Posts Tagged ‘Baking’

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

Way back in September, perhaps on the 17th or the 21st of that month, I proclaimed that my family had entered “The Autumn of Bread”.  Sounds regal, right?  Well, it is.  For the last 2 and 1/2 months I have been trying to bake a new type of bread each week.  Some weeks I do more than one loaf, and some weeks I just repeat a previous hit.  ‘The Autumn of Bread’ has been wonderful. If

Pretzels!

Pretzels!

you don’t believe me, ask my wife.

Let me give you a little background on why I am doing this.

First off, I need to explain the name.

A couple years ago, my brother and sister-in-law went to Ireland. When they returned, they declared it was going to be the ‘year of the sausage’.  They had eaten so much processed, salted meat on

Focaccia with pear, bleu cheese and caramelized onions.

Focaccia with pear, bleu cheese and caramelized onions.

the Emerald Isle, that they decided to bring the practice home with them.  That sodium-filled year was inspiring. Ever since, whenever my wife and I become a bit obsessed with a foodstuff we jokingly name the season after said foodstuff: ‘The year of the Latte’; ‘The Winter of the Brussel Sprout’; ‘The Season of the Waffle’; Etc.

But, ‘The Autumn of Bread’ has beaten all previous comers. For all you bread-bakers, you understand why.

If you have never baked bread, what are you waiting for?

Here are a couple reasons everyone should bake bread, at least at some point in their lives:

  1. Fresh baked bread straight out of the oven may be the best, most satisfying food a human being can eat. No joke.
  2. Baking bread calls for creativity. The methods, the flours, the flavors, the herbs, the designs, the tastes.  Once you have the basic skills down, you can really play around and try new things.
  3. Baking homemade, leavened bread is an amazing science experiment.  If you have kids, you can show them how them the physico-chemical right in your own kitchen.    Actually, why don’t science teachers use bread-making as a teaching tool?  It is microbiology and chemistry lesson in one. Two great tastes that taste great together.
  4. Scientific? Sure, but also mystical. Bread grows seemingly on its own, gaining airiness because of the ancient tiny lifeforms that are working their microscopic butts off. We help them, they help us. So symbiotic.
  5. For me as a historian, I feel tied to the past when I make bread.  It is so central to so many cultures and rituals that bread has some magical humanistic quality that is hard to pin down.
  6. Last, it is a gamble, Thus, when you win, the payoff is so rewarding. Unlike whipping up many foods, bread has the capibility to be a huge disaster and waste of time. This may sound like a negative, but it means that once you have the skill down, you really feel accomplished once you complete it.

As the solstice quickly approaches, and with it, the dregs of winter, I wonder if the Autumn of Bread should become the Winter of Yeast?  Let me ask my wife and kids. I think I know the answer.

 

 

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

SecretIngred

Baking relaxes me. At this point in my baking life, the things I make are largely those I’ve made so many times that I have a guaranteed system of getting it just right.

Although I make a wide range of baked goods throughout the year, homemade chocolate chip cookies have become my signature treat since I make them nearly every week.

Everyone loves cookies, and I only slightly modify the recipe on the back of the Nestle package, so they are uncomplicated.

I bring these cookies primarily to my local bar, my extended living room, The Whirlaway for potlucks. Much to the delight of the bar patrons, I live close enough that oftentimes the cookies are still warm from the oven when I arrive.

I also bring cookies to work, sharing them with my colleagues and my students when I can. During Fall term I taught two “Creativity” classes, so for the final project (due today), I asked the students to create something, and thought I’d better do the same; I made cookies.

I asked my students to describe their projects in a short essay of four sections addressing the inspiration, theme, execution, and result of their creative intentions. I feel perfectly comfortable abiding by my own rules, so I shall do the same.

Inspiration

My inspiration to bake is always to make people feel appreciated. I make treats to help people feel loved; to do something simple and nice and, thereby, contribute to the event. There must always be an event to celebrate; if there is not, I invent one.

And, I confess that I have inherited my mother’s trait of “baking arrogance,” which drives me to bake regularly. I simply love when people ask whether or not I made something before they decide to partake. If I made it, they’ll eat it.

Themes

Baking comprises many themes, but indulgence seems the most apt. My friend Richard frequently needs to be encouraged to enjoy a few cookies. I told him just yesterday, “Life is full of things that aren’t healthy, but they are still good.”sweet-indulgence-logo

Bakery is not good for you, at least not nutritionally. In every other way, bakery is extraordinarily good. It embodies tradition; it evokes memories; it creates opportunities to savor something sweet.

Execution

Though my mother disagrees, I’m extremely orderly, especially at home. I clean as I cook, and have little mess after. The key to my cookie execution is thorough preparation, and shelving ingredients immediately after use, and my just-a-bit-too-large measuring teaspoon for salt (shaped like a fish and a gift from the always thoughtful Leah Allen). I bake them at a lower temperature than recommended and take them out before they are quite done, allowing them to cook a smidge on the pan before letting them cool. Small deviations from the recipe, and extensive mixing of the ingredients, create a cookie decidedly mine in both appearance and taste.

For added flavor, I sing love songs to the batter (usually The Beatles “All You Need Is Love” among others), ensuring that my cookies grow ever-more delicious; you can taste the love.

Results

Chocolate chip cookies are wonderful. The ones I make are chewy, and a bit salty, both aspects garnering rave reviews and repeated entreaties to make more.