23 February 2009

Adventures in flatbread

We were invited to our friends Paul and Ann's house for dinner on Saturday night to celebrate (officially) Michael's 35th birthday, and to talk a bit about house sitting for them while they are in Africa (so jealous). We were in charge of salad, and Michael tipped us off that Paul would be preparing lamb skewers. I found a Mediterranean-style salad in my Test Kitchen cook book with radicchio, romaine, chickpeas, feta, and a basic balsalmic vinaigrette. I took a risk and decided to try out flatbread, as well. I didn't tell anyone, besides Shawn, that I was going to attempt it, just in case it was a disaster.

Lo and behold, it turns out I can make flatbread. And got some rave reviews.

16 February 2009

The Birthday Cheesecakes

Friday night I received a rare and wonderful gift...a night at home alone. Not that I don't adore spending time with my honey at home, but I pretty much never get the house to myself. Since I had some serious baking work to do, I offered a suggestion to Shawn that he go out. And he did. Nice boy. I threw on my apron, my music, and got to work.

My friend Michael once told me this nice story of how his mom (who has passed on now) used to make and send him a cheesecake every year for his birthday when he was in college. I thought it was such a sweet tradition that I decided I would take it over. However, I've been a slacker. I made one once a few years ago and haven't since. I also make a birthday cheesecake for our friend, Aric, who is one of Shawn's best friends from childhood that now lives here in P-town. Being from NY, he is very picky about his cheesecake. I consider it a major compliment that he lusts for my cheesecake so. Michael's birthday was on Saturday, and I still owed Aric his treat from December, so I thought I'd just get them both out of the way in one night.

I decided to try out the Test Kitchen Baking Book's version of NY cheesecake. I've tried a variety of recipes from the Internet. While they have all turned out just fine, it was time to settle on one. It was quite interesting, amongst the chaotic Valentine-gift/card buying to be buying 5 lbs. of cream cheese--probably not what the cashier was expecting the evening before the big holiday. I went home, ate dinner, watched a little tv with Shawn, and then sent him on his way.

I probably should have looked a little more carefully at the recipe. Being a very dry, dense cheesecake, this recipe called for a very low heat, slow cooking time. I started at 8pm. Already my first oops. My next issue was that my mixer couldn't handle all 5 lbs of cream cheese at once, but I had already combined the 12 eggs and 4 egg yolks into one container. This only proved to be a problem when I got to the second cheesecake and discovered that, despite my best efforts to separate out 6 eggs and 2 yolks, I had fallen a little short on whites in cheesecake #1.

Mixing the first batch of cheesecake:

Cheesecake #1 (plain NY) for Aric, prebake:Cheesecake #2 (marbled) for Michael:
Cheesecake #1 finished:
I haven't gotten the reports back yet, but both recipients seemed very happy when they saw what I had made. Shawn tried his best to get me to cut a piece for him, but no luck. I had already delayed them for months, even years, so I figured I probably needed to give them whole cheesecakes.

Oh, and I finally did something besides bake bread! Although I did make cream biscuits last night.

09 February 2009

Baking weekend

This weekend we hosted our friends, the Rices, for a card night at our place. We try to plan a dinner at one of our houses about once a month (it usually ends up being every two months). Eve-Maridy and I are both big foodies, so it gives us a chance to experiment with recipes for each other. The boys are just happy to be fed a good dinner and hang out, so it works out nicely.

Since it was my turn for the first time in a while, I wanted to do something special. The menu:
Crisp Winter Lettuces with Warm Sweet-and-Sharp Dressing
Homemade baguettes (America's Test Kitchen Family Baking book)
Steak with red wine pan sauce (America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)
Low fat Scalloped potatoes (America's Test Kitchen Best Light Recipes)
Fallen Chocolate Cake (America's Test Kitchen Family Baking book) with raspberry coulis and lightly sweetened cocoa whipped cream (me)

As you can tell, I love me some America's Test Kitchen. I use those books for everything. Everything turned out really well. I did make a small error with the salads and halved the bacon, but not the rest of the ingredients. It turned out fine, but not as thick as I would have liked. The cooking vinegar may have also irritated my lungs because now I have this horrible cough.

The baguettes were a success! It was my first time working with a sponge and I was a little worried. Luckily I knew I could always run down to the bakery, DiPrima Dolci, if they didn't work out. The recipe yields two 15" baguettes, and unfortunately I only have a 13" baking stone. So, I cut one of them in half, and threw the other in the refrigerator to finish rising and bake the next day.

The chocolate cake, on the other hand, was quite easy and turned out delicious. I didn't have individual ramekins, so I ended up using my springform pan to do one big cake. No matter, it was yummy either way. Although, I do need to get a thermometer for my oven because I think it runs a little hot.

The cake (had a little trouble removing from the pan):

The second round of baguettes (didn't get a picture of the first one):I think my fear of yeast is slowly starting to dissipate...

Starting over...Welcome to the Evolving Epicurean!

As with most things in life, I started this blog with the intention of writing about my great adventures traveling and eating, but it took a very different turn and became all about food. I would love to travel more, but right now I'm just trying to pay off bills and save money to do so.

On that note, I would like to introduce the revised theme to this blog...it's all about food. As you may have noticed from past posts, I have a bit of an obsession with food. I love to eat it, make it, bake it, serve it, and even take pictures of it.

Obviously since I've had little to talk about besides food, anyone who has been reading this blog won't notice much of a difference. I have been experimenting more in the kitchen and am very excited to share my continual journey to becoming a better cook, baker, and overall foodie.