Le Deuxieme Challenge…A Fait Accomplis!

30 06 2008

No, really, I swear this entry won’t be in French. Do you have any idea how much hate mail I’d get for that? and do you have any idea how much it bothers me that I can’t figure out how to add accents? Grrrr!

Anyway, my apologies for running behind on posting this, but my head has been straight up my ass lately. No excuses, other than I’ve just been tired and scatter-brained lately (no, I’m not pg!).

So, on to the first order of business…my second challenge as a Daring Baker.

This month, I made a Danish Braid, which can be found in Sherry Yard’s “The Secrets of Baking.” Read the recipe and you’ll see why I was initially intimidated:

DANISH DOUGH

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

Ingredients
For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

DOUGH
Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

BUTTER BLOCK
1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.
2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

APPLE FILLING
Makes enough for two braids

Ingredients
4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 – 8 minutes. Then add the apple mixture and sauté until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. If you’ve chosen Fujis, the apples will be caramelized, but have still retained their shape. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid. (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) They will cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet. After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Left over filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.

DANISH BRAID
Makes enough for 2 large braids

Ingredients
1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see below)

For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.
2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking
1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.
Honestly, when you break it down into manageable steps, it’s not so bad. Of course, it could be the wine that my baking partner and I enjoyed while creating this masterpiece that gives me a little confidence. Actually, working with yeast doesn’t scare me as I do it all the time – especially in the winter, when I tend to make a loaf or two of homemade bread every weekend. I will admit that we did have a few Lucy and Ethel moments while trying to make this, but we had a blast! Definitely give this recipe a chance if you’ve got the time (and a willing baking partner always makes these things that much more fun!).

Also, rather than using the apple filling mentioned above, we used some blackberry preserves and it was TO DIE FOR!!! The smell was even more incredible!

Remember how I told you that my head has been completely up my ass lately? Yeah, well we made the braid at my friend’s house and I forgot my camera, so you’ll have to settle for this close approximation that I found on google:

And for an extra dose of food porn, I also roasted a chicken this weekend. Check this out:

Combine 3T spicy mustard with 2T low sodium soy sauce. Place under the skin of a 5# roasting chicken. Toss coarsely chopped potatoes, carrots, and onions in mix of 2T EVOO, ground thyme, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. Arrange in roaster and nestle chicken among the veggies. I also like to give the chicken a little massage with some oil so the skin turns out golden (but that’s just me…). Roast at 400 for about an hour or so until thigh meat reaches temp of 180. Once cooked thoroughly, let rest for 10 minutes before moving to a platter.

Come to think of it…maybe that’s why I’m so whipped today? Too much good eatin’!





Peace Out, Home Skillet!

27 06 2008

For those not from Columbus, this weekend is Comfest, which, quite frankly, is an opportunity for the hygienically-impaired to gather, smoke pot in public, and do crap they wouldn’t ordinarily do on an average weekday. Pardon my crankiness, but preparation for the festival has lead to street closures around my office, which means Hubs had to drive me to work so I wouldn’t have to deal with parking (which sucks for me because I like to be free to go whenever and wherever I want to!). I went there today for a little bit on my lunch hour and ran into more stoned people than a person should ever have to deal with in one lifetime. The food looked and smelled great, but there wasn’t anything there that I hadn’t seen before, so I wasn’t overly impressed, so I stuck with the salad that was waiting for me back at the office. I’m usually pretty open-minded, so I seriously cannot, for the life of me, explain exactly why hippies annoy the bejeezus out of me.

I’m also cranky because it’s been ungodly hot and humid and my allergies have been off the charts. Seriously, could someone please just chop off my head until this crap passes?

Work has been great – slow, but great. I worked on a campaign that we have not pitched to the client just yet, but we already know that what I have already written is EXACTLY what the client wants, which means that I got a hearty congrats from the Boss. Sucks to be me, doesn’t it? 🙂

Aside from that, not much is going on right now. I’m really glad it’s the weekend so I can finally get stuff done around the house.

Speaking of The Casa, Hubs scored big. Huge, really. He brought home a sofa and accent chair, so now, finally, we have a living room that actually matches. Like real grown-ups!

Cross your fingers! Hubs is putting out resumes and applications this weekend. I feel like our luck is finally starting to turn around, so who knows?!





