Martha Thinks

Friday, March 23, 2012

Excellent Adventure - Breads!

Going to this class is like taking a happy pill. It's just fun. Here is my "mise en place" for my bread of choice today - Challah. Eggs, honey, potato (who knew?).

A classmate working hard on her french bread dough.

This makes me happy. It makes me want to put food in these pans. To melt and stir and blend.

This was one of the first "breads" done today so we all had it for lunch. It's an jalapeno and corn cornbread. Really good and just a bit spicy. It would be a great addition to any Mexican dinner.

Another classmate chose pizza dough. Here she has assembled her toppings.

Oh boy did we all wait for these sticky buns to be done! Something about being in class that makes all of the steps - that seem so daunting when I am at home - seem manageable.

The mini pizzas being assembled.

The lovely breads fresh from the oven. "Could I make all my own breads from now on?" I thought, perhaps caught up in the moment. Would that it were so. But I can say that I will take the skills I learned today and make more of an effort to make it from scratch now and then. And however much I ever pay again for fresh bread from a bakery, it will be worth every penny.

Me and my beautiful Challah. Woo Hoo. I am proud.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Senior Tea

Every year the elementary school puts on a Senior Tea. The kids prepare for a month in advance learning songs and inviting all of the special Seniors in their lives. This year my son - who enjoys chorus usually - decided that the songs were "too babyish" and he didn't want to sing.
That's fine.

And then my mother never wants to go because she doesn't consider herself a Senior.
That's fine.

But I still like to volunteer to make something pretty for the party. All this picky work did take me about two hours this morning. It was SO HOT here unexpectedly, so I kept having to put the berries in the fridge while I dipped the next batch. It was the first time making the pretzels for me. Divine and really fun to eat. I held a few back for the kids at my house ; )
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Homemade Pop-Tarts

So I had a little dough leftover from my pies and tarts class and was going to just throw it away (mais, non!) when I was flipping through Joanne Chang's book "Flour" and it called for exactly the same dough to make her Homemade Pop-Tarts.  I thought it was way over my head, like how the heck do you make homemade pop-tarts?  Step-by-step, that's how.

There's no perfection here, the sides don't match and the jam isn't supposed to be oozing out the side.  But they are AWESOME.  Try them!

Page 88.  The book is a delight.  She's a real pastry chef and owner of 3 bakeries who wants everyone to succeed at baking. 
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Friday, March 16, 2012

The Pioneer Woman

(Let's see if I can use my country speak...)
Last night a bunch of us gals rode into town to see Ree Drummond, the famous blogger, cookbook author, mom and wife of The Marlboro Man. She was really a delight, very funny and self-deprecating at the same time. She said that even though she was in a sold out audience of people who must have come here to see her... she will assumes "you all don't even know my name."

She lives a different life from most people in her Boston audience yet she remains completely relatable. She homeschools her kids she says because they live so far away from the schools that when the tried it with their first kindergartener, she was gone from 6:30 am to 4:45 pm! And even though her admission of homeschooling got some big cheers from the audience she admits she doesn't think one form of teaching is better than another.

I brought my book with me in hopes of getting her to sign it. The line was out the door and around the corner. So my friend Donna and I got something to eat and two hours later she was still sitting in that table at Brookline Booksmith with a big smile on her face, signing books and taking time to speak to everyone. At 10:00 pm there were still 70 people in line and we decided to head home - without a signature.

The web and blogosphere has opened all of us up to a whole new world and no doubt it was felt by Ree Drummond last night as a sold out crowd loved her before they even met her in person.
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Excellent Adventure - Pear and Dried Cherry Tart

Today's lesson, while quite important, did not offer as glamourous result as the cream puff swan of last week's class. This week was pie and tart dough - pate brisee and pate sucre. Whew. That's a tough one. I realized I had been making pie dough incorrectly my whole life! It's a relatively thankless task - until you get to to take a bite and realize you've done it well. Cutting in the butter, stretching out the dough, refrigerating, gently rolling out the dough, 1/4 turns every time and blind baking with parchment paper and beans on top.

Then while the crust is baking, preparing the pie filling. Take crust out, place filling in...bake some more. I was worn out by the end of class! I chose the Pear and Dried Cherry Tart with a little cognac and a dash of rosemary added for flavor. Very good and a little unusual.

I forgot my camera (again!) so I didn't get to take the wonderful how-to photos that I saw in my head every 30 seconds of the teacher rolling out the dough, placing it in the tart pan and expertly cutting off the ends and shaping the crust. Some other pies made my classmates made were blueberry & white chocolate, tomato and pesto quiche, sweet potato pie and a visually lovely fresh fruit tart.

I'm still having fun.
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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Excellent Adventure - French Macarons

Last night a Master Class in French Macarons (the French spelling). We know them as Macaroons. In fact I thought I was going to learn how to make the pretty coconut macaroons like Au Bon Pain sells. Ha ha. The French pastry chef looked at me and said "if that is what you want, you need to take an Italian baking class!" He was very nice, actually, and our class of 10 women was whisked through our paces learning how shiny the egg whites should be, how long to beat them, how to pipe the dough onto the baking sheet with precisely the right "swish" motion at the end to avoid having them come to point at the top. (like a Hershey's kiss. That's what you don't want.)

Then the fillings...blueberry, raspberry, pistachio, coffee. T'is artwork to me.
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My Excellent Adventure in Baking and Pastry

My first job was at Baskin-Robbins scooping ice cream to the point of exhaustion but the more fun part was decorating ice cream cakes. I was just 16 years old but learned all aspects of decorating ice cream cakes and loved it. I thought I would do something "with food" and did get into culinary college but didn't go. All these years later I am still interested in the field and working towards being a cake decorator again and making pretty things.

I am currently enrolled in a 4 week Intro to Baking class. It's great fun. First week: Pate a choux - otherwise known as cream puff dough. We made cream puffs, eclairs and even savory fillings. I made cream puff swans. Can you stand it? If there is a better way to spend four hours on a Friday morning I'd like to know about it!

Well I brought the little swannies home and as you can imagine, they didn't last long. But like good china, I don't think anything has to be saved for "later" or "special" and let them dig right in!
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