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“How Do You Find These Links?”

 

That was the question a friend posed to me last week. We were discussing challah – the egg bread Jews traditionally use for all out holidays except Passover. It’s best known as the bread we break during the Sabbath but it’s there at most holidays and special occasions. Our friend bakes challach and I’ve started myself but that’s another blog.

We were discussing challah and I said I’d found an interesting recipe that substituted apple cider for water as the liquid on a blog called “The Jew and the Carrot” (more about that recipe in an upcoming post – I learned quite a bit about bread and Jewish traditions). Our friend started laughing at the name of the blog and asked me where I found it – which is a question she has been asking me ever since I sent her a link to “Obama on Your Shoulder”. It’s as funny today as it was the first time I watched it. Make sure you watch the credits too.

Finding political fodder is one thing and I find it a variety of different places. But when it comes to food and baking I usually start at one of two places: Saveur or King Arthur Flour. I receive regular emails from Saveur with recipes and tips and I usually follow at least one of those links. In fact, that was where I found “The Jew and the Carrot”. Saveur is a fantastic magazine. Back when I was young and single and had lots of time to read magazines I started subscribing to a bunch of magazines. I had two subscription offers that came with my first Kitchen Aid, one for Cooks Illustrated and one for Saveur and I began taking them both. That was over 15 years ago and while I dropped Cooks somewhere between the birth of my first and second kids I still read Saveur. There is so much to like. If Bon Appétit and Conde Naste Travel had a baby it would be Saveur. Saveur has recipes, but it has so much more. It has stories about those recipes. And they continually ask their readers about what food or cooking tools or places they like. Saveur is not fussy or formal and doesn’t hector or preach.

King Arthur, while ostensibly a flour company has much in common with Saveur. I came to them later in life too, after I started using their flour. I started using bread flour in my baking almost exclusively. I’m not really sure why I started using King Arthur. But they make consistently high quality flour. I still use bread flour instead of all purpose flour but I experiment with other now as well. Right now I have bread, cake, white whole wheat, oo that I brought back from Italy, and two different pastry flours. My alluring wife told me my baking supplies are starting to take over the kitchen the other day. That’s a good thing. And all but the oo are from KA.

I usually visit the King Arthur blog – “Baking Banter” a couple of times a week and I always find something interesting. I learn as much from the questions and answers at the end of a blog piece as I do the article itself. And when people post questions or comments they can also post a link to their own site. If someone has a link, I usually follow it. Like Saveur, the KAF blog is not fussy. The philosophy of the site can be summed up in a frequent quote from PJ Hamel, a frequent KAF blog contributor: “No Baking Police here.” There recipes and techniques are great straight from the website but they are also great jumping off points for experimentation and exploration. Sometimes people posting comments have their own blogs and I browse those too.

As you meander down the information super-highway take off ramps. That’s what I do.

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Fresh Bread at Work

I don’t go out for lunch much at work. Near or office we’re limited to fast food that isn’t great but it cheap, fast food that isn’t great and but isn’t cheap, or fast food that isn’t fast or cheap. While I have a weakness for D’Angelos Number 9 or I occasionally join the guys in indulging in a bankruptcy burger at Wendy’s I have several problems with these places. First, I am cheap. Next, I know this stuff is really, really bad for me. And finally, if I’m going to blow the money and the calories and the fat content on a hamburger or a sub or the like, I want it to be really good. So I don’t indulge often. I usually make my own lunch.

I am too unorganized and my days are too unpredictable for me to make my lunch at home and bring it with me (mostly it’s because I am too unorganized). So I buy stuff at the store and bring it to work. I have fresh foods to make things from but I also have canned, frozen, and boxed items with long shelf lives like any good pantry. I can usually put together a nice sandwich or bowl of something – I’ve been experimenting with chili lately and I’m pretty good and microwave omelets. I keep my office prep work to a minimum because I don’t have a real kitchen.

I’ve been wondering for a while if I could bake at work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bringing measuring cups and spoons, bowls, spatulas, etc. But can I bring things into work but I prepare and freeze cookies, scones, pizza dough, and such before I bake them. Could I bake some of these in small batches in our toaster oven at work. So today I tried my first experiment: fresh bread at work.

A couple weeks ago my in-laws were visiting and I made pizza for them. I had a lump of pizza dough leftover but I forgot to put it back in the freezer so there it sat in the refrigerator for two weeks. This morning I decided to put it in my bag with my computer and see what I could do with it at work.

