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Herb-a-licious!

Herb-tastic, even. So…I have herbs. Ok, I should really say that I have greenery because they haven’t fully sprouted yet, although a few are going gangbusters.

After about a week, less actually, we had some growth in the Tarragon and the Chives. After another day, the basil started sprouting. This is the Basil by itself and the seeds I threw in with the Basil plant I already had going (and I wish they’d had Sage seedlings when I went because I would have liked to do the same thing with the Sage plant.  Following that it was the Oregano, Cilantro and Parsley.

Herby!

See?  The beginnings of something great! What worried me was the Rosemary. It was proving to be a bit shy and wasn’t doing much of anything. This would make me the saddest of the sad because my favorite herb is Rosemary and were it not to grow, I would take it very personally. But, as luck would have it…bit of a slow grower.

Rosemary...thank the herb goddess!

So, not much yet…but it’s getting there. Very very very slowly.  Ok, well I knew this wouldn’t be an overnight sensation of herb-acity! (Yes, I can work in a lot more of these so be careful about how you tread in the comments mein leiblings).

So, today I pruned the basil plant back by grabbing some of the leaves and I’ll use them tomorrow for something. But the thing was about to tip so I figured it was good timing. Did the same with the Sage and fried it up (I cannot tell you how fantastical Sage is when you fry it up in a bit of olive oil) with some Polenta cakes (don’t get excited, I bought a package of organic Polenta from Trader Joe’s, I didn’t make it myself).  So, I had some leafy greenness!

Happiness is a fully grown herb!

Check out my 1970s counter top! You should see the fake wood paneling on my walls. No, I’m not kidding. Yes, I wish I was.

But I can hear you, my gentle readers, saying “The Hell?! Where be photos of the growth? Those herbs are lovely but you didn’t grow them sister, show us the goods!” And so…I shall and remember, patience is a virtue as I have a world of bad puns at my disposal and I am not afraid to use them.

Let’s break it down…going from left to right. The two at the very left are Rosemary. I hope by putting them together, they will compete to grow the fastest.   Next to them, Cilantro in the back (which is something people either love or hate. I love it) and  sweet Basil in front of it. You can never have enough Basil. Really.  Next door to them is Parsley and in front of him, if you couldn’t tell, Chives.   I suspect that is what is going to have to be replanted first. They’re leaning a bit as you can see and what was interesting is that they were leaning into the Sun.  Next, Oregano in the back and then Tarragon, looking startlingly like each other.

A few more snaps!

Basil Plant with some growth and herb-lings!

Ok kiddos…there we are, about 2 weeks out and we have growth! It’s always good to know that the skills you think you have do show themselves!

 

No Garden, no problem!

I live in an apartment. I’ve pretty much always lived in apartments and this tends to make gardening a bit difficult. Our last apartment, we had a sizeable back deck and we planted the hell out of it. The fella built me lattice work and wooden railings to which we affixed window boxes. We had flowers, plants and vegetables.  It was something we both got a lot of enjoyment out of. When we moved, we gained more space for living and way less for gardening.  But we’ve always, at least, had houseplants.  This is the kitchen, as you can see…a veritable see of green. We like photosynthesis!

Yay for plants!

You see that Christmasy looking plant. That was wee when the fella bought and thanks to the tender loving care of mom and I, it is now huge.  We’ve got the thumbs of green in my family.  We also still have a poinsettia that we’ve managed to keep alive (mostly mom) and it is NOW starting to get red leaves again, I shit you not.   So, all this to say…I like to grow things and I don’t have a lot of room.

So, I like to garden and I like to eat…so…so…I think to myself “Herb Garden!” Because really…I need another hobby like I need a hole in my head, but once I start down a path, I jump in with both feet, in the deep end. Shallow end is for sissies. Also, swimming analogies are way more ironic when you really don’t swim. But what is a metaphor between friends.

Herb-tastic!

So, the above is Sweet Basil, Sage and Fern Dill, which I bought specifically because I liked how it looked and this plant looked a little sad and lonely and in need of some love.  These are just to start off and give me something use now, which I have. The basil was used on a little tortilla pizza I made earlier in the week.  It was very tasty and it smells divine.  My hope is that my brand spanking new basil plant will follow suit.

