Wednesday, August 12, 2020

If You Can't Bake It, Fake It?

I am not new to baking or to cooking, but I have done a whole lot more of both since the beginning of March.  Cooking partly because I am not traveling, partly because my two nights of frisbee where I just grab a sandwich or eat after the game isn't happening, and partly because Mrs. Spew has had bronchitis for months.  Baking because it is good for managing the stress of this situation.  Ok, stress eating is good for managing the stress, stress baking helps the stress eating.  And the stress eating has also kept me motivated for the stress exercising.  Along the way, my siblings have gotten in the habit of challenging the family to make something each week.  One of us finds a good recipe, and the rest of us follow along (well, most of us, as my brother resists the herd).  So, I will * the items below that were product of family peer pressure.

    1.  Apple turnover--a bit challenging since making the pastry dough required a lot of rolling and folding and rolling.  But it came out really well and was very tasty.  I made an apple crisp in May, and that was good, too.

    2.  Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pots.*  The idea here is that the center stays gushy, so that it is like eating the best part of hot chocolate chip cookies, and, yes, it delivers.  I went out and bought a set of smaller ramekins since the dish absolutely requires the right size.  The first time, made with a muffin pan, was fine, but didn't get the right gushy experience.  I also made chocolate chip cookies way back in May.  They were good, but these are amazing.

    3. Cinnamon Buns--one of my very favorite things to eat so I made it for my birthday.*  I mixed two recipes as I didn't want to use cream cheese for the icing.  The trick for these is to use dental floss to cut the log of dough into 12 or so slices.

    4. A very simple shortbread cookies for two people recipe.  Yum.

    5.  Garlic monkey bread.  A facebook friend had the recipe on her page, and it was pretty terrific. My family may be doing this in the future.

    6. Pretzels turned out really well.  They only rank lower than the stuff above because they lack sugar and garlic.

    7.  I made a focaccia early on that was quite tasty.  Probably need to return to that.
    8.  I made cute hoagie rolls--I should have ignored the recipe and made just three big ones.  But these were quite good for the shrimp salad that I had never made before.

    9.  I made challah.*  Which was good but, well, it was huge--extending across two large baking sheets.  Apparently, one is supposed to split the dough and make two or three loaves.  Silly me.  It tasted good even as it tested my braiding ability.

    10.  The most recent family dare involved peach pie.*  It was a mad pie, perhaps even evil.  It was fine, but I prefer apple to peach.  It was my first non-apple pie

    11.  I made calzones which were fine, but I prefer the pizza I have been making for more than 25 years.

    Some stuff didn't work out that great.  Among the meh were cornbread (the second attempt will be later this week as the focus of the latest Saideman Bakeoff), naan bread (it was fine but not great), apple cider muffins were fine but not special.

    Some stuff didn't work very well.
    • Biscuits with self-rising flour yet baked with regular flour. My reading comprehension isn't always great.  If I had great attention to detail, I might have remained a chem major.
    • I tried a coffee shortbread cookie recipe on Nigella's app.  It was missing something as the recipe produced powder.  I went online and ultimately guessed it was missing an egg, I think.  Its consistency was only matched by its lousy taste.

    Oh, and cooking a lot meant trying to get out of various ruts and habits, so I have, partly thanks to Nigella's app, used ingredients I had never tried before: fennel (the bulb, not the spice), pancetta, baby spinach, gnocchi, and more.  Which has led to yet more pics of my cooking, perhaps for another day.

    What's next?  Besides cornbread and more monkey bread?  Well, bagels loom ahead as a challenge.  I loved the spongecake we had once a year growing up, so I aim to try that if my sister gets me the recipe. Oh, and I think I promised today to make wheat bread for Mrs. Spew.

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