Friday, August 29, 2008

Yogurt (and yogurt byproducts)

I looked up a ton of yogurt recipes before I tried this and they were all more or less the same. 8-ish cups milk, 1/2-ish cup yogurt starter, maybe 1/3 cup powdered milk (I did not use this), temp goes up, then down, then stays the same for 3 to 18 hours. Here is what I did and Grace and I ate a bunch and no one has a tummy ache.

I put a quart of milk in a pan and brought the temp up to 180 degrees over low heat. (I kept a thermometer in the whole time). Then I turned the heat off and let it cool to 110 degrees and stirred in 1/2 cup Nancy's yogurt, because it is the best kind. I was baking bread and cobbler and cookies this day so I just left the pot on the stove where it was warm all day long. If the temp went down to like 95 degrees or so I turned the heat back on low for a second. I just tried to keep the temp between 95 and 110. About 8 or 10 hours into this process a big layer of whey formed at the top. I get a little thrill any time whey separates, so this was fun. Some of the recipes mentioned this and some did not. The ones that did said to either pour it off, mix it in, or soak it up with paper towels. I like thick yogurt so I didn't want to mix it in. But I was feeling lazy, so I poured into some muslin and let it hang for about 20 minutes. The yogurt is thick and creamy and mild. Easy-peasy. You just have to hang out all day. We put honey and cinnamon on it and Grace said it was "scrumptious." Also I saved the whey and made pancakes with it.

And just in case you want it: Whey Pancakes (KAF!)

2 cups flour (white or whole wheat)
1-2 Tablespoons sugar, honey, or syrup
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups whey
2 eggs
2-4 Tablespoons oil

Mix dry stuff together. Mix wet stuff together. Mix those together until JUST combined. And cook 'em up. If ya'll have a sourdough pancake recipe I will die of delight. I love pancakes, but I LOVE sourdough pancakes.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Oops.  I forgot the Toasted Bread Crumb Topping Recipe (although you probably could have figured it out. . .)

Toasted Bread Crumb Topping

4 slices white sandwich bread, quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
salt and ground black pepper

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees.  Pulse the bread and butter in a food processor to course crumbs, about 6 pushes.  Spread the crumbs out over a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden and dry, 20 to 30 minutes.  Let the crumbs cool, then toss with the parsley; season with salt and pepper to taste.
So, today I bought a freezer.  (Thanks to Megan for helping me pick it up!  Freezers don't fit so well in Civics).  In honor of my intense freezer-love, I am posting my absolute favorite freezer recipe ever.  (It's from the Cook's Illustrated The Best Make-Ahead Recipe).

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

1 recipe Toasted Bread Crumb Topping
1 pound elbow macaroni
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press 
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1 pound colby cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
Ground black pepper

1.  Make the topping and set aside.  Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a Dutch oven over high heat.  Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the macaroni and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.  Drain the pasta and leave it in the colander; set aside.
2.  Wipe the pot dry, add the butter, and set over medium heat until melted.  Stir in the garlic, mustard and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk.  Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking often, until large bubbles form on the surface and the mixture is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.  Off the heat, gradually whisk in the colby and cheddar until completely melted.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir the drained pasta into the cheese sauce, breaking up any clumps, until well combined.  Pour into a 13 by 9-inch baking dish and sprinkle with the crumb topping.  
4.  TO STORE: Wrap the dish tightly with plastic wrap and then foil and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month.  (If frozen, the casserole must be thawed completely in the refrigerator, about 24 hours.)
5.  TO SERVE:  Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Unwrap the dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Bake until the filling is hot throughout, 40 to 45 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue to bake until the crumbs are crisp, 15 to 20 minutes longer.  
6.  TO SERVE RIGHT AWAY  Bake the casserole in a 400 degree oven, uncovered, until the sauce is bubbling and the crumbs are crisp, 25 to 35 minutes.

I like to split it into 2 8x8 pans and freeze it that way (since there's only two of us).  Also, if you let it cool on the counter for two hours and then wrap it up, you get less condensation on the plastic wrap.

I LOVE freezer meals, since I don't always feel very motivated to cook.  There's nothing better than having something already made that I don't have to think very hard about.  All I have to remember to do is put it in the fridge the night before.  Also, I freeze this (and other meals) in small ziploc containers for individual sized dinners and lunches that I can microwave.  They aren't quite as good, but it's better than cold cereal.