But since buying them already grown is not really the point, seedlings abound! Rosemary, Chives, Garlic Chives (which I didn’t use), Cilantro, Oregano, Parsley, Tarragon and more Sweet Basil.

Seedlings!

So, the pots are biodegradable and once they are ready to be planted in larger containers, they can go with the herbs.  Pretty handy. I hope. In a funny twist of fate, I opted to not use the tray ones above and used slightly bigger separate ones.   And yes, two Rosemary packets, it is my favorite herb. And no, no thyme…it makes me ill actually. And yes, I am sure it is tasty but I am not going to grow something I’m not going to use. No point there.

And so…we begin.

Rosemary for rememberance

And in the end, for now…we have this!

Ta Da!

I wrote the names on them so I could keep track of what everything is as it’s growing before it truly spouts leaves. This way, I can see what is working well and what might not be working quite as well.  When they grow (and I mean, when…not if, I am optimistic! And possibly delusional, which is another story), I will be able to tell by look and smell, but for now, this is a good way for me to keep track of things. And if you don’t think I would have a detailed schematic of a garden, you don’t know how type A I can truly get about some things.

I even re-planted the other 3 herbs in big girl pots, so they know they can stay with me permanently! I had some Basil seedlings left so I put them in with the Basil plant because…well, why the hell not? Let’s run her up the flagpole and see how she flies.

And why tell you? Well, because this is a blog and that is what you do but also because I plan to document my experience in herb-dom here and it’s best I warn you all in advance. Don’t say I never gave you anything.

So…from me and my herbs…adieu!

The line-up!

Mother’s Day Brunch

So, on today’s menu was chocolate mascarpone stuffed french toast with strawberry syrup.   Lest you think these were my recipes, they weren’t.  I stole loving borrowed these recipes from a show on the Food Network.  Ann Thornton’s Just Desserts. 

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/anne-thornton/chocolate-mascarpone-stuffed-french-toast-with-strawberry-syrup-recipe/index.html

A couple of changes I did make though;  I used Challah instead of Brioche.  But this was only because the market didn’t have Brioche (which I found vexing based on all of the random food stuffs I find there) and the Portuguese Sweet was a round loaf and I had no time to go the awesome place I usually get it.  Plus, I was afraid it may have been too sweet. Suffice it  to say, the Challah worked fine.  The other change was to the syrup, I used orange juice instead of the lemon juice. Which Ann suggests.  What I can tell about the syrup is that it was pretty easy and it makes me want to go all iHop and try making a bunch of flavors. We’ve also decided that it is going to taste KILLER over ice cream.

So, the day starts out with coffee for mom and I:

My Tardis Mug and her Celtic Thunder mug. I bought it for her. Don’t ask. I did it out of love.

Strawberries!  2 pints. I went with 1/2 frozen, 1/2 fresh. It’s how I roll.

And the other ingredients…please to ignore the orange peel. That was or the mascarpone mix. Reminder: other brands of ingredients also available, I am no way endorsing said products below! For reals!

Now, since these were things I had never made before, I had a game plan. I decided to take them step by step. Syrup first, bacon (not shown here, I figure you all know from bacon) and then while the bacon was cooking…I could begin to prepare the mixture for the french toast.  I think it’s fairly important when following a recipe for the first time or trying something out for the first time that you are as kind to yourself as possible. Take it step by step. You need to get comfortable with the recipe. If you stress while making it, you will never make it again. You will be standing in your kitchen, hair wild, sink full of dishes, doing your best Miss Havisham impersonation. It’s food, it’s supposed to be fun. Navy Seal Team 6 is not going to raid the compound, ease up on the saucepan there.

So…the syrup, boiling…being all frothy

Now, this did not get as thick as I would have liked it, but it ended up ever so tasty. Next time, I may try a tad more corn syrup or add a little corn starch. I am going to see what it does after sits in my fridge a bit.

So…the french toast. 1/2 cup of this stuff!

You add some heavy cream, some sugar and some orange zest (I only had dried orange peel, sue me). Mix together. And then you had 1 oz of this stuff, melted! Let me clear, if you are dieting, do not make this! This is your full fat brunch.  I don’t want Hungry Girl coming in and telling me how to make this figure friendly. My figure mostly likes me and others and liked this very much.  The word you want is Zaftig, my pretties.

