crusty french boule

Not much baking so far this week. It’s April school vacation in Massachusetts and the boys are home so I’ve been spending my time doing the things they like to do — eating barbecue, playing video games and shopping for music. Who am I kidding? I love doing those things too.

First though, I baked up some dough I mixed last week and had been retarding in the fridge. I had intended to make more baguettes but didn’t have the patience on Sunday so I just shaped it into a boule. My slashes weren’t very deep so the top looked a little puckery, but it was really good. We’ve been having it with eggs (fried and poached) the past few days, and I’ve had a couple of slices slathered with Nutella for tea. Yum. 🙂

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chewy choc-oat chip bars

Chocolate chips and oatmeal are always a winning combo for me. In fact, I love oatmeal in almost any cookie, but I’m not sure everyone does, and chocolate can certainly make it more palatable for those folks. Oat bran/fiber AND chocolate? How can you lose?

Usually when I bake goodies for L.’s teen gatherings, a few come home, so I wasn’t too concerned that I wouldn’t get to sample one later. However, this time there were no leftovers at all. So you’ll have to take L. and friends’ collective word for it that they were delicious. The recipe was from Nestle’s Very Best Baking site, and they were a snap to make and contained ingredients that most bakers have handy — which was a very good thing for me since I had forgotten to pick up a snack at the grocery store for L. to take!

cinnamon rolls

Because our house is not filled with nearly enough sugary stuff like lemon squares, chocolate chip cookies, Easter candy galore and such, I felt it was important to bake cinnamon rolls this morning. These differ from the rolls I made in December in that this dough is not quite as rich and eggy as the earlier dough. I drizzled the tops with a simple glaze. I made just a half batch — eight rolls — so I can still feel good about myself. I think I can still feel good about myself. Talk to me tomorrow.

susan ziegler’s lemon squares (via ruhlman)

I’m trying to get caught up with my blog posts — it’s been really busy this week and while I continue to bake, I just haven’t had time to post.

Michael Ruhlman is an author, food writer and blogger. His latest book, Ratio, has quite the buzz going in foodie circles right now. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list. He recently wrote a post about his disdain over the use of boxed lemon square mixes. I have to confess, I’ve only ever made lemon squares from a mix — and I thought they were pretty good. But it’s been a few years and I now try to not use boxed baking mixes at all and his post inspired me to make them for Easter. Actually, if it were a perfect world, I would’ve baked a lemon meringue pie but my last attempt was so abysmal I thought it best not to (I can’t get the meringue to not weep, and that makes me weep). Lemon squares are an acceptable substitute.

Ruhlman’s lemon squares (actually Susan Ziegler’s, his childhood neighbor) are equal parts base and curd. He says one can tweak the balance as one sees fit, but 50/50 is fine with me. The finished lemon squares were a little fragile but had terrific flavor — tangy, sweet, buttery. I loved the shortbread quality of the base, and by Day 2 the base had acquired a little bit of a very pleasant crunchiness. The recipe makes 16 fairly small squares, so if I were planning on making enough to share I’d make a second pan.

french baguettes

It’s been awhile since we’ve had a nice traditional baguette. These are half-sized since they are only about a foot long. I shaped them this morning after retarding the dough in the fridge the past few days, proofed a while, then threw them on the preheated stone, et voilà! Freshly baked baguettes with tonight’s Spaghetti Bolognese!

crackers!

My first attempt at making crackers! I was hesitant to try making them because it seemed like it would be pretty complicated, but it’s actually very straightforward and simple. They are actually much easier than most things I bake. These crackers are full of good things (and are a great source of Omega 6 fatty acid) and are topped with sesame seeds. I’ve been noshing on them as they’ve been cooling and can’t wait to actually try them with cheese!

wilton course 2 finale cake

Last night was my last class of Wilton Course 2. Pictured above is my finale cake for the class — the birds were made from a mixture of confectioners’ sugar, water and Wilton Color Flow (essentially powdered egg whites, I’m told). The flowers were made from Royal Icing and were all made in advance and dried. I did the basketweave pattern and the rope borders during class (click on the picture for a larger image). The underlying cake is Cook’s Illustrated‘s Devil’s Food Cake, which I’ve baked once before for P.’s birthday last summer. Big thanks as always to Evelyn for her encouragement and tireless patience.

cheese sandwich bread

This is a soft cheese-swirled bread I made yesterday in a loaf pan. It didn’t rise as high as I had hoped — I let it proof beyond the suggested time, but in the end I was concerned about overproofing (and its special ramifications) and popped in the oven, hoping for some serious oven spring. I stuffed the bread with a mixture of sharp Cheddar and feta. Some large voids occurred when the cheese melted down, making it look rather rustic, but rendering it problematic for use in sandwiches!