Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Julia knows her bread

One of my "Santa" presents this year (yes, we still do Santa in this family...) was a DVD collection of Julia Child's The Way to Cook series. Now, I'm not an insane Julia fanatic (Mastering the Art of French Cooking was on my shelf, admittedly, gathering dust, way before Julie & Julia), but I do love me some knife-banging, cream-logged, ooooo-filled cooking every once in awhile.

And there's no time like the new year for some indulgence, right?

Hence, The Bread.

Yes, gut-busting, crust shattering, just-the-right-amount-of-chewy French bread—and not just any golden loaf of splendor, but Julia's exhaustively detailed, hours and hours in the making bread.

Some may scoff at her detail, others may run in horror, but hear me out: the details matter, and when you follow them to a T, you wind up with impeccable stuff. Two winters ago, the Daring Bakers took on the recipe, and they've got great advice and photos (not to mention the whole recipe, word for word, out of Mastering the Art... vol. 2). I followed all of the kneading, shaping and baking directions exactly, but I added a slow first rise in the fridge overnight. This slow rise gives the flour and water more time to incorporate; ferments the dough a little bit, giving the finished product that slight tang so desired in artisan breads; and makes the whole process quite a bit more convenient.

Trendy or not, Julia knows her stuff—this bread is just as good (if not better) than anything I've had in restaurants here, and it is certainly the best I've ever made. So please, bust your gut a little this weekend and make. this. bread.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Smarty Pants

My whipper-smart little sister is the science nerd of the family. My brother and I have managed to emerge from my parents' protective graces firmly entrenched on my mother's artistic side, but she's got her eyes set on pre-med and chemistry and neuroscience and all sorts of other mysterious things. She's also a cook, and for her senior (high school) project, Sally's been taking a cue from meticulous blogger extraordinaire, Carol Blymire, who has taken on some of the country's most challenging cookbooks (and meatballs), by exploring the craft and science of molecular gastronomy.

Basically, she's playing in the kitchen.

I got to help out with one of her experiments over Christmas vacation—we made our version of Alinea's Pheasant, Shallot, Cider, Burning Oak Leaves and served it as a haphazard amuse bouche on Christmas Day.

It was a hit, even with five-year-old Robert (for him, a more apt name for the dish was Fancy Chicken Nugget on a Burning Stick).