I Love Cardamom

I love cardamom. I made the Cardamom Coffee Cake muffins last week (see my blog from last week) and then came across a recipe in Bon Appetite for Cardamom Crescents. I have also tried to make Cardamom bread from Saveur twice, once a disaster, once a success. So I thought I would have a day of Cardamom making (and throw some potato chowder into the slow cooker).

But first, why do I love cardamom so much. First, its amazing and delicious. But its also nostalgic. When I was in progressive hippy school back in the day, we went on many overnight trips. In 5th grade I distinctly remember going on a trip to one of my classmates’ beach house in Santa Cruz. The teacher made chai. I don’t know how related to actual traditional chai it was, but it was made with lots of whole milk, sugar, and spices. I think it was the first time I had a sweet warm drink that wasn’t hot chocolate. I remember the smell of the tea, and when I smell cardamom I am taken back to that time. I think it rained the whole time we were there, in typical California fashion, and that smell is comforting and cozy for me. When I smell cardamom, I want to curl up in a warm bathrobe, drink tea, and eat something with that smell. And I have recently discovered some wonderful options. They all go well with tea, too.

Cardamom Crescents

Cardamom Crescent Recipe.

If I were to make these again I would pay closer attention to how I shape the cookies. I thought they would flatten out more when in the oven. But once I dusted them with the second round of powdered sugar, they looked pretty. And they taste SO good. Like I bought them at a bakery or something.

Braided Cardamom Bread

Cardamom Bread Recipe.

When I decided to embrace domesticity I decided I wanted to learn how to make bread. This is one of the first ones that I tried, and oh boy was it discouraging. The first time I made this bread I followed the recipe and it didn’t all fit in the Kitchen Aid bowl! I sort of mixed it and let it sit there (it looked like brains) and of course it didn’t rise. So the next time I made it I split all the ingredients in half. It worked better that time. Still, a challenging bread to make. I was hoping this time, with more baking and bread making experience under my belt, it would go better. And it was almost a success. I had the right amount of everything (split the egg by using one whole egg and one egg white).. the dough looked good, rose well, and I braided it beautifully.

I took it out of the oven after 25 minutes and it looked like this. Okay, I need to work on my egg wash and making it even but looks good and baked, right?

Then I cut the end and tasted it after it cooled down and it looked like this. And it tasted delicious.

Perfect right? Then I cut it in the middle, and it was doughy! I hadn’t cooked it enough. So my wife picked through it when she got home and we ate the leftovers.

So sad. Next time I’m going to cook it on lower heat and for a little longer. Overall the day of cardamom cooking was fun and definitely a learning experience. These are both great recipes if you want to try them.

-Rachel

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To knead or not to knead

So we still had leftover buttermilk so I wanted to try buttermilk bread again. Instead of going to a cookbook I did a search online and came across this recipe from someone’s blog:

http://seddy5.typepad.com/blog/2010/11/oatmeal-buttermilk-bread.html

I love all the pictures and I love the constant reassurance that it is okay that the dough is sticky. This was so helpful to me (my major bread problem is adding flour and adding flour and then adding too much flour… teehee.) The first rise took a long time. I think our house is too cold for bread to rise, so I turned the oven on to warm up the kitchen.

The baking was a little funny, as the first loaf got brown on top before it was done on the bottom. So with the second loaf, I switched it to the bottom rack earlier than I had with the first loaf. It got a little burned on the bottom, but I think will be baked better throughout.

Here is the final result:

The bread is delicious. A little sweet and hearty. I had a PB & J on it last night. Amazing.

Now today’s topic of discussion: Using a Kitchen Aid to knead bread. Two things, it feels like cheating and the bowl never feels big enough. On point number one, there is something so romantic and domestic and I-feel-like-my-grandma-y about the idea of truly deeply kneading a loaf of bread. And with the right kind of dough (not today’s sticky mess) it can feel very satisfying. I love the feel of the dough when it gets smooth, the ache in your arms, and the way the dough changes. However, it is exhausting and so much work and takes a long time, which I don’t have if the baby is getting fussy. The kitchen mixer is just SO much easier. I love that I can just leave it while it does all the work and magic, there is your dough. However, for many recipes, I feel like our bowl isn’t big enough. The dough constantly seems to be pouring over the sides. Today, it ended up working out, but other times I have had to take out half the dough and do part of the kneading by hand or take turns in the mixer. Frustrating. I liked today’s recipe because it told me specifically how to do the kneading in the mixer.

Other kitchen adventures in the past few days:

4 dozen chocolate chip cookies (I love the recipe on the nestle tollhouse bag).

Tuscan white beans with sage and garlic (from the Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker). Here they are before I turned on the slow cooker. Delicious.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Bread or my struggles with Laurel’s Kitchen

Good morning,

Know that this post is being written on little-no sleep (for some reason the babe was up almost every hour last night, uggg)… but I wanted to write this while the experience was fresh.

I made a buttermilk bread recipe yesterday from Laurel’s Kitchen.  Laurel’s Kitchen was one of those cookbooks (along with many Moosewood cookbooks) that was always on my mother’s shelf. In retrospect, I’m not sure what she made from it, but because I remember seeing it there forever, I made sure to have it in our collection. However, it is a challenging cookbook, largely because it involves lots of reading. She does not just write recipes, she is trying to teach you how to really KNOW how to make bread, not just follow a recipe. In theory, I love this idea, but I also find it incredibly frustrating at times. Enter last night’s bread making.

So most of her recipes call for whole wheat BREAD flour, which I can never (or am too lazy) to find. So I end up working with regular whole wheat flour. This recipe looked promising (I made bread from there before and it was a little dry, to say the least). 3.5 cups of liquid to 5.5 cups of flour, some honey, some butter, my yeast looked good and foamy. Mix in a bowl and throw onto the counter. All seems promising. But the dough was SO sticky.

See how it is sticking to my hand? So like I do, I started adding flour while kneading. Kneading is exhausting and after 20 minutes it was less sticky and I was feeling done so I left it to rise, figuring it was much to heavy to rise.

While rising, I browse through Laurel’s pages and pages of bread making instructions and see that breads with milk (mine had buttermilk) tend to be more sticky. Thanks for letting me know! Too little too late.

So the first and second rise goes well. The proofing, not so much. I have learned that I need to take more care in forming my loaves or this happens:

Yeah, it kinda looks like two loaves on top of each other. But the results were not bad, if you like whole wheat bread, which I am now not sure I do.

We had it as a pre-bed snack with jam and butter while watching a banjo documentary. Pretty yummy.

Lessons:

I don’t like to knead as much as I think I do and should always start bread in the mixer

Stop making whole wheat bread, its just not as good (or find a recommended recipe?)

Shape your loaves with care, otherwise they look WEIRD

And last, but not least, if you are going to make something from Laurel’s Kitchen, read all pages involved in any given recipe. Yes, it can be annoying, but you will learn a lot and your recipe will turn out better

-Rachel