14 Jun


I’m working on the revision of the first chapter of New Book. Chapter One being the root of all evil/virtue makes it a particularly challenging puzzle, and staring at the words while debating overlong whether I’ve said too much or too little or skimped on setting or misplaced a hook or done some other disastrous thing that will cause the rest of the book to dissolve into a puddle of bubbling slime can be just a teensy bit demoralizing.

Bread always helps. Bread is always the answer. Bread is a steadfast friend in the darkest hour.

Today’s bread buddy takes the form of a dozen chewy homemade English muffins from The Model Bakery Cookbook (which also brought us Croissants, Y’all!) Mine aren’t anywhere near as pretty as theirs, but all dough fried in clarified butter is beautiful in its own special way. And now that I’m familiar with biga, I whipped up another batch to add to pizza dough for tonight’s dinner.

Morning-After Update: These make amazing English muffin pizzas (especially the bottoms, which soaked up most of the frying butter and subsequently emerge from a 10-minute pizza bake crunchy and sizzling as a pan pizza). They’re also bigger than the feeble little bagged version in the bread aisle at the grocer, so you get a meal instead of a snack.

Faith in my basic life skills competence restored, I brazenly return to the task that scares the everloving crap out of me…

11 Feb


Ah, screw being humble. I made croissants, y’all!

Baby croissants!

All grown up!

Flakier than the before model in a Head & Shoulders commercial!

I gave the KitchenAid the day off and got my hands in the dough, since it doesn’t need kneading. I didn’t even use the fancy European butter called for in the recipe, and they came out pretty freaking spectacular—tender-chewy on the inside and crispy-flaky on the outside.

(UPDATE: The day after, they’re soft enough to slice neatly for sandwiches, fancy French toast, or a shortcake/napoleon substitute. I put half a dozen in the freezer for later and will let you know what they’re like upon reheat.)

(UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: After two weeks in the freezer, they’re good as new with 15 minutes in the oven, so no need to worry about what you’re going to do with 16 croissants before they get stale. Simply plop the extras in the freezer to enjoy at a later date. Even super lazy slow-cooker stew becomes elevated when served with a warm, flaky [nobody needs to know it’s leftovers] croissant on the side.)

It took seven hours start to finish, but that’s mostly down time while the dough rests rather than hard labor (as in the case of the eight-hour meringue-mousse torte…).

The recipe is from The Model Bakery Cookbook. I picked it up the other day when the Kindle Daily Deals were all cookbooks, but I have since realized I detest digital cookbooks, so I’ll be ordering the hardcover, too.

If you have a jumbo tablet so every recipe isn’t 10 screens long (because it’s super uncool to have to swipe while your hands are coated with flour and butter) and you don’t like to make notes in the margins of your cookbooks, the ebook is fine (and cheaper).

10 Dec

2016: The Year in Sugar and Gluten

I’m far from done with the year’s baking, but I’ll be too busy doing it to take pictures of it for the next little while, so here’s the recap for 2016.

This year, I conquered cinnamon rolls. (The secret is doughnut dough. Shh.)

I gave up trying to make a good chocolate chip cookie out of identifiable ingredients, threw French vanilla pudding mix into the dough, and found a winner. (The secret is tetrasodium pyrophosphate, I guess. Shh.)

The most impressive-looking things were the chocolate meringue torte and the snowflake bread. The torte was a full eight-hour workday, and I’ll never make it again for less than $100 or true love. The snowflake was surprisingly easy, and I immediately started making a list of other things to stuff it with. (That’s one of the things I’m making a lot of for the remainder of the year.)

I learned buttermilk is the secret to lemon curd that holds together, you can fake half-and-half with milk and butter (for cooking, not in your coffee) if you don’t want to drive 20 miles to the nearest grocery store for one ingredient when you get a hankering for coconut cream pie, shortbread is my new favorite pie crust, and flash photography is why my food always looked wet in pictures. (Now it looks dark because this kitchen lighting leaves something to be desired and often blurry because my camera has a reeeeeeally slow shutter when the flash is off.)

That apple-oatmeal cookie picture looks so boss because it was a contest entry and I was trying to be fancy. (I didn’t win despite my food staging. When I made the winning recipes and people said they weren’t up to my usual standards, I gloated. I’m petty like that.)

The only disaster I recall was the S’more Cake, which failed on two fronts. Did you know an unopened box of graham crackers can be not only stale but downright rancid? Now you do. And when I tell you The Only Reason I Own A Hand Mixer Frosting does not belong between cake layers, it’s because the top two layers of that S’more Cake slid off and landed on the floor… not that it was much of a loss in light of the rancid graham frosting on the outside of the cake. I might have oopsed it off the counter myself if it hadn’t jumped.

Oh, and I took two eggs out of the cheesecake I’m not invited anywhere without. Now it puffs less, collapses less, and doesn’t crack. I’ll probably post the basic recipe soon. IT’S NOT THAT HARD.

31 Dec

2015: The Year in Sugar and Gluten

A lot of stuff came out of my kitchen this year. Here are some unprofessional pictures to commemorate some of that stuff, may it rest in peace.

(If you’re lucky enough to get a randomly selected distorted image, congratulations! If you care to see it correctly displayed, simply refresh the page.)

The Twix Cookies were probably my favorite discovery. It’s easier and cheaper to buy a bag of Twix, honestly, but people treat you like a rock star when you show up with homemade cookies that taste just like mass-produced candy.