Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category
I’ve never been a huge pancake fan personally. It’s not that I don’t like pancakes; they are a great excuse to break out the maple syrup on a Saturday morning, and they blend brilliantly with fresh blueberries or strawberries. I suppose my disinterest stemmed from the fact that given the choice between a pancake or a waffle, who in their right mind would rather have a pancake? Waffles with they’re compartmentalized pockets perfect for holding ingredients, firm crispy texture and toaster friendly nature just seemed like the superior product. Not to mention growing up going to the local Waffle House in the wee hours had a more than a little impact on my preferences.
But growing older, I suppose my tastes are evolving. Not so much for pancakes, but for similar doughy breakfast substitutes. I wasn’t planning on toying around with what I didn’t consider to be broken, but a friend of mine turned me onto Orangette’s new cookbookfeaturing Dutch Baby pancakes. A baked pancake that required the use of one of my beloved cast iron skillets? There was simply no way this wasn’t going to get tried out. So enjoy, they reminded vaguely of the New Orleans’ beignets I still love to this day.
What better filler is there to complement a BBQ than cornbread? It’s easy, tasty, and matches perfectly with anything you eat without utensils. Depending on where you grew up the type of cornbread you were exposed to may vary. I’m a regional mutt so I had a taste of both the sweeter, cakelike Northern variation as well as the crumbly, salty Southern style. And I really dig on both when done well.
Lately I’ve been trying recreate a version I have fond memories of growing up. And I’ve failed.. a lot.. each failure closer and more tasty to what I’ve been shooting for but fail none-the-less. Oh don’t get me wrong, as a result of my missteps I can make some damn tasty cornbread, but that adored variation I’m secretly terrified was just Jiffy mix is a mystical and allusive bitch.
Creating a moist, delicate texture as well as having that corny flavor while balancing sweet, salty and savory tastes is worth a few dozen more tries. Until I’ve perfected this seemingly impossible cornbread, enjoy one of my favorite “southwest style” cornbread that’s just brilliant in a cast iron skillet.
Oh my fucking God. Just look at it! The glorious, glorious chasm that is the crack in a freshly baked loaf of bread. Can you hear the crackling!? That snap crackle and pop sound that is a deflating load of bread? Ahhhh.. Hallelujah.
So I’m not much of a baker. There’s something about the science of measuring every goddamn ingredient perfectly, slowly but surely mixing and mixing and waiting that drives me mad. But my buddy Robin, being the exceptional world traveler he is, has taken the art of bread making to heart, even making a point to bake his own sandwich bread every couple of weeks. Maybe it was growing up in San Francisco and one of the more progressive food movements in the country. Maybe it was his years of grad school in Paris surrounded by some of the best bakeries in the world. Or maybe it’s just that he loves the systematic, slow process of baking, but Robin knows his bread.
That being said, when the subject peaked my interest, Robin was the guy to talk to. He gave me some insight on a recipe he came across that even a baking hater like myself couldn’t fuck up. I wasn’t around for the first 18 hours of mixing and rising, but the no knead bread recipe Robin found made a lot of sense to me.
If I was going to be on Top Chef (which I’m well aware is never going to happen), one thing I would master before at some point and time before the contest starts would be making a perfect souffle. I’ve been watching Top Chef for five seasons now and time and time again this dish has caused nothing but heartache and frustration. Anthony Bourdain talked about how it was without question the most difficult station to manage while in culinary school. It’s a dish few restaurants will serve and even when they do they usually specify that the dish will take an unusual amount of time. So I decided I wanted to see how difficult putting together this fragile dish would be expecting to fail miserably. What can I say? I like a challenge.
Surprisingly, I was pretty happy with the result. Trying to put this dish together gave me a pretty good understanding of the importance of each step. Making a souffle isn’t really that hard, but like most baking, it’s a goddamn science in that each step needs to be done just right … and I usually hate science.