Conquering Fears with a KitchenAid

July 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

While we established my love for ice cream a few posts back. I’ve not quite fully addressed my sweet tooth’s other passion: baked goods. For as long as I can remember, I’ve found something very exacting and magical about the process of starting with myriad ingredients, combining them in just the right way and a few hours later seeing the transformed results. I also love that the combinations and ratios and a base of no more than a dozen or so ingredients can result in so many varieties of textures, consistencies and flavors. From cookies to cakes to quick breads to scones, the base of these is essentially the same.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the results are most often sweet and delicious.

My first true love when it came to baked goods most definitely reflects my upbringing in the 80s in a very small Southern town: the Sarah Lee frozen pound cake. While my taste has evolved a bit, I have to admit I am still kind of in awe of it’s unmatched texture, and distinct “buttery” flavor, not to mention the uniform, perfectly browned rim that outlined each slice.

Of course, studying abroad in Paris did nothing but exacerbate my love of pastries and breads in particular. I loved the smell wafting from the boulangerie-patisseries each morning and decided that any culture that reinforced purchasing a fresh baguette on one’s way home EVERY evening was a-okay in my book.

For many years, however, I’ve sort of played it safe or taken the easy route in the baking department – an occasional layer cake here or there, maybe some profiteroles as a stretch. Yeast, kneading dough, rolling it out, willing it to rise properly – it was a bit intimidating, I admit.  A few weeks ago, however, a beaten up box arrived at my apartment and the 20+ pound hand-me-down KitchenAid (thanks, Mom!) has opened my eyes to the possibilities that paddle and dough hook attachments allow a baker.

For my test run, I went the bread route, first thinking cinnamon rolls then scaling back to a slightly less sweet and indulgent treat (only because I was not in possession of cream cheese at the time and believe any good cinnamon roll demands cream cheese frosting). When I stumbled across Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Homemade Cinnamon Bread, I went straight to work. I tacked the yeast that intimidated me all of these years, and found that while baking in a hot oven in 90+ degree temps may seem counterintuitive, a hot apartment kitchen creates the perfect conditions for dough to rise. Luckily I also purchased a rolling pin a while back, so this dough was spared being rolled by a wine bottle which has been known to happen to many a pizza dough and pie crust in the past.

Thanks to the ridiculous heat we had in New York last week, I shaved about 30 minutes off the first 2-hour rise and an hour off the second 1 3/4- hour rise. Given we still have a month or two of summer to go, there may be a lot more bread baking in my future! At each step I followed instructions and tried to be exact, and thanks to Ree’s great photos and step by step instructions, I have to say it seemed even…easy! Behold the results: it even swirled, which is really all I could ask for anyway.

Up next? I’ve received a request for croissants from my in-house taster, but I feel as that might just be taking things a bit too far at this early stage…we shall see.

 

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