Monday, September 19, 2011

What Truth I Have

Here are my truths tonight:

*I chose the Trebuchet font just because its name sounds French.

* My dinner fell apart tonight--literally.  I should have read my own salmon patty recipe.  Or added an egg when I found less mayonnaise in the jar than I remembered.  Also, the corn salad with feta and walnuts that I planned to photograph and rave to you about seemed dry somehow.  And my pie crust was tough.  How did that happen?

*I'm as tired tonight as I usually am on Thursday.  And it's only Monday.  And I rested well all weekend.  Where is the logic? 

*A catering bid was rejected.  Back to the drawing board, less than two weeks from service. Now I have to meet and redraft plans tomorrow instead of puttering about peacefully at home, keeping dirt and disorder at bay.  Keeping dirt and disorder at bay is very important to me.

*My neck crinkles when I turn my head.  What does that mean?

*It's time to get ready for bed, and my son hasn't made it in yet.  No mother relaxes under that circumstance.  Oh, and I haven't seen him for two weeks. I kept looking out the window while I was washing the (seemingly endless--I almost shoved them into the dishwasher until I remembered how many can't go in there anyway) dishes. Long expectancy is tiring.

Apparently it's one of the days to bag it, ditch it, give it up, turn in.  Just go to bed and start over tomorrow.

Here's another truth:  It all gets better eventually.  Always.  That's enough to rest on.

Bonne nuit.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hi! I Made Laminated Dough Today. What Did You Do?

My fancy baking fit was brought on by the professional need to practice.  My students (still feels strange to say that) will be doing them in a little over a week, and I am not an expert on them.  While I've baked thousands of pies, loaves of bread, and cookies--plus a goodly number of cakes--Danish and croissants and puff pastry never quite made their way into circulation with me.  The only exposure I've had to them was in school, where they turned out well enough for someone new to them, meaning that they were pleasantly edible.  A fine start, I thought.

Still, I'm the (double ahem) teacher.  I need to be able to answer their how and why questions. I need more than a start now. Thus the practice.

After putting in my training time, it is official:  I am an absolute baking geek.  Now that my class is in the kitchen, I find myself truly excited to see how their efforts turn out.  Today, pounding butter and rolling it into the dough and folding and turning and chilling----I loved all that, too.  Creating happy dough just feels good, and the effects achieved with a little flour and butter are amazing.  My effects today weren't as amazing as I hope they will be someday (there could be more layers showing), but oh were they edible!

When I lifted the lid off the cake plate where my chocolate (of course) filled Danish coffee cake resides to nab a slice for a photo sitting, I could instantly smell the butter, even before the much loved chocolate.  Simple, rich, and beautiful.  The stuff of the good life.  The kind of food that makes me and my husband look at each other while we eat it with what I think is the same thought:  We have it so good.  Home made Danish.  Gyaw!

I think I never contemplated making laminated dough products before because I thought they were fancy and hard.  Fancy they are in a way.  All those showy layers, such a flaunt of chemical miracle.  But hard?  Not really.  There is a level of technique to master, but even that comes down to basics like keeping the dough and butter cold.  If you do that, everything else is manageable. Really.  

Even the ingredients are basic: flour, sugar, yeast, salt, milk, eggs, butter.  They could be purchased at even the most woefully untrendy grocery store anywhere in America, maybe even in a food desert.  What makes the fanciness is how the baker combines them.  I associated them with professional bakers in big cities or precious cafes in faraway France, but by ingredient list, they could rightfully be at home on the farm, too.  Or anywhere one wants to make an everyday amazement. 

I just realized in the middle of the above paragraph that I suffered the same delusion about laminated doughs as I did for years about bread.  (See rant here.)  Somehow I became convinced that both were something that I could not do for myself, so I should just resign myself to buying them. Well, it's just not true. So what else isn't beyond me?  Cheese making?  Bacon curing?  Underwater basket weaving?

I have this teaching job to thank for my DIY thrill.  Apparently it's true that we really do learn a lot by teaching. I also had never considered measuring solid fats by making use of the water displacement rule I learned in geometry so you don't have to scrape out the messy measuring cup. I may not take up the technique, but the ingenuity impresses me.  Go, Holly and mother!

The other person I have to thank for my fancy dough breakthrough is Joe Pastry.  He writes a thorough and wide ranging blog about baking that was very useful today.  His recipe and methods were, I'm sorry to say, easier than those in the textbook assigned to my class.  I really should put a few bucks in his tip jar for services rendered.

I still have half the dough left.  I'm itching to bake up some lovelies with it and share with friends who don't yet know that they could do it, too.  We all should get to know that miracles are often made of the simplest stuff.