Thursday, December 5, 2013

I reluctantly put on my apron and... baked.


Firstly, let me be perfectly clear. If there exists a test for what sort of person gravitates towards cooking rather then baking, I would be solidly on the cooking team. I measure with my hands. I riff and elaborate and always always double the amount of fresh herbs, cheese and onion called for in the recipe. The one exception to my creativity allowance is any recipe from the America's Test Kitchen family cookbook I bought myself two months ago.

This cookbook is brilliant. I have not made a dud recipe yet, and I cook from it probably 2-3 nights/week now. I figure after all the tweaking they do on every recipe, the one that made the book is the best it can get. When it says to defrost the corn first- that's what I do.

I haven't been taking any photos of our meals, quite frankly because my family got weary of posing with forks held halfway to their mouths while I snapped a picture. Or maybe it would be more correct to say that Grant got weary of being a backdrop for my whole roasted chicken or tex-mex goulash. Which, before you judge, foodie haters, satisfied both sides of the aisle in a delicious, earthy way. It had green peppers, onions, cheese, red pepper flakes, corn, tomatoes, cilantro, alongside the ground beef and macaroni. And the babes loved saying the word "goulash". In fact, goulash might be my new comfort food. It filled me up better then macaroni and cheese and felt more warm and comforting then a bowl of soup. Mmmm...goulash.

But I have been baking more then usual. I read a book called Made from Scratch and was convinced of the importance of creating whatever food you can possibly make from the ingredients rather then packaged already made at the store. The author is a young woman who doesn't really read like she has an agenda other then sharing her joy of homesteading with others. She started in an apartment with box window herb gardens and now lives on a small farm in Vermont with a bee hive, chicken coop, roaming goats, large garden and active kitchen. She introduces the idea of always buying second hand rather then new. She talks about sustainability, the high quality of tools (big gardening tools and small kitchen utensils) made in the first half of the century and the value of surrounding yourself with unique items that have a story written on them by their previous owner. She spent most of a chapter talking about her coffee percolator found at an antique store that made me glance suspiciously at my glass french press.

A Perfect Bread Making Day
She offered the challenge of starting with baking your own bread. She gave a very simple basic bread recipe that takes about three hours and a little manual labor, which the babes were happy to provide. We made two loaves on Sunday afternoon, which was a beautifully cozy and homey way to get ready for another week. I felt like in a small but important way I was holistically nourishing my family- creating something using simple ingredients and teaching my children new skills.


Braided Challah

So I have been baking bread on a weekly basis for three weeks now, and the week of Thanksgiving felt brave enough to tackle two other yeast recipes- my Gramma's pecan cinnamon rolls and butter cream frosted brioche. These two breads were a staple of my childhood, as my Gramma could whip them up at the drop of a hat, and loved having them warm and ready for us when we got off the bus after school. The pecan rolls are a whole wheat, nuts, and molasses semi-healthy recipe while the brioche are the best decadent parts of white flour, butter, white sugar, and frosting. I was in charge of Friday brunch after Thanksgiving and made them both to compliment the savory egg dishes my cousin Kirstin created.


 The memories of being in the kitchen with my Gramma who kneaded and mixed by hand and sang hymns while she created these amazing breads made me feel cozy. Being in the kitchen while we "pounded" and made full use of the KitchenAid and shook our hips to Fall Out Boy and Thao With the Get Down Stay Down were new memories that hopefully one day will make Pursy feel warm and cozy to remember.


Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

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