 This is my freezer container of choice because it's cheap and I can keep TONS of them on hand (like 9 or 10).  I haven't been able to find them here in Oregon (I haven't looked very hard though), so my mom sends them to me from North Carolina.

I also like to use the Glad Press-n-Seal to wrap them up, because it sticks REALLY well and makes a nice seal for the freezer.

U-Pick Love

So, google has scrambled the order of my pictures.  And I am feeling lazy.  So, you're going to have to deal with a slightly confusing picture montage.  And blogger has decided that we're going to talk about canning first.

Peeling peaches and slicing them in half and shoving them into jars.  (We blanched them first to make peeling them incredibly easy).
Blanching peaches and heating the empty jars so they stay clean.  (No botulism in these peaches!)
Pouring syrup into the jars to fill up the cracks.
Seven quarts ready to be lowered into the boiling water and sealed.
Picking monster blackberries.
Heading to the corn.
Picking corn.  (Boy, my explanations sure are helpful. . .)
Our harvest.
Picking peaches.
Grace being super-strong.

Grace and her blueberries.
The king of blackberries.

Anyway, as you can tell by the pictures, we had a great time.  it was so much fun to go out and pick all that luscious fruit.  (And can it).  While we were canning, Megan mentioned that the jars of peaches looked like August, bottled, and I have to agree with her.  When we open them in February, it will remind us that it will get sunny again.  Eventually.  


Last night I made yogurt! Greek yogurt! It is thick and creamy and delicious with honey. This morning I made pancakes with the leftover whey and ate them with blueberries I picked this week, and home made yogurt. How balls out is that? And speaking of breakfast here is a tasty fast and awesome recipe.

My Favorite Scones! (from Martha Stewart) I have been making these since college. Lets all pretend it hasn't been that long. Here's the recipe:

1&1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2&1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2&1/2 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 cup dried cherries, blueberries, cranberries, one or all of these or something else
2&1/2 sticks chilled butter cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2/3 cup buttermilk

Combine all dry ingredients and chopped cherries, in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment.

Add butter and mix on medium-low until it resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and mix until combined.

Turn out mixture onto a clean work surface. With hands quickly pat mixture into a 16 by 3&1/2 inch rectangle that is 1&1/2 inch high. Score the rectangle into ten triangles. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for about two hours.

Cut into triangles. Now you can either bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until light and golden, or you can put into a plastic bag separated with waxed paper until you are ready to bake 'em. They keep at least a month, but they have never stayed in the freezer longer than that. Brush with cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar before you bake them if you have it on hand. They are good without it too. Also they like to have about two inches of room on the baking sheet.

These are so so so good and you can wake up, preheat the oven, put on a cup of coffee, take a shower and be done in time for Fresh Baked Scones!

Cooking School

Last night Zana and I cooked. Zana is learning to cook without boxes and cans, and I am helping. This makes me feel a little pompous and silly, but she asked so there we are. I thought it might be fun to talk about what we are cooking and learning. If you all don't feel like this is useful or relevent, or if it is just boring, let me know and I will quit. That said , background:

Zana asked me to help her learn to cook some simple, tasty meals, and maybe some stuff that looks more impressive later on. The problem with Zana (forgive me, Zana, it's probably the only one) is that she does not like vegetables, she does not particularly like meat, she hates fish, and as far as I can tell she is not crazy about beans either. Or soup. As you can immagine, this makes meal planning difficult. Fortunately, I have a five year old so I have had practice with just this sort of food prefrence.

Last night we made cruncy chicken "toes" and cauliflower couscous. Zana did it. I just found stuff in my kitchen and showed her how to hold a knife. Here are the recipes

Crunchy Chicken "Toes" (from Rachael Ray)
1 cup corn flakes (I use honey corn flakes)
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1-2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 & 1/2 pounds chicken breast, cut into two inch strips
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 beaten eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Crunch up the corn flakes and then mix them with all ingredients up to the chicken in a bowl.

Put the flour in another bowl and the eggs in thier own bowl too.

Dredge chicken in 1) flour, 2) eggs, 3) crunchy corn flake mix. And then put them on an oiled or covered baking sheet.

Bake for about 15 minutes until crunhy, brown, and free of deadly salmonilla.

