Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Catching up!

I know, I know, I know... it's been forever since I posted, and I left everyone hanging about that Mac and Cheese I was going to make! I'm a horrible person, I know, but I hope that, in time, you'll forgive me, and we'll be able to move on.

I did get around to making that Mac and Cheese, and it really was epic. I hard to pare down some of the elements of grandeur, but overall, it was a surprisingly elegant meal, considering it was, well, Mac and Cheese.
I used my original Mac and Cheese recipe (you can find in my post "Quarantine") and I stirred in some crab meat that I'd had in the freezer. I reheated the crab in clarified butter first to bring out more of its own distinctive flavor. While I had originally planned on doing a separate cheese sauce of parmesan and goat cheese poured overtop, my parmesan stocks were getting low, so I instead stirred in the goat cheese in place of the sour cream in my recipe. Fantastic results! Actually, I think I might permanently change my recipe to include the goat cheese - the sour cream is a nice touch in a pinch, but the goat cheese is just that much better, you know? Matt was thrilled with the end result and so was I, partly because now I know what to do whenever I have leftover crab in my fridge! (Which happens more often than you might think...)

Besides the Mac and Cheese, I also managed to whip up my first "cake-mix" cake. I experimented in a number of ways (using skim milk powder, fine sugar vs. granulated sugar, etc) and the end result was fine except... I threw in instant coffee to add some flavor to the chocolate cake, and the coffee was so smokey that it made my cake taste burnt. Great. So the cake rose nicely, had a very nice crumb and a deep reddy-brown color, but it tasted like it had smoke in it. Fantastic.

While the cake wasn't perfect, it was a fairly good start, and actually, I had intended on it not being perfect. I'm working on learning the actual effects of ingredients in baking, and so I wanted to see first-hand what certain things would do. While my cake rose nicely, it did sink in the middle. Apparently, that indicates too small of a liquid-to-sugar ratio, so that the sugar couldn't all dissolve. I had tweaked the liquid amounts slightly because I was using skim milk powder instead of milk, but the fine sugar I subbed in was too much for the cake. Actually, fine sugar really shouldn't be used in normal sheet cakes, period. Sugar makes your baking crispy, so the top was too hard instead of light and airy, and the liquid ratio was off so it didn't stay up in the center... just stick with granulated. I was happy with the gluten content, that's the real trick to making mix cakes that you can just throw water, oil and eggs into willy-nilly and still get a good cake. Different fats and different mixing techniques either relax or strengthen glutens, making for either fluffy cakes, or tough and dense cakes. I had to do some special add-ins, but I did pretty well I think.
All in all, it was a fine first attempt, and I'm confident that the second will produce even better results.

I also made eclairs last week! It's been such a long time since I made those! I first made them back in high school and really enjoyed making the pate a choux. There's something so satisfying about stirring eggs in one at a time, and each time you drop one in thinking, "What a goopy mess", but as you stir more you can see it, almost miraculously, transforming into a nice, sticky dough. Funny thing, I made the eclairs because I was low on ingredients in my house and they were an 'easy' plan B. Who doesn't always have flour, eggs, butter and water in the house? True, I needed Matt to pick up whipping cream on the way home so I could fill them (I totally copped out there and didn't make a cream, but they were still yummy!) but the puff itself was simple enough to whip up even though I didn't have a lot of ingredients in the house.

This week I will be developing at least one recipe with the stone ground whole wheat, and I'm still playing in my head with what exactly that recipe will look like. I think a good whole wheat bread will be ideal, but I can't decide if I want to make it a rustic loaf or a sandwich loaf, if I should do exclusively whole wheat flour or throw in a bit of white flour, and whether or not I should make it a plain loaf or an herbed or honeyed loaf. I have yet to see the flour itself, and that may determine alot of those questions for me when I finally do, but until then, I suppose I can just keep tinkering with my regular whole wheat flour here at home and hope for the best - although I just had this beautiful picture in my head of rosemary infusing in a pot of warmed milk with butter melting in it, and now I want to eat that... so I think I'm currently leaning towards an herbed sandwich loaf.

Well, this has been fun catching up, but I really must dash. My crazy-busy life has been the reason that I've been unable to post more frequently, and unfortunately, life still hasn't slowed down that much yet, so back to the grind I guess!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

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