So, I broke out the trusty griddle and we got these puppies!

Maybe not pretty…but pretty freaking delish! I’m not kidding. These are slap your ass good!

And then in the end, slightly blurry…but done with much love, is mom’s plate!  Complete with cards and powdered sugar. Look, I even put the syrup in it’s own little ramekin.

How tough were these? Not that tough. Lots of little moving parts, but nothing overly complex. The syrup was my favorite part and now I want to go make syrups in many flavors.

In the end, it’s not so much about how it looks, it’s about the journey and it’s about going the extra mile for the person who has loved you unconditionally your whole life.  Food can be love and not in an unhealthy way, it can be about showing someone you love by giving them something of yourself.

And that french toast and syrup was the shizznit!

My Favorite Eating Cities

Undoubtedly my favorite city in the world is London.  But, it’s not my favorite city to eat my way through, even though the meal I had at Claridges was one of the best of my life. Neither is my hometown of Boston. Oh, there is plenty I love to eat and I have yet to be as happy about seafood away from home, but I have a few cities, so far, that make me positively gleeful when it comes to food.

New York City: Every time I visit NYC, I choose another restaurant or two that I want to try. From the hole in the wall, A Salt and Battery (deep fried Mars bars I love you) to a slightly more tony Les Halles (I love you too Bourdain), I just want to eat. And shop (for beads mostly). I still want to try Le Bernadin (I love you too Eric Ripert) and all of my much beloved TV chef restaurants. But to me the real finds are the places I just sort of happen into or friends tell me about. I have had some of the best meals ever in the big Apple.

New Orleans: My recent trip there is actually what made me think of this topic.  Gumbo, red beans and rice, Jumbalaya, debris sammies at Mother’s and the mack daddy Beignets at Cafe Du Monde. Those thing are famous for a reason, tourist trap or no. They are the best I’ve had.  I’m pretty fond of their chicory coffee too (and…I forgot to get some to bring home). I hate and drank my weight when I was there and I’d go back and do it again, any time.

Paris: Pretty much anywhere in France is some good eating and drinking.  Bread, cheese, chocolate pate, wine..that’s really all I need. Add in those amazing french sauces and I am all about french cuisine. Even their street cuisine, a ridiculously long hotdog wrapped in pastry dough and other sammies, makes me wistful for being over there.  And out in Provence, the wine and local ingredients are just awesome, and pretty inexpensive.

But, a very honorable mention goes to Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, Maine. Best lobster roll I have ever had, hands down. And the counter woman was ridiculously friendly. It may have been because after ages in line, I knew what I wanted and ordered quickly and efficiently.

So…what are your favorite eating cities?

The Zen of grocery shopping

I have taken an informal poll this week, informal that I just asked a bunch of people I ran across in life and at work, about grocery shopping. Yay? Nay? Eh? And in general, people who like to cook, like to grocery shop.   For me, I find grocery shopping relaxing. I like going up and down the aisles, picking things up and looking at them and deciding if I want to try them or not. It inspires me to try things. And for me there is a certain comfort level with having a full refrigerator.   And lately the fridge had been bare. And dear readers, when I say bare, I mean bare.  You could hear an echo in both the fridge or the cabinets.   I had been busy, distracted and tired and so had barely cooked, let alone shopped.   So, this weekend the Other and I had headed to the grocery.  On a Sunday evening when all good people should really just be getting ready to watch Masterpiece Theatre or Amazing Race. No, I opt to go to a store I’ve never  been to before.

It was Hell. I thought I had just stepped into Apocalypse Now. Whenever I turned a corner I was waiting for Marlon Brando to show himself.  It was, my lovelies, my heart of darkness.  I have heard wonderful things about Market Basket price wise.  I will not go to the one near my house because I like life. So, we went to one farther afield but still close enough. It was HUGE. I am pretty sure that if I had world enough and time, it might have worked. Had I been doing a casual shop with a list, I could have done it.  But I had no list because the list would simply have said “EVERYTHING YOU ASS!”  I made a poor choice and it bit me in the ass.  It was too big, too crowded and had too many nutjobs running around. And I don’t mean just the customers. The staff pushed and jostled and kicked (ok, not kicked) same as the customers.  I was getting annoyed and I was only about 5-6 aisles in.