(Dip 'em in BBQ sauce if you like it)

Cauliflower Couscous (from my head)
A smallish head of cauliflower
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil
onions if you like them.
A cup or two of dry couscous
Enough water or broth to cook it (follow box instructions).

Make the couscous and set it aside

Chop the cauliflower coarsly and then put it in a food processer. Pulse a few times until it is a little bigger than the size and consistency of couscous.

If you like onions chop em up and cook em in a pan with the olive oil. Honestly they are good carmelized, cooked soft and sweet, barely cooked. Whatever you like that day.

When the onions are about three minutes from perfect, put the cauliflower in the pan. And some salt. If you are not using the onions just put them in the hot pan. They cook really quick because they are so small. You want them to be soft but not mushy, and maybe a little brown. Use enough oil to coat them well.

After about two or three minutes add the garlic and cook another minute or so. Then add the couscous and mix it together well.

That it. Delicious. It's good with red pepper flakes too, if you like it spicy. Make sure you add enough salt. It makes a big diference.

Thats it. Zana did it all and she ate it all too. The chicken is especially good, she said. I love the cauliflower, but Zana thought is was just edible. Thats a big step up from eewwww, though. Which is where we started. Cheers!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Arrested Development...

... Or How to Freeze Yeast Dough

First of all, this entire post should be prefaced with words like "theoretically," "probably," "should," "someone smarter than me says it will," "I understand that," and "might." You see, I am about to blog (somewhat definitively) about a subject with which I have very little practical experience. :) Awesome. Here goes.

Yes, you can freeze yeast bread dough. Cool temperatures slow the development of yeast and allow for a great state of suspended animation (or arrested development). The key is temperature. You want to suspend yeast growth - not kill the yeast - so ideally bread will be frozen at or above 20 degrees F - think home freezer, not a cryogenics lab.

Most recipes should do fine. King Arthur Flour advises against freezing doughs with a lot of ingredients like cheese, fruit, or veggies. According to KAF (people smarter than me) these doughs get watery when thawed. Doughs high in milk, eggs, or sugar (again, according to KAF) do okay in the freezer but should only be kept a few days in the fridge (more on fridge baking later). I also believe that doughs high in sugar, eggs, and/or milk will keep a shorter time in the freezer than straight yeast dough, but that is pretty anecdotal.

Okay. So, all that said, the question becomes "how do I do it?" The answer is a little murky. I have consulted with my two favorite sources, KAF and CI, and they disagree. Or rather, they have two different methods for two different types of breads. Confused yet? Awesome.

KAF method:

Mix. Rise. Deflate. Shape (place in loaf pan if it is loaf dough). Place pan inside ziplock baggie. Freeze for 24 hours. Remove from pan, wrap with plastic then aluminum foil. Return to freezer. When you want to bake it, let come to room temperature then rise for an hour (takes about 5 hours total). They say you can also thaw in the fridge overnight and then let it have its final rise in the morning.

That is probably the method to use for the whole wheat sandwich bread. It is also the method I would use for free-form loaves.

CI method:

In one of the best cookbooks around (The Best Make-Ahead Recipe), CI developed a few recipes for muffins, rolls and biscuits that could go straight from the freezer to the oven. Pretty slick for a desperate dinner. In order to accomplish this feat, they let the dough rise fully (complete its second rise) before freezing it. Muffins and biscuits aren't yeast doughs - they were shaped and frozen for a few hours, then bagged and returned to the freezer. The narrative doesn't mention any ingredient failures (e.g. can't freeze muffins that contain yogurt). Soooo... that is probably the method I would try for cornmeal yeast rolls and perhaps even the beautiful burger buns.

If I was going to go totally balls out on this one, I would make a batch of cornmeal yeast rolls and freeze some after shaping them but before allowing them to rise and also freeze some after the shaped rise to see what worked the best. But I think I will leave that for you to do!

More on refrigerating dough later - this post is too long as it is! I will leave you with one more paragraph though.

I was intrigued by the idea of make-ahead cooking shortly after Ava was born. So, I checked out a bunch of freezer cookbooks. Most of them talk about getting together with friends and cooking all of your meals for an entire month at once. Not quite what I was looking for. I wanted something that would allow me to put together a few dishes for nights where I was desperate and didn't want to cook. The best cookbook I found for make-ahead cooking was Cooks Illustrated "The Best Make-Ahead Recipe." My cousin Michelle, who is an amazing baker, seamstress, and cook says it is one of the best books she owns. Since I want to be her when I grow up, I will take her word for it. Check it out at your local library!!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

So, Megan and I canned 16 quarts of peaches together today (and we picked them too!).  It was really fun.  If I was feeling more creative and energetic, I would write something clever and post pictures.  However, I'm mostly just hungry, so I'm going to do that tomorrow.  

