Tuesday, April 16, 2013

TWD -- Call me deviant

I confess. I deviated from the recipe for madeleines that was in Baking with Julia. When I saw that Baking with Julia was having us use the genoise recipe, I was suspicious. Although I would consider a madeleine a type of genoise, it is more than that. In my mind, a madeleine should have some baking powder (although I've read there is some disagreement about this), but should definitely have more butter. Three tablespoons of butter can nowhere be enough, when most recipes for 24 madeleines call for a stick and a half, or at the very least nine tablespoons. And, where was the flavor? I remember the genoise recipe as being bland, bland, bland. I wanted my madeleines to have a little kick to them.

So I began cross-referencing. I hauled down "Joy of Cooking" from the bookshelf. I consulted the book "Sweet Life in Paris." I looked at recipes on the internet, particularly Allrecipes.com, where I could look at user reviews.

Although the Baking with Julia recipe seemed to have odd proportions, it also had a major and unforgiveable error in my opinion. The recipe called for 1 cup of confectioner's sugar, yet nowhere did it say where or how the sugar was to be used. Where was the proofreader?! Where was the editor?! If the sugar was to be used as a dusting for the madeleines after they were baked, why one cup? It wouldn't take a cup of the stuff to dust 24 three-inch cookies. By this time I was quite distrustful of the printed recipe and decided to veer off in my own direction.

The madeleines before glazing
Thus, I combined the most popular recipe on Allrecipes.com (which incidentally used confectioner's sugar right in the mix) and the recipe from "The Sweet Life in Paris." The latter recipe called for the grated rind of a lemon, plus a lemon glaze. My combined recipes used a stick of butter for 19 cookies.

Ready to head out the door to the bakery
I was pleased with the results, and so were the volunteers at the bakery where I work who shared the end result. They loved the lemon flavor and thought the shape of the cookies were a joy. I then took a plate to two art teachers with whom I sew, and they liked them. And, one had a wonderful suggestion that I will use next time that I make these cookies. I will use a lavender glaze on them rather than a lemony one. Such a glaze can be made by steeping a little lavender in some hot water, then adding that to the confectioner's sugar. I use this glaze for a lavender pound cake that I make and it's nothing short of wonderful.

Monday, April 1, 2013

TWD-Potato bread made the hard way

Rustic Potato Bread ready to slice
The Rustic Potato Bread assignment came at a perfect time for me. I had just made my usual potato rolls for an Easter dinner using King Arthur's potato flour. These rolls are a standard, as is a white sandwich bread made with potato flour that I make when grandchildren are coming. Would Rustic Potato Bread made with actual potatoes be better and give off more of a potato flavor? I was curious to find out.

I decided to make my bread using two-thirds whole wheat flour and one-third white all-purpose flour. The mixing process was interesting to say the least. The dough appeared so dry at the beginning I was sorely tempted to add a lot of water to keep my Kitchen Aid mixer from having a heart attack. I resisted in adding a lot of water but did dribble in a few extra drops to help things along. I reasoned whole wheat flour might absorb more water than white flour. The dough seemed to come together and was cleaning the sides of the bowl, but after about eight minutes, it began to come apart, leaving small globules of dough on the side of the bowl. I decided to call the kneading process to a halt and gently hand-kneaded the dough until it felt right.

Rising in the baskets
I was a bit put off by the shaping technique of putting the seam of the bread right-side up. I had read in the comment section that one baker experienced an unraveling of sorts when the bread was baked, so I opted to let my loaves rise in baskets (obtained from my local drug store where I buy just about everything including most of our food because our town has no local supermarket).
Ready to go into the oven
The baskets allowed the loaves to rise with some support and when I turned them out on a cornmeal-dusted pizza paddle, they looked pretty good. Should I score them? There was nothing in the instructions that indicated scoring, so I didn't. I wish now that I had. The loaves burst open in places, which definitely gave them the rustic look.

Now, for the taste test. Were these loaves better than the bread and rolls I traditionally make with the addition of potato flour? Not really. Are loaves using potato flour easier and quicker to make? Yes, yes, yes. There is no cooking of the potato, no allowing the potatoes to cool and most of all, no anxious moments standing over the Kitchen Aid worrying that it might die. And did I mention that my husband had to hit the bowl with a mallet to get it to loosen from its base?

So, I will probably go back to my traditional method of making potato bread but I'm thankful for the experience of trying the real deal.