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Archive for the ‘baking’ Category

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It’s become sort of a habit of ours to take a Sunday morning drive from Saratoga Springs to Cambridge, NY to pick up a box of freshly made King’s Donuts. The King’s are second generation bakers who have been selling their homemade donuts from a cart in front of their house since 1997. They start selling their donuts around 8am and by 11am, they are usually sold out.

We have, on more than one occasion, excitedly hopped out of the car only to be disappointed that they were sold out of our favorite donut, the Bismark. I usually pick out other donuts but I am a creature of habit and there’s nothing sadder than looking forward to a special treat and not being able to get it. (OK, there are a lot sadder things than running out of my favorite donuts but this is a food blog so let’s focus)

Luckily, if you call ahead, the King’s will kindly set aside the donuts you want, so you never have to face the heartbreaking devastation of a missing donut. Last Sunday, though we called ahead, they must have been really busy because no one answered the phone. Deciding to try anyway, we drove to Cambridge and pulled up just as the empty cart was being unloaded at the back if the house.
The boyfriend, sensing that there might be some sullen grumpiness (I never claimed to be a paragon of maturity) decided to call anyway and this time they picked up the phone when they saw it was us. I wasn’t expecting much but then the BF started smiling and put the phone on speaker so I could hear them say that they felt so bad that they ran out of our favorite donut and not wanting to see anyone disappointed they improvised a new kind of donut just for us!

They took six of their jelly donuts, scraped out the jelly and squirted Bismark cream inside. They called them special Jellymarks and said we could be their taste testers. I shoved money at the BF and pushed him out of the car and waited while he went to the back of the house. The BF came back to the car, money still in hand and said they wanted us to have the donuts for free since they were an experiment.

Well, I hate to be too jaded but 28 years of growing up in Brooklyn gave me some thick skin and little belief in the kindness of my fellow humans, but that morning, my two sizes too small Grinch like heart truly did grow three sizes larger.

And the donuts? Though I remain a Bismark Purist, they were fantastic!

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Why yes, I kind of do think that I can bake. I’m no Nick Malgieri or Dorie Greenspan. (Know them? You should. I love them.) But I can and do put together desserts and baked goods that while they are not about to rival the pastries at The Chocolate Mill in Glens Falls or Mrs. London’s in Saratoga they certainly surpass those on offer in the supermarket bakery departments in my local Price Chopper and Hannaford.

But for the longest time while I confidently made all manner of pies, cakes, cookies, scones and biscuits I had a fear. Of yeast. Bread just seemed like something other people made. Grandmothers with wisdom and experience, hands strong and rough from years of shaping their daily bread. There seemed too much mystery in the alchemy of flour, yeast, salt and water. And then I read an article in the NY Times that…well, I want to say changed my life but that sounds a little dramatic, no? I read an article that opened my eyes to how easy bread making could be. Jim Laheys’ No-Knead Bread. You must be familiar with it? I think everyone is by this time.

It’s three ingredients, flour, yeast and salt that when combined with what almost seems like too much water form a very slack dough that’s not kneaded but left to rise unattended at room temperature for at least twelve hours, but preferably eighteen. The dough is then quickly shaped and left to rise again for two more hours. It’s baked in a very hot oven in a heavy, covered dish. Le Creuset or something similar works well for the baking. When the bread is done baking you are left with a crisp loaf with an airy interior full of holes. It’s very much like the pricey artisan breads you see in better bakeries for too much money.

Then for Christmas I was given a copy of the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The premise of this bread recipe is similar to the No-Knead bread but differs in that you mix a large batch of dough, again not kneading it, let it rise at room temperature until it doubles and then begins to fall and then you refrigerate the dough until you’re ready to use it. When you’re ready to use it you pull off a hunk of dough, flour and shape it and let it rise at room temperature for an hour or so. You bake the loaf on a baking stone without a cover, with a pan in the oven that you throw a cup of water into to create steam which helps the bread rise quickly. In the end you have a quite yummy loaf of crusty bread which my family loves.

Now that I have mastered both bread baking techniques (and moved on to cinnamon buns- yum!) I’m not sure which one I prefer. The Jim Lahey loaf seemed to have a thinner, more crackly crust than the Artisan in Five loaf. They both have great interiors but the Jim Lahey seemed to have a lighter crumb, which I enjoyed just a little bit more. I’m thinking I may need to do some comparison baking. Strictly measured ingredients, side by side taste testing. For now I will continue to enjoy my Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day loaves because the dough is already in the fridge but I think I see a bake off in my future. Do you bake bread?

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