PS - Annie, do you want comments to email to you also?  I've only got them emailed to me and Megan, but I realized that you don't get any of the comments on your posts. 

Buns and rolls...

I am not talking about my buns (at four months post-partum they aren't worth mentioning) and I am certainly not talking about my rolls... we just won't go there. However, I am talking about two of the best bread recipes I have. For Cornmeal Yeast Rolls and Beautiful Burger Buns.

Cornmeal Yeast Rolls are a tradition in my family. The recipe comes from my Aunt Ramona - one of the best cooks I ever met. No one is sure where she came by the recipe but it is pretty amazing. As Aunt Mona passed away a few years ago, making these rolls seems to keep her with us. Yes, it takes work, but you will be glad you made them!

1/3 C cornmeal
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 C shortening
2 C milk
2 beaten eggs
1 pkg yeast
1/4 C lukewarm water
4 C flour

Cook cornmeal, salt, sugar, shortening and milk in a double boiler until thick. Cool to lukewarm. Add yeast dissolved in water. Add beaten eggs. Let rise 2 hours. Add flour - don't add too much! The more sticky the dough, the lighter the rolls. Let rise 1 hour. Punch down and make into rolls. Let rise 30 minutes before baking. Bake 15 minutes at 375 degrees.

I am telling you, those are awesome. My mom and I are in a magazine for those rolls. Seriously. :)

Okay, so I know that letting dough rise all day takes time and we are modern women. We have things to do! So perhaps you don't want to hang out in the kitchen making those rolls. Here is a very good, very tasty, fast bun recipe from my very good friends at King Arthur Flour. It is called Beautiful Burger Buns.

It is great - the cookbook version adds 1/2 tsp dried minced onion which I love. Again, don't use too much flour. Sticky dough = light bread.

I make the beautiful burger buns for our hamburger buns. Great for sandwiches too... and I am hoping they will be awesome with Meg's cheese! I bought cheese cloth today and will be trying to make Megan's cheese this week. I am going for it!

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Novice Cheese Maker

I have wanted to make cheese for years. I have sat in front of my TV watching boring documentaries on artisan cheese makers with my mouth agape and my heart in my throat. It is like magic. Some heat and some rennet . . . a curd forms! (how does that happen? It's so quick!). A culture, and the whole thing changes again. Magic!Poetry!

But I thought it was too hard or magical or large scale to do it in your kitchen. Then I started reading and it turns out all you need is a pot, a thermometer, and some cloth. You don't even need the rennet for the really simple ones. So here is a really simple cheese I have made in my kitchen. It is quick and easy and no one has died yet. Not even Grace and she is small and vulnerable to bacterial toxins.

Lemon cream cheese:

8 cups milk (whole milk is best, ultra-pasteurized won't work, non-homogenized is best if you can get it)

Juice of 2 lemons

Bring the milk to 180 degrees.

Add the lemon juice, turn off heat, stir a few times and then walk away and leave it alone for 15 minutes.

Strain it into cheese cloth or a linen or muslin cloth. And let hang for about an hour.

Turn it into a bowl. This is the whole original recipe, but I made some additions to the finished cheese that I think are lovely .

Add the following:

zest of 1 or 2 lemons

some maple syrup

a little salt

a big spoonful of plain yogurt

That is it! Try it! It is lovely on toast. When the curd separates it is the coolest thing in the world. It takes like four seconds. Magic. I can't wait to get my real cheese stuff and get started with mozzarella and the like. I can't wait to cut the curd and stretch it and drain it. And I will record the whole thing. I will suck up my pride and ask Mike to show me how to post photos and everything.

I feel the same way about beer and bread and pickled vegetables, but it turns out you can make those too! And yogurt! And it's not even hard.

Also, I added a blogroll to the sidebar, so if you have a domestic blog (or anything else) you like, add it!  (Or tell me about it, and I will add it.)  

