Tuesday, March 24, 2009

St. Patty's Day Cake

You didn't think I could let St. Patty's go by and NOT make a Chocolate Guinness Cake, did you? And of course it had Bailey's Buttercream on the inside. I made this for our St. Patty's day dinner at our friends house. Chris made Irish Soda Bread but I don't think he took any pictures. Seriously though, I have to get him to make it again and take some pictures because it was GOOOOOD! Although I don't know which was better, the bread, the cake or Vina's KICK ASS Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner. I ate so much that I ran back to our house to change out of my jeans and put sweatpants on (only after all the other already wearing sweatpants people yelled at me for thinking I should wear jeans in the first place :P) It was a great dinner with awesome friends... in other words, the best it could have been.

Sundays With Macrina: Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread

This week I wanted to try my hand at another bread from the Macrina book. There are a ton of recipes for stuff other than bread but you can really tell that bread is Leslie Mackie's passion.

I didn't get to take any pictures of the actual making of the bread, but it was really easy. I wanted to try a starter bread but I do not have a food scale and I think starter breads are really one instance where you have to use one. So I opted for this loaf instead.
And like everything else I've made from the Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook, it was excellent. It came out really crusty on the outside (actually I think I may have baked it just a few minutes too long) and soft and fluffy on the inside. The only problem I had was with slicing it and that's just because I don't have a lot of experience slicing bread so my slices were THICK. I used this loaf all week for toast and to make sandwiches for lunch. It has a wonderful nutty flavor but its mild enough that it doesn't over power your sandwich. I don't know if you can tell but it also came out HUGE! Each slice was bigger than my whole hand with my fingers spread out. I think my stoneware pan, even though it says is 5x9, is not. I might try getting a metal pan but I really love the way the stoneware bakes.

I will definitely be making this bread again. It was SO delicious. I did leave off the oats that were supposed to be sprinkled on top... I really just forgot but also Chris doesn't like bread with 'stuff on it'.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday's with Macrina: Morning Glory Muffins

This week's pick from the Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook was Morning Glory Muffins. They sounded hearty and energizing and I thought they would make a great on-the-go breakfast. The recipe is supposed to make 12 muffins, but I made jumbo muffins so it only made 6.

I don't usually start off with a picture of the ingredients but in this case the sheer amount of them is definitely worth the top picture. These muffins contain: raisins, nuts (once again I swapped pecans for the walnuts called for), carrot, apple, pineapple, flour, sugar, raw sugar, salt, canola oil, eggs, baking soda, coconut, cinnamon, and lemon juice, butter and vanilla. And then the prep work....

I soaked the raisins in hot water to make them plumpy...

Toasted and chopped the nuts....

Shredded carrot....

... and apple...

Juiced this amazing lemon...

Don't even get me started on how I forgot to take pictures of my first ever chopping of a fresh pineapple....
Mix it all together in the super secret Macrina way...

Fill the tins to the tippy top....

(and I mean full!)

Then bake!

Ok that picture isn't the best but I really couldn't wait to eat this muffin! They smelled SO good baking! I can't even begin to describe how tasty these muffins are. I thought that all of the different ingredients would be overwhelming, but they weren't. My only complaint is that they were kind of crumbly.... don't get me wrong that didn't stop me from gathering all the crumbs up and squishing them so I could make sure I got all the scraps :P Chris loved them, I loved them, they were absolutely worth all the work that went into them. I will definitely be making these again!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday's With Macrina: German Pancake with Apples, Rum, & Brown Sugar

I picked this recipe to do first because Chris and I were looking for something fun to make for breakfast with stuff we already had in the house. The only thing we had to run out for was the apples. Also, because we wanted something a little heavier than a muffin or a scone.

Here's how it came together:

We had to substitute a few things for this recipe. The main thing was the rum. The recipe calls for dark rum, but we didn't have any and since we live in NY, liquor stores don't open until noon on Sundays. We only had Captain Morgan's Parrot Bay Passion Fruit Rum in the house, so we used that. The other two things were minor. First, I don't own a 9" saute pan, I own a 10" saute pan so we used that. Second, we don't drink whole milk, we buy 2% milk so that's what we used.