The cereal aisle was my Waterloo.  I was standing in an empty aisle in front of the Kashi bars deciding between cereal bars and granola bars and this woman walked up on me and just stood there. Himself  said he watched her do it. That she had been blocking the entrance to the aisle when he went to navigate the cart and that he knew there would be trouble.  I looked at her, looked back at my cereal bars and made my choice. She was still standing there, glaring at me. I was not dilly dallying and the aisle was completely empty.  I glared back and we had a standoff. Himself wondered if blood would be drawn. I then realized she didn’t have both oars in the water and walked off. I looked at himself and said quietly…”I hate it here…” “huh?” With feeling now “I.HATE.IT.HERE” “Do you want to pay for this stuff and leave and I will take you somewhere else?” “YES. I HATE IT HERE..HATEHATEHATEHATE” We thought he would be the one to tweak, no..it was me.

The girl who checked me out hates it there too. So if your workers are unhappy then the shoppers have no shot.

We went to Shaws which was blessedly empty and having some decent sales. Sometimes, it’s worth the cost if the woman who has to buy it and cook it doesn’t end up in a padded cell. We have renamed it Mental Basket and we have discussed whether we think a return trip for a smaller shop is in order and we’ve decided..no, it’s not.  It’s not worth the effort…I’m a relatively smart shopper and will just have to be even more diligent.  Because as God as my witness (this post is rife with many a movie or literary mention) I shall never shop there again!

Of course it would help if the three of us actually liked the same brand of yogurt but that would be too much to ask for.

END SCENE

No, not the holidays. The time of year when everyone’s thoughts turn to calories burned, healthy foods, colonics (oh wait..we aren’t in Hollywood), fat intake, carbs and the like. Yes, my lieblings…the dreaded “POST HOLIDAY DIET TIME OF YEAR!!”

Dum dum dum dddduuummmm!

I always find it kind of interesting that we’ve built this cottage industry based on the fact that we know we’re going to indulge over the holiday season.  It starts during the holiday season when all of the magazines and websites exhort us to follow their guidelines for not overindulging during the holidays. We’re to drink water, have a meal before we leave the house, have a white wine spritzer and some carrots or just have a tiny minuscule morsel of the thing we want.  First off..if I’m going to a party where  am being fed, I am not COOKING myself a meal beforehand. I do all of the cooking at home, I am not missing the opportunity to take a day off.  And I think it’s wiser to have a  true portion sized ladling of what I want most because my appetite is not going to be appeased by a tiny morsel. Is there anything about me that would make a person think a tiny morsel will do me? My appetite can be as ugly as an Orc if it’s not appeased on occassion.

And guys…it’s a party! Have fun. Don’t eat the entire crab cheese dip, but if you have some…the world will not end and you are not a bad person. Really…trust me…I know you and I like you. No matter what you eat.

Then after the holidays, the food and talk shows are awash, awash I tell you, with how to eat healthy, how to take off those holiday pounds, how to make your own colonic at home. Ok, I made up that last one…I think.  And all of the commercials about how you can get a gym membership for a buck because they know you really need it because you, yes you, really overindulged over the holidays.  And to make their point, they show you people who shapely and toned and ripped because it’s their job to be such to get you into the gym.  And they aren’t real people, they are robots. And then you get inundating with the stars’ diets and exercise plans. Ok…screw you, if I were getting paid a couple mil to do a movie, I’d be in great shape too!

I like eating things that are good for me and make me feel good…most of the time…I really don’t like brown rice, tofu or whole wheat/multi-grain pasta so you can forget those…and I like how I feel when I work out but sometimes, I really like to eat fried foods. And I love ice cream.  And I have no intention of feeling guilty because I had a lot of chocolate over the holidays. I enjoyed myself. But I like salads too. Your body runs better on better fuel, just like your car…but maybe your car wants a cheeseburger once in a blue moon. I see no harm in that.

