Making Bread

My boyfriend, Matt, enjoys making bread. Dinner rolls, danishes, loaves filled with herbs. He’s a bread making machine! I never wanted to try baking some myself because of the kneading process. I was lazy.

That changed when I found Alexandra Stafford’s no-knead peasant bread. I read the recipe and figured it was simple, so I made it on a Saturday where I didn’t have any plans. (That’s rare, by the way).

Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos of the baking process, but it came together fast! It was mixed by hand with a spatula: no stand mixer needed. And you only need one bowl to mix the ingredients, how great is that?

However, even with the quick prep, the dough still needed to rise for a total of…okay, so the first rise is 1-1/1/2 hours and the second rise is 10-20 minutes. I let it rise for 1/1/2 hours, then 20 minutes, so you do the math for me. Haha!!

After the first rise, I formed the mass of dough into a ball, divided in half, and placed each half into two (different sized) bowls using forks. The transfer of the balls with forks resulted in the dough coming apart. I wasn’t sure why the directions called for forks, but I assumed it was to keep my hands from getting messy (if that was the case, the directions said that if the dough came apart during transferring, to use your hands. Contradiction).

Because my bowls were different sizes, that affected how the dough rose the second time. The dough ball in the small bowl became huge while the ball in the large bowl didn’t look too big.

The differences in bowl sizes also affected their baking time. The one in the small bowl was done in 20 minutes while the other took longer.

Now, as I mentioned, it was my first time baking bread. I didn’t know when it was fully baked, even though I ate it all the time. I’ve eaten (and seen) soft, white bread, brown bread, wheat bread…but baking loaves myself made me wonder, ‘Is it done? How do I know?’

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The loaves came out decent. The outside was crunchy and the inside was really buttery (because of the greasing of the bowls) and soft, a little too soft. Not doughy. According to Matt, it was a little undercooked.

I trust him.

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Even with that knowledge, I was proud of myself for making my first bread! I will be making it again.

But I better buy two same size bowls first.

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Food Friday: My Other Cooking Inspiration

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It’s a fact that Giada is my food inspiration, but I also have another one: my boyfriend. He makes simple things like tacos but they’re good. According to him, he can make anything, just nothing fancy.

He learned how to cook mostly by following recipes on the Internet, but also by his mom and grandma. He can boil, fry, bake, etc. The only thing he can’t do is grill, but he can do everything else so not knowing how to use a grill is perfectly fine with me.

Since he lives in such an expensive place, with a rent of $1,600 that’s split between him and his roommate, he makes his own dinner almost every night. It varies, from a simple ham and cheese sandwich to a creative take on a potato (which he cooked with carrots and spinach with taco seasoning then topped with cheese and sour cream). Once in a while he’ll eat out, but most of the time he’s making something.

He’s good with cooking, but it’s his baked goods that I love and am most impressed by: he makes things from scratch. He makes brownies from scratch because he doesn’t like the texture of the boxed mix. The same goes for lemon blondies. Tried both and really liked them. I got him to give me the recipes. 🙂

The fact that I have someone who is really into cooking inspires me to cook/bake more too. I don’t do it enough but because of him I might be starting to.

Cooking Friday: Nutella

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(I was thinking of changing the title “Cooking Friday” to “Food Friday.” What do you think?)

I’m ashamed to say this but, I’ve only been a recent Nutella lover: I’ve heard of the chocolate-hazelnut spread before and even seen the commercials for it, but never ate it until a few months ago. A friend and I were eating at Crepes No Ka Oi and I ordered the Banane au Nutella, a dessert crepe filled with slices of bananas and Nutella, with chocolate, sugar and whipped cream on top.

It was TASTY!!!

When I told my friend that that was my first time eating Nutella, she exclaimed with a, “What?!” (I’m sure most of you are saying the same.)

After that experience, I went out an bought two small jars of the stuff because they were on sale at Wal-Mart. I emptied both in a week or so. Sadly, Wal-Mart was (and still is) out of the small size…so this week I bought the next size up! There’s an even BIGGER jar, but that’s too much.

And now that I’m in a cooking/baking mode, I found ways to make Nutella more yummy (as if it’s not already so good by itself), like Nutella brownies and doughnuts, which are both made with less than five ingredients. If any of you bake and make these before me (it’s very likely that you will), PLEASE let me know how they come out! 😀

What about you? Do you like/love Nutella? Have you made anything with it or just use it as a spread for toast/bagels, or eat it straight out of the jar? Let me know in the comments!

Cooking Friday: Baking Cookies

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(I wish those were my cookies pictured, but it’s not).

My friend loves lemon, so when I came across Williams-Sonoma’s lemon sugar cookie mix I decided to make them for her. Little did I know how much work was involved. I’m not into baking as much as cooking, but I wanted to try these. It took me two days (yesterday was prepping, today was baking), and according to my guinea pigs (aka, the parents) they were tasty.

The box had directions for cutout and sliced cookies. I chose to make sliced ones since I figured they were the easiest. How hard could it be to roll a glob of dough into a log? Apparently, harder than I thought. Because the bottom of the “log” wasn’t round, I had to manually form pieces of dough into circles…and that’s difficult to do when you only have five minutes to do so before the warmth of your hands softens the dough. Needless to say I didn’t make circles–I made semi circles. Or semi ovals.

Baking the stuff was interesting. It was a fast 12 minutes, with one pan coming out crispy and the other being soft (not chewy). The crispy cookies were golden brown; the soft cookies were pale. (As to why I didn’t leave the soft ones in the oven longer, I don’t know.)

When I imagined making all 44 cookies my original plan was to divide them up among my friend, guitar teacher, my grandpa, and my family. Since I was 14 cookies short (I was eyeballing how much dough to cut for each cookie), and most were deformed, I decided to give most of them to my friend and none to my teacher. My grandpa, I concluded, was going to get the last ones. It worked out because my friend deserved majority of them anyway.

So, what have I learned from my first baking experience?

1) Patience is key
2) Room temperature ingredients scares me (how do you when the butter is too soft?)
3) I should stick to cooking

It was a tiring experience, so I think I’ll stick to cupcakes and brownies if I want to bake.

If you bake, what was your first experience like and what did you make? Let me know in the comments!