Thursday, July 30, 2009

just hangin with the bread baking babes

my quest for better bread baking skills led me to follow the babes this month (as a buddy of course) in their bread challenge and bake sukkar bi tahin, beirut tahini swirls. i try to play along with the bread baking babes and with the bread baking day (two separate groups) each month and sometimes, i am successful. kind of, mostly successful depending on how you look at things.

sukkar bi tahin

i realize that the soccermom label i put on myself makes me sound like every other stay at home mom with at least one kid on a team. but the truth is, i work for a living and currently i am writing another cookbook as well as working full time outside of the house. so how could i have time to do all this? i don't always have it and often i am playing catch up and other times, i sit out a round. this month, i made the cut and managed to get the babes bread challenge done on time.

my last attempt at joining the babes was a disaster; it will be a while before i attempt injera again. so, when i saw this months challenge and the book it came from, i panicked. the same two people, who had written the recipe for my injera mishap, had written this one too. after panicking for a few minutes, i got to work and made a batch of dough. when it was time to shape it, i broke into a sweat. a strange sense of deja vu took over. things did not go well; the dough was too elastic and sticky and shaping it was impossible. i made a second batch of dough using cheap store brand all purpose flour, not the good stuff and cut back on the kneading. this batch worked like a charm.

as i mentioned, i also made a loaf of bread for the bread baking day, cinnamon swirl raisin bread and i had left over cinnamon filling. it's notreally a filling but the topping for mexican conchas which i like to use as a filling in sweet breads. with this in hand, i did without the trip to the store for tahini and just used the cinnamon filling. it worked out nicely and i didn't have to leave the house again.

my thanks to natashya of living in the kitchen with puppies, this was worth the effort and it has boosted my bread baking ego!

Monday, July 27, 2009

great grandfather, honeymooners and milanos...what a combination

as a small child, i spent many days with my great grandparents-my father's grandparents. i was their only great grandchild at the time and let's just say that they indulged me-a lot! my great grandfather, whom i simply called grandpa, was a fan of jackie gleason and the honeymooners. on saturday nights, he would sit down to watch the show (i realize that i am dating myself here) on a little tv that was located in a corner of the dining room. it seems that italian (american-italian) families do not like to place tvs in their parlor (what many call the living room). even my grandmother didn't watch tv in a living room, she always sat at the kitchen table to watch tv. anyway, we would watch tv together and inevitably, a bag of pepperidge farm milanos would appear. they were his favorite cookie. back then, they were only dark chocolate flavored, not mint or orange or any other flavor. he always gave me one and as a child, they were my favorite too. so, when i saw this month's challenge for the daring bakers, i jumped at the chance to try my hand a replicating that favorite childhood treat.

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She choseChocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

my husband and i had been invited to dinner with friends and i made a batch and a half, the size of quarters-very time consuming since the recipe yielded a lot more than i expected. with only some corona colombian chocolate on hand (think ibarra mexican chocolate but from colombia), i gave them a slightly spiced chocolate filling. the only problem, here in the south it is hard to keep a cookie like that crispy-too much humidity and with the wet summer we have had so far, forget trying! the cookies were well received, devoured actually. but for me, they just didn't have the texture i had hoped for. that crispy snap followed by the bittersweet chocolate flavor that i remember from my childhood. then again, the ones in the store aren't the same anymore either; cost cutting has changed them and so has my sense of nostalgia.

with the humidity in mind and the time constraints of having a full time job, a book to write and several other baking forums to participate in, i did not even attempt the marshmallow cookies. my thanks to nicole for the trip down memory lane.

Monday, July 6, 2009

summer fun with peaches and thai basil

yep, you guessed it. it's pie time again!!! this month's theme is the taste of summer and it was chosen by mary and rebecca. when i think of summer, i think of fresh picked fruit and vegetables, big bunches of herbs and ice cream. sitting on the porch spitting watermelon seeds and sipping iced tea. picnics by the lake or the beach with cold fried chicken. then there are the barbecues; food of all kinds on the grill and salads galore and a frosty adult beverage...

so many things to choose from and only one pie to bake, what's a girl to do??? if she's me, she heads out to the garden, the demo garden that is, and she picks peaches and basil. we are volunteers with the master gardeners and we maintain a garden that has peach trees and an herb garden (among many things both edible and non-edible). while doing some trimming of the basil plants, including the varieties of marseille, siam queen, sweet basil and a few others whose name escapes me, i had a thought. what if i combined the fresh picked peaches with some basil and made a tart???

the peaches and some thai basil sprigs (siam queen)

the big basket of basil that i ended up with. we also made two types of pesto and have lots still to use. tomorrow, i am making a peach-basil sorbet with some of the puree that i cooked today. we may save some of it for a batch of peach-basil martinis...

the tart featuring an almond-black sugar crust and the peaches flavored with thai basil and lemon zest. oh, the flavors of summer are so good! with all of the basil in the fridge, i can come up with all kinds of combos. now if the tomatoes in the garden would just hurry up...

thanks to mary and rebecca for helping me to expand my waistline! wish you could help me use up some of the basil. oh well, what's another two hours at the gym?