bread

Two Ingredients = Magic

Hi!

This one is going to be a quicky, but I just had to share this amazingly quick and easy recipe with you, courtesy of Tasting Table. When it first came across my Facebook news feed I thought, “No way is it that easy. This will never work.” But, it is, and it did. And if you’ve ever felt cornered into bringing something to a bake sale or potluck, or gotten stuck on what to make for dessert, you’re gonna wanna bookmark this because it may just become a go to recipe. The great thing is that you can make it a different flavor every single time without ever changing the number of ingredients. Just pick a different ice cream flavor!

Tasting Table’s Ice Cream Bread

Equipment:
Loaf pan (I just used an aluminum throwaway recycle one from the grocery store)
Large mixing bowl
Mixing Spoon

Ingredients:
2 cups (1 pint) any flavor full fat ice cream – I went with Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia
1.5 C Self rising flour (AP won’t work here)
Pan spray

Instructions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350.

2. Let the ice cream sit out for an hour or so to melt/soften. Then, dump it into a bowl and add the flour. Mix the flour and melty ice cream together until it’s a smooth batter. It will be a fairly thick batter.

BLOG_mix3. Spray your loaf pan with the pan spray, and then pour in the batter. Smooth it out a little on top if you want.

4. Bake for 25-35 minutes. Their recipe says 25-30 minutes, but I’m horrible about letting the oven fully preheat, so mine took a little longer. Just test it with a table knife or a skewer at around the 25 minute mark. If it needs to go longer, no worries.

5. Remove from the oven when it’s done and let it cool slightly, then remove it from the loaf pan to let it finish cooling completely.

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The Tasting Table recipe/article says this bread will come out sweet enough that you could top it with more ice cream. I also think you could use any sort of sweet sauce and some whipped cream, or some fruit and whipped cream, depending on what flavor ice cream you use, but it’s also not super sweet, so you could just use it as is. The texture is somewhere between cake and bread– dense and sturdy but not heavy.

BLOG_insideI seriously could not believe how easy it was. And since there’s really just some stirring involved, you could even get the kids in on the fun.

Happy Weekend!

I am not a morning person.

So, I’m taking Intro to Baking & Pastry this quarter. It is on Monday and Tuesday mornings from 7am to Noon. Yeah. 7 MOTHER EFFING AY-EM. It’s kind of sucked some of the fun out of Sunday afternoons with the boyfriend, because there’s this huge “You have to go home and finish the ridiculous amount of handwritten homework for Baking and Pastry tonight” cloud looming over the whole thing. It stinks. And also, the waking up early on Monday morning so I can catch the bus to school. That isn’t fun.

Fortunately, there’s only three weeks left in the class. Also fortunately, I have managed to function well enough to learn something. Mostly, that if someone held a gun to my head and asked me to make them a pretty, edible dessert or face my immediate demise, I could now do it and save myself from death by massive head wound. So, yeah, I’ve got that going for me.

There will be a recipe coming later this week, I hope, but just to prove to you that things have been learned, I thought I’d share some photos of the work I’ve been doing this quarter.

We spent most of the first four weeks working on breads… including one of my favorites– Challah. That braid is a lot tougher to learn than you might think, but once you figure it out, it sure is pretty, yeah? I had tried Challah once before on my own and it was ok, but this time I was really pleased with the results. I love using Challah for French toast and bread pudding, so I’m glad to have finally learned how to make it properly.

CHALLAH

After week four, we moved on to slightly more advanced stuff. This was about when I started to figure out that I like plating desserts a lot more than I like baking them.

We made pate a choux dough… which I’ve made before here on the blog so I felt a little more comfortable with this one. We’ve made it three or four times this quarter, and I feel a lot more confident. I’m not really sure when I’ll use it again, but it’s good to have in my repertoire.

PATEACHOUX

File this one under, “I can’t imagine why anyone would do this to themselves on a regular basis.” It’s puff pastry from scratch. Granted, once it’s made you can turn it into so many things, from cookies to tarts to napoleons, like this one. But getting there… hoo boy. It felt like the never ending recipe. Make the dough. Roll out the dough. Beat the butter into submission. Roll out the butter. Cover the butter with the dough. Roll it out, fold it, freeze it. Wait. Repeat at least five times. Someday, when I have an entire day to do nothing but make puff pastry, I’ll show you how. (Don’t hold your breath.)

PUFF PASTRY NAPOLEON

 

Cake week was the first time I’ve ever tried to actually frost a cake with any sort of intent. My fallback for cakes has usually been to just frost the whole thing with white icing and then stick candy or cereal or something all over it. That, or sheet cakes, which require very little skill at all in terms of decoration.