I am an equal opportunity food lover…I can take on your fried chicken and your mixed wild greens salad!  Sorry Bally’s Fitness…you cannot pigeonhole me based on my food likes. I refuse to be beaten up by your hard bodies.  I did manage to get some good exercise yesterday though, trudging home in the snow with some groceries and the one gallon jug o’canola oil. Heart healthy and you can do bicep curls with it!

But God…fried chicken sounds awesome right now.

But hey, instead…enjoy this random and gratuitous shot of a Frittata I made over the weekend.

As we get into the season for nesting and stick to your ribs meals you start to hear the words “comfort food” bandied about quite a bit by the tv personalities on your favorite cooking show.   The food become a bit heavier as the days become a bit shorter and instead of thinking of about having a nice salad or piece of grilled chicken, your thoughts start to turn to stews and soups and heavier foodstuffs. Things that remind you of home, hearth and being a kid again.

Think about it. When you have a grilled cheese and tomato soup (Campbell’s please!) you know you are thinking about being a kid and having that as your weekend lunch or after school snack. Although, more often than not, my after school snack was cereal. No matter the season.  As a matter of fact, my after WORK snack is often cereal as well.  And yes, cereal does comfort me but it’s pretty easy. I don’t have to cook it. It takes maybe 5 minutes to prepare and it’s usually gone within 10 minutes.

So, if you make it yourself…is it still comfort food? Yes and no, I think. I do most of the cooking in my house…wait, who am I fooling? I do pretty much ALL of the cooking in my house. So, while I am gratified and often satiated by my food, I am not often comforted by it. Except for mashed potatoes.  I am always comforted by those, even if I make them myself.  I am comforted knowing that others are enjoying my food. But for me, true comfort food should be something made for you, by someone you love or who loves you, because they  love you.  Cooks of the world know that sometimes it’s just really nice to have a home cooked meal that someone else has cooked for you.

My mom hates to cook. And it’s a good thing I eventually grew to love it or else we’d all starve.  She makes a couple of things really well…the Thanksgiving turkey (although I help now) and meatloaf. And she can poach an egg like nobody’s business. When I am sick, all I want is  my mom to poach me an egg or two. It immediately makes me feel better.  But really, it doesn’t count if someone else poaches it. Like the inevitable braids I have to put my hair when I’m sick, poached eggs belong to mom and I have to have them when I’m sick.

And now we get to meatloaf. It’s important to note that I don’t actually much like meatloaf. Historically, the loaf of meat can be made of any kind of ground meat. Ground beef is the meat most commonly used but you can use pork, veal, lamb…etc. And this American staple actually came to us by way of Europe and who knows, maybe even those industrious and land  grabbing Romans!  At one point, veal was more commonly used as it was cheaper but I think that’s all meat under the broiler at this point.  Mom used ground beef exlusively. So, I don’t like meatloaf. I never make it, I never order it anymore and I never think “Hey, let’s get meatloaf”. Unless, it’s mom’s meatloaf. It is the ONLY meatloaf I like and the only meatloaf I eat. Someone once tried to make her and I one and we had one bite, tasted the dryness and ordered out. Man, was he MAD! But, his meatloaf sucked.  So, if I  make myself meatloaf, it holds no allure. If my mom makes meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans (from a can. Shut it! They have to be from a can), I immediately get the whole food that feeds your body and soul. Because it reminds me of being a kid and one of the few things my made that she knew she killed on. It makes me think of sitting at the table with her when I was little, just talking and having dinner. Discussing the day.  That’s comforting.

So tonight when I go home…because it’s been a tough year and I am a good girl, I get the comfort of my mom’s meatloaf.

What is your comfort food and is it as comforting for you when you make it, versus someone else making it for you?

Hiya,

I did take the summer off. It was hot and aside from my baking class, I didn’t really do much cooking.  Or baking. Or moving. I hate the heat. I like fall and winter. That’s the stuff of pies and stews and soups and pies. Did I mention pies?

The baking class ended well and as much as I would like to take Baking 2 with my classmates and my teacher, it is not to be. At least not for now. Next month, I eat and drink my way through the Germany. I am coming for you Riesling,  beware wine growers of The Rhine!