I started out with a lump of dough and a toaster oven. I used to have cooking spray in the cabinet (it is hard to make omelets without cooking spray even in a microwave or toaster over) but it appears to have been used up and the can was gone. Oh well.

 

I divided the dough into two pieces, each was about 3.5 ounces (I work with this stuff a lot). I shaped one into a knot and one I just made into a round. The dough was pretty sticky. If I were at home I might have kneaded some more flour into it but I wasn’t at home so I just went with it. I put some aluminum foil onto the baking tray that came with the toaster oven. I have to use the foil because people who have used it before didn’t and I don’t have parchment at work. I have foil because I brought it in when people started fouling the toaster over tray.

I baked these at about 450 degrees for between 15 and 20 minutes (I wasn’t keeping close attention).

And I achieved passable results. I broke open the knot.They baked all the way through and had good, stiff crust and a nice soft inside.  For plain rolls they need a bit more salt, I think.

 

So now I have a fresh baked roll. I’ll pull out my turkey, prosciutto, and fontina and I’ll have a nice sandwich for lunch. If I can find a heavy enough weight that won’t burn in the toaster oven, I can each make myself a panino.

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Italy

It’s been a rough spring and summer for my family. We missed a long planned spring vacation with friends and thought we’d miss this trip. So when the doctors gave my wife the okay to travel we were ecstatic. I’ve never been south of Tuscany and we were headed to Rome and Umbria. Many years ago I worked in a town in the Piedmont named Ivrea. It was the world headquarters for Olivetti where I was doing some contract work. I’ve been to Turin, Milan, Florence, Siena, Venice, and a handful of smaller towns in Tuscany and the Piedmont. I love Italy and was glad to be heading back. This was my first time there with my kids.

There is nothing I can say about Rome that probably hasn’t already been said. It is a beautiful, ancient, glorious city. Rome seemed a bit more casual than Florence and Milan. In Ivrea, when my friends were teaching about Italian culture they drilled two things into my head. The first was that ciao is very informal and while it was appropriate among friends it was impolite to use it with people I did not know and might interact with in shops or restaurants. Buon giorno (or buona notte) was appropriate when meeting and arrivederci was the appropriate thing to say for “good bye”. But in Rome “ciao” was everywhere. I don’t know if this was because we were obviously tourists, or because people were relaxed and casual with my kids or perhaps that’s just the way Romans are. The second tip they gave me was not to ask for a cappuccino after 10:30 am. And, in fact in Ivrea, cappucini were not available at coffee bars after 10:30.

After two quick days in Rome were off to Umbria and our temporary home, a villa outside of the town of Todi. We’re always nervous when we rent a place online but this villa really was a villa complete with olive groves (and some 300 year old olive trees), a pool with great views across the valley, and a fantastic covered porch with lounge chairs and an outdoor dining room.

The olive trees were also used by the lady of the house to make her own olive oil and she was kind enough to leave us a bottle.

We had a nice, compact kitchen where we made breakfast and dinner. I was the coffee maker for the week. I’m not sure why other than that I made coffee the first morning so everyone assumed I knew what I was doing. I did not do any baking however. While the stove was gas the oven was electric and if the oven was on while the dishwasher, washing machine, or dryer was on it tripped a circuit and the electricity for much of the first floor of the house was off. I did however, get some “oo” flour as well as some pizza yeast. You can’t quite read it on the yeast package but it’s called beer yeast. I’ll make pizza dough with it and cook it in both my gas oven and wood oven and report on the results. Both the flour and the yeast were far less expensive than here in the US. Two kilos of flour was about $0.60. That makes it less than 15 cents a pound. Food, in general, was less expensive at the markets than here in the US. Being in Umbria there were lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and lots of meat. There was not a lot of fish and the fish market in town was only open on Fridays in the summer. The grocery stores carried whole river fish and we were too lazy to scale, skin, and de-bone it.

As for pizza, there was plenty of pizza and most of it was great. Fergie had pizza almost daily and violated the “bigger-than-your-head” rule on more than one occasion. Many of the smaller places had wood burning ovens which make great pizza. But if you’ve ever built a fire in wood burning oven you know it takes a while for the heat to build. So we saw a number of places that only served pizza for dinner because they would have had to be at work very early in the morning after staying at work very late at night. On our first full day in Umbria we visited the town of Spoletto and stopped at a place that advertised “Pizza at lunch”. I encountered a pizza oven like none I’ve ever seen before here. It was a two story, copper oven. I have know idea what was behind the oven and I’m kicking myself because I was too shy to ask in my stammering Italian if I could take a picture. But it was a glorious sight.

