Sunday, September 27, 2009

not so daring now is it?

when i joined the daring bakers i had visions of exotic baked goods that would help me hone specific skills or just be so different from the usual baked goods that they would be fun to make. i hoped for challenges that would teach me as well as entertain me. so far, that hasn't been the case. the only one that was even close was the lasagna challenge with home made pasta and i still say that isn't baking but let's not go there now. when i saw this month's challenge, i wasn't thrilled. another item that i really didn't think was something that i would enjoy making because it was too much like jobs i've held in the past.
the september 2009 daring bakers' challenge was hosted by steph of a whisk and a spoon. she chose the french treat vols-auvent based on the puff pastry recipe by michel richard from the cookbook baking with julia by dorie greenspan.

so there i was in the kitchen rolling and folding and rolling and folding and all the while thinking of anything but vols au vent. i recalled making puff paste for the first time in new york city when i worked in building #3 of the world trade center. yes #3, it was a hotel that sat between the towers and that is where i had my first real job after graduation from the CIA. we made such a large batch of dough that we would fold in 10# of butter at a time, all by hand with rolling pins and while standing on milk crates because both myself and the woman who was teaching me were too short to have the proper leverage with the pin if we stood at the table.

but if i am honest, all i really wanted to make with the dough was turnovers, full of apples or other fruits. or maybe some pinwheels, elephant ears or cheese pastries. anything but little cups that i would have to fill so that my family could only eat some of them and then i would be left looking at the rest...needless to say, i made the dough and ended up putting it in the freezer for another day and that is why there aren't any nifty pictures to admire.

thanks to steph at a whisk and a spoon, she also gets all of my apologies. it's been a little hectic and after two solid weeks of rain there just wasn't an opportunity to finish the job!

Monday, September 7, 2009

multitasker extraordinaire....

tart shells, tart filling, garnish, sourdough, soaker, bread dough...the list goes on and on. i must have fallen asleep and woke up at work. aaahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!! the very thought sends me running from the room screaming. not really, but it's funnier if you imagine it anyway. hey at least i didn't dream about showing up for work naked. so by now you must be wondering what is going on, what is she rambling on about? well you see, this month both you want pies with that and the bread baking buddies have their posting dates on the same day and that meant more time in the kitchen for me than i usually spend there on my day off.

saturday night, we were invited to dinner at darry's coworkers house. there is a group of people that he works with that meet once a month at some ones house or a restaurant. everyone brings a dish or beverage and we were bringing a salad and dessert. perfect timing for me since i knew i needed to make a pie, a "vacation" pie (based on a vacation you took or would like to take) and i immediately knew what vacation i wanted to base it on. next year we will celebrate anniversary #25 and i was hoping to take the trip of a lifetime to mark the occasion. for me that trip is to go on a culinary tour of china. i know, it sounds like overkill, two chefs on a culinary tour to china. even so, if i had my pick of anywhere in the world, that is where i would go.

when you eat out in chinese restaurants, desserts are not as huge as they are in other ethnic restaurants. to really see chinese desserts, you need to visit chinese bakeries and that is one thing that nashville sorely lacks-a real chinatown area with an authentic chinese bakery. for these moments, i really long for san francisco and new york city-two places i have lived and visited chinatown frequently enough to know what i am missing here! so for this, i turned to books and the internet and i came up with egg custard tarts. as interesting as they seemed, they also seemed a little boring. in my last post, i made plum-strawberry jam and decided that it was just what the little tarts needed! by replacing the water in the recipe with jam, i ended up with lovely little spiced plum custard tarts. they were devoured at the party so i didn't have to wonder if they were any good!

the bread baking babes baked black bread-okay, say that 3 times fast!!! and this was a first for me. it was also a test of my organic grape starter made from grapes in the demo garden where i volunteer on sundays. the starter definitely is alive and it added a hint of sour flavor to the bread. it was tough to wait for it to cool down, warm bread is impossible to not cut into!!!

all i can say, wow!!! thanks to jenn of piccante dolce for the vacation pie challenge and to gorel of grain doe for the black bread challenge. now, if it's all right with everyone, i am going to go to work now so i can get some rest...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

amusing myself again

the last few weeks have been very stressful for me at work. the place is in serious need of an attitude adjustment-come on people, grow up already!!! i am truly living for the moment that i walk out of the door to that place each day and nothing is sweeter than knowing that i do not have to get out of bed to go there on my days off! so how does someone like me work off the stress? a trip to the gym can usually make a big difference for me physically but mentally, that's another story. i found myself just wanting to spend the day at home, alone and surprisingly enough, in the kitchen. sometimes, small successes can do so much to restore your well being than you could ever think was possible.

with my bruised psyche leading the way, i ventured into the kitchen with some frozen strawberries that had thawed days ago and a bag of over ripened plums and i set out to make some jam. nothing like the smell of strawberries cooking to brighten your mood.

the fruit cooking with some ginger root, vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks.

my mom and i love to scour second hand shops, antique shops, flea markets and garage/estate sales. she found this food mill and sent it to me. darry always questions these things-why do you need that junk?? this is one of my favorite kitchen tools and so is the collectible boonton ware bowl under it!

by rotating the wooden pestle in the conical strainer, you can extract the pulp and leave behind skins and seeds/pits.

i didn't get a huge amount of jam but what i got was wonderful. this morning, i took it to the demo garden for our sunday volunteer work session and we slathered it on multi grain scones.
mmmm.....check out the garden some time, it beautiful this year! (a collection of small successes) and for some that are closer to home, my home that is, check out my home garden for even more sweet successes to help keep me going.