The end of a mano? Though my mother bought it for me nearly two years ago as a Bridal Shower gift, I didn’t open my white Artisan KitchenAid until last week. Could I be more ungrateful? Possibly, but in a kitchen with only one tiny counter-top, there is no room for a heavy kitchen tool of limited use, and little reason when you’re an avid devotee of the electric hand mixer.
Oh boy, could I have been more stubbornly wrong? Perhaps what I was really afraid of was the vanilla bean effect, where one use of it would transform my relationship into an torrid love-affair, and there would be no going back. Because people, have no doubt: there is no going back.
Last weekend was the weekend of eggs by the dozen. Twelve yolks needed to be beaten into white ribbons, twelve whites needed to be reformatted as an enormous cloud, and then there were the pavlovas, plural, not to mention the giant vat of whipped cream filling. Just a few weeks ago, my work would have rewarded me with an aching arm and a most-certainly splattered kitchen wall from that moment when I wasn’t paying attention and titled the electric beaters back ever-so-slightly, because you know, that always happens. But this time, my baking left me with a distinct feeling of uselessness. My egg whites, yolk ribbons and whipped creams no longer needed me. Once I put ingredients in the bowl and turned the motor on, I could walk away and attend to other things. Freedom!
Unfortunately, my emotional state wouldn’t let me enjoy it. I wasn’t ready for my batters to grow up and get all independent on me. “Its okay, Ma, do your thing. I can do it on my own,” they waved me off. “What thing? I don’t have a thing!” I cried, peering over the edge of the bowl, secretly hoping something had gone wrong that would require my immediate attention. “My thing is taking care of you!”
Yet, fear not. Whatever melodrama the brashly independent egg whites summoned in me was quickly erased as I used the paddle and then the dough hook attachment to make a biga this morning. Suffice it to say that my days of making doughs in the “rustic, classic preparation style” or “a mano” are simply over. I may love the feel and process of bread-making, but not enough that I can’t honestly say I miss bench-scraping down the counter or picking kneaded bits out from under my fingernails right now. In just a few minutes, that dough hook created the tenderest, most pliable and perfectly tacky dough I have ever seen.
I oiled a bowl, set the biga to rise and walked into the living room where my husband was sitting out his hangover in front of the Yankees game. “Don’t ever ask me to choose between you and the KitchenAid, baby.”
Botulism?! Wha? Many, many months ago, on suggestion from intrepid commenter Cupcakes, I ordered a few corked bottles for about 97 cents each from the awesome Specialty Bottle Company. (Also a great resource for those spice tins.) I finally got around to using them to infuse a few olive oils yesterday, something I’d been inspired to do since I saw the array at L’Epicerie in Paris. A few rosemary springs, hot peppers and garlic cloves on a stick later, I was so satisfied with my work, it should have come as no surprise when I learned this morning that I seem to have accidentally (“Sure,” Alex says, “accidentally.”) tried to kill us. Apparently, the mix of raw garlic cloves and olive oil, surely among the greatest flavors in the world, can cause BOTULISM and also DEATH, and yes, this information has been imparted to me on multiple web pages in both all-caps and exclamation points. I’m a bit wary of screaming web pages, and choose instead to put my life and the life of my one-and-only in my readers’ hands. Is infusing olive oils with raw ingredients really unsafe? No pressure or anything, okay?
Oh right. This is a cooking blog. Apropos of nothing, two weeks ago I made the most perfect rice pudding I’ve ever eaten. Yes, I know, I already said that last month about Marie-Louise’s Rice Pudding but I forgot to mention that I’m freaking lazy, and that one took two hours. This one took not one minute longer than 40, and is an excellent use for that Arborio rice leftover from your risotto al la two-buck-chuck. I kept the flavors of the earlier one, using only half a vanilla bean and a bay leaf (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it), and skipped the caramel sauce. It’s a Gale Gand recipe, and though not from her new cookbook, if this is any sign of the goodness that awaits me when I finally break into it, I cannot wait. Do yourself a favor and try this.
Arborio Rice Pudding
Adapted from Gale Gand
1/2 cup Arborio rice
4 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split
3/4 teaspoon almond extract or 1 bay leaf
1/2 pint raspberries, other berries or dried fruit (optional)
In a large saucepan, place all the ingredients, except the almond extract and raspberries. Bring it to a gentle boil and then turn it down to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom, for about 30 to 40 minutes. Taste the rice to check for doneness. The rice should be very soft and plump.
Take the pudding off the heat and stir in the extract. Pour into dessert bowls and stir in some fresh raspberries, or other dried or fresh fruit. Serve immediately.