Besides pizza we had plenty of gelato. Fergie and Tommy had at least a daily gelato.

Tommy didn’t sleep much during the night. He was too excited playing games on his brother’s Nintendo, his Leapster, and my Zune at night. And we walked many miles in high heat during the days. So Tommy decided the best time to sleep was during meals.

Umbria was beautiful. It looked and felt much like Tuscany but was less crowded. Also, in the past meals were very orderly. As I already said, one of the rules they taught me early at Olivetti was not to ask for a cappuccino after 10:30. But in Umbria and Rome, courses came seemingly at random. Salads came before pastas. Second courses came whenever they were ready regardless of where we were in the meal. I strongly believe this was because we were Americans with small children. I think had we been Italian or only adults  or Italian adults restaurant service would have followed its usual course.

Italians seemed to have a deep fondness for little kids, even when they are not behaving their best. So many people were so kind and so charming to my boys. Italy being kid-friendly combined with an interesting aspect of Umbrian cuisine for one of our nicest moments. Umbrians, like Tuscans don’t use salt when they bake bread. Pizza dough, however, is made with salt. Bread baked without salt tastes flat and funny to Americans. We arrived in Todi just in time for lunch our first day. The owner of the restaurant we chose for lunch took Fergie under his wing and without either speaking a word of the others language, the man showed Fergie how to put a little olive oil and salt on his bread which made Fergie like the bread much more. The man also gave Fergie lessons in how to twirl pasta. Of course while all this was going on I was trying to dig my phone out of my pocket. I think I may actually have to get myself an actual camera.

It was interesting not just because of the wordless interaction between my son and the man, but also because I’ve never seen Italians put anything on their bread before. They also brought us grated parmesan cheese to put on pasta, even pasta with shellfish. I’ve never been offered cheese for pasta before and I’ve actually seen waiters refuse to put it on pasta with fish.

I visited Italy with my alluring wife and my wonderful boys and fantastic in-laws. I saw new parts of Italy I’ve never seen before and I saw it through new sets of eyes that made me appreciate a country I already loved in new ways.

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Gorilla Baking Training

Sorry for another post without pictures.

Last night, June 21st, I taught my first class in Gorilla Baking through our town’s community learning program. It was a blast. And I learned a lot. We made shortbread, scones, and pizza – in that order which is important.

First, I have tremendous respect for anyone who teaches a cooking class. I’m a seasoned presenter and even have a number of years of teaching under my belt but talking and measuring and mixing while encouraging students to get involved in what I’m doing was a big challenge. Walking into a strange kitchen cold was also a little daunting.

I planned on arriving at my classroom 45 minutes early just to lay out everything and familiarize myself with the kitchen. On the way there my wife called to tell me I’d forgotten my cheese at home so I swung by the grocery store to buy some more. This particular store never has an express lane open and the self-service lane is usually clogged with people with carts and carts of groceries. Why they think they are faster than the cashiers baffles me. A cashier can see you have 10 of one item, scan one, and then hit some buttons to say you have nine more. At the self-service I have to scan each item so it’s much slower. Then I was stuck behind a woman who waited until everything was totaled and bagged to take out her checkbook. Ugh.

I raced out of the store to my car where I realized I’d forgotten my raisins. There went another 10 minutes. Slow food!

Finally I arrived at the school and carried everything from my car into my classroom. That included 10 pounds of flour, 10 pounds of granulated sugar, another few pounds of brown sugar, and all the other ingredients. There were measuring cups, measuring spoons, bowls, (I didn’t know what they would have or not have other than an oven). I even brought my mixer. It’s a KitchenAid and even though it’s one of the smaller ones it’s still heavy. I had an extra mixing bowl so I wouldn’t need to clean bowls between making shortbread and pizza (I don’t use my mixer for scones). Oh, I also brought my pizza stone. A lot stuff and several trips between the school and my car. What was missing? My baking sheets! Ugh. So I raced home and got back just in time to start class. There went my prep time.

I started my introductions while I unpacked a bit and gave out my handouts. I gave each student five full sheets of parchment and the recipes for what we were making as well as some handy links to sources for baking supplies.

