May 31, 2009

Sunday School, Now With Yeast!

Forget "new car" smell, driving home from class today with a bag full of still warm, fresh baked bread made for a truly heavenly commute. Today marked a departure from all the cakes, sweets & treats we've been making up until now and began our journey into the world of yeast. I have a few loaves under my belt (figuratively and sadly, literally) thanks to Artisan In Five, but I was really looking forward to experimenting with more traditional bread making methods. Today's recipes included Rustic Country, Challah, and Rosemary Olive Breads but it was really all about my new single-celled little friend, yeast.

Yeast can be broken down into 3 types: freeze dried, compressed/cake, and starters. Freeze dried yeast is what most of us use, sold in the grocery store in a jar or those convenient little packets. This is yeast in suspended form and once its activated creates a fast rise, perfect for the kind of breads we made in class today.

Compressed or cake yeast is better suited for slow rise breads and pastry like cinnamon rolls. To ensure best quality, avoid grocery store cake yeast, instead buying it at specialty stores or by mail order and always keep it in the fridge.

A starter is made by gathering wild yeast from the environment, made with a combination of mashed grapes (or some other fruit or vegetable) and flour, covered in cheesecloth and left outside for about 24 hours which causes fermentation and creates a bubbling mixture brimming with live yeast. Kept in the fridge and fed often, it will last 2-3 weeks, is the ultimate slow riser, and creates a tangy, complex bread which is most commonly sourdough.

Phew, so much information and we've barely scratched the surface to understand all we need to know about bread making. Lots more yeasted fun to look forward to in the coming weeks classes- can't wait to share what I've learned. Until then, give this challah recipe a try.

adapted from New School of Cooking Curriculum
1tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1 tbsp dry yeast
1/2 cup neutral flavored oil
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
2 eggs
3 3/4 to 4 cups all purpose flour
poppy and sesame seeds
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tsp water

Dissolve 1 tsp sugar in 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top and let stand 10 minutes. Stir to dissolve. Combine with oil, water, sugar, salt, eggs and half the flour. Mix well. Stir in remaining flour, cover dough and let rest 10 minutes. Turn onto a floured board and need for 10 minutes, adding flour as needed. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to proof until doubled.
Turn dough onto counter and divide into 3 equal parts. Shape into long strands and braid loosely, tucking in the ends. Brush with beaten egg yolk mixture and sprinkle with seeds if desired. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes until golden brown.

May 26, 2009

TWD Twofer

Brownies? Love them. Chocolate chip cookies? Irresistible. With a fudgy brownie base and a second level of golden chocolate chip cookie, this weeks TWD, Chipster Topped Brownies had a lot to live up to. Despite the need to wash my KA not once, but twice, this recipe was easy as pie, err I mean cookie, uh get the idea. And the results?

I liked them but maybe I'm just a purist at heart because I would have preferred either just the brownie or the cookie by itself. Either way, don't go near one of these without an ice cold glass of milk.
For more brownie/cookie fun, check out the blogroll.

May 20, 2009

A Year of Firsts

Wow. It was exactly one year ago that this blog was born. I remember typing my first post, finger nervously hovering over the publish button and wondering am I really doing this? With so many beautiful, talented culinary/photo savvy blogs out there how will I fit in? Will anyone ever read it? What a difference a year makes.
Before Cinemon Girl, I had no creative outlet and very little confidence in the kitchen. Now I'm halfway through a pro baking course. I had never made a cake from scratch, much less a loaf of bread. These days I make challah just for french toast. I've tried, and grown to love foods I had never enjoyed in the past. Mangoes and beets are my new best friends. And speaking of friends, no one has taught me more than my fellow bloggers. Thank you for the inspiration, support, laughter and advice.
I've faced many cooking phobias, learned from my mistakes, and had a few surprises along the way. The list in my head of recipes I want to tackle gets longer everyday.
I can't wait to get started.

May 19, 2009

Care to Mango?

Lately I've been cheating...on my favorite fruits. Bananas, grapes, and every type of berry are consistently being passed over for the sweet, perfumed mango. So soft, so juicy, so gosh darn tropical, how could I resist! Needless to say, I was thrilled with Kelly's pick for Tuesdays With Dorie, Fresh Mango Bread.
This simple quick bread recipe is easy on your pantry and your budget. I only had to buy the mango which was on sale at my local market. And it's easy on your dishwasher too- you've gotta love a recipe that comes together with two bowls, a whisk and a spoon. I followed Dorie's recipe to the letter, except for the addition of a 1/4 teaspoon of coriander, and while I usually make mini's this time I chose to go with the full loaf.