A couple of weekends ago I decided I wanted a pie, an apple pie. From scratch. Because I’m like that. Why walk when you can run? Why start small, with a small tart? Go for the pie! It’s like when I decided to make Coq au Vin. Why? Why not? I got a hair across and decided I had to make it.  I am not a fan of my Coq  Au Vin. I may try it again but I couldn’t get past purple chicken. Damned red wine!  I saw a recipe recently where it was made with Riesling and I wish I could remember where because I love Riesling (Germany, once again, you’ve been warned).

Anyhoodles…I made a pie. From scratch. Proof! Here is the dough.

Dough!

See! Dough! On my kitchen table! That’s my floor!  And it looks right! It was a bit drier than I think it should have been but it stayed together and it rolled out. I like doing pie dough. I actually find it, and kneading bread fairly cathartic.  So, this pie was made with granny smith apples, which I pre-cooked (handy tip…when you pre-cook, you will need 2-3 more apples…they cook down kids, at least I have gleaned this from every recipe I looked at) with some lemon juice, cinnamon, allspice (killer by the way!), brown sugar and white regular sugar. I like the bite of ye olde granny smith apple. I love apples but am not big on Macintosh or Red Delicious. I do prefer an apple with a bit of bite.   I got a bit lazy and did a crumb crust of flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and BUTTER! Pretty freaking delish. It’s the same topping I use for cobbler.

And lo…a pie!

Looks good, no?! Yes! And it was damned tasty, I am not even kidding.  Even I was impressed with it and I am tough on myself.

So, yes…we ate dessert first. But I did follow up this pie with a lemon rosemary roast chicken…which aside from the fact I didn’t like the chicken itself (forget you Tyson…holding out for Perdue or just not you next time), was very tasty. I have more proof!

roast chicken

It still had a bit longer to cook but I grabbed a photo of it before I put it back in for a bit, covered. See that bottom bit? That took forever to cook. Perdue doesn’t do me like that, why you want to do that to me Tyson?! I was really warm and hungry and tired by then so I wasn’t happy.

Last night I made the lasagna that ate Cleveland…no pics. Later in the week, Quinoa pilaf and maybe something with shrimp. I was watching the chick who won the Next FoodNetwork Star (Aarti Sequeira ) and she made this…it sounded really good. I am doing my pilaf with some different things so we’ll see how it turns out. And I may use Panko on the shrimp. I love Panko. I would marry it if I could.

So…what are you all eating? And cooking?

We didn’t just make creme puffs, I am a creme puff. I could never last in a commercial bakery. 3 odd hours on my feet and this old girl hobbled home. Well, I hobbled to the cab stand.  But, I am getting ahead of myself.

So, first baking class was this week and yayzers for it.  But baking is a real laborious process if the creme puffs are any indication.  There are 7 of us in class and all of us are women. No surprise there. I thought we might get one or two gay men but that would be it.   The instructor, Dot (it totally fits her) started out by demoing Gougeres. These are made using pate choux, which is the pastry part of the creme puff. You can use this recipe to make savory puffs as well as sweet ones.  And it also gave us something to snack on during class. Although, I eat cake for dinner so I can snack on the sweet and be happy.

We worked in teams. So, I’m almost 41 and obviously the oldest person taking the class. My partner was 18. She had just graduated high school and is going to MIT in the fall. They have no meal plan to speak of, so her parents thought it would be a good idea to give her cooking and baking classes so she can eat.  FABULOUS idea, by the way. Now, I had assumed that in the unevenness of the class, I would be partnerless. Nope, 18 year old actually asked ME to partner. I must radiate calm. HA! I think I radiate “I will be nice because you are young enough to be my child” for an aura.

So, for the puff (sweet puff) itself, you put butter in a pan with water and bring to boil, making sure the butter melts before the water boils. Remove from heat and then add flout and mix, put back on heat so that it gets kind of shiny and greasy to the touch. Remove from heat and add one egg at a time. And this could be anywhere from 4-7 eggs depending on the recipe.  And then, you pipe them into a baking sheet.

So, let’s discuss piping. Piping is hard y’all. It really is. I am not the most coordinated at the best of times so piping caused me some issues. But here is how I feel about it. Do they taste good? Yes. Am I baking them for business or pleasure? Pleasure. Who cares then? Not me. They looked creme puff like. That is good enough for me.