The Goods

I know, I arranged it so artistically.  :)  Megan and I spent about five hours today wandering around Portland digging up canning supplies.  We did quite well!  We found canning jars for six dollars a dozen, a canning kettle, a tomato strainer, pickling crocks, basically everything we need.  Now comes the fun part!  The canning!  Don't worry Annie, we'll be posting every step along the way.  (And yes, every time I open a new bottle of homemade applesauce I wonder very briefly if this one has botulism and will kill me.  But it tastes so good).

We bought the pickling crocks off of Craigslist, and Megan swears the guy had Aspergers.  I think she's right.  I've never met a man who had SO MUCH canning stuff and knew so much about it (and could be that pompous about it too).  Oh well.  He didn't try to lure us into his garage and kill us, so that counts for something, right?

Confessions of a fearful foodie...

Cheese? Canning? Meg is making cheese and Laura and Megan are canning? Wow. You two are brave. Since we are all friends here, I suppose it is okay for me to confess my single greatest food fear. Now, while you may be tempted to laugh... I just want to note that if you ever eat at my house you will be glad I have this fear.

Ready for it? This is straight out of my nightmares (just ask my husband - he has to listen to me every night after we have company for dinner). I am afraid that I will make a beautiful dinner, give someone food poisoning, and they will die. Yes, I am afraid I will kill someone with a food-borne illness. E. Coli, Salmonella, Botulism.... etc. As a result, I own more food thermometers than anyone I know (yes, I use them. I told you before that I am a nerd). So things like canning and cheesemaking have always scared me.

Sourdough doesn't scare me... even though the starter is immortal and lives in my fridge. I figure it gets baked anyway, so anything bad will probably die in the oven. (Seriously, if your starter turns pink or starts smelling "off" you just need to toss it and start over...) But cheese and canning, well, I have fear. Stupid and groundless? Yes. Terrifying? Well, no. But it still scares me!

So Megan and Laura, I can't wait for you to can and make cheese and tell me all about it. I want step by step instructions. With pictures. Or at least the name of a good book with pictures and all that jazz. The fact that you two are medical professionals and will certainly recognize the early signs of a toxic illness is only a side benefit. Teach me!

PS - Here is a great recipe for homemade muesli. My husband, a professional eater, brought it back from New Zealand.

1 C honey
1/2 C brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1 C oil

Melt in a pan until even. Don't boil. Stir in the following:

6 C rolled oats
1 C oat bran
1 C coconut
1 C wheat germ

Cook in a low oven (250 degrees) for about 1 hour. I put it in a cookie sheet with a rim (officially known as a jellyroll pan) Stir every ten minutes. It will still be a little moist when you pull it out and will dry in the pan. You can add raisens, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, mixed fruit, etc.

If you are more in the mood for chewy granola bars - check out this link.
Okay. I'm trying this again. Apparently I am the dork because I can't figure out this contraption. I have a lot to say. Ready?

First of all. Annie kicks it and here is why: OMG I have made two fantastic loaves of sandwich bread with the recommended recipes, and I typically think of myself as a bread failure. Even Grace says it is good and I know she doesn't have the tact or manners to lie to me about it. I did ruin one loaf, but I dropped it so that doesn't really count as a baking failure. I made a whole wheat loaf that was very good and a honey oatmeal loaf that is almost the texture of wonder bread (except with white whole wheat flour and oatmeal so you don't have to worry about your bowels)! Best PB&J ever. I'm doin' it I am following Annie into baking all my family's bread. I get a good crusty loaf and I'm in business.

Second: I have acquired a free (FREE!), huge freezer. Laura! You want in on this action? It will be in my garage before the end of the week. I'm so excited.

Third: My cheese making stuff is on the way! Cheese! I have some good vinegar and lemon set stuff in my fridge, but I am super excited to play with rennet and cultures.

Fourth: I got the best cookbook at Powell's yesterday. It is called The Art of Simple Cooking by Alice Waters. Lovely. I can't wait to get started. I am teaching my friend, Zana, to cook and I think we will just try to plow through the book.

Also I am excited to out with Laura and I don't feel at all dorky about it. Well maybe a little, but only because who gets excited about canning? Hey! We should add some pictures!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Megan and I are meeting tomorrow to go hunting for some domestic supplies.  We're going to can peaches this week, and so we need canning stuff!  (And boy, do I love gear, so this is right up my alley. . .)  Apparently there's this really cool store in Portland called Mirador.  I've never been there before, but from all appearances it looks perfect.  Only in Portland could I find a store dedicated to antiquated (but still totally awesome) domestic arts.  Anyway, I'll take some pictures and report back to let you know how it goes!  Mostly I'm just excited to hang out with Megan because I'm a dork.  