It’s All About The Baby

19 06 2008

The Baby has had a big week. She’s been going to Vacation Bible School this week and she’s absolutely exhausted. Every night, she comes home, starving and trying to fight off sleep. She passed out tonight mid-sentence, trying to tell me about the animals she’ll see tomorrow at the zoo. She’s tired, but so damned happy. I love seeing the grin on her Oreo-smeared little face every night as she tries to remember what craft they made tonight and she gets confused between her school friends and her church friends. Imagine the leaps my heart makes every night as she trudges up the stairs to her room, sleepily singing the song they sang tonight at the closing assembly. Or the way I smile when she asks about the VBS mascot and when she can meet him (this year, it’s a flamingo named Flame). Tomorrow’s going to be a rough day. Her school is going to the zoo. Then she’ll go home with my friend (and ex-boyfriend from high school), S-Dawg, and hang out until Hubs can pick her up. Then, I’ll meet them at home and we’ll all go to VBS. She’ll be a mess, but a really happy one.

I’m ready to throw my laptop out the window. I was working on writing something for a client and the thing crashed four times, so I have written and re-written the same thing many times over and it’s still not done. I imagine that by the time we put it together Monday, it will be a Clio-winning masterpiece! In the meantime, I have fantasies of going Office Space on the laptop!

Had a major heart-to-heart with Hubs tonight and I think he may have finally have found his direction. He finally seems enthusiastic, but, honestly, I’m not sure if it’s desperation or if he’s finally realizing I was right all along. Seriously, I’m not being a bitch here. I just want to help him get on a path – any path – and do something with his life, rather than drift along, trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life. It kind of makes me sad to see him finally let go of his dream of teaching, but, really, aren’t there several opportunities for teaching in everyday life, as long as we look for them?

Anyway, I’m exhausted. Hubs has to work tomorrow morning at 7, which means The Baby and I are on our own in the morning. However, at least we’ll have electricity this time!





Things I’m Obsessed With…For Today, Anyway

18 06 2008

Design.

I recently discovered my love of Brocade Home and I can’t get enough of their design blog. The website is truly amazing. Certainly French-infused and definitely inspired by fashion. Here are some of the latest photos from the design blog. I’ve already printed a few and have them tacked up near my desk.

Things I want to do with my life.

1. Help Hubs find a job. Yes, it’s about the money, but it’s also about helping the guy find his place in the world and to get on the path he’s supposed to be on.

2. Raise an amazing kid. I admit it, The Baby is the most amazing and perfect child ever born. Sue me. I can only hope that she grows up to be as amazing at 30 as she is at 3.

3. Ditch the crappy clothes and become fabulous, in general, before I’m 40. ‘Nuff said.

4. Travel. How sad is it that I’ve only been to two countries other than the U.S? My list of places I want to see before I die is growing by the day!

5. Stop feeling like everyone else has a better life than I do. Again, ’nuff said!

Cooking.

I’m on a cooking tear. I think it’s because I want to lose weight in the least painful way possible and I’m tired of not feeling good because I don’t eat right. Yes, I mostly eat the right foods, although too much of them and I don’t make time to work out (does chasing a 3 year old count as exercise?), but I also eat a lot of processed foods because they’re convenient. Let’s face it, when I’m dead tired, it’s a lot easier to pop a Lean Pocket into my lunch bag, rather than go to the trouble of chopping veggies and making a big salad.

Really, I had the best of intentions this week. Sunday, for Fathers’ Day, I made an old favorite for Hubs:

Sweet Pepper Stew

Extra virgin olive oil (twice around the pan)

1 medium red onion, julienned

Garlic

4 peppers – 1 green, 1 red, 1 yellow, and 1 orange, julienned

2 T capers

1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes (I like to use Italian seasoned)

salt and pepper to taste

In dutch oven, heat olive oil and garlic (use your judgment. I use about a clove, but some people like extra garlic). Saute onion until translucent. Add peppers and cook until soft – roughly 10 minutes. Add capers and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about 25 minutes.

This stew is fabulous on its own as a light meal with some crusty Italian bread and a great red wine. I’ve also been known to reduce it and add broiled chicken, and serve over pasta. Next time I make this, I will probably add either andouille or chorizo and see what happens. I’d also like to add shrimp sometime, but I doubt that will happen anytime soon as Hubs hates shrimp.

Writer’s Block.

Lately, this has been a part of my life, like it or not. I’ve been trying to write something for the past day or so and the words are just not coming to me. Of course, at this point, frustration is making it that much harder. Aaaargh!

Stupid Movies.

For whatever reason, I can’t seem to get enough of Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, especially the quotes. Try to work some of these into a conversation tomorrow:

“Ouchtown, population: you, bro!”

“Pepper needs new shorts!”

“You’re about as useless as a poopy-flavored lollipop!”

“I’ve had better runs in my shorts!”

“Go, you crazy son of a bitch, gooooooooo!”

At this point, I’m working on my list of greatest stupid movies of all times. Any and all suggestions are welcome!
That’s about it for now. Here’s to a great rest of the week!





