the B’s and C’s of Baking…

While baking is most assuredly a science, (close attention must be paid to weights and measures, humidity and so on), it is becoming clearer to me that it is an artful science, and therefore less intimidating šŸ˜‰

Scores (if not millions) of bakers out there have slight variations on pretty much standard recipes, so that leds me to consider undertaking creative changes to my current “standards” that I’ve become good at replicating (with a reasonable amount of consistency). Albeit slight ones at first… but hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

The bread recipe I’ve blogged about recently and the chocolate chip cookies I made almost 4 million of at Christmas time, came up for revision this weekend. In part due to whim, part holidays, and part “dieters guilt” for wanting, no needing, to make something chocolate (using valentines day as a convenient excuse).

Inspired by a non-diet diet themed entry over at area 603 and in making good on my comment there, I’m trying to only bring “junk food” into the house if I make it myself. So far it’s been true for beer and cookies. Haven’t bought a one since before Christmas! I’ve made the last 8 or ten loaves of bread we’ve consumed for that matter.

Am I losing weight, probably not, but I am controlling the ingredients (read, lack of chemicals, preservatives and other non-food items hidden in our food) that go into my temple. (Which is slightly larger and less impressive than I’l like it to be. But, for the record, I haven’t had cookies since christmas (hence the withdrawal), and I’m being plenty active (hence the lesser-taboo of scarfing a double batch), I’m just not excesizing per-se.

Digression aside (just a little insight into the mind behind the madness), a look through the spartan fridge brought to light a 1/2 gallon (unopened) of vegetable juice cocktail from Whole Foods (haven’t been there in months). Reasoning if I put that into my bread instead of water, much as I used beer alone for the last batch of bread, I could easily up my vegetable quotient invisibly (And more easily excuse the cookies – which was my real goal – plus I wouldn’t have to drink it). I was thinking of the Tomato Basil bread from Panera’s, so I shouldn’t be too far off base from edible if things went horribly awry.

The dough came out very sticky, and I had to keep adding flour to get the texture right before proceeding with proofing and baking. In the end it baked up fine and tastes just like my last couple of batches of Soft Multi-grain (nearly). Perfect for croutons, toast, sandwiches (but probably not peanut butter).

After wearing out my tablespoons dropping hundreds of chocolate chip (expresso chip, etc…) cookies at christmas time, I broke down and bought myself a few dishers (Ice cream style scoops for doling out muffin and cookie batter consistently – or perhaps mashed potatoes and spaghetti if you think back to grade school). But I was cookied out (until chocolate week on Food Network) so they rest in a drawer, unused until this morning. Oh what a glorious tool. Guess what all the cookie mavens in my family will be getting next christmas?

Anyhow, a trip to a non-local food coop recently had me cross path with a box of roasted cacao nibs. “good for snacking and baking. Chocolate lovers have been known to eat these right out of the box”… So I grabbed a box, and added about 1/4 cup to the batch. (my daughter and I both sampled them straight before hand – yes they have a chocolate like flavor, but bitter. How the ancients figured out (or even bothered) with these before eventually coming up with chocolate is a mystery in itself.

A couple tablespoons of espresso powder and the cocoa nibs have elevated the humble chocolate chip cookie from a sweet treat, to near perfection. Delicious, not too sweet. Next batch I’ll up the amount of nibs, and probably cut back on the chocolate a bit. Some recipes call for an 8 oz bag. mine calls for 12 – almost impossible for the dough to form balls, even with the disher, but after they do bake up perfectly. Perhaps because I’m making such large cookies.

I used a #24 disher which made for some nice big cookies – the recipe called for 30 cookies, doubled I got 24! They were cooked perfectly on the outside, browning on the bottom, but still a tad underdone in the middle. I’ll jump down a size next time, those should come out perfect… but then I’m sure I’ll eat more in a sitting. One or 2 at the current size is plenty.

The cookies were the third inspired recipe alteration to hit this weekend. After the bread was in the oven, I ran out to TJ’s and found these tiny little mozzeralla balls for salad, and some proscuitto that my wife has been pining for, I took those and turned some leftover honey mustard maple chicken into stuffed chicken (along with some of the bread) delicious all around. Good things happen in three’s! Mmmm.

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About Scott

I am a son, brother, husband and father, and I am (or have been and enjoyed being) A student of science, art, and humanities in the states and abroad. A graphic designer, art deparment manager, and an art director. A woodworker, home renovator & preservationist. Vegetarian, organic gardener, cook. Photographer, cartoonist. Runner, judoka and fencer. An actor, writer, director and producer for a student run (but not school affiliated or sponsored) local access variety show. A uomo universale in training! In my spare time I like to read, watch movies and look for other creative pursuits and new inspirations!
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