Also, I would like to welcome our new member, Annie!  We're so excited to have her as our bread correspondent, seeing as how she is a bread magician.  If I can learn how to bake half (no, one quarter!) of all the things she can make, I'll feel like a champion homemaker indeed.

Nerds Bake

Hi, my name is Annie and I am a nerdy baker. Yup, you heard me. Nerdy. Baker. To most people, those two words don't seem to go together. However, I think they are a little bit like sea salt and chocolate chip cookies - on the surface, it doesn't sound like a good thing. Underneath - they are made for each other. Try the smallest pinch of sea salt on the tops of your next batch chocolate chip cookies... trust me (and the New York Times, who came up with the idea in the first place).

My life as a nerd used to stunt my creative development as a cook. I was so dedicated to following the recipe that I never tried anything new. But then, I had a revelation. I discovered that nerds make great (and creative) cooks. How did I come to this stunning conclusion? I found two companies made up entirely of nerds. Nerds who are some of the best bakers and cooks in the world. Meet my friends at Cooks Illustrated and King Arthur Flour. As a side note, I don't actually know them, but I figure that I can call them friends if I heartily endorse them and pander shamelessly.

Let's talk about Cooks Illustrated first. You may have seen their editor, Christopher Kimball, on PBS. America's Test Kitchen? You know, the guy with the bow tie and apron? Anyway. These guys are great. They produce a terrific magazine that accepts NO advertising. If they tell you it is good, nobody is paying them to say it. Why I love them: They believe that cooking is a science that can be refined. Some recipes taste better than others, some ingredients work better than others, and when put in the right combination, you can achieve something pretty darn close to perfect. CI continually tests recipes, equipment, and ingredients to find the very best ones. The part that nerdy me loves - they tell you why they made the adjustments. Articles about how recipes are developed - not just the recipe. They rule.

King Arthur Flour produces some of the best flours around. They also have a cookbook that is one of the best out there - The King Arthur Flour Bakers Companion. Each section begins with in-depth info on why things work the way they do.

Okay, so you might not be a nerd. Why should you care about these two nerdy companies? If you skip all the info that they provide and just cook they way they tell you to cook (clear, direct instructions) you can't fail. You heard me. You can't fail. They are that good.

If you are a nerd like me, you might be wondering how these companies make you a more creative cook. Well, they experiment. And experimentation makes you better. Just remember that it is better to fail spectacularly than to skate along without trying. The dog will eat the failures.

If Megan and Laura let me stick around, I will be blogging about food. I bake all of our bread (buns, bagels, sourdough, baguettes, muffins, etc). I lean pretty heavily on CI and KAF... but there are lots of great cookbooks in the world (more on some of them later)! Once you get started baking, it is pretty hard to quit. I suppose you could say I am addicted. My name is Annie and I am a nerdy baker.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

So, Megan inspired me to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle while I was on vacation and it has totally inspired me even further in the BODC.  Barbara Kingsolver is my hero.  Anyway, this week I resolved to start eating mostly local fruits, veggies, milk, eggs, and meat.  (Ben won't give up his bananas and I like orange juice too much).  I'm excited - I went balls out at the farmer's market on Saturday, and I'm cooking again!  Hooray!  

Also, I'd like to add jewelry to the BODC agenda, because I got a sudden jewelry-making urge in church today.

Friday, August 8, 2008

So, we've decided to start a club. The Balls Out Domestic Club, in fact (BODC for short). We were sitting at work, and Megan was reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and we started talking about gardens, and how much we want one. Then Megan started talking about taking a gardening class and it snowballed from there into picking fruit, canning fruit, pickling fruit, and wait, what about breadmaking? And haven't you wanted to start knitting again? Yeah! And I've got a wheat grinder, we should get together and use it, and cheese! We could make cheese! Or maybe a compost bin and chickens. Or maybe just all of it. So we will.

And of course, it will be balls out, no holds barred, with aprons. (That we sewed). (Ourselves). (But not monogrammed because that's still too hard). (But maybe later).