Wet ingredients: eggs, milk, vanilla

Dry ingredients: flour, kosher salt, sugar

Melting the butter.

While that melts, mix the dry and wet ingredients together until there are no lumps.

Then you pour the batter into the saute pan

After it cooks for a few minutes and starts to brown around the outside, you pop it into the oven to bake.

Meanwhile, you take the cut up apples...

And mix it with the melted brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, rum mixture.

Stir to coat and then cook them for a little while.

This is what the pancake looked like right before I pulled it out of the oven. It kinda made me crack up.

Then it deflated a little and we poured on the apples and dusted with powdered sugar.

Wow. Soooo goood. The pancake wasn't too heavy and really had a nice flavor. It was a great brunch and so easy to make that we will definitely make it again. The only thing was that the apple mixture was a little on the sweet side, but we are blaming that on our choice to use the fruity rum instead of dark rum. We may try it with a different fruit next time. Maybe apricots.

I'm so glad I chose this for the first recipe! I had a really hard week at work last week and wasn't so much in the mood to cook but I thought, hey, this is why I decided to do this in the first place. Chris and I had a lot of fun making it (and eating it!) together.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Challenging Myself... with Macrina

I am going to bake my way through the Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook by Leslie Mackie. Cooking, in general, has always been something I love. When I was little I would pretend I had my own cooking show whenever I made something, even just PB&J. But baking... baking is my true passion. There is nothing like the feeling of taking something freshly baked out of the oven, the smell, the heat, the golden brown crust, the perfectly baked cake... it's like love in solid form. So why am I starting this adventure?

My job is stressful but it is not hard to do nor does it require a lot of brain power. Lately it has been a bit more stressful than usual because they are closing my office and moving my branch into another office to be shared with the team that is there from the company that took mine over. My boss is being moved to a different location than the rest of us, which leaves me as The One In Charge. So I've been working longer than usual hours and am a bit more stressed because of the extra responsibility and trying get all my work done while also doing all the things my boss normally does.

My point is that when I come home, I am mush. I don't use my brain at work, which I think is more tiresome than if I had to use a lot of brainpower. I do the crossword on my lunch everyday just so that I have at least 20 or 30 minutes of thinking to do during the day. I am not challenged at work. I do not have rewarding experiences at work. I mostly deal with complaints and problems, which can be wearing on the spirit. When I come home lately, I can't seem to get my brain to turn on to engage with Chris for more than watching TV. I'm cranky, I don't want to talk, I don't want to cook... I just want to put my pajamas on and veg out on the couch. Which is unfair to Chris and causes unnecessary stress on our relationship.

So what is the solution? Well, I can't just up and quit my job. It's a "good" job. So since I can't just quit, I've decided that I need to take matters into my own hands and challenge myself more. Do more things that require brainpower. (I also need to do more things that challenge me physically, but that's another topic for another day)

I've been reading through Carol Blymire's blog Alinea At Home, where she is cooking her way through the entire Alinea cookbook by Grant Achatz. She also finished cooking through the French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller. Carol is really inspiring. I really could go on and on about her blog but really you should just head over there and check it out.

So why Macrina? Because there are things in there that I have only dreamed of baking. Intimidating sour doughs, croissants and other pastries....Things that will be hard, possibly frustrating, might make me cry but will be ultimately rewarding. The breads in this book sound so inviting to bake. There are also cakes, cookies, muffins, tarts, pies... the works. I also love the section toward the back that has the Cafe Favorites with savory dishes that make your mouth water just by reading the title like Egg Scramble with Delicata Squash, Spinich, Smoked Provelone & Beurre Blanc Sauce and German Pancake with Apples, Rum & Brown Sugar.

So I am going to make at least one new recipe per week from the Macrina book on Sunday. I hope to come out of this adventure a bit more intuitive about bread baking, more confident about pastry and with experience in a broader range of baked goods. I also want to gain a sense of accomplishment and a better understanding of what my plans are for the future. I also, for at least one day a week, want to feel passionate about what I am doing.

Wish me luck!