And then, onto the creme! We chose to do the coffee flavored creme, never expecting that it gets stiff (insert your joke here) and that putting it through a strainer was going to be an ordeal that actually pissed me off. Eventually, we made it look smooth and per the instructor, just dumped into the bowl.  Then to make it less..ahem…stiff, you mousseline it (adding whipped cream) until you get a consistency that looks right. Because  yes Virginia, there is more piping. You have to pipe the creme into the puff.  And this time, I had a wobbly tip and that made it difficult and messy. So now, I have to get piping bags and tips so I can master this bad boy.  If there is more piping when we do cakes in a few weeks, I am pretty well screwed.   But, they tasted really good and that’s all I need.

A few random thoughts: the assistant was just graduating as a pastry chef and they use a mixer to mix the pastry and such. So, should I do this again, I too will use a mixer. There is a lot of upper body work to mix this stuff and then the creme.  I want to make gougeres, a lot. She used toasted slivered almonds, scallions and emmenthaler cheese.  She piped but I don’t think these need to be pretty so I may try those this weekend.  Because I am paying for this, I will ask the “Stupid” question.  This could be another reason that the 18 year old gravitated towards me. The other women had some baking experience. I have none so if I don’t know, I’m asking. It’s how you learn. If you are supposed to share your creme puffs with the class and you are the only team that made chocolate and you don’t share, you seriously kind of suck.  So don’t expect me to share with you if I make something awesome (and I will).  Don’t forget to drink water when you bake, flour is dry so you will get dry and if it’s hot, you should stay hydrated. Really really good shoes. I just wore Chucks and while comfy, not enough support. My feet and legs were humming with pain when I got home. I’ve got some foot issues anyway but this didn’t help. Next week…my workout sneakers will be worn.   Seriously, the next day…I felt hungover, it wasn’t pretty.

So, I do like baking. I like the alchemy of it and how it’s all a chemical reaction. It’s fascinating. But after one class, I now know, that it will be something fun I do at home. I don’t want  sideline baking. I want to bake for people, for pleasure but not because they’re paying me. I don’t want to HAVE to do it.  Sometimes, having to do something can seriously ruin it.  I already have a feeling that cupcakes are going to be my thing. I love eating them so I suspect I’d love making them. This way, I can make the flavors that I want to make.

Next week…we’re doing the pie thang!

Baking Class

For those interested…here is what I’ll be doing in my baking class each week, I got the reminder this morning. Oddly, they had week 3 listed after week 4 in the email but I changed it here.  My one problem is that if I take to this, I have no counter space. I generally use my kitchen table for most things. And it’s tile, so that won’t do. BUT, I did think of something; I am going to go have a largish piece of marble cut so I can use it when I bake. I can just set it on the table and have at it.  I am pretty sure that will do it. I already have ideas for about a dozen different kinds of bread I want to try!

Week One—Pâte à Choux: In week one, we will discover the art of making pâte à choux, also known as cream puff paste. Pâte à choux is a versatile paste that can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Students will prepare and sample dishes such as assorted savory Gougère, Cream Puffs, Éclairs, and Cream Puff Swans. The class also makes pastry cream and glazes.

Week Two—Pies and Tarts: Students explore the fundamentals of making the perfect pâte brisée (pie crust) in week two. Each student will prepare a standard pâte brisée recipe, learning how to roll out the dough and use it in various recipes. Students will make Frangipane and Fresh Fruit Tart, Blueberry White Chocolate Cheese Pie, Lemon Tartlets, Praline Sweet Potato Pie, Cranberry Crumb Pie, and Cherry Pie.

Week Three—Cakes: This class instructs students to prepare a cake from scratch and to bake and frost it with simple decorating tips. Students will prepare various recipes such as an all-purpose Butter Cake, Rich Flourless Chocolate Cake, Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing, and a vast array of different buttercream, ganache, and simple glazes.

Week Four—Breads: Students learn how to work with yeast doughs, rich doughs, and batter doughs in week three. The instructor will demonstrate how to knead, shape, and bake the dough that is prepared in class. Students will make Focaccia, Rosemary Garlic Bread, Maple-Pecan Sticky Buns, Rye Bread, and French Bread.