September, 2006 Archive

Friday, September 29, 2006

gut, and other ignored things

a giant cupcake in twenty-four parts

It’s a terrible thing to ignore your gut instincts, though I’m sad to say this wasn’t my first time. There was the otherwise-engaged record store Rastafarian, a pair of overpriced, excruciatingly uncomfortable shoes I never wear (fine, several), and now there is this, too.

Bypassing your cooking intuition is a torturous affair. On one hand, what are all of your hours in the kitchen for if not to understand your recipes on a more base level, to inherently comprehend that creaming butter with the sugar, not over-mixing your flours, getting your ingredients to room temperature make for the best cake foundations. Yet, on the other hand, we want to learn new things; who really knows everything there is to know about kitchen-crafting? Maybe the cake will be improved with more salt or baking powder, maybe three cups of sugar in a batch of cupcakes isn’t too much, maybe this recipe makes the kind of cake that doesn’t rise very much, so filling the paper cups to the top as the recipe clearly dictates is a good idea.

this one's almost pretty

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

fougasse provençale + rustic white bread

rustic white bread

Monday night, Alex and I attended a bris. (It’s okay, I’m giving you time to Google it.) The mohel (go, I’ll wait right here) had a bit of a stand-up comedy act going on — “It’s okay, folks, there’s still five minutes to tip-off!” — as did the caterers — “Pigs in blankets? Is this really necessary?” “I can’t believe you’re eating a pickle, Debbie!” — all which did nothing to alleviate the excruciatingly uncomfortable excuse to see, well, just the tiniest, cutest little man on earth who has quickly shed that, well you know, kind of underbaked looked infants have when they’ve just come out.

snippy, snippy

For a guy pretty much having the worst day in his life so far, he was a champ. Twenty minutes later, wrapped snugly in a soft blanket – this impossibly tiny burrito – his mother tickled the underside of his chin while he slept in her lap. Later, we went with a few others to the tasty Sofrito with two couples that seem to want a baby very soon and another that already has two (enthralling Alex with stories of their three-year-old who implores visitors to “eat his butt”).

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

orange chocolate chunk cake

orange-chocolate chunk cake

I’ve been feeling kind of bewildered this week. It started when I asked my husband if he still thought the third year of marriage was an ideal time to try to make one of those little tiny things with roly thighs and he shocked me by saying yes, and it continued when I saw him, more than once, researching two bedroom apartments in the city. “How about Roosevelt Island?” he asked and I went to go rock in the corner for a while. Nooo Roosevelt Island, nooo.

We brought in the Jewish new year with our combined families and our mothers delighting in telling us what difficult, exhausting, impossible-to-please babies we both were (our siblings were apparent delights, or nya-nya, as they put it), weeks overdue and really, it was all very funny and ha-ha until I learned that this one came out, this one I married, at over nine pounds. NINE AND A HALF POUNDS. Good god. I don’t even like lugging 5 pound bags of flour home. How could this work?

orange-chocolate chunk cake

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Monday, September 18, 2006

white batter + chocolate orange breads

slicing the chocolate orange

Sometime over the last couple years — arguably, just as this carbohydrate castoff moment has crossed the American table, or more likely in subversive rebellion of it — I’ve become obsessed with baking bread. There’s something so elemental, primitive about setting bacteria loose in milled grains to feast! ferment! to their unicellular heart’s content, guiding it along with humidity and simple sugars and just when things can’t get any better for the little guys — Wohoo! It’s warm in here! — well, we off them so they’ll taste better for us. Hey, I said primitive, right?

shaping for second rise

So, it is with unbridled excitement that I began at 10 a.m. on Sunday morning the first of three five-hour bread baking classes at the ICE, the perfect 30th birthday present from Alex after months of shameless hints from me. Exactly as I had hoped, I learned a whole lot of new things, some of which I will happily sum up for you in a hopefully less-than-five-hour format.

showing us how to shape a loaf

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

outrageous brownies

ina garten's outrageous brownies

I know that this is quite boring and stereotypical but I have PMS this week and my cravings come with, as my husband likes to say, “very specific instructions.” I wanted brownies. But, like every woman with a spastic relationship to her hips and, in turn their relationship the butter, sugar and 70 percent chocolate that makes our taste buds go round, I paused. And paused. How could I adjust my Very Strong Need for a bite of chewy, dense, bitter-laced homage to cocoa mass with my need for my favorite skirt to fit it my favorite way?

A-ha! I would make them tiny, and I would stash them in the freezer and eat but one each day. Just. One. I am brilliant, a master of compromise, I assured myself and got to work.

A while back, I confessed that my favorite brownie recipe in the entire world was the one I’d been making since high school — the “One Bowl Brownie” recipe from the back of the Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate box. They are dense and chewy and moist with a thin crisp of a crust atop, they’re bitter-sweet and my god, you make them in one bowl! In a kitchen without a dishwasher, they’re a dream come true. Best yet, the actual use of Baker’s unsweetened chocolate is optional; they respond well to all levels of fancy.

paying people off with baked goods

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