Monday, July 5, 2010

Baking School: Week 2

This week was the first week we actually got into the kitchen for baking.  Last week, we just discovered the proper way to measure ingredients, crack and separate an egg.  This week, we separated into teams and baked three different items per team. 

The topics for the night were quick breads and cookies.  We read a couple of chapters in our textbooks ahead of time, so there wasn't a need for lots of lecture.  However the discussion of the different methods of preparation helped to clarify some of the things I have wondered for a long time.  Specifically, the instruction found in many recipes regarding mixing.  Have you ever wondered what they mean when they say mix just until ingredients are incorporated/wet?   And then when you are spooning the batter/dough into the cooking vessel, you discover a big hunk of unincorporated flour/dry ingredients?  And you wonder, should I mix this and run the risk of over-mixing, or not mix it and run the risk of having a hunk of flour in my sweet thing?
I might be alone in this, but I don't think I am.  I have come to the informed decision to err on the side of moist.  Over-mixing can lead to an unfriendly characteristic called tunnelling and tunnelling does not taste good (it does not taste actually, because it is basically a hole in the middle of your baked goodness, and that is not fun).

Anyway, my team made biscotti, zucchini carrot nut muffins, and lemon cookies.  Each of these recipes were selected because they allowed us to practice different methods of preparation: creaming, bagging, aggrandizing the eggs, etc. 
For the Biscotti, we chose to add lemon zest and pistachios.  This was a wonderful flavor combination, but I don't think they go with coffee very well.  I have never been one for citrus and coffee. 
The zucchini carrot nut muffins were actually very tasty.  We made them using the batter method where basically you dump all the ingredients into the bowl and mix.   The alternate method, used by most bakeries these days, is creaming.  The result of the creaming method is a more cake-like muffin - basically eating cake for breakfast (that is something I can get behind!).  The result of the batter method is a heartier muffin, something more wholesome and satisfying for breakfast.  These muffins were very tasty and hearty, even with the addition of bran (something I usually tend to keep far away). 
For the lemon wafer cookies, we got to work with the creaming method and the bagging method.  It was very easy to do the creaming method, because anybody who has made a cake from scratch has done this.  It is basically just creaming the butter and the sugar until a desired result is reached.  The bagging method is where you place the dough in a piping bag and pipe the cookies onto a cookie sheet.  I have never done this for a cookie; but I find it useful because it produced even sized cookies. 

The other team made corn bread, tea cookies, and a different variation of biscotti.   The best part is we all get to taste and take home some of the results! 

Menu Plan Monday: Week of July 5-11

This week we are trying something different as part of the All You Grocery Challenge.  We are going vegetarian!  It has been hard to come up with all new recipes for veggie week, but I have figured it out and I hope it goes well.  Here is the rundown:

Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Vegetable and Brown Rice Stir Fry

Lunch: Fresh Pesto Pasta Salad, Fruit
Dinner: Hearty Minestrone w/ Barley, Sage, and Beans

Lunch: Grilled Cheese
Dinner: Ranch Style Beans, Cornbread

Lunch: Couscous Salad w/chickpeas
Dinner: Bacon (sneaking in some meat!), Lettuce, Avocado Bread Salad

Lunch: Spicy Southwest Sandwiches
Dinner: Tomato-Jalapeno Pasta

Lunch: Egg Salad Sandwiches
Dinner: on the way to a concert in LA

Lunch: TBD
Dinner:  Sopes with Black Beans