I used active dry yeast instead of instant yeast for class. I’ve switched to instant yeast at home but I wanted my students to see the activation happen before I started dumping in flour. So I mixed up so water, sugar, and yeast. I let them feel the water temperature to see that the water doesn’t have to be warm. The yeast will still grow it will just grow slower. And that adds flavor. Besides, I’d already made a batch of pizza dough for use in class that I’d given a good four day rise. It had a nice, rich, beery smell.

Then I started to make the shortbread. And then I realized the one other thing I’d completely forgotten – SALT. Yes, salt. You don’t need a lot of salt but you definitely need it. So I searched through the cupboards and had a remarkably hard time finding some which was really more a reflection of my agitated state than of there being salt there. After I found some and started baking and calmed down, I found tons of other salts. There were two different sea salts, regular table salt, and my salt of preference, kosher salt! I’m not great at looking for things under the best of conditions so being frantic only made me worse. And I always tell other people to be calm while baking.

My shortbread came together nicely. I showed it to my students at different intervals so they could watch the ingredients come together and see the change in the dough. They loved the smell of shortbread made with brown sugar instead of granulated sugar. It’s a richer, more aromatic dough. When there are just a few ingredients a simple change like brown sugar instead of granulated sugar can make a big difference.

As I said, I’d made up a batch of pizza dough before class to use for actually making pizzas. I did the same for the scones because I usually chill my scones before baking. Sometimes I even freeze them. I should have done that for my shortbread. I usually chill it too. I figured there would be enough time in class to chill it while mixing up scones. There wasn’t. Because I put it in the refrigerator. So when the scones were mixed, the shortbread dough was still soft. We pressed on any way. Since the dough was too soft when I cut them out with biscuit cutters they were too soft. I showed them how to make regular cookies, as well as sandwich and thumbprint cookies. 15 minutes later, we had some really good cookies.

Now I was really pressed for time. I had less than an hour to finish scones and pizza. But I was also finally comfortable with my class and classroom. I shaped the scone rounds, cut them into sections, brushed them with my sugar/egg white mixture and then wrapped and popped them into the freezer. I pulled out the pre-made scones and popped them into the oven.

My yeast mixture had more than enough time to activate now and I started mixing in flour. I used my usual mixture of cake and bread flour. About 10 minutes later, I had a nice mound of pizza dough rising in the refrigerator. My scones still weren’t done. Ugh. I started to roll out my pizza dough. First I worked it into a small flat circle with my hands. They asked me if I could toss so I did a couple of tosses showing them how to use your knuckles instead of your fingertips. I also showed them what happens if you don’t shake off excess flour before tossing. Then I finished rolling out the dough, put it on parchment on my peel, and then added sauce and cheese.

My scones still weren’t done. And I had 20 minutes left. I cranked the oven to 500, moved the scones to a different shelf of the oven and then put the pizza onto the stone.

The scones browned a little too much on top and didn’t let them cool enough so they were still a little soft inside.But the flavor was great. Everyone took one home. Then out came the pizza and it was picture perfect (at least for my tastes) with a very thin, crisp crust, a nice base of sauce, and lots of beautiful,melted cheese. And my students gave me the ultimate compliment when I pulled it from the oven: they burned their mouths because they couldn’t until the pizza had cooled to eat it. And while we were eating scones and pizza, I noticed a second, newer, nicer oven! Oh well. Next class (yes it’s already on the calendar).

And then it was time to pack up and go home. I gave all my gear a quick rinse for the ride home where I thoroughly cleaned it. Except… what was I to do with a pizza stone that had been heated to 500 degrees and would not be cool for a  couple of hours?

I am a slob. And something of a packrat. This time it came in handy. I had a couple of towels in the back of my car. I laid them down, carried the stone out on one of my baking sheets and then put it on the towels. I put the baking sheets, including the one with the leftover pizza and scones, on the hot stone and drove home. When I arrived home I still had hot pizza and scones for my family! It was almost as if I’d planned it.

What did I learn? I did a pretty good job of planning my prep work. It was really smart to have the pizza dough and scones pre-made even though I was making new batches. I should also have done it for the shortbread.

Pre-measuring ingredients would have made things a lot easier. I wouldn’t have needed to measure while I was talking and I could have needed a smaller, lighter inventory. Whether I pre-measure or not, lay out all my ingredients in an orderly fashion so I know what’s in my inventory and where it is. And speaking of inventories, next I will make a written checklist (I’ve already written it up) of everything I need to bring and check the items off as I load them into my car.

