with powdered milk), biscuits or cookies, and jam. The menu reminded me of childhood trips to Ireland, which used to be the only place I’d drink tea or eat biscuits or jam. So every afternoon, we’d have a really filling and wonderful tea. And it turns out that the tea-time fare was similar in Kilimanjaro. Which got me thinking about recreating that nostalgic feeling, especially since I haven’t taken any vacation yet this year.

I wasn’t in the mood for biscuits, but I did have some nearing-the-14-day-mark dough in the fridge from the light whole wheat recipe in this book. Not enough can be said about the wondrousness of that book. Many people have remarked on it. But I think I finally decided to buy the book after reading this post. I’d been seeing (reading?) people talk about it for a bit, but I thought the idea of five-minute bread sounded gimmicky and too-good to be true. Well, I was wrong. It’s fabulous. I have made so many things from that book. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with wheat recipes, in an effort to be good. My latest attempt was a simple light whole wheat. It’s basically this recipe, except with 1 cup whole wheat flour instead of 1 cup white. Not much whole wheat at all, but it counts. It may be my favorite so far. Though the all-white loaf is delectable.

This is the old, stored up dough, kind of gross looking actually:

It was goopy and slopped after so many days in the fridge, but it worked out all right. I shaped it into a boule:

I let it rise for 40 minutes and then slashed it incompetently:

I baked it with a pizza stone.  This loaf has a wonderful smell and looks really nice as well.

The crumb on this loaf was bit denser than I’d like. I don’t know if that was because of the age and wetness of the dough or maybe it needed a bit more time to rise. Still very tasty though. It really didn’t take much work and it was worth it for a nice afternoon, nostaglic tea break:

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Tart!

Not so neat, but delish.

Not so neat, but delish.

To atone for the marmalade disaster of last week’s galette, I decided to make another peach based tart-like thing. (Actually, I am absolutely addicted to this recipe. It is bad. I’d say anything for an excuse to make another.)

At the last minute, I decided to roll it out the dough for the tart pan instead. I’ve never done that before and was so so pleased how it came out. Doing it in a tart pan also gave me more room for fruit. I ran out of white peaches and instead added in 2 nectarines and some blueberries. I would use more nectarines next time. I don’t love them normally but they were excellent in the tart. I brushed the top with strawberry rhubarb jam. Unbearably delicious. The tart didn’t last the night (but I had some help eating it).

But now, it’s like I’ve been haunted. I can hear that tart calling out to me at odd hours. Actually, pretty much all of the Dorie recipes I’ve tried are like that. The chocolate pudding for instance. I have not stopped thinking about that pudding.

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