In the Year of Fearless Baking [Paused]: Vegetables & Adventure Bread [6.26.16]
Update: I have not been baking. This has nothing to do with the heat (although I can’t say I miss having the oven cranked on a hot day like today), and everything to do with health. In order to treat a variety of ailments that I have been dealing with since last summer, I started seeing a naturopathic doctor about a month ago.
Much to my chagrin, along with a battery of herbal supplements, she prescribed for me an extremely restrictive (but temporary) diet to help my body reset. The list of things that are currently unavailable to me are: gluten, sweetener of any kind, alcohol, dairy, and anything fermented (including yeast). So, everything on my baking list is pretty much off the table.
Since my baking project has been on hold for the past month (and who knows when I’ll be able to start up again!), I’ve shifted my focus to a new project: gardening. Our awesome neighbors agreed to let us build some raised beds in a lot next to our house, and I have been learning so much from this experience.
I’ve never had a garden before, but as it turns out, I really love it. Tending a garden is a wonderful reason to be outside, and it has made me more attuned to the weather. I’ve been reading a bit about botany at the same time, and the complexity of how plants grow is just astounding.
So far, my favorite crop to grow is radishes. I can’t get enough of them. They grow from seed to full-blown (although small) vegetables in just three or four weeks, and they’re absolutely delicious. For those of you who are wondering the best way to eat a radish, here’s how: Sprinkle some coarse salt onto a dish. Wash and trim the radish. Cut the radish in half. Dip the cut side into the salt. Eat the radish.
Actually, probably the finest way to eat a radish is sliced, arranged atop a well-buttered piece of fresh sourdough bread. But that is something I’m trying not to think about too much.
Not eating bread (especially for an enthusiastic baker like me) is tough, and made worse by the fact that I’m currently working on an article about toast.
Coincidentally, in going through the available literature about hip, high end toast, I stumbled upon a bread recipe developed by Josey Baker (of The Mill fame). Gloriously, it is not only gluten free, it also contains no yeast and is made entirely of whole grains and seeds. He calls it Adventure Bread.
It’s certainly an easy recipe- you literally mix some things together, let it sit for a few hours in the fridge, and bake it.
And you know something? It hits the spot. Toasted, and spread with Earth Balance, it’s damn tasty. The perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning.
Hopefully I’ll be back to checking things off my baking list before too long, but in the meantime I’ll just be giving occasional updates on the other things I’m learning about this summer. If the goal is to keep the spirit of fearlessness, and learn things beyond my comfort zone, then jeez: the possibilities are endless.
In the Year of Fearless Baking: Episode #10: Cream Puffs [3.20.16]
Guys, I feel myself falling head over heels for French pastry. Seriously- how the hell did they figure this stuff out? Making choux pastry, the magical foundation of cream puffs, may be an even stranger process than laminating dough between layers of butter. And by strange, I mean glorious.
Unfortunately, there are several steps of the procedure that I was unable to get photos of, because, well, my hands were too busy. Basically, to make choux, you cook water, butter and flour on the stove (it reminds me of making playdough as a kid). This gelatinizes the starch and makes the batter super flexible. Then you add eggs and beat the hell out of it (as an aside: yes, I used this hot pink plastic ‘wooden’ spoon).
And then you pipe it into little blobs. Don’t worry: getting better at piping is totally on my list. I’m still pretty bad at it, but fortunately in this case it didn’t matter too much.
I really wanted to try out the crackly sugar topping known as craquelin, but since I was nervous about how it would come out, I only used it on half of the puffs. It’s basically like cookie dough that becomes pure crunchy glory once baked.
The transformative power of heat is just amazing. The piped blobs somehow become crisp hollow shells, which are basically screaming to be filled with pastry cream. Fortunately, pastry cream is not something I’m afraid of.
Vanilla beans are so freaking sexy. Have I mentioned this before? Goddamn.
Filling the puffs was a little odd- once again, because I absolutely suck at piping. But at the end of the day, they got filled- albeit unevenly. And then we got to share them with wonderful people, which is always the best part of these adventures.