Thanks to my students who stayed through my first class and complimented my baking. And thanks to my wife who encouraged me to go through with this. And thanks to whomever approved this class in the town. I can’t wait until my next class.

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Friday Pizza – Old School!

I know I’ve already written about pizza – TWICE. But this past Friday night we made pizza a different way and I think it’s worth writing about.

We had family coming for a bar mitzvah as well as a friend we hadn’t seen in about 10 years coming to stay with us while he competed in a local triathlon. Friday night is pizza night and having seven people (well, six and a half as my youngest son is not a big pizza eater) is when making pizza really starts to get interesting for me. Feeding big crowds is more fun. I started my prep the Saturday before when I made a batch of dough to supplement the dough I already had in the freezer. It took about 10 minutes to mix up and then I left it for a nice, slow rise in the refrigerator. It sat in a corner in the back until Wednesday night when I cut it up into seven ounces balls, wrapped it, stuck it in the freezer until Friday morning when I thawed it out. I’ve gone over this before and it’s my standard process for making pizza dough. My wife made her usual sauce Thursday night and so it sat too giving it time to really come together.

The real difference came in the making and baking.

Friday was a sunny, warm day so we decided to fire up the outdoor, beehive oven. And when I say “fire up” I mean FIRE UP.

This is my big, beautiful, beehive oven. Of course that name took on new meaning when we discovered a wasps’ nest under the cover but I digress…

The beehive is made of thick terracotta. And it gets hot! Forget your standard oven thermometer to measure the temperature. Mine tops out at 700 degrees. The last time I used this our friend Super Chef Scott, was over and he estimated the heat to be about 1200. And because there is no chimney or flue, all the smoke and all the heat come out the front. It is an interesting design. If I get too close, it singes my hair. The last time I did this I burned some on the top of my head. This time only on my arms. But it makes great pizza! The crusts get really crisp and if you like a little char on the edges this will do it without over cooking the ingredients on the top. I ate some leftover pizza Sunday and it still wasn’t soggy.

So I built a raging fire in and then I started putting together pizzas.

I put the pizzas together outside. It seems easier to carry out my ingredients and create a pizza making station rather than making the pizzas inside, carry them out to cook, and then carry them in. Also, it’s really best to tend to a fire.

I have a big, wooden cutting board that I use as a bread board for rolling out dough. It sits on top of a card table that is usually folded up in the garage.

It’s a little low for me but that’s okay. I have my peel – it’s a 12 inch peel that came with the oven. The oven also came with a smaller peel but I don’t use it much. And I don’t stick my wooden peel in the entrance. I have a 14 inch peel as well but it’s too wide to fit in the door and the handle is a bit short. It’s great in my kitchen though.

Once the dough is rolled I put some cornmeal on the peel. I use cornmeal in the beehive for two reasons. First, I like cornmeal and the only reason I stopped using it was because it was really messy in the house. Outside I can just sweep it into the bushes. Also, at 1200 degrees or so, parchment just cannot handle that heat. By the way, any cornmeal left on the floor of the oven after I take a pizza out often will burst into flames.

I’ve started to use a lot more flour when I roll out the dough. I started sticking my head in some pizza kitchens recently to watch how they do things. They used a lot more flour than I do so I’ve started increasing the flour. It’s not as important in the kitchen where I use parchment. The pizza doesn’t stick to the parchment and the parchment doesn’t stick to the pizza. But outside, without the parchment, the extra flour combined with the cornmeal makes the pizza come right off the peel. Last night I was watching another pizza maker and noticed she ran her fingers underneath the edge of her pizza before it went into the oven to I may try that too. I love this stuff.

My dough is on the peel. Time to build my pizza!

Add some sauce:

Cheese ALWAYS goes in first because everyone eats cheese.This is also where I wish I could have used my bigger peel. I could have made a MUCH bigger cheese pizza. Oh well. I just made two.

 

After cheese came olive because almost everyone eats olive. My oldest announced he eats olive pizza after turning up his nose at it for a couple of years. My youngest who used to gobble it down has decided he will only eat cheese and pepperoni that isn’t spicy, whatever that is. Wait until I get him to Italy to try Salame Diavalo… I love Italy. Who else would call spicy something “Salami of the Devil”!

The cheese pizza was in and I started to make one with olives. I forgot about using extra flour and I didn’t have good enough coverage of cornmeal so you can see my pizza stuck to the peel and was a little lopsided going into the oven.

