Recommended Baking Adventures July 2014!

This month, I’m saying goodbye to my flexible student work schedule. I’ll still have evenings and weekends to play in the kitchen, but there will be no more kneading bread between homework assignments. At least for now. Perhaps this will lead to more design/work focused posts and Marc-led culinary adventures!

First up: Gougères from The French Laundry cookbook! This was a perfect first recipe with the stand mixer. Some Keller recipes are intimidating, but these were easy and didn’t call for specialty ingredients outside of the cheese. Delicious, fluffy, and cheesy. The next time I make them, I might fill them.

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I returned to an old favorite when I had extra fennel in my CSA box: Focaccia from the NYT. I caramelized one entire bulb of fennel (with greens) and a few spring onions until they were very brown and spread it over the top of one of the breads. It was amazing. AMAZING. I also substituted white flour for wheat.

Focaccia

It was then time to come back to Beard. I wanted to experiment with his non-yeast bread recipes, so tried the Baking Powder Biscuits from Beard on Bread. They were fast and easy, although I didn’t experience above average fluffiness or flavor.

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Low on ingredients but wanting to make bread, I was happy to find Italian Feather Bread in Beard on Bread. The recipe only calls for water, flour, sugar,  yeast, butter, and salt. Optional but beneficial ingredients are egg white (for brushing) and cornmeal (for baking on.) The shaping of the loaf in the rolled up way was something I had never tried. I have included images to illustrate the process.

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My technique is sure to improve next time, but overall it turned out well! Highly recommended.

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Last, but not least, I made biscotti. I started with this recipe from Come One Come All, but used lemon zest and sliced almonds rather than hazelnuts. I also added a few drops of lemon oil.

Biscotti

They were delicious, although the chocolate dipping part of the recipe didn’t go as planned. I think they don’t use enough chocolate, so I ended up painting half of the biscotti on one side with a spoon, and letting them harden on the rack. Unfortunately, the chocolate never firmed up, so they’re a little messy. I’d definitely make again with a different chocolate glaze.

Survival: Post-Wedding, Post-Graduation

I’m used to racing along with multiple professional and personal projects in the works, juggling many super-fun balls in the air, while working hard to breathe once in a  while. The lull between graduation/wedding month and full time employment has been an interesting experiment.

Tool profiles:

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LinkedIn:

LinkedIn has been a great connecting tool this month, and I’ve had great success contacting alumni with interesting, relevant sounding work in the Twin Cities area. This has also led to becoming more involved in the Minneapolis creative community. Sending introductory emails linking to my profile has lent some credibility.

With a 100% response rate, I must be doing something right. My InMails always include:

  • An up-front ask. “I’d love to talk with you about your experiences in this company, as well as …”
  • How I found them. “I also graduated from this college and found your profile through the alumni page.”
  • My relevant background. “I recently graduated with my MBA and have relocated to the Twin Cities, and am interested in these fields which is what your experience is in, etc.”
  • My objective. “I am currently looking to build a network of mentors while searching for the next great professional opportunity.”

Lynda.com

Although school is out, there’s no reason to stop learning! (Especially while you still get free access to services!) I’m happiest when I’m learning, so taking a few classes on Lynda.com has been useful. The best courses are in programs or topics that I know virtually nothing about, so the slow pace works well.

Some tips for getting the most out of Lynda:

  • Close all other tabs when working on a Lynda course
  • Take copious notes. (I use Evernote)
  • Stop and start the video to try things out as they talk about them
  • Make an effort to use the exercise files

Part Time Work

Following graduation, my venture partner and I got an opportunity to work with a pre-launch start-up in San Francisco doing user experience strategy. It has been invaluable to continue working on an interesting, challenging project with a great team while stretching my user experience design skills. Regular meetings and tight deadlines, even at 13-17 hours a week, are enough to keep me feeling involved.

Making a part-time, remote, contract gig work:

  • Transparently track your hours
  • Check in with the client and team members regularly
  • Share files and progress when appropriate
  • Ask for what you want

Baking

How often do you have time to make pizza with homemade ricotta, homemade pizza dough, homemade buffalo tofu, and fresh sauce? In normal life, probably never. Taking advantage of the time I have to try baking experiments and make delicious food has been a joy. Each project ends with something to show/eat for it, even if not everything turns out perfectly.

Recommended Baking Adventures May-June 2014

So many fun things to celebrate in May and June! We got married a few weeks ago and have a whole new set of toys to play with, which is a GREAT excuse to get adventurous.

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New stand mixer!!

First up: Barb’s Banana Bread

I got this great recipe from a family friend as a wedding shower present and it’s incredible. Easy, delicious, flexible.

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Cream: 3/4 cup butter

Add: 1 1/2 cups sugar gradually, cream well.

Blend in:

  • 1 1/2 cup mushed ripe banana (should be 4-6)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift together:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Add:

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Blend until just combined, bake for 50-60 minutes at 350.  Makes two loaves.

Julia Child’s Boef Aux Oignons (Guest kitchen post!)

While in California for graduation, I wanted to make a delicious thank you meal for the friends I was staying with, and this seemed like a good stretch for me (I don’t usually cook meat) but fairly foolproof. It turned out deliciously– very hearty. Yum!

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After returning home from California and lots of scrumptious happy graduation, happy birthday, happy vacation meals, we wanted to lighten up and turned to Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s awesome Appetite for Reduction cookbook. The vegan lasagna in it is suburb! If vegan lasagna isn’t your thing, just go for the cauliflower ricotta.

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With too much rhubarb and no time to shop, these Rhubarb Bars were a no-brainer. The recipe calls for strawberries as well, but I went full-on rhubarb. Originally, the recipe is from a book called One Bowl Baking. In this case, the only dishes used were the pan and the bowl I used to melt the butter. Brilliant and delicious. Super easy.

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Last, but certainly not least, I discovered baked risotto. It looks and tastes like stovetop risotto, but you don’t do much to it after you mix everything together. This is going to be my new potluck recipe– everyone loves it, it looks impressive, and it’s super flexible. I used veggie broth, corn, and spinach. I think I also fudged the cheese and used whatever was in the fridge and it was great.

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Bonus recipe: Marc’s Sangria

On our wedding weekend, we wanted to see as much of our guests as possible, so we hosted a wine and cheese party at our apartment. Marc made some killer sangria.

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Mix:

  • Two bottles of cheapish red wine
  • Chopped fruit (we used an orange, a couple of nectarines, and a couple of apples)
  • Chopped sour citrus (we used one lemon)
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
  • Sugar to taste
  • Lots of ice when you serve it

Chill in the fridge for a few hours. Add more wine, brandy, grand mariner, etc. throughout the night to keep it full. We used a box of Trader Joe’s wine and it worked well. (And was cost effective.)