Wednesday, April 30, 2008

and today.

Yesterday I mentioned a book on baking that I have been reading. My mom recommended it to me a few weeks ago and in a rash of book ordering, I added it to the list. So glad I did.

The book is called A Passion For Baking by Marcy Goldman. And although it is a cookbook, I am reading it. Cover to cover. Which means of course: I am becoming my mother. At softball games in junior high school all the other moms would come and watch the game. My mom, after making sure my 'costume' was clean and that I was ready for 'rehearsal' would cheer from the bleachers cookbook in hand, in between good recipes. She was a foodie before being a foodie was popular.

I am finding this book so captivating because the author is a food scientist. She knows what baking powder is made of, when it was invented and how it reacts differently than baking soda. She tells me to allow some ingredients to come to room temperature for some recipes to achieve a certain kind of dough. In other recipes however the same ingredients should be cold, if not icy. And she tells me why.

So, I know this might not be your niche. I know you are probably not on Amazon right now clicking express delivery for a baking book. But, I'm sure you can relate to the feeling of learning. And learning about something you love and do all the time. And the feeling that you think you have something down when you realize there are other, better ways to do it.

And I love that feeling. But it makes me nervous.

This morning, in my kitchen, as I was making probably my 100th batch of scones, it all felt new. Should I let the egg come to room temperature? Was that for scones or something else? Usually there are some ingredients that I just throw in. A tablespoon of lemon juice? Why measure? Just squeeze the lemon over the bowl and be done with it. But she was so particular about measuring and explaining why not enough lemon juice or too much lemon juice might have adverse effects. So, I measured everything.

What Marcy doesn't tell you is if you have enough time to dress your toddler as the butter and honey melt together. Or if the time in between the first honey glaze and the second honey glaze is enough time to make the beds. And that is the kind of baking I do.

So hopefully with time, I can incorporate her tips and manage to incorporate my own multitasking flair and still get something quite tasty. These scones were quite tasty. But I might need to try another to be sure.

FYI: Last week there was an unofficial English Muffin Challenge day. We are having another bake off tomorrow: soft pretzels! Feel free to join us and post links to your blog with your soft pretzel success stories (or, really, any other soft pretzel stories you might have!).


Melissa said...

I've been wanting to make soft pretzels w/ Atticus- let me know how it goes!

I can relate: I love reading vegetarian and family-related cookbooks- cover to cover. I order them from the library, and if there are too many recipes I want to make before I have to return them, I order them off Amazon.

One of these days, I hope I can come over and try some of your goodies. For some reason, in the middle of the night last night, I was thinking about making biscotti. Have you made it?

Robyn said...

I have not made biscotti. Don't tell anyone...but I don't really like biscotti. Maybe I have just not had good biscotti, but it just seems to hard and crunchy for me.

Loralee said...

Robyn, biscotti is actually really good. The secret is having something yummy to dip it in. On its own, it is indeed just stale cookie. Dipped in hot chocolate or tea or warm milk or a sweet italian liqueur is delightful! I made a couple yummy kinds around Christmas... a tasty orange almond was delicious with any of the above.

I am totally looking that book up. I sit and read cookbooks all the time. Glad I'm not the only one! I love the science aspect to it too. Cook's Illustrated makes my favorite cookbooks--they try a hundred different ways to make one thing and let you know why and how to make the best. With the exception of their apple pie, they've always been dead on.

Susan said...

This sounds like the perfect cookbook for me. My current favorite--the Buddhist one I'm always raving about--is all about, "Who needs a recipe?" I think I've got that approach down and I'd love to be able to find answers when I wonder why my scones did THAT this time, or whatever. I love reading cookbooks.

Melissa said...

I do think good biscotti makes a different. I thought I didn't like it but have had good, fresh biscotti recently and it was SO good.

Seeking La Loba said...

Marti's made biscotti. She should chime in with the details. I just remember her talking about spending hours making it as gifts for the people in her RCD office, and one woman said something like, "thanks for the cookies. They were really hard." Anyhow, it was clear she didn't know they were suppose to be hard and Marti was mortified--or amused--I can't remember which.
I hope I'm not botching the story. Marti, jump in with details.

Firefly said...

It was Karl who said that, Loba. And that was the same Christmas that he gave me his rattlesnake tail, elk tooth, buffalo-head nickel and copper compass in a freshly emptied tin of menthol chewing tobacco. I'd never been so touched by a gift, so I couldn't take it personally that he didn't like my biscotti. I made a lemon poppy seed batch, and white chocolate macadamia nut batch with dark chocolate drizzle. I made plates and plates of biscotti to give to the 15 people in our office for Christmas. That is why it took so many hours. A batch for one wouldn't take more than an hour or maybe a little more. Can't remember.

Anyway, DJ Funk went into the hospital that Christmas with a rare temporary paralyzing disease. And when I went to the hospital to visit and take him his biscotti, there was already a plate there. DJ told me Karl had delivered it as a get-well gift (complete with a bite taken out of one of the pieces of biscotti!). Later, I teased Karl about re-gifting his biscotti and he said: "Well, I should've known. You listen to alternative music, and you wear alternative outfits. I should've known you'd make some kind of alternative cookie."

So funny! Whoever called bluegrass alternative music? And what in the heck was he talking about with alternative clothing!? I'm a jeans and T-shirt girl if there ever was one.

Definitely amused, not mortified... :)

Firefly said...

Kirsten and Eric got me a big red hard-covered book called "The Science and Lore of Food" (or something like that) for Christmas a year or two ago. Robyn, you should definitely check it out. It tells you the history of how humans came to use various food items. It talks about their chemical nature, what the plant looks like and where it originated.

I learned there that chickens began as wild jungle fowl in southeast Asia. That made it so much more charming to see the guides' chickens sleeping in trees in the tropical rainforests of the Amazonian headwaters! They looked so funny. I probably would have felt sorry for them, thinking they were out of place in that wild and muggy climate. But instead I thought, "I wonder if you still feel in your bones like you are right back at home here in the South American jungle."