Still Trying to Come Down

16 06 2008

Had an absolutely AMAZING meeting with a client on Friday. Both parties left smiling, which is always good news. Louie, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I still can’t believe people are willing to pay for my whacked-out ideas. To each, his own, I guess!

We had storms last night, which took out our power. So, last night, between Hubs bitching about my waking him up (hey, I only told him that the power was out and that the flashlight was on my dresser, in case he needed it) and the Baby waking up with nightmares and a full bladder in a completely dark room, it was an exhausting night. Needless to say, coffee has never tasted as good as it did this morning. Then again, it was an odd morning. I had to get ready in the dark (with the exception of going out to the back step to put on my makeup) and then guide a sleepy 3 year old through a dark house and attempt to get her ready for school (Hubs worked this morning, so I was totally on my own).

So, back to the coffee… In a state of major news withdrawl – I admit that I watch Today every morning, but to miss it to the point where I’m lost without it makes me sad, but I digress – we finally made it to the car and headed off to work and school. After muttering, “mommy needs coffee” a few times, I decided to stop by White Castle for a cup of their famous coffee along the way. Totally overrated coffee! Just once, could something pleeeeeeeeeease live up to the hype?





I’m Melting!!!

8 06 2008

Ugh! Can I just say (again) how much I hate summer? I hate feeling like I’m melting when I get out of the car, walk a flight of stairs up from the parking garage, and then bolt to the back door of my office. I hate feeling forced to do things outdoors just because it’s summer. There is nothing that makes me crankier than walking around feeling all hot and nasty with my clothes stuck to me. Plus, once I get into the AC, I’m then wearing clammy clothes. Yech!!!

However, I did have the pleasure of being invited to a cookout today. Somehow, an ice cold bottle of a really good microbrew makes me forget all about the nasty, nasty heat. So, I took my old standby, redskin potato salad.  For the record, I do not measure when I cook as I think cooking is a sensory experience, and not an exact science. I do, however, measure when I bake as there is some science involved, but, I digress…  This is a bit more labor-intensive that I like to get this time of year, but the rave reviews of this none-too-diet-friendly recipe are totally worth it. Anyway, here’s my recipe for redskin potato salad:

1 bag (5#) redskin potatoes, diced into bite-sized pieces

2 small red onions, finely diced

2-3 ribs celery, diced

6 hard-boiled eggs, diced

Mayonnaise

Sour Cream

Dijon mustard (or spicy brown, if you want a little less bite)

Salt

Pepper

Dill

Cook potatoes until fork tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Cool and add remaining vegetables. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Add mayo, sour cream, mustard, salt, pepper, and dill until you have achieved creamy perfection (in other words, you’ll just know when you’ve gotten it right!). Chill for at least a couple of hours before taking anywhere. I also think that this salad is even better the day after you make it.

For whatever reason, when the weather is hazy, hot, and hell-like, I have an uncontrollable craving for fruit. And then I stumbled across these little beauties.

Seriously, how easy would these be to make? Would you add paraffin to the chocolate? I’ll have to think about it, but these are definitely on my to-do short list!

And how sad is it that I have a to-do short list AND long list? When did I get this anal?





Just Call Me Milton!

6 06 2008

So, I went through with it today and moved my desk to the basement/dungeon. Yike! It’s dark and cold down there, but, thankfully, it’s only a temporary move. In about a month, I get to go back upstairs where there are windows. Woohoo! Meanwhile, I’m tucked away in a dark corner with a bunch of boxes, bumping into things and banging my knees on the wall in front of me.

Great feedback today on the work I took home last night. Phew! I took some risks, but they seem to be paying off. Hopefully, the client feels the same way.

Hubs is still sick. Seriously, the flu is kicking his ass this week. In fact, we may not see SD before she heads off to Florida for a month because Hubs is worried he’ll expose her to the flu and she’ll be sick while on vacation.

My allergies are positively raging with the humidity we’ve been having. I’m constantly sneezing, sniffling, and coughing, plus I have a sore throat from all of that, plus the AC dries everything up. Gawd! I’m just never happy, am I?

Speaking of never being happy, I hate my clothes! I hate summer, anyway, but I have absolutely no cute clothes for the season and no money to shop! Waaaaaaaaaaaah! Anyone have any suggestions of something to wear to work? My office is casual and kind of on the hippie side, which is totally not my style!

Oh, well. At least I’m cooking tomorrow. I’m actually going with an old favorite – a roasted chicken as Hubs has been eating nothing but hamburgers and cupcakes the last couple of days. And he wonders why he feels so sluggish lately?!