Sorry berries, I'm with mango now.

May 10, 2009

Sunday School- My Favorite Subject

Need another great reason to go to culinary school? Chocolate tasting! A legitimate one, not like the where stand in the kitchen eating chocolate chips out of the pantry...I've heard some people do that. Not me of course.
As much "research" as I've done in the past, there was a lot about chocolate that I didn't know. Did you know:
1. Chocolate was originally consumed in unsweetened liquid form as a sort of elixir
2. Later, Europeans began using cocoa beans to create confections by roasting the beans, smashing them into a paste, then adding sugar and lecithin.
3. Varying roasting times and methods is what gives different brands of chocolate their distinctive taste.
4. The term semisweet chocolate is an American invention. It's really bittersweet chocolate with more added sugar.
5. The best way to store chocolate is wrapped in foil and then in plastic. Wrapped this way a block of chocolate may last up to a year. Chips or pastilles should be used within a month.
6. Chocolate can make you very happy. You probably knew that one already.

May 9, 2009

Squats and Scones

For me, some things are hard. Geometry, all-nighters in the rain, squat jumps. And some things are easy, like making Lemon Blueberry Scones. Waking up this morning, crazy sore from CrossFit, and craving something delicious and simple to go with my coffee, the scone recipe from my baking class was the perfect solution. You probably already have all the ingredients- flour, butter, sugar, citrus, some dried fruit or candied ginger, and (hopefully) hands. A little mixing and kneading and you are 20 minutes away from english cream scone perfection. Six pack abs and calculating the area of an isoceles triangle? That might take a little longer.

Lemon Blueberry Scones
adapted from New School of Cooking Curriculum
1 3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
6 tbsp cold butter
1/3 cup dried blueberries
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 cup cream
1 egg yolk

Preheat oven to 350. Combine dry ingredients and lemon zest in a large bowl. Using your fingertips, cut the butter in the dry ingredients. Add dried blueberries. Lightly beat yolk into cream and pour into bowl. Use your hand like a paddle to combine and form into a ball. Dump dough onto countertop or silpat and form into a rectangle or roll out. Cut into desired shape place scones on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

May 5, 2009

TWD- Vice Squad

Sugar, butter, chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol- what could go wrong? That's what I was thinking when I read this week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe for Tiramisu Cake. Essentially, traditional tiramisu dessert adapted by layering mascarpone laced with espresso powder and brandy, topped with chopped chocolate and over sturdy yellow cake however, my cake was just a wee bit too sturdy. Like door-stopper sturdy. So frustrating.
I'm not sure what happened but even the espresso syrup couldn't moisten this rock, I mean cake. I did love the filling/frosting and you can't go wrong with TJ's espresso pillows for garnish. Maybe once the stench of failure has worn off I will give the recipe another go. In the mean time, for happier tales of success and deliciousness, check out the TWD blogroll.

May 3, 2009

Sunday School 3.14159265

While souffles, genoise and yule logs freak me out, there's nothing scary to me about pie. Even before I fell in love with all things culinary, I could always be counted on to at least bake a pie a every Thanksgiving (pumpkin of course). Pie making is so comforting, so intrinsically domestic that even once I started attempting more complicated pies I've never pie-phobic.

This week's baking class was all about my friend the pie and I was excited to learn crust making from an expert. Here are some important factors in achieving crust success:
1. Cold, but not frozen butter or lard.
2. Always refrigerate the dough, wrapped in plastic for at least one hour before rolling out.
3. For optimum results, only roll your dough out once.
4. Defrost frozen dough overnight in the fridge, not on the countertop.
5. Avoid big fluted edges on double crust pies, save them for single crust pies. Double crust bake longer than single which will result in very burned fluted edges.

From grandma's apple, chicken pot pie to quiches and galettes, mastery of a good, standby pie crust will take you a long way in your culinary adventures. Try the recipe below, and you might find yours.

Pie Dough
from New School of Cooking Curriculum
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
8 ounces cold unsalted butter
6 to 8 tbsp ice water

In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. Use just your fingertips to cut butter into the dough until you reach "wet sand" consistency. Add water and using your hand like a paddle, mix until the dough just holds together. Divide in half and wrap in plastic, pressing down on dough through plastic to fully combine. Refrigerate one hour before using.