Tag Archives: food

baking notes

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Do you watch The Great British Baking Show on PBS? Several people recommended it to us during the last season, and we watched a few of those episodes. Quite by accident, we realized that Season 3 was up and running here in the US, and now we are recording the episodes to watch as a family. We typically have one show that we record and watch together – it’s usually This Old House episodes, or Amazing Race (with E, not F). GBBS is a really fun one to watch together. The girls are really into the technical aspects of the baking challenges, and we also appreciate that the tone of the show is really humorous and kind. There’s no backstabbing or vengeful plots. The tension comes from the very real stress that baking under pressure can produce on anyone, even a seasoned pro. It’s funny how invested we can get into a pie or cake even though its success is not a matter of life and death.

We’ve watched the first episode together, and after the final baking challenge (rifts on a Black Forest Cake), I made a Sweet Cherry Streusel Pie from the Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book. This was my second pie-try from this cookbook that I purchased in NYC this past March. The first pie was a rhubarb custard pie that did not set correctly the first day I made it, but after spending the night in the refrigerator, was delicious (though not so attractive). I actually decided to make two cherry pies, and would have made more if they didn’t take so much time!

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My first complaint about the book is the lack of weights for ingredients – particularly with fruit that isn’t sold by the cup but by the pound. I ended up overbuying cherries to the tune of three times as many as I needed. It’s hard for me to eyeball ten cups of cherries. So I bought thirty. I’m eating some now as I write this.

My second complaint is that I’m finding that the cooking times / temps tend to be a little on the high side. I’ve yet to master the perfect crust, not too dark or overbaked. But this was partly my problem too, because I tried to bake two pies at once, which did alter the overall baking time. I know better than this, but forged ahead anyway.

On the GBBS, one of the contestants added cardamom to the cherries in the Black Forest Cake, and one of the judges leaned over the counter to say “Be careful with the quantity – too much can make the finished product taste medicinal.” The girls walked into a kitchen filled with amazing cherry pie smells a few hours later, sniffing the air and complementing the process. I announced that there was cardamom in the pie, and the little one told me to “watch my quantities” and reiterated the medicinal threat, thereby securing her future access to all GBBS episodes whenever she wants to watch them. Even past her bedtime.

If you like the show, then you simply must read these recaps by Allison Robicelli on Food 52. They are hysterical. Don’t read them over lunch at work in your super quiet office.

I’m also completely in love with the drawings that illustrate the contestants’ baking plans for each challenge.

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Here’s an article on the artist for these drawings. I would like to know how to go about getting this job on future seasons. I’m not joking.

One more baking note for the day – I’m taking full advantage of grownup camp to hit up some local bakeries that I don’t make it to on a typical morning. Pint Size Bakery’s new location is delightful, and you simply must get there this week to pick up a Strawberry Rhubarb Brown Butter Crumb Cake. It makes an excellent accompaniment to this week’s GBBS episode – because trust me – you are going to get hungry!

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things I thought of *after* I pushed “publish” on that last post

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Since I finished that last post, I’ve thought of a few additional things that I should have added. I apologize if I’ve said some of this before – I think maybe I’ve talked about it briefly on some of my Instagram counter photos, but Leslie’s comment about cooking dinner with three little kids underfoot made me think of it again.

I’ve talked a lot about menu planning and shopping with a list, and you can read that here if you missed it and are interested. If you’re not interested, I completely understand. Grocery lists are not that riveting. Unless you are our friend, and you write a book about them, and you get to appear on The Jimmy Kimmel Show to promote it. Otherwise, sort of a snore.

Knowing what we’re going to have for dinner and having the ingredients on hand is half the battle. I have a really hard time tossing make-at-home dinner plans to pick up takeout, even when I find myself tired and hungry at the end of the day – and sometimes at the end of a hard gym class or a long run. It’s not the easiest thing to walk in the door at 6:30 or 7:00 and start the process of making dinner from scratch. This is what helps me stay motivated, and on track.

1. My husband cooks dinner as well, but he does the afternoon kid shift, so he’s often doing pickups and shuttling around to activities, which means about 60% of the time I’m on deck for dinner. We typically email or text each other at some point in the day about dinner plans, and if there is a long lead item in the mix (like roasting vegetables or hard-boiling eggs), he’ll get some of that prep done before I get home. He used to do the majority of the cooking, but I’ve really grown to love it, and find it calming at the end of the day.

2. I walk in the door, take off my shoes, wash my hands, and immediately start pulling ingredients out of the fridge. If I stop to read the mail, or change clothes, or sit down – even for five minutes – I lose all motivation and suddenly feel like I might starve to death that instant. If I get all of the ingredients out, within two minutes I’m in the groove, and even if dinner takes another forty-five minutes, it doesn’t bother me.

3. Sometimes I have a drink while I’m cooking. It can make the task feel like a more pleasurable one – like I’m doing this for fun, and I’ve come to regard it as just that.

4. Ingredients out, produce washed, big strainer in the sink, ready to go. I do all the prep on my 15″ wide countertop between my range and my sink. It’s tiny. I chop vegetables and swipe the scraps directly into the strainer in the sink. I put everything into glass bowls and ramekins, and most nights they fill the countertop and my cutting board when I’m done. I carry the strainer with the scraps to the trashcan, open up the dishwasher (that I’ve emptied over breakfast), snap a photo of the ingredients to keep track of what I’m making, and get started.

5. I fill the dishwasher as I go, and I try to keep things clean as I’m cooking. Some nights I’m still a disaster, but I’ve improved over time. I set timers for everything, just in case I get distracted. I call for help when I need it, and for the table to be set. If there’s a lull in the action, I wash and slice fresh fruit, which we pass around the table each night.

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6. The house starts smelling really good, and dinner is ready. We crowd four people around a table for three, and practice our manners (and our patience). Some nights it’s just a mess, most nights it’s okay. Some nights it’s perfect, like the best sort of family dinner you could imagine. Everyone clears their spot except for the little one. She feigns exhaustion at the slightest hint of a chore.

7. We never leave the kitchen without completely cleaning up, and packaging up leftovers for lunch tomorrow. (I love leftovers.) Most nights M and I do that together, while the girls move into their bedtime routines. Sometimes one of us accompanies them when meltdowns seem close at hand. I love the feeling of a clean kitchen at the end of the day. Turning out the light and climbing the stairs to the bedrooms above is one of my favorite things about our days. It’s nothing and everything all at once.

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Glamour shot of the inside of my refrigerator, with all my leftovers lined up in a row. We also have a lot of cheese sticks this week. And a lot of cheese in general!

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Open House Invite

It’s been sort of an odd  / off week – with the Monday holiday, a midweek blanket of snow, M’s travels, and some really unfortunate traffic-snarled commutes. I keep checking to see what day it is – but even with all that checking, my regular weekly activities are still sneaking up on me.

And this is what’s keeping me busy over the next few days – the Open House at F’s school. I’ve got a reception to bake for and set up and throw, and then I’m hoping for a quiet Saturday night and Sunday. We’re making some real progress on things around the house, and I want to keep up this momentum and avoid burnout. I have a story to tell you soon about burnout around the Fall Open House + other events of October, but that’s for another day.

Side notes aside, if you are local and currently school shopping (or just curious), consider yourself invited to the Open House event this Saturday. Details are here – I’d love to meet you and feed you and show you around. I’ll be the girl next to the food. 🙂