  When the fire and oven are really hot I cook the pizzas right in the door. I used to slide them all the way in but they cooked too fast and it was hard for me to control. Also, sticking your hands into this oven to manipulate things is tough because it is so hot. I use welding gloves but even then my arms get a little singed. where the gloves are not covering my arms. Super Chef Scott watched me struggling and suggested this variation in technique and he was right.

Maybe someday I’ll write a post just on this oven. But I need to play with it some more.

After the olive came mushroom and pepperoni.

These had plenty of flour and good cornmeal coverage and they went into the oven easily without the mishaps of the olive pizza.

The fire burned down and the oven temperature was lower so I pushed the pizzas a little farther into oven to cook.

My family loved it. My wife said it was the best pizza I’ve ever made.

And that was our Friday Night Pizza, old school, in a wood fired oven.

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Long time, no posts…

Sorry. It’s been a while.

After all my Passover posts I decided to take a week off. During that time we had a bit of a health hiccough in the family and I just haven’t had the time or the energy to get back to it until now.

I have a few ideas of things to write and I’m preparing to teach my first baking class so that will give me some more grist for the mill.

Today I wanted to write some more on the myth or measuring. A couple weeks back I was watching “Chopped” on The Food Network. I’m much less of a fan of the Food Network than I used to be. I miss all the real chefs. And even some of the people I liked from the old days who are still on just are not what they used to be. Oh well. But “Chopped” is kind of fun and it was something that my boys would watch with me and my wife did not object to because it wasn’t on the cartoon network.

Anyway, one of the chefs who made it to the dessert round was making crepes. The three judges all talked about how pastry chefs are a different breed and the precise measuring required while the chef (who was not a pastry chef) just dumped the ingredients for the crepe batter into a blender without really measuring at all. He mixed ingredients by eye and when the batter had the right feel, he started making crepes. He won the competition too, btw.

Which leads me to who I want to write about today. The mother of a friend of mine was a phenomenal cook and baker. The dish she was best known for was probably her baklava. My friend, her son wanted to collect his mother’s recipes which were mostly in her head. So he sat down in the kitchen with her and she dictated what she was doing. All of her measuring was done by eyeballing how much she was putting in. At one point she scooped up a handful sugar, dumped it in the bowl, and told her son, “add one cup of sugar.” My friend, being of a scientific nature didn’t trust his mom so he pulled out a one cup measure and she scooped up another handful of sugar and dropped it in. Lo and behold, it was one cup. Mother and son performed this several times and mom was consistently consistent and her scientific son was satisfied with her unscientific but accurate measurements.

What’s the moral of the story? What did the chef on “Chopped” and my friend’s mom have in common and what do they have in common with the way people cook as compared to the way people bake?

People cook everyday. And most of us cook from a fixed set of recipes we make. Since we do it every day we know what to expect and as we become more comfortable we measure less and wing it more. If you bring a new recipe into your rotation you probably measure until your comfortable enough to not measure. But how many of you bake daily or even weekly? So you lack the confidence you have with cooking. And if things are even a little off, you freak out.

I made scones for Mother’s Day. I started out with a recipe in a book and I’ve modified it over time based on things my family likes and it’s one of the recipes I’m now known for. One of the things it calls for is either buttermilk or yogurt (I’ll post the recipe and include it at a later time). I have always used powdered buttermilk because it’s just easier. I can get up at five in the morning get my ingredients ready and then make scones. With powdered buttermilk I always have it on hand.

But I knew I was making scones on Mother’s Day and I was at the grocery store the day before so I picked up some real, cultured buttermilk and used that instead. Of course I forgot to check our stock of raisins and we were out of those so I substituted some dehydrated, sour cherries we had in the pantry. I tossed them in some extra sugar to make up for the sweetness difference between the sour cherries and raisins.  I mixed everything up and I had a dozen scones. I could change things on the spot because I’ve made this recipe hundreds of times over the past couple years. I knew how it should look and feel even with a couple of different ingredients. Just on a personal note, I never like to change more than one thing in a recipe at a time because then your not sure what may have caused any differences in your finished product. So usually when I’m developing a new recipe it takes me several attempts to find what I’m looking for.

So don’t be afraid of baking. Don’t be afraid of measuring. The more you bake the more comfortable you’ll feel. You may not reach the level of my friend’s mom or the crepe-making chef on chopped but it will grow easier over time and when you see the reaction you get for the things you make, baking will be downright fun.

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