Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bakin Biscotti

So today I returned back to my role as a shadow for the month. Not the kind that follows you around on a sunny day. But the kind that gets to follow a professional baker for the month and learn the in's and out's of the baking world.

Today was a bit of a continuation of last visit's theme: Passover desserts. Its the season to start cleaning your kitchen in your mind and thinking about ingesting all those dozens of eggs, matzah and more eggs.

Today's recipes were preparation for an upcoming newspaper article for the Washington Post featuring desserts for the holiday of affliction, I mean the holy holiday of freedom. We made biscotti with cranberries, pistachios and chocolate chips and a walnut/almond tart with raspberries and blueberries on top. I learned about the difference in egg sizes in the supermarket and the secret to crispy yet chewy biscotti. We shelled and ground various nuts and uncovered the best way to soften margarine in a pinch without turning into a melted mess. The best part of all, besides the quality taste testing, was that these recipes only used one egg. No more omelet-style Passover desserts where you walk around feeling like a chicken all week. These were light and tasty and a breath of fresh air.

I have started to feel this all isnt so hard. Well I mean it is hard to come up with the recipes and test them out the way Paula does. How she manages it all between the baking, cooking, recipe planning is beyond me. Not to mention all the coordination between articles, book tours and demonstrations. You really have to have your act together to pull all these various parts of the business together.

But what I see as reasonable is the ability to follow a well thought out recipe and make it to the best of my ability. If the recipe calls for mixing the wet and dry ingredients separately first which may make the dough more fluffy, then do that. If it calls for ground nuts, buy fresh whole nuts and take the extra step to ground them yourself. Just because someone else made the recipe or shared it in a book, doesn't mean you can't improvise or put your own stamp on it. Baking is a way of sharing your mood or emotions with someone. Bursting flavors of fruit, crunchy toasted nuts. Its all within reach even for those of us who use their cookbooks like the bible. When the professionals test our their recipes for accuracy, do you know they base it on the average person in the average kitchen. Well that's me, and that's most if not all of us. So there is hope for us still.

I am looking forward to my final baking day sometime next week before the month of March sets in and my next adventure is revealed. Until then, I have some Passover meal planning to do. I guess its never too early to put my newly learned skills into practice. Even if its for the holiday of eggs. Cluck cluck.

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