I don’t think any professional cake decorators anywhere should be quaking in their boots that I’m about to steal their livelihoods. But, it was sorta fun and turned out pretty ok for a first try, I think.

CAKE

 

And that brings us to last week, which was Plated Dessert Week. It’s the week we spend a full class period prepping elements we’ve learned how to make all quarter, so that on the second day of class we can plate them all up in interesting ways and invite in all the other classes to try out the goods.

One of mine was this chocolate torte, which I garnished with chocolate sauce, salted caramel sauce, and some pepita brittle I whipped up in a hurry because it needed some crunch. Flavor-wise, I think this one was the biggest hit. I think my plating got a little sloppy, though.

TORTE

 

We also made a batch of crème brûlée. The dessert itself is already in a pretty ramekin, and I can’t imagine jacking up that lovely crispy sugar topping by putting anything else on there, but we added some interesting touches to the base plate to up the glamour factor.

HINT: If you’re ever making crème brûlée at home, do your sugar topping in three layers to get a restaurant quality crust. Lay down your first layer of sugar, brûlée it, then let it harden. Repeat that two more times, and you’ll have that lovely caramelized, crunch sugar we all love about crème brûlée.

BRULEE

 

Until next time… Bon Appétit!

Lessons from Culinary School

Happy Wednesday!

One of the things I really wanted to get back to this year is passing on some of the stuff I’m learning in school to you all. These past few weeks have given me some really cool firsts: First time making bread that actually worked and the first time I’ve ever made my own pasta. Exciting stuff, yo!

Lesson 1: Bread

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I’ve tried bread a few times in the past. It’s come out… ok. Edible. But definitely not something I’d be proud to bring to the dinner table. This time, though, I think I’m on the right track.

First thing I learned? Be patient and be prepared. Bread isn’t all that mysterious, but I’m impatient and in the past I think I’ve just been in a hurry to get to the final product. Basic bread dough is simple– flour, yeast, salt, and water. If you can remember 2 cups flour, 1 cup water, 1 tsp instant yeast, and 1 tsp salt, you can make dough that will make a baguette, a round loaf, or even rolls, if you want.

Make sure all your ingredients are at the right temperature. If you keep your flour in the freezer, bring it up to room temp before you start. Cold flour will keep the yeast from activating. If you’re one of those people who would rather bundle up in the winter than turn up the heater, make an exception. Warm up the kitchen a little before you start mixing the dough. The best temperature for activating yeast depends on the type you’re using.

75°F–95°F (24°C–35°C) Best temperature for yeast activity
85°F–100°F (29°C–38°C) Best water temperature for hydrating instant yeast
100°F–110°F (38°C–43°C) Best water temperature for hydrating active dry yeast

Also, dough needs to be kneaded. Probably a lot more than you think. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, that becomes a lot easier. If you’re doing it by hand, remember that the dough should be smooth and elastic, and the gluten strands need to be well developed to get there. If your dough reaches a point where it just keeps snapping back on you and refuses to stretch, put it down and let it relax for a bit. If it’s still sticking to your hands and the counter top after a few minutes, knead in a little more flour.

Lesson 2: Pasta

BLOG_PASTA
I really lucked out this quarter for European Cuisine. I got an actual Italian chef instructor. He’s passing along his family recipes for things like bread, sauce, and (yay!) pasta. It’s such an easy formula I memorized it on the spot.

6 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
1 half an egg shell of water (about a tablespoon)

I didn’t get a chance to make my own pasta way back last year when I was taking fundamentals, so I was stoked to get a shot at it this time. You guys… it’s so easy.

Put the flour in a bowl, make a well in the center, crack the eggs into the well, add the water, and start mixing with a fork from the inside out, slowly incorporating the flour into the eggs until it all comes together. Knead it a few times, until it smooths out, then cover it and let it rest for about 30 minutes. Roll it, cut it into whatever size noodle you want, cook it in well salted boiling water for about 5 minutes and there you go.

If you have a pasta roller, or an attachment for your stand mixer, of course that’s ideal, but I experimented a little with some of the extra dough and found that in a pinch, you can roll it out thinly enough with just a rolling pin. Just takes a little work, and you should not try to roll out the whole thing at once. Just do a little at a time. Also, once it’s cut, let it hang out over the edge of a bowl, or on a sheet pan with a little flour for about 10 minutes to let it dry and relax from all the rolling. It’ll give you a better texture in the final, cooked product.

I hope if any of you have ever let either of these things intimidate you, you’ll put on your big girl (or boy) britches and embrace the challenge. I think you’ll find it’s not so complicated after all, and it can be something you’ll take pride in knowing how to do for the rest of your life.

 

I’ll take my bread on the rocks, please.

You guys… this baking thing is going to be the death of me. I’ve actually pondered doing a separate baking blog, just to chronicle all my baking related… disasters? tragedies? debacles? Whatever you call them, they make me just frustrated enough that I’m compelled to keep at it until I get better.

Case in point, the sourdough. My starter is lovely and bubbly and alive and I thought, “That went ok. Maybe this bread thing will work out, too?”

blog_starter

This is the recipe I used. As you can see, it’s meant to produce a lovely, light, airy loaf of sandwich bread.

I followed the instructions for mixing… combined the water and the yeast…

blog_yeast

Added the flour and salt…Kneaded until my fingers and wrists and elbows got crampy…

blog_knead

And then…… then the whole let it rise thing got me. Did the first rise, then split the dough and put half in a loaf pan and let it rise again.

It looked weird when I put it into the oven, but I thought… maybe it’ll still be ok.
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But….. well……. *insert big, dramatic, Oscar worthy sigh here*

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I went back and re-read the directions and determined that I need to do this whole thing during the day. I put the dough in the fridge overnight to have its last rise before going into the oven, but I’m pretty sure I’d already jacked it up at that point. It was dense, and REALLY hard on the outside. Like, if someone broke into my apartment and tried to steal me, I could fling this loaf of bread at them and probably cause some serious harm to their head area (assuming my aim is that good, which it never is). I will probably just make breadcrumbs out of it and try again on Saturday, when I have a whole day to really pay attention to the timing like I should.

I will say this… it does taste good. If I can duplicate the flavor it has now, AND get it to be all beautiful and light like sammich bread, I’ll do the happiest of happy dances. That starter is the bomb, and I hate the idea of not being able to use it to make something worthy of all that awesome flavor it’s bringing to the party.

So, this probably isn’t the last you’ve heard of my adventures with sourdough. If things go better on Saturday, I’ll post a quick update.

Is there a recipe you’ve tried and tried and tried again before you finally got it right? When did your persistence finally pay off? Tell me in the comments!

Let’s Get Funky!

I don’t know why I’m so fascinated with the thing I’m so not very good at, but here I go again, starting another baking project.

Did I tell you guys I made gingerbread cupcakes in class last week, and when they sunk in the middle I cried? Yeah, I know that school is for learning and learning means messing up, but this is something I’ve made at home before a few times and never had an issue and I was just so upset about it I made a big ole fool of myself. Snotty and red faced and the whole nine. But then three different chefs came over and gave me pep talks, really good ones, and I’m over it now. Mostly.

And now headlong I’ve gone into this thing… a sourdough starter. But not just any sourdough starter… one made with bottle dregs from this beer:

blog_slapyermammy

If you’re not familiar with bottle dregs, here’s the scoop. Sometimes, you’ll drink a beer that has “stuff” floating in it. Usually, unless you shake up the liquid, the stuff sinks to the bottom of the bottle and never makes it to your glass. Contained within that stuff, the dregs, are bacteria and yeast that were used in the beer making process. Those dregs still have live “bugs” in them, and can be reused to make more beer, or, in this case, give a sourdough starter a big ole kick start.

To make mine, I used the basic process laid out here, at thekitchn.com. They do a great job of explaining what a starter is, and why you’d want to make one, but I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version.

When you make bread, you need a leavening agent to make it rise. Most of the time, you’re going to go to the store and buy the yeast that has been grown and cultivated specifically for the purpose of baking. You don’t have to corral all those little yeasties yourself because someone has done it for you. Essentially, by growing your own starter, you’re creating a medium in which you can cultivate and grow all the wild yeast that’s already in the flour to use as your leavening agent, versus using the stuff from the store.

I started with a 1:1 ratio of flour to liquid– 4 oz. flour, and 4 oz of a combination of the bottle dregs and water. The moment I put the two together, I already started to see bubbles. That’s a good sign.

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Every day for the past five days, I’ve been feeding the starter with fresh water and more flour. Here it is on day two:

blog_Day 2

And day four:
blog_Day 3
It’s a little hard to tell, but it’s starting to get frothier and just generally gooey. It also smells kinda sour at this stage (duh), and at day five, closer to being ready to use, I can also smell that lovely yeasty smell. What you don’t want to smell is acetone. If you smell that, it means things have gone a little sideways and you probably need to start over. But, as long as you feed it every day, and store it in a spot with a consistent temperature of around 70°F, in about 5 days you should have a healthy starter that you can use to make everything from bread to pizza dough.

I’m in school for the next three days, so the first opportunity I’ll have to test out my starter in a loaf of bread will be late Friday evening. Of course, I’ll take pictures and tell you how it goes.

Have you ever made your own starter? How do you use